Documenting My Journey to Professional Pilot Since 2005

Blog Archive 2009

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

2009 - The Year In Review       

I stated last year in my blog that 2009 was going to be a banner year for flying after 15 months of practically nothing.  I could not have been more correct. Having a plan and sticking to it allowed me to accomplish so much in so little time. Of course I had 15 months to map the plan out which did not hurt, but the bottom line is getting from point A to point B in any endeavor is easier and more efficient with a plan. Yes you can still get to point B without a plan but it is going to take a lot longer.

The year started with rejoining the Langley Aero Club and getting checked out in the 172R. A few weeks after that I was off to Florida for vacation where I was able to fly a WWII T-6 Texan and visit Kermit Weeks Fantasy of Flight. By February I was already logging simulator time towards my instrument rating and in March I spent an intense week working off a large chunk of the instrument rating requirements. While the intent was to complete the instrument training in that week I realized I had grossly underestimated just how difficult the training would be. I took a break from the training for my biggest cross country trip to date. Flying with Christina we set off for Florida in a 172R at the end of April. We flew down to Bartow, Florida over the course of two days and spent two days enjoying Sun-N-Fun at Lakeland, FL before continuing south to Key West, FL for vacation. We returned to Virginia a week later. The trip covered 1,600 miles and was an amazing learning experience. In May I headed to North Carolina to earn my single engine sea plane rating flying a Piper PA-12 on the Chowan River during an intense two day course. The training was the most fun I have had flying and really re-energized me as a pilot. I made my first pilgrimage to Oshkosh (via commercial carrier) at the end of July and vowed to be back again real soon.  As my instrument written exam expiration loomed I returned my focus to finishing my instrument training and completing the check ride. On August 18 I successfully completed the instrument check ride, a major milestone in my quest to be a professional pilot. To celebrate the accomplishment I completed my first free fall parachute jump (tandem) in Suffolk, VA. A unique experience but not something I wanted to pursue further, I'll stick to staying in the plane and landing it. As summer turned into fall I shifted focus to gaining my high performance endorsement. Flying a late model Cessna 182 with G1000 cockpit out of Chesapeake, VA not only allowed me to complete the endorsement but also exposed me to the world of glass cockpits and technically advanced aircraft (TAA).  With my days in Virginia dwindling down the intensity of my flying shifted into high gear.  I spent two days flying a 10 hour cross country into western Virginia visiting over 10 airports in three states to complete a large portion of the aviation ambassador program.  By the end of October I was in Andover, NJ training for my tailwheel endorsement with the renowned tailwheel instructor, Damian DelGaizo.  Flying the Piper J-3 Cub was an experience I will never forget, what a wonderful airplane.  In the final weeks before moving I passed my FAA Commercial written test with a 99% and flew two dual x-country trips in a complex aircraft, the Piper PA28R-200.  Off to Arizona only a few weeks passed before I checked out in 172N for local flying.  I'm scheduled to pick up my commercial flight training in Tucson starting in the first half of January 2010.  It's been an intense year, one that will be difficult to ever surpass, but 2010 holds the potential for all new adventures.

Goals for 2010 include:

1.  Complex Endorsement
2.  Complete Commercial Certificate
3.  Multi-Engine Rating
4.  Attend Oshkosh (Jul)
5.  Attend AirSHO (Oct)
6.  Pass CFI Written Exam

[ December 27, 2009]
Test Pilot                                                                    1.2       

Having moved from the flat lands of Virginia to the high mountain deserts of Arizona I have really been digging into Sparky Imeson’s Mountain Flying Bible (MFB) over the last few weeks.  The book has a tremendous amount of useful information not only about mountain flying but flying in general which makes it a worthy addition to any serious pilot’s library. 

I found the section on canyon flying most interesting.  Sparky provides tables and charts for determining turn radius and stall speeds at various airspeeds and configurations.  Knowing what the charts say and what actually occurs in reality are two different things.   I decided to schedule the local 172 for some real world testing.  As a test-pilot wanna-be I assembled a test plan checklist which methodically listed each event to be executed with space to make in-flight comments.  I set up my data recorder, a Garmin GPS396, for its highest resolution track recording and headed over to the airport.

 Climbing to a safe altitude I pulled out my test plan which was fairly simple.  The first thing I wanted to determine was if the plane would stall at the same airspeed for both 10 degrees of flaps and 30 degrees of flaps.  This determination was important for later tests because I wanted to test turn diameter at bank angles that would increase my stall speed.  The MFB charts gave me the minimum safe speeds to fly but they were based on the stall speed at full flaps and I wanted to test both 10 and 30 degree flap configurations in tight turns.  The margins were small and I needed to ensure I could use the same minimum speeds at 10 degrees flaps and not stall the plane.  This particular 172N (180HP) will stall at max weight with full flaps at 40 KIAS.  On this flight I was well under max weight flying with full fuel and a 160 lbs pilot.  With 10 degrees of flaps I stalled at exactly 40 KIAS, again this was well under max so a fully loaded aircraft would have stalled higher.  At 30 deg flaps the stall was delayed until 35 KIAS.  This test confirmed that I could continue the turn diameter test with the predetermined airspeeds from Sparky’s charts.

 The turn diameter tests were broken into three parts:

1.      30 and 45 degree bank turns at Vma (95 KIAS), no flaps

2.      30 and 45 degree bank turns at 50 and 60 KIAS respectively, 10deg flaps

3.      30 and 45 degree bank turns at 50 and 60 KIAS respectively, 30deg flaps

Returning from the flight I downloaded the track data from my Garmin GPS396 and went to work analyzing the results.  This is what I found:

Flight was conducted at 8000 feet:

KIAS Bank Angle Flaps Turn Radius
Turn Diameter
Turn Diameter
% Increase
Over Book
95 30 0 1724.5 3449 2781 20%
95 45 0 1093 2186 1606 27%
50 30 10 475 950 770 19%
60 45 10 438.5 877 640 28%
50 30 30 531 1062 770 28%
60 45 30 385 770 640 17%

The results highlight the importance of slowing the plane down to make the smallest turn possible.  Speed is the biggest factor, more so than bank angle, in keeping the diameter as small as possible.  The steepest bank angle was kept at 45 intentionally as steeper banks substantially increase g-loading and thus stall speed.  Flaps lower the stall speed allowing for lower speed turns.  The amount of flaps did not really matter other than higher flap settings gave a wider stall margin but also produced more drag.   Turn diameter in reality versus the book shows on average a 23% increase.  This can be attributed to pilot flying skills maintaining the bank, airspeed, and altitude and the condition of the aircraft. 

These real world results are much more beneficial to me as a pilot as I now have explored the numerous variables for this particular aircraft and my skill level that cannot be captured in book numbers.  The fact is that POH performance data, to include landing, takeoff, and cruise charts, is absolute best case, derived from a professional test pilot in perfect conditions.  It is vital that pilot’s test their aircraft and collect data for their own personal performance charts.  When the time comes where every foot counts they can act with confidence that their decision is based on the best customized data available. j

[ December 20, 2009]
Exploring the Local Area                                         1.6       
Photos_Google Earth____________________________________________________

Headed out this morning into blue skies with Carson to fly a round robin and check out some of the local airports in the area.  We conducted touch-n-go's at Bisbee-Douglas International (KDUG), Cochise College (P03), and Bisbee Municipal (P04).  I having been tooling around with Google Earth for documenting my flights and have posted my first attempt here (24MB).  With Google Earth I am able to upload my GPS track, to include altitude, as well as add photos taken at specific locations along the track.  By loading the .kmz file into your own copy of Google Earth you can actually fly along virtually.  Check it out!

On a separate note Carson, at age 8, soloed an electric R/C plane for the first time today, taking off and landing three times without any help or intervention from me.  He is now building his own R/C plane. j

[ December 13, 2009]
Arizona Checkout                                                              1.8       

So much for waiting until next year to pick back up with flying.  I was surprised to find a company that rents airplanes at KFHU here in Ft Hauchuca and Benson which is about 30 miles away.  The company has two 172s and two Piper Warriors for rent so aircraft availability should never be a problem.  With block rates of $110hr-wet I only see a net increase of $5 over what I was paying to fly at the Langley Aero Club.  KFHU is a shared use airport with the tower and Army tenants on the south side and the terminal and general aviation tenants on the north side.  The field has three runways with the longest being 12,001 feet long (and I thought Langley was long at 10,000ft!).  The justification for such a long runway puzzled me until I found out that the airport is an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle.  The two smaller runways are currently closed for repaving, part of a “shovel ready” project.  When you view FHU’s airspace on a sectional it can be a little intimidating.  The airport is blanketed with restricted areas which apparently keeps a lot of the flying public away from the airport according to my CFI.  Fortunately once you decode all of the restrictions you find that flying into and out of FHU is a fairly simple affair.  On weekends the control tower is closed, all restricted areas are lifted, and the field reverts to Class G airspace.  My commute to the airport is less than 10 minutes so all in all I am very happy with my new home.

I was able to schedule a checkout this past Sunday with a local instructor.  After filling out the obligatory paperwork and written exam we headed out to the ramp to go for a flight.  The general aviation ramp had only a hand full of aircraft and for a Sunday morning it was pretty quiet.  The 172 we flew was a '79 N model that has been converted to 180HP with an O-360 Lycoming.  There were also several modifications done to the wing which substantially modify the stall characteristics of the aircraft.  The wing angle of incidence has been shifted by a few degrees along with what I believe is called a "stall fence" about mid way down the top of each wing.  A stall fence is a narrow strip of aluminum mounted perpendicular to the surface of the wing longitudinally.  This device is very similar to those found on a MIG-17, and I believe they delay laminar flow separation from the wing at lower airspeeds. 

My checkout started with a short field takeoff and climb to 6500 ft (field elevation is 4700ft) before heading to Tombstone.  The mountains, roads, and rivers (San Pedro) are unique and pronounced in this part of Arizona which make pilotage extremely easy.  In addition I have been flying my simulator with photorealistic scenery (Megascenery Earth) of southern Arizona which made getting my bearings that much easier.  On the way we practiced slow flight, the instructor observed that I was relying heavily on instruments for the exercise and covered up my airspeed indicator and directional gyro.  He told me to pick a distinguishing cloud feature and fly to it (in slow flight the pitch of the aircraft is so high that you can't see any terrain features in front of you, including mountains!) in addition he instructed me to stay in tune with the feel of the aircraft to determine how close I was to the edge of a stall.  The mushiness of the controls are strong physical signals to just how slow you are.  I was able to continue slow flight using this technique with some consistency.  Returning to cruise we flew over a deserted non-towered Tombstone airport, self announced and entered the pattern.  The west side of the airport is fairly close to rising terrain and small hills.  This caused me to shorten my turn to base which resulted in being too high over the numbers.   Half way down the runway we executed a go-around.  The second attempt was better but still too high and too fast causing a pretty good float down the runway before touching down in a slight crosswind.  Tombstone, at 4700+ ft, is the highest elevation airport I have landed at to date.  We turned around at the end and now faced the hills off the departure end of runway 24.  The instructor talked to me about always having a plan B.  We discussed courses of action if I could not climb fast enough to cross the hills to my front.  A road that ran perpendicular to the departure end provided a good emergency landing site.  In addition we talked about what to expect from the wind on the windward (updrafts) and leeward (downdrafts) side of mountains.  I executed another short field takeoff and we cleared the mountains without issue.

Picking up an outbound radial from the Douglas VOR we headed towards Benson, the home of Southwestern Aviation.  On the way we simulated an engine out and I went through the emergency flow procedure for the situation working my way around the control panel from bottom right, up and around to the bottom left.  There was no shortage of dirt roads in the desert to pick for a landing site but I was too high for the one I picked even after executing a 360.  My instructor told me to always land uphill and to circle the touchdown point until in a position to land.  I hosed it up and ended up picking another dirt road going downhill.  Feeling pretty frustrated with myself we climbed back up to 6500 and continued on to Benson.  Benson sits on the north side of highway 10 and is easy to find from the air (just about every airport is easy to find in the desert, unlike Virginia.)  We entered the pattern from the north and once again I was too high on final, it took a pretty aggressive forward slip to lose the altitude.  Not a stabilized approach by any sense.  The wind had started to pick up requiring a wing low crosswind landing.  We taxied in next to a white DC-3 which has apparently been at the airport for some time going through restoration for future cargo hauling in Africa.  Southwestern Aviation's office sits in a trailer at the top of a small ridge on the south side of the airport.  I turned in all my paperwork and dropped a chunk of change on a 10-hr block of time.

With the administrative requirements behind us we took off and headed back to Sierra Vista.  Flying close to the east side of the Whetstone mountain range on the west side of HWY 90 we felt the light turbulence of the wind, which had really started to pick up from the southwest.  Dialing in the ATIS for Libby the automated system reported a direct crosswind to runway 26 with gust up to 17 knots.  My instructor asked if I was ready for a crosswind landing, I acknowledged in the affirmative and as I have stated before in this blog, crosswind landings are actually something I look forward to these days, unlike years past when they really cause me a lot of apprehension.  I find them challenging but I still have problems getting my feet to do what my brain wants.  With 150ft of runway width to work with I was not too concerned about the landing.  The crab on final was substantial.  Over the threshold I transitioned to a side slip with large amounts of right rudder to keep the nose tracking straight.  In the flare wind velocity decreased substantially and took very little left wing down to remain over the center line.  Another gentle landing concluded my check out and also got me a new BFR.  We flew a total of 1.8 hours and I learned a few things in the process.

Flying in and around mountains as well as high density altitude will be areas I will need to concentrate on over the next few months.  I just ordered Sparky Imeson's Mountain Flying Bible as a starting point.

I've already scheduled another flight for next Sunday to visit the other airports in the area with Carson along as my co-pilot.  j

Footnote:  Here is the METAR string following today's flight:  KFHU 131856Z AUTO 21014G23KT 10SM CLR 16/M02 A3004 RMK AO2 SLP138 T01561017

[ December 7, 2009]
Back On-Line     

Finally back up and operational in Arizona.  We have settled in to our new home and everything has made the move intact.  I work within feet of the airport grounds at Sierra Vista-Libby Army Airfield (KFHU).  The simulator is back up and fully operational and for now it is the only flying I have done, but I have a feeling I will be back up in the air before the end of the year.  I'll be heading down to the local airport this weekend to see what's available but I've already got a couple leads on flying opportunities right here in Sierra Vista.  This is great news considering I was planning on driving to Tucson (70 miles away) just to catch a flight on weekends. 

The trip from Virginia to Arizona took about four days.  As we made our way out of Virginia I picked up the last three airport stamps I needed to complete my Virginia Aviation Ambassador Passport thus completing a long standing bucket list item and earning me a beautiful brown leather flight jacket from the Virginia Department of Aviation.  The jacket had to be special ordered so I am still awaiting its arrival but I am looking forward to proudly wearing it for many years.  I started the program when I began taking flight lessons in 2005 and slowly progressed towards completion over four years.  I ended up visiting every public airport in the state of Virginia (65 in total), flying to some and driving to others.  It all came down to my last day in Virginia to complete the program, a fitting farewell to a very pro aviation state where I earned my wings.  You can view a copy of the passport here.  As we made our way across the country we made a planned stop at the Commemorative Air Force's American Airpower Heritage museum in Midland, TX.  It's a museum I had stumbled upon the last time I had drove to Arizona, but on that occasion I arrived 15 minutes before the museum was about to close, about the only thing I got to see was the gift shop.  Fast forward six years and I have returned this time with ample opportunity to explore.  Unfortunately the amount of aircraft on display was disappointing, on the positive side the few aircraft they did have were very impressive and all were in flying condition.  The main hanger housed an assortment of single engine aircraft but the three largest aircraft in the center of the hangar were awesome.  A B-29 named "FiFi" and Junkers JU-52 were in the middle of what looked like an annual inspection.  Some engines were removed and every access panel was open.  These planes along with a C-47 were in pristine condition and looked as if they had just rolled off the production line.  You can view the photos here.   If you find yourself in the middle of Texas check it out but I would not recommend making a special trip unless it is in conjunction with the annual AIRSHO that CAF hosts in October each year.  I'm planning on attending for 2010!  j

[ November 17, 2009]
Moving Day is Here     

First move in four years and this is a painful event to say the least.  Its 8:12PM and they are still putting boxes on the truck, but the truck does not look like it will hold everything still to be loaded.  My simulator and flying gear is disassembled and being packed, it will be a minor miracle if anything works when we get to the other end.  Watching these guys just makes my blood pressure go up, better to just not watch and content myself by swearing if anything is broken on the other end they will pay.  Of course my priceless log book and flight bag are going with me because you can trust a packer about as far as you can throw them with anything of value or that you value.  In seventeen years of military service I have been lucky to have only one horrid move so the odds are in my favor that this will turn out ok and all the stress will have been for nothing.  The good news is that a house is waiting for us in Arizona so by Tuesday next week we should be unpacking with a "door to door" move.  j

[ November 14, 2009]
Ida Ruins Super Decathlon Opportunity     

Besides throwing a complete monkey wrench into our packing and moving plans, remnants of the Nor'easter from hell have put the breaks on a great opportunity to fly a Super Decathlon on Saturday due to low ceilings and high winds.  My last flying opportunity on the east coast may have occurred back on the fifth and may have been the last for 2009.  With moving, starting a new job, and the holidays I just don't see any real time in the schedule to fly until sometime early next year...... j

[ November 5, 2009]
Complex Night X-Country                                                      2.6       

Completed another requirement for the commercial certificate with a dual night cross country trip in N7PT, the other PA-28-200 complex aircraft in the Aero Club fleet.  The flight plan was a carbon copy of the day cross country flight to Henderson-Oxford back on the 21st of October.  The flight had to be conducted in VFR which today's weather was thankfully compliant.  A scattered cloud deck at 4,000 feet cleared up about an hour prior to launch, but winds remained brisk at altitude and on the ground.  I tracked inbound to the Franklin VOR for the first leg of the trip.  The NAV receiver was overly sensitive with the CDI needle making wide deviations as if I was only a mile from the station when I was still 20 to 30 miles out.  I had to end up just flying a specific heading and backing it up with my Garmin 396 GPS while the needle swung side to side.  The smell of fumes in the cabin made me wish I had brought my carbon monoxide detector.  My instructor did not seem to mind, maybe that was normal for this aircraft.  Regardless we lived.  A fairly uneventful and quiet flight down until about 15 miles out once we tuned into Henderson's CTAF and heard a CAP aircraft working the pattern.  The wind favored neither runway but the CAP pilot was working r/w 24, for us r/w 6 would make a more expedited entry and landing.  After several failed attempts at contacting the CAP pilot he finally acknowledged us and we stated our intentions, he agreed to get out of our way.  As I entered the pattern at the 45 I could see that the wind was eating away at my spacing with the runway on downwind.  This should have been my first clue that I would have to adjust my base, but I was quickly inundated with all the pre-landing requirements of a complex aircraft.  I turned base and started to come down, I quickly realized I was going to be blown thru the final.  I also felt too low, which is not a good feeling at night when you can't see what is under you, I took a quick glance at the GPS to make sure my altimeter was in fact set correctly.  My sixth pilot sense was definitely shouting to abort the approach, that something bad was going to happen if we continued. I stated I was going around and my instructor concurred.  We climbed back up and continued on what was now a downwind for r/w 6.  This time the wind would work in our favor making the base/final turns shallower.  Things happened fairly fast and we were on short final in a few moments working the cross wind correction but finding the wind fairly subdued at ground level.

[ November 3, 2009]
Cessna 182T Flight with Family to Ocracoke Island, NC      2.7       

Took a trip with Chris and Carson down to Ocracoke Island NC for lunch at Howard's Pub.  First flight on my own in the G1000 equipped high performance Cessna 182 N21200 from Horizon in Chesapeake.  We did a practice landing at Edenton, NC on the way down.  Was definitely not my day for landings as all three landings had various issues with the absolute worst being at Ocracoke with a high sink rate that ended in a considerably firm and flat landing.  My son said on a scale of 1 to 10 my landings were a solid 1.  I'll share the video with you so you can wince in pain like I did.  Looking back I think I was not applying the fundamentals, not stabilized in the approach, not rounding out early enough, failing to shift focus to the end of the runway, and failing to flare adequately.  Ocracoke was especially troubling because I tried to check a high descent rate by pulling back on the yoke instead of adding power.  For the final landing back at Chesapeake I was determined to make it a good one and while the approach was stable and my eye's shifted to the end of the runway, the round out was too late and the flare too flat resulting in a a few small bounces. 


[ November 2, 2009]
Commercial Pilot FAA Written Exam Passed             

Just returned from taking the FAA commercial pilot written exam.  Test was a total of 100 questions, multiple choice.  I scored a 99%.  After receiving a 100% on my instrument written two years ago I knew there was no where to go but down, luckily down was only one percentage point.  Once again my training material of choice was Gleim's exam prep book and King School's DVD course.  This training regime has served me well and I plan to continue to use it for my CFI written.  The King School DVDs help with understanding the material and after completing the course provide the instructor endorsement required by the FAA to take the test.  This was the shortest prep time for any of the written test I have taken.  I purchased the study material at the beginning of September, so no more than two months from start to finish.  Of course much of the material in the commercial test is a rehash of what was covered in the private pilot test so it was more refresher than learning new concepts and material.  The two year written expiration clock is now ticking to complete my commercial practical exam which I anticipate to occur before next Summer.

[October 29, 2009]
Tailwheel Training Day 3 -  Mission Accomplished!       4.2              

The day started ominous enough with low stratus clouds but I could catch glimpses of blue sky through it so there was hope for today.  I met Damian at 0930 and we pushed opened the hangar doors to expose three beautiful planes, right up front was the J-3 Cub, in the left corner was a Stearman biplane and in the right corner was a Cubcrafter Top Cub.  I had chosen the classic J-3 Cub for my tailwheel training because of its legendary status in general aviation and its beautiful simplicity.  This particular Cub was built in 1946 and was in pristine condition.  We pulled the Cub out of the hangar and I savored this moment in time, everything was perfect.  I took my place in the back seat of the Cub, the solo position, was given a quick cockpit tour.  Not much to familiarize with, the panel had an Airspeed indicator, tach, wet compass, altimeter, and oil pressure/temp gauge.  Damian hand propped the engine while I held the breaks, the Cub came to life and Damian quickly saddled up in the front seat.  We started with S-turn taxis and high speed taxi's while I got use to the rudder and keeping the tail behind the plane.  The sight picture also took a lot of getting used to, the high deck angle of the Cub gave me no forward visibility, I had to be content with looking at the three and nine O'clock positions to gauge how well aligned I was with the runway.  As difficult and foreign as this may first sound it was really not nearly as bad as I had imagined and before long I was perfectly content with not having any forward visibility.  My feet were working a lot more than they had ever done with a nose dragger and that would continue throughout the day.  From fast taxi we lined back up for takeoff on the paved runway and I experienced my first take off, we climbed away from Andover and headed for Trinca, a small grass strip a few miles away.  We climbed up to 2000 feet through a scattered and ragged cloud layer at 1500 with a solid stratus layer above us.  From here we did some airwork with turns.  My rudder skills were pretty weak and Damian gave me great pointers on how to use the rudders effectively and smoothly.  The Cub has equal deflection on it ailerons and broadcast adverse yaw in turns if the rudder is not used correctly.  The best pointer was to imagine the rudder pedals are linked to the stick by rods, push the rudder and the stick follows, once established in the turn release the rudder pressure and move the stick back to neutral.  We did several iterations and I started feeling comfortable with making coordinated and smooth turns.  We descended down to Trinca and set up for my first landing.  Trinca is a 1950 foot grass strip with 50ft trees guarding the approach end.  We went through the throttle settings and airspeeds as we worked through the pattern.  Abeam of touchdown the carb heat comes on and the RPMs come down to 1500, you pitch for 55 MPH.  Turn base, turn final, no flaps on the Cub so you forward slip if you are too high.  We just clear the tree tops and round out about a half a wing length from the ground, power is out, when the Cub starts to settle I begin pulling the stick back to get into the three point attitude, before long my forward visibility was gone and I was keeping aligned with the runway purely by looking at the runway edges at 3 and 9 position.  On my first landing we take a small hop because I have failed to pull the stick all the way back.  I still had about an inch left of rearward movement before we landed.  We back taxi and try again and this time I nail it, we do several more to make sure I have it.  Consistently performing the three pointer we head back to Andover to take a break.  Damian has me line up for a landing on the asphalt runway, everything goes smooth until the flare.  I fail to get the stick back all the way and we land on the mains followed by the tail which increases the angle of attack and causes the Cub to go airborne again, my mind starts racing as I try to comprehend what is happening, instinctively I put in some throttle and assume the correct three point attitude to bring us back down.  Damian reminds me to stay with it and get on the rudders as the real work begins after landing in a tailwheel.  The landing was pretty ugly and I think the asphalt had me pretty spooked from the get go.  We take a short break for 20 minutes before heading back out to Trinca, Damian ask for another three pointer just to make sure I am not jinxed, doubt was creeping into my mind as well.  I put the Cub down in a three pointer without issue and feel confident that the bounce at Andover was just a fluke.  At this point we start to help the tail up on takeoffs.  Instead of letting the tail come up on its own, I begin giving the stick some smooth forward pressure as the tail begins to feel light on the takeoff roll to help it up.  The first time I jab the stick forward, but later iterations become smoother.  We begin to work wheel landings which actually is suppose to be easier than three pointers but was the exact opposite for me.  In the wheel landing the aircraft is leveled only a few feet from the ground, sink rate is minimized with power or a slight flare so that the mains just kiss the runway.  As soon as contact is made the stick is moved forward to maintain contact and provide negative AOA while airspeed diminishes in the rollout and the tail sinks to the ground.  Pushing the stick forward on landing was the most foreign thing my flying mind could imagine.  Everything in me fought against pushing that stick forward and even when I willed myself to push the stick forward my uncontrolled reaction was to immediately pull it back to neutral!  Other than that the view was a heck of a lot better during a wheel landing than compared to a three pointer.  We did a few more iterations and I improved slightly before heading back to Andover for a 45 minute lunch break.  After lunch we headed out on our third sortie of the day, back to wheel landings.

[ October 28, 2009]
Tailwheel Training Day 2 - Rained Out.. Again!                                                         

More rain and low clouds today, Damian told me the tailwheel endorsement is no longer possible based on the available time left for training, what a major disappointment!  The best I can hope for is logging a few hours tomorrow in the J-3 as some consolation for expending so much time and money to get here for the training.  Guess I'll work on much needed updates to the blog today.  Looking back over the last few entries I realize that weather has really put a major dent in my flying activities since mid October, enough with this East Coast weather!  I'm ready for the move to Arizona!

[ October 27, 2009]
Tailwheel Training Day 1 - Rained Out                                                           

I have traveled over eight hours by car to Andover, NJ to train for my tailwheel endorsement from one of the best in the business, Damian DelGaizo at Andover Flight Academy.  Damian has trained Hollywood stars like Harrison Ford and James Brolin on tailwheel flying.  He also has produced one of the top instructional videos on the subject, Tailwheel 101.  Damian is based out of Andover-Aeroflex Airport nestled in the Kittatinny Valley State Park which is an absolutely beautiful setting for a flying field.  I’ve been looking forward to this training for a very long time unfortunately a nasty and slow moving front has made the weather the most dreary and depressing possible.  The rain started at around 6AM about 10 hours earlier than it was suppose to and has not stopped all day, the cloud deck is a mere 500 feet off the ground and the surrounding hill tops are obscured by the soup.  The weather gods may have smiled on me for last week's x-country but this week must be pay back because this absolutely awful weather is forecast to stick around for another day, so two of my three days are lost and starting let alone finishing this training is in serious doubt.  I decided to catch a movie to kill some time.  Amelia, a movie about Amelia Earhart, was playing and I hoped to catch some flying inspiration.  Not so much, not enough airplanes and of course a bad ending.  None the less Amelia was a very courageous person and this is conveyed well in the movie.  "Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things."

[ October 23-24, 2009]
Non-compliant Mother Nature & College Park Airport                                                            

Mother Nature is really screwing up my very tight flying to-do schedule as my time in Virginia dwindles down. I had to cancel my night complex x-country flight on Friday and a Cirrus SR-20 familiarization flight on Saturday due to poor weather.  Very frustrating!  Despite that College Park Airport Museum in College Park, MD was a nice little find.  The airport was the first Army Airfield operated by the Signal Corps in 1909 and is the site of the first test flight of the Wright Brothers Type-A military biplane.  The airport holds the distinction of being the oldest continually operated airport in the country.  The museum contains several aircraft of which the most interesting is the 1924 Berliner Helicopter #5.  The collection also includes a Cub, a Stearman, a Ercoupe, and a Jenny among others.

[ October 21, 2009]
Flying a Complex                                                             2.6

Today was my first flight in a complex aircraft, the Piper Arrow, after two previous attempts were canceled due to poor weather.  The Arrow has a 200HP engine, retractable landing gear and a constant speed prop - all of which are required for an aircraft to be considered "complex."  The commercial rating rating requires a pilot to log at least 10 hours in a complex aircraft.  I've decided to use the club's Arrow to complete the two dual cross country requirements in the process logging about 5 hours of complex and savings some money on the cheaper rental rates of the club versus what I will find out in Tucson.  The Arrow is very similar to the Cherokee in both physical dimensions and sight picture from the cockpit.  Having flown a Cherokee back in July there was some familiarity even on the first flight.  I had also experience higher horsepower and constant speed props last month with the Cessna 182 high performance check out so the only real new thing was the gear and there just aint a whole lot to that except putting them up and more importantly putting them down.  Having to fly at least 100 miles straight line to another airport on this x-country I choose a nice little field I had not yet been to in north-central North Carolina, Henderson-Oxford (KHNZ).  The aircraft we flew was N1425T, a 1972 Piper Arrow PA-28R-200.  The flight out was pretty uneventful.  I hand flew the whole way tracking VORs and backing it up with my Garmin 396.  We arrived over the field about a half hour before sunset and my instructor proceeded to demonstrate the landing sequence while I observed.  Final approach speed was 90 MPH (Piper ASI is in mph not knots) and the turn to final felt very different than the Cessna, it felt like a real airplane, things were happening faster and smoother.  Instead of floating on down we flew the plane down to the runway, hard to describe the difference but it felt like I was definitely flying a performance aircraft.  I got to perform three landing iterations to full stops.  The air was smooth and calm as it usually is at dusk and all the landings felt great and I was soon comfortable with the pattern routine. Abeam the touchdown point manifold pressure comes back to 15, prop full forward, airspeed to 110MPH, gear down, flaps to 10.  Turning base, flaps to 25, airspeed to 100MPH, keeping the nose down to hold the speed, "finals clear, check gear", three green on the gear.  Turning to final, full flaps, airspeed to 90MPH, adjust the approach path/vertical speed with power, over the numbers, round out, ease out the throttle, increase the AOA and hold it off, keep the nose pointed straight with the toes, touchdown, ease the nose wheel down, apply brakes, turn around and do it again.  With the sun setting we started back to Langley going direct via the GPS for the sake of time.  Back at Langley I landed a little flat with the nose wheel touching down almost immediately after the main gear.  The jolt traveled into my legs from the rudder pedals as if the plane was reprimanding me for treating her so badly.  I'll try not to let that happen again.  Thinking back to the landings at KHNZ I really enjoyed the experience and am very much looking forward to my next flight in the Arrow, unfortunately it will be a night x-country so there will be a whole lot less to look at.

[ October 19-20, 2009]
The Big Mountain X-Country                                          10.4

Write up coming soon but here are the stats, yes that's 10.4 hours logged in just two days, 13 airports visited, 805 nautical miles flown, four states, mountain top runways and lots of adventures!

[ October 17, 2009]
NAS Oceana Air Show & Military Aviation Museum                                         

A low hanging stratus cloud layer pretty much put a damper on this year's Oceana Air Show.  The air show was cut way back with neither the Canadian Snow Birds or the Blue Angels doing any flying.  I did get to catch an act I had never seen before and which was absolutely barnstorming to the hilt, the transfer of a wing walker from a Stearman biplane to the skid of a Schweizer helicopter.  It was absolutely insane in itself not to mention there was a 10+ knot crosswind blowing.  It took a few attempts but they pulled it off and it was amazing, check out the video here. I was very disappointed in the anemic static display of aircraft for the show, not sure if this was due to how late the airshow was this year or something else but it's sad my last Virginia airshow had to go down like this.  On the positive side the new Military Aviation Museum exceeded all of my expectations by a country mile.

[ October 12, 2009]
Redbird FMX & X-Wind Simulators                                  .7

I attended the AOPA Air Safety Foundation meeting last Thursday in Hampton and found out that a local company was now offering training in Redbird FMX and X-Wind simulators at Hampton Roads Executive Airport.  This was a real coincidence since I had been investigating details on the new Redbird simulator over the past few months as a possible model for building a motion platform for my home simulator.  Now I could actually see and experience a Redbird full motion simulator in person.  Of course I jumped at the chance and scheduled an appointment for today.  I met my flight instructor, Tom, at the airport and he initialized the simulator and got me flying in no time.  The inside cockpit is made up of a total of six screens for the view and another two to depict the instrument panel.  A swappable overlay allows for functioning instrument knobs (I'm told each one cost $5000 each! the sim itself is $60,000!!).  You can currently select an analog or G1000 172.  I choose the analog since that is what I fly most often.  The underlying simulator is MS Flight Simulator X.  This was a surprise since the FMX is an FAA approved AATD and I had been under the impression that only X-Plane had received FAA approval.  I found the rudder pedals to be overly sensitive and much like the Flight 1 Cessna 172 in my flight sim, more power than normal had to be carried to nail specific approach speeds.  We flew from Norfolk to Newport News for a visual approach and then back to PVG for the GPS 10 instrument approach.  The motion simulation was fairly muted and I was pretty disappointed, of course I was flying a 172 in a conservative manner and not performing aerobatics in an Extra 300 so the motion simulator was not getting a real workout but I expected better.  Even on climb out I did not get any real sensation of actually flight beside the visual.  The six screen wrap around was ok but still did not allow for true situational awareness while flying the base leg because the airport was out of view.  My own simulator's three screens with TrackIR-4 head tracking is a far superior SA set up.  The Redbird FMX sim was a neat experience but not one I need to do again.  If anything it was money well spent because it convinced me that it is not worth the time and money to pursue the addition of full motion to my own simulator.

[ October 4, 2009]
Tooling Around & Upcoming Change in Venue             1.6

More landing work today at Wakefield and Newport News as the sun sank in the west.  My little dancing Hula Keiki lady kept me company on the dash of the Cessna 172.  Maybe my newest good luck charm?  Today was suppose to be a cross country trip to Hatteras with the family in the G1000 Cessna 182 but the plane came down with an oil leak on Friday and was still in maintenance, what a shame because it was a nice day. 

Big news.  Home is where the Army sends you and that means next month I am moving to Arizona!  Desert flying, high density airports, mountains, gliders, good times and many new aviation adventures ahead!

[ October 1, 2009]
High Performance Endorsement                                    1.1

Finally got back down to KCPK to finish my Cessna 182 checkout and get the high performance endorsement.  Amazingly my instructor from 12 September had left for regional airline job in that short amount of time.  I had to brief the new instructor up on what we accomplished on the previous flight because there was no record of the event.  Fortunately for my pocket book I did not have to repeat anything.  The new instructor was very knowledgeable and we spent a good amount of time talking about the G1000.  The simulator that came with the Sporty's DVD really paid dividends as I was feeling much more comfortable with navigating the menus.  The new instructor wanted to add a few instrument approaches to Norfolk into the second sortie.  At first I was a little concerned, ok terrified, new plane, new glass, first instrument approaches since my checkride.  That is a whole lot of new stuff!  I studied the approach plates until I have them memorized and told myself that at least I would have a full panel with GPS and probably vectors from the controller so how difficult could it be.  Just fly the courses, hit my altitudes and keep the needles centered.  I went out to pre-flight the plane and the 182 and this time was not all new surprises, I knew now that I could not see the rudder linkages, that the cowling hid the alternator belt, that my forward view was more restricted then a 172, ahhh familiarity.  We taxied out and I was prepared for the throaty growl of I-540, the heaviness of the elevator, lots of right rudder as the power came in and a steep climb out.  I only had a few minutes to sort myself out before we were heading into Norfolk Class C airspace asking for the ILS approach.  With vectors and the KAP 140 coupled there was not a whole lot of work for me to do (thankfully).  We took it down to mins uncoupled and executed a touch and go before flying an alternate missed to get us back in the box for the VOR approach which I hand flew down to the MDA before going missed again and departing back to CPK.  That was nowhere near as bad as all my preflight worrying made it out to be.  We got back to CPK and executed a no flap landing and then on to a simulated engine out before calling it a day.  So now I am checked out in a quarter million dollar aircraft and I am just chomping at the bit to take this plane out on my own.  My instructor endorsed my log book for high performance and one more item is marked off the bucket list!

[September 20, 2009]
Flying to a Class C Airport                                              1.4

Yesterday evening was a gorgeous time for flying.  Mild temps and low winds made for the perfect opportunity to fly into my first Class C airport, Richmond International (#45).  I planned an 1830 takeoff for a sunset landing at Richmond around 1900.  Departing out of Langley I headed across the James River and up to the Hopewell VOR, making contact with Potomac Approach about 5 miles south east and stating I wanted to do a touch and go and had the latest ATIS information from KRIC.  Assigned a transponder code I was cleared straight in for runway 34 with winds 080 at 5 knots.  I was asked for my intentions after the touch and go and told the controller I wanted to egress south back to Hopewell (this information was passed on to the Richmond Tower so they knew what to do with me). Traffic was relatively light.  Potomac confirmed I had the field in sight and switched me over to tower.  Tower told me to fly 060 after departure and cleared me to land.  Winds aloft and a powered descent allowed me to truck along at about 125 knots all the way down to about 3 mile final.  I did not want to be the toad in the road flying a 70 knot final from 10 miles out and backing up traffic.   At 800 feet it was very easy to pull the power back, slow the plane down, drop the flaps and get into a nice 65 knot stable approach on short final.  The landing was a kiss, flaps came up, power back in and I was on the go climbing out.  At 500 feet I turned right to 060 and was told to contact departure.  This was my only screw up, not having the departure freq I had to ask tower for it.  Back with Potomac I got a few vectors before being cleared direct to Hopewell .  Over Hopewell radar service was terminated and I enjoyed a nice night flight back to Langley listening to Bob Seager over the internal intercom system.  Class C is not much different than Class D with the exception of contacting approach and not tower for the initial call.  Flying VFR you are free to fly any course and change altitudes as long as the controller has not assigned a heading or altitude or told you to advise of any changes.  On the approach I was allowed to do my own thing, on the departure I was given initial vectors and told the reason was to keep me clear of the approach path.

[September 12, 2009]
Moving Up to the Cessna 182 with G1000 Cockpit         1.1

Headed down to Chesapeake (KCPK) today to start the process of checking out in a Cessna 182 and gaining the high performance endorsement in my logbook (FAA considers any aircraft over 200HP as high performance and requires a pilot to have an endorsement by a CFI).  This particular 182 is a 2005 model with the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit. That made for a lot of new things thrown at me at once: new airplane and new avionics.  I have been studying the POH and Garmin documentation for a few weeks.  Sporty's makes a pretty descent video and computer simulator of the G1000 that allowed me to get some hands on experience before ever setting foot in the airplane.  I think this paid off as I was pretty comfortable with the primary "buttonology" of the Garmin from the get go and I could make it do what I needed it to for basic flight.  What was difficult to get used to was the tapes used to display airspeed and altitude.  I don't think these are superior to the analog gauges which can be assessed with the quickest of glances while the tapes require more prolonged analysis before useful information can be digested.  I also don't like how small and cluttered the engine information is on the MFD.  They say this is progress? Don't get me wrong, I am no Luddite, but is this technology really needed in simple GA aircraft.  In the quest to cram as much information on the displays as possible it appears the fundamental data needed for flight has taken a back seat to making the moving map as big as possible.  The bottom line is this is the future of avionics and I might as well get on board.  As we taxied out the first two things I noticed that were very different in the 182 was the sight picture (larger glare shield and cowling) and how heavy the yoke was to pull back.  Lots of right rudder on take off to check the massive torque from the 230 horses, she climbed out with authority!   We flew up through a scattered cloud deck at 4000 feet and proceeded to go through the standard PTS maneuvers.  I held my own without having practiced in a while and dealing with different performance and different avionics.  The instructor appeared content so we headed back to the airport dropping through a hole in the clouds before entering the pattern.  Winds were fairly benign today so we picked up the pattern for RW 5.  The 182 has forty degrees of flaps, but we only used thirty which has no detent.  The pattern was flown 90-80-65 and while I tried to figure out what manifold pressure worked for each leg I noticed right away that the 182 will come down in a hurry if you pull the power out.  I am usually high on my approaches in the 172 which usually requires pulling out a lot of power to fix, in the 182 I could correct glide path quickly with only a short cycle of the throttle.  The aircraft would come down quickly and power was added to maintain the correct glide path.  The first landing was a little harder than I would have liked as I learned the force required to maintain the correct pitch attitude.  Landing two was a kiss and number three was a greaser after a slight balloon was canceled out on descent with the addition of a little power.  The CFI said one more flight will have me signed off on the aircraft and a high performance endorsement in my logbook.  I will knock that out in a few weeks, I might even take this plane for a x-country trip. j

[September 6, 2009]
International Ambassador of Flight                        1.6

My second cousin from France, Alexander, is visiting the States for three weeks and I was lucky to have the opportunity to take him for a discovery flight of the local area.  Having never flown in a small plane this was a treat for Alexander and it gave us an opportunity to see some of the areas we would visit the following day from the air including colonial Williamsburg and the Yorktown Battlefield.  We flew out to New Point Comfort lighthouse at around 800 feet off the deck for a really great view of the old landmark and surrounding coastline.  Hundreds of boaters were out enjoying the last holiday weekend of Summer.  From there we climbed up to 1500 feet before heading up the York River checking out the Yorktown Battlefield and the Coleman Bridge before making a touch and go landing at West Point and then heading south to overfly Williamsburg and return via the James River.  The return to Langley was just the sweetest landing I have ever made and I attribute such landing luck to my cousin being on-board.  He enjoyed the flight and we enjoyed sharing the experience of general aviation flight with him.  Bon Jour! j

[August 22, 2009]
Jumping Out of a Perfectly Good Airplane

Time to celebrate passing my instrument checkride!  I piled the family into the Tahoe and headed down to Skydive Suffolk in Suffolk, VA.  This is not the first time I have done such a thing, actually it's the sixth.  So that makes for six take offs in a fully functioning aircraft but no landings which usually is the hallmark of a successful flight.  Actually as far as parachuting goes the first five were at Army Airborne school at Ft Benning, Georgia during the winter of 1991.  The military of course removes all fun and enjoyment from any activity including parachuting.  They drop you from 1500 feet, with a static line attached to your chute, about 100 pounds of combat gear strapped to you and a parachute harness so tight that you feel you may never stand straight again.  This was actually my first free fall from 13,500 ft with towering cumulous nimbus clouds all around me.  It was a tandem jump which means I was strapped to an experienced skydiver, Matt.  This allowed me to experience the thrill of freefall skydiving without hours of training and certification. j


[August 19, 2009]
Instrument Checkride Passed!                           1.8 

Checkride Write Up – Part I – The Oral

I arrived an hour early at the airport to get all the documents squared away before the DE’s arrival.  I had all of my personal documents in one folder, my log book and aircraft log tabbed out, and reference material needed for the oral portion laid out, AFDs, Approach plates, enroute chart, etc.  I was told to plan an IFR flight to Raleigh Durham airport prior to the oral so I had a binder with a flight plan, flight log, DUAT weather brief, and print outs of approach procedures, STARs, airport diagrams.  The DUAT weather brief is usually about 10+ pages (thanks to the DC NOTAM) so I had highlighted and tabbed important areas in the document such as SIGMETS, AIRMETS, winds aloft, NOTAMS-D and FDC NOTAMS for RDU, TAF & METARS for RDU and alternate.  This allowed for quick reference.

We started promptly at 0900 with review of my log book and documents to ensure I was eligible for the practical.  We reviewed the IACRA application which I had printed out prior and then pulled it up on the computer so that the DE could make her entries.  It is very important that you know your FTN number and log-in and password for IACRA.  When you complete an application on-line IACRA will spit out an application number on the final screen, it’s big and bold and you think that is the number everyone will need to reference the document, not the case.  The instructor and DE need your FTN number to find and pull up the application.  You will also need to log back on to IACRA after the DE does his/her thing and digitally sign the document so very important you have your user name and password.  I had both so things went smoothly.

With eligibility determined we started the practical test.  The DE designed the oral in the context of a flight to KRDU which was really nice compared to the random off the wall questions some DE’s will give.  So essentially we discussed an IFR trip to KRDU and in that discussion we covered and discussed almost everything an IFR pilot would need to know in order to conduct the trip in a safe and professional manner.  It is a brilliant technique.

The first question was what requirements did I need to legally fly IFR, was the aircraft legal to fly (this is where we reviewed the aircraft log), we discussed  the types of VOR checks and the tolerneces allowed in each.  Next she asked me to discuss the weather from Virginia down to KRDU, this is where I used my tabbed/highlighted DUAT report to discuss all aspects of weather that I mentioned above.  In hindsight I should have printed out some of the graphic products on the ADDS web site to assist in my discussion especially with the big picture weather reference synopsis, progs, and convective SIGMETS.  I had charted the convective SIGMETS manually so I knew they would not be a factor.  We discussed freezing levels and where this information could be found, I said AIRMET-Zs but forgot about the Winds Aloft table.

We discussed the various instruments/systems within the airplane, including discussions on the pitot-static system, vacuum system, electrical system, HSI, VOR receivers, GPS, VSI, wet compass.  On many of these she wanted me to describe how each worked in some detail.  We went into more depth on the GPS, what made it legal for IFR flight, how many satellites did I need, what was RAIM and how do you check it.  The only question she stumped me on during the entire oral was this one “altimeter is showing level but the VSI is showing a descent, the ASI is showing correct airspeed.”  I sat on that one for awhile and just kept coming back to the fact that the static system was the same for all three instruments and that it must be working if two out of the three instruments were still working properly.  I told her I would pull the ALT static just to rule it out, she said all the instruments remained the same. Finally I said I had no idea, she said sometimes single instruments just go bad regardless of the systems that feed them.  Good point.

Next we discussed the route of flight to RDU.  She reviewed my flight log, she wanted to know why I chose 6000 ft for my altitude which led to discussion on MEA and East/West rule.  I had found a STAR for RDU that was on my route so we discussed it.  She asked about ODPs/Take off mins out of KLFI.  She asked what I would do if I lost my altimeter during flight, if I lost my nav equipment – tell ATC.  We discussed the approach I chose into RDU, she wanted to know the approach lighting systems used, how I would adjust mins if the approach lighting system went out, if I needed an alternate airport, what factors did I use in choosing an alternate.  I was asked to describe the components of the  ILS system, how far out could I receive the signal (18M).  The purpose and function of marker beacons.

We talked about going NORDO in flight, what would I do, what route would I fly, at what altitude would I fly, when would I commence the approach.  With RDU the ARGAL-5 STAR takes you to the RDU VOR over the airport so I selected the VOR apprch for simplicity and canned my planned ILS apprch.  We backed up to the approach and she put me in a situation where I was conducting a GPS approach, still in NORDO, and I lost the GPS past the FAF, what would I do?  The missed approach procedure was based on GPS waypoints so I could not execute it as published.  With the RDU VOR directly in front of me I told her I would immediately break off the apprch, climb to the missed altitude and enter the hold at RDU until I could get myself sorted out and then would commence the VOR approach.  She seemed satisfied with that answer.  She asked how after landing NORDO I would cross a runway to taxi back to the FBO.  I told her light gun signals from the tower, flashing green. 

Other items we discussed:  What is the full scale deflection on the CDI for GPS within 30 miles.  What was full scale deflection from a VOR at 10 miles.  How I would get a clearance from a non-towered field.  How to determine if the AI or HI might be failing, triangles of agreement!

The oral lasted about two hours.  I could feel the brain fatigue afterwards and knew that I had a lot further still to go.  At this point the DE told me what three approaches we would fly and allowed me all the time I needed to prep for the flight.

Checkride Write Up – Part II – The Practical

It was around 11:30 by the time I was ready to pre-flight the aircraft.  Temps were in the upper 90s and winds were 10+ knots out of the southwest.  I did a real thorough pre-flight while the DE observed ensuring I paid particular attention to checking lights, electrical gyro spin up, clock functionality and pitot heat worked by physically touching the tube (before it got too hot).  I also loaded my flight plan into the GPS so as not to have to fiddle with it once the Hobbs was rolling.  On the taxi out I checked my turn coordinator, wet compass, and heading indicator, and attitude indicator to ensure all were working correctly. 

Take off was uneventful and we were climbing out at 400ft when I went under the hood.  The DE played ATC and gave me vectors as I settled into my instrument scan and leveled off at 2500 feet.  After clearing the Class D I was given direct Harcum VOR for the KFYJ VOR-A approach.  I dialed in Harcum on the VOR and went into my approach brief.  As we closed on Harcum I was instructed to descend down to 1700 and cleared for the approach.   At that point my AI and HSI were taken away from me, but I was allowed to keep my GPS which was loaded with the approach for situational awareness purposes.  I crossed Harcum and entered direct into hold.  It got a little ugly at this point and if not for the GPS I may have boned this up to the point of pink slip but the GPS saved my rear and I was able to see what corrections I really needed to make.  I kept announcing the 5Ts out loud and I think that helped me to remember what needed to be done.  We came back around started tracking the VOR inbound while descending down to 1400 feet.  West Point pattern was busy with lots of radio traffic, as I crossed over the VOR inbound I called my position with intentions to circle to land on RWY 28.  We descended down to 500ft where I held it calling out time elapsed and time to go to the MAP.  She let me break out almost t-boned to runway 28 at ¾ mile.  I had to make a hard right to keep from overflying the runway and I cringed as my maneuvers were aggressive and exceeded 30 degrees of bank a few times.  I started calling my positions to the VFR traffic, realized I was way too jammed up and needed more lateral separation from the runway and decided to turn base, fly the upwind leg, and rejoin the traffic flow on the crosswind.  During this time I held it at 500ft, the DE told me the ceiling was at 600ft and not to climb back into the goo.  At some point during this time I got my AI and HSI back.   With things squared away in the downwind I conducted a normal landing with a nice chirp of the wheels.  She asked for a touch and go, so I took out the flaps, rotated and climbed back out going back under the hood at 400ft. 

We went into unusual attitudes next.  The first was nose high with full panel.  The second was nose low, partial panel.  In both iterations she wanted me to return to the original heading and altitude after the aircraft was stabilized.  The nose low had me yellowed lined on the ASI, so I was very easy on the pull out as to not over-G the aircraft and rip the wings off.  

 With full panel back, non precision complete and holds done I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was told to contact apprch and request a GPS approach for rwy 25 into KPHF.  I selected NRST on the GPS to get my bearings and called Norfolk to let them know who I was, where I was, and what I wanted to do.  Norfolk put me on a vector to the final approach course and I was allowed to use my auto pilot to reduce my work load and allow me time to get myself squared away and conduct the approach brief.  I loaded the procedure in the GPS and activated vectors.  Now ahead of the aircraft I deactivated the AP and hand flew the vectors to intercept the apprch course.  We received a RAIM failure from the GPS and I told the DE I would not execute the approach at this point, she acknowledged and said to continue the apprch as if it was operational.  I did not let the HSI GPS/NAV button trip me up and ensured I was in GPS.  The RAIM issue ended up self correcting and I did receive APRCH ACTV.  Cleared for the apprch we crossed the FAF and came on down, a sword fight ensued with the yoke as we were bounced down the final, but I managed to keep the needle close to center.  I crossed the MAP still under the hood so went directly into my alternate missed instructions (Norfolk knew our intentions to back up and do the ILS 25 apprch after a missed).  I was completely focused on the AI for the initial climb out, no distractions in this very critical phase of flight.

 One to go, feeling good.  Now the precision approach.  Norfolk flew us back outbound on vectors to reset for the approach.  The DE wanted this one coupled so I set the KAP140 for HDG and Altitude hold.  I briefed the approach and loaded the GPS.  The DE said no GPS this time and turned it off.  At this point I was receiving my intercept vector so I armed the APRCH mode on the AP.  The AP captured and started flying inbound.  With no GPS to ID the GS intercept fix I dialed in the Norfolk VOR radial on #2.  VOR #2 centered up and the GS was captured at the same time.  I asked to hand fly the apprch at this point.  We came back on down to the DH with the CDI never wandering far from center.  She told me I had broke out and low and behold there smack in front of me was the runway.  She told me to execute a touch and go, remain visual and proceed back to Langley – I had passed!  I executed my BEST landing ever on that touch and go, it was so soft you almost didn’t know if you had landed or not.

 We climbed out and headed back to Langley.  They put us in a right pattern for 26.  I really wanted to grease that last landing to put a cherry on top of this checkride but the aviation Gods know when your head has gotten too big for your britches and know how to rectify the situation.  I remained in the flare for a little too long trying to finesse the landing with power.  Wrong answer with winds gusting to 16.  A gust picked me up and put me down on the runway firmly.  Ah well you can’t win them all.  Total flight time was 1.8.

 After we parked the DE turned to me and said congratulations and shook my hand.  I was too exhausted to feel any real exhilaration at that moment but the delayed reaction did occur.  Its hard to believe its over, no more studying during my lunch hour and late into the night, no more John and Martha King videos, no more early Sunday wakeups to go flying under the hood, wow what to do with all my free time now?  I know the IFR pool is a deep and dangerous one so I’ll be hanging out in the shallow end for some time.  If my private pilot training taught me anything it’s how little you really know after you get your ticket and the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know.  Books only take you so far, there is no substitute for experience.  The trick is gaining the experience without killing yourself in the process.

 Plates Used:




[August 7&9, 2009]
Weekend Flying                                                   4.3 

Finally made good on an offer to take one of my co-workers up for a discovery flight of the local area and for the first time splitting the cost of the flight 50/50 which is a great way to log an hour of time on the cheap!  Later the same day I went back with Carson to go work landings out at West Point.  We got about five good landings in before heading back to Langley for a dusk landing.  Great weather day.

[August 2, 2009]
Final Stretch to Instrument Rating                     1.8        


[July 30-31, 2009]
Oshkosh 2009                                                    

I have completed my first pilgrimage to aviation’s Mecca, Oshkosh 2009.  Two days were allocated to exploring and taking in as much of Oshkosh as possible in such a short amount of time.  This first journey was more of a reconnaissance for future visits than anything else, take it all in, taste a little bit of everything and get a better idea of what to spend more time seeing and doing the next time.

 One thing we did right from the get go was arriving early.  EAA opens at 7AM and we arrived about 7:15.  This got us a parking spot right next to the main gate without any traffic issues.  We were quickly able to redeem our on line tickets and get through the main gate.  The first day’s weather was pretty poor and it started raining almost the moment we stepped out of the car, luckily we came prepared with rain gear so it did not slow us down a bit.  We headed to Aeroshell Square to get up close and personnel to the shows two main attractions – the Airbus A380 (world’s largest commercial aircraft) and White Knight Two from Scaled Composites.  As we made our way to Aeroshell Square we had to pass all of the primary aircraft manufactures displays spotting Cessna’s Skycatcher (sporting a different paint job from the aircraft shown at this year’s Sun-N-Fun, the Cirrus Jet decked out in an awesome crimson red, Diamonds Delta Jet, a Pilatus PC-12, American Champions stable of aerobatic aircraft, and Piper’s new jet.  It was aircraft overload and we had only been there for five minutes!  But this was putting only the tiniest scratch in the massive display of aircraft to be seen. 

After marveling at the size of the A380 and the unorthodox configuration of the White Knight 2 (it should be noted that the cockpit for the aircraft is in the right fuselage, what appears to be windows in the left fuselage is merely paint, in addition the aircraft requires a special tow device which can be disassembled and stored within the aircraft) and without much of a game plan we headed off to the north to check out the warbirds section.  The Flying magazine pavilion opened early and we ducked in to get out of the rain.  An important note here is to get your souvenirs early as the best T-shirts will sell out early.  Even on Thursday morning they were sold out of youth small shirts which was going to be tough for me to explain to my son when I got home.  Like everything else at Oshkosh, the warbirds display was massive and overwhelming.  We only saw a few aircraft in this section and did not revisit the area on Friday which was a mistake.  We did get up close with a Hellcat, and a red tailed P-51 before heading back to the Cirrus tent to meet airshow rockstar Patty Wagstaff and get an autograph in my logbook.  I swung back over to the A380 and waited in line for an hour to get inside the bemoth.  The aircraft is one of the original test aircraft used by Airbus and is still outfitted in a test configuration.  The most prominent item upon entering is the numerous ballast tanks that are filled with water to simulate the weight of various passenger configurations.  Most of the cabin molding has been removed (or never installed) which exposes the guts of the A380 to viewing, thousands and thousands of cables run through the ceiling of the plane, its amazing that anyone could ever make heads or tails of the cable forest.  After heading aft I went up a spiral staircase to the upper deck.  Along with more ballast tanks were several computer workstations where various in flight data is collected and analyzed.  There was a limited passenger seating set up in the forward section of the plane but it was by no means as sophisticated as some of the photos I have seen from various carriers.  A very wide double staircase takes you back down to the main deck just aft of the flight crew compartment which unfortunately was closed to the public.  A big plane no doubt but not sure if it was worth waiting an hour to see, maybe next time they will give free flights in the pattern.  By now it was afternoon and the cloud ceiling had rose just high enough for the afternoon air show to go on.  The who’s who of airshow performers looped and rolled through the sky including Matt Yonkin, etc. etc.  As the airshow continued into the afternoon I headed off to the vintage aircraft section of Oshkosh to take in the beautiful aircraft of yesteryear.  So many of these aircraft are restored to absolute pristine condition, acres and acres of Waco’s, Stearmens, Stinsons, Cessnas, Pipers, and Beechcrafts along with many niche manufacturers.  When the airshow ends the crowds begin departing en-masse and the vendors close up shop.  With plenty of hours of daylight left this was the perfect time to have a seat next to the flight line, relax, and watch the parade of planes depart Oshkosh as the airport’s runways open back up (Friday’s departures were substantial, which is regrettable for anyone visiting on Saturday or Sunday as they will not have a chance to see these aircraft.)  Your other option is to rush to your car and fight traffic, it’s a no brainer.  After the departures started to slacken we perused more of the thousands of airplanes.  Again, this is an excellent strategy to get close to showcase airplanes without having to fight the crowds.  I was able to snap better pictures of the planes without thirty people who I don’t know standing in the pictures. 

Day two, Friday, started in the same manner as day one.  We arrived early, got parking up close and were inside the gates with ease.  The weather on day two was absolutely perfect and we knew the crowds would be showing up shortly.  We headed back to AeroShell square, which by the way changes in layout and variety of aircraft almost by the hour, so visit this centerpiece often.  Today’s display had an immaculate DH Beaver on floats, I headed off to the Ultralight section on the far south of the field.  I must have walked a mile and the lines of planes just kept going and going and going.  I made it as far as the amphib parking before I gave up.  It was still early so the grass ultralight strip only had a few early risers working the pattern.  That all changed in a manner of 30 minutes.  By then planes of all shapes and sizes were lining up for a chance to jump in the pattern.  One interesting ultralight was a twin engine that was commissioned by the National Geographic society for taking pictures in locations with rather hostile terrain.  This particular plane has been featured in one of the many aviation magazines I read but specifically which one I cannot recall.  From there it was over to a Builders Pavilion for a presentation on tail wheel flying by prolifiv aviation writer and editor Budd Davisson.  There are tons of presentations given throughout each and every day and this is where reviewing the scheduling and making a plan will pay big dividends.  Budd’s talk was very interesting and I was happy to note that he mentioned Anderson Flight School and Garci in particular as one of the top locations to learn tail wheel flying.  I have had this school targeted for over a year to do my training and it looks like that will happen this fall.  Attending more lectures and hands on workshops is definitely one of my goals for next time.  Just after the lecture I was able to catch an engine demonstration of EAA’s Berilot flyer which they plan to reenact his flight across the channel.  The three piston engine caused some much vibration I can’t imagine what it will feel like for the pilot and what about fuel foaming?  Next up was a trip to the EAA Museum which houses some amazing artifacts of aviation.  You have to catch a bus from the main gate to get to the Museum which is located a mile or so west of the field.  A large hanger area in the Museum houses a few warbirds including a Mosquito, P-51, Spitfire, P-38 and Corsair.  This area also doubles as a presentation venue and I was lucky enough to attend the Concorde reunion and listen to legendary pilot Bob Hoover speak about his life experiences.  Bob is getting pretty old now and I am not sure how much time he has left but he is fascinating to listen to and his book, which I read while deployed, “Forever Flying” is definitely worth checking out.  I really would have liked a photo and autograph but it was just too difficult with the amount of people in attendance.  Helicopter rides ($40) and Kid Venture are on the back side of the EAA Museum across an open field.  I was unable to check out the venue because we had to get back to the airport to watch the A380 departure.

 The A380 was backed up to the end of 36L by tug and then spooled up for takeoff.  Rotation was about midfield with a steep climb out.  With some flaps deployed the aircraft stayed in tight to the airfield and performed several load speed passes (one with gear down) before departing for Milwaukee to pick up the team before heading back to France.  Shortly afterwards a C-17 and then a C-5 arrived to take up the space that the A380 vacated at AeroShell square. 

I highly recommend planning for at least three full days to experience AirVenture.  The best days to do this would be Tuesday through Thursday for several reasons, one it will have the lowest attendance relatively speaking, two it will have the most aircraft (lot of departures on Friday), three – vendors will have the highest inventory and largest selection.  Get there when the gates open, you will avoid traffic congestion, get great parking, and can see a lot of the major attractions up close and personal before the crowds show up.  Bring a scanner or better yet an Airshow Radio (sold on site for $15) so you know what is going on and grab a copy of AirVenture Today.  This excellent daily newspaper gives you an entire schedule for the day along with very detailed maps of Oshkosh and all major venues.  My next visit will be greatly enhanced by my two day recon this year.  I’m already looking forward to it!

[July 21, 2009]
Air & Space Museum - Dulles Annex                                                    


[July 14, 2009]
Partial Panel Work                                                  1.9        

Today's plan was to work partial panel which was a good thing as I noted the electrically powered directional gyro was not working as we rolled out to the runup area.  No amount of fiddling would get the DG to play nice and not having it covered up really caused confusion even on the ground as I constantly wanted to refer back to it.  I have been practicing partial panel in the simulator for the last week trying to improve this area of weakness in my training.  Today's flight validated the sim work is paying off but there is still plenty of room for improvement.  We flew up to Harcum and entered the holding pattern for about three turns.  These went OK but I busted CDI displacement on a turn or two which would be a failure on the checkride.  In addition a few updrafts had me bust the altitude parameter.  These are the most frustrating of all because I will have the plane trimmed out just the way I want it, holding steady altitude and the next thing I know I am in a 500 fpm climb which requires aggressive forward elevator to check and takes some time to get the aircraft back in equilibrium.  My issue with this has been too little too late, next time I am going to be much quicker to stop the climb regardless of what it takes.  We departed the Harcum hold and entered into another hold short of the ILS approach to RW20 at KPHF.  Warmed up at this point this one was a little easier.  From there we called up Norfolk for vectors to the LOC RW 8 approach at Langley.  Vectors with no gyro was tough, and I caught myself turning before figuring out the math.  Writing down the vector was helpful.  I realized that the counting method must be augmented with knowing and using the compass error shortcuts like OSUN and knowing east and west will show true on the wet compass.  I may make myself a little cheat sheet for partial panel flying that keeps these items in my visual scan.  My instructor was on me and it really annoys the heck out of me besides clouding my thought process.

[July 8, 2009]
Checking out a Cherokee                                        1.2        

I have wanted to fly a Piper Cherokee for a long time.  Being one of the most popular trainers behind the Cessna I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  In addition I have always liked the look of the low wing Piper and it had potential if I ever decided to buy my own plane.  Looking around at the local FBOs in the area I found a 1965 Cherokee 180 right up the road at KJGG and decided to give them a call.

I met my flight instructor Al in the airport restaurant which also doubles as the lobby, we sat down and talked about the differences between Piper and Cessna.  We talked about V speeds in MPH which he told me the ASI would be calibrated in.  The speed to remember was 85 MPH which was Vy and Vref.

 We got out to the aircraft, N8229W, only to find a new ASI calibrated in knots.  My instructor never did give me the correct V speeds in knots and kinda just swaged the conversion which would bother me for the whole flight.  It would have been nice to have the correct speeds in front of me.  The gauges were all over the place and it took some time to figure everything out.  The yoke range of movement seamed more substantial then the 172, both left and right as well as back.  The aircraft’s paint job was only a few years old and it looked excellent on the outside, but the interior was still very much from the 1960s and in dire need of a massive overhaul in both upholstery and avionics. 

After the run-up we departed from runway 13, I had to use some slight forward elevator to keep the plane on the runway until rotation speed.  The aircraft accelerated and tracked center line with no issues.  We climbed away and I settled down and got comfortable with the airplane.  We proceeded to level off at 2000 feet and I spent a little time trying to figure out which way to swing the trim handle on the roof of the cockpit in order to trim nose down.  We conducted a few turns to heading and some climbs and descents before slowing the plane down to see what happens when the flaps are deployed.  Roll rates felt similar to a C172.  It was very interesting to see that the Piper immediately pitches nose down as flaps are added, this is converse to the Cessna where you pitch up.  With 40 degrees of flaps and holding 75 knots the aircraft has a very pronounced nose down attitude.

 We then conducted power on and power off stalls.  Unlike the 172 the Cherokee will stall quite easily and not loiter in the mush stage.  With basic maneuvers behind us we headed to Wakefield for some landings.  The Cherokee lands at a higher airspeed, around 75 knots and some power must be kept in until the threshold.  The first full flap landing was absolutely perfect with only the slightest descent onto the main gear.  I told my instructor it was beginners luck.  I had read that the stabilator had a heavy feeling in the flare but I did not notice any difference or issues while landing. We went around for a second landing and this one was a little flatter with the nose wheel touching down right after the mains.  Overall the landings were not that much different from a C172, but the increased speed was definitely notable and took some getting used to.  The plane did not drop like I expected or was briefed when the power was pulled out.  The last landing was a no flaps landing.  I knew my approach would have to be longer and flatter so I extended my down wind while I got low.  Using pitch to control airspeed I got the aircraft down to 75 over the numbers and proceeded to float in ground effect for over half the runway before finally getting the plane down.  I asked for and was granted a short field takeoff which had us airborne well within 1000 feet.  We headed back to Jamestown and finished up with another normal landing.  Overall a docile aircraft as should be expected from a trainer.  Having the V speeds would have been nice – now seeing on the Internet that 1.3 Vso is actually 65 knots!

 I think overall the Piper is an enjoyable plane to fly but there are too many things I think Piper got wrong (at least in this model of Cherokee) to make it a plane I would buy.  Some of the things I did not like included: no way to select fuel feed from both tanks – left or right is all you get, a single door into the cockpit, an overly complicated locking system for the door, the trim handle on the ceiling, the gauge layout, fuses instead of circuit breakers, limited ventilation in the cockpit,  and an electric stall light instead of a audio horn.  What I do like about the Cherokee is its good looks and its handling is more akin to sophisticated aircraft which would make the transition to higher performance aircraft a little less daunting.j


[July 6, 2009]
Back to Tangier Island                                            1.5        

Took Christina and Carson to Tangier Island today for some lunch and a little sightseeing in 428FF.  Tangier's runway has been repaved and shortened since I last visited the island in 2007.   The new runway is a big improvement over the cracked and bumpy runway it replaced.  I recall the old runway being so undulating that I became airborne during my roll out as I crossed over a rather substantial bump.  The landing today was rather uneventful in comparison, the new runway is smooth as glass, I came in from the south landing on runway 2 with a minor crosswind from the west.  There are no pilot facilities on Tangier save for a small locked yellow box at the entrance which is used to collect the $10 landing fee on the honor system.  Cell phone coverage is so weak and spotty that I had to borrow a land line at the restaurant in order to close my flight plan.  A small flight planning building is being constructed with most of the framing complete, it should be operational in a few months.  Tangier Island is a unique and interesting place and you can Google it to find out its history.  We had lunch at the Fisherman's Corner Seafood Restaurant and it was outstanding.  I give it two thumbs up and highly recommend it if you find yourself visiting the Island.  The town is quaint and the people are very friendly.  You may feel you have stepped back into a time machine circa 1970s.  You can find an excellent desert selection at Spanky's Ice Cream Parlor.  Its important to note Tangier Island does sit under a Restricted Area that begins at 3500 feet.  Entry to the island is from the east due to other restricted areas to the west of the island that start at the surface (the Navy conducts bombing practice in those areas).  Carson logged some stick time on the flight back keeping the bug centered in the heading indicator.  After we got home he spent two hours in the simulator taking off and landing at Tangier and repeating almost every minor detail of the flight right down to telling his passengers to remain quiet during the taxi and takeoff phase of the flight.  It's amazing the details that children can absorb with no effort, part of the reason I am getting him started at an early age.  A short flight that left a big impression. j

[July 5, 2009]
Shooting Approaches                                               1.4 (1.1 I)       

Today was a return to approach flying.  I now have the approach briefing down, no longer stumbling my way through them, I am also thinking ahead of the aircraft setting up the cockpit for what's coming next.  We conducted a GPS approach to Wakefield, then headed over to Newport News for the ILS 7 approach.  After a touch and go we completed the flight with a partial panel LOC 26 approach back into Langley.  The partial panel approach was a disaster, as I could just not build my spatial picture and tended to overcorrect for the localizer which kept me flying thru it.  I will need a lot more practice on the partial panel and may just concentrate on only partial panel as my instructor tells me full panel is cake after working partial panel.  We decided it was time to put a mark on the wall for the checkride now that I am at the 40 hour mark of logged instrument time.  It looks like the third week in August will be the time.  I need a deadline to focus me on the getting this rating completed.j

[July 3, 2009]
Return to Instrument Training                                 1.7 (1.4 I)        

After almost a three month break from instrument flying I am back at it again.  We eased back into things with some straight and level, turns, unusual attitudes, steep turns and holding.  All of these helped knock the rust off.  We finished with an ILS approach to runway 26 at Langley which went fairly well.j

[May 22-23, 2009]
Sea Plane Training and a New Rating!                    5.1        

A slight breeze, blue skies pocked by harmless marshmallow cumulus clouds, lush green forest rushing by only a few hundred feet below me and a beautiful river that stretches for miles off my right wing. The windows are open, the engine purs, and the little bear holding the Cub sign on my VSI is smiling back at me. Have I died and gone to heaven? Nope I’m training for my seaplane rating and it is hands down the most fun I have had in my short 200 hours of flying.

These last two days have been amazing experience which I would recommend to anyone looking to put some excitement back into their flying and sharpen the old stick and rudder skills.

Day one consisted of a two hour block of classroom training.  I had studied the FAA manual as well as a small 10 page handout my instructor had sent me a few months before the training so much of what we covered was already familiar to me.  We discussed how to read the winds from the air as obviously any water way is a potential location for landing so ATIS and other systems used by land based planes are not available, the different methods of moving on the surface as well as rough and glassy water operations.  We discussed the parts of the float and particularities of the Piper PA-12.  With the lecture portion complete we headed down to Rat Landing, about 20 minute drive from the Ahoskie Airport.  Rat Landing sits on the banks of the Chowan River and is a small sandy beach book ended by a pier on one end and a man made peninsula on the other.

The PA-12 sits patiently for our arrival moored to a huge tree that juts from the sandy beach.  It’s a peaceful scene and I soak it all in for a moment, a passing speed boat soon disturbs the serenity of it all, only to disappear up river allowing the serenity to return once again only this time with the gentle lapping of waves against the Piper’s aluminum floats.  I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time.  A new plane and a new element, will I be able to handle it all?

The PA-12 harks back to a simpler time in aviation; it’s the essence of flying.  Very few gauges, a simple stick and rudder pedals.  You fly with the stick in your right hand and the throttle control in your left.  I was worried that this would be something that would not come naturally to me being that a Cessna has the yoke in the left hand and the throttle in the right,  in the end the worry was unfounded and it took no extra effort to fly the plane, save for the use of the rudder pedals which really took a mental effort to stay on top off.

We must have made over two dozen landings in the last two days. They came at me so fast and furious I lost count after the second hour. We never flew higher than 500 feet at any time, sometimes flying down the river just below the tree line. By the end of the training 500 feet started to feel really high. We also did a lot of maneuvering down low, with aggressive bank angles. Again, by the end of training of was feeling really comfortable working close to the ground. One thing I could not get used to was the plow taxi turns to downwind. It really felt like the plane was going to go over on its side, of course I had to set that uneasiness aside to perform the turn correctly for the checkride. Glassy landings were a blast coming so close to my LVR, the channel marker, I though we were gonna rip the wing off. Getting a real smooth touch down was always a rewarding experience but I had my share of skips to keep me grounded in reality.

The training was over almost as quick as it began and tonight I have my ticket as a Private Pilot-Single Engine Sea (SES). I will tell you those two days will stay etched vividly in my memory for the rest of my life. If you’re on the fence about getting your seaplane rating I urge you to make the leap and land on your floats!

[May 10, 2009]
Oshkosh Bound & Upcoming Sea Plane Training               

Just finished up making all my reservations for AirVenture 2009 in Oshkosh, WI.  Me and Dad will be there July 30 and 31!  Looking forward to it!  In two weeks I will be heading to North Carolina for Sea Plane training so stay tuned for updates and pics.j

[May 9, 2009]
Massive Web Site Updates                

I have found a better way to upload and view photos using the Shutterfly site as opposed to the current clunky interface I have now.  I have uploaded tons of photos from the past six months including the recent Key West photos as well as the photos from January's trip to Fantasy of Flight museum.  The main photo site is located here.j

[May 7, 2009]
The Last Leg Complete                                       .5                

After waiting five days for this stationary cold front to give up its nasty weather grasp on Virginia I was finally able to drive down to Suffolk and fly 429FF back to Langley.  Winds were gusting up to 20 knots but the short flight was uneventful for the most part except for a solitary storm cell that was racing me to Langley.  I beat it.  Two F-22 raptors waited patiently as I was cleared to land on runway 26.  After I landed about 10 F-22s took off so I  beat that rush as well by minutes.

The entire x-country trip to Key West ended up being 18.2 hours on the Hobbs (for comparison it would have taken 20 hours by car for just one way).  I burned a total of 156 gallons of avgas during the trip and covered over 1600 nautical miles.j

[May 2, 2009]
Made it Home...Almost                                        8.3                
Video__View GPS Track For This Flight ___Photos____________________________________________________

Just flew through four sectional charts in one day!  That was 8.3 hours of flying and over 800NM covered.  I made it back...well almost.

Launching out of Key West at 8AM  we dodged some widely scattered cumulus rain showers as we flew north east along the keys at 1500 feet towards Marathon.  On the climb out the warning panel reported a low fuel problem in the right tank, a quick glance at the fuel gauge showed no fuel.  Having visually inspected the tanks during the pre-flight I knew they were topped off, as a matter of fact the right tank was full all the way to the top of the filler neck so much so that I could not even pour the fuel samples back into the tank without causing it to overflow.  I was feeding from both tanks so I knew we were ok for the immediate future, I thought about returning to the airport but decided on a wait and see approach.  After about a minute the fuel gauge showed a full tank and the warning light went out.  I am still not sure what happened but I think the tank was overfilled to the point where the fuel float would not work properly because of the lack of air in the tank.  (It happened again after takeoff from Lakeland when the tank was topped off by the FBO but did not happen in Walterboro when I filled the tank to within a half inch of the filler cap.    I had originally intended to land at Marathon but we had gotten off about an hour behind schedule due to the FBO not opening until 7AM so I had to be content with a fly by.  Turning to the north west we started a climb up to 6500 feet working our way around the cumulus clouds from 2500 to 4500 feet.  Once on top it was smooth sailing and the clouds disappated as we neared the west coast of Florida.  We droned off the coast of the Florida Everglades as Christina slept.  I did not pick up flight following prefering to enjoy the peacfulness of the flight.  After about 2 hours we closed in on Lakeland Regional.  I did not endear myself to the tower controller early on when I made my call that we were 10 miles south of the airport.  The controller called back and asked if I was sure I was 10 miles out.  I looked at the Garmin 396 and reported in the affirmative.  What I did not realize was the 396 had inserted an intermediate waypoint between me and the airport and that I was actually 10 miles from the waypoint, and really like 15-20 miles from the airport. I apologized for the mistake but I think the controller had me tagged from that point on.  The landing was uneventful and we taxied off the runway only to be given no guidence on how to get to the FBO.  Requesting more detailed taxi directions just dug my hole deeper.  Columbia FBO fueled us up and we spent very little time on the ground before heading back out.  After more consternation with the taxi instructions I was glad to leave Lakeland behind.  We took off on 27 and climbed out over the SUN-N-FUN fair grounds which only a week earlier were bustling with airplanes, vendors and people and know were barren and quite.  During the show I had listened to the control tower give landing instructions on my handheld transciever.  At the time they were landing on runway nine, but many of the aircraft were told to land on the "skinny runway" to the left of runway 9.  I wondered why the controller did not just say 9 left, now as I climbed out I realized the skinny runway was no runway at all but a taxiway that paralled runway 9!

Coming into Walterboro I made my call obligatory call 10 miles out that I would be entering the pattern for landing.  There was no response or other traffic in the area.  As I began my 45 entry into the downwind leg a call comes over the radio that jumpers are in the air over Walterboro.  I look up and directly in front of me and about 2000 feet up is a Cessna head in the opposite direction with a fully open parachute below him and directly in my flight path.  I advise that I am turning out to the east and make a 90 degree turn away from the jumper.  That was a nice surprise.  I ask the jump aircraft what his intentions are but he never responds back.  Keeping an eye on the parachute I slowly work my way back to a 45 entry onto the downwind.  As I enter my downwind leg the parachutist lands near the threshold of the runway.  I make a forgettable landing and miss my turn off.  With landing traffic in the pattern I end up taxing all the way to the end of the runway to pull off and wait for the landing traffic.  The pilot in the landing Cessna has a Irish/British accent and sounds young.  He ends up making a really terrible landing, bouncing all over the place.  Now I don't feel so bad.  In both of our defense the wind sock is pegged out and winds are gusting.  I am kind of surprised people are parachuting in this stuff.  We taxi over to the self serve fuel pump for a quick gas up and then park at the terminal.  I hook up the Mini-9 Dell laptop and connect to the Internet to start downloading the latest weather information and pour over the sectional maps to devise my next leg.  Convective activity is starting to pop up on the radar picture and scattered clouds become broken and then solid further north.  The surface winds are really picking up as well all along the route of flight, with gusts at 20+ knots.  A huge cold front extends from Ohio all the way down to Alabama and its getting closer.  With it comes nasty weather.  I study my original route of flight and see that it is still viable.  I hedge my bets by identifying airports to the east of my route that I can divert to if things become to nasty near the front.  In addition I ensure that I have a divert airport every 50 miles so I can get down on the ground quickly if the weather takes a turn for the worst.  I'm confident I can get at least to Fayetteville, NC and we head out.  The Irish/British kid who landed after us comes into the terminal with his flight uniform on, probably a student pilot from one of the 141 academies.  Europeans come to the US to learn to fly because it is so much cheaper for them because of all the fees and taxes the EU imposes which has stifled GA in those countries.  Not sure how smart it was for his instructor to send him out on a x-country trip in such blustery conditions and convective activity.

As we depart I hear the jump aircraft make a single call about "jumpers in the air in five minutes."  Another plane in the pattern asked for more information and was met with silence on the radio.  Not sure what the jump aircraft pilot's problem was but he definitely felt like he was under no obligation to communicate beyond his obligatory radio calls.

We had some great tailwinds on the trip north averaging ground speeds of between 125 and 133 knots.  This helped shave about an hour off the trip.  Thunderstorms beat me to Hampton Roads by about 30 minutes. I ended up landing in Suffolk, VA only 25 miles short of my destination. Calm as could be at the airport, but to the northeast all hell was breaking loose. We waited about three hours watching the weather radar for a chance to sneak in but it never came and after the sun went down I ended up throwing in the towel and calling for a ride back to the house. The Garmin 396 with XM weather worked very well as we side stepped and out ran widely scattered storms from South Carolina north. It was pretty cool to see a yellow blotch on the display screen and look in the depicted direction to see a cloud with a visible rain shaft extending to the ground.

Thanks all for the well wishes and comments. It has been a dream fulfilled to make this trip, was a wonderful learning experience, and a milestone was reached as I broke the 200 hour mark on the way back. Total logged time was 17.7 hours.

Got all the videos loaded up into You Tube today, you can go to the Video link to check them out.  They are in High Def so the quality is outstanding.

Return Flight Plan

KEYW - MKY - RSW - KLAL (Refuel) - OCF - GNV - MONIA - SSI - SAV - KRBW (Refuel) - VAN - FLO - FAY - TYI - FKN - KSFQ
850 NM

[April 26, 2009]
On to Key West                                                    2.2              
Video__View GPS Track For This Flight ___Photos____________________________________________________
We made it to Key West at noon today.  I have started to upload pictures from the last four days so the hyperlinks above each day should start to become active soon.

DAY 3 - Flight Plan

KBOW - RSW - MKY - V157 - KEYW
224 NM
ETE 2 Hours
Actual TE was 2 Hours

[April 24, 2009]
We Made It to SUN-N-FUN!                                  1.3                
Video__View GPS Track For This Flight ___Photos____________________________________________________

DAY 2 - Flight Plan

108 NM
ETE 58 Minutes
Actual TE was 1 hour and 2 minutes

Friday morning we left out of Gainesville around 1100 in beautiful clear skies for Bartow, Florida, a short one hour flight.  We picked up flight following for about half the flight before being told to squawk VFR as Tampa was so busy with SUN N FUN traffic that they could not handle the VFR requests.  I relied heavily on the Zaon PCAS as I knew we were heading into a very busy piece of airspace.  Bartow traffic was light coming in and the tower has us enter into a left downwind for runway 9L.  A golf cart was waiting to show us where to park after we cleared the runway.  The ramp was full so they had us park on closed runway.  Very friendly folks at the FBO and a really nice new terminal building with a great little museum showcasing the military history of the airport.  All fees were waived for the SUN-N-FUN week.  (Upon return home from vacation I received a very nice Thank You card from the airport.  Class Act.)  We grabbed a cab driven by Big Ed (a real character) to the rental car location and headed to our hotel to check in before grabbing a bite to eat and leaving to catch the night air show at SUN-N-FUN.

 SUN-N-FUN was a blast, I have never seen so many airplanes in one place in my life (never been to Oshkosh).  As we drove into Lakeland on Friday late afternoon you could tell we were getting close because the 1800 departures were streaming out of Lakeland in droves.  Like rays from the sun planes flew out in long lines in all directions.  It greatly heightened my level of anticipation as I stepped on the gas pedal to reach the aviation Mecca.

 We parked next to the grass strip for ultra-light and light-sport aircraft and had to walk under the approach path to get to the main entrance.  That was super cool watching these planes fly 100 feet over your head.  I could have just sat there and watched these planes all night and been content.  We had about an hour and half before the night show to look around at the displays.  Got to see the new Cessna Skycatcher, the Embraer Phenom 100, and the Piper Jet.  All three have been major headline grabbers in Aviation magazines for some time.  It was awesome to see them up close and personal.

 The night show was pretty awesome with the Shell Aeroteam AT-6s flying formation, then some great aerial fireworks displays from both fixed wings and rotor wing aircraft.  The finale was a traditional fireworks display.  The weather was perfect, the show was perfect, it just don’t get any better than this!

 The next day we were back at Lakeland by 10AM to try and take in as much as possible.  Got to see the flying car, Terrafuga (took lots of pictures).  The car/plane just flew last month for the first time.  The concept is not new, in January I saw a flying car from the 1950s at the Kissimmee airport (see the pics here).  The AOPA tent had the Cirrus giva away plane on display in front of their tent.  Checked out the awesome Hawker Beechcraft display which had two of my all time favorite airplanes, the Baron and the King Air (I fly these planes in the flight sim all the time).  Cirrus and Mooney were well represented as well.  The Cessna Caravan is a big airplane; the display models were immaculate to include the engines.  Getting thirsty looking at all these planes I ducked into the famous Sunset Grill for a massive beer before continuing on.  There is just so much to see that I would recommend at least two full days to take it all in.

[April 23, 2009]
SUN-N-FUN or Bust                                              5.9                
Video__View GPS Track For This Flight ___Photos____________________________________________________
Day one is in the books. We picked up flight following out of Langley and found the AIRMET for turbulence to be dead on. Unfortunately my wife got sick from the bouncing about an hour and half into the flight with another 1.5 hours before our first stop, I felt bad for her. She has never had motion sickness but I had her take one Dramamine just prior to the flight. I think it may have been too little, too late.
The amazing thing about the Airmet is that we hit smooth air right at the charted boundary, just north of the South Carolina border. How the heck do they forecast turbulence to that accuracy?

Winds aloft were pretty much on target as well out of the west at 30 knots at 6500 feet. It was the reason for the extra 25 minutes on leg one.

We landed at Lowcountry Regional in Walterboro, SC for fuel. A nice airport, little traffic and with three runways was a good choice no matter what the winds were doing. The airports folks were real friendly and treated us to free hotdogs, chips, and soda. They even have their own branded water (check out the pic). We stretched the legs, gobbled down the hotdogs, checked the weather and filed with DUAT for the next leg. On the taxi out we passed a Lockheed Electra (this is a guess, look at the pic and let me know) coming in for gas, cool paint job.

DAY 1 - LEG 1 Flight Plan

331 NM
ETE 02 hours 54 minutes
Actual TE was 3 hours and 20 minutes

Leg two to Gainesville, Florida was a lot smoother than the first leg and my wife had a much better experience. The weather was severe clear, just gorgeous. I have to take a moment to tell you how awesome the Zaon PCAS is. That little box pointed out traffic long before I ever received a call from ATC. Lots of planes out there and 90% of them I would never have been aware of if not for the PCAS. The PCAS would report anything (other aircraft must have a transponder with mode C) within a 5NM, 2000ft bubble around my plane, once an aircraft got within 1.5NM and 1000feet it would issue an advisory. At .9NM and 700ft it issues an alert. There were a few alerts as we were flying a victor airway and had head-on IFR traffic at 7000ft. I don't think I will ever fly without this equipment again, just amazing.

DAY 1 - LEG 2 Flight Plan

216 NM
ETE 01 Hour 59 Minutes
Actual TE was 2 hours and 9 minutes


[April 5, 2009]
PAX Shuttle Service                                                  3.8                
Felt like an airline pilot today.  Loaded up the kids and baggage for a flight up to KSBY to drop them off for Spring Break vacation.  Worked with the KLN94 GPS and picked up flight following to stay proficient for my instrument training.  Return flight was to KPHF to pick up my friend Dom and take him and his two sons for a scenic flight around the Newport News area.  We overflew the Jamestown settlement, Busch Gardens theme park, Water Country, did a couple of steep turns, and then headed back into Newport News for a turn and burn.  It is really enjoyable to share the flying experience with others, especially young children.   The landing back into Langley was with a pretty stiff crosswind and was near perfect.  I am actually really enjoying the challenge of crosswind landings now.  I can't say enough about speed control on landing.  It makes all the difference.  If you calculate Vso 1.3 for the 172 you will find the POH speed is much higher.  I fly final at 60knots and that is probably too high for a well under gross weight airplane.  When I pull out the power in the flare the plane plants itself so the transition is as short as possible.  Scheduled for more IFR training this Thursday/Friday.  I need to get this knocked out.  Sea plane training is scheduled for May!  j

[March 29, 2009]
More Scrubbed Flights                                      

Fog and wind kept me from instrument training this weekend so I worked on my sim.  Completed work on my throttle module which also houses my Buttkicker Low Frequency Audio Transducer, wireless mouse and GPS module.j


[March 13, 2009]
Back to the PCATD Simulator                                   1.9 (I)

Wonderful stratus overcast today at 1500 feet with good visibility, one problem...the freezing level was also around 1500ft.  No actual instrument on this day, back to the simulator for an NDB approach and some partial panel work. j

[March 8, 2009]
Instrument Cross Country                                         4.5 (4.2 I)

Whatever joy I associated with flying is gone by day five.  This instrument stuff is HARD WORK!  The amount of concentration and brain power involved in all the aspects of instrument flying is mentally & physically draining.  This is the hardest thing I have ever done, hands down.

Today was the big 250 mile instrument cross country.   The requirement calls for a flight of at least 250 miles with at least one leg being 100 miles and the execution of three different instrument approaches.  I decided to make Danville (KDAN) my first leg at 150 miles, then to Blackstone AAF (KBKT) for my second and then back to Langley AFB (KLFI).  Total distance worked out to about 300+ miles.  The pre-flight planning was pretty routine and simple with three VORs between me and KDAN.  Weather looked pretty nice as well but winds were a factor at altitude and on the ground.  Forecast winds called for winds from the west at 38knots at 6000 feet, our cruise altitude, so the trip out would take a little longer.  Winds at KDAN called for 15 with gusts to 25.

 We filed the flight plan and prepared to launch in 429FF.  Clearance Delivery pretty much gave me the flight plan as filed with just a very minor change.  We took off and I was under the hood within five minutes.  We checked in with Norfolk Departure, leveled off at 6000 and started the long two hour drone towards KDAN in western Virginia making about 70 knots ground speed.  Forecast winds aloft were pretty much on the money as a low pressure system around Ohio was slinging the winds in from the west.  The flip side of this was we knew we would pick up a nice tail wind coming back to make up some of the time.

 We crossed the FKN VOR right on schedule with my flight plan calculations.  I use Seattle Avionics Voyager flight planning software to automate and otherwise laborious process.  The software will automatically take the forecast winds aloft and factor it in to the flight plan.  Every now and then I enjoy completing a flight plan manually to stay proficient with the formulas and the E6B, but this week has been so taxing mentally I took the easy way out!  For the first 70 miles I used the autopilot to lessen my workload but switched to hand flying for the last half to get warmed up for the approach.  About 30 miles out of KDAN Washington Center started working us down for the approach.  KDAN would be a VOR approach with procedure turn.  We told Center what we wanted to do and began the Approach Briefing while workload was still light.  The key in Signal Pilot IFR is workload/task management and you are always asking yourself “what do I need to do next?”  The more you can do to lessen the workload before things get busy the better off you will be. j

[March 7, 2009]
Two Instrument Sorties                                             3.9 (3.5 I)

[March 6, 2009]
One Really Long Sortie                                              3.9 (3.7 I)

[March 5, 2009]
More Instrument Training Different Day                   3.3 (2.8 I)

[March 4, 2009]
Intense Instrument Training Begins                         3.3 (2.8 I)

Today was severe clear and we conducted two sorties to start actual aircraft instrument flight training under the hood.  Amazingly I started getting motion sickness on the second sortie and we had to cut it short so we missed our target of four hours today, but are determined to hit four tomorrow.  Weather for the next five days is going to be absolutely perfect for flying.  My instructor is a retired full bird Colonel, naval aviator, F-14 Tomcat driver and ATP.  He's a fantastic guy and we are getting along well.  I have been inducted into the part 141 program to help the club since they have to graduate so many pilots a year to keep their FAA endorsement.  Will not impact my training much so I said why not.  We worked fundamentals today with straight and level, climbing and descending turns, slow flight, power on and off stalls and steep turns all full panel.  Shot the ILS 26 approach back into Langley with radar vectors from Norfolk Approach.  Second sortie we covered the same maneuvers from the morning and then went into partial panel turns and timed turns.  I started getting warm and could feel the motion sickness coming on so we went visual to get me back on an even keel before heading back to Langley for a visual approach to RW 8.  I have some work to do with the partial panel but things are coming together and I think the foundation is there to move forward.

[March 1, 2009]
Cold Front Create Low IFR Conditions                         1.8 (I)
Continued work in the PCATD trainer with my instructor.  It counts towards my rating so it was time well spent considering how absolutely miserable it was outside.

[February 28, 2009]
Rained Out of IFR Flying                                               2.0 (I)

Yeah that sounds kinda strange right?  You should want fly IFR in crappy weather, but today the winds were up to 25knot crosswinds.  Not good.  Continued work in the PCATD trainer with my instructor.

[February 23, 2009]
Even More Simulator Instrument Training                   1.3 (I)

Sick as a dog today from a cold I chugged my way through 1.3 hours on the PCATD working holding patterns with full and partial panel.  Finished with an ILS approach to KLFI, broke out of the slag at 400 feet just right of the centerline, went visual and greased the landing.  Saturday we start training in the airplane.  Looking forward to it.  The weather has been so crappy this last month we should have no problem getting actual instrument time.  Instructor said we are going up everyday unless there is a 25 knot crosswind or ice in the clouds.  I say bring it on!

[February 18, 2009]
More Simulator Instrument Training                             1.0 (I)

Continued building the foundation for a solid instrument scan.  Worked compass turns and had to relearn compass turning errors from private pilot training.  Getting comfortable flying the plane without an attitude indicator relying on my turn coordinator and VSI to keep the plane in a normal attitude.

[February 14-16, 2009]
Washington DC Trip

Paid the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum a visit during my trip to DC this past weekend.  You can check out the pics here.  An outstanding museum that should be on the top of every aviation enthusiasts must see list.  Also went on a tour of the Capitol building.  Did you know that the Wright Brothers and their Flyer are depicted on the frieze in the Rotunda?  How cool is that?  In the background stand Leonardo da Vinci, Samuel Pierpont Langley, and Octave Chanute; each holds a model of his earlier design for a flying machine. An eagle with an olive branch in its talons emphasizes this flight as a great American achievement.



[February 8, 2009]
Instrument Training Begins                                            1.8 (I)
Started my instrument training today on an ELITE PCATD simulator.  The FAA authorizes up to 10 hours of PCATD simulator to be logged towards the instrument rating requirement of 40 hours as long as it is done with an authorized instructor.  The funny thing is that the PCATD is not nearly as sophisticated as my own home simulator.  I logged 1.8 hours working on instrument scan, partial panel, level flight, turns, climbing and descending turns and timed turns.  We finished with an ILS approach to Norfolk International.  My instructor stated that we had finished the first three lessons of the 141 syllabus on the first day (I'm going the part 61 route because I already have over 70+ hours PIC x-country time) and that based on my performance and the fact that I could already fly a precision approach that I would have no problem with the training.  Once again my own simulator time is paying huge dividends in my training.  j

[February 7, 2009]
VA Aviation Ambassador Flight                                       4.0
Wow, I logged a total of four hours on 429FF today and only made a scratch on progress with my VA Aviation Passport.  I landed at Culpeper and Farmville, got my stamps in my passport and flew back to Langley...four hours.  At this rate it will end up costing my ten thousand bucks to finish visiting all the airports in Virginia by plane and I still need 30 more airports out of 65.  For this reason I have decided to abandon the attempt purely for financial reasons.  I will get to the other 30 airports but it will probably be by car and not plane.  If the opportunity presents itself during my instrument training I will try to knock out a few more airports by plane but that will be it.  Today was another windy day and I am happy to note that wind does not create the level of apprehension it once did in my flying before I deployed.  Of course Culpepper and Farmington are downwind of the Appalachians by only 25 miles or so and I got to experience what I believe was a mountain wave on my flight out of Farmington.  I was climbing up to 5500 feet at 80knots when I started descending while still in a climb attitude.  This went on for about 500 feet before I was able to arrest the descent and start climbing again.  Before long I was climbing faster than normal and had to really pitch the plane nose down and cut the power to arrest the ascent as this was the updraft portion of the mountain wave.  From my reading a mountain wave can exist for a hundred miles plus from the leeward side of the mountain.  I a convinced this is what I experienced and remember a similar experience on my trip to Pennsylvania in 2007 only a similar windy day.  Along with the roller coaster ride I got a few good jolts of turbulence and slowed the plane the to Va speed even though my ground speed would eventually peak at an astonishing 152 knots on the way back to Langley.  The wind was a blowing!  I also passed another milestone on this flight with 150 total hours logged.  j


[January 31, 2009]
Flying a Real WWII Advanced Trainer - SNJ/AT-6            .5

Video now available here.  Photos now available here.  Write up and video coming soon! SNJ N455WA j

[January 30, 2009]
Aviation Museum Smorgasbord

Headed south this past week to take the kids to Disney World in Florida.  Of course Florida is known for its many aviation attractions so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity.  We set aside one day to visit Kermit Week’s Fantasy of Flight in Polk, Florida which is only 25 or so miles from Disney World.  The entrance price is pretty steep for an aviation museum, $25+ for an adult FOF does have an interesting collection, unfortunately many of his planes are not originals.  The flip side of this is that most of the planes do fly on a regular basis.  There is normally a daily aerial demonstrations but on the day of  my visit it was canceled.  I took a ton of pictures and video and you can enjoy them here.

Afterwards we headed over to Lakeland Airport, site of SUN N FUN, to visit to Florida Air Museum.  This has a rather small collection with an $8 admission.  There are a few jewels here with a Eurcope and a Beechcraft Staggerwing.  Lots of photos of the museum can be viewed here.  I’ll be back at Lakeland in a few months when I fly down to visit Sun-N-Fun in April. 

The final stop of this day of whirlwind aviation museum tours was the Kissimmee Air Museum located at Kissimmee Gateway Airport which is part of Warbirds Adventure an outfit that provides AT-6 Texan flights (more about that later).  The smallest of the three museum (only one hangar of aircraft) its cheap, six bucks and has a very unique aircraft, the Aerocar.  A FW-190 is also being restored in the hangar.  You can view the collection here.

 The absolute highlight of the aviation attractions was a 30 minute flight in a AT-6 Texan.j


[January 24, 2009]
Cross Country to Salisbury, MD                                2.6


[January 22, 2009]
Air Force One & The Key to Good Landings             2.6

 We had an unexpected visitor at the Aero Club today as I was preflighting 429FF for a X-country trip to Dinwiddie.  Air Force One dropped in to execute about four touch and go's on Langley's 10,000 foot strip.  Hey I guess even the world's best pilots need a little recurrent training every now and then.  The pilot really greased the landings, it was pretty awesome.  Today I only had to hold short for four F-15's taking off, maybe a five minute wait max even with the wake turbulence hold afterwards.  I headed on down to Dinwiddie to work landings and finally got it all sorted out.  SPEED IS THE KEY!  I was flying the pattern way too fast and this was causing a lot of floating in the flare.  In case you have not noticed the approach speeds in the Cessna manual are padded and are not Vso 1.3.  In addition the published numbers are for max gross weight which is rarely the case when I am flying.  The rule of thumb is to reduce Vref 1 knot for every 100lbs under gross.  So instead of flying an 80-70-65 in the pattern, I flew a 70-65-58.  Nirvana!  As I rounded out in the flare I reduced the power and the 172 just sat right down without a bit of coaxing, it was a beautiful thing.  The pattern started getting busy at Dinwiddie so I headed south to Franklin for some more practicing with a little cross wind.  First landing was an arrival, I rounded out a little high and of course when I pulled the power the plane dropped a few feet to terra firma.  That's a downside to the technique, you gotta round out a foot or less off the ground.  The nice thing is there is little to no float, which was excellent with the crosswind because I was down quickly.  The next two landings went very well and my confidence restored I headed back to Langley.  On the way I executed some steep turns using the trim technique my instructor taught me last week.  What an excellent tip, I managed some of the best steep turns I have ever done consistently without fighting the airplane.  I urge every one to try it.  As you roll thru 30 degrees throw in one coarse down trim on the wheel, at 45 degrees throw in another.  As you role out quickly take out the two turns of trim.  It really decreases the workload with this maneuver.


[January 21, 2009]
My Home Flight Simulator

[January 19, 2009]
Red Flag IMAX Video

[January 16, 2009]
Solo....Again                                           2.2

My first day back solo in the airplane, talk about apprehension.  The winds gusting up to 16 did not help the situation.  Today was cold, 20F.  Probably the coldest I have ever flown in.  Luckily 429FF had just been out so the engine was still warm and did not require preheating.  My luck ran out when I started to taxi to the hold short position for runway 8.  It became quickly apparent that half the Air Force was landing on runway 8.  I was told to hold short as F15s and F22s landed and taxied by.  This went on for no less than 15 minutes and cost me about $25 on the Hobbs meter.  A few of the fighter pilots waved to me as they taxied by, a small consolation for my $25 entrance fee to this private parade of planes in front of me.  The final F22 came in and had the crash trucks chase it down, though it looked perfectly fine to me.  Finally I am cleared for takeoff and I am off and climbing into the wild blue yonder. 

I headed directly to Chesapeake (KCPK) to meet with a CFII to discuss the details of my accelerated instrument course that I would like to start at the end of FEB, early MAR.  I came in to CPK and bounced my first solo landing, not pretty, I hoped no one was watching from the FBO.  I sat down with the CFI for about an hour.  The CFI was fairly young and had just arrived at the Flight School, not really what I was looking for in what will be a very intense training period, but we will see. 

Before today’s flight I created a checklist of items I wanted to execute during the flight.  The first was to revisit 10,000ft with the Cessna.  Going to 10,000 is best done when the air is cold and dense.  Today was perfect for 10K and the Cessna climbed at 500+ fpm at 85 knots almost all the way up.  Besides the novelty of going to 10,000 I also wanted to document the atmospheric lapse rate and barometric pressure as the aircraft climbed.  Here are the results of the climb test:

Climb from 1000ft to 10000ft
Time required: 14 minutes
Average Climb Rate: 643 fpm

Pressure and ambient temperature lapse rate readings:

SL                    BP: 30.58         Temp: -3C

3000ft              BP: 27.81

4000ft                                      Temp: -15C

5000ft              BP: 25.98         Temp: -16C

6000ft              BP: 24.31         Temp: -18C

7000ft              BP: 23.56         Temp: -14C

8000ft              BP: 22.95         Temp: -14C

9000ft              BP: 22.00         Temp: -15C

10000ft                                    Temp: -15C

The standard atmospheric lapse rate is 2C every 1000ft..  As you can see from the data collected we were slightly above -11C at 4000ft.  Also of interest is the inversion aloft at 7000ft where temperatures begin to reverse and rise.  This inversion keeps the atmosphere stable and is apparently common in a high pressure area which was over Virginia on this day.

Barometric pressure should decrease approximately 1” for every 1000ft of altitude.  At sea level we had a high pressure of 30.58.  At 3000ft we should see 27.58, actual reading was 27.81 which is pretty darn close taking into account that I was sampling cabin pressure which lags behind outside air pressure.  At 9000ft we should see 21.58, actual reading was 22.00.   

So as you can see barometric pressure changes are a constant while lapse rate change can only be estimated and can be greatly affected by multiple variables.

With my data collection mission complete I experimented with different pitch and attitude combinations for flying the pattern and cruise descents.  Finding these numbers and trim settings greatly decreases your work load and will come in handy during IFR training where so many other things are competing for your attention.  For instance if cruising at 2200 rpm and trimmed for level flight I can reduce RPM to 2000 and the aircraft will start a cruise descent of 400fpm at 115knots without touching the trim.  To level off just return to 2200 rpm and the aircraft will quickly return level flight without trim. j

[January 15, 2009]
Studs and Duds

The pilot ranks like any other profession has its heroes and zeros.  Last week we happened to have some high profile examples of both.

The dud.  An Indianapolis money manager, faced with financial setbacks and a pending divorce, might have tried to fake his death after reporting an inflight emergency to ATC and parachuting from his Piper PA46 over Alabama. The airplane crashed more than 200 miles away, near Milton, Florida. Alabama local authorities say a man identified as 38-year-old pilot Marcus Schrenker told them he had been in a boating accident and asked to be driven to a motel. He checked in under a false name and later disappeared. Military jets, scrambled to intercept the Piper after the last radio contact from Schrenker, reported its door was open and its cabin dark. The airplane crashed in a marsh at about 9:15 Central Time, Sunday night—reportedly about 100 yards from an occupied house. Schrenker was subsequently arrested at a Florida campsite, where he had apparently attempted suicide by slashing his left wrist. Expected to survive, he faces numerous criminal charges.

The stud.  NEW YORK, Jan. 18 -- A jetliner that crash-landed Thursday in the Hudson River lost power simultaneously in both engines after reaching an altitude of only 3,200 feet, the plane's black-box recorders revealed Sunday.
Data from the recorders confirmed the harrowing circumstances under which the pilot of the US Airways flight, carrying 155 people, maneuvered the plane safely into the water after striking a flock of birds after takeoff Thursday.
While bird strikes are common in aviation, commercial jet engines are fortified against them. They seldom disable an engine, let alone two. Archie Dickey, who teaches aviation environmental science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, says bird strikes that cripple both engines are "extremely rare."
Sullenberger leveled the plane after the bird strike to keep it from stalling and thought about where to land. Meanwhile, his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, kept trying to restart the engines and began working through a three-page list of procedures for an emergency landing. Normally, those procedures begin at 35,000 feet. This time, the plane was at 3,000 feet.
Events happened so fast, the pilots never had time to throw the aircraft's "ditch switch," which seals off vents and holes in the fuselage to make it more seaworthy.
Sullenberger pulled off the landing in textbook fashion, although experts say many factors, including communication among the pilots and flight attendants, were as important as sheer skill.
"The raw piloting is commendable, but what's truly extraordinary is the rapid and professional way the crew went about making these decisions. You've only got seconds in order to sort these things out -- it's not like you have time to go through denial," said William R. Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation and a former official with the Federal Aviation Administration.

[January 14, 2009]
Final checkout and BFR                        1.8

Sometimes instructors do stupid things for reasons unknown to me.  Maybe they want to impress the student.  I don't know, but I've read one too many accident accounts of instructors doing stupid things and end up ruining everyone's day in the permanent sense.  Today we were finishing up my flight checkout and BFR and my instructor asks me "did I ever show you how you can return to the runway after an engine failure on takeoff."  I replied "ah no" while in my head I am thinking about the hundreds of pilots who have been killed trying to turn 180+ degrees back to the airport after an engine failure shortly after takeoff.  The gotcha in this maneuver is the pilot usually ends up stalling the plane and spinning in because as the bank angle increases and the plane starts to G load the stall speed increases.  You will find two camps on the subject, one says you can and should do it (despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary) and the other says keep the wings level, maintain the glide and land on whatever is within 30 degrees of your flight path even if it means landing in the trees.  I subscribe to the latter.  Anyway my instructor says "well let me show you," and I replied "no I am not comfortable with that maneuver, I would rather we did not."  To my astonishment he insists.  At that point I make peace with the man upstairs and resign myself to becoming another statistic.  Off we go, at 700ft he pulls the power and puts us in a steep right turn.  The stall horn is blaring and I am waiting for us to drop out of the sky.  Miraculously he gets the plane turned all the way around while only losing 150 feet of altitude.  He has so much excess altitude that he has to put the plane in a steep forward slip to get us onto the first 1/3 of the runway.  Pretty neat, but in no way worth the risk.  I punish my instructor by giving him the silent treatment all the way back to our home field.  I was just as mad at myself for allowing it to happen.  In the end I was signed off to fly on my own again and have a fresh BFR to boot.

This is a wonderful quote that is so very true with learning to fly.  "You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience.  The trick is to fill the bag of experience before the bag of luck becomes empty." j

[January 12, 2009]
Return to Flight                                    1.8

I rejoined the Langley Aero Club today, thankfully they have survived the budget crises and are making money again.  My favorite two aircraft are still with the club, 429FF and 428FF.  Both aircraft are 2004 172Rs with KAP140 autopilot and KLN 94 GPS.  The older Cessnas have all been sold off which does not break my heart.  I finally broke down and purchased a Garmin GPSmap 396 with XM Weather to add additional in-flight information.  I think it is an investment that will pay dividends for some time to come especially with the long x-country flights planned for later this year.  I went up with my old instructor in 9FF for a standardization flight which is required by club rules annually.  My BFR is still good from May 2007 but we will roll up a new BFR into the package since it is essentially the same maneuvers and standards.  I have my simulator back up in the garage so I was able to practice the maneuvers the night prior and it paid off today.  The instructor had me execute slow flight, a power on stall, a power off stall, steep turns, and simulated engine out emergency.  All were conducted within standard.  He did provide me with a great tip for steep turns that is worth mentioning.  As you pass thru 30 degrees of bank, thrown in two down turns of the trim wheel and the required yoke back pressure to maintain the turn at 45 degrees will be substantially reduced if not removed altogether.  The trick is reversing the trim settings before you level off or you will be fighting to keep the nose down as you come out of the maneuver.  With the maneuvers complete we headed to Chesapeake airport for some landing training.  The first landing was definitely an arrival with a drop from about 2 feet off the runway, additional landings were better but I am rounding out a little high, something I need to work on.  On the fourth go around we got to about midfield downwind when the instructor pulled the throttle and asked for an emergency landing.  He had to prompt me to turn toward the runway immediately as a standard pattern would have had me coming up short but the landing was probably the best of the bunch and that was without power!  We taxied to the ramp and picked up a ferry pilot who had brought 428FF to Chesapeake for maintenance work.  At almost full gross weight we lifted off without a hitch thanks to the cold dense air that maximizes the performance of all aircraft.  We headed back to Langley direct transiting Norfolk's Class C airspace after receiving clearance.  My instructor's confident that after one more flight on the 13th to practice some short field/soft field takeoff/landing work I will be back on my own again. 

I have also been busy coordinating for all of the training I want to get accomplished in 2009.  I've locked in my Sea Plane training for mid April in North Carolina flying a Piper PA-12.  I'm also in discussions with a flight school in Chesapeake for my instrument rating which I hope to complete at the end of February.  It's going to be an exciting year so stay tuned. j

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