Documenting My Journey to Professional Pilot Since 2005
Blog Archive 2010
['10, '09, '08, '07, '06, '05]
December 31, 2010]
Year in Review
Happy New Year! Another year has passed and much like 2009 it was a very productive and adventurous on the aviation front. The goals set for the year included:
1. Complex Endorsement
2. Complete Commercial Certificate
3. Multi-Engine Rating
4. Attend Oshkosh
5. Attend AirSHO
6. Pass CFI Written Exam
All of these goals and much more were achieved which makes 2010 a great success.
Training for the commercial certificate picked up promptly in January with Cochise College in Tucson. I would spend many weekends making the 3 hour round-trip commute to Tucson to fly 182RGs to commercial standards. Along the way I picked up my complex endorsement. Work and weather would cause short breaks in training and prolong the checkride to July, but on the 17th of that month I finally passed the commercial practical.
In February I joined the local Civil Air Patrol squadron which opened up whole new opportunities for flying in a well equipped Cessna 182R. In nine months I progressed through all the required training to achieve Mission Pilot status by mid-October.
2010 was also the year of the aviation museum. With extensive travel to Europe as part of my new job I seized on the opportunity to see some of the best aviation museums Europe has to offer. Visits in Europe included the Imperial War Museum – Duxford and the RAF Museum in London, Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum and the Deutches Museum, Flugwerft Schleissheim, both in Germany. Stateside museum visits included the Titan Missile Museum, Pinal Airpark, War Eagles Air Museum, Planes of Fame (Valle, AZ), CAF Museum (Mesa), American Airpower Museum, and the EAA Museum.
It was back to Oshkosh in July for my second pilgrimage to aviation’s Mecca, this time sharing the experience with my son, Carson. In addition to seeing a whole lot of airplanes we enjoyed unforgettable rides in the Ford Tri-Motor and the Bell 46 Helicopter. The weather gods provided excellent conditions for our entire trip.
As fall came the pace slowed relative to the first six months of the year.
At the end of September I was up in Michigan completing my multi-engine rating with Tom Brady of Travis Air in a Piper Apache.
By October I was studying for the slew of written test required by the FAA for flight & ground instructor certificates. During that time I made my way to Midland, Texas to attend the Commemorative Air Force’s Air SHO. The highlight of the show was seeing the B-29 FiFi, the only flying B-29 in the world.
As 2010 began to wind down I passed the Fundamentals of Instructing (FOI) written test in November and completed the Advanced Ground Instructor and Flight Instructor written tests in December. On 27 December I was issued my Ground Instructor certificate by the FAA.
I tried twice in 2010 to purchase an airplane, the Beech Sierra. Both attempts ended in disappointment after pre-purchase maintenance inspections turned up more costly repairs then I was willing to take on. Overall the process was an excellent learning experience and I learned a tremendous amount about the regulatory paperwork and maintenance of airplanes.
Monthly flying averaged 6-7 hours. I logged my 300th hour flying on May 21st. July was the busiest month by far with 19 hours logged.
New airplanes flown 2010 included the Cessna 182RG, the Beech T-34 Mentor, and the Piper Apache. In addition I solo’d a Piper Cherokee for the first time.
The two biggest flying cross-country adventures of the year were the Grand Canyon overflight in May and the Payson/Sedona camping expedition in July.
So what’s in store for 2011? Well there is still plenty to do. My aviation goals for 2011 are:
>Instrument Ground Instructor certification
>Complete CFI training and pass the checkride
>Achieve FAA Wings Advanced and Master levels
>Attend the Reno Air Races
>Land a plane in 8 new states
>Log 50 hours of flight time and exceed 400 hours total time mark
Why am I sitting here still typing it’s time to get started……blue skies!
December 30, 2010]
Inside a P-51 Mustang and others
Ever wonder what it is like to be inside an actual P-51? Check out the link below for a virtual reality experience. Click and drag your mouse to look around, use your scroll wheel to zoom in and out.
This site has popular British aircraft
including the Concorde, Vulcan, Comet, and Jaguar.
December 28, 2010]
Glider Training Postponed!
December 27, 2010]
AGI Certificate Issued
I made it up to the FSDO in Scottsdale
this past Monday. Process was pretty straight forward. They had me bring in a
paper copy of the 8710, the original test results for my FOI and AGI, and photo
ID which the clerk reviewed before bringing out the big guns to review. The
clerk kept the originals of my test results and issued me copies. She told me
that the FOI test results would not be required for future Flight/Ground Certs
because I would now hold a valid instructor certificate.
The two gentlemen really scrutinized the paperwork and even asked for both my pilot certificate and medical which should not have been required but was luckily on my person. I believe the younger of the two men must have been in training because the older guy stated that he saw something wrong with the paperwork and then walked off leaving the younger guy to figure it out. No one could find the discrepancy. After a few minutes the older guy returned and said the paperwork was fine. Strange, but I guess this is par for the course with the FAA: make you sweat and ensure you know who the boss is. They finally issued the temp instructor certificate which had the same number as my pilot certificate. Whole appointment took about 20 minutes if you don't count the six hours of driving to the states only FSDO!
December 21, 2010]
Selling off the R/C Fleet
Sold my R/C trainer and electric P-47 and P-51s this week. Just not enjoying or spending much time with R/C as I had in the past so no reason not to thin out the inventory. I have a giant scale Piper Cub that has been waiting to be assembled for a few months along with an aerobatic low wing. They may be the last of the line if they ever get put together.
December 18, 2010]
Night Currency 1.0
Logged five stop and go landings tonight to retain night currency and proficiency. Moon was almost full providing excellent illumination. Took a few minutes to fly over the town of Sierra Vista to check out everyone's Christmas lights. From the air it's real easy to find the houses that go all out during the holidays. They stick out like an airport in the darkness.
December 16, 2010]
Flight Instructor Airplane (FIA) Written Passed!
Went back to the test center to take the FIA exam bright and early this morning. Computer problems threatened to postpone the test until next year. Fortunately the techs were able to get the computer up and running long enough for me to take the test. It was a tough test but I was able to manage scoring a 93%. Like the FOI test I came across more than a few questions not presented in the prep material, mostly dealing with regulations and endorsements. I'm relieved to be done...for now. I have take as many FAA tests (3 in total) in the last two months as I have taken in the last five years! Christina is happy to see all the study material go back into the closet once again.
December 13, 2010]
Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI) Written Passed!
December 10, 2010]
Building the Ultimate Flight Simulator Rig
December 8, 2010]
Achieving United 1K Elite Status
Work has kept me busy flying back and forth to Europe over the last year. There is a benefit to spending a lot of time in the old aluminum tube. After returning from a comparatively short business trip to Tampa, Florida and back I have achieved the milestone of traveling 100,000 miles by airline this year. This has boosted me to the most elite of the frequent flyer classes that United has, the 1K. This equates to six system wide upgrades for next year along with accruing double the flight miles. The days of flying coach have come to an end as my status has me complimentarily upgraded to first/business class on almost every trip. If you have never seen the movie Up in the Air, check it out and you will see how addictive amassing frequent flyer benefits can be. This year I have flown in almost every plane the airlines fly including the Boeing 767, 757, 747, 737, Airbus 340, 320, 319, Embraer 145, 195, CRJ, Avro RJ-85, and MD-80. Personally I favor the Airbus A340 for long haul and the Embraers for the regional hops.
December 2, 2010]
Three New Airports, One New State 3.6
Finally took a long overdue flight today making it a x-country of 3.6 hours. The flight plan provided for my first landing in New Mexico at Lordsburg, NM. It was then back across the border to Arizona for landings at Greenlee and Safford, both first time visits. Heading back home I dipped down to Tombstone for a landing in the last minutes of day light before heading back to Sierra Vista. It was a gorgeous CAVU day with only light winds out of the west. About the only eventful thing of the whole trip was on the return for landing at KFHU. A military KC-135, Boeing 707, was conducting spiraling descents to landing at KFHU as I worked my way towards the airport. The tower was still active and they made me maneuver a little on long final to shoehorn the KC-135 in front of me. As I closed on the runway I could see we were going to be closer than the required wake turbulence separation, the tower cleared me to land and gave the standard wake turbulence disclaimer. By now it was dark and I had trouble making out the grey KC-135 as he overflew the runway threshold. I asked the tower to tell me where he landed so that I could modify my approach and landing to overfly his wake turbulence.
December 1, 2010]
Zero Time Logged
For the first time in 17 months I have logged zero flight time for the month of November. Going on 45 days since my last flight, this is the longest no flying stretch since returning from Iraq in December 2008. It's not that I didn't try, three times I had to scrub flights this month due to crazy winds (35+ mph). Been busy studying for my Flight/Ground Instructor written test which I plan on taking in the next few weeks. Also came close to buying another Beech Sierra but once again the pre-buy inspection turned up way more issues than I was willing to take on as an owner. So for now there are not a whole lot of flying options available just beaters from the local FBO or the CAP bird which has little utility since the family can't fly.
November 1, 2010]
The Clock is Ticking
Just returned from taking my
Fundamentals of Instructing (FOI) written exam, the first of two written exams
required for flight or ground instructors. Bottom line is I passed with a
90%. I'm a little miffed about getting my lowest written score (previously
a 97) on what has probably been the simplest of all FAA test. This was the
first time I have seen so many test questions that were either written
completely different or not in the Gleim test prep book. Regardless, the
clock is now ticking to complete the flight instructor certificate. On 30
NOV 2012 the written test results expire.
(Note 12/27: Once the FOI was turned in for my AGI issuance it was no longer a factor in driving Flight Instructor practical completion, the primary factor now is the FIA written taken on DEC 16 which gives me to JAN 2013 to complete all requirements.)
October 22, 2010]
New 2nd Class Medical Issued & FOI Study
I have started to study in earnest for the Fundamentals of Instructing written exam which I am trying to complete before the end of October. I am using Gleim's 2011 FOI FAA Knowledge Test workbook along with King Schools Instructor/FOI Knowledge Test interactive video course. These prep resources have served me well for all of my FAA written test and I see no reason to diverge from this proven strategy now.
October 17, 2010]
CAP Mission Pilot Checkride - Passed! 2.5
Today I completed the hardest checkride I have ever taken for the title of CAP search and rescue (SR) Mission Pilot (MP). From start to finish it took approximately six hours. Three hours of mission briefing and oral exam, and almost three hours of practical flying. The sequence started Saturday afternoon when I received an e-mail alerting me to an aircraft that ATC had lost radar contact with while enroot from Douglass to Tucson (simulated). I was responsible for assembling an aircraft crew and creating a mission plan.
It took me most of the evening to get my plan together, but in the end I had created a useful template that should serve me well for future missions. In addition to planning the mission I spent a few hours reviewing the material that I would be questioned on during the oral exam, this included types of searches, air-ground communications, mountain flying, radio operations, required reports, and check-in procedures at mission base.
We met at the terminal building at 0630 and I proceeded to give my mission brief to the assembled crew. The search grid I was assigned encompassed most of the Whetstone Mountains which is just north of KFHU. The highest peak being 7700ft. Because of the terrain involved I had selected a contour search of the area. This is the most difficult of all searches because it requires working close to terrain that is constantly changing in both shape and elevation.
After takeoff we climbed up to 9500 ft, picked up the longitude line for the east boundary of the search grid and headed north. The first step in a search is to fly the four corners which define the search grid. In addition to identifying the boundaries flying the four corners also allows time to size up the actual contents of the search grid. I flew the east, north, and west boundaries with the aid of the LAT/LONG display on the Apollo GX55 GPS. The checkpilot took the GPS as we approached the south boundary and I reverted to the sectional and the terrain features to determine when to turn. With the return of the GPS it was apparent the turn was right on.
With the grid sized up we went to work. First order of business was to fly the length of the ridgeline at a safe altitude to determine how the winds aloft were interacting with the mountain. We found slight up/down drafts and some minor turbulence but nothing that would preclude a lower altitude in which to conduct the search. I descended down to 1000ft AGL and began a methodical contour search of the mountain working clockwise to provide the most eyeball coverage with the observer and scanner on the right side of the place. Searches are conducted with the aircraft set up in essentially an instrument approach configuration. Power back, flaps 10 deg, 90 KIAS. This provides a good compromise in speed for both safety and scanning time. As we flew the contours I was always ensuring I had a way out to descending terrain should the engine fail, this usually meant positioning the plane to the terrain where a 45 degree turn would provide the out. You never want to approach steep terrain at low altitude with the only out being a 180 degree turn. After several passes the checkpilot called out an area of interest on the ground that he wanted to further investigate. This required repositioning the aircraft, receiving vectors to the target and then conducting steep turns around the point. We conducted several of these drills before continuing with the contour search.
With most of the mountain cleared I was then asked to conduct several search passes of the draws on the east face of the mountain, the most probable location of the crash site based on the route of flight. This required crossing the ridgeline at a safe altitude and then slipping aggressively into the draw and following it in an offset fashion to allow the scanner to get eyes on. This was the most difficult of the task to perform as it required very positive airspeed control in the descent as well as terrain avoidance. We did several of these draw searches which were time consuming to set up due to the requirement to climb to altitude and positioning for the ridge crossing on the backside of the mountain. During each pass I was able to manage my speed in the slip at or about 90 knots. At the end of the final search run the checkpilot simulated an engine failure, I took the appropriate steps for best glide and attempted a simulated engine restart while heading for HWY 90 which was directly in front of me. Satisfied I was given the engine back and told to climb to altitude and head back to the airport. Under the impression we were done I felt relief that the checkride was almost over. Unfortunately it was not quite over, and I was told to head to the west of the airport to conduct 720 turns which are nothing more than a steep turn done twice in the same direction. Not sure of the purpose of a 720 over a 360 but that is what CAP calls for in their Mission Pilot PTS. Feeling cocky (and slightly queasy) I configured the plane, slowed to Va speed, cleared the air and turned left into a steep turn. The resulting maneuver was probably the worst steep turn of my short flying career, what a roller coaster ride, it was enough to cause frustration to the point of cursing myself. The plane had once again humbled me. I was asked to perform the maneuver again, I settled down, concentrated, and executed this time with more consistency and within the standards. At this point the two and a half hours of yanking and banking had caught up with me and I was feeling the onset of full blown motion sickness. Thankfully we were finally done and it was a short flight to the airport for tie-down and de-brief. Once back on the ground the world started feeling right again. I spent a fair amount of time with the checkpilot reviewing the flight and receiving feedback. It was a tough and challenging checkride, I would say the toughest next to the instrument checkride. It demanded all my brain power and piloting skill throughout. The challenge brings a real sense of accomplishment. CAP is making me a better pilot, there is no doubt in my mind about that. It has taken almost nine months to the day from joining CAP to reach Mission Pilot status, and this is probably quicker than average. While many give CAP a bad rap, in my little corner of the world it’s working for me so I’ll stick with it.
October 10, 2010]
War Eagles Air Museum - Santa Teresa, New Mexico
Leaving Midland early allowed the opportunity to visit a small aviation museum just outside El Paso, Texas. The War Eagles Air Museum located on the grounds of the Dona Ana County Airport (5T6) in Santa Teresa , New Mexico has a fine collection of 34 mostly military aircraft. Admission is only $5. The aircraft, the majority of which are still flyable, are displayed in one rather large hangar. Only the Tupolev Tu-2 sits outside. I had originally thought the Tu-2 was a Soviet knockoff of the German FW TA-154 Moskito which never made it into full scale production. Upon further investigation I found that the Tu-2 had gone into development before the TA-154 and was structurally different (i.e. the twin vertical stabilizers/tail wheel). Even so there are many similarities between the two planes.
Some of the best attractions at this museum include: the ability to view the .50 cal machine guns mounted in the wing of the P-51 and access to the cockpit, a Vultee BT-13, Mig-15 2-seat trainer with full access to the cockpit, NA FJ-2 Fury (carrier version of the F-86 Sabre), and a Convair L-13A.
My photos of the museum can be accessed by selecting the Pics hyperlink just below the title of this blog entry.
October 9, 2010]
Commemorative Air Force AirSHO - Midland, Texas
Well after six years I finally made it to the Commerative Air Force’s AirSHO in Midland, Texas. I had originally intended on flying to the show, but in the end drove. I will not make that mistake again, it took over 10 hours to get there and there is a whole lot of nothing between Sierra Vista and Midland, Texas.
One of the bad things about attending Oshkosh is that it is so big and so awesome that all other air show’s pale in comparison. And such was the case with AirSHO. I anticipated a much larger static display, air show and crowd than what I actually found. The aircraft display was rather limited, mostly warbirds (as was expected) from CAF units around the Texas area. I did find a few unique aircraft including a Curtiss Helldiver and a Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando. I happened to see an Air Tractor AT-802U taxi in. At the time I was confused, why did this agricultural sprayer aircraft, painted gray, have two bombs underneath its fuselage? I found out later that Air Tractor is now selling a model of their aircraft for close air support/ground attack roles. That is a pretty cool crossover application for a crop duster! Of course the most unique aircraft at the show was the B-29 “FiFi” which had just returned to flight this summer after being grounded due to engines for four years. Seeing the B-29 fly during the airshow was alone almost worth making the long trip to Midland. Unfortunately when the B-29 was not flying it was sequestered from the crowd on a cordoned off portion of the ramp. I was able to see FiFi up close when I had visited the museum back in November 2009. At the time they were removing the old engines from the aircraft. CAF had a small vendor’s booth selling used parts and pieces from FiFi’s Wright R-3350 engines. I purchased a beautifully milled exhaust valve for only $20. Did my part to keep FiFi flying and have a wonderful paperweight on my desk to boot!
The air show had the standard cast of characters we have gotten used to seeing on the circuit over the years. The oddest thing about this air show was that the airport KMAF and airspace remained open for commercial aircraft traffic during the show. Whenever an airliner was getting ready to take off or land they would clear the airspace. Never seen anything like it before. The performances seemed much closer to the crowd than usual which was nice. I kicked myself for not having bought the Cannon Rebel with 300mm lens. If I had the Rebel I would have captured the rivets on the airplane, that’s how close the aircraft were on the fly-bys. The other nice touch was having each aircraft taxi by us after their performance, only feet away from the crowd. Kyle Franklin and Matt Younkin did their thing, along with Bob Carlton’s jet powered sailplane. I got an opportunity to talk with Bob’s wife after the show about the sailplane and the jet that powers it. Apparently Bob had talked the Sonex folks into switching to the same jet engine. CAF put on their Tora, Tora, Tora! show followed by a warbird review. The pattern was packed with planes spanning from the golden age up to Vietnam. A lone B-1B Bomber made a slow pass and then a high speed pass showcasing its variable swept wing configurations. The show ended with FiFi, a B-24, and a couple of A-26s making bombing runs with a huge gasoline wall of fire finale. A night show was scheduled for Saturday but we were too beat from being in the sun all day to stick around.
While we had originally intended to visit AirSHO on both Saturday and Sunday we where able to see everything in one day so we ended up leaving for home early Sunday morning. All in all an OK show but definitely not worth driving 10 hours to see. If you find yourself in central Texas during the time of the show than by all means go check it out.
October 1, 2010]
Multi-Engine Training - Day 2 Checkride Passed! 3.5
METAR’s for Day 2
KTVC 012053Z 05004KT
10SM SCT060 SCT085 BKN150 15/07 A3001
KTVC 011953Z 05006KT 10SM SCT042 BKN060 BKN090 16/07 A3001
KTVC 011853Z 03006KT 10SM SCT042 SCT070 BKN120 16/08 A3002
KTVC 011753Z 01005KT 10SM SCT042 BKN070 BKN100 16/07 A3004
KTVC 011653Z 35005KT 10SM SCT038 BKN049 BKN065 16/07 A3006
KTVC 011553Z VRB03KT 10SM FEW032 BKN041 BKN250 16/06 A3006
KTVC 011453Z VRB03KT 10SM SCT028 SCT060 SCT250 14/09 A3007
KTVC 011353Z 27003KT 10SM FEW020 SCT140 SCT250 12/09 A3008
KTVC 011253Z 00000KT 10SM FEW023 SCT100 SCT250 08/07 A3007
What an awesome day the 1st of October turned out to be. For starters my promotion to Lieutenant Colonel became official today, so what’s that got to do with flying?, well more money means more flying J The training game plan for the day was to conduct two shorter flights as mock check rides and then conduct the actual check ride for the rating in the afternoon, but I would end up getting a great bonus flight before the day was out.
I met Tom at 0800 on a comfortably cool crisp morning with not a cloud in the sky, beautiful day for flying! Tom asked me questions about the airplane as a sort of mock oral exam before we got airborne and headed north. Now the Apache was familiar to me, I knew where all the switches and knobs were. The Apache was no longer like flying the Space Shuttle, I felt at home in the cockpit and very comfortable. More brain power could now be utilized in flying the airplane to commercial standards.
On the takeoff roll Tom failed the right engine and as the Apache started to swerve right I closed both throttles and aborted the take off. I lined back up and conducted a normal takeoff, rotating at 85mph.
We went through the standard series of procedures. I had to repeat the Vmc demonstration several times as I tended to hold the aircraft in the climb a little too long. Tom wanted me to recover at the first signs of buffeting which I was tending to second guess each time. I started recovering at the slightest shudder from the airplane and Tom seemed OK with it so that is what I went with. We did an ILS approach on simulated one engine and several turns around the pattern. Tom wanted to get more nitrogen put into the front strut of the Apache nose gear and asked if I minded flying out to Cadillac Airport, KCAD, a small non-towered field 30 miles to the south where his mechanic was located. Of course I was happy to oblige and get the additional experience of flying into a different and smaller field with the Apache.
Cadillac is Tom’s “winter home” for training. We flew over the field tear dropped into a left downwind for 25 and landed without issue. While the mechanic worked on the strut Tom mentioned his Cessna 172B was parked on the field and needed to be repositioned back to KTVC. He asked if I wanted to fly it for him. I could not believe my luck and Tom’s confidence in me to fly his plane back. I said of course and we headed over to the Cessna. This was a 1960 Cessna 172B so the complete familiarity I had with mid 70’s and later 172s was of little help since most everything was different. Instead of electric flaps it had a manual Johnson bar just like the Piper Cherokee. The ASI was in MPH and knobs and buttons were in various odd and unfamiliar locations. We did a walk around and I got as familiar as I could with the airplane in the five minutes it took to taxi it over to the Apache and then back out to the runup area short of runway 25. This was the first time I have ever jumped in an unfamiliar plane and just went. This was a little on the crazy side (but completely legal). I pulled the checklist, got my all important V speeds and launched into the wild blue heading back north towards KTVC. I leveled off at 3000 feet and held a constant heading as Tom’s pulled up with the Apache in loose formation off my right wing. Man was this cool! I savored the moment, beautiful fall foliage below me, clear crisp smooth air around me, flying a vintage airplane in loose formation. I’m not sure it get’s much better than this. After a few minutes Tom pulled ahead and I followed him back to KTVC where the 172B gave me no problems landing on runway 28.
With the planes safely tied down we headed to the local greasy spoon for lunch to talk politics. Afterwards we headed back to the Apache for a shorter flight of 1.2 to go through the standard routine that was now very familiar to me. Tom determined I was now ready for the checkride. We headed over to the local FBO on the other side of the airport to review my IACRA application. The DE met us there and completed the IACRA before agreeing to meet us back at the plane.
The checkride started with an oral exam by the airplane. One of the shortest oral exams I have had. We discussed what affects Vmc, thrust lines and critical engine, the hydraulic system, emergency gear extension options, fuel tank quantity and locations, fuel crossfeed procedures, location of the heater, results of oil loss on an engine (ie feathering), weight and balance, zero fuel weight, takeoff and landing distances, and service ceiling vs absolute ceiling. The DE noted that since the Apache does not have published accelerate & stop distance one could add the takeoff and landing distances to derive this number. All in all maybe 20 minutes for the oral, and then we were off flying.
There’s really not much
to add to the practical portion of the checkride because it occurred in the
exact same sequence I was already accustomed to. When it came to securing an
engine the DE choose the right and wanted it started as quickly as it was shut
down. We rode the ILS RW 28 approach down to circling mins and broke off the
approach before flying the length of the runway and tear dropping back to RW 10
for a no flap landing. We did a touch and go and the DE failed an engine on
climb out, I immediately went bank, ball, blue line, before “pushing up” and
“cleaning up”. We flew left closed traffic with zero thrust on the “failed
engine” all the way to another touch and go. I always received both engines
back on short final. I conducted a crosswind takeoff followed after that from
what I recall we did a go-around, and then a short field landing. By then the
DE was satisfied and asked for a full stop landing. The pattern was devoid of
aircraft and the tower allowed me to choose my runway and downwind. I asked for
36 on a left downwind which would allow a landing into the wind with a quick
return to parking. My final landing in the Apache was thankfully a greaser.
It’s always the last landing that you remember. I had just logged my first 1.2
hours of multi-engine PIC time and was now officially a commercial multi-engine
I got my temporary certificate back at the FBO with full commercial multi-engine instrument privileges. Another milestone achieved in my journey to professional pilot. Now for the long trip back to Arizona. Time for a break? Not a chance! Next week I’m hitting the books for the CFI written tests which I want to complete before the end of the year as well as prep for my private pilot glider rating which I am very much looking forward to completing during the last week of December.
September 30, 2010]
Multi-Engine Training - Day 1 3.5
METAR’S FOR DAY 1
KTVC 301953Z 34012G19KT 10SM FEW030 SCT055
BKN070 16/09 A2990
KTVC 301853Z 33011KT 10SM FEW030 SCT044 BKN060 16/09 A2989
KTVC 301753Z 34009KT 10SM FEW025 BKN044 BKN060 17/10 A2988
KTVC 301653Z 33012G18KT 10SM SCT027 BKN035 BKN060 17/10 A2987
KTVC 301644Z 34011KT 10SM SCT027 BKN035 BKN060 17/10 A2987
KTVC 301553Z 32009G15KT 10SM BKN022 BKN030 17/12 A2986
KTVC 301453Z 34007KT 10SM BKN017 16/12 A2985
KTVC 301353Z VRB03KT 10SM BKN017 15/12 A2983
KTVC 301321Z 00000KT 10SM BKN017 13/12 A2983
KTVC 301253Z 00000KT 10SM FEW030 11/11 A2982
I’ve traveled to Traverse City, Michigan, a resort town in northern Michigan on the southern banks of the Grand Traverse Bay which opens into Lake Michigan. Fall is in full swing this far up north and temps are already in the 60’s and the trees are well into changing colors. My instructor is Tom Brady and his aircraft is the venerable Piper Apache PA-23-150. The Apache it its prime trained generations of multi-engine pilots in the 60’s and 70’s, but few still remain in training roles these days. This particular Apache, N3207P, C/N 23-1147 was built in 1957. Why travel so far for multi-engine you ask, because Tom’s price can’t be beat anywhere in the country. The total cost for eight hours of actual multi-engine flying and the checkride comes in at just under $1700. Even with the travel cost associated with getting to Michigan I’m still coming out way ahead of what I would have paid anywhere in the southwest. Tom’s web site can be found here, http://www.traverseair.com/. Training actually started a few weeks ago when Tom sent me the study material via E-mail. This consisted of the Apache’s POH, an oral question and answer, and a cheat sheet for the maneuvers. In addition I referenced the following books to assist in my comprehension of the material:
ASA’s Multi-Engine Oral Exam Guide by Michael D. Hayes
ASA’s The Complete Multi-Engine Pilot by Bob Gardner
Multi-Engine Pilot Flight Maneuvers by Brad Deines
FAA-H-8083-3A Airplane Flying Handbook Chapter 12
Traverse City is a resort town with an abundance of hotels. If you decide to train with Tom I recommended weekdays during the off-season. This will save you a lot of money with lodging cost. Also give yourself at least three days to complete the training. It takes two full days of 8-5 flying to get done and you are always at the mercy of northern Michigan weather. I was fortunate in that the weather allowed us to finish up in two days but I was happy to have that third day as insurance. I used my extra day to explore downtown.
Enough about the logistics of it all, on to the training. We met at the west side of the airport at 0800 and spent the first hour or so on the ramp talking about the Apache and the maneuvers to be performed.
We sat in the cockpit and discussed the location and function of an abundance of knobs and switches. Tom said it would feel like being in the Space Shuttle the first few times and he was right, relatively speaking from my experience level there was a lot going on inside the cockpit, but that’s what we pilot’s love lots of knobs and buttons to flip, push, crank, turn and fiddle with. But of course the centerpiece was the throttle pedestal, all those levers, six in total, now that was POWER. I was anxious to get flying.
Visibility from the front office was excellent, it always helps when there is no fan in the way. Starting the left engine and then the right was a really cool experience. We taxied out and I immediately noticed a marked increase in the amount of pressure on the rudder pedals to steer the nose wheel around. Using differential power was also very helpful in making turns on the taxiway. Tom really never mentioned it but I was used to it from Flight Simulator twins and book reading.
We lined up on the centerline, pushed the throttles forward and roared down the runway rotating at redline, 85mph. Because red line is above the actual POH Vr the Apache leaped off the runway without hesitation. She had been ready to fly long before red line, but staying above red line at such a critical phase of flight was of utmost importance. I lowered the nose, climbing at 100mph (Vy) to 500ft, before transitioning to a cruise climb of 125mph at engine settings of 25/25 or “25 square”.
With a ceiling of around 2500ft we found a hole and climbed up on top to conduct the training.
We headed north over the Grand Traverse Bay in very smooth air and began the maneuvers in an order that would become very routine to me. First clearing turns, then slowing to Va (124mph) I conducted left and right steep turns at 50 deg banks. The Apache has been the easiest airplane I have ever flown a steep turn with, the amount of back pressure as you go past 30 degrees of bank does not change dramatically as it does with singles. It’s a fairly consistent amount of pressure throughout with no tendency to balloon on roll out. The throttle levers are sensitive and I realized early on best to set MP and get the hands off the levers lest you end up with some crazy disparity between the engines without ever realizing it.
From steep turns we went into slow flight at 85mph. Again the Apache is very stable and easy to fly the maneuver. Setting 17 inches of MP and a few turns on the trim and the aircraft flys solidly on 85 even as turns to heading are executed. We went immediately into a power off stall which the Apache broadcast the onset with very pronounced buffeting and then into a power on stall by slowing to Vr, adding 18” MP and pitching up until buffeting. So the first four maneuvers are all old-hat and have been seen before with single engine training. At this point we depart into the wonderful world of multi-engine specific maneuvers. The next maneuver we conducted was the Vmc demonstration. This requires idling one engine, while firewalling the other. At the same time the plane is placed in a climb at the rate of 1 degree per second. As airspeed decays and Vmc nears the aircraft begins to protest its situation to you. At the first sign of this the pilot must recover by idling the full powered engine and lowering the nose until blue line is achieved. Once this occurs power is smoothly brought back into the operating engine and single engine controlled flight is restored. Following this we completely shut down the left engine and secured it. This was by far the coolest procedure of the bunch. The Apache, being well under gross weight on a cool morning, happily flew along on the single right engine.
Finished on top we headed back through another hole in the clouds to get back to the airport.
The Apache is a wonderful plane to land, even with the CG very close to the forward limit she lands beautifully with a little power held into the flare. Unlike a Cessna you do not full stall a twin but fly it onto the runway just like the big boys. Once in the flare at 90 knots the throttles are reduced slowly until gear contact is made. Often the contact is just a kiss and you wonder if you are even on the ground. Once this occurs the nose wheel should be gently lowered while you still have elevator authority. I made the mistake of holding the nose wheel off for as long as possible which usually resulted in the nose dropping with a “thunk.”
We took a break for lunch at the local greasy spoon “Randy’s Diner” and discussed weight and balance on the Apache before returning to the airport with full stomachs for a repeat of the morning flight training routine.
We finally finished up around 3:30 that afternoon. Total flight time logged for the first day was 3.5 hours dual. I headed back to the hotel for a night of book studying and chair flying in anticipation for the next day’s training.
September 25-26, 2010]
Night and Instrument Currency Flights 5.3
September 12, 2010]
Munich Aviation Museum
Spent a brief day off from my exercise at a unique aviation museum on the northern outskirts of Munich. Will upload the pics as soon as I get home as Shutterfly is blocked by the web filter here. Here is a brief background of the museum from the web site: The Deutsches Museum presents another important part of its collections at Oberschleissheim Airfield in the north of Munich, close to the old Bavarian palace buildings. The airfield and its historic buildings were constructed between 1912 and 1919 by the Königlich-Bayerische Fliegertruppen (Royal Bavarian Flying Corps). In the early 1990s the historic maintenance hangar was restored and enlarged with a new exhibition hall and a restoration workshop. The Flugwerft Schleissheim complements the big aerospace exhibitions in the main museum in Munich.
27-Sep 18, 2010]
Back Across The Pond
I am off to Germany for a military exercise for the next three weeks so no new updates for awhile. I did just add my Oshkosh blog entry and included a great video which captures Oshkosh in 5 minutes of HD. At the end of September I'll be heading out to Traverse City, MI for multi-engine training with Tom Brady at Traverse Air.
CAP Cadet Orientation Flights 3.9
Flew my first CAP Cadet orientation flight this morning. I flew six cadets on five sorties. It gave me a small taste of what being a CFI must be like as I had to prepare lesson plans for each cadet. I flew three of our squadron’s cadets from Sierra Vista to Nogales, where we met three cadets from the Nogales Squadron. I introduced the cadets to the airplane, two of who had never flown in any airplane before, period. I planned a three leg round robin flight which allowed each of the cadets to experience front seat flying. Our first stop was a Sells, AZ a small poorly maintained paved strip west of Nogales. Sells was like landing on a highway, the centerline was actually non-standard yellow markings with no runway numbers. The concrete was badly cracked with weeds growing up through the cracks unchecked. Tall bushes and scrub trees grew uncomfortably close to the 60ft wide runway. We taxied to what had been a parking apron but was now crumbling into dust with an abandoned dilapidated shack standing guard over it all. As we took a quick look around and rotated cadet seats a Border Patrol helicopter came in and landed on the west end of the runway to take on fuel. We were able to taxi about 2/3rd of the way down the runway without getting to close to the helicopter before turning around and conducting a short field takeoff back to the east. The next stop was Pinal, AZ which is Evergreen’s airplane boneyard. Always a cool place to visit for first timers. Then it was back to Nogales to pick up my cadets and head home. Of the six cadets flown, three got motion sickness. Good thing I had brought some sick sacks along. Made a mental note to “acquire” as many sick sacks as possible from the commercial airlines when I fly back to Europe at the end of the month.
One thing I noticed from today’s flying is that the 182 flies so much better with weight in the back. With the 200+ lbs of extra cadet weight rotation was super smooth and almost automatic with little back pressure on the yoke. With neutral trim the aircraft maintains an attitude for a nice climb at the target airspeed. All of this stands in contrast to a nose heavy 182 that takes a real effort to horse into the air at rotation speed. Landings were even better with the landing attitude very easy to maintain. I’ve chunked my commercial training approach speed of 70-75 knots in favor of a more realistic 60-65 knots (recommended by the POH). This has resulted in a much reduced floating and better landings. As John King says in his video “the secret to good landings is airspeed control.” I wholly concur with this statement. I now fly the pattern 85-75-65/60 in the 182 and it works very well for me. Every landing today was perfect, that has never happened to me before in the 182.
I ended up logging almost four hours today and at the end of it I was smoked! Part of it was waking up at 0400 and flying in 100 degree heat but the other part was the mental intensity of instructing and training others. Flying felt like work today, hard work, not sure that’s an association I want to make with something I currently love doing.
CAP Maintenance Ferry Flight 2.0
Night Currency in a 210HP C172E 0.7
[ July 27-31, 2010]
Oshkosh/Airventure 2010 was another incredible experience this year with the opportunity to share the world’s biggest airshow with my son.
We spent a total of three days at Oshkosh from Wednesday to Friday and covered a wide swath of the Airventure experience but once again only scratching the surface. This year I wanted to make sure I did all of the things I missed last year. That included a trip over to the Sea Plane base and Pioneer airport, a ride in the Ford Tri-Motor, and a ride in the Bell 46 Helicopter. I was able to accomplish all of these things and much more.
We arrived at 0700 in the morning and were able to park right up front with no lines to get our wrist bands. We were able to get all of our wrist bands for the week which saved a lot of time later on. As I said before, get there early, it pays off in close parking, quick entry, and easy access to the planes before the crowds build, which starts by 0800 each day. On the first day we scouted Celebration Way and Aeroshell Square before heading off to the EAA Museum and Pioneer Airport also the site of Kid Venture. Kid Venture had stations set up to show kids the skills required to build a plane. Carson got hands on learning how to rivet as well as safety wire a nut and bolt. Having never seen these building techniques before I was very interested in the whole process myself. We got to meet Dick Rutan, pilot of the Voyager that flew around the world non-stop, he signed my log book, gave Carson an autographed photo of Voyager and we snapped a group photo.
There are several hangars located on Pioneer Airport with some very interesting aviation gems. A hangar is dedicated to Steve Wittman with a replica of his first aircraft and the actual Tailwind prototype. Pietenpol also has a hangar with an Aircamper. I spent some time enjoying a rare Taylor Cub, the predecessor to the Piper Cub. Pioneer is also the location of the Bell 46 helicopter rides which was high on our to-do list. The flight is relatively short for the $40 price tag, but the grand view you get of Oshkosh makes it all worth it. We flew a wide racetrack over the entire area, I snapped some great photos. It was Carson’s first flight in a helicopter and the unobstructed view from the bubble plexiglass canopy of the Korean War area aircraft was amazing. As soon as the ride had begun it was over and we walked back to the main venue with a brief stop at Compass Hill.
The air show for the day was the standard fare with most of the top liner aerobatic performers burrowing holes in the sky. John Mohr was there and he performed some amazing maneuvers with his stock Stearmen Biplane. I first saw John perform at the Oceana Air Show in September last year performing the craziest air act I have ever seen – an airplane to helicopter transfer of a stuntman. John has also been featured in Air & Space magazine recently.
We got to Oshkosh around 0830 and the backup of cars trying to get in the parking lot was well underway. We were still able to park in the front parking lot just further away. Luckily with our wrist bands already acquired we did not have to wait in the monster line at the front gate. Can’t stress enough: get to Oshkosh early EVERY day, 0700-0730 is the best time.
We headed over to the warbirds section first, with the intent of flying in the Ford Tri-Motor. A line had already formed for Tri-motor tickets and we waited about 30 minutes to purchase tickets with an 11:30 show time. Some of the jewels in the warbird section included the P-38 Glacier Girl, rescued from below the ice in Greenland, and an absolutely pristine original A6M Zero. The Commemorative Air Force had an awesome SBD Dauntless that looked like it has just come back from a mission, the paint was weathered and faded which looked very realistic unlike most display planes that look as if they just rolled off the assembly line. CAF also had a TBM Avenger on display. I was amazed the first time I saw a TBM up close by its shear size. You could fit 8 people in the plane easily. This was Carson’s first time up close with a TBM and he had the same reaction, amazement at the size. The pilot sits what must be 16 feet off the ground and a rear crew compartment is rather spacious for a radio operator down below and a rear gunner up high. We were also fortunate to be at the right place to see an F4U fold his wings up and taxi out, an A-4 Skyraider (another massive airplane) fold his wings and taxi in and a parade of four T-28 Trojan’s taxi in and park on line. Other cool sights included an L-39 split in half with its turbine engine out on a dolly for display. Very simple and straightforward set-up for the L-39 which must make maintenance painless. Off on the north end of the warbirds section we found some interesting and pristine observation aircraft including an Aeronca L-16, L-4 Grasshoppers and L-19 Bird Dogs (a plane we enjoy flying in the simulator).
After all the browsing we headed back for our Tri-Motor flight. We got the first two seats behind the pilot and directly next to the uncowled radial engines. When the pilot throttled up for takeoff the sound was absolutely deafening. I could feel my ear drums pulsating. I know it must have been very painful for Carson who is very noise sensitive. Fortunately the pilot throttled back after clearing the runway and the roar of the engines became acceptable. We flew out over Lake Winnebago and headed to the sea plane base off to the south before making a circle and heading back to Oshkosh to land on runway 36L. Besides the noise inside the cabin I recall the pilot making a lot of course adjustments to the trim wheel which like old Piper Cherokees was a window like handle located on the roof of the cockpit. We three pointed in front of the crowds watching and I felt as if we were part of the show. The ride was short and expensive, but hey how many people can say they flew in a Ford Tri-Motor? And for a few minutes in time on that July day we were transported back to the Golden Age of aviation, experiencing flight just as so many other had experienced it back in the 1930s. Yeah it was worth every penny.
Friday we headed down to the sea plane base which was a good 15-20 minute ride by bus from the front gate. Having not been to the sea plane base last year I was looking forward to the visit, but found it disappointing. It was rather small with not a whole lot going on out there, and no real displays. We did catch the Ikon A5 being prepped for flight and watched a Cessna Caravan take off along with a Piper PA-12 launch. Other than that we had seen everything there was to see in about 15 minutes.
The air show on Friday was spectacular on one probably not to be duplicated in scope and scale. It was the warbird extravaganza and kicked off with large formation flights of T-6 Texans, T-28 Trojans, T-34 Mentors and Chinese N-6s. Smaller formations of L-19 Briddogs, Stearman Biplanes, and P-51s made circuits around the field. Four C-46s took to the sky and dropped the parachute team which brought down a gigantic US and POW flag. Next the jets took to the air with T-33s, L-39s. After the Jets came the rare warbirds: a P-38, Hawker Sea Fury, A6M zero, and P-40. Simulated gun and bomb runs were made on the field with associated pyro explosions. A perfect smoke ring made its way into the sky only to be flown perfectly through by the Sea Fury. This elicited a great applause from the crowd. I caught this moment with my camera. The finale came with four B-17s taking off and flying formation over the field before returning to the field for a simulated bomb run that culminated in massive pyro display called the “wall of fire.” Wow, it does not get any better than this!
Another Oshkosh was in the books. With two back to back Airventure’s I think I have now experienced a little bit of everything that Oshkosh has to offer. Will I go back, heck yeah. Next year? Maybe not. When I go again I think the concentration will be on the forums and work shops. I am intrigued with learning how to build and maintain airplanes. I’m smart enough to now I don’t have the discipline to build my own.
Ford Tri-Motor Ride
Bell 46 Helicopter Ride
Museum and Pioneer Field
Sea Plane Base
[ July 24, 2010]
Mountain Search Training 2.1
More Mission Pilot training for me today! I was given a search area and scenario and then required to devise a plan and brief my crew. The search area was the Whitestone Mountains just north of KFHU.
[ July 20, 2010]
The Beech Sierra I was looking to buy went into a pre-purchase inspection today and the results were not good. Multiple oil leaks, cracked cylinder head, and a leaking exhaust riser were just the start but they really sealed my decision. I was looking for a solid airplane with a low hour trouble free engine in which I could build time at a low cost. This was certainly not going to be that aircraft. So while I am out $500 between the title search and the inspection I write it all off as a tremendous learning experience in the process of purchasing an airplane. I learned how the financing and insuring process works as well as identifying the other operating cost associated with aircraft ownership and working with an A&P on the inspection process. I am just too busy at this point in the year to continue to pursue aircraft ownership so I’m kicking the can down the road and will hopefully renew my search for an airplane in October-November.
Mission Pilot Training
4.1 hours of no cost flying today as part of my mission pilot training with CAP. I still have a grin on my face over this fact.
The mission today was to fly to a USAF bombing range south of Phoenix and clear it of illegal aliens and anything else suspicious. We departed KFHU at 0430 and enjoyed a typical Arizona sun rise in our rear windows as we traveled the 1.5 hours west to the bombing range. Ten miles out from the search area we descended out of 8500ft for 1000agl. Each search begins with flying the perimeter of the search area to get a feel for the terrain. In this particular search area the ground was predominately flat in the north and contained foothills in the south which required me to constantly adjust altitude. I set the 182 up for 15”/24 with 10 deg of flaps which gave me an 85 knot cruise. We had been in the search area only a few minutes when something white along the banks of a wash caught my eye. I notified the observer in the right seat and we went in for a closer look. As I concentrate on flying the plane, the observer requests turns and bank angles. I comply if able. I will tell you it is very tempting to want to look at what the observer is checking out. This is a temptation that must be resisted at all cost as you could easily fly into terrain or stall the aircraft if you are not concentrating on the business of flying. The truck was a late model pick up with all the doors open. It was abandoned and by the look of the tracks had been driven into the wash by accident. We marked the location on the GPS and called in the coordinates to USAF Range Control. We later found out that the truck had been identified a few days earlier and it was just a matter of trying to recover it from the sandy bed of the wash. We continued the search mission conducting methodical pattern searches in the north portion of the search box. This area had a mock airfield complete with wooden MIG fighters parked in revetments next to a very well kept dirt strip. Stacked shipping containers represented buildings on the airfield. Large gapping holes indicated that the containers had been serviced by the USAF at some point. Moving to the foothills in the south my training continued with contour searches of the undulating terrain. We flew down a small canyon right on the deck. This type of flying is tremendously helpful in honing stick and rudder skills and I found it almost an enjoyable as my sea plane and tailwheel training. With our clear out time approaching we departed the search area to the NE and headed to KRYN for some breakfast before returning to KFHU by 0930. The mission today reenergized my interest in CAP and I am already looking forward to my next training mission on Saturday.
[ July 19, 2010]
Jet (Ducted Fan) R/C Flying
While RC flying has taken a back seat to real flying since I moved to Arizona I still find time to get in a few flights. My newest plane is a foam ducted fan F-16 in USAF Thunderbird livery. This is my first electric ducted fan jet and I will tell you it is a real hoot to fly. This model has ailerons and elevators linked to the same servo with no rudder. The set up makes for a wickedly fast roll rate. At full power the model moves through the sky at lightning speed and is much more challenging and exciting to fly compared to my propeller r/c planes. The learning curve has not come without at least one mishap in five flights so far. After rolling the plane several times I pulled up elevator only to find the F-16 heading earthward. With not enough altitude left to recover the aircraft plowed into the dirt at high speed at about a 45 degree angle. I expected very little to be left of the model in a crash of that magnitude, in fact a balsa plane would have been just splinters. Amazingly the EPO foam absorbed the energy of impact with only minor damage and deformation to the fuselage. In fact I was able to clean the plane off and have it back in the air only minutes later. Since the crash I have logged multiple flights without issue. I’m hooked now on electric jets and already have my eye on a rather large F-100 Super Sabre.
[ July 18, 2010]
Pancake Breakfast Breakdown 1.0
A short flight over the mountains to Nogales for pancakes with Christina and Carson almost left us stranded north of the border when the rental 172N's starter solenoid failed to engage for the return trip. After several attempts I called the FBO to find out that there was some history with starter issues in the plane but that no issues had occurred over the last year. Yeah right. I tried working the solenoid with a screwdriver with no luck. Even enlisted the help of a ferry pilot to hand prop the engine but no luck. Frustrated and out of options with a few hours before anyone could come get us I went out to the plane and ran the prop through a few revolutions by hand, fiddled some more with the starter gear using a screw driver, said a few prayers, and tried the starter. Once, no luck, twice, no luck, third time, success. The engine turned over and sputtered to life and like trying to keep the kindling in a camp fire alive I nursed and cajoled the engine with the controls until she ran steady at 1000 RPMs. God bless America! I pulled up to the terminal and motioned for Chris and Carson to load up. There was no way I was shutting down again until we were safely home. The rest of the flight was uneventful and we made it home safely. Now that's two malfunctions in as many weeks (pitot-static failed on the Warrior at Payson). I am so done with rental planes, ready for my own now more than ever!
[ July 17, 2010]
Commercial Checkride Part 2 - Practical Passed! 1.4
I actually flew the Piper Warrior to Tucson this morning for the checkride since I could not stomach another 3 hour round trip drive in my car with the air condition on the fritz. I arrived before the DE and was able to completely pre-flight the 182RG N5487T and have all my cross country paperwork organized and ready to go. The weather was much improved over the previous day, but the quartering tail wind for runway 11R persisted. I made a mental note for the landings.
The DE arrived and we walked out to the airplane. He asked me about what would cause a tire to ground the aircraft. I told him excessive tread wear, flat spots, flats. He said only the visibility of the tire’s chord would ground it. I don’t recall any additional questions being asked on the airworthiness of the aircraft.
After the cockpit preflight we taxied out. We conducted a normal takeoff and I headed out to the Fagan practice area at 4500ft, 3500ft below my flight plan altitude which would cause me to arrive at my first checkpoint early. I configured the aircraft for cruise and arrived early at the first checkpoint. The DE then told me to divert to Benson, I did a quick estimation of direction, distance and turned to the general direction. I stated the runway length, that facilities existed on the field, and an estimate of the time and fuel required to reach the field. I then used the NEAREST function of the Garmin 430 to pull up Benson and confirm my estimates. I was pretty close.
The divert put us into the eastern portion of the Fagan practice area. I was then instructed to go into slow flight. Once configured I made 90 degree level turns left and right. The stall horn blared the entire time. I then went into a straight power off stall and recovered. I was directed to perform a power on stall while in a climbing left turn. Getting the aircraft slowed down to rotation speed took a little time. I could have been a little more aggressive with pulling the power out. The break was straight forward and very little altitude was lost in the recovery.
With the airplane back to straight and level we went into steep turns. The first to the left and then immediately to the right. I picked a prominent mountain peak as my reference point as well as setting the heading bug. I banked into 50 degrees and locked it in, just working pitch. The left turn was a little bit of a roller coaster but I managed to stay within +/-100 ft throughout, the right was much more consistent throughout the turn.
With the aircraft back to 15/24 at 110 knots I was asked to Chandelle in the direction of my choice. I executed a Chandelle to the left and managed to have the stall horn sounding at the end of the maneuver. The DE then asked for a Chandelle back to the right. No issues with this maneuver either. I remembered to be easy on the left rudder and aggressive with the right which kept the plane pretty well coordinated throughout the maneuver.
With 1000ft of altitude gained from the back to back Chandelles I was instructed to execute a steep spiral with no breakout altitude specified. I chose my point, configured the aircraft for 85 knots, gear down, flaps 10 and flew directly over my point. Pulling the power and closing the cowl flaps I placed the aircraft in a left 45 deg bank, trimming for 85 knots. As we spiraled down I verbalized the engine restart procedures and the mayday squawk/radio call. Every turn I cleared the engine with a smooth application of power up to 20” MP. The DE was quick to prompt for engine clearing on each rotation. I was told to break off the spiral before reaching 800 AGL.
The final maneuver in the practice area was eight on pylons. I was allowed to choose my points in this case what looked like to small watering holes. I crossed between the points and began to circle my first pylon at what I estimated as 1000 AGL. The first full iteration was challenging as I determined the actual altitude I needed. I used the fuel tube vents as my point of reference which was difficult to see on the right side with the DE in the way. I ended up doing about three full iterations before I was told to return to the airport for landings.
The pattern was extremely busy at Tucson which would end up causing a lot of improvisation during the sequence of landings we would execute. I also had to deal with a quartering tailwind as Tucson tower is very reluctant to change runways.
The first landing was normal followed by a short field take off while on the go. I only had to verbalize holding the brakes for a full power static run up. The next landing the DE asked for was a soft field but the tower directed a short approach so the DE gave me the option to conduct a 180 power off. I opted for the 180 choosing the 1000ft touchdown marker as my point. Power came out abeam the point. With a tail wind it was necessary to place the aircraft into an aggressive forward slip and throw the flaps in early. I was able to maintain 85 all the way into ground effect 400 feet short of the touchdown point. The DE kept telling me to hold the aircraft off which I did as we floated while the airspeed bled off. We touched down on the markers. Still on the go the DE asked for a soft field takeoff. We went back around and conducted a soft field landing which I was able to accomplish by adding a small shot of power after the aircraft settled into ground effect. Still on the go we did another normal takeoff. The DE then asked for a short field landing. He asked the tower for runway 3 full stop which they approved a right base entry for. The DE told me “ok land on runway three and turn off the first taxiway without blowing the tires.” Almost to the base to final turn for runway three the tower changed the landing clearance back to 11R. We continued downwind and the DE repeated his instructions “just land without blowing the tires and get us off by the first taxiway.” I came in at a shallower approach angle holding power until over the numbers. Pulling the power promptly set the airplane down well before the turnoff.. I had done it! The tower gave us the clearance to 180 and back taxi which is the quickest way back to the west ramp.
My park job was crappy but luckily that was not one of the PTS requirements. The DE congratulated me on passing my checkride and headed back into the building to complete the paperwork while I put the RG to bed. Total flight time for the checkride was 1.4 hours.
So thus ended my successful quest for the commercial ticket almost exactly five years from when I took my first discovery flight. In recap I started my flight training with the Langley Aero Club (Part 61) in October 2009 completing both the day & night complex cross country requirements in a Piper Arrow. I passed the FAA commercial written in November with a 99%. After a short break for the move from Virginia to Arizona I picked up training again with Cochise College (Part 61) in Tucson, AZ flying the Cessna 182RG. Training lasted six months mostly drawn out due to a lack of continuity in flying because of my job and weather. I logged a total of 16.4 hours in the RGs. Total cost was around $5000. I’m a better pilot for the experience and am much more comfortable in a complex aircraft now. I have a much better understanding of aircraft systems, engines, and constant speed props.
So what’s next you ask? It’s off to Michigan at the end of September for the Multi-Engine rating. I also finally found a place in Arizona that does glider accelerated courses so that bucket item has been moved off the stand by list and is tentatively schedule for November. In the interim I’ll be hitting the books to knock out the CFI written.
[ July 16, 2010]
Commercial Checkride Part 1 - Oral Passed!
Spent about 1 hour 45 minutes in the commercial oral exam today. Passed with no major hang ups. 25% of the questions were on the 182RG systems, 25% on general topics, and 50% on the x-country planning and weather briefing. Deteriorating weather conditions made the practical test not possible today. We meet up again tomorrow morning at 0730 to finish the checkride.
My future Beech B24R Sierra goes to the A&P on Tuesday for a pre-purchase inspection. My fingers and toes are crossed that there are no surprises!
[ July 15, 2010]
Last Minute Practice & FAA Wings 1.5
Took the CAP 182 bird up this evening with thunderstorms lurking in the distance to conduct the commercial maneuvers one last time. Got a little disoriented while wrapped up in maneuvers and almost flew into Mexico! Knocked off most of the big rust chunks. Still challenging to get my brain to talk to my feet when it comes to rudder work. I have a nervous tendency to push on the right rudder pedal. Finished up with power off 180 landings and was very pleased with the quality of the maneuver and landings.
Completed the FAA Wings Phase I training, AVEMCO send me my wings!
[ July 10, 2010]
LTC Promotion Selection & Wall of Honor Gift
I found out a few days ago that the Army has selected me for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in the active Army. Wonderful news for the family. For me the promotion is validation that the last 17.5 years of military service have been a success. I'm looking forward to serving my final three years in this expanded capacity.
Christina has decided to celebrate my selection for promotion by having my name & new rank added to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s Wall of Honor. Thank you honey!
The National Aviation and Space Exploration Wall of Honor is a permanent memorial at the National Air & Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport. More than 20,000 names are listed on the Wall of Honor. Some are well known such as Orville and Wilbur Wright, but most are everyday heroes who share a passion for flight.
Camping & Flying 5.5
For a few months now my son, Carson, has been asking me to go camping. What finally pushed me to action occurred while returning on a flight from Europe early last month. The airline magazine had an article about the top 10 things every father must do with his son, camping of course made the top of the list. I remember many, many camping trips with my Dad and they are all great memories. It was time for action.
I wanted to see if I could combine camping with flying so I conducted a Google search for “fly-in camping in Arizona.” One of my first hits was for Payson, AZ. The KPAN airport offered free camping on the airport overlooking the runway. KPAN also had a paved runway 5500ft long. The campsite had hot showers, running water, BBQ and fire pits, and free fire wood. I put together a quick flight plan in AOPA’s flight planner and found the airport to be less than two hours flight time from KFHU. I began planning for the flight in earnest by mid June.
We departed KFHU on the 6th of July with a full load of camping gear in the back of Piper Warrior N151MM. The Warrior has a 150 HP engine with a gross weight of 2300 lbs. With Carson only weighting 60 lbs and the fuel tanks filled to 34 gallons I had plenty of extra weight to work with. This being said I wanted to stay well below the max weight considering we were flying to high density altitude airports. All of the camping gear to include a loaded cooler came in at a total of 105 lbs. I dispersed the gear between the back seat and the cargo area ensuring the CG remained well within limits. Total weight at takeoff was just about 2000lbs.
The flight up to Payson was planned at 6500ft utilizing the valleys that ran north/south to the east of Tucson and Phoenix. We broke up the trip with a few stop and go landings at two airports enroute, San Manuel (E77) and Kearney (E67). We flew past the Roosevelt Dam at 4500ft and followed the lake north until it dried out. Nearing Payson we climbed up to 6500 to clear the Tonto Basin upon which sits the town of Payson To the north the Mogollon Rim, which dominates most of central Arizona, rose up prominently. Total flight time was 2 hours.
After we landed the airport manager Dave came over to greet us and give us a quick rundown on the airport and the camp site. The camp site was empty so we had our pick for tent location. We found a great spot under a short scrubby tree next to the taxi way. Setting up camp we had our fill of aircraft coming and going with plenty of student traffic originating out of Phoenix, the flight school capital of the world. At one point we had five Cessna’s take off in succession with voices of obviously foreign flight students filling the common traffic frequency.
One thing I noticed watching and listening to planes at Payson, an untowered airport, is that what pilot’s announce on the radio and what they are actually doing can many times be two completely different things. I watched as pilots reported being clear of the runway as they back taxied on the runway, pilots reporting position in the pattern such as being base while still flying downwind, some not reporting at all. Pattern entry was interesting with planes crossing over the airport at or very close to pattern altitude. Wide bomber traffic patterns were pretty frequent as well. Many pilots either were not familiar with the noise abatement procedures or didn’t care.
Around 1600 we loaded back into the plane for a flight over to Sedona, about 45 miles to the northwest. It was a pretty bumpy ride to KSEZ as the ground had not yet begun to cool off from a very hot day. I had flown into Sedona as the right seater during the Grand Canyon trip last month and wanted to make my own landing at the airport. On this day the wind favored a landing on 21 with winds pushing 15+ knots out of the south. We carried a little extra speed to ensure no surprises on final. Total travel time was about 30 minutes. The other reason for the visit to Sedona was to treat Carson to a ride in an open cockpit Waco biplane courtesy of Red Rock Scenic tours. As we rolled out of the landing on 21 Carson caught sight of the pristine red Waco sitting on the ramp. His excitement immediately began to build.
Meeting our tour pilot we headed out to inspect the Waco and snap a few pictures. We were given cloth flight helmets with headsets minus the mics. This particular Waco was one of the newer productions of the Waco Company. We both loaded into the front seat which was wide enough to accommodate a 300lbs man. The control stick had been removed but the rudder pedals, throttle and trim wheel were all live in the forward cockpit. After a brief run-up we were off exploring the beautiful landscape and rock formations that surround Sedona. At one point we flew parallel and level to the top of a butte that rose high above the desert floor. Returning to the airport we overflew the field and entered into a left downwind before turning final and aggressively slipping down for a landing. It was a pretty awesome flight and I know Carson will remember it for a lifetime.
On Wednesday we spent most of the day hanging out at the campsite. At dusk I planned on doing a few touch and go’s with Carson. The takeoff run and initial climb out were normal, but I soon noticed that my airspeed was decreasing even when I lowered the nose. Something was not right. I turned downwind still fairly low and noticed my VSI was zero while my altimeter reported the aircraft in a climb. The desire to fixate on the problem was amazingly strong. In those few seconds stories from Flying magazines feature “I learned about flying from that..” flashed in my head. Stories of pilot’s losing control and crashing due to fixation. I had to consciously tell myself to fly the airplane first and worry about the instrument problem second. I fell back on pitch and power to climb and extended my downwind to buy time to figure things out. As I climbed the airspeed appeared to begin increasing slowly, but by this time I knew I had a static problem and I had written off believing the ASI. Unfortunately I had very little flight time in this particular aircraft and did not know where the alternate static source was located. I decided I would land fast, again using pitch/power settings and relying on my eyes and ears for a sense of speed. We settled into the flare and the Piper stalled at an IAS of about 60 knots well above actual Vso. I was fortunate enough to have the video camera running during the entire flight from the back seat. The camera captured the instrument panel and shows the erroneous and lethargic acting static controlled instruments. This video can be an excellent training tool for any pilot, for that reason I have posted it on YouTube here. The biggest lesson learned was first and foremost FLY THE AIRPLANE. I have read so many articles about planes crashing because pilots got fixated on a problem that had nothing to do with positive control of the airplane (open doors, landing gear, etc..). From the comfort of my office chair I would think “how could the pilot do something so stupid.” After my experience I will tell you it is VERY EASY for this to happen, the desire and urge to fixate is amazingly strong, and takes determined will to resist. The next time it happens I will say aloud “FLY THE AIRPLANE” over and over.
Following the flight I pulled out the POH and found the locations of the alternate static source lever and the static drain ports. I depressed the drain ports but no fluid came out. Our departure the next morning would be a test flight to determine if the alternate static would fix the problem.
morning, July 8, came and we loaded up for the flight home, hopefully with
working pitot/static instruments. We had breakfast at the Crosswinds Restaurant
on the field which was excellent chow and reasonably priced with a great view of
the runway. As we accelerated down the runway the airspeed came alive, we
rotated and the VSI reported a climb. I was relieved that we had temporarily
fixed the problem and made a note to contact the FBO and report the squawk upon
landing back home. The flight was direct and at altitude. I decided to
exercise my fundamental navigation skills by creating my flight plan with E6B
and protractor and flying it by pilotage and dead reckoning only. We made good
time all the way back but lost all of our gains when the FHU tower put us into a
very wide pattern due to multiple military aircraft landing. Our downwind was
extended almost all the way to Tombstone before being allowed to return for
landing. Another adventure in the books, more hours logged with priceless
lessons learned and all that is in addition to wonderful memories made camping &
flying with my son!
Additional Resources: www.americanaircampers.net www.adventurepilot.com www.sedonaairtours.com
[ July 3, 2010]
First Piper Solo 1.6
My first solo time flying the Piper today. I took Carson with me on a flight over to Bisbee-Douglass International (DUG) for a touch and go and then over to Douglass Municipal (DGL) for a stop and go. DGL was the last of the local airports in the area that I had not yet landed at. It is right on the border with Mexico. On the sectional it looks like it sits on the ADIZ so to be safe I filed a flight plan and asked the briefer if I needed to file a defensive VFR (DVFR) flight plan. She stated that as long as I did not fly into Mexico I was ok with a standard VFR flight plan. The Piper affords Carson with much better forward visibility which is a plus when he is flying. I let him fly us down to Bisbee-Douglass International and he did a great job of holding altitude and heading. I often joke that he makes for a great inexpensive autopilot. When we departed Douglass we had to make a 45 degree right turn just off the departure end of the runway in order to not fly into Mexico (it really is that close). The border was easily defined by a long fence/wall and we paralleled its path back to the west. The landing back at KFHU was not one of my best and unfortunately was observed by a few fellow CAP members who had landed just prior to our arrival. One called me on the radio and asked if I was going to log two landings for that arrival. I answered back that I was just demonstrating how NOT to land an airplane. It never fails, you can have ten greasers when no one is watching and the one bad landing is the one everyone sees.
[ June 27, 2010]
Checkout in the Piper Warrior II 1.2
Got checked out in a Piper Warrior today. This particular model is the PA-28-161 with a Lycoming O-320 developing 160 HP. I have about 6 hours of dual time in various PA28s but never have been solo yet. The Piper is rented by the local FBO and does not get nearly the rental use as the Cessna 172s. Because of this they have reduced their rental rates on the Piper to encourage use. Well I bit. Besides the monetary motivation my son, Carson, has been chomping at the bit to fly in a Piper and reminds me of that fact every time he see’s one on the ramp. Once you get over some of the drawbacks of the Piper line (which I discussed in blog entry from July 8, 2009) I think you will find the aircraft a joy to fly. I can make much smoother and consistent landings with the Piper and find the forward view which provides better visibility over the cowling (at least for me) more conducive to better landings. The checkout was pretty straightforward as the CFI knew me and was already familiar with my abilities as a pilot. He did catch me off guard by pulling the power after takeoff. I executed a no flap landing and then restarted my takeoff roll. The climb out was anemic due to the 8000ft density altitude of KFHU. Up at 7000ft I went into slow flight and then pulled power for power off stall. The CFI had me hold the aircraft in the stall and keep the wings level with rudder. The Piper really broadcast the onset of a stall with buffeting, more so than I have ever experienced with a Cessna. Anyway, I held the aircraft in the stall and she just mushed on down at about 500ft per minute. The whole time the Piper was grumbling its dissatisfaction with buffeting and vibration, had I not known better I would have thought the engine was disassembling itself due to the vibration and racket experienced inside the cockpit. We did a power on stall and some stalls in a turn and then headed to Benson where I executed a 180 power off landing without flaps. I executed an aggressive slip to drop the altitude and get me on the appropriate glide path for my target. I was able to touchdown within 100 ft of my touchdown point which would have passed the practical test. We did some paperwork at the Benson FBO and then headed back for another sunset power off 180 at KFHU. This time I floated on past my touchdown point due to poor speed management during the descent. Despite this fact the CFI blessed off on my checkout and I am looking forward to my first solo flight in the Piper later this week.
[ June 13, 2010]
Grand Canyon X-Country 4.6
Someone told me there was a big ditch in the northern part of the state so I decided to go check it out for myself........
After months of trying to make the Grand Canyon X-Country trip a reality it finally happened today, and it ended up being one of those adventures where everything goes right. This does not happen often so you really have to appreciate it when it does. Because of the distance involved in the trip I had always looked at splitting the flight with another pilot to reduce cost. To further reduce cost I decided the CAP 182 was the way to go. Enlisting the support and enthusiasm of one of the more experienced pilot’s in CAP we set off on our adventure this morning lifting off exactly at 0600 in what was perfect weather, 70 F, calm winds, and no clouds.
First stop was Winslow, Arizona two hours flying time to the north. Why Winslow? Because the Eagles sang about Winslow in their song “Take it Easy” (Well, I'm a standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona) and two hours happens to be the endurance of most bladders. We took essentially a direct route, flying at 8500ft the ride was smooth. I went under the hood for half the trip logging an hour of simulated instrument time. We flew over the Coolidge Dam enroute. Crossing over San Carlos the terrain began to rise as part of the Mogollon Rim, a rather large geographical feature of east central Arizona. The terrain quickly changed from desert to green forest. Albuquerque center lost radar contact with us and we had to terminate flight following about 30 miles outside of Winslow. We climbed up to 9500 ft just to keep some clearance between us and the terrain. Crossing over the rim the terrain began to drop off and we started a cruise descent into Winslow. After some confusion with the airport layout we got situated on an extended right base for runway 11. The landing was forgettable as the first landings after not flying for a week usually are. We landed at 0754 exactly on schedule with the flight plan. We had burned more fuel than anticipated due to not leaning the mixture aggressively enough so we took on fuel from the local FBO and explored the confines finding a plaque that stated Lindbergh had flown into the airport for its inauguration in 1929 on a Transcontinental Airways Transport (TAT) aircraft. The cloudless sky we had departed into was now quickly becoming scattered to broken. This had not been in the forecast, I pulled up the Grand Canyon Airport METAR/TAF to find the cloud ceiling at 12,000ft. Since we had to fly the canyon flight corridors at 10.5 or higher the margin was starting to narrow.
Refueled and a new flight plan filed we took off to the west heading for our first objective, the Meteor Crater only 15 miles west of Winslow. The FSS briefer gave me a scare when I activated my flight plan and was informed that our destination airport Valle (40G) was closed, I told her that no NOTAM had been posted stating such. After rechecking she replied that it had been closed a few days prior but was once again open. I breathed a sigh of relief, had 40G been closed we would have missed out on the museum and had to land at KGCN with sky high fuel prices.
We had barely established our cruise when we could see the lip of the crater on the horizon. It stood out on the otherwise desolate desert floor. Flying over the crater at 1000ft AGL it was obvious that we would need to be higher and further from the center just to capture the entire crater with the camera lens. I entered into a climb while putting some distance between us and the crater. Once reestablished we started to circle the crater while snapping photos and video all along the way. I had visited the crater by car on the way to California back in 1993 but found it much more impressive from the air where its total scope and scale could be fully appreciated. You can find out more about the Meteor Crater by visiting the web site at http://www.meteorcrater.com/.
With the crater behind us we picked up a northwest track towards the east end of the Little Colorado River to begin our Grand Canyon fly over. In the distance you could see massive Humphrey’s Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 ft. The top of the mountain was sticking into the cloud base. As we climbed up to 10,000ft we could see that we were going to be pretty close to the base of the clouds. We had to be able to get to 10,500 in order to fly the Grand Canyon’s corridor south. The clouds were still fairly thin and we knew we could fly over them if worse came to worse. We inched up to 10,500 as we entered the Little Colorado River canyon and began heading west towards the Grand Canyon. The clouds opened up over the canyon making for clear sailing and great views. The view as you can imagine was fantastic with the turquoise river standing in stark contrast to the reds and tans of the canyon walls. The Little Colorado’s narrow canyons opened up into the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon and we were soon turning south to follow the river down the immense canyon. The radio was alive with position reports from the various tour operators who are allowed to fly a few thousand feet lower than the rest of the flying public. Most of the reports where in the 7000-9000ft range. We found ourselves to be the only GA flight operating over this part of the canyon (again another perfect event).
A few administrative notes if you plan on flying the Grand Canyon. It is imperative that you pick up the Grand Canyon VFR Aeronautical chart covering the area because there are Special Federal Aviation Regulations (SFAR) in effect for the Grand Canyon. Be advised that the chart has no expiration date. The chart covers GA visitor on one side and Air Tour operators on the other. The chart depicts the routes and altitudes of the corridors you can fly, the freqs required to be monitored and the no fly areas. Scale on the chart is 1:250,000 which makes it very handy for visual navigation of the canyon area.
A few web sites that I found very helpful in planning for my Grand Canyon X-Country are listed below:
As we continued south we entered into a narrow flight corridor called the Zuni Point corridor which is bookmarked by no flight zones on each side. As you enter this corridor you must be at a chart assigned altitude and make position reports upon entering and exiting. Heading south we remained at 10,500ft. We saw a DH Twin Otter pass below us heading into the canyon as we exited and a high wing heading toward KGCN. Actual transit of the corridor is very quick. One recommendation if you plan to visit is to set up your aircraft for semi-slow flight so that you can enjoy the view for as long as possible. I brought the MP back to 15” and put in 10 degs of flaps to chug along at 90 knots while Doug snapped pictures. As soon as it had started it was over and the ground rose back up to meet us on the south rim of the canyon with pine tree forest extending out as far as the eye could see. We continued on towards Valle Airport (40G) (pronounced “Valley”) for fuel, rest stop and pilot swap.
Valle is only 18 miles south of the canyon rim and fuel prices are at least $1 cheaper then Grand Canyon Airport (GCN) which is a Class D airport and very busy with tour operators flying in and out. Definitely recommend Valle if you go. No traffic was reported at Valle. We crossed over the airport, entered into a right hand teardrop while descending to set up for a left downwind entry to runway 19. The runway had been newly paved (the reason for the closure) with no centerline yet marked. Had it not been for the big “1 9” plastered on the approach end of the runway I would have believed I was landing on a taxiway. The width of the runway is only 45ft. I would later find out that Valle, as my 73rd airport to land at, would become not only my narrowest runway but also the highest altitude airport (6000ft). The landing went very well and more than made up for the earlier forgettable Winslow landing. It was the last leg that I would fly on this memorable trip. Climbing out of the cockpit I quickly noticed the air was substantially cooler at this higher altitude.
Valle is the home of the famous Ford Tri-Motor featured most recently in AOPA Pilot magazine and available for pilots to receive training and type rating in if you have the money. Valle is also home to one of the Planes of Fame museums. While I had been to the museum five or so years ago during a ground visit of the Grand Canyon it was worth a revisit. The FBO at Valle is part museum as well with several antique cars in the lobby and model planes hanging from the ceiling. All the folks at the FBO and museum were very friendly. The pilot lounge is rather sparse with no computer available for use, however WiFi is available if you have your own computer, which we did. Doug worked on filing his flight plan while I headed out to explore the surrounding area. The hangar to the north of the FBO houses the Ford Tri-Motor and several other Golden Era gems from Grand Canyon Airlines including a a Beechcraft Staggerwing and a 1929 Travel Air. I found the hangar deserted and the door to the Tri-Motor open and welcoming. I seized on the opportunity to climb inside and made my way to the front office for a look around.
Heading over to the Planes of Fame museum I was offered a free tour of the Lockheed Constellation that sits out front. I was quick to take up the offer. While I have seen many Connie’s I don’t think I actually have climbed inside one. This particular Connie was GEN MacArthur’s personal aircraft. The Connie to me is one of the most beautiful transport aircraft ever built. Its organic non symmetrical shape is classic and atypical of so many other aircraft, its as if the Connie was built by artists instead of engineers. The rest of the museum’s collection in the hangar are of various sorts, most still in flying condition, but for the most part disappointing. You could tour the whole museum (one hangar) in less than 30 minutes. I found the Tri-Motor hangar aircraft collection (which is not advertised) to be much more interesting and unique.
With Doug now in the pilot seat we headed back to the Grand Canyon for a second sortie. Doug decided on a normal takeoff without flaps and the climb out was extremely lethargic due to the high altitude. We were only at 75 feet AGL when the runway disappeared behind us and this was with us being 400 pounds under max takeoff weight. We climbed slowly up to 11.500 as we headed west of KGCN for transit of the Dragon Corridor. The ceiling was just over 11,500, but cloud tops had grown much higher since our earlier flight. We skirted around a few low hanging clouds and emerged at the canyon rim with clear skies across the canyon. Crossing the canyon once again from south to north this time I was able to devote all of my attention to the amazing view below me. This is definitely the way to see the canyon. Crossing over the north rim the terrain turns quickly green with thick forest due to the 1000+ft increase in elevation. The contrast is quite striking and I found the best locations of the canyon to be near the reporting point Saddle Mountain. Once again intersecting the Colorado we retraced the route south from the earlier sortie. I had loaded all the waypoint and corridor coordinates into my Garmin GPSmap396 making navigation very simple. After reaching the release point, Zuni Alpha, on the south rim we departed the canyon for the final time and began working our way home.
We headed south to Sitgreaves Mountain to conduct search pattern training around the mountain. With training complete we moved on to Sedona 30 miles to the south skirting southwest of the Flagstaff Class D airspace. Sedona is one of the most beautiful locations you can land an airplane on a paved runway due to the red rock formations that rise up strikingly off the desert floor.
Doug came in really high through the northeast approach which I termed “the gap” because of the 7100ft and 6800ft mountains on each side. We took up a left downwind to runway 03 and had to put a pretty massive slip in to get the plane down over the numbers but the landing was very sweet, Doug has many hundreds of hours flying the 182 and it shows.
Securing the aircraft we headed over to the FBO to pay for fuel. The Sedona FBO sells certificates and hats that describe Sedona as a carrier deck. I had to chuckle at this claim thinking back to my landing at Grundy, VA last fall where the runway sits on top of a mountain at 2500ft and is only 2256ft long by 60 ft wide (see landing video here). Sedona in contrast sits at a higher altitude but has a substantial runway at 5132 x 100 ft. I guess it’s all relative. With business taken care of we headed to the nearby airport restaurant and feasted on some outstanding sandwiches and desert pie. The restaurant has been around for 30 years but is slated to close on 30 June due to the new airport construction. Good thing we decided to visit Sedona when we did, the restaurant is filled with nostalgia and ambiance. Sad to say all of it will disappear in a few weeks. I purchased another T-shirt that I really did not need to memorialize the trip and the restaurant.
With the day winding down we took off one last time for home. Along the way Doug went under the hood and I logged some safety pilot time. We overflew Mount Lemon and the Davis-Monthan boneyard for some final picture taking. To cap off a perfect day the FBO just happened to still be open after normal hours allowing Doug to refuel the airplane without having to make a special trip back to the airport the next day. No doubt about it, it was a perfect day and one I will probably never forget.
Flying over the Grand Canyon Zuni Corridor North to South
Landing at Valle (40G) Airport
Landing at Sedona (SEZ) Airport
Meteor Crater Fly Over
[ June 6, 2010]
Working 180 Power Off Landings 1.7
I know, I know, this is really starting to drag out....we worked power off 180 landings today, worked them and worked them until I had it down. Trying to nail down the DE for my checkride is the next challenge. My IACRA paperwork has been completed and submitted. There's really no deadline to get the commercial ticket but I'm ready to get this behind me, driving to Tucson every Sunday (a 1:30 hour commute) is getting really old. Time to start setting my sights on glider and multi-engine ratings this fall and knocking out the CFI written by the end of the summer.
PBS Frontline - Flying Cheap - Colgan Air Crash
CAP Mission: USAF/CBP Intercept 1.0
Flew my second CAP mission today in the right seat as an observer. This was a very interesting mission performed as part of a larger USAF exercise in conjunction with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The exercise called for a CAP aircraft to simulate a drug runner coming across the US-Mexican border and heading South-East. USAF F-16s would scramble from Davis-Monthan to intercept and ID the aircraft. Once identified a CBP Citation jet would be vectored by the F-16s to intercept the aircraft. We were assigned the mission of standby aircraft, orbiting about 30 miles to the north of the exercise area. We launched out of KFHU and began climbing up to our holding location just over the Tombstone airport. I operated the third radio talking with the CAP Mission Commander on the ground and the target aircraft while the PIC communicated with ATC. The Mission Commander advised me that due to mechanical issues with one of the other CAP aircraft we were being remissioned into the “Highbird” role. The Highbird aircraft is essentially a flying C2 platform that works with the ground based Mission Commander (MC) and the airborne CAP aircraft. I advised the PIC and we changed heading to the north to take up station over Benson at 12,500 feet.
Once on station we picked up a holding pattern off the Cochise VOR 30 DME waiting for the exercise to kick off at 0900. I stayed pretty busy relaying instructions between the MC and the target aircraft. If you think the comm. panel in your aircraft is complicated try working three radios and intercom. Luckily we were able to isolate traffic between radios but this had its own drawbacks as I had to keep reminding myself to update the PIC on what was going on as he could not hear my transmissions. The PIC went under the hood for some simulated instrument time in the hold and I picked up safety pilot duties ensuring we didn’t hit anything.
Before long we heard the scrambling F-16s checking in with Albuquerque Center as they climbed up to their intercept altitude. By 0928 the CAP target aircraft had been intercepted and identified by the F-16s. Ten minutes later a CBP Citation pulled up along side the target aircraft completing the mission. We were too far north to see any of this action but we heard it all unfold on the radio. We were told to RTB and I was given control of the aircraft to fly us back to KFHU. Very first time flying from the right seat and it will take some getting used to (mandatory requirement for CFI). My right hand kept reaching for the trim wheel and of course was only coming up with a whole handful of door well. There is no dual instrumentation on the right side of the cockpit so all references must be made to the left with the parallax error that comes with such an angle of view.
We headed south in a cruise descent of 700-1000fpm at 130 KIAS and were handed off from Albuquerque Center to Libby Approach. At 8500ft and 10 miles north of the field the pilot not flying (PNF) turned on the ELT direction finding equipment for a quick check and picked up a strong ELT transmission. We advise approach and they respond with negative knowledge. We receive permission to investigate further from the CAP MC and approach. I do a few steep turns in both directions to try to get a bearing on the ELT. It appears to be coming directly from KFHU. The other CAP aircraft that had been the target aircraft for the exercise also joins in on the search. They have a more sophisticated direction finder on board and search 2000 ft above us. The PNF takes back control of the aircraft to continue to refine the search but we are told to RTB and allow the higher aircraft to continue the search. We head back to KFHU and are given clearance to land on runway 26 with winds 110 @ 10. The PIC makes a smart call and requests runway 08 which is much more favorable given the wind conditions. Tower approves and we fly a left downwind, touching down just past the numbers in a very nice landing. The pilot has 1500 hours with 800 in type and it shows. He brings the nose wheel down on his terms as we track the centerline. Great day for flying, interesting mission, nuggets of knowledge gleaned and time logged with no cost to me. Does it get any better? Blue skies!
End Note: The other CAP aircraft located the ELT source shortly after we landed. The ELT was in fact a crashed aircraft vicinity of the Benson airport. The aircraft had crashed a few days ago but due to an ongoing police investigation at the site no one had been allowed access to the aircraft in order to turn off the ELT.
Wind, wind, go away! .5
Three hours of driving to and from Tucson only to log .5 hours in the pattern before ridiculous winds make the effort fruitless. Hard to practice 180 Power Off landings when you pull the power abeam the numbers, turn immediately towards the runway and then get blown into the next state. Yes, it really was that windy, and that was at 0730 in the morning, by noon winds had reached gusts of 50mph. Arizona may have blue skies but the winds this Spring have been out of control (and apparently not normal according to locals). Checkride will now have to wait until I return from my trip to Montenegro!
Welcome to 300 Hours! Cleared for Commercial Checkride 1.5
Took a pre-check ride check with the assistant chief flight instructor today, essentially a mock check ride to include the oral, and have been given the green light to schedule my commercial check ride, finally! Great flight to break the big 3 0 0 for flight hours logged.
Fine Tuning for Commercial Checkride 1.5
Very productive flying today with my instructor until I got motion sickness! That has not happened since my instrument training. Must have been all the banking and yanking we were doing. I kept it under control until we started steep spirals and by then I had enough. What an awful feeling. I had to knock off the maneuver and asked my instructor to take the plane and terminate the flight. She B-lined us back to the airport in a most expeditious fashion which I was very thankful for.
Pinal Airpark X-Country 2.8
Pinal is an interesting airport because it is a storage area/bone yard for commercial aircraft. I was surprised to find one of Boeing's Dreamlifter a converted 747 used to haul the composite fuselage of the 787 Dreamliner, parked on the east end of the airport.
Tombstone Flight with Chris & Carson 1.1
Did a sunset flight over to Tombstone with Chris & Carson. We dropped Chris off on the runway so she could get some external video of landings and takeoff. Carson got a lot of stick time performing a landing to short final and a take off. His biggest problem right now is he can't see over the instrument panel. I just bought him a 4" seat cushion but he needs to meet me half way a grow some more. I guess we have a little time until his checkride (8 years). The seat cushion we purchased is made by Noral Enterprises. It's of excellent quality and durability and I would recommend it if you are looking for an affordable solution for your child or smaller adult. The cushions come in various sizes. The web site is http://www.noralenterprises.com
External Landing / Takeoff
Night Landing KFHU
Flying in the Heavies & New Museums
On the road again and back in Europe but making the most of it with excursions to two new museums. With time to kill before catching my flight from Tucson I took a visit to the Titan Missile Museum about 20 miles south of the city and was presently surprised by what I found. The missile launch facility is the only Titan site still in existence and has been preserved to look as if operations had just ceased yesterday. The guided tour is very interesting and most tour guides are retired AF with years of personal experience working the missile sites.
I was fortunate to take my first flight in the four engine Airbus A340 flown by Lufthansa across the Atlantic. On the way back we even the score with a flight in the Boeing 747 (only my second time)! Hail the heavies.
In Germany I revisited the Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim. The last time I had been to the museum was over 10 years ago when I lived in Heidelberg. The museum has grown substantially since then and while the primary focus is cars and motorcycles there are some aircraft gems to be found. Most obvious is the Concorde and Russian equivalent, the TU-144, that sit atop the roof of the museum in the takeoff attitude. Both aircraft can be accessed by spiral staircases and if you can handle the exercise of walking up the steep incline of the fuselage a great view of the cockpit awaits you as a reward.
[ May 1, 2010]
Flying the T-34 Mentor .3
I am very fortunate to have a coworker who owns a Beech T-34 Mentor, in bright yellow Navy livery. He called me out of the blue Saturday night and asked if I wanted to go flying. Hell yeah! I grabbed my headset and was out the door and down at the airport in less than 15 minutes. He gave me a quick orientation of the rear seat, controls and lighting.. The engine started without hassle and I was surprised at how little vibration was felt throughout the cockpit. We taxied out to runway 26 and launched into the inky darkness. Turning east we flew over my house and headed toward Sierra Vista. The night air was smooth with few bumps. I was given control of the aircraft and grasped the control stick to get a feel for the forces required. Much like the AT-6 very little effort was required to roll or pitch the aircraft. Roll rate appeared high and overall control was much more agile than the high wing trainers I am used to.
The Mentor is capable of limited aerobatics but because my friend has no parachutes or formal aerobatic training he has yet to explore this capability with the aircraft. The T-34 was involved in a few spectacular wing spar failures in the early 2000s leading to an FAA issued AD requiring inspection and replacement of the spar. My friend has had the AD work completed which was a very expensive and time consuming process.
After a few climbing and descending turns we headed back to the airport. As we entered the pattern I returned control of the aircraft back to the owner. He deployed the landing gear but forgot to put the flaps down resulting in an uneventful no flap landing. We taxied in, shut down, and pushed the beautiful bird into the hangar for the night. I’m happy to report that I have been offered a longer day flight which is an offer I will be sure to take my friend up on.
Instrument Current 2.5
Landing the 182RG 1.6
Where does the time go? Back to commercial training after almost a month elapsing. We went back to the usual stuff on Sunday. My landings are flat, I really need to get a higher nose attitude on landing. My instructor thinks I’m giving up at the end of the landing and accepting whatever I get. Something to work on next week. We did an emergency power off 180 which involves flying downwind abeam of the touch down point at 95 knots, gear down, no flaps, props full forward and pulling out the power. From there you start an immediate turn to base, trim for 85 knots, and use flaps as necessary. The object of the exercise is to make it to the runway and land without power. On this first iteration I was able to make it back to the runway but it was a rather direct route (no base or final leg ) because my downwind leg was too wide. I was banking and yanking all the way to the end and my instructor said she was fine with it but that the DE would get freaked out and probably take the plane from me. Later I repeated the exercise keeping my downwind tighter which allowed me to fly a semi normal pattern with an established final. The issue on the second engine out iteration was rounding out a little too early, which resulted in a rather pronounced arrival as my energy dissipated. Even though I was gliding in at 85 knots, the high descent rate had spooked me resulting in the high round out. My CFI told me to trust “ground effect”, dive for the runway, keep the speed up to 85 and know that the ground air cushion would check the descent. Going to do exactly that next time. I’ll either end up with a great landing or the gear embedded in the underside of the wings.
Lazy eights went well, but Chandelles need a lot of work. I was not rolling in crisply enough and applying power and back pressure promptly.
We did a couple steep turns and this time I used some elevator trim to make a little less work on my part. In a 50 deg bank you need about three rolls nose up on the trim wheel. I hit my wake turbulence at the end of the turn which is always a good sign of a well executed steep turn. I celebrated a little early and let my air power decay a little too much which would have busted the PTS requirement of +/- 10 knots. Gotta remember to give a shot of power as I start into the turn.
Steep spirals went well along with eight on pylons. We headed back to complete additional landings before calling it a day. I have one more flight before flying with the head CFI to get blessed off for my checkride. As is usually the case, training has lasted longer than I anticipated but the end is in sight now. In anticipation of the next stage I ordered King Schools Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) ground school training material today, they were running a SUN-N-FUN special and I was able to receive the CFI checkride course for free. Good deal! I’m contemplating pushing multi-engine training to the fall along with the CFI.
Blue Angels in HD
[ April 4, 2010]
Commercial Training in the CAP A/C 1.9
Wycombe Flying Field, England - Day 3
Typical English weather put the breaks on my plans for day three in England. I had planned to drive out to Wycombe to visit the local airfield and take a flight in a vintage DeHavilland Chipmunk or “Chippie” as the Brits call her. Driving out to the airfield the clouds were overcast at 1200 feet with light drizzle. I arrived at the airport with not much improvement. The small airfield did not look much different than a typical airfield in the states, if just a little more compact in the placement of buildings. My instructor Jason met me at the reception desk and we looked over the TAF and METAR which did not show much hope of improvement. He was kind enough to take me over to the hangar where the Chippie was stored and give me an overview of the plane. The Chippie was in the back of the hangar which was full of Piper Arrows and several other aircraft including a Cirrus SR22 and vintage Italian WW2 fighter. It was at this point that I realized there would be no flying today (it would have taken an hour to get all the planes moved to free the Chipmunk from the hangar.)
The Chippie was pristine in its silver, white and royal blue color scheme. We did a walk around of the aircraft while Jason pointed out things unique to the aircraft. News to me was the fact that the wings (excluding leading edge) and the tail surfaces are all fabric. He shows me two long stubby fins that extend two feet from the rear of the fuselage between the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. The modifications were done by the RAF to assist pilots in recovering from fully developed spins, which had claimed several pilots and aircraft. I wonder if there is an AD in the US that addresses this issue? Jason goes on to tell me that the Chippie is one of the most difficult tailwheel aircraft he has flown and that tailwheel graduates cannot fly the school’s Chippie without additional instruction in type. He explains how quickly the rudder fades upon landing which requires quick application of the brake handle in order to transfer directional control over to the differential breaking. The coarse rudder inputs common during the ground roll must be quickly toned down as the brakes are much more sensitive. Add too much brake and the aircraft goes over on its nose! Wow, talk about having your hands full. He opens the cowling on the right side revealing an absolutely pristine Gypsy Major inline engine. The engine is immaculate with not a speck of grease or oil to be found as if it had just rolled off the assembly line. The most interesting facet of the Chipmunk is its ground handling. The tailwheel freely castors, while the rudder is ineffective at low speeds and when masked by the fuselage, the only control is found in differential braking, yet there are no brake pedals in the Chipmunk. As Jason explained it to me (and I am still not clear on the mechanical linkage) a brake lever on the left side of the cockpit is pulled one detent to decrease the space between brake pad and rotor, this allows the rudder pedals to be used as brakes. At the same time the limit of rudder deflection is decreased. The more we talked the more I was quickly realizing that the Chipmunk was going to be a handful to fly, but this made me only more resolute to someday fly one.
We weaved our way back to the front of the hangar dodging propeller blades and ducking under wings in an airplane obstacle course of sorts. Returning to the office with little change in the weather we shook hands and parted ways. While the chance to fly had escaped me the walk around of the aircraft along with Jason’s pilot notes made the trip very much worthwhile. Maybe another day.
Wycombe is less than 45 minutes drive from Heathrow off the M40. If you ever find yourself in London and want to fly the Chipmunk give the School a call at country code 44-01494 529261. Maybe the next time I am passing through Heathrow the weather will allow a quick pit stop for a flight in the Chippie.
Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum - London, England - Day 2
Day two of my trip was originally planned to be a return to Duxford, but plans change and having seen most of Duxford in the seven hours I had spent on the previous day I decided to head south to London and check out the RAF Museum. This turned out to be a really good decision as the RAF Museum is exceptional in its collection of aircraft.
The museum has an excellent collection of WWI aircraft in the Grahame-White Factory building which is historical in itself. A reproduction of a Vickers Vimy takes center stage in the hangar. Built in the 1960s and actually flown the Vimy is impressive in its shear size.
The main building is broken into three parts with a varied collection of aircraft ranging from the Bleriot XI to a Eurofighter Typhoon. The worlds only surviving Hawker Typhoon is also on display. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words and I took over 200 pictures which makes for a book load of words so stop reading this and enjoy the pictures here.
While the IWM at Duxford falls short on variety the RAF museum does not.
The RAF museum has one of the best collection of Germany WWII aircraft I have ever seen, PERIOD. In the Battle of Britain hangar one can find a JU-87, JU-88, ME-110, ME-109, and HE-111. Unfortunately the hangar is kept so dark that it is difficult to really enjoy the aircrafts details visually or to take pictures. Other areas had a rare ME-262 and a two seat BF-190.
Amazingly this jewel of an aircraft museum is free to the public and open almost year round. You can visit the website at www.rafmuseum.org. Be warned, the museum is some distance from the motorway (highway) requiring navigation of narrow crowded streets and round abouts (traffic circles). All while driving on the wrong side of the road and in the right seat of the car. I also drove a stick shift using my left hand to keep things interesting, fortunately the clutch, brake, and gas pedals were in the correct order!
Imperial War Museum - Duxford, England - Day 1
For many years dating back to my time living in Germany in the late 90’s I have wanted to visit Europe’s premier aviation museum located at Duxford, England. The IWM in Duxford is located on the grounds of an original WWI and WWII flying field, with many of the hangars dating back to WWII. The hangars house the largest collection of aircraft in Europe with over 100 aircraft. In addition, the field is home to several private companies that restore and preserve vintage aircraft. Duxford hosts several annual airshows with an emphasis on WWII aircraft. Having to pass through London on my European trips I took the opportunity to take a few days leave this time around and drive up to Duxford for a few days.
Duxford is simply amazing with a collection that easily rivals the Smithsonian or USAF museum in shear quantity. The aircraft are spread across five hangars along with the specially built American Airpower Museum. The airfield was also active on the day of my visit with two DeHavilland Dragon Rapides and a Tiger Moth along with several modern GA aircraft giving rides.
My latest niche interest has been in aircraft engines, both reciprocating and turbine. Duxford has no shortage of engine displays and I enjoyed gazing at exposed cylinders, valves, crankshafts, camshafts, compressors, turbines, gears, and turbochargers. I love them all: rotary, radial, inline, air-cooled, water-cooled, axial-flow and centrifugal-flow. Some of my favorite displays are cross sectional cuts of turbine and radial engines. A display of the Rolls Royce turbofan gave me an appreciation for just how much air is bypassed around the actual turbine as low speed thrust. 50 years ago jet airliners where actually flying around on turbojet engines but today these so called “jets” are puttering around on huge fans. Is that so different from a prop? I know, I know, it’s a much more efficient engine at both low and high altitudes.
Some of my favorites from Duxford: Concorde 101 is on display and you can actually walk through the aircraft. This was one of two test aircraft used in the program and holds the speed record for the Concorde series. Another favorite was a Comet, the world’s first jet airliner. The restoration hangars are pretty interesting as well just as much for the guts of airplanes laying all around as the planes in various stages of restoration and maintenance.
The unfortunate part about Duxford is that it is very much British centric and most British contributions to aviation ended in the early 70s. The American Air Museum helps balance things a bit, but as an American I have already seen most of the US hardware before. For the other 90% of the world there is little representation. The museum was also lacking in WWI aircraft, there were a few but not as many as one would expect from a major participant in the Great War.
Duxford is open year round except Christmas and Boxing Day. Admission is rather steep at about $25 US but very much worth it. The IWM web Site is duxford.iwm.org.uk.
Off to Sarajevo, Bosnia then Duxford!!
Out of the country again. Flew into Sarajevo on a Lufthansa Avro RJ85. What a funky looking commuter plane this is, but it must be safe it has four engines! Reminds me of a miniature C-17. Check out the picture here. While sitting in Sarajevo for a week will not be all that interesting the mini-excursion planned on the way home will be. I will be staying in the UK for three days to visit the world famous Duxford Imperial War Museum annex. Duxford is the largest and most impressive aviation museum in all of Europe and I am going! And if the weather cooperates I will also be taking an instructional flight in a DH Chipmunk. So stay tuned lot's of aviation goodness is about to be served up.
Passed my CAP Check Ride! 2.1
First GA Flight for Kaleb .9
Today I took my nephew, Kaleb, on his first small GA airplane flight. Kaleb’s only two but he loves airplanes and I guess I can be partially held responsible for cultivating that love from day one. My sister in law Kim and Carson came along for the ride. As always Carson served as my trusty co-pilot. We rented the beater 172 at the local airport and logged about .9 checking out the local area. Winds were pushing 15 knots on the ground but the flying upstairs was pretty smooth. We went north of the airport and explored some of the smaller mountains near Apache Peak. I did a couple of steep turns and a chandelle for entertainment. We flew over our house for the first time and snapped a few pictures from 1500 feet up. After flying over Sierra Vista and the San Pedro river to the east we headed back to the airport for an uneventful landing. Kaleb loved the flight and was fascinated with the view from not so high up. When we got home I printed Kaleb a EAA Young Eagles first flight certificate and filled out his first flight log entry in a Young Eagles log book. My hope is that this flight experience will leave an impression on Kaleb that will lead to a lifelong love for aviation. With Carson that seed has already sprouted and taken firm roots. It’s amazing how much he knows about aviation at eight years old, just amazing. You start that young and you absorb knowledge like a sponge.
Commercial Training Coming Together 2.6
After two back to back weekends of washed out flight training I finally got back into the 182RG for 2.6 hours of flying this past week. This week marked a turning point, I'm feeling very comfortable now with the 182 and my maneuvers are really starting to look good. My instructor now says one more flight when I return in April and then on the checkride. This week we worked short field, soft field and emergency landings. We rechecked my aptitude with steep turns, slow flight, stalls, chandelles, lazy eights, steep spirals, and eight on pylons. They all were within the practical test standards. I still have issues with my brain communicating with my feet and keeping the plane coordinated. For some reason, probably nervous habit, my left foot likes to press down on the left rudder pedal when I am doing a maneuver. I decided this week to leave the left foot on the floor since you need right rudder 90% of the time anyway. This worked pretty well and I think I will continue to use the trick until I can get the brain-foot linkage sorted out. Landings still need work but only because we fly them totally outside the POH parameters which drives me nuts! Not something I want to do but something I am forced to do because that is how the DH is going to want them. Who ever heard of a short field landing crossing the numbers at 85 knots? We float for days down the runway. The POH states 61 knots, full flaps, dragging it in. The whole reason behind this is you want the plane to stop flying when you pull the power, just plant it right on the numbers. You can't do that at 85 knots, because the plane still has 45 knots of flying left in it and that equates to a whole lot of runway. We did a "short field" and I landed half way down the runway and was told that it was good....hmmm. Well I know better but I guess you do what you gotta do to pass the test. I need to start hitting the books to prepare for the oral, I think most of the material was flushed out of my brain as soon as I passed the commercial written back in November last year.
[ March 8, 2010]
It's Official - Returning to Oshkosh 2010!
Purchased my plane tickets last night, going back with Carson for three full days of AirVenture from 28 to 30 July.
[ March 6, 2010]
First CAP Training Mission - Locate Downed Aircraft
Went on my first CAP training mission today. I was the "scanner" so I got to sit in the back and look for the target. This was my first time since 2005 that I was in a small plane and not the one in the pilot's seat. I was kinda nervous to say the least. I have not yet finished jumping through all the hoops yet to get blessed off to fly as a CAP pilot, but that time will come. The mission was to fly to a search grid and find a downed aircraft. In this case the "downed aircraft" was a P4Y-2 Privateer (Navy conversion of the B-24, picture below is the actual aircraft during better days) that had crashed on the side of Mount Graham back in 1974 while flying a fire bombing mission. The pilots, a father and son team, were killed in the crash. The wreckage was never recovered.
It took about 30 minutes to fly to the search sector, which covered about 1/3 of the side of the mountain with a peak of 8800ft. The other 2/3rds of the sector was pretty much desert. We flew in at 9500ft and flew the four corners of the sector before starting an expanding circular pattern around the peak. We were on station for almost an hour when something caught my eye. It was a quick glimpse, a little orange and straight edges. I notified the mission pilot but took my eyes off the target in the process and lost the location. We made several passes over the area and just as I was starting to doubt that I had seen anything I spotted it again, this time I kept my eyes on while I vectored the pilot over the area. Sure enough it was empennage of the P4Y-2. We did several steep turns over the aircraft while I snapped pictures and recorded the location in my GPS. Pretty neat experience. Mission accomplished!
[ March 1, 2010]
Night X-Country Flight to Ryan 2.6
Completed my final night flight requirement for the commercial cert this evening. With the moon at 99% illumination and clear skies I expected excellent visibility. The plan was to go wheels up at exactly 1845L which is the end of EENT and the official start of night. Fly cross country to Ryan field and execute five landings before heading back east. With at least two hours to log I planned to head to P33 in Wilcox, AZ and conduct some additional landings before returning to KFHU.
I made a couple of assumptions that ended up biting me in the butt on this flight. The first was assuming that when the sun went down the full moon would be up. I failed to check moon rise times, which happened to be 2001L. So for the first half of my flight I was flying in zero illum! Things did not get much better when the moon finally rose because a high level stratus layer kept it relatively obscured. My second assumption was with airport runway lights. According to the sectional and AFD P33 runway lights remain on from sunset to sunrise.
While I checked NOTAMS for every other airport I failed to check P33.
Had I done so I would have seen this:
RWY 3/21 RWY LGTS U/S. WIE UNTIL UFN. CREATED: 23 FEB 19:55 2010
Two valuable lessons learned the hard way. One increased the risk of the flight, the other cost me about $60 in wasted flight time.
On to the actual flight narrative:
With Libby Tower active I contacted ground and got my taxi clearance.
Two Army versions of the King Air C90 were working the pattern which caused me to have to hold short for a good five minutes reminding me of my days at KLFI waiting for F-22s and F-16s, so it goes at military airports. Lifing off at 1851L I headed off to Ryan by way of Benson, like the last night flight remaining over the highways for emergency landing options and keeping clear of the mountains.
I started my descent into Ryan (KRYN) around 1925L. With the moon still below the horizon I had no illumination. RYN was like descending into a black hole. If you watch the hyperlinked video you will get an appreciation for what I am talking about. Ryan is situated to the west of Tucson in a relatively uninhabited expanse of desert. This equated to no lights around the airport just pitch black darkness. Descending down to pattern altitude left few visual cues and I was relying heavily on my instruments and my Garmin GPS396's terrain function to ensure I was not going to run into any hills on the way down. I was surprised that there was no traffic at Ryan. I picked up a right pattern for runway 6R and started on my landing iterations. It felt like landing on an aircraft carrier, just a row of runway lights in a sea of darkness.
Climbing out after each landing required full focus on the AI and airspeed as there were no visual references at all to my front other than the dark outline of Black Mountain looming in the not so far distance. I noticed that the directional gyro was sticking on climbout making situational awareness even tougher! The rental aircraft I was flying was such a dog, nothing works, and here I am paying a $110 hour for the privilege of flying it. I completed a total of five landings at Ryan before climbing up to 7500ft and heading back to the east. Tucson approach escorted me out of the airspace and let me loose just past Mount Fagan.
Heading back to Benson the moon was now starting to rise in the east but most of its illumination was masked by the high stratus layer. I droned on to P33 which per the sectional and AFD had runway lights active from sunset to sunrise. Picking up the beacon I continued towards the airport but could not make out any runway lights. I tried self activating with no luck. I called Unicom, but no answer. Over the top of the field I could make out the outline of the runway on the desert floor, but no lights. I circled trying to activate the lights myself, hoping that someone down on the ground would see me circling and would turn on the lights, no luck (it was not until after the flight that I realized I had missed the NOTAM). A wasted excursion. I headed back to KFHU.
The military C90s were still working the pattern so I was shoe horned into the right base and in not so many words told to expedite which I did, turning final almost just over the numbers and landing as close to my turn off as possible. Thus ended my night flying excursions for the time being and completed the commercial requirement. Three flights logged me 5.7 hours of night flight, 2.6 hours of night cross country, and 16 landings with 12 of them being at towered fields. My comfort level with night flying went up exponentially between that initial night flight and tonight's flight and some valuable lessons were learned along the way.
Night Flight to Tucson 1.8
Conducted night flight number two this evening as I whittle away at the five hour night commercial requirement. Winds were light, sky's clear, and lunar illumination at almost 50%. Ideal conditions for night flying.
This was the first time I flew out of KFHU with the tower and approach control active. EENT ended at 1840 and we were airborne at 1902. I had a small SNAFU with Approach Control when I switched to COM 2 to contact them and received no reply. I tuned COM 1 to Apprch and made contact while troubleshooting COM 2, come to find out someone had turned the volume all the way down, basic troubleshooting 101, lesson learned, check your reception of all radios on the ground.
Departure released me 15 miles north of KFHU. The route of flight was a conservative and safe flight path that followed RT 92 to Benson and then Interstate 10 to Tucson. This route kept me clear of any Cumulous Granite and provided an ever present lit emergency landing site (the highway).
I activated my flight plan with Prescott FSS and settled in for a short cruise of about 20 minutes before contacting Tucson approach just north east of Mount Fagan. Approach gave me my squawk and started to provide vectors. 739NL's directional gyro precesses so bad and lacks a descent heading bug that I had to constantly cross check the heading with my wet compass. The airport was fairly busy with traffic on 11L but 11R was pretty quiet. After vectoring me south of the airport I was handed off to tower and given pilot's discretion to descend and enter into a right pattern for 11R. I performed a total of five stop and go's on 11R and was treated to an afterburner takeoff of several F-16's (AZ Air National Guard) on the adjacent 11L runway. Several times passenger jets were coming in on final for 11L when I was working my base leg for 11R. This set up creates a collision course for the aircraft and I can imagine the apprehension felt by the airliner crews as they have no idea what the competency level of the little 'ole Cessna driver is and if the Cessna is going to turn when it is suppose to or not. To alleviate the apprehension for the crew I would just turn final early and cheat my way left to align with the runway. Carson had come along for the flight and it was definitely a night flight for him as he fell asleep about five minutes into the flight and only woke briefly during one of the landings at Tucson to offer his critique and then back off to sleep.
The flight home was uneventful and ended with a landing on R/W 26. I've logged a total of 3.1 hours of night flight this week. j
Regained Night Currency 1.3
Went down to the local airport this evening to get night current. Completed four stop and go landings. A little bit of wind shear made for some exciting final approaches. I need to log five hours of night flying for my commercial aeronautical experience. j
[ February 18, 2010]
Bad Day for GA
Some idiot just flew a stolen Cirrus SR-22 into a building in Texas. I cannot even begin to imagine the knee jerk reaction that will come from the TSA as a result of this one idiot’s actions. TSA was already pushing new draconian GA ramp security requirements very hard, this just gives them more justification to push the measures through as well as come up with additional security requirements that will spell the end of freedom to general aviation flying. j
[ February 16, 2010]
Card Carrying Member of the CAP
Received my membership card to the Civil Air Patrol today. I’ve got a bunch of on-line training to do before being able to schedule a checkride to become a validated CAP pilot. j
[ February 12
& 15, 2010]
Flew twice over the four day holiday weekend. My instructor has honed in on how I tend to make quick jerky corrections on the yoke. She wants me to concentrate on smoother movements with the yoke. It is very difficult to reverse engrained habits and I must consciously think about control movements all of the time when I am flying.
We worked on performance maneuvers on Friday, Chandelles, lazy eights, steep turns – there has been improvement and that is a good sign. Chandelles have shown a lot of improvement, but lazy eights are still allusive. I just can’t turn the aircraft slow enough during the first 90 degrees of the turn. I was also introduced to steep spirals during today’s flight. This maneuver requires the aircraft to be slowed to 85 knots with gear down and 10 degrees of flaps. The aircraft is flown directly over the landing spot and then spiraled down in a 55 degree turn with the engine at idle. The spirals continue until 800 feet above the landing location and then transition to a pattern for landing. We did about six touch and go’s on Friday and they were tough for me mainly due to a different descent profile then what I am used to. The CFI wants me to cross the numbers at 80 KIAS, this is about 15 knots faster than normal. The float that occurs during round out and landing is much longer than I am used to. The extra speed has me ballooning on almost every landing and I almost feel like a student pilot trying to master landings again, frustration! In the 172 I fly the plane at the bottom of Vs+1.3 (even lower when I compensate for being well under max landing weight) on final. Because of this round out and flare are almost one continuous motion on the yoke because as soon as the power comes out the plane is done flying. Carrying 15+ extra knots in the 182 at round out has me walking a tight rope with the yoke as I float along trying to arrest sink while trying not to balloon back up. These 5-10 seconds feel like an eternity. To make matters worse I’m not allowed to salvage a balloon with a shot of power as I normally do, but must instead keep pulling back on the yoke. It’s a painful and frustrating learning process. “ ” my CFI harks “fly the wing.”
After a weekend break for a trip to Phoenix with the family I was back for more training on Monday. Winds were 10 knots gusting to 20 knots out of the east. We were flying 2114S again today as my normal stead, 5487T, was down for maintenance. This being my fourth time in the 182RG I am beginning to feel very comfortable with the unique items of this complex aircraft. Cowl flaps, prop control, retractable gear management are taking less brain power now, allowing me to focus more on flying the maneuvers. We executed eight on pylons and I could see vast improvements from previous attempts, knowing the pivotal altitude is critical to the success of this maneuver. At 110 knots the critical altitude is 1070 AGL. We did a few steep turns, some slow flight, a couple power on and off stalls, and lazy eights. The lazy eights still need a lot of work but the basics are now there. I concentrated hard on trying to be smooth with yoke application and was partially successful.
Following the flight I finally received my complex endorsement. A nice milestone as I continue work towards completing the commercial certificate. My CFI thinks a couple of more flights and I will be ready for the checkride. I’m not so optimistic but my goal is to complete the checkride before I head to Sarajevo, Bosnia on business the 19th of March. That gives me one month to really focus on getting this done. If I can complete the training I will be on track to schedule multi-engine training at the end of April-beginning of May. Then spend the summer studying for the written CFI exams and picking up with CFI training in the fall. j
[ February 1, 2010]
VA Aviation Ambassador Jacket
My reward for visiting all 66 public airports in the state of Virginia finally arrived today from the state aviation administration. The jacket was a "free" gift from the state but in all actuality it cost me a few thousand dollars in flying time, money well spent considering the hours logged and experience gained exploring new places. This fine leather flying jacket from US Wings is made of quality material (and has that wonderful leather smell!) and will serve me well for many years to come. Unfortunately mild Arizona weather only offers a few months out of the year when a jacket is required, but I am not complaining! Photo note: Gecko behind me is wall ornament and not real. j
[ January 31, 2010]
Half Way Round the World and Back
The Armenia trip is a wrap. Not much in the way of aviation adventures other than logging 16,000 frequent flyer miles in the back of Boeing and Airbus branded aluminum tubes. Armenia was a rather depressing place. Poor weather, oppressive Soviet era architecture, and less than friendly populace all conspired to place this location in the Caucasus' at the bottom of my “must see” locations.
The highlight of the trip was passing through London-Heathrow. I captured an Airbus A380 in Qantas livery taxing about. This is the largest passenger plane in the world and one in which I had the opportunity to walk through at Oshkosh last year. Exploring the terminal I picked up a slew of British flights mags including, Loop, Pilot, Today’s Pilot, and PC Pilot. I was impressed with the quality of these publications in both written and photo content. The magazines are printed in a larger form factor than most US mags and use very high quality glossy paper to make for some stunning photo spreads. Reading through the magazines I soon caught on to a common theme running across most of the magazines. Apparently the UK has an interesting rating called “IMCR”. The IMCR is a 15 hour course that allows a UK pilot to fly instrument approaches. From what I can gather IMCR is not a full instrument rating and does not allow a pilot to fly on an instrument flight plan using the en-route structure. The IMCR is in jeopardy as the European regulatory body EASA that is equivalent to the FAA is looking to standardize ratings across Europe. The UK pilots in conjunction with the European AOPA are fighting to save the IMCR. Another interesting country specific rating is France’s Brevet de Base. This rating allows its owner, after 20 hours training, to fly unsupervised within a radius of 30km around the base airfield. The sense I get is that the CAA (UK equiv of the FAA) highly encourages GA pilots to stay away from controlled airspace. In addition European flying is highly regulated and heavily taxed. Taxes are levied for just about every service and everything. No wonder everyone comes to the states to learn how to fly, it's so much cheaper. I feel sorry for those who want to fly in Europe but just can’t afford to, no wonder the flight simulation community is so large over there. It’s sad that governments don’t understand when you tax an activity to a certain point that people just stop doing whatever it is. Either the governments are clueless to this fact or they have the ulterior motive of discouraging general aviation.
Another interesting article I read stated that the CAF’s Junkers JU-52, which I saw when I visited the museum in Midland, TX back in November of last year has been sold to Jerry Yagen’s Fighter Factory in Suffolk. Since Jerry owns the Military Aviation Museum I imagine that is where the JU-52 will end up. I visited the museum back in September, you can see the pics here. At the rate that Jerry is acquiring aircraft MAM is definitely an up and coming aviation museum to keep an eye on.
Ran across this interesting quote from Richard Bach’s book “A Gift of Wings” which captures a feeling I can’t deny having on many occasions while flying the limited capability of training aircraft, “Perhaps in the back of our minds, as we pushed the high-winged cabin into the sky, we thought ‘This isn’t like I hoped it would be, but if it’s flying I guess it will have to do’.” Ever felt like that? I have, guess it’s why I am constantly in search of a new aviation experience and am inexplicably drawn to fantasizing about flying an open air ultra light or a Breezy where the pilot is just kinda out there with the wind in his face and the tree tops at his toes.
I spent a lot of time on this trip thinking about planning a Bahamas excursion sometime late this year or early next. Still need to work out the logistics of the trip and find the opportunity to do it. Planning Oshkosh ’10 is the current 50 meter target. I’ve decided to head back again this year for 2-3 days and share the experience with my son, Carson.
[ January 19, 2010]
Outstanding Video Recreations of Flight 1549
[ January 17, 2010]
Flying the Cessna 182RG 1.7
Back at Tucson today to continue commercial training. We spent a few laps in the pattern getting used to landing the 182RG. I have been chair flying the pattern with all of the call outs this week so things went much smoother this week. We then headed out to the training area to practice Lazy Eights, Chandelles, and Eight on Pylons. While the Chandelles were pretty terrible I started to get a real feel for the Lazy Eights and Eight on Pylons. Knowing the pivotal altitude for eight on pylons is key. My mechanical control of the yoke still leaves a lot to be desired and I really need to concentrate on improving my rudder skills. I often find myself subconsciously applying left rudder pressure for unknown reasons. We spent another three laps in the pattern before calling it a day. My instructor wants tighter and a more squared off pattern. Lots to work on before my next lesson but that's three weeks off. Next week I'm off to Armenia via London for 11 days. Lot's of flying involved in that work related trip half way around the world but unfortunately nothing that I can log. j
[ January 14, 2010]
Civil Air Patrol Opportunity
[ January 9, 2010]
Return to Commercial Training 1.4
Today I picked up my commercial training with Cochise College in Tucson under Part 61. It just so happened that the FAAST team was presenting a lecture at the Tucson Airport on the same day so I was able to kill two birds with one stone. Of the 200 seats available for the lecture, 80 folks registered online and maybe 30 people showed up.
The FAAST team provided a very elementary brief on runway incursions and how to avoid them which pretty much boiled down to “don’t cross the double solid hold lines unless ATC tells you to”. Somewhat too basic for the experience level of most of the pilots in attendance. To give you an idea, at 39 years old I was probably the youngest guy there. The money maker for me was the guest speaker, a Tucson Air Traffic Controller who came in at the end to discuss common problems at Tucson. This portion of the lecture was worth its weight in gold since I will be spending a lot of time flying at Tucson. The controller gave valuable insight into the HOT spots at Tucson and the most common mistakes pilots make. In addition I got a feel for the busy and slow times at the airport. Of course Saturday morning is the busiest with Air National Guard, Air Carriers, and GA all vying for limited runway and airspace.
After the meeting I headed over to Double Eagle Aviation which shares its office space with the Cochise College’s instructors. After filling out the obligatory paperwork I met my instructor and we talked about my experience level, what commercial requirements I’ve already completed, and what still needs to be done. The CFI is confident I can be finished up in only a few months. We talked about the DE and what to expect in the check ride, probably a little too early to be discussing, but I took detailed notes for future reference as this type of intel is always immensely helpful. She was very happy to have a student that was not a complete newbie to flying, one that could carry on a conversion about flying at an intelligent level. Apparently her student load has been predominately brand new students.
We went out to the ramp to begin the preflight on the aircraft I will be flying, a 1982 Cessna 182RG. The 182RG is your standard 182 with the addition of retractable landing gear. Adding the constant speed prop and flaps makes it a complex, and the 230HP engine makes it high performance. As I work my way through the inspection the CFI pointed out items particular to this aircraft. New items to check included the hydraulic reservoir for the gear, nose gear doors, and gear squat switches. We discussed the shape of the wing and the subtle design enhancements Cessna engineers had made to reduce stall speed and tame stall characteristics. She also pointed out how the vertical stabilizer is offset to compensate for engine torque at cruise speed. While I already knew all of these things from my own personal research I have never had an instructor actually point these items out, all positive indications that my instructor may be exceptional. One interesting item on this particular 182 was the Pitot tube cover. The cover was a two part metal flap, permanently affixed to the tube, with the flaps offset from each other by 120 degrees. As aircraft speed increases ram air pushes on the top flap which rotates and exposes the Pitot opening to the air. When speed decreases the flap closes. Genius! You can see a photo of the device called an “aeropup” here. This particular system avoids the possibility of leaving the Pitot cover on and having no airspeed indication during takeoff. The system reminded me of an air speed indicator I observed on a DH Tiger Moth biplane last year. The device was connected to the brace on the wing and worked via air impacting a spring loaded metal plate attached to a gauge needle. As the impact air increased the plate would be pushed back and the needle would indicate the calibrated speed on a color coded/numbered back plate. Simple and brilliant! You can see a photo of this device here.
Tucson airport KTUS (#70) was happening this Saturday morning and taxing around gave me an appreciation as to why Tucson has such a high number of runway incursions. It was downright confusing for the uninitiated and I had a taxi diagram and some familiarization of the layout by practicing in Flight Sim. We were cleared for takeoff on RW 11R and departed to the south toward the designated training area. Departure control was one constant stream of transmissions, not something I was used to, having spent very little time in and around busy Class C airspace. The 182RG accelerates to 140 knots very fast and is difficult to slow down without dirtying up the aircraft. The procedure to get quickly down to maneuver speed is to put in 10 degrees of flaps, drop the gear, and bring the MP down to 16”. In less than 10 miles you can drop 30-40 knots of airspeed from the parasitic drag. The 182RG allows 10 degrees of flaps at up to 140 knots, 30 knots higher than a 172! We slowed, cleaned up the aircraft and went into each of the performance maneuvers. Demonstrated first by the CFI and then feebly attempted by me. We did Chandelles (French for “candle” not sure why?), lazy eights, eight on pylons and steep turns (50 degrees bank). It was a lot to digest in one flight but at least I now have a frame of reference having actually seen the maneuver executed as opposed to just reading about it in a book.
Saturated with a new aircraft, new airport/airspace, new CFI, and new maneuvers I cried “Uncle” after about an hour of flying. We headed back to the airport and got shoe horned into the pattern (it was busy!). I followed a King Air onto 11R while a Southwest 737 and AZNG F-16 paralleled my approach on 11L. The approach was high and done at 80 knots so there was considerable float down the runway. It did not help that I hesitated to pull all the power out as I hobbled above the runway at about 3ft AGL. My CFI was adamant about holding the aircraft off until every last bit of flying was done. Back at the West Ramp we chained down the aircraft and completed the debrief. My instructor tells me I’m going to have no issues getting the commercial ticket based on what she saw today. It’s positive feedback but I know there is still plenty of hard work ahead to make it a reality.
In other news I found out by chance from a co-worker that the local Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is in dire need of pilots to fly the mission load they currently have. The idea of logging hundreds of hours free of charge in a high performance Cessna 182 for a defined purpose definitely has my full attention. I am going to attend their meeting this Thursday to see what opportunities may be available. This could be the beginning of all new aviation adventures. j
[ January 2, 2010]
$100 Pancakes 1.4
First flight of 2010. Headed over to Nogales International this morning for $100 pancakes with Carson at Angie’s Airport Café. Food was excellent, coffee outstanding. Trip down only took about 25 minutes and we overflew Patagonia Lake enroute. Carson flew about 75% of the trip from the right seat. He is really getting good at holding altitude and headings, kinda scary considering he is only eight years old. Since the autopilot is inop in the plane Carson makes for a cheap alternative. I worked the radios, power, and navigation while he flew. Of course traffic pattern got real busy just as we showed up (why does this always happen)? Had one plane in the pattern, two planes waiting to take off, a MU-2 descending out of the teens and another aircraft tailing me. I slipped into the downwind with the MU-2 hot on my tail, landed and cleared 21 before he came screaming in behind me. After some good chow we headed out to practice more simulated canyon turns and then some chandelles in preparation for the commercial training which commences in earnest next Saturday. We headed back to KFHU with Carson at the controls, he flew the downwind, base, and final while I worked the flaps, rudder, power, and radio calls. He did an excellent job and had a beautiful stabilized approach before I took the controls on short final. I think he was a little disappointed he did not get to land but we will save that for another day. j
Landing at Nogales
Landing at KFHU
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