Documenting My Journey to Professional Pilot Since 2005


Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

[December 31, 2012]
Year In Review

Wow, hard to believe another year is in the books, my 7th as a pilot. I flew a total of 278 hours, beginning the year with just over 500 and ending with 778 total time. It was a pivotal year in my flying journey. It was the first year I went from paying to fly to being paid to fly. Within the opening weeks of 2012 I had my flight instructor certificate. I quickly approached CAP about becoming an instructor and check pilot and was granted an exception to their instructor hours logged guidelines. Unfortunately I logged very few hours during the year in this capacity. It would take a few more months before I had my first student but by summer’s end I was flying and teaching actively with three students, as well as conducting rental checkouts and flight reviews. Starting a business, even a part time flight instructing business, takes a lot of time and work. I had to establish a marketing program as well as build up my syllabus and other instructional infrastructure which continues to be tweaked and refined to this day. I experienced the joy of soloing my first student in June and creating my first private pilot on the first day of 2013. Teaching certainly makes you a better pilot as you are often put into situations where you must quickly recover from potentially bad situations. Over 100 hours were logged teaching this year.

I continued to focus a large part of my time and effort on completing my master’s degree with Embry-Riddle. By year’s end I had completed all of my remaining courses with only my capstone course left standing between me and graduation. With the amount of flight instruction and school the idea of creating a non-profit for veterans, as stated in my 2012 goals, began to slide further and further down the to-do list. While still an idea I want to pursue it will probably not be attainable until after 2013.

There were a few cross-country adventures this year. Two of those were spent with Carson and one solo. In April I flew up to Grand Canyon Caverns with Carson landing at my first dirt strip in the Tri-Pacer and spent the weekend camping and connecting with my son. We had absolutely perfect weather and the trip would have been almost perfect had 19D battery not died after refueling in Cottonwood. We found a mechanic and after a labored hand prop and a few bucks exchanged we were back on our way home. In June I flew the Tri-Pacer to Ogden, Utah for the Short Wing Piper Convention. The week long adventure included landing on the Salt-Flats of the Great Salt Lake and first time landings in Wyoming and Idaho among many other memorable events. With September came the Reno Air Races. Carson and I flew the long journey to Carson City, Nevada in 19D, once again we were blessed with perfect weather. We took excursions to Lake Tahoe and even landed at the lowest runway in the United States, Furnace Creek, Death Valley, elevation minus 250ft..
Other non-self flying trips included a return to Oshkosh to attend Airventure 2012, visits to the Virginia Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, the Musee de l'Air et de l'Espace in Paris, and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta which was a trip where nothing went right…we will try again in 2013.

Of course the biggest event of the year was becoming an airplane owner. They say the third time is the charm and that was certainly true this time. I had tried unsuccessfully to purchase two different Beech Sierras in 2010. Truth be told I was not even actively seeking an airplane when I received a tip on a great little Cessna 150 at my airport. It was too good a deal to pass up and the fact that I could teach in the airplane made the prospect even that much better. Flying and sharing the expenses of operating and maintaining the Tri-Pacer for the last year was the perfect transition for me to become an owner. I already understood the fixed cost of owning as well as maintaining an airplane, and the paperwork involved. The 150J will serve me well over the next year as I plan to fly it across the country in what will be truly the ULTIMATE X-COUNTRY.

With ownership it came time to say farewell to 19D. She had come into my life at the perfect time and allowed me to log many hours and do many things that would just not have been possible or affordable with a rental plane. It is amazing looking back during the few short years that I have been flying how opportunities present themselves. Much of the clawing and climbing that a pilot does to progress in his development is all him but every now and then you come to a point where you can’t progress further on your own and suddenly a rope appears from nowhere to help you overcome. I have seen it time and again, by documenting my journey in this blog these big picture moments are much clearer to me. Being offered the opportunity to share in the operating cost of 19D was one of those moments. For those who need a more affordable option to flying co-ownership or airplane sharing is really the way to go. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

I was not able to get into many new aircraft in 2012 but the one I did was a classic, the Ercoupe. In July a fellow CFI invited me to fly the Forney F-1 at our field. I went on to fly and solo an original Ercoupe out of San Manuel in August and just by luck was invited in October to continue flying the Forney F-1 on behalf of the owner at my home field. Now I can enjoy the Ercoupe whenever I like! I also checked out in my first light sport experience with the Flight Design MC down in Benson. But I never felt compelled to go back and solo the aircraft. And of course I would eventually fly and buy N51044, my very own Cessna 150J.

To recap, my goals for 2012 were:
1. Establish Veterans 2 Aviators non-profit Part 61 flight school
2. Finish five ERAU graduate classes
3. Fly to Oshkosh and AirVenture 2012
4. Land a plane in five new states
5. Attend Reno Air Races
6. Expand my glider flight experience

Not overly ambitious to begin with I still failed to achieve most of them. I landed in two new states, did attend Oshkosh but decided not to fly there, ended up flying myself to Reno, and completed all of my graduate classes. Glider flying will probably have to wait until I move up to Phoenix.

Now for the 2013 Goals:
1. Graduate with a Masters in Aeronautical Science, Aerospace Operations
2. Fly coast to coast in my Cessna 150J
3. Surpass 1000 hours logged milestone
4. Complete the ATP written
5. Become an Multi Engine Instructor
6. Solo a Bi-plane
7. Make three more Private Pilots
8. Find a career in the aerospace industry

This is the year of transition and opportunity. I leave the Army and start a new career hopefully in aviation. At the same time I have enough leave and vacation time during the transition that I have a major opportunity to do something big. I may never have this much free time again until I retire, retire. I believe this is the chance to fly this country from coast to coast in one major adventure of epic proportion! What happens beyond 2013 is still very much unclear, but I have today, so carpe diem!

[December 17, 2012]
A Chance to Catch my Breath

The last couple of months has been crazy between work, two graduate classes and training four flight students.  Graduate school just wrapped and the two hardest courses in the Embry-Riddle Master of Aeronautical Science curriculum, Statistics and Research Design, have been completed.  Just waiting on my final grades to see if I was able to hold on to my 4.0.  In January I start my thesis which will be on factors influencing the decline of general aviation and then I get that magic piece of paper and take the walk in May!  With everything going on I have had little time to fly my own airplane for pleasure the vast majority of my time has been logged as a flight instructor.  I did receive my Bruce Custom Cover for the plane and it appears to be a quality product that protects the entire cabin of the airplane from the elements.  The cover as the name states is custom made with edging that matches the color of the airplane and N51044 plastered on both sides just in case anyone decides they would like the cover for their airplane.  I'm pretty happy with the cover overall and as I said before it will pay for itself in a few months of ramping the plane instead of hangering it.  I also got a chance to wash the plane and experiment with a few different cleaning supplies including Simple Green and Honda's premium wax.  With all the dust washed away the plane is looking very sharp for an original paint job.

[November 25, 2012]
Sedona X-Country                                                                          5.1

Another cross country this weekend with Christina to beautiful Sedona.  Hard to believe it has been a year since my last visit to the red rocks in the Tri-Pacer.  Last week I got a little scare when I noticed blue stains underneath the right inboard wing after the plane has sat for a week.  I thought I had a fuel leak in the right tank.  It turns out the plane is sitting a little canted to the right and after topping off both tanks at the fuel pump the fuel transferred to the low point and just vented out of the cap.  What I have to figure out now is if it is canted from the floor of my temporary hangar location or is in fact structural.  I hope it is the former because I don’t recall detecting a cant when I purchased the plane.  With full tanks and two people we were about 50 pounds short of gross which is 1600 lbs for the 150J.  She flew well and I did not notice much difference in performance when I flew by myself.  It takes a while to get to cruising altitude which in this case was 8500ft but that is something I am getting used to now.  At altitude I keep her at full throttle.  We had a good tail wind and even though the ASI was showing 95 MPH we were making 100+ knots over the ground.  During the 2.5 hour trip I closely monitored all of my gauges and made notes on what was normal for the little 150J.  I have created a thin binder for the aircraft which I keep the performance charts, weight and balance, log sheet, and a squawk sheet.  A cover sheet has all of the critical numbers as well as when the multiple maintenance inspections are due.  On the log sheet I keep track of the Hobbs and tach, as well as fuel and oil use.  The O-200 is running like a champ and after 10 hours of use the oil level has stabilized at 5.5 Qts and looks as clean as the day it was put it.  The normal readings I collected on the oil temp, oil pressure, and each cylinders temperature will be placed in the book as well.  Of my four cylinders 1-3 run around 325F while #4 runs hotter at 350F.  Will do some checking around to see if this is normal.  Number 4 is the forward left cylinder so one would think it would have the most air cooling. 

On the flight home from Sedona I got a chance to do some night flying and check out my airplane’s lighting which worked very well.  I also added a couple of blue Photon LED lights which provide additional cockpit illumination.  As we flew on towards Tucson I noted that my transponder interrogation light was not illuminating as it should.  I called Tucson Approach and sure enough my transponder was inop.   Ah the joys of airplane ownership!  Guess this is going to cost me some money.  My transponder was just recertified during the annual so I was somewhat annoyed at this fact.  Tucson let me pass through the Class C airspace and instructed me to report any altitude changes since their radar only provides accurate position data and not altitude.  They depend on the aircraft’s Mode C reporting for that data.  Back home I took a look at my transponder antenna, a small stubby antenna on the belly of the aircraft.  I found it slightly bent and crusted with gunk.  It is not suppose to be bent and all the gunk certainly affects operation.  I thought it was an easy fix but as I wiped it down it fell out!  I guess good and bad, an antenna replacement is fairly cheap and a lot less expensive than repairing the transponder.   I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the avionics shop will tell me that is all it is.

Other goodies I have ordered include a Bruce Custom Cover which should ship sometime at the end of this week.  The cover will protect the entire cockpit area to include the back and side windows.  A nice set of cowling plugs were ordered off E-bay for only $45.  Ramping the plane will cost me $45 a month compared to $250 for a hangar or $150 for a shared hangar.  In Arizona I just can’t see the economic sense of using a hangar that would cost more than the monthly payment of the plane.

[November 11, 2012]
Getting Acquainted                                                                           3.6

Took my new airplane for a x-country flight to get acquainted.  We are strangers now but give us a few hours together and we will be best buds.  Fuel burn is always important and you should never trust the book.  I flew out to Grant County in New Mexico, about 120 miles as the crow flies.   I find that flying 44 requires firewalling the throttle which gives me about 100 MPH indicated.  Fuel burn is about 6 gallons an hour which is well above what the book claims (4.4).  Great little airplane but there is very little extra power with just 100 ponies.  I landed at Grant County with winds 45 degree off runway heading gusting to 20 knots.  Quite a different experience with only about 1400 pounds of momentum.  "With the wind" takes on a whole new meaning.  44 dances around a few feet above the runway, ready to land, maybe not, gust after gust wants to keep her flying.  I'm ready to dance with her.  I lead and use shots of the throttle to keep her flying and not to end up suddenly on the wrong side of the power curve.  We touch down first on the upwind wheel, and soon after all of the aileron goes into the wind.  The little airplane rocks as the gust slam into her.  I gently sheppard her to the pump.  After refueling I head over Whiskey Creek (had to visit this airfield after all I am a big fan of Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, but that is another story).  This touch and go was a good little lesson in underpowered aircraft operations.  One, the 150 does not climb with 20 degrees of flaps, so get them up!  Two, the climb angle of a 150 is NOT the same as a 172.  With a wicked cross wind I found myself climbing out with the stall horn blaring!  Check yourself!  Nose down.  Anemic climb, thank goodness the airport is on a plateau.  I claw for altitude and get the flaps up.  This is a little different then what I am used to.  I'm not picking bushes out of the wheel pants but this is different for sure!  You fly this plane on the edge of its envelope.

[November 10, 2012]
Article Published in NAFI Mentor Magazine

I am a big fan of using technology to enhance flight training.  This past Summer I decided to pen an article about the equipment and techniques I use to help students better absorb flight instruction using video, audio, and GPS.  The article was submitted to the National Association of Flight Instructors and has now been published in the association's printed magazine - Mentor.  You can read the entire article here.  And yes, that is me flying the Ercoupe on short final.

[November 5, 2012]
Airplane Ownership!

Today I purchased my first airplane, a modest 1969 Cessna 150J.  A solid airplane with a well documented history fresh out of annual.  Wow, it is hard to believe I am officially an airplane owner!

[October 31, 2012]
Flying Witch R/C Project

I've been spending the last few weeks creating a scratch build remote control flying witch for Halloween something I have wanted to do for years.  Down to the wire I burned the mid-night oil to get 'er done last night in time for Halloween.  The witch is carried aloft on a flat 6mm Depron foam "wing" aka the witch's hat.  The project just goes to show that a brick will fly if it has enough thrust!  The maiden flight was a little exciting with the CG about 4 inches behind the leading edge of the witch's hat she was slightly tail heavy.  Any use of throttle above 50% and she wanted to nose straight up.  The rudder, the end of the broom, also lacked enough authority to overcome the torque of the motor and turn the witch right.  I made some tweaks and flew two more flight in the late afternoon with much better results.  The project was great fun and I look forward to flying the witch for many more Halloweens.  Check out the photo link above for in-flight action.

[October 29, 2012]
Five Planes, One Day                                                                        3.7

I flew more airplanes today than ever before.  The day started with a Cessna 182R, then the PA-22, over to a straight tail Cessna 172, a Forney F-1, and caped off with Cessna 150J.

As a CAP mission pilot I am required to take a Form 91 flight every two years.  A Form 91 is essentially a check ride with the focus on skills and knowledge required of a mission pilot.  Basic piloting skills are checked every year in a Form 5 check ride.  The Form 91 goes beyond the Form 5.  This morning I took my Form 91 in the 182.  The night before I received a scenario from the check pilot from which the entire check ride was driven on.  A small ultralight and departed Benson on a photo flight of the Mule Mountains at sunset.  The aircraft had failed to return.  I was assigned a search sector and told to plan a mission.  During the oral portion of the Form 91 I briefed my crew on the mission and all of the details of my plan.  I was quizzed on other topics as I went through the brief including safety, CRM, mountain flying, air-ground signals, documents and paperwork.  After the oral we flew the mission which was stick and rudder intense.  Thankfully the winds were calm aloft making for a smooth ride even while tucked in close along the mountains.  I executed a contour search of the SW face of the Mule Mountains before being vectored over targets of interest on which I had to conduct turns around a point and marking locations with the Apollo GX55 GPS.   The difficulty was ratcheted up a notch when I had to clear the draws on the SW face.  This required crossing the ridge line at a safe altitude and angle, pulling power and aggressively slipping the aircraft while offsetting from the draw to allow the observer to visually scan the draw.  The slip is held as we fly from higher to lower terrain.  After a few of these we moved out into flatter terrain for more turns around TOIs and target location marking.  After a simulated engine out I went under the hood to log an ILS approach to 26.  This was not part of the Form 91 requirement but I needed the approach for currency requirements, so why not?  I enjoy the Form 91 flights, it’s great stick and rudder practice which keeps your everyday flying sharp.  I also enjoy working in and around the mountains especially when winds are calm.  Most days in Arizona you can’t even get near foot hills without turbulence, updrafts, downdrafts, and the more invisible dangers out lurking near terrain.

Check ride complete we moved on to even more fun.  Formation flying part 2!  It was my turn to return the favor and snap some pictures of my flying buddies vintage straight tail 172.  We still had our original plan in the can so we dusted it off and blasted off in the Tri-Pacer towards Sonoita.  Carson was my photographer with the Canon Rebel and a 300MM lens.  At the start point we flew due north at 7000ft and a steady 90MPH.  Doug came up and joined in an echelon right formation.  By now it was noon and the air was becoming unstable.  We bounced around as Doug tightened the formation and Carson began shooting.  I concentrated on flying my line and Doug concentrated on holding the same sight picture of lining up the PA-22 nose wheel and right tire.  Carson took some amazing shots.  With the 300MM lens he even zoomed in so close that he had just Doug and the cockpit in the picture.  Crossing over I-10 Doug performed a steep break away to the right after a short count and headed to Benson to land.  The Tri-Pacer was due for her annual so we decided to leverage the photo flight and drop the Piper off at Benson.  Carson and I climbed into the 172 for the lift back to FHU.  What an amazing view!  The straight tail 172’s have enormous front and side windows.  I felt like I was in a Robinson helicopter the view was so spectacular.  I had flown a straight tail back in Michigan but do not remember the view being so good.  While the view was great the performance was anemic due to the little 140HP engine.  It took us about 15 minutes just to get to a cruising altitude of 6500ft (Benson is 3800 MSL).  I got a chance to fly the plane for a few minutes but soon turned it back over to Doug so I could enjoy the view.

Back at FHU I readied the Forney for her first flight in some time.  After a thorough run-up I lifted off ever so slowly in the Arizona afternoon sky.  At a safe altitude I left the pattern for the dirt assault strip a few miles to the NE.  Flying at 7500ft I flew the plane in leisurely racetrack pattern feeling the airplane out.  I did some stalls, steep turns, and other maneuvers making a note of key speeds and engine instrument readings.  I like to document these readings on my checklist so I know what “normal” is for this particular airplane.  In straight and level flight the Continental C-90 pulled the Forney through the air at 110MPH, a pretty respectable speed given the low HP.  This give the Forney potential for some x-country flying.  I am excited to get the plane out and show it off at fly-ins and other aviation events.  Returning to FHU I executed a couple touch and goes pulling the power back to 1500 RPM abeam of my touchdown point and keeping the speed around 80 MPH.  Landing in the crab is still something I am getting used to.  She flew great and the engine ran smooth.  I’ll take a couple more local flights to monitor oil consumption and determine the hourly fuel burn before heading out for some x-country flight later next month.

After dinner I returned to the airport to fly a plane that may soon take on a central role in my flying adventures.  N50144 is a 1969 Cessna 150J in excellent condition and in a few days or weeks I may be the new owner.  The plane is fresh out of an intense annual with only minor squawks found.  I flew the first time solo yesterday and she flew as well as could be expected of a 100HP engine at Sierra Vista’s 4500ft.  Tonight I flew her again to check out all of the lights and retain my night currency.  With a full moon and 12 knots of wind down the runway it was an enjoyable experience.  Flying the 150 is almost the same as the 172.  I found little difference at all.  I’ll talk more about this airplane in the coming weeks.

So the weekend of intense flying came to a close.  In three days I logged over seven hours of flying from the right seat.  Now back to teaching students and buying an airplane….

[October 26, 2012]
Copperstate Fly-In                                                                    3.0

The Copperstate Fly-In at Casa Grande kicked off on Thursday.  With non-flying plans already made for Saturday I had to fly-in on Friday.  We took off in the Tri-Pacer around 11:30 and arrived over the field just before 1PM.  The Copperstate folks must have connections with the FAA because they always have a tower, approach, and ATIS for the event while the Cactus Fly-In in the Spring (same amount of airplanes) is always non-towered.  The arrival was uneventful compared to previous arrivals probably due to the time of our arrival.  Only a single Cherokee vied for the pattern air space with us.  On landing roll out the little Tri-pacer swerved left enough to get my attention.  Always when everyone is looking will you perform your worse!  Well I guess I was overdue for my humbling.  I sheepishly pulled into the ramp area where we followed the checker golf cart to a parking spot on the show line.  This is always a bennie of flying a well restored vintage airplane.

The turn out was a little disappointing this year.  Not as many aircraft as I had expected.  The show runs from Thursday to Saturday.  In the past we have come out on Saturday, but by noon all of the planes are starting to depart.  I thought that coming out a day earlier would solve that problem but it appears that most planes do not arrive until either Friday night or Saturday morning.  We did see a few very nice RV-4s and RV-8s.  Got me thinking about having one myself in a few years!  I met some great folks from the Arizona Pilots Association (APA) in the vendor tent and decided I was long overdue in joining the association especially since I plan on staying in Arizona after retirement.  APA advocates for opening up backcountry strips and host several fly-in and camping adventures every year.  This type of flying is definitely of interest to me and I am looking forward to the opportunities to do more of it with APA in the next year.

[October 21, 2012]
What Luck!

I received a call last night from the gentlemen who owns the Forney F-1 (Ercoupe) down at the airfield.  I had flown his plane with another instructor back on July 22.  The owner did not fly the plane due to his age and had an agreement with the instructor to fly the plane and keep it “exercised”    There is nothing worse for a machine than to let it sit unused for months at a time.  More damage can be done than flying the plane too much.   Well as luck would have it the other instructor got a job with the FAA and moved to Atlanta.  She recommended my name to the owner as replacement pilot for flying the F-1.  He asked me if I was interested.  Hmmmm let me think about that for one nanosecond…..YES!  What a great deal, no need now to go all the way to San Manuel to get my Ercoupe fix.  I can drive right down to my local airport and jump in the Ercoupe for a flight for as little as $25 an hour in gas.  I went out to the airport to meet with the owner, review the airplane, and get a set of keys.  He told me to fly it as much as I want and to send him the bill.  Seriously?  That was a little too generous; I told him I would happily pay for any gas and oil I used.   The battery needed some charging and some air in the tires but she started right up without a fuss.  I’m looking forward to getting in some hours on the Forney this weekend.

[October 14, 2012]
New Record

October 14, 2012 - Despite a few dicey moments, Austrian Felix Baumgartner became the first human to go faster than the speed of sound Sunday over Roswell, New Mexico, during the highest parachute jump ever made.

With millions watching around the world on the web, "Fearless Felix" ascended to more than 24 miles altitude - 128,097 feet - in an 855,000-cubic-meter helium balloon, exited the Red Bull Stratos pressurized capsule and achieved a maximum speed of 833.9 mph (Mach 1.24) during a four-minute, 19-second freefall, according to Brian Utley of the International Federation of Sports Aviation. Total time exit to touchdown was nine minutes, three seconds.

[October 13, 2012]
Business is Good

With three active students, flight reviews, and CAP check pilot duties I have been pretty busy lately.  Business has been good to say the least.  The flight instructor time is piling up but that has meant a lot less time in the left seat.  This type of flying is work and it is becomes important to maintain a balance to ensure flying remains equated with FUN.  Sitting in the right seat provides many of its own lessons.  Those who are CFIs will know what I am talking about.  If anything I have become pretty adept at recovering the aircraft from various botched landing scenarios.  As a new pilot you feel as the though the aircraft’s operating envelope is pretty narrow and you tend to baby the inputs.  As a CFI you begin to really see firsthand the full width and depth of the envelope and find that the aircraft can really be handled badly before it bites you.  The published numbers are well padded for the pilot’s safety.  You tend to start working the aircraft harder to get the max performance out of it, you know just how far a student can stray beyond published parameters without correction in the hope that they will catch the mistake on their own before you have to intervene.  The trick is not to get cocky or complacent and respect the true boundaries of the envelope.  You can’t bend the rules of physics and if you try you will lose.

Yesterday a transient pilot was killed in a crash near Tucson.  Our local FBO owner was the last one to see the individual alive after he stopped for fuel in Benson.  The pilot made frequent trips from California and Las Cruces, New Mexico and would normally make a fuel stop in Benson.  No word yet on what caused the accident.  The accident is just one more reminder that flying is an inherently risky endeavor.  One must do everything they can to mitigate and manage the risk.  Fly safe everyone!

[October 5-7, 2012]
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta - Epic Fail!

I packed up the family and headed for Albuquerque early Friday afternoon.  I had entertained the idea of flying up but between the cost of fuel and rental cars it just did not make economic sense.  It took about six hours to make it to Belen about 30 miles south of ABQ.  I had procrastinated on booking a hotel in ABQ until about two months ago thus the reason for being out of town.  We got up at O dark thirty Saturday morning to make the trek to Balloon Fiesta Park on the north side of town.  Packing the car at the hotel I could tell the winds were at least 10 knots and became a little concerned that it might impact the show.  The balloon morning glow begins at 0545 and we wanted to be there from the start. 

After a 30 minute drive we ran into a wall of traffic just north of the 25-40 interchange.  The traffic jam was pretty intense and I decided to continue northbound and attempt to come in from the southbound side.  Traffic was much lighter from the opposite direction but was still backed up onto the highway.  We avoided being rear ended by the narrowest of margins thanks to the exit ramp being backed up onto the highway.  After an hour of inching forward in traffic we made it to a parking spot and hurried toward the gate.  No balloons were visible on the field which should have been a hint that something was up.  At the gate no admission was being collected, I knew we were in for a disappointment.  It was a sea of people inside the park making movement slow and laborious.  Lines for the vendor tents were extremely long.  Trying to get information on what exactly was going on was difficult.  The Fiesta web site does not provide real time updates and no announcements were being made on the PA. 

We wandered over to one of the balloonist who was firing his gas burners for the crowd.  He explained that wind conditions were too high for the balloonist and that the earliest they would inflate and fly would be Monday.  Wow, I was floored!  While the wind was keeping the flags flapping it did not seem that daunting and forecast called for calmer winds later in the morning.  The fact that many balloonist had not even arrived yet led me to believe that the first day of the event may not be the best to visit even if the weather is perfect.  The balloonist spoke to the crowd about piloting the balloon which was very interesting.  While a balloonist normally feels no wind while aloft due to moving with the wind they will occasionally feel a breeze which is an indication of moving through wind shear.  The pilot can control the direction of flight by changing the balloon’s altitude to take advantage of different directional winds aloft.  ABQ has some interesting wind currents making the location perfect for balloonist.  A cold southerly flow comes off the mountains and remains close to surface while higher altitude winds blow northerly.  This allows the balloons to take off from the park, travel south along the Rio Grande, rise in altitude and return back to the north.  The balloonist claimed on past flights that he had lifted off from the park, flown south, and returned to the park landing only a few hundred feet from his original launch point.  Pretty fascinating stuff.

With the hopes of seeing the balloons in flight dashed we left the park disappointed but hopeful that the evening twilight show would go on and that Sunday morning would be better.  Salvaging the day I paid a visit to the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History located on the east side of town.  While mostly missiles and bombs the museum has some interesting aviation artifacts.  One of the more interesting displays deals with broken arrows, the code words for lost nukes.  The museum has two of the original hydrogen bombs lost over Palomares, Spain in 1966 when a B-52 collided with a KC-135 during a botched in-flight refueling attempt.  Three bombs landed in Spain and one landed just off the coast.  Two were destroyed when the explosive devices detonated upon impact (fortunately not setting off the nukes but still causing contamination of the immediate surrounding area).  On display outside of the museum were several cruise missiles, a Titan and Minuteman missile, a B-52, a B-29, F-105 Thunderchief, and an A-7 Corsair II.  Of course the F-105 is just a manly man’s aircraft, sleek, powerful, and big.  Probably my favorite of the Century Series Fighters.  The museum is small but interesting and is worth a look if you find yourself in the area.

We returned to Fiesta Park later in the day as the sun was beginning to set.  From the highway I could see balloon’s inflating.  It appeared we were going to at least see the balloons on the ground.  Arriving at the entrance gate I was surprised to find a cash only admission.  No ATMs were located at the gate so I had to give up my driver’s license to get in the gate and access to an ATM.  Of course only one of the three ATMs was working and a dozen people were in line.  By the time I had made it to the front of the line the balloons were being deflated due to an approaching wind storm.  Frustrated beyond belief we left the park and headed back to the hotel.  The weather called for 30mph winds to remain through the night and into Sunday.  After the Saturday morning experience I saw no reason to return the next morning.  The trip was a total wash and we decided to just head home first thing in the morning. 

After catching some much needed sleep we awoke around 07:30 Sunday morning and headed to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.  A big screen TV was on in the dining area.  Incredibly the live news feed showed Fiesta Park filled with balloons launching into the morning sky.  I could not believe what I was seeing!  While the winds were not nearly what they had been forecasted, they were certainly not less than the previous morning.   This was like pouring salt into an already open wound!  Being 45 minutes from the park it was not even worth trying to drive over.  Frustrated we loaded up the car and began the long trek back home.  Our first attempt at attending the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was an epic fail, but important lessons were learned which will hopefully result in a successful visit next time, and there will be a next time!

Couple of things to keep in mind if you go to the Balloon Fiesta:
1.  Bring a jacket, gloves and a hat.  Its 35-45deg in the morning
  Bring cash, no Credit Cards are accepted for parking, entrance, and most vendors
  Get to the park extremely early and just sleep in your car, the traffic was absolutely ridiculous, take the most northern exit off of Interstate 25, it will get you the closest parking available
  The first day of the Fiesta is packed and many balloons do not arrive until later in the day, so plan for Sunday as your best viewing
  Back packs and chairs are allowed into the park
  Check the weather, conditions and especially winds must be almost optimal for the balloons to inflate and go
  Make your lodging reservations early, hotels sell out at least six months in advance
  Don’t use the park and ride – the lines to get back on the bus were very very long
  The most current information on activities call the info number, the web site is not updated with any useful info
Save visiting vendors for the afternoon when the park clears out
11. Parking is $10.  Adults are $8.  Kids under 12 are free.  You have to pay every time you park and enter, events occur in the morning and at evening twilight.  Not much of anything goes on between 12-5PM

[October 9, 2012]
Embry-Riddle Masters Home Stretch

Just wrapped up two more courses with Embry-Riddle.  Advanced Rotorcraft Operations and Air Traffic Control & National Airspace System are complete.  I'm still holding on to that 4.0 GPA as I enter the home stretch with three more courses to go.  Looking forward to graduation next Spring!  I will post a few of the papers I have written over the last year soon.

[September 19, 2012]
700 Hours

Flew with one of my students on a night cross country to Marana tonight breezing through the 700 flight hour milestone.  Seems like those hundred hour marks are coming faster and faster now.  The last 100 hours took less than three months to amass. 

[September 17, 2012]
Return Flight from Reno - Landing at the Lowest Aiport in the US    8.0

On the way home from Reno we retraced our original route.  Weather was absolutely perfect.  I made a short excursion to land at my 140th airport which just happened to be the lowest elevation airport in the country, Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California.  L06 sits at an elevation of minus 213 feet below sea level.  So while it was pretty hot the Tri-Pacer had no problems with performance.  We landed and parked only long enough to snap a few pictures including a panorama of the ramp before climbing slowly back to the cooler air at altitude.

[September 16, 2012]
South Lake Tahoe Excursion                                                                2.5

[September 14-15, 2012]
National Championship Air Races


Day one, what an event!  Highly recommend adding this event to your aviation bucket list.  We attended Friday and purchased the Pit Pass which was worth every penny.  The pass gave us access to the race planes and crews.  We were able to get up close and personal with working airplanes.  Unlike any airshow where the planes are almost always on static display and in pristine condition the race pits are just like NASCAR with planes partially disassembled, various fluids draining and dripping from the air frame and dirty mechanics with their heads buried deep inside the cowlings and under carriage turning wrenches and busting knuckles.  These are working airplanes.  Carson got an exclusive look at Dreadnaught, A Hawker Sea Fury, from the team's crew chief.  Next to Dreadnaught was an almost stock Sea Fury that had not yet started the transformation process into world class air racer.  The crew chief took us through each of the modifications showing us the difference between aircraft.  The biggest differences were water spray bars in front of the oil coolers in the wing roots, modification to the air intake ducts, and smooth wing surfaces.  It is amazing how much of a difference parasitic drag can make on the airframe.  A smooth airplane can gain 50 MPH on a dirty competitor.  One of the least sophisticated techniques used to reduce drag is simple duct tape!  Dreadnaughts canopy base is highly duct taped minimize drag from openings and seams.  We saw duct tape used heavily especially with the Formula One aircraft.  Simple, cheap, and effective. 

Friday night we headed downtown Reno to check out Air Racers 3D, the new IMAX film which features the Reno Air Races and Steven Hinton, son of the legendary Steve Hinton.  The movie has a very limited release and is only paying in a handful of theatres across the US.  The movie is short, 40 minutes, but does include a few very good air to air sequences reminiscent of One Six Right.  Somewhat disappointing is that about half the film is filler of which some is black and white footage which only takes up a quarter of the screen.  The film does a good job of covering the basics of the air race but more air-to-air racing sequences would have been fantastic, after all that is what people are coming to see.  The movie will be release on Blu-ray in December.  My recommendation is wait for the Blu-Ray release.  While short the movie is worth owning and the disc release will probably include much bonus material and extra flying footage.

Day two.  Saturday we were back at the air races bright and early.  As with any major event GET THERE EARLY.  For $15 we secured parking in an apartment complex that was only a three minute walk from the main gate and almost as close as the official $30 reserved parking.  If you get in before 0800, first race, you probably have a good chance of staking claim to a spot in the top bleachers.  The top seats are the only ones with a back rest making your perch much more comfortable.  The seats are metal bleachers so bring a seating pad or buy a Reno Race branded one for only $8, a fair price.  The best general admission viewing is in the furthest left bleachers which border the reserved seating.  From here you are almost directly in front of the finish line.  The race line is beyond runway 8-26.  This distance requires at least a 400mm camera lens.  I only brought a 300mm for my Canon and will need to crop my photos later.  Also bring bino's to best view the action on the backside of the course and down the Valley of Speed.

With most of our sight seeing and souvenir collecting done we were able to concentrate on watching the races.  Reno does a fantastic job of keeping something in the air.  If no one is racing than someone is entertaining.  Race classes include Biplane, Formula One, Sport, T-6, Jet, and Unlimited.  Unlimited class includes the tricked out WWII warbirds, the airplanes everyone thinks about when someone mentions Reno.  I found the Sport and Jet races just as exciting to watch as Unlimited.  Watching T-6 Texans race is like watching paint dry, boring.  I hate to say that because I love the Texan but she is not much of a race bird.  Having variety in the airframes racing also makes things way more interesting.  Watching an RV-4 negotiate the course I fantasized about someday racing here in my own RV-4....someday. 

Two days was plenty time for me to get my racing fix.  Staying the whole week would certainly be overkill.  If I came again I would probably visit Thursday and Friday.  Cheaper admission, less people, and easy access to the planes and pilots.  Like Oshkosh this is not an event that I need to return to each year or even every other year but it is definitely something that must be experienced by every aviation enthusiast at least once.  I am glad that Reno has continued after last year's tragedy, it is truly a unique event.


[September 13, 2012]
Reno X-Country                                                                  7.1

We landed in Carson City, Nevada this afternoon around 4PM after an all day cross country flight of over 600 miles.  We made two refueling stops at Lake Havasu City, AZ and Bishop, CA along the way.  Dialing the power back to 2250 RPM I was able to achieve a fuel burn of less than 6.5G/hr for a total of only 45 gallons.  At 8500ft we were fortunate to have a tail wind that pushed us at 100 knots most of the way.  Hope I am so lucky on the way home.  Everyone we have run into has been super nice including the folks at El Aero FBO where the plane will be parked during our stay.  Tomorrow we are off to Reno/Stead to watch the National Air Races!

[September 1, 2012]
Photo Flight                                                                         1.0

I’ve been trying to set up a photo flight for months now.  Having not flown in close formation before I sat down and worked out a pretty detailed plan on the execution of the flight.  I’ve been working with a fellow pilot who flies a vintage Cessna 172 but trying to find a mutual time in our busy schedules along with the availability of the semi-pro photographer has been a real challenge.  Today we decided just to go up and take some snapshots while seeing if the plan we had devised actually worked.  I just purchased the remote control for my GoPro Hero camera and wanted to test it out by mounting the camera to the lift strut.  My buddy brought his nephew along with a portable camera to take photos on his end.  The plan covered every aspect of the flight: start points were identified by GPS coordinates, altitudes to fly, the air-to-air frequency for coordination, and the procedure to abort when we were in close formation.  As the photo plane I would cross a pre-determined start point flying a constant heading, altitude, and airspeed during the entire run.  The target aircraft would start in an orbit at 7500ft and close on the photo aircraft by descending into a position just right and behind.  From there he would work into a position for the best photos.  At the end of the photo run both aircraft would break in opposite directions at the command “knock it off” and reset to the start points for another iteration.  In practice this plan worked pretty well.  When it was my turn to fly as the target it took a little time to catch up with the photo plane but once into position my entire focus was on maintaining my distance and position with the other aircraft.  It was more challenging than I imagined but also tons of fun.  Unfortunately my GoPro remote malfunctioned but my buddy’s nephew got some pretty good amateur shots of my aircraft.  The plan we had created was solid for the most part with only a few minor tweaks required.  Overall the flight today was good practice for our eventual professional photo flight at the end of this month.  Can’t wait for those photos!

[August 30, 2012]
Carson & the Ercoupe                                                         2.0

Carson loves the Ercoupe just as much as I do so I wanted to share the experience of flying the airplane with him.   We blasted off in the Tri-Pacer from KFHU just ahead of an approaching afternoon thunderstorm and bounced along at 6500ft to San Manuel airport 60 miles to the north.  Arriving at E77 we found the airport quiet with a 10 knot wind down the runway and some dark clouds off to the west.  We pulled the Ercoupe out of the T-hangar and did the simple preflight.  The wing tanks were almost empty requiring a quick taxi to the fuel pumps.  I filled up the wing tanks and then proceeded to overfill the header tank.  Fuel poured down the cowling and I wondered about how smart a design this was with fuel leaking into the engine compartment.  Was the airplane going to catch on fire when I started it?  I wiped down the excess fuel from the cowling and rinsed out the engine compartment the best I could with a bottle of water.  Noting the location of a nearby fire extinguisher I pulled the starter handle and kept my fingers crossed.  The little Continental came to life and fuel began spitting out of the visual fuel indicator on the header gas cap spraying all over the wind screen.  Oh no what now?  Fortunately the excess fuel soon dissipated and the airplane did not catch on fire.  Note to self: NEVER EVER overfill the header tank!  I taxied out and took off from runway 29 climbing slowly at 75 MPH.  We headed east towards the green river valley of the San Pedro before I handed the controls over to Carson.  The Ercoupe is an extremely stable aircraft even in steep turns.  Carson had no problem maneuvering the aircraft around the valley.  We pulled the side windows down on each side.  With the wind whipping around the cockpit the feeling of really flying was so much more intense than any Cessna or Piper I normally fly.   Just to the east of San Manuel is the very scenic Aravaipa Canyon Primitive Area.  I pointed in the general direction and Carson flew us there.  With the sun low on the horizon the warm colors brought out the true beauty of the canyon.  It was another keeper moment all captured on the GoPro camera.  Carson really loved the simplicity of the Ercoupe’s controls and its rock solid stability.  I demonstrated a stall for him to show him just how well behaved the Ercoupe was and how the airplane would broadcast its displeasure with vibration as it neared the stall point.  We returned to San Manuel where I completed two stop and go’s before returning for a full stop.  With a stiffer wind I found myself still not comfortable with landing in a crab.  It is going to take a little more practice before I have them down but the trailing link gear made every landing a greaser.  Carson said the Ercoupe experience was even better than he had imagined it would be.  It is hard to put a finger on what exactly makes the Ercoupe such a lovable airplane.  Maybe it is the pure simplicity of the panel, or the pull down windows, or how easy it is to fly.  The Ercoupe is to GA aircraft what the Volkswagen Bug is to cars.  Simple, cheap, and fun!

[August 29, 2012]
Meeting with the TSA                

I received a call from the Transportation Security Administration last week asking if I was actively flight instructing in Sierra Vista.  After an “affirm” the agent requested we set up a date for an inspection of my paperwork.  I was very surprised to come up on the inspection radar so soon after receiving my instructor ticket.  Because TSA regulations are separate from FAA regulations there is little to no coverage of the CFI’s security responsibilities during training for the certificate.  During the FAA oral the examiner did not even mention the subject.  I did my own research and found AOPA’s very helpful web site which consolidated all of the TSA requirements in one convenient location.  The TSA regs require initial and recurrent security training for “flight school” employees.  The which is a term that includes independent Part 61 CFI instructors.  The training is an interactive online module.  After the training an instructor has very few requirements if he is teaching US Citizens, which is my case.  To vet a US Citizen for flight training one must only keep a copy of the individual’s Passport or Birth Certificate and/or make a log book entry in both the instructor and student’s log book.  Having complied with these requirements I was not too concerned about the TSA inspection.  I met the TSA agent a few days later at the airport terminal.  The gentlemen was very nice and decided to make the inspection into just a courtesy visit to ensure I was aware of all the regulations and requirements.  We reviewed everything and he provided me with copies of dockets which amplified and clarified some of the more nebulous regulations. 

Getting clarification on discovery flights made the entire meeting worthwhile.  There has been a lot of confusion on if discovery flights require full TSA vetting of the student.  According to AOPA they have correspondence with the TSA that states a discovery flight does not constitute flight training.  I’ve executed many discovery flights under this interpretation.  The TSA agent’s interpretation was a little different.  According to him any training that can be used towards the completion of a pilot certificate is considered flight training and requires student vetting.  That sounds pretty logical to me.  Since I give each person an endorsed log book after a discovery flight the potential exist for them to use that one hour of dual logged time towards a certificate at any time in the future.  Logged flight time NEVER expires so regardless of an individual’s intention at the time of flight they could later decide to pursue a certificate and use the logged time towards the completion requirements.  As a matter of fact one of my students is using a few hours he logged in 1993 towards the flight time requirements for the private pilot certificate almost 20 years later.  If I did not provide the individual with a log book than the discovery flight could not be used towards a certificate because no written record would exist of the training.  This is an important distinction that should be clarified on the AOPA web site.  The meeting went very well and I was impressed with the TSA’s attitude of working with CFIs as opposed to an adversarial relationship.

[August 25, 2012]
RIP Neil Armstrong 1930-2012 ~ First Man to Walk on the Moon                

One of my boyhood idols died today.  The first man to walk on the moon has passed into legend.  Growing up in the 1970s the Apollo program and all of its amazing accomplishments dominated everything aerospace related and one little boy's imagination.  Unlike early 20th Century aviation accomplishments the endeavor for the moon was not the effort of one but thousands.  Of course Neil Armstrong became the single face of all these individuals.  Rest in peace Neil Armstrong, you have inspired countless generations to reach for the stars.

[August 9, 2012]
Ercoupe Solo!                                                                       5.0                  
_[Video] [Pictures]_________________________________________________________________________

Today was atypical, flying from sun up to sun down.  I started the morning at 0530 with my student and an instrument flying lesson in the FBO owner’s 172 which is a fine aircraft compared the beater we had been using.  No maintenance surprises today and my student did a fantastic job flying the gauges.  After the lesson I made a short hop over to my hangar to ready 19D for a flight out to San Manuel.  Forty five minutes later I touched down at E77 and met up with Parrish Traweek.  Parrish is a great guy, retired military, and owns PC Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Services.  He reminds me a little of the surfer dude (Sean Penn) from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, if you are old enough to remember that movie.  I found out about Parrish from an article in Flying magazine.  Parrish rents Ercoupes and after my brief experience flying one last month I wanted to go solo.

This time I was given a good overview of the pre-flight inspection on N2006H a 1946 Ercoupe 415C.  Not a whole lot to it.  The wings are fabric on the original Ercoupe while the control surfaces are metal.  The engine on this 415C was a Continental C-85.  A quick sump of the wing tanks produced a red colored fuel, I was puzzled, leaded fuel?  Turns out it was a fuel conditioner that helped with the C-85’s valves.  The Ercoupe has two wing tanks holding 9 gallons each and a header tank which holds 6 gallons.  The plane burns only 5 gallons an hour giving the tiny aircraft 4+ hours of endurance.  With the quick pre-flight complete I loaded into the aircraft with Parrish for a quick check-out.  We went through a run-up process that takes all of a minute and quickly rolled onto the runway before heading out to the training area in a climb of 80MPH.  I did some turns and stall to re-familiarize myself with the airplane before heading back for some touch and go’s.  The Ercoupe is one plane I can consistently land well every time.  We flew the pattern at 80MPH and then chopped the throttle to 1500RPM abeam of the touchdown point.  I kept it in tight making the final turns to final more of a 180 than a distinct base leg.  Parrish had me keep the speed up to 70-80MPH to ensure we did not get low and slow which can be a problem in the Ercoupe with its short wings.  The plane will come down quite quickly if too slow thanks to its short stubby wings just like the Tri-Pacer.  Over the numbers I was in the flare bleeding off the excess airspeed before ever so gently touching down.  With no rudder pedals you land in the crab, holding the nose wheel off there is a slight jar as the aircraft corrects its heading in line with its forward momentum.  Once tracking straight the nose wheel must be lowered if you are to have any directional control (no rudders).  The book says the plane can land in a 25 knot crosswind.  You really have to grit your teeth and not try to correct the crab when in the flare with aileron as you will strike the wing tip.  Our last landing was a simulated engine out.  I had no problem making the field but only because I turned base as soon as the throttle was retarded. 

With my checkout complete I was free to take the Ercoupe solo.  After a short struggle to get the airplane restarted, you have to pull REALLY HARD on the starter knob, I was taking runway 11.  My first trip around was a touch and go before heading east of the field to conduct some steep turns and a stall.  The ability to fly with the windows down is by far the coolest feature of the Ercoupe.  The next coolest thing has to be the empennage with the twin tail, reminds me of a baby Connie.  As expected the Ercoupe just mushed down in a flat attitude during the stall.  Steep turns were easy to fly level without as much honking back on the yoke as the Cessnas.  I returned back to the field for two more landings just to make it official.  Pulling up to the hangar I was stumped on how to properly shut the engine down.  There is no mixture control in the Ercoupe.  The mechanic came up and had me turn off the mags.  I expected a backfire but none came, interesting.  I’m all checked out now and can fly with Carson in the Ercoupe as soon as the chance presents itself.

The return flight to KFHU was uneventful save for the strong surface winds that seemed to steadily increase as I approached the field.  The gusts were up to 20 knots as I touched down in a slight slip and gingerly taxied back to the hangar.  I returned later that afternoon to fly right seat in the Cessna for a visiting pilot who had forgotten his medical back at home.  The winds had died down by this time though the TAF called for gusts to 30 knots.  We flew the standard nickel tour of the Dragoons-Tombstone-Bisbee before returning home.  In all I logged almost 5 hours in three different airplanes today.  It was one of those days where everything goes right!

[August 7, 2012]

In the last month I have had nothing but problems with the rental airplane.  It has impacted the ability to train and I am reaching the limit of my frustration.  We had discovered the tire flat spotted to the point of exposed threads, an airspeed indicator fail on the takeoff roll, NAV radios and VOR inoperative, the turn coordinator fail, and the radios fail on multiple occasions.  Good training in one respect for my student, but bad in many others.  Today's flight had the only COM radio (the other was evaced to the avionics shop for repair) go out on takeoff with the tower active.  With unmanned aircraft in the air around the airfield this was a dangerous situation.  The tower called for a right turn out and an egress out of the area to 4-corners, a report point five miles to the north of the field.  Attempting to reply the radio just belched static.  I scrambled for my handheld radio (which has proven to be worth its weight in gold over the last few years).  I instructed my student to pick up a downwind pattern while I switched over to 7600 on the transponder and watched for any possible light signals from the tower.  With the handheld finally configured I called the tower for a radio check and alerted them I was on the handheld.  They immediately cleared me to land on 26 which we did expeditiously before taxiing back to the ramp once again to abort the lesson.  Had I not had the handheld with me I would have orbited north of the field and waited for the light gun signals to return for landing.

[July 25-27, 2012]
Oshkosh 2012                                             

My third trip to Oshkosh has wrapped for 2012.  Another smorgasbord of airplanes that never fails to satisfy this lover of all things aviation even though there was much of the same from my 2009 & 2010 visit.  Carson was back with me this year and he was a trooper as always.  Oshkosh is big with a capital B and you do a lot of walking.  From the ultralight field at the south end to the warbirds at the north end the distance is over 1.5 miles.  So much walking in fact that I had blisters on my feet by the end of the third day.  The walking and the heat combine to really wear you out after a long day at Wittman.  You drive back to the hotel, catch a few hours of sleep and then do it again.  But it never feels like work.

Weather for the most part cooperated for our visit.  Each day did bring a few brief thunderstorms but they quickly cleared up and never interrupted the afternoon airshows.  Thursday did bring a freak rain shower with high winds.  I thought for sure we were going to have a repeat of the Sun-N-Fun disaster.  Afterwards I heard that only a few very light planes were repositioned by Mother Nature.

This year the focus was meeting and seeing people.  A few of these aviation icons would probably not be back next year so I felt it important for Carson to meet these folks even if it meant waiting in line for an hour.  We met Bob Hoover, now 90 years old, and had him sign his book, Forever Flying, and my log book.  Carson has enough knowledge of Bob to know his amazing ice tea trick thanks to YouTube and that Bob stole a German FW190 to escape from a POW camp during WWII.  We also met Richard Cole,  co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle and his B-25 raid on Japan early in the war.  Years from now Carson will look back at these photos and realize he met true legends and heroes at Oshkosh 2012.  While nowhere in the same league we also met Hal Shevers, owner of Sportys, at the NAFI breakfast on Thursday.  We also made a point to see Jerry, the One Man Band, who has been entertaining visitors at Oshkosh for 26 years.   Jerry’s not sure he will make it back next year.  Wish we could restore people like we restore airplanes. 

At showcase center, formally Aeroshell Square now Phillips 66 Plaza, there is usually a stand-out aircraft.  In 2009 it was the Airbus 380 and White Knight Two.  This year there was no headliner.  The CAF B-29 FiFi had made the trek to Oshkosh but for reasons I don’t understand was kept at another airport.  I had seen FiFi fly at AirSHO 2010 but did not have the opportunity to get up close to the aircraft during that trip.  I was disappointed not to see FiFi at showcase center.  About the only aircraft of note was a B-17 called Yankee Lady.  We paid the five bucks to get a look in the aircraft.  I was surprised to find the inside restored with meticulous detail.  The aircraft looked as if it were getting ready to head out on a mission.  The radio and navigation compartments had all of the original equipment, the 50 cal machine guns were loaded with dummy bullets that strung back to wooden ammo boxes attached to the inside of the fuselage.  It was pretty amazing and by far the best B-17 I have ever seen.  Other aircraft that stood out in our daily treks across the display areas included a Stinson Tri-Motor, a Junkers JU-52, the Williams V-Jet II (great grand-daddy to the VLJ movement), the first RV, N17RV (was on display in the museum), and tons and tons of Piper Cubs (in celebration of Piper’s 75 anniversary).

GoPro was at Oshkosh with a show special that could not be beat.  They were selling their new Hero2 camera for 100 bucks off MSRP.  As you know I am a huge GoPro fan and use it often for both my recreational flying and during flight instruction.  I picked up the new camera and have been extremely impressed with the improvements made and even better quality HD 1080 video.  Look for new Hero2 flying videos on my YouTube page soon.  Another gem I found was a company called Duracharts.  Duracharts sells paper sectionals which I have started to move away from with greater use of my ipad but still keep as a backup and during flight instruction and cross country planning.  Well the problem with FAA charts is that they tear quite easily.  Durachart has created a sectional that is virtually indestructible.  The colors and text are also tweaked to be easier on the eyes.  Best of all they sell the charts at the same price as the FAA charts.  I picked up a Phoenix and Los Angeles chart for just $10.  I highly recommend this product, check out the Durachart website at

Not much new in the way of airshow acts, mostly the same cast of characters we have grown accustomed to.  There were a few stand outs including skydivers wearing wing suits and Team RV.  While the start of the RV demonstration was a little shaky it quickly became really entertaining watching 12 ship RV formation flying.  Kyle Franklin is back on the airshow circuit flying a J-3 Cub in the paint scheme of his ill-fated biplane with an act very similar to the crazy farmer skit.  Maintenance problems plagued many of day two’s airshow acts.  Michael Rambo’s Hawker Beech Texan II blew a tire on landing, Chuck Aaron’s Red Bull helicopter had to abort half way through his act along with Greg Koontz in the Decathlon.  Fortunately there were no incidents.

I decided in 2010 after attending Oshkosh two years in a row that I would probably make the trek bi-annually to see more of a change in the display.  This year did not seem much different to me than 2010.  Yes there were a few more electric planes but that was about it, everything else was the same.  While I love being in the center of all things aviation for a week, the trip is expensive.  And everything is getting more expensive at Oshkosh.  I was amazed at how much the price of a Ford Tri-motor ride went up.  In 2010 we paid $50 for a ride, this year it was $80.  I was content with my 2010 experience in the plane.  Even in the ultralight area prices were ridiculous.  I scrambled when the announcer said ultralight flights were available but was floored when the pilot was asking for $40 donation to fly around the patch.  No thanks!  We bought a cheap foam cooler and brought drinks and food in the car with us each day to avoid spending $3 for a soda and $20 for lunch.

Maybe when I start building my RV-8 in a few years I will return again, but I think 4-5 years may be the right amount of time before another visit.  Apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way, I just read that attendance was down by 40,000 this year, that is almost a 10% decrease from the previous year.  The EAA management has also replaced a bunch of folks in January during an organizational shake up.  A new director of Airventure planning was appointed but really not in enough time to make a difference this year.  Maybe the new blood will get the world’s greatest aviation celebration moving forward with fresh new content which will have folks wanting to come back every year.  Time will tell.

[July 24, 2012]
Amazing Story: Colonel Bruce Carr - WWII Ace                                            

Colonel Bruce Carr grew up in Union Springs, NY.  He flew for the 9th Air Force, 354th Group, 353rd Fighter Squadron and was credited with 15 air victories.  His first victory over an Me109 on 3/8/44 brought him admonishment for, "being overly aggressive in combat."  He later became known as "Pecks bad boy."  Colonel Carr also served in Korea and Vietnam.  He retired from the Air Force and passed away in Florida in April, 1998 at the age of 74.

        The dead chicken was starting to smell.  After carrying it for several days, 20-year-old Bruce Carr still hadn't decided how to cook it without the Germans catching him.  But, as hungry as he was, he couldn't bring  himself to eat it.  In his mind, no meat was better than raw meat, so he threw it away.  Resigning himself to what appeared to be his unavoidable fate, he turned in the direction of the nearest  German airfield.  Even POW's get to eat, sometimes, and they aren't constantly dodging from tree to tree, ditch to culvert and he was exhausted.  He was tired of trying to find cover where there was none.  Carr hadn't realized that Czechoslovakian forests had no underbrush until, at the edge of the farm field, struggling out of his parachute he dragged it into the woods. 

        During the times he had been screaming along at tree top level in his P-51 "Angels Playmate" the forests and fields had been nothing more than a green blur behind the Messerchmitts, Focke-Wulfs, trains and trucks he had in his sights.  He never expected to find himself a pedestrian far behind enemy lines.  The instant antiaircraft shrapnel ripped into the engine, he knew he was in trouble.  Serious trouble.  Clouds of coolant steam hissing through jagged holes in the cowling told Carr he was about to ride the silk elevator down to a long walk back to his squadron.  A very long walk.  This had not been part of the mission plan. 

        Several years before, when 18-year-old Bruce Carr enlisted in the Army, he could never have  imagined himself taking a walking tour of rural Czechoslovakia with Germans everywhere around him.  When he enlisted, all he had just focused on flying airplanes .. fighter airplanes.  By the time he had joined the military, Carr already knew how to fly. He had been flying as a private pilot since 1939, soloing in a $25 Piper Cub his father had bought from a disgusted pilot who had left it lodged securely in the top of a tree.  His instructor had been an Auburn, NY native by the name of Johnny Bruns. 

        "In 1942, after I enlisted," as Bruce Carr remembers it, "we went to meet our instructors.  I was the last cadet left in the assignment room and was nervous.  Then the door opened and out stepped the man who was to be my military flight instructor. It was Johnny Bruns!  We took a Stearman to an outlying field, doing aerobatics all the way; then he got out and soloed me.  That was my first flight in the military." 

        The guy I had in advanced training in the AT-6 had just graduated himself and didn't know a bit more than I did," Carr can't help but smile, as he remembers .. which meant neither one of us knew anything. Zilch!  After three or four hours in the AT-6, they took me and a few others aside, told us we were going to fly P-40s and we left for Tipton, Georgia." 

        We got to Tipton, and a lieutenant just back from North Africa, kneeled on the P-40's wing, showed me where all the levers were, made sure I knew how everything worked, then said 'If you can get it started . .  go fly it' . . just like that!  I was 19 years old and thought I knew everything.  I didn't know enough to be scared.  They didn't tell us what to do.  They just said 'Go fly,' so I buzzed every cow in that part of the state.  Nineteen years old .. and with 1100 horsepower, what did they expect?  Then we went overseas."

        By today's standards, Carr and that first contingent of pilots shipped to England were painfully short of experience.  They had so little flight time that today, they would barely have their civilian pilot's license.  Flight training eventually became more formal, but in those early days, their training had a hint of fatalistic Darwinism to it: if they learned fast enough to survive, they were ready to move on to the next step.  Including his 40 hours in the P-40 terrorizing Georgia, Carr had less than 160 hours total flight time when he arrived in England.

        His group in England was to be the pioneering group that would take the Mustang into combat, and he clearly remembers his introduction to the airplane.  "I thought I was an old P-40 pilot and the P-51B would be no big deal.  But I was wrong!  I was truly impressed with the airplane.  REALLY impressed! It flew like an airplane.  I FLEW a P-40, but in the P-51 - I WAS PART OF the airplane and it was part of me.  There was a world of difference."

         When he first arrived in England, the instructions were, 'This is a P-51.  Go fly it. Soon, we'll have to form a unit, so fly.'  A lot of English cows were buzzed.  On my first long-range mission, we just kept climbing, and I'd never had an airplane above about 10,000 feet before.  Then we were at 30,000 feet and I couldn't believe it!  I'd gone to church as a kid, and I knew that's where the angels were and that's when I named my airplane 'Angels Playmate.'

         Then a bunch of Germans roared down through us, and my leader immediately dropped tanks and turned hard for home.  But I'm not that smart.  I'm 19 years old and  this SOB shoots at me, and I'm not going to let him get away with it.  We went round and round, and I'm really mad because he shot at me.  Childish emotions, in retrospect.  He couldn't shake me . . but I couldn't get on his tail to get  any hits either."  Before long, we're right down in the trees. I'm shooting, but I'm not hitting.  I am, however, scaring the hell out of him.  I'm at least as excited as he is.  Then I tell myself to c-a-l-m  d-o-w-n.

         We're roaring around within a few feet of the ground, and he pulls up to go over some trees, so I just pull the trigger and keep it down.  The gun barrels burned out and one  bullet . . a tracer . . came tumbling out and made a great huge arc.   It came down and hit him on the left wing about where the aileron was.  He pulled up, off came the canopy, and he jumped out, but too low for the chute to open and the airplane crashed. I didn't shoot him down, I scared him to death with one bullet hole in his left wing.  My first victory wasn't a kill - it was more of a suicide."

         The rest of Carr's 14 victories were much more conclusive.  Being red-hot fighter pilot, however, was absolutely no use to  him as he lay shivering in the Czechoslovakian forest.  He knew he would die if he didn't get some food and shelter soon.  "I knew where the German field was because I'd flown over it, so I headed in that direction to surrender.

         I intended to walk in the main gate, but it was late afternoon and, for some reason . . I had second thoughts and decided to wait in the woods until morning."  "While I was lying there, I saw a crew working on an FW 190 right at the edge of the woods.  When they were done, I assumed, just like you assume in America, that the thing was all finished.  The cowling's on.  The engine has been run.  The fuel truck has been there.  It's ready to go.  Maybe a dumb assumption for a young fellow, but I assumed so."  Carr got in the airplane and spent the night all hunkered down in the cockpit. 

       Before dawn, it got light and I started studying the cockpit.  I can't read German, so I couldn't decipher dials and I couldn't find the normal switches that were in American airplanes.  I kept looking, and on the right side was a smooth panel.  Under this was a compartment  with something I would classify as circuit breakers.  They didn't look like ours, but they weren't regular switches either." "I began to think that the Germans were probably no different from the Americans . . that they would turn off all the switches when finished with the airplane.  I had no earthly idea what those circuit breakers or switches did but I reversed every one of them.  If they were off, that would turn them on.  When I did that, the gauges showed there was electricity on the airplane." 

        "I'd seen this metal T-handle on the right side of the cockpit that had a word on it that looked enough like 'starter' for me to think that's what it was.  But when I pulled it . . nothing happened.  Nothing."  But if pulling doesn't work . . you push.  And when I did, an inertia starter started winding up.  I let it go for a while, then pulled on the handle and the engine started.

         The sun had yet to make it over the far trees and the air base was just waking up, getting ready to go to war.  The FW 190 was one of many dispersed throughout the woods, and at that time of the morning, the sound of the engine must have been heard by many Germans not far away on the main base.  But even if they heard it, there was no reason for alarm.  The last thing they expected was one of their fighters taxiing out with a weary Mustang pilot at the controls.  Carr, however, wanted to take no chances.

         "The taxiway came out of the woods and turned right towards where I knew the airfield was because I'd watched them land and take off while I was in the trees. On the left side of the  taxiway, there was a shallow ditch and a space where there had been two  hangars.  The slabs were there, but the hangars were gone, and the area  around them had been cleaned of all debris."  "I didn't want to go to the airfield, so I plowed down through the ditch, and when the airplane started up the other side, I shoved the throttle forward and took off right between where the two hangars had been."

         At that point, Bruce Carr had no time to look around to see what effect the sight of a Focke-Wulf erupting from the trees had on the Germans.  Undoubtedly, they were confused, but not unduly concerned.

         After all, it was probably just one of their maverick pilots doing something against the rules.  They didn't know it was one of our own maverick pilots doing something against the rules Carr had problems more immediate than a bunch of confused Germans.  He had just pulled off the perfect plane-jacking; but he knew nothing about the airplane, couldn't read the placards and had 200 miles of enemy territory to cross.

         At home, there would be hundreds of his friends and fellow warriors, all of whom were, at that moment, preparing their guns to shoot at airplanes marked  with swastikas and crosses-airplanes identical to the one Bruce Carr was at that moment flying.  But Carr wasn't thinking that far ahead.  First, he had to get there. And that meant learning how to fly the German fighter.  "There were two buttons behind the throttle and three  buttons behind those two.  I wasn't sure what to push so I pushed one  button and nothing happened.  I pushed the other and the gear started up.  As soon as I felt it coming up and I cleared the fence at the edge of the German field, then I took it down a little lower and headed for home.  All I wanted to do was clear the ground by about six inches. And there was only one throttle position for me >> FULL FORWARD!  As I headed for home, I pushed one of the other three buttons, and the flaps came part way down.  I pushed the button next to it, and they came up again.  So I knew how to get the flaps down.  But that was all I knew. I can't make heads or tails out of any of the instruments.  None.  And I can't even figure how to change the prop pitch.  But I don't sweat that, because are props are full forward when you shut down anyway, and it was running fine." 

        This time, it was German cows that were buzzed, although, as he streaked across fields and through the trees only a few feet off the ground, that was not his intent.  At something over 350 miles an hour below tree-top level, he was trying to be a difficult target.  However, as he crossed the lines, he wasn't difficult enough.

         "There was no doubt when I crossed the lines because every SOB and his brother who had a .50-caliber machine gun shot at me.  I was all over the place, and I had no idea which way to go.  I didn't do much dodging because I was just as likely to fly into bullets as around them."

         When he hopped over the last row of trees and found himself crossing his own airfield, he pulled up hard to set up for landing.  His mind was on flying the airplane.  "I pitched up, pulled the throttle back and punched the buttons I knew would put the gear and flaps down.  I felt the flaps come down, but the gear wasn't doing anything.  I came around and pitched up again, still punching the button.  Nothing was happening and I was really frustrated."  He had been  so intent on figuring out his airplane problems, he forgot he was putting on a very tempting show for the ground personnel.  "As I started up the last time, I saw the air defense guys ripping the tarps off the quad 50s that ringed the field.  I hadn't noticed the machine guns before but I was sure noticing them right then."

         "I roared around in as tight a pattern as I could fly and chopped the throttle.  I slid to a halt on the runway and it was a nice belly job, if I do say so myself."  His antics over the runway had drawn quite a crowd, and the airplane had barely stopped sliding before there were MPs up on the wings trying to drag him out of the airplane by his arms.  What they didn't realize was that he was still strapped in.  "I started throwing some good Anglo-Saxon swear words at them, and they let loose while I tried to get the seat belt undone, but my hands wouldn't work and I couldn't do it.  Then they started pulling on me again because they still weren't convinced I was an American."

         "I was yelling and hollering; then, suddenly, they let go.  A face drops down into the cockpit in front of mine.  It was my Group Commander, George Bickel."  Bickel said, 'Carr, where in the hell have you been and what have you been doing now?'

         Bruce Carr was home and entered the record books as the only pilot known to leave on a mission flying a Mustang and return flying a Focke-Wulf.

        For several days after the ordeal, he had trouble eating and sleeping, but when things again fell into place, he took some of the other pilots out to show  them the airplane and how it worked.  One of them pointed out a small handle under the glare shield that he hadn't noticed before.  When he pulled it, the landing gear unlocked and fell out.  The handle was a separate, mechanical uplock.  At least, he had figured out the really important things.

        Carr finished the war with 14 aerial victories after flying 172 missions, which included three bailouts because of ground fire.  He stayed in the service, eventually flying 51 missions in Korea in F-86s and 286 in Vietnam, flying F-100s.  That's an amazing 509 combat missions and doesn't include many others during Viet Nam in other aircraft types.

         Bruce Carr continued to  actively fly and routinely showed up at air shows in a P-51D painted up exactly like 'Angel's Playmate'.  The original Angel's Playmate' was put on display in a museum in Paris, France right after the war.

[July 22, 2012]
Ercoupe Experience                                               1.0
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Finally got the chance to fly the iconic Ercoupe.  The ERCO Ercoupe is a low-wing monoplane aircraft that was designed and built in the United States. It was first manufactured by the Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) shortly before World War II; several other manufacturers continued its production after the war. The final unit was completed in 1968. It was designed to be the safest fixed-wing aircraft that aerospace engineering could provide at the time, and the type continues to enjoy a faithful following.  I love vintage airplanes and always try to seize the opportunity to fly one.  Today's flight was over a year in the making.  I had seen the plane on the ramp for years, then a chance encounter with the owner and a fellow flight instructor on the flight line led to a glimmer of an opportunity.  A passing comment at an FAA seminar months later finally led to the flight today.

Ercoupe N6139C is actually a 1957 Forney F-1.  Starting the Ercoupe is akin to starting a lawn mower.  The master switch is behind the passengers head, an interesting spot for it and almost as odd as the Tri-Pacer master switch.  You pull the starter handle until the engine fires and then set the throttle.  There is not a whole lot going on in the instrument panel.  No six pack here, just a turn coordinator, ASI, altimeter, and VSI.  There are no rudder pedals in the Ercoupe just a single foot break on the right side.  To taxi you steer with the yoke.  This was not such a big deal for me because the Tri-Pacer has rudder/aileron coupling which allows you to do control turns with the yoke as well.  Run up was a simple affair, RPMs to 1700, check mags, power to idle, carb heat, let's go!  On takeoff the Ercoupe just needs some slight back pressure before it levitates off the ground and quickly goes into a crab.  The ball was off to the right which really annoyed me and had me wanting to push the single brake pedal on the floor as if it were a rudder to correct.  Looking back towards the runway, the Ercoupe canopy has excellent visibility in all directions, I could see I had wandered far off the extended runway centerline.  We clawed for the pattern altitude with 70MPH at an anemic climb rate of 200fpm which often fell to zero.  The Ercoupe sports a 90 horsepower engine not well suited for the high altitude and hot temperatures of Arizona.  Abeam the numbers the power comes back to 1500 RPM and I fumble with a trim knob hidden under the seat between the pilot and passenger to set the airplane at 80MPH.  On final i pull the power out and descend down into ground effect at 80MPH while entering the flare with no cross wind correction what so ever.  Upon touch down in the crab the plane quickly rights itself heading forward.  I drive it back to the centerline with the yoke, give it power, and am soon back in the air, banking aggressively to maintain the centerline despite all my training to the contrary.

We do a few more touch and goes before heading out to the training area.  I don't find any bad habits in the Ercoupe.  Stalls are non-events.  ERCO claimed the plane was unspinable and the "world's safest airplane."  The plane clearly broadcast the onset of a stall with buffeting, then she just mushes straight away.  No break, no falling off to one wing, just mush.  I put her into slow flight at 58 MPH and do a few turns without surprise.  No flaps on the Ercoupe to worry about.  I do a few semi steep turns (I have no AI so who knows what the bank angle was) and she holds altitude without issue.  The 360s are so tight I feel as if I am turning on a dime.  We are flying with the side windows only half way up and it feels like I am flying a vintage convertible car.  The Ercoupe gets mega cool points for this feature!  Flying back to the aerodrome the Ercoupe maintains altitude without a fuss even in the early afternoon turbulent air of Southern Arizona.  Two more landings and I am starting to feel comfortable with the airplane, but then again there's very little to get familiar with in this airplane.  This plane is so docile I believe any non-pilot could learn to fly it in a weekend.  My hat is off to Fred Weick, he created something special in the Ercoupe.

Glider Emergency Landing Video

Check out this fascinating video of a glider "landing out" in a residential community.  Plenty of mistakes are made as this low time pilot looks to set the glider down in one piece but the bottom line is he walks away alive and in the end that is all that really matters.  While not intended by the pilot he executes a classic energy dissipating tactic by hitting a mailbox post with his right wing.  The glider swings right before ending up in a ditch.  Textbook!

[July 7, 2012]
Student's First Dual Cross-Country                                                   2.6      

[July 6, 2012]
Another Student Milestone                                                         

My student left the comfortable confines of the pattern today to head solo out to the practice area about 15 miles northeast of the airport.  I gave him a list of maneuvers to practice for about 40 minutes.  While I was not with him I did install the video camera, audio recorder, and GPS to collect data on the flight.  This data was invaluable in allowing me to assess the flight and provide constructive feedback to my student on how well he performed.  Gone are the student pilot days of going out solo and just burning holes in the sky.  Big brother is watching!  At least with this CFI.  The next step in this evolution will be the CFI having a tele-presence in the aircraft where he can see the telemetry data and interact with his solo student in real time.

[June 29, 2012]
Flying Home                                                                     9.0
[PHOTO LINK]______________________________________________________

The Short Wing Piper Convention has come to an end and it is time to fly home.  Being so far north I took advantage of the opportunity to visit two more states.  Only 50 miles north of Ogden is the border with Idaho.  I found a small airstrip called Preston where I conducted a touch-n-go to make Idaho my 20th state.  I remained low over the runway as the ground gave way quickly to a small river and green farmland just beyond the airport.  I had to climb my way back up to 9500 ft to cross the mountains to the east before dropping into a valley which was dominated by Bear Lake.  From Bear Lake it was about a 30 minute flight to Evanston, Wyoming where I conducted another touch-n-go to make Wyoming number 21.  Now it was time to begin the long trip home.  Forest fires throughout the state required me to fly carefully though the gauntlet of TFRs.  Approaching Carbon County airport the smoke was so bad that visibility was reduced to only a few miles.  Fortunately the smoke cleared after about 20 miles.  My first fuel stop was Huntington, UT where the fires in the mountain were easily visible.  Forestry Service personnel were hanging out on the ramp so I assume it was being used for some type of command center.  Continuing south I flew into an area called Castle Canyon.  While not as awesome as Monument Valley this area was definitely beautiful.  A little voice inside me begged to fly down low through the canyon but I resisted the urge and continued south.

Before long the monolithic formations of Monument Valley emerged on the horizon.  My last visit to the valley had been in November with overcast skies.  Today the sky was clear and the sun shown brightly.  Perfect for pictures that would capture the true beauty of the landscape.  That little voice returned and this time I succumbed to it flying low around the rocks with the tops well above the airplane.  This is when you really appreciate the speed of flight if it is only 100 knots. Droning on I landed at Holbrook, AZ feeling compelled to take advantage of their $4.99 fuel prices, probably the cheapest in the country right now.  From Holbrook it was a bumpy ride back home as the afternoon thermals were in full swing.  As I approached KFHU I could see a massive thunderstorm building over the Huachuca Mountains.  Once again I had just beat the weather.  As I pulled the 19D delta into the hangar the wind picked up and the first drops of rain began to fall.  Perfect timing!

I ended June with 34.7 hours logged, this was a new record smashing the previous record of 24 hours set in March 2009.

[June 28, 2012]
Poker Run                                                                         3.0
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Participated in the clubs Poke Run today to Wendover Field.  On the take off run from Ogden we hit a small bird at we were rotating for takeoff.  I saw the bird go under the cowling but heard nothing and figured he got sucked past in the slip stream.  Landing at Wendover we found the right wheel pant plastered in blood.  Closer inspection of the back of the prop found some blood and just a hint of feathers.  No damage was sustained thankfully and I don’t think we need to tear down the engine.  I’ve had close calls in flight before but never a strike so this was a first for me.  Flying to Wendover we B-lined it across the Great Salt Lake before entering the narrow east-west corridor across the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Restricted areas border both sides and I am not sure what goes on within those areas but we did observe to aerostat balloons in the Northern restricted area.  Flying over the salt flats was like flying over the moon, completely featureless.  Wendover is on the west end of the flats just on the Utah, Nevada border.  The field is very historic being the training site for Paul Tibbets and his B-29 crews during WWII.  The original military tower still stands on the field (the field is non-towered).  Several original structures from the fields day as an Army Air Force base are also still standing.  Efforts are underway to restore the buildings and create a museum.  The terminal building does include a small museum with B-29 memorabilia and a full size Little Boy bomb.  Another interesting sight on the field is the C-123 Provider used in the movie Con-Air (1997).  The plane is open to the public but is pretty well gutted inside.  Not sure on the story of how the plane ended up at Wendover.  The movie Independence Day also shot several scenes at Wendover.  The control tower is easily identified when watching the movie. 

From Wendover we headed back east to Tooele, a small strip on the south shores of the Great Salt Lake.  Winds had started to pick up as the afternoon solar heating began.  As we came over the mountains an errant wind hit us so hard I hit my head on the roof of the cabin.  My headset was all that saved me from a really good bump on the noggin.  By the time we arrived at Tooele winds were gusting to 25 thirty degrees right of the runway heading giving me a full 15 knot crosswind.  We entered a left downwind for runway 17.  Turning final we hit wind shear and starting dropping like a rock.  I had to add power to arrest the descent and came over the threshold at about five feet.  On retrospect I need to give myself some insurance when landing in gusting conditions, probably better to come over the fence at about 50ft if you have the runway to spare.  I put the tri pacer into a firm side slip and it felt as if the right wing tip was going to scrape the runway.  I fought for control of the centerline as the wind tried hard to push me left.  A firm contact of the right wheel followed by the left and we were down.  I turned the yoke full right and slowed the a/c to a crawl carefully turning downwind to exit the runway and placing the controls in the correct configuration.  Once out of the aircraft the sustained velocity of the winds could really be appreciated.  The Poker Run ground team said the last aircraft to park was not chocked and had begun to drift backwards from the wind.  We pulled our cards and loaded back up.  I taxied into position well left of the centerline with the nose pointed at a very slight angle towards the right of the far end of the runway.  This little trick helps decrease the crosswind angle if ever so slight.  Crosswind takeoffs have always been a challenge in the the Tri Pacer and I usually end up skipping the plane.  I was determined not for this to happen today.  I began my takeoff roll and held the nose down on the runway with aileron into the wind.  At 65 I rotated briskly making a clean break with the runway and taking up a substantial crab into the wind.  It was probably my best x-wind takeoff to date.  Heading back to Ogden we overflew Antelope Island looking for the Buffalo that were rumored to live on the island.  Sure enough we spotted a herd near the shoreline and descended down to take a look.  I kicked myself for not having my long throw lens on the Rebel Cannon.  I was able to snap a few good pictures of an animal I had never seen in the "wild" before.  Back at Ogden we picked up our last cards but my hand was not good enough to win.  No worries, it was a fantastic day of flying.

Thursday night was also the convention's formal dinner.  The speaker for the event was Galen Hanselmen.  Galen is world famous for his work documenting bush/outback flying fields in Utah, Idaho, and Mexico.  I had the pleasure of buying Galen a beer and spending some time talking with him about bush flying.  Galen is a great guy and very relaxed and easy going.  I purchased his Utah Outback guide and was given a free copy of the Baja Outback book.  Galen signed each book for me and even posed for a picture.  During his presentation to the audience he spoke of some of the interesting places and people he has met flying in the back country.  I know from my limited flying in Utah that it is beautiful country and holds plenty of aviation adventure opportunities.  While I may not be doing any bush flying in the immediate future I have a feeling the opportunity will present itself once we move north to Phoenix.  At that point I think I will get plenty of use out of the guide books I purchased tonight.

Other items in my kit bag that have been useful on this trip.  My Air Guide Publication's South Western Flight Guide really came in handy on this Utah trip as it covers most of the states I fly in.  Sure beats printing out AOPA airport sheets every time and allows me to land at airports of opportunity.   The new spiral bound larger format is fantastic for in the cockpit.  My new Garmin IPAD Pilot app also proved its worth on this trip as well.  For the first time I filed flight plans using the IPAD.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

[June 27, 2012]
Dawn Patrol                                                                      1.8
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Note: Videos from this adventure are hyperlinked into the write up.

Today was filled with new flying experiences.  For the first time I would experience the fun and excitement of a mass formation takeoff, loose formation flying, and landing off airport.  All of this while traversing some truly spectacular landscape around the Great Salt Lake. We met at the airport just as the sun was peaking over the mountains to the east of town.  The flight plan called for two five ship formations taking off from Ogden and heading a short distance to the west to an area called the "mud flats."  Here the two formations would land on the salt flats and take a group picture before returning to the air for a tour of Freemont Island and Promontory Point.  I was under the impression that the landing site would be a pool table surface with no obstructions.  I was in the second formation of five that taxied out in line to the run-up area before commencing a staggered takeoff.  It reminded me a little of a military style mass takeoff.  It only took a few minutes from lift off at Ogden until descent to the mud flats.  I could not make out where the first formation had landed so I just followed the plane in front of me until turning final.  What I saw was an open area dotted with large tufts of grass, not quite as advertised.  As I came down on final I could tell that the wind was active and not off the nose, more like a quartering tail wind.  With no centerline or any lines at all to reference it was difficult to get a feel for drift or to make corrections.  Down on short final I could see I was going to land longer than anticipated.  The plane I was following was already down but it looked as if I would have run right up his rear if I landed in his tracks so I shifted left.  At the same time I was trying to pick out a landing path that was devoid of the large tufts of grass spotting the landing zone.  19D has wheel pants and landing on or running over a large enough grass patch would surely cause some damage.  My mind was racing as I tried to process all of these things simultaneously and keep the plane on a safe track.  I came into the flare over the largest patches of grass and easily passed over into a larger clearing as the plane settled into ground effect.  Holding her off I noticed that beyond the clearing were several more grass patches before the actual landing area.  I fought to hold the airplane off the ground as I floated forward.  I barely made it over the last of the grass before touching down.  The mud flat was firm but had a slight give or sponge like characteristic.  The surface absorbed the energy and held the plane firmly to the ground.  The surface friction and deceleration was very noticeable compared to a paved runway.  As I rolled out I noticed more grass patches ahead of me and I tried my best to avoid but ended up running over a small one with my left main gear towards the end of the roll.  Fortunately no damage occurred to the wheel pant.  Taxing on the mud flats took extra power and I reverted to my soft field training by holding the yoke as far aft as she would go.  Everything they tell you in training about soft fields is true.  I was the last to land so I did not get the opportunity to see others land on the flats which I am sure was entertaining.  I did get to see a few takeoffs and of those a couple were downright scary.  One Tri-Pacer lifted off and flew so steeply and slowly that I was sure he would stall, fortunately that did not happen.  When my turn came I tried my best to use the soft field technique.  I never stopped once on the roll and got the nose wheel off the ground as quickly as possible.  Getting off was squirrelly and I did not do the best job of remaining in ground effect as I accelerated to Vy.  From the mud flats we flew to Freemont Island and then cross the water to follow Promontory Point along the west coast.  We flew at about 1000AGL in loose formation.  Following the other planes as they bounced and bobbed in the air mass really gave an impression of flight that is not normally sensed while flying single ship.  I once got into a short wing's prop wash and it about rolled me onto my right wing.  Flying over Rozel Bay reminded me of some exotic locale like New Zealand.  The water was almost a deep purple.  We continued along the shore line to the Robert Simthson's Spiral Jetty before conducting a low pass on a dirt strip called the Jeep Trail.  We began working our way back to Ogden by overflying the Golden Spike National Historic Site.  It was still early and the locomotives, 119 and Jupiter, had not yet been pulled out.  We had visited the site by car the day prior.  We worked our way back down the east coast of Promontory Point before before cutting across Bear River Bay to return to Ogden.  It was an amazing adventure to say the least.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow's Poker Run!

[June 24, 2012]
North to Ogden, Utah                                                     7.0
__[PHOTO LINK]___________________________________________________

Blasted off heading north to Utah for the annual Short Wing Piper Convention in Ogden.  Great day for flying with only an Airmet for turbulence around central Utah and numerous forest fire TFRs to deal with.  My primary flight planning and enroute tool has become Garmin's new Pilot app for the IPAD.  A very simple and straight forward app that reminds me of the 696 interface.  Wing-X pro is quickly taking a back seat to the new Garmin app.  I had run some fuel burn test on the Tri-Pacer after coming out of maintenance earlier this month and I was eager to put my findings into practical application on this flight.  The straight line distance was 582 miles.  I wanted to make the flight with only one fuel stop.  Climbing up to 8500ft I set my throttle to 2200 RPMs and switched to the right fuel tank.  I had 18 gallons in the tank and if my calculations were correct I could squeeze almost three hours of flight out of it before it ran dry.  Sure enough at 2:52 minutes the engine sputtered and I switched tanks.  Hoping to make Bryce Canyon in southern Utah I found the METAR reporting gusting winds up to 25 knots and decided to land early at Page, AZ just on the border with Utah.  I had flown 324 miles in 3 hours and 49 minutes and burned only 24 gallons of gas!  Winds aloft did not help much with an average ground speed of 85 knots. 
After a quick turn I was once again aloft heading north.  Thermals were quite active and I soon found myself being pushed higher, I did not fight it and was soon cruising at 10,500ft with a nice tail wind.  The second half of the journey was flown mostly at 2300RPM.  I covered the final 257 miles in 2 hours and 52 minutes.  Some diversion from my original flight path was necessary due to a multitude of TFRs along the route.  Of the three only one had an active forest fire.  The smoke was being blown north into my route through the mountains but visibility never became less than 10+ miles.  I flew east of Salt Lake City to avoid the Class B airspace before squeezing the PA-22 through the mountain pass just to the west of Pineview Reservoir.  Winds at Ogden were gusting to 25 knots but thankfully only 10 degrees off the runway heading.  After a short fight I was on the ground and taxiing into the gathering of short wing Piper's dotting the ramp.  Welcome to Utah and the 600 hour mile marker!

[June 23, 2012]
More Discovery Flights and an Interesting Visitor        2.1

In an attempt to drum up some flight training business I had run an ad in the local paper for a Father's Day discovery flight special.  The special included one hour of flight training, a log book, photos, and a certificate.  The marketing proved successful and ended up providing me with six potential customers.  Today I flew two more dads taking them through the four fundamentals of flight and just letting them enjoy flying a small airplane.  On the first flight of the day as we departed the airport pattern I noticed a Boeing 747 coming in.  This was a little odd considering the tower was closed.  The pilot radioed that he was going to do some touch and go's if that was alright with everyone else.  Very odd.  Not every day we get a VFR 747 flying touch and go's and self announcing.  A long sport plane remained in the pattern with the 747 which I found to be pretty brave considering the wake vortices that the 747 was creating.  I went about my business with my student out in the northeast training area hoping the 747 would be gone by the time we were done.  It was not the case.  Returning to the field the 747 had just finished a T&G on runway 26.  I decided to come straight in to runway 12 to play it safe.  Announcing my position the 747 began to turn crosswind, this was going to be problematic and I asked the 747 to extend his upwind which he did.  First time I have ever controlled a 747!  We came in high and I had to put an aggressive slip in to get down but we did and I had us stopped well short of the intersection of 26 which was good since I could see the shark fin of another larger aircraft back taxiing on 26.  I'll assume he heard us and was going to stop short at least I hope that was the case.  We parked and went into the terminal but I had forgotten my IPAD and ran back out to the aircraft to grab it.  The 747 was coming in for another T&G so I decided to snap a few photos.  The plane had no livery except for Rolls Royce logo on the tail.  Just odd, so when I returned home after the discovery flights I looked at the photos and Goggled the tail number: N787RR. Come to find out this airplane is unique, it is a flying test bed for the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 turbofan engine.  The engine is located on the port side in the #2 position so it was masked from my view for the most part.  As I reexamined the photos however it became apparent that the #2 engine was substantially larger than the other three.  I can only assume that the flight was a customer demo and finding a non-towered 12,000x150 runway in the desert just made for a convenient practice area.  While fairly isolated a KFHU we do get some interesting visitors out here from time to time.

[June 16-22, 2012]
Africa Adventure

[PHOTO LINK- Musee de l'Air et de l'Espace]

Flew out early Saturday morning on a Delta 737 for the long journey to Cameroon on the western coast of Africa.  Switched planes at Delta's hub in Atlanta before crossing the Atlantic and landing at Charles De Gaulle Airport north of Paris.  My itinerary called for an overnight in Paris before continuing on to Cameroon the next day.  I was put up in the Sheraton conveniently located inside the terminal building.  My view from the hotel window overlooked the ramp area for Air France, a plane lover's dream!  With most of the day to kill I took advantage of the opportunity and caught a train to the Paris Air & Space Museum (Musee de l'Air et de l'Espace) located only 15 kilometers away at nearby Le Bourget Airport.  Le Bourget is famous as the landing site for Charles Lindbergh's historic solo transatlantic crossing in 1927 and as the departure point two weeks earlier for the French biplane The White Bird (L'Oiseau Blanc), which took off in its own attempt at a transatlantic flight but then mysteriously disappeared somewhere over the Atlantic.  The museum is currently under renovation which is immediately evident at the entrance where the starburst of planes on a stick on noticeably absent.  Also closed for renovation was the gift shop which should be a considered a cruel crime against all aviation enthusiast who make the long trek to the museum.  While somewhat run down (thus the renovation) the museum's collection is excellent.  I especially enjoyed the World War I display, the Concorde Hall and Prototype Hall.  Of course all post WWII French fighters were represented as well including the Mirage.  Because of their limited distribution these are rare birds not found at most museums I have visited.  The Concorde hall is a real treat with not one but two Concordes.  One being the prototype and the second being the last Air France Concorde in operation.  Both aircraft were open to walk through.  As I walked around the outside of the aircraft I stopped by the right main landing gear and could not help but notice just how close the engine intake was to the wheels.  With the wheels forward of the intake it was easy to see how a blown tire could spew debri into the engine.  Ill fated Concorde flight 4590 was trying to divert to Le Bourget when it crashed.  The Prototype Hall was obviously unique with many one-offs but also several US century fighters.  Definitely check out the picture link to see more of this museum.

The following morning I boarded a packed Air France Boeing 777 for the 8 hour flight to Cameroon.  The airport at Douala was pretty spartan and the overwhelming humidity greeted me as I walked onto the air stairs.  Standing on the tarmac I looked back at the intake of the most enormous engine I have ever seen.  This 777 was equipped with the General Electric GE90 high-bypass turbofan.  The intakes must have been at least sixteen feet high.  Just an incredible feat of engineering.  Traveling through Cameroon the country is very much third world.  It will take a herculean effort to bring the country forward but I think the day is coming sooner than later.  The people's tolerance for the rampant government corruption which has held Africa down for so long is reaching its limit.  An "African Spring" may not be too far in the future.  Five days later with my mission complete I was back at the airport re-boarding the Air France 777 for a 36 hour / 3 plane journey back to Arizona.  I arrived home late Friday night exhausted and jet-lagged but with little time for rest, I had two Discovery Flights booked for Saturday morning!

[June 12, 2012]
My Comments on AOPA/EAA's Exemption Request on the 3rd Class Medical

Let’s stop playing games and talk truthfully about what this exemption request is really about.  If no one else will address the elephant in the room than I will.  The bottom line is this: this request is an attempt to allow pilots who cannot pass an FAA third class medical, the easiest and least comprehensive medical exam currently available, to fly even larger aircraft.  These individuals knowing full well they have disqualifying medical condition will avoid renewing their medical certificate to hide behind the guise of “self certification”.  The FAA’s mission is to ensure the highest level of safety in our air transportation system.  Larger more powerful airplanes falling out of the sky due to a pilot’s incapacitation because of a known pre-existing condition and endangering the lives of passengers and the public is not in the best interest of general aviation or aviation in general.   If you can’t pass a third class medical you probably need to hang up the headset.   It’s not all about you.  Sorry.  I am a member of AOPA and EAA and I DO NOT support this exemption request.  Be happy with the Sport Pilot certificate.  Feel differently about this subject?  Send me an e-mail at

[June 11, 2012]
The Tri-Pacer is Back!                                                        1.0

After almost a month in maintenance I picked the Tri-Pacer today.  Oh how sweet it is!  All of those issues, the hard starts, the canted stance, the broken starter mount, etc, etc.  The battery has been replaced, the generator is now charging, the bungees have been replaced on the landing gear, the brakes hold, a new starter has been installed, the carb heat cable no longer binds, the engine timing has been tweaked, and a fresh oil change to boot.  Everything is fixed and the airplane runs and fly's like a champ.  Like a whole new airplane.  Now the aircraft is ready to take on a very aggressive flying schedule starting with a six hour flight to Ogden, Utah in only a few weeks to attend the Short Wing Piper Convention, then it is on to Oshkosh, WI in July, Reno in September and Albuquerque in October.  There is a lot of flying to be done....oh BTW I ordered an information packet from Van's Aircraft...I'm really toying with the idea of building an RV-8 when graduate school is finished.

[June 3, 2012]
My Student Goes Solo!                                                         .6

With a light breeze we went back up this morning for three more stop and go's.  The only event of note was a Maule that taxied out and decided to take the runway as we were turning short final.  He pulled away just in time for us to land behind him after contemplating a go around.  My student did everything right once again and I had full confidence in his ability to solo.  I told him once again to expect a higher performing aircraft with me gone and be prepared for the possible balloon on landing due to the lighter load.  I also told him to continue to say aloud his tasks and checks while solo.  I have found this technique keeps things structured in your head and has a calming effect.  With that I endorsed his certificate and log book and left the airplane.  I took up position along the runway at the aim point markers with my handheld radio and kicked my student out of the nest.  It was time to fly alone.  The first landing while a little long was textbook, one down.  On downwind for number two I noticed a distinct wind shift from south to north.  I radioed my student and informed him that winds were now from the right.  The approach was right on glide path but left of centerline.  This time there was little to no flare and the plane bounced, I held my breath, he was well left of centerline at this point.  Then a swerve right to correct brought the right wheel momentarily off the ground.  I quickly radioed "easy, easy on the corrections!"  I had flash backs of a similar botched landing I had once experienced on one of my solo cross countries.  It was enough to rattle me at the time so I decided to call my student back for a short huddle to discuss and assess how he was feeling.  "Okay back taxi to me" I radioed.  The change in wind direction had caused him to become momentarily focused on the lateral drift of the aircraft in this new direction and delayed his flare.  We discussed recovery from the bounce, cross wind correction, and limiting correction input when the aircraft is beginning its deceleration from landing.  He still appeared confident so I sent him back out.  The last landing is the one you remember the most.  The winds shifted one more time on the final iteration, this time right down the runway.  The pattern and approach were right on the money and the landing was textbook...success!  He picked me up and we taxied back to the ramp where his whole family was waiting to congratulate him.  We conducted a short ceremony with the cutting of his shirt tail and the presentation of a nice solo certificate courtesy of NAFI.  A great milestone has been achieved.  I actually taught someone else how to fly, that is pretty darn cool!

[May 29, 2012]
Grinning Again                                                                    1.0

It has been awhile since I laughed out loud or smiled after a good landing but it happened today.  I have been working landings with my student for well over a month now and today it finally clicked with him after 12 lessons and 12.4 hours.  We did six iterations and they were all very good.  It brought a big smile to my face and a few chuckles.  He finally had it, after the sixth landing I was convinced that this was no anomaly.  I would have soloed him right then and there had it not been that he wanted his family to witness his solo.  So we are all scheduled for this Sunday morning.  We will do three more landings on that morning and if all is well he will solo.  I am almost as excited as he is about this major milestone event in a new pilots flying career!

[May 19, 2012]
Arizona Centennial Fly-In

[May 15, 2012]
Half Way There!

I just completed my sixth Embry-Riddle graduate course marking the half-way point to achieving my degree.  I am still holding on to a perfect 4.0!  This course was titled Airport Operations and Management and was taught by an individual who worked as part of the management for Tucson International.  A very interesting and illuminating course on airports of all sizes but specifically Part 139 airports.  Now on to Aircraft Maintenance and Management.  I'm still on track to graduate in May of 2013 and I have some really exciting ideas for my final graduate research paper.

[May 14, 2012]
Virginia Military Aviation Museum


[May 10, 2012]
Real World Search & Rescue                                                7.9

No happy outcome on this mission, individual was found deceased deep in the desert outside of Phoenix.

[May 5, 2012]
In For Maintenance

I flew the the TriPacer down to Benson for some much needed minor maintenance to work off a growing list of squawks.  First and foremost is getting the battery replaced.  I found a Gill 35S from Aircraft Spruce that fit the bill.  Of course as soon as the cowling came off there were more surprises but I am confident the maintenance folks that I am using are going to do a great job as we prepare for a very busy few months of long haul cross country trips.  I'll be laying low this month with the flying in an effort to conserve some funds to offset the cost of the final maintenance bill.  Building hours is just not as big a concern to me as it once was when I was working towards 500.

[April 22, 2012]
Grand Canyon Caverns                                                         7.2


Another amazing adventure occurred this weekend with a trip to Grand Canyon Caverns with my son Carson.  The objective of this trip was to vet our camping packing list prior to our flight to Oshkosh.  The weather forecast called for an anomaly of a weekend, no winds for two days.  This is unheard of during spring time in Southern Arizona.  We blasted off from KFHU with the little Tri-Pacer loaded to the gills with camping supplies.  Fortunately camping gear is bulky but not heavy.  We had maybe 150 lbs of gear if that.

Our first stop was Payson, two hours to the north.  Payson has one of our favorite airport restaurants, The Crosswinds, and Carson was itching to eat their pancakes.  It took a little under two hours to fly the first leg taking our often travel corridor north through the San Pedro River Valley, across Lake Roosevelt, and onto the Tonto Basin.  After landing I noticed oil residue across the left side of the airplane, this was cause for a little concern, but a check of the oil level still showed normal with little loss.  I made a note to keep an eye on it.  With our stomach and fuel tanks fuel we continued on to our ultimate destination.  We passed just north of Picacho Butte before executing a landing at Seligman (P23),  marking another airport off the to-do list.  The only activity at Seligman were the cows near the runway.  We were quickly back enroute passing along the very pronounced Aubrey Cliffs at low level.  It only took a few more minutes for Grand Canyon Caverns (L37) to come into view with its long 5000ft gravel strip.  We circled the strip checking out its suitability for landing and to determine which runway favored the winds.  While long, the strip is only 45ft wide, this ties the narrowest runway I have landed at.  We came back around for a long final approach onto runway 23 and touched down with in the first 500ft.  I reverted to my soft field landing training but it was not necessary as the runway was just as tough as pavement.  The runway is in very good condition but I was warned that prairie dogs can create dirt mound obstacles so be on the lookout.  I did not notice it from the air but the runway does have a windsock to the right of the threshold of runway 23.  The total flight time was 3.5 hours.   After turning around we taxied down a long gravel road to a dilapidated T-hangar which had seen better days.  One door of the hangar lay on the ground crumpled.  We decided to try to push the plane into the hangar and ended up stuck in a narrow ditch that ran parallel to the front of the hangar.  After 30 minutes of grunting and groaning we were able to push the plane back out of the ditch and decided to tie down as is.  I had a dirt/grass tie down kit which I utilized for the first time ever to ensure that the airplane was not going anywhere without us.  With the plane put to bed we made the short trek to the main office located along historic Route 66.  I felt like I had just landed in the 1950s, the building, signs, gas station, and cars all looked like they had been stuck in time.  The folks at the front desk were very helpful and offered to drive us and our gear over to the campground a mile away.

Once checked in at the campground we set up our camp site and headed back to office for the main attraction, the caverns tour. Grand Canyon Caverns cost about $15 a person and is well worth seeing.  This is coming from an individual who has been to Luray Caverns and knows a thing or two about such attractions.   The cavern is a dry cavern meaning no humidity and a year round temperature of 57F.  The cavern is very unique and is devoid of the standard stalactite and stalagmite.  The caverns opens up into a few rather large voids, one of which includes a wooden platform with two double beds, a couch, a bathroom, and entertainment center.  For $700 one can rent the “room” all to themselves from closing time at 5PM until the next morning at 9AM.  Interesting.  The cavern also includes a massive stockpile of civil defense canisters of food, water, and sundry supplies all placed in the caverns back in the 1960s when President Kennedy declared all natural caverns as fallout shelters should WWIII begin.   The total tour lasted about 45 minutes and ended with a lazer light show on the roof of the cavern.

The wonderful weather continued to hold as we cooked hotdogs and roasted marshmallows under a star filled sky while watching Top Gun on the IPAD.  It was not long before the activity of the day’s adventures caught up with us and we called it a night.  The next morning dawned as peaceful as the first, with just a slight breeze out of the east.  We packed up our camp site and hitched a ride in a beat up old pick up truck back to our plane.  Loaded up we launched out on runway 23 using the half flaps and the best soft field technique I could muster.  The Tri-Pacer does not like to be horsed into the air and when forced as with a soft field takeoff likes to skip a few times before deciding it wants to fly.  Once airborne we nosed over in ground effect and accelerated before climbing away.  Grand Canyon Caverns is very close to the Grand Canyon of course and since we were in the area we decided to do a quick fly-by over the south rim.  This became my third flight over GC and the first with the GOPRO mounted externally for a much more majestic video.  It appeared nothing had changed in the canyon since my last visit J  I assume that will still be the case in a million years as well.

Turning south the goal became getting back to Sierra Vista as quickly and efficiently as possible.  The Tri-Pacer averages a fuel burn of 7.5 gallons an hour which is great but with AVGAS at $5.60 a gallon even a trip of this duration starts to become expensive.  We did not have enough gas to make the trip non-stop so I chose Cottonwood as the fuel stop.  It took about an hour to make it to Cottonwood and upon arrival as if on queue skydiving commenced over the airfield.  I spent a few minutes orbiting north of the airport before finally heading in.  Cottonwood was another new airport for me.  We landed and pulled up to the self serve fuel where I topped off and learned a valuable lesson, make sure the fuel meter turns off when you are done fueling.  I found out later from my credit card statement that a few folks got about 8 free gallons of AVGAS on me because I had never completed the transaction.  Lesson learned.  Loaded back up we decided to taxi to the terminal to use the bathroom.  The Tri-Pacer battery barely turned the prop over but that was usual.  I had second thoughts about stopping the plane again but decided to anyway and that was a mistake.  After returning from the terminal I could not get the prop to turn over, the battery was just too weak.   Ughh!  What to do now, the terminal was deserted, and no one was around.  I decided to investigate the skydiving activity at the other end of the apron and see if they had a mechanic available.  The owner made a call to a local mechanic who agreed to come out and help us out.  In a short time he arrived and we headed back to the plane in his pickup truck.  He took a look inside the cowling and under the right seat (battery location) before deciding that maybe a hand prop would do the job.  After what seemed like 30-40 hand prop attempts the engine turned over and we were back in business.  I had pushed my luck with this old battery one too many times and vowed to get it replaced before the next trip.  I wrote the mechanic a check for $20 while sitting in the left seat with the engine running before launching back into the wild blue yonder. 

The final leg home was a rollercoaster series of thermals and sinking air as the sun cooked the Arizona ground to record breaking temperatures.  At one point I had the airplane at 12,000ft, the highest I had ever flown the Tri-Pacer.  Thirty miles out from KFHU I could see dark clouds forming over the mountains.  A check of the ASOS was even more concerning.  Winds 350 at 24 gusting to 33, light rain.  It appeared my adventures were not over yet.  A few minutes later the winds shifted and abated providing some relief, winds 020 at 14 gusting to 22.  I set up for a left downwind entry to RW 8 and got down in an uneventful manner quickly slowing down to a walk to nurse the airplane back to the hangar and bringing the weekend adventure to a successful close.

[April 18, 2012]
CAP F-16 Intercept Mission                                                  2.7

[April 17, 2012]
Night Flight                                                                           1.7

[April 15, 2012]
Pan! Pan! Pan!                                                                       3.1

This morning I flew my first CAP cadet orientation flight in almost two years.  I had three cadets and planned for a round robin flight with three one hour legs to two outlying airports at which we could land, stretch our legs and swap out the cadet in the right front seat.  During each leg of the flight I provide flight instruction to a cadet based on the particular lesson they are on in their training.  The first two legs were fairly routine first flying to Nogales and then over to Benson.  While practicing Dutch roll exercises one of my cadets became ill, fortunately he had a gallon size zip lock bag because he filled most of it up.  I expedited our landing at Benson to give him some time to recover.  Refreshed we loaded back up for our final leg of the flight back to Sierra Vista.  This is when things got interesting.

As we taxied out to the run up area an aircraft called inbound and asked the UNICOM for the winds and the runway in use.  No one was at the FBO so I answered back that the winds were calm and that I was using runway 28.  The pilot acknowledged and said he would enter the pattern for a landing on 28.  We went through the run-up procedure near the threshold of 28 waiting and listening for the inbound aircraft.  As the pilot entered the base leg I looked out the right side of the aircraft just beyond the wing to see a beautiful and pristine Mooney 20J turning final.  I was a little alarmed as he rolled out pointing directly at us but soon corrected.  I told my cadet that the Mooney was coming in too fast and too high to land.  As the Mooney passed directly in front of us the pilot transmitted “looks like this will be a low pass” and he continued upwind before turning and remaining in the pattern.  At that point we were ready to go so I checked the approach one more time and rolled out onto 28 for an immediate takeoff.  As we climbed out heading south I looked back to see the Mooney perform a touch and go on 28.  We went on to perform some training just north of Tombstone but before long the cadet was feeling ill once again and ready to return home.  As we headed back we passed Tombstone airport off to the southeast.  Carson had helped me erect a field expedient wind sock on the little used field a few weeks back and I decided to check on it and see just how visible it was from the air.  As I turned the aircraft towards the field I had my second run-in with the Mooney 20J from Benson.  This time he was 800 feet below me converging on my path from the 11 O’clock position.  No radio calls, no anything, I doubt he ever saw me as he passed under me heading directly for Sierra Vista.  Circling Tombstone I had no luck identifying the wind sock we had installed.  Maybe the 50 MPH wind gust from the previous week had made short work of our community service, who knows.  By this time we were down to 2000 AGL and into the surface turbulence, getting bounced around pretty good.  When another cadet asked for a sick sack I knew it was time to RTB and quickly. 

I went direct for Sierra Vista turning controls back over to my front seat cadet.  At 7 miles from the field I announced we were “seven mile final for RW26, full stop.”   A moment later the Mooney from Benson came up on the CTAF to announce he was right downwind for landing on 26 as well.  “Do you think I can sneak in in front of you?” he asked.  I still did not have a visual on the aircraft and replied “once you turn base I will do a 360 for spacing if needed.”  That was the last transmission I heard as I looked intently for his aircraft on the downwind.  At four miles we were a little high on the approach so I took control of the aircraft from the cadet and started our descent still unsure of where the Mooney was.  At this point a transmission came across “I think I just had my first gear up landing.”  I had no idea who it was or where they were, the Mooney had never called his base, and the 12,000ft runway from what I could see looked clear.  It was a moment of confusion as I tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  Another transmission came across “Aircraft on final GO AROUND, GO AROUND!”  I recognized the voice, it was my flying buddy Doug.  At this point I did not hesitate, I firewalled the throttle and began a climb back to pattern altitude flying parallel and offset to the right of 26.  As I neared the midpoint of the runway I finally identified the white outline of an airplane motionless near the centerline but pointed off to the left, the shape of a Mooney 20J.  Another transmission from the Mooney “I guess I need to call 911 at this point.”  A few months ago a Husky had landed hard and collapsed his gear on RW21.  A friend of mine had seen the accident and went to help, he called the Tombstone Police Department to try to get help since it was a number he knew (he works volunteer for the department).  The airport management was pretty upset over the whole event and made it clear that when the tower was not in operation a pilot could call on 121.5 which they claimed was monitored by the Sierra Vista Police department dispatch.  Dispatch would contact the crash trucks and any other emergency response required.  So with all of that in my mind I confidently switched over to 121.5 and broadcast “PAN, PAN, PAN, we have an aircraft that just landed gear up at Libby-Sierra Vista, we need emergency response now.”  I waited for a response….nothing, I broadcast again…..nothing.  So much for the airport’s claims.  I have no idea if anyone monitored the request for help.  I switched back to the CTAF, not knowing what I missed.  I told Doug I had no success on the emergency frequency.  He informed me that the crash trucks were rolling, I’m still not sure how they were alerted.  We remained in the pattern watching the situation develop from overhead as the crash trucks and emergency vehicles quickly converged on the scene.  There was no fire and the pilot made it out safe but the Mooney sustained some serious damage including a prop strike.  The Airport Manager was soon on the CTAF broadcasting that the runway was closed but the two other intersecting runways were still open.  I quickly entered into a left downwind for runway 30, landing and coming to a full stop before the intersection with RW26.  I taxied slowly back to the GA ramp where my friend Doug was waiting with a handheld radio.

It was obvious to me what had happened and I felt bad for the Mooney pilot as I had been the distraction that caused him to hurry his approach and neglect to extend his gear.  He had wanted to get into the field before me and he had rushed.  Regardless ultimately responsibility for the accident rested solely on the shoulders of the PIC.  Doug had seen the Mooney fly over the threshold gear up and was kicking himself for not getting on the handheld quick enough to tell the pilot of his mistake before disaster struck.  Fortunately Doug was able to transmit for me to go around and that may have saved us from something much more serious.  There was plenty of confusion in those last seconds on final approach.  As far as I knew the Mooney was still on downwind, he had never called base or final.  The transmission of a “gear up landing” was so nebulous and lacking any useful information that it would have taken precious minutes to figure out what had happened.  Scanning the runway in front of me gave me no clues, it looked clear!  The white Mooney blended in with the runway surface as if it was camouflaged.  I got lucky today, the Mooney not so much, but the pilot, a local dentist in town, walked away which is good enough.  Planes can be replaced, people can’t.  What made this day so odd and peculiar were the three run-ins with the same aircraft over a span of an hour.  Each one bordering on unsafe, each time raising concern in the back of my own pilot mind.  Each encounter had me thinking “this guy is not on his game today” and in the end it finally caught up with him.  Fly safe everyone!

[April 14, 2012]
Davis-Monthan AFB Air Show


[April 7, 2012]
Coolidge Pancake Fly-In with the Family                              2.7

Chris and Carson joined me this morning for a flight up to Coolidge (P08) for the Lion's Club monthly pancake breakfast.  It was my first time to a pancake fly-in, I had to see what they were all about.  The fly-in had a very good turn out with a wide variety of aircraft including warbirds.  The Phoenix area is home to many financially endowed folks which translate to some pretty cool and expensive airplanes for the rest of us to look at.  We arrived around 0830 overflying the field before executing a tear drop entry into a very busy pattern for runway 5.   Proudly representing Short Wing Pipers we taxied slowly past the crowd in main breakfast seating area before parking next to an old DC-7 ramp queen.  Coolidge like many AZ airports was built during WWII by the Army Air Corps to train pilots.  The original hangar from that era still stands today and can be seen in the photos.  The airport was turned over to Pinal County in 1950 and later to the city of Coolidge in 1959.  While looking at the gathered airplanes we were treated to a formation fly-by of T-34 Mentors.  By 0930 folks were already starting to depart to get their weekend started.  If you visit the fly-in make sure you arrive early, the event starts at 0800.  I did learn a valuable lesson upon leaving Coolidge, "slow down to go fast." With the max exodus in full swing I got myself in a little bit of a hurry with my run-up and taxi to the hold short line.  Waiting at the hold short line of what I thought was runway 5, a 5528ft runway, an aircraft was flying base and reported that he was turning final for runway 35.  I thought to myself "no you are turning final for RW 5" but in fact I was holding short of runway 35 at the midpoint intersection leaving a takeoff distance of 1900ft not 5528ft as I had thought.  This was more than enough room for the Tri-Pacer to launch from but a serious lapse in situational awareness (SA) on my part.  An important lesson learned, "slow down to go fast."

[April 4, 2012]
Tweaking and Refining my Private Pilot Syllabus and Lesson Plans

I apologize for a lack of posts since the beginning of March.  Despite the appearance of a lack of activity I have been logging a fair number of hours.  It looks like I will hit 600 hours before mid-year at my current rate.  Most of my time has been spent on getting my flight instruction business off the ground.  This has meant creating marketing material, building a training syllabus, and creating lesson plans.  I am currently working with one student which is allowing me to concentrate on vetting my syllabus and lesson plans.  After each lesson I go back and tweak and refine the documents to better reflect reality and focus on what works and remove what does not work.  It has also been a learning process determining how to best utilize and integrate the learning enhancing technologies of voice/HD video recordings, Google Earth GPS tracks, and flight simulator in the syllabus in addition to gauging just how much these new technologies assist in the learning process.  For example, yesterday I conducted a one hour simulator session with my student to reinforce pattern procedures and call-outs.  While procedurally the simulator was vastly superior to traditional chair flying my student found the aircraft controls did not react the same as the real airplane.  He tended to manipulate the yoke in quick jerks as opposed to applying smooth pressure.  My concern of course is a negative transfer occurring.  It's difficult to say at this point but I will continue to monitor how the simulator aids or detracts from the learning process.

[March 21, 2012]
Passed CAP Instructor & Check Pilot Check Ride                5.0

[March 4, 2012]
New Web Site Goes Live -

 Here we go,, my Part 61 flight training web site goes on-line tonight.  Very basic for now, I'll tweak as time goes by but we are up and running.

[March 3, 2012]
Cactus Fly-In                                                    3.0

[February 28, 2012]
Checked out for Freelance CFI                        1.2

Just finished my checkout from the right seat with a local CFI allowing me to conduct freelance flight instruction in the local FBO's Cessna 172s.  Prior to the flight I had to purchase a business license and an off-airport operator's permit from the city.  That cost me around $230.  I've ordered some cool biz cards to help generate business at aviation meets/airshows.  I also planning on placing some business cards along with flyers at airports within the area  The Stearman is a plane that generates a lot of excitement in any true aviation enthusiast.  I plan on using it as a visual focal point in my marketing campaign along with the slogan "Let's Fly!".  I'm ready to get started and looking forward to it!

[February 26, 2012]
X-Country to Eloy to Watch Skydivers              3.1

[February 17, 2012]
Hog Hunting & Scud Running                            3.1

A co-worker has wanted to conduct an aerial recon of some foothills about 75 miles to the east near the Mexican border for some time.  He is a hunter and has heard numerous accounts of bands of wild hogs roaming the area.  We launched out in less than stellar weather this morning, 1500ft ceilings and the freezing level on the deck, believing that the clouds would clear by mid-morning.  I succumbed to the "let's go look and see" which led to "well let's go a little further."  About 20 miles east of KFHU we climbed to 7500 and got between to layers of clouds.  Before long the top layer was gone and we were in bright sunshine but below us was solid undercast, no ground in sight.  We were only at 7500MSL/3000+AGL but it felt as if we were in the stratosphere with no ground reference.  We were very fortunate to find a hole in the undercast just short of the target area.  I ducked down under a low cloud deck flying at 500ft off the deck we made several sweeps of the foothills always keeping a way out open to flats west of the hills.  As my passenger identified hogs we marked them on the Garmin 396 GPS for further ground investigation.  By the second pass the overcast was starting to roll down the west side of the hills and my portal to blue skies on top was quickly starting to close.  Mike was happy with the two passes so we broke off the search and climbed up through thickening haze.  Back on top we headed home but by the time we were within ATIS range conditions at home had deteriorated substantially, KFHU was now low IFR with 300ft ceilings.  While instrument current and equipped I was not keen on shooting an ILS approach almost down to mins in ice laden clouds.  I decided to divert to Douglas-Bisbee which was reporting marginal VFR conditions.  Once again we found a hole to drop down through the clouds.  We landed on RW 17 and hung out in a deserted terminal building that looked as if it had been stuck in a time capsule from 1950.  Wing-X Pro for my IPAD2 earned its pay today providing up to minute updates on weather conditions at the surrounding airports.  As soon as KFHU started reporting MVFR we loaded back into the TriPacer and launched scud running at 1000ft.  Just over Tombstone airport we hit a wall of rain and quickly deteriorating visibility from some fast moving goo.  It looked as if our path was blocked.  I backed out with a 180, flew south for a few miles and made an end run around the scud.  Contacting Libby Approach I only needed to say my call sign, they knew exactly where I was and had watched me on radar try to find a clear path home.  They cleared me into the airspace, I was the only show in town.  We were close, but not home free yet.  Five miles out I was in rain but locked on the ILS beam and ready to default to it if visibility went south.  Short final I breathed a sigh of relief, we made it!  Some uncomfortable situations but I always kept an out with multiple options and plenty of fuel.  Always keep your options open and never feel committed to anything.

[February 16, 2012]
CAP Instructor Training                                             2.0

More right seat training in the 182 with a concentration on landings of all types.  Becoming very comfortable now.  A great drill that hones landing skills and especially crosswind technique is to fly the length of the runway at just a few feet off, never landing, and holding the centerline while side slipping.  For some reason it is more difficult for me to identify nose yaw from the right seat.  But there are accommodation tricks to solve this problem.  I found a few glare shield screws that provide me with a clue that I am correctly lined up when in a side slip for a crosswind landing.

[February 15, 2012]
EDF F-16 Maiden Flight

I have expanded my foray in electric ducted fan jets with a mammoth 48" long F-16 by Airfield from Nitroplanes.Com.  Today was the maiden flight which is always an anxiety filled event.  The jet rocketed down the paved runway at the RC field while I slowly inputted up elevator.  Nothing happened.  Running out of runway I put in all of the elevator and the F-16 leapt ballistic skyward.  Knowing a stall was imminent I pushed the nose quickly over.  That was exciting.  With things under control I took the jet around the pattern a few times exploring the flight regime.  In slow flight I found the aircraft very mushy and unresponsive with a habit for the nose to come up.  A positive sign that the CG is too far aft.  The landing was uneventful and was almost hands off thanks to the rearward CG.  I completed another flight before a attempting a third takeoff.  On this takeoff run the right gear collapsed leading to a skidding stop which did some damage to the air intake and wing tip.  Back to the work bench for repairs and tweaking of the CG.

[February 10-11, 2012]
Weekend Flying                                                        3.9

 Back in the Tri-Pacer for a little flying and landing practice in Benson on Friday.  Saturday I helped a fellow CAP member get instrument current while spending some time getting reacquainted with the Squadron's 182 after having been gone for maintenance for over four months.  It was good right seat training while I worked maneuvers and landings in preparation for becoming a CAP Instructor and Check Pilot.

[February 1, 2012]
The Most Beautiful Airplane Ever Made?

This is a great story of my dad's first flight in an airliner which just happened to be the legendary Lockheed Constellation.  At the time of the story, 1961, the days of the radial engine airliner were almost over as the Boeing 707 was quickly ushering in the jet age across the world. The last scheduled passenger flight in the 48 states was made by a TWA L749 on May 11, 1967 from Philadelphia to Kansas City, Missouri.  However, Constellations remained in freight service for years to come, and were used on backup sections of Eastern Airlines' shuttle service between New York, Washington, and Boston until 1968.

"When I enlisted in the Air Force in 1961, I was placed with the other recruits on a chartered Lockheed Constellation to fly from Idlewild (now JFK) airport in NY to San Antonio, TX for basic training.  We got as far as Baltimore, when an engine fire forced an emergency landing at Friendship airport.  We spent 3 days at the old Southern Hotel on Redwood and Light streets in Baltimore waiting for a replacement aircraft to take us to Texas.  That by the way, was my first flight in an airplane. When the stewardess started crying, I knew we were in trouble, but I was too young and dumb to get scared.  I just looked out the window at the pretty blue and yellow flames coming out of the engine. Ah, the ignorance of youth."

Check out this vintage video highlighting a typical flight in the Constellation.


[January 28, 2012]
Carson Gets the "RV Grin"

The local EAA chapter hosted a Young Eagles event at the airport this morning.  I went to volunteer but they had more than enough people.  The turn out was pretty good on both the kid side and the number of aircraft.  Beside the standard fare of Cherokees and 172s there were a few noteworthy aircraft including a Cessna 185, a Diamond motor glider, and an RV-7.  I brought Carson back to the airport and signed him up for a flight in the RV.  He took one of the last flights of the day and returned after the 15 minute flight with the famous "RV Grin."  Maybe we need to order a kit and build one?

[January 21, 2012]
Back to Phoenix                                                            4.4

My third trip to Phoenix this month.  Today was a whirlwind tour of Phoenix with stops at Glendale and Falcon Field.  Both new fields for me.  Coming into Phoenix I picked up flight following with Albuquerque Center in the hopes of going direct to Glendale after a handoff to Phoenix Approach.  Between Phoenix and Tucson we had two Long-EZs fly under 1000ft under us on to points southeast.  About 10 miles from Phoenix Class B a hot mike from another plane on the frequency cut off all contact with Albuquerque.  After listening to the hot mike pilot discussing panel features to his apparently young passenger we knew the chances of the problem getting fixed were pretty slim.  I am not sure how an issue like this gets resolved but in my case I called Phoenix Apprch directly and explained what had happened.  They picked me up without issue.  Going to Glendale direct ended up to be wishful thinking.  Phoenix asked if I wanted to execute the VFR transition route or remain under Class B.  Since I was not familiar with the transition I opted for the latter.  I descended down to 3500 ft while traveling west before turning north to make a b-line for Glendale.  Glendale is a nice (as most Phoenix metro airports are) single runway airport with a terminal building housing a restaurant, lounge, and pilot shop.  The pilot shop had some of the most reasonably priced books and merchandise I have seen so I took the opportunity to buy a few books for me and die-cast planes for Carson. 

After attending a CAP Pilot meeting we loaded back into the Tri-Pacer for the flight across town to Falcon Field.  Once again I stayed below Class-B while threading my way to Falcon.  The approach and landing at Falcon are noteworthy for the handling.  Still five miles from the airport the tower controller instructed a waiting aircraft to continue to hold for landing traffic (me).  I thought this was odd since I was still a few minutes out.  As I closed on the airport in an extended left base for runway 4L I could see three aircraft waiting to takeoff.  At this point the controller changed his mind and decided to release the first aircraft for takeoff while at the same time instructing the second aircraft to line up and wait.  I began to turn final with on aircraft just lifting off and the other sitting on the end of the runway.  A few seconds later I was told to go around which I promptly executed.  I turned crosswind at the midfield point and returned for a second attempt, this time without incident.  Most likely ATC trainee based on how ugly things got for a few minutes.  We taxied over to Falcon’s restaurant, Anzio Landing.  The restaurant has a very good menu selection and is one of the better aviation decors I have seen.   Our mission at Falcon was to have lunch and attend the Short Wing Piper Club meeting.  So we were in and out.  Falcon Field is also home to the Commemorative Air Force, Arizona Wing.  CAF maintains an excellent museum on the field.  On departure we followed a beautifully restored Stearman Kaydet to the runway.  There are lots of interesting planes in Phoenix due to income of many of its high-profile residence.  While winds were tame in Phoenix and Tucson, Sierra Vista was another story.  The ATIS reported winds from 230 at 25 gusting to 30knots.  We were in for a bumpy ride.  I decided on an extended approach to 26 with no flaps and extra speed.  This worked well as we came through the shear level on final.  I flew the airplane all the way into ground effect and then began the wrestling match with the wind.  Side slipping the Tri-Pacer is not easy because the rudder and ailerons are interconnected with bungee cords.  This creates and added tension that you must overcome manually with brute strength while at the same time executing the balancing act of the slide slip maneuver.  After a few hundred feet it was over and we were down without incident.  While maybe not the highest winds I have landed in, it was definitely up in the top 10.  I gingerly taxied the TriPacer to the fuel pump ensuring the correct yoke placement for wind direction.  Tri-Pacers are known for getting overturned by strong quartering tailwinds and sharp turns due to the gear’s narrow stance.  We had no problems on this day other than the removed fuel caps being blown off the wings during refuel along with spraying gas.  Without a doubt it was windy!

[January 19, 2012]
Flight Simulator Updates

Early this month Microsoft released the beta version of FLIGHT, the successor to Flight Simulator 10.  I was lucky enough to be chosen to take part in the beta testing and have logged several hours flying the new simulator.  This early version of the program allows you to fly either a A5 Icon or a Stearman biplane around Hawaii.  My first impression of the new graphics is simply stunning.  The look is very different from FSX and feels much more polished and integrated.  The planes are very well modeled graphically as well.  I am not so convinced with the flight modeling and the simulator has a somewhat “game” feel to it.  This is a big concern of most hard core flight sim fans as the new program has been positioned and developed to appeal to a wider audience.  By doing so the fear is that the new development team will compromise realism for entertainment.  My initial impression is that this may be the case.  FLIGHT appears to be an entirely new build with little if any of the legacy architecture apparent from the front end.  I’ll keep you updated as the software develops.

I have also been spending some time with a new piece of hardware I stumbled across last month.  FSTHROTTLE is a new company which builds custom throttle quads modeled after real Boeing and Airbus counterparts.  I found FSTHROTTLE on Ebay while trying to purchase a used GoFlight throttle quad.  The FSTHROTTLE hardware was so impressive in both build and price that I quickly forgot about the overpriced GoFlight module.  Making contact with Ricardo of FSTHROTTLE I was able to work out a complete custom build of a two axis Boeing throttle.  After about four weeks the new throttle arrived and was even more impressive in person.  After a few hours of tinkering with configurations I was able to set the throttle up with my two and four engine airlines using FSUIPC.  I am currently flying Captain Sim’s 707 and iFly’s 737 with the new throttle and it is a hoot.  FSTHROTTLE’s customer service is first rate, Ricardo was very responsive to all my requests.  I highly recommend FSTHROTTLE’s products and give them a five star rating.  Check out their products at

Another flight sim project that has been on the back burner for ages has been building a fighter stick mod for the simulator.  I purchased Saitek’s X-52 pro flight control system back in 2009.  The system includes a HOTAS flight stick and separate throttle modeled after the latest military fighter equipment.  What I could not figure out was how to mount the equipment in a reasonably quick and easy way inside my generically yoke configured simulator set-up.  Last year I came across a game chair set-up that gave me a clue on how I might proceed.  I sketched up a rough diagram which sat for another couple of months.  This month, with some new found free time, I finally got out to the local hardware store to but all the supplies required to make the concept a reality.  In a nut shell I created two small platforms that securely hold the stick and throttle next to the pilot.  The platforms are mounted to my simulator seat via a quick release support system made out of plastic plumbing pipe.  The flight stick mount does not interfere with the yoke which saves me from making any major modifications to the existing hardware.  When I want to fly a military jet in the sim I can install the fighter stick mod in less than five minutes.  The added realism flying Aerosoft’s F-16 or Section8s F-86 Sabre is remarkable and has made the whole project very worthwhile.  You can see pictures of the build by clicking here.  I am still in the process of spray painting all parts in aircraft grey.

[January 15, 2012]
Tough Mudder Transit                                                       3.1

A perfect reason to fly presented itself today.  I had signed up to participate in the Tough Mudder ( endurance race with a group of folks at work.  The race was being hosted at the old General Motors proving grounds in Mesa which is directly adjacent to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (KIWA, formally Williams).  Round trip by car would have taken seven hours, by plane it was less than three.  One adventurous soul from the group volunteered to fly with me.  He had not flown in a small airplane before so it was a new experience for him.  I decided to complete the flight planning old school with charts, flight log, and E6B since I need to be proficient in this method for teaching students.  With the forecast tailwind I calculated 1:04 enroute.  The actual flight took 1:09 and was uneventful save for the five helium balloons that passed just off our right wing as we turned from downwind to base for runway 12R at Gateway.  This was my first trip to Gateway and I was impressed with the size of the airport and the quality of the FBO.  While we did not have time to try it out the restaurant it looked high end and was happening at 0900.  The race took longer than anticipated (they always do) and it was not until 5PM that we arrived back at the airport.  Fortunately I had remained night current so making the flight was not going to be a problem legally.  This is a perfect example of why you should always remain current.  You never know when you are going to need it.  The flight back was mostly in the dark.  I passed some of the time acting as a radio relay for Albuquerque Center and an aircraft out of ATC radio contact.  Passing near Mount Lemon we did run into some light chop which gave the TriPacer a good shake followed by a brief rain shower, a little unsettling for my new passenger.   The trip home into headwinds ended up taking 1:30, total round trip time was 2:40 shaving some four hours of the drive.  Well worth it.

Oh in case you are curious about what the Tough Mudder entails, check out this ABC video

[January 12, 2012]
Certificated Flight Instructor & Master Wings!                      4.5

Almost six years to the day that I received my private pilot certificate I passed the checkride for my flight instructor certificate from the FAA. 

I flew up to Tucson this morning in the TriPacer ready for the final step on my journey to Flight Instructor.  The checkride was scheduled for 10AM but I arrived 2 ½ hours early in order to get one more flight in with my instructor to ensure that I was as sharp as I could be.  The weather was perfect for the checkride, very light winds and an overcast sky at 12,000ft.  The sun had been a real distraction when flying performance maneuvers early on in the training so the overcast was an added blessing.  The checkride had been scheduled originally for Wednesday but was delayed a day due to the FAA Examiners schedule.  It had been over a week since I had last flown the Piper PA-28R.  This was another valid reason to get back in the airplane before the checkride.  Sam and I blasted off in the Arrow to the practice areas south of Tucson and went through the entire checkride sequence.  Following the oral exam in Scottsdale the FAA Examiner had provided me with a list of maneuvers to be performed.  I was allowed to sequence the maneuvers and tasks as I saw fit.  This kinda  felt like getting all the questions before the test but I was not about to complain.  We tightened up a few weak areas before heading back to Tucson for landing practice.  I felt comfortable and confident.  I was ready for the checkride.  The FAA examiner arrived only a few minutes after our return.  We went off into a private office where the examiner took a look at my weight and balance and current weather information.  I was surprised to find that we were just on the edge of being outside the weight range at our CG point.  Fortunately we squeaked by.  We did another quick check of the aircraft/engine logbooks to ensure all systems were legal.  Walking out to the aircraft the Examiner inspected the airworthiness certificate and registration before loading into the aircraft.  He gave me the standard disclaimer that he was along for the ride and I was the PIC.  I provided a quick safety brief before going through the start procedures.  Of course the fuel injected Arrow humbled me right from the get go by refusing to start.  This was my first hot start of the airplane and typical fuel injection vapor lock required me to make three attempts before she finally came to life.  After a run-up I provided the takeoff briefing and went right into a soft field take-off before departing for the practice area.  First up was commercial steep turns once we arrived in the practice area and conducted several clearing turns.  Steep turns are either great or horrible and you know right away how it is going to go.  If you don’t get the right amount of back stick in as you roll through 30 degrees you usually spend the rest of the 360 turn trying to correct the vertical oscillations.  Maybe because of nerves I put too much back stick in as we went through 30 degrees and we started to climb.  On a CFI checkride you act as the instructor and have to talk through each maneuver as you demonstrate it.  I knew right away the mistake I had made and pointed it out to the examiner, “okay so as you can see I pulled back a little too much which results in a climb, this is a common student mistake, by steepening the bank and/or releasing some of the back pressure you can correct this problem.”    I was able to get the aircraft back within tolerance before rolling out but it was not pretty.  From the steep turn we went into a chandelle to the left which went off without a hitch and on to slow flight which I had dialed in pretty tight.  With the airplane dirtied up I went into a departure stall followed by a secondary stall.  The next task was instrument flight, I was a little nervous on this task because Sam and I had not practiced it during our training with the exception of that morning.  Flying under the hood was no problem but explaining all of that primary and secondary instrument mumbo-jumbo during turns, descents, and climbs had confused the heck out of me when I was an instrument student and did not make much more sense today.  For me I use the attitude indicator as my primary instrument for everything and just radial scan the six pack to ensure the AI is telling me the truth.  I managed to fumble my way through the convoluted explanations as the Examiner told me to climb, descend, and turn around the area while under the hood.  Out from under the hood the Examiner threw a surprise in by pulling the throttle back and declaring an engine out emergency.  I quickly put the Arrow into a best glide at 100mph and found a dirt strip conveniently off my right wing.  I talked through my quick flow to isolate the fuel problem and attempt engine restart while spiraling down.  We were much lower than during practice and I was only able to complete one spiral before dropping the gear and rolling out on final approach.  The set-up was perfect and we would have easily landed at the dirt strip.  At about 500AGL I got my engine back and was told to move on to the next task.  Moving closer to Tucson I completed turns around a point and then eight on pylons.  Without wind these maneuvers were pretty simple and easy.  Performing these two ground reference maneuvers can cause some negative transfer and confusion.  For turns around a point distance from the ground object and altitude must remain constant, with eight on pylons you don’t care about distance or altitude as long as you keep the ground object pinned to a point on your wing.  With maneuvers complete we headed back to Tucson for landing practice.  The first was a normal landing followed by a short field takeoff.  Next up was a short field landing.  This one turned out ugly because the flight school trained me using approach speeds higher than VS0 1.3.  This was the same problem I had with my commercial training.  (I believe the approach numbers are padded by instructors for added safety margin).  In my opinion a short field is a landing where you drag the aircraft in, in this situation when you pull the power the airplane lands instantly with no float.  In my training we had excess airspeed so a target point 100 ft PRIOR to the landing point was chosen to dissipate the speed during flare.  I used this incorrect method on the checkride and soon found myself floating over my touchdown point.  With only 100ft allowed beyond the touchdown point I knew I needed to force the Arrow down which I did with a thunk in a three point landing.  The final landing was a soft field which I was determined to do well after the last “arrival.”  We touched down ever so lightly, that was pleasing.  That was it, I was done after only 1.5 hours of flying.  We put the Arrow to bed and debriefed with the Examiner providing feedback on the flight.  He commented that I needed to teach the maneuvers more.  This was a surprise to me as I felt like I was talking non-stop during the entire flight, but maybe not.  The Examiner printed out my temporary certificate, congratulated me, and headed out.  I was still in shock that I had passed the checkride on my first attempt.  The CFI checkride is notorious for first time failures somewhere in the range of 80-90%.  A very daunting statistic for any first time applicant.  I somehow made it unscathed after so many checkrides over the last six years to the top of the mountain.  I know hold what is considered the Doctorate of aviation, the flight instructor certificate.  It was a journey that took six and half years to complete, yet it feels as if I have only arrived at the real starting point.  With credentials achieved my focus will now turn towards broadening the scope of my experience and flying larger and more complex aircraft.  I will devote much effort this year to honing my teaching skills and developing a curriculum that leverages all aspects of technology to include cockpit digital video, GPS flight tracking with Google Earth integration, and simulator use.  I believe flight training today does little to exploit available technology. The training I offer will be distinctly different in this respect and hopefully will set me apart from the rest of the pack.

Successfully completing a flight instructor checkride also counts for several credits towards the FAA Wings program.  Today's flight allowed me to achieve my first MASTER wings phase.  I have also completed phase 4 for BASIC Wings and Phase 3 for ADVANCED Wings.

[January 6, 2012]
CFI Oral Exam with FAA FSDO

Today I drove three and half hours to Scottsdale for my CFI oral exam with the FAA.  I arrived 10 minutes early at the office with two bags full of books, advisory circulars, lesson plans, aircraft log books and training aids.  No one was going to accuse me of coming to the exam unprepared!  My FAA examiner took me back to the office meeting room which was equipped with a large white board.  We started off by reviewing my endorsements to take the test, my AFI written exam results (FOI results were not required because I already held a ground instructor certificate), my logged flight time and the FAA form 8710.  Convinced I was qualified to take the practical test we jumped right into the material.  The FAA examiner used Joan Bonesteal’s book “Flight Instructor PTS Oral Study Guide” to formulate the questions.  Joan is apparently a Phoenix local and a DE who frequently visits the FSDO (more on her later).  The first subject was fundamentals of instructing.  I was allowed to use my lesson plan notes which was a huge bonus for me.  FOI subjects contain a number of lists and they sometimes have a habit of blending together.  The lesson notes allowed me to quickly determine the particular list being discussed at which point I was able to hold my own with my knowledge on the subject.  It was just getting the kick start that was so immensely helpful.  We discussed the learning process and then moved into flight instructor characteristics and responsibilities.  With the dry FOI stuff out of the way we moved on to Area 2 of the PTS.  We spent considerable time on the principles of flight.  I was asked to explain how a wing creates lift, explain aircraft stability, left turning tendency (finally got to use a small toy gyroscope I had purchased from the Air & Space Museum some three years ago specifically for this purpose, demonstrating gyroscopic precession), and the four forces that act on an aircraft.  I used the whiteboard and my training aids, a small model airplane, to assist and augment my explanations.  These visual aids were very helpful to the process.  Occasionally the examiner would ask questions to determine the depth of my knowledge.  CFI training has definitely increased my depth of understanding of aerodynamics and is an area where CFI students should concentrate a large portion of their efforts.  Logbook endorsements were the next area of discussion.  I was required to explain student endorsements required for solo and to take the practical exam.  From endorsements the examiner went into certificates and documents.  I was asked how I would go about providing a flight review.  There is an excellent AC on the subject that provides much more detail than what is contained in the FAR.  The King School CFI practical test video also gave me several good ideas on how to answer this question.  I was also asked to list the logbook entries required for a student that I had provided two hours of ground instruction on VOR navigation to.  Pretty straight forward.  One question that almost got me was “is it necessary for a student to take their logbook on a flight.”  My initial response was “no” but the answer was based on my own circumstance and not that of a student.  For a certificated pilot it is best not to carry the logbook in case of a catastrophic event, but for a student the logbook must be carried because it includes the necessary endorsements to fly.  I quickly realized my error and changed my answer.  It was a trick question.  Before breaking for lunch I was asked to explain a spin and how it occurs and where a pilot is most likely to encounter a spin.  After three days of spin training this was a relatively easy set of questions.  I once again used my training aids to assist in the explanation.  The first session lasted only about two hours before heading off to lunch.  When we returned in the afternoon for part two of the oral I was instructed to prepare a lesson plan to teach the chandelle maneuver to a student.  I was initially given 30 minutes to prepare and ended up asking for an additional 15 minutes.  The examiner left the room while I prepared the lesson.  This is where ASAs “Lesson Plans – Train as you fly” came in handy.  The book provides not only a training outline for each commercial and private maneuver but also provides examples of what you should draw on the whiteboard.  I ended up copying the books drawings to the whiteboard verbatim.  I figured in 45 minutes I was not going to improve on what the author had already spent some time creating.  I completed a very thin lesson plan which would guide me during the presentation and then assembled my training aids.  When the examiner returned he was impressed by the drawings on the whiteboard.  I decided not to disclose my source.  The presentation lasted about 30 minutes.  I discussed the standards, how to perform the maneuver, the aerodynamics at play during the maneuver, and finally common errors that pilots make while performing the maneuver.  Once again the toy airplane was an excellent training aid for this task and I often overlaid the plane onto the whiteboard.  With completion of the lesson the oral was done, about 3.5 hours total.  I believe I got off pretty easy compared to some who have had 5-8 hour orals.  I guess I got lucky.

With the oral complete the examiner inspected the Arrow’s log books looking at AD compliance, 100 hour and annual inspections, and additional inspection requirements for ELT and pitot static.  We went back to his office to print my letter of discontinuance since we would not conduct the flight portion of the practical until the following week.  The examiner also provided me with a list of maneuvers that he wanted to perform during the check ride.  I was given the freedom to arrange the maneuvers in any order I liked.  It was a great feeling to have the oral behind me and still an additional week to focus on the check ride for which I now knew exactly what it would entail.  My instructor told me the oral is the most difficult portion of the practical and where the majority of failures occur.  I have heard of first time failure rates between 70-80% for the CFI.  With this in mind I was very happy to be well on my way to passing.  I have my eyes on the prize.  Just one more hurdle to cross……

[January 1, 2012]
Instrument Currency and Discovery Flight                       2.9

I am told it is good luck for the year if you fly on New Year’s Day so I put in almost three hours in the TriPacer to hedge my bets.  The morning started with retaining instrument currency by flying the obligatory hold and six approaches.  Libby has a variety of approaches which makes meeting the requirement while maintaining variety possible.  My approaches included 2 ILS, 2 localizers, and 2 VORs.  On each I found the runway right where it should be upon removing the hood at DH or MDA.  Having previously determined my power and trim settings for precision (500FPM) and non-precision (800FPM) approaches helped immensely in reducing workload.  If you know these setting you can dial them in and just focus on keeping the needle centered.  The setting will give you the same airspeed and vertical descent rate every time.  Later in the afternoon I took a co-worker and her son up for their first flight in a small plane.  As is always the case I enjoyed sharing in what was a new experience for them. 

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