Documenting My Journey to Professional Pilot Since 2005

Blog Archive
['16, '15, '14, '13, '12, '11, '10, '09, '08, '07, '06, '05]


[December 25, 2013]
Merry Christmas and to all a Good Flight!

No matter where you are, or what you fly, whether you are aloft in a certificated aircraft or flying through the snow in an open-cockpit experimental nine-engine with a waiver to carry sacks of cargo all over the world in just one night with a non-standard red beacon on the nose, we wish you and yours a safe and Happy Christmas, and a wonderful New Year!

[December 14, 2013]
Complex Short Field                                                                              2.9

With 51044 free from the maintenance hangar it was time to get reacquainted.  I flew south of Chandler and went through a series of PTS maneuvers to get back in the groove, steep turns, stalls, ground reference maneuvers, slow flight.  044 handled it all without missing a beat.  I spent a few laps in the Coolidge pattern performing touch and go’s and slips to landing.  Feeling back in the saddle it was time to go tackle a strip that I have had on my to do list for some time…Superior (E81).  The dirt strip at Superior is 40 miles east of downtown Phoenix, tucked up between the Superstition and White Canyon Wilderness Areas.  It’s a public use dirt strip 3250 feet long and 75 ft wide.  RW 4 has a 2.5% up slope with about 2000ft in good condition.  I’d passed over the field enroot before and it looked pretty rough but today I was going to take a closer look and if it was possible, land.

Arriving over the field 1000ft above pattern altitude I scoped out the area.  The terrain south west of the field rose quickly into mountainous terrain, the entire area dominated by the formidable Picketpost Mountain.  Unfortunately the down sloping RW22 pointed directly into this terrain.  A more favorable down slope takeoff was out of the question in 044.  I did not have faith that my plane could out climb the terrain long enough to escape north were things flattened out a bit.  The windsock appeared to favor a landing on the up slope RW 4.  Old tires marked the threshold for the runway with additional tires marking the SE boundary of the field and cutting the width of the field from 75ft to 50ft.  I lined up for a low pass on RW4.  The base leg cut across higher terrain, part of the Picketpost foothills.  This terrain forced me to remain high.  As I turned on to final the terrain gave way quite dramatically to a small tree lined creek.  The trees were tall enough to further delay any descent.  Not until 400 yards from the runway did the approach become free of obstacles.  A rather complex approach for sure.  Crossing over the heap of old tires at the end of the runway I closely examined the strip as I flew low along its length.  I was looking for rocks, holes, loose sand, anything that might make a landing attempt a bad idea.  What I saw was clearly not ideal.  The strip appeared solid for the first half but mid-way down it appeared as if some of the runway had been washed out with soft sand covering the area save for a small area on the left side.  Hitting this soft patch on roll out would risk damaging the nose wheel or getting bogged down.  I needed to land and come to full stop within the first 1500 ft.  Beyond the sandy patch the runway became more rutted.  RW 4 was really my only option in and out and only about 1500ft of that runway was going to be useful.  I climbed away to set-up.

This was turning into one of the more complex fields I’ve gone in to.  I had a challenging approach that would keep me high until 400 yards from the threshold while at the same time a very short piece of airstrip in which to land and stop.  That was just the landing.  Getting out would require an upslope takeoff using a soft field takeoff technique.    Here we go.  I remained in the pattern working back to a left base for RW4.  Keeping my altitude I slowed the plane down and dropped 20 degrees of flaps.  When I made the turn from base to final I wanted to be right at 60mph with my flaps at 30degrees.  From there I could hold the plane at 60 mph while controlling the descent rate and angle with power.  This is the short field method I teach my students.  With this method getting into a short field is not a problem even with obstacles in the approach path.  You drag the plane in almost on the back side of the power curve.  Your aim point becomes your touch down point because you are carrying no excess energy, the round out, flare, and touchdown become one event.  The landing is firm, as it should be.  A firm landing actually absorbs additional energy resulting in a shorter roll out.  As I crossed over the stream I began my descent with an aim point just beyond the tires.  Modulating the power controlled the approach path while pitch maintained the airspeed at 60mph.  Upon touchdown I had room to spare so I switched to a soft field roll out with the yoke in my lap to keep the nose wheel from getting bogged down.  I slowly navigated my way to the end of the runway to have a closer look at things.  Turning around at the end of RW22 I was facing right into Picketpost Mountain.  As much as I did not want to take off uphill from RW4 this option did not look like a better alternative.  I returned to the end of RW 4, put 10 degrees of flaps in and began a soft field takeoff.  If I was not off in 1500ft I at least wanted to hit the soft sand with just my mains touching.  As I poured on the power with the yoke full aft I was surprised at how quickly 044 got up on her hind legs.  After a few seconds she got light, skipped a few times and then broke free.  I pushed the nose over to stay in ground effect and easily accelerated as the sandy patch I was so concerned about slipped by without issue.  The climb from that point on was anemic but it was not an issue because I was not flying into the side of a mountain.

Superior was a great experience.  It forced me to employ quite a few flying tactics and techniques while exploiting every bit of performance out of my little Cessna 150.  Superior also reinforced in my mind that the way I teach and advocate short field approaches is right.  You can never count on an unobstructed approach to any field, that’s why the FAA implements the 50ft obstacle in the PTS.  Blue Skies!  And here is the video of the landing.

[December 15, 2013]
Playing Catch Up                                                                                6.5

Google Earth Flight Track

With a lot of catching up to do I was determined to fly all day today.  A great start to any flying day is giving a discovery flight especially to a child.  My nephew has been chomping at the bit to get in the front seat for some time so today I obliged him.  I’ve done a pretty good job over the years of nurturing aviation and airplanes in his young mind and it was high time to provide some reinforcement.  Of course he loved the whole trip and I was amazed at how well he knew exactly where he was at from a few thousand feet up.  He was able to point out landmarks, his school, and his neighborhood.  I’m sure the flight was one that will stay with him the rest of his life.  If you get the opportunity to give a child a discovery flight, do it!  It could open up a lifelong love of aviation and very well help save the future of general aviation.

The rest of the day was dedicated to cross country flying.  I’ve been reading “The Spirit of St Louis” lately and it has motivated me to put the GPS away.  Flying the magenta line has taken away some of the fun of flying and made it more akin to driving a car.  That is not good!  Today I brought back the paper flight plan, paper sectional, the trusty E6B, and the plotter.  I planned a flight to Bagdad, AZ and let me tell you it felt really good to work through the process of plotting and calculating a flight.  My calculations for the 75NM flight estimated a flight time of 53 minutes with 6 check points along the way.  Instead of droning along for 53 minutes watching the GPS distance to target countdown I was actively tracking, timing, and logging the entire trip.  I will tell you I had more situational awareness on that flight then I have ever had with a GPS.  What was even more exciting was arriving over Bagdad at exactly 53 minutes!  Old school navigation is a load of fun and it’s great refresher training.  I urge you to put the GPS away and return to your roots.

So back to Bagdad, not to be confused with Baghdad, Iraq.  Bagdad, Arizona has an interesting little paved strip which is worth a visit.  A MASSIVE open pit mine dominates the approach to RW 5.  Upon landing the runway goes from flat to down slope, almost ski jump down slope!  It was so pronounced that it caused me to gaze in amazement as I lost my center line discipline trying to feel for a runway in the flare that just kept dropping away from me.  Not much going on here except for the typical depressing scene at many small US GA airports, once proud Cessna's and Piper's rusting and rotting away in the sun.  Bagdad Landing

From Bagdad I headed northwest to Kingman.  Kingman is one of those southwest airport where the airlines like to mothball their planes.  Kingman appeared to be a popular spot for regional aircraft.  There were CRJs and ERJs lined up in the double digits.  Kingman also is home to a historic WWII control tower like the one found at Wendover.  There was not much activity on this Sunday afternoon save for another Cessna coming in for fuel.  I did a quick refuel at the self-serve pump and blasted off for Bullhead City to the west.

Bullhead City was a pretty interesting experience.  Up until this point in the trip winds, both surface and aloft, were negligible.  As I crossed the Black Mountains at Union Pass that all changed.  I dialed in Bullhead City ASOS I could not believe what I was hearing, winds 20 gusting to 30 knots!  That is a remarkable change for a distance of less than 30NM.  It appears that the Mohave Valley is a funnel for winds growing in strength from the north.  If you look at the sectional you will see that almost every airfield in the valley has N-S oriented runways.  While shocked at the pronounced change I was not worried about the landing because it was almost down the runway.  As long as the wind speed does exceed my approach speed of 60MPH I’m good.  Bullhead City is one of only two towered airports on Arizona’s western border.  I contacted tower for the approach and a disinterested/bored controller gave me a right downwind for RW 34.  The ASOS now reported winds at a steady state of 25kts.  In the downwind I was clocking a ground speed 125kts on the GPS.  This was going to be one interesting landing.  Knowing the strength of the wind I should have turned early onto the base leg but instead hesitated for a longer final approach.  I don’t think I have ever crabbed as much in the base as I did this day.  I had about a 45 degree crab to the left just to stay in the same zip code with the airport. Turning to final I stayed high as I clawed my way back to the runway under power.  Flaps were set to 20 degrees max.  Anymore and I would have been a kite.  At one point the GPS read a ground speed of 35 knots!  I literally hovered down to the runway at an approach angle of 5-10 degrees.  It was pretty amazing in real life, I had no idea the video from my GoPro would do it justice, but it does!  Landing Video

Taking off from Bullhead was just as cool.  I just hovered back up into the air climbing up to 1000ft AGL before reaching the threshold.  The departure was along the Colorado River right above the casinos just on the Nevada side of the border.  I headed south at break neck speed and was happy not to be heading north.  At one point I clocked a groundspeed of 130knots, the fastest I had ever been in my little anemic Cessna 150.

I went on to visit three more airports in the valley including Eagle (A09), Chemehuevi Valley (49X), and Avi Suquilla (P20).  Uneventful for the most part except for Eagle.  After landing at Eagle I taxied back on RW35 for takeoff.  A garbled transmission came across that I thought nothing of since it was a CTAF shared by many airports.  I announced my takeoff over the CTAF.  After lifting off and starting to climb out I noticed a plane at the other end of the runway starting to roll for takeoff.  I asked for a radio check on the CTAF and the pilot responded.  He stated my broadcast were weak.  I’m not sure if he had heard me and waited for me to takeoff or that we were all just very lucky this day.  I do know his takeoff was downwind in a 10+kt wind making me question this guy’s judgment as a pilot.

I finished off the day waiting for the sun to set in Parker, AZ before making the night x-country flight back to Phoenix, stopping in Wickenburg to get night current with three stop and go landings.    For the day I logged 6.5 hours, 5.8 of it x-country and 2.0 at night.  I can’t emphasize enough for those who are building hours that you should make every hour fit in as many columns of your logbook as possible.  If you can fly under the hood, at night, while going x-country that hour of flight will be ten times more valuable to you then if you took an hour conducting laps at the airport.  To get to the ATP you need not only total time & PIC time, but you need X-country (500hrs), instrument (75hrs ), and night hours (75).  These become major barriers for those pilots who may fly a lot but never really go anywhere.  I’m still 500 hours out from total time, but reqs for x-country, night, and instrument have almost been met making completion much easier.

 [August 14, 2013]
Beating the Heat - "Polar Pilot" Project                                                            1.6
_[PHOTOS] [VIDEO]__________________________________________________________________________________

Many of you are familiar with the various ice chest cooling systems sold for GA aircraft, “Artic Air” probably being the most popular.  These units sell for anywhere from $500 to $700 depending on the model.  The concept is simple, fill the ice chest with ice and a little water, turn on a pump which circulates the cold water through a heater core and pull air through the core with a fan creating evaporative cooling.  The result is cool moist air in the cockpit.  This concept is so simple yet the cost of an Artic Air unit is incredibly high.  Every summer I find myself browsing these cooling units online fantasizing what it would be like to be cool in the cockpit during the sweltering time between start-up and take-off but the high unit price always made me walk away.  This year after browsing the air coolers once again I began to feel confident that I could build my own and I could do it for substantially less than the cost of a retail unit, say $100.  I embarked on the project last month sketching out my concept, based largely on very helpful DITY web sites, ordered the parts, and began the build.  There was plenty of trial and error in the build which did increase overall cost but in the end I was able to put together a prototype system for about $150, still well below the cost of any retail system.  The first aircraft test was done in the CAP Cessna 182.  I think the system was running for about 5 minutes before my fellow pilot turned to me and said “I want one, just tell me how much you need to build it.”  Performance was impressive to say the least; temperatures in the cockpit quickly were reduced to a very comfortable 70F.  Instead of sweltering through pre-takeoff checks, with doors and windows cracked and sweat puddles in our seats we leisurely took our time enjoying the cool air blowing out of the ice chest cooler Frankenstein which I labeled the “Polar Pilot.”  After takeoff and climb to altitude we switched the unit off to conserve the ice for landing.  The first operational test, while very successful, did uncover some short comings with the initial design.  The 20lbs of ice only lasted less than hour due to the high volume of heated air flowing into the cooler.  Bag ice purchases can also be expensive over time, cost as much as $4 for a bag.  To increase the longevity of the ice I am looking at isolating the air flow from the actual ice compartment by creating a duct out of fiberglass.  This duct would allow outside air to flow through the intake vent and through the heater core without making contact with the ice below.  I believe this will double the length of time the unit can create cold air.  Ice blocks are also superior to ice cubes and can be made at home with simple bread pans eliminating the need to purchase ice which over time would make the operating cost more than the cost to build the unit.

Now that I have moved to Phoenix my Polar Pilot project could not have been completed at a better time.  The ramp temps at KDVT yesterday were 114F at 4PM, brutal!  For the first time I loaded the Polar Pilot into the back of the Cessna 150.  With a little finesse the cooler can be fitted behind the pilot seat without much cursing.  I pulled the 150 out from its covered tie down (only 99F in the shade) and let it bake in the afternoon sun for the ultimate challenge.  Loaded up I turned the engine over and flicked a switch on the cooler.  It only took moments for the blowing cool air to reduce cockpit temperatures to a comfortable level in the small confines of the 150.  Success!  There were three planes waiting at the hold short line when I arrived at runway 25L.  No worries, take your time.  Noticing the door cracked open on the plane in front of me only elicited a big smile.  I flew out to Wickenburg at low altitude and kept the cooler running continually.  As in the first test the ice lasted only about an hour convincing me that I need to move forward with building and testing the duct system.  I’ll report my findings here when completed.  This project has been too good not to share and I will soon post a how-to guide for building your own Polar Pilot.  I also plan to post build photos and a short video of the operational test in the Cessna 150.  With summer temps still here for at least another month it may well be worth your while to build a Polar Pilot today!

[August 11, 2013]
First Glider Passenger                                                                    .5

Carson became my first non-instructor passenger in the Schweizer SGS 2-33A today.  I wanted him to have the glider experience and was glad that he demanded he would not fly with anyone else but me.  The aerotow takeoff was one of my best to date and while Carson did not care for the racket made on initial takeoff (glider skid and broken gravel make a lot of noise) he was quickly exclaiming how awesome the experience was on climb out behind the Pawnee.  We climbed up to 2500 MSL before releasing north of the field.  The field always looks uncomfortably far away and I soon found myself heading directly back to the field in sinking air with a head wind.  Nearing the field at 1000' AGL I was frustrated that I could not find lift and that the ride was going to be so short for Carson.  Suddenly the variometer shot up to 600FPM and we were in the middle of a strong thermal.  I quickly began to circle slowly feeling out the width and location of the thermal.  We continued to climb up.  We eventually topped out at 4300' MSL, about 300' higher than our release altitude.  Carson noted how thermals and sink can be felt in the seat of your pants.  I decided to head out in an attempt to find another thermal but was met only with rapidly sinking air which erased all of our altitude gains in only a matter of minutes.  Once again we were heading back to the field for landing.  As usual I underestimated the glide angle and found myself using full spoilers on the approach to lose altitude.  I believe this problem may be due to the steep glide angles of powered training planes which I have spent so much more time in.  The landing was also one of my better ones with just a small bounce on initial contact.  Carson really enjoyed the experience exclaiming that he was "so getting my glider license when I am old enough."  With his 12th birthday only weeks away he will soon be eligible to join the local CAP Squadron in Deer Valley.

[August 4, 2013]
New Home for 044 - Deer Valley (DVT)

 Caught a ride back to Sierra Vista to pick up 044 and reposition her to her new home at Deer Valley Airport on the north side of Phoenix.  I decided on a covered tie down on the south west side of the airport and could not be happier.  Beside the overhead protection, I've got night lighting, a parking spot for my car, an electrical outlet, and a spot to secure a storage container to keep cleaning supplies and other miscellaneous gear that I have had to cart around in my car for the last six months.  It's almost as good as a hangar at 1/3 the price.  As a matter of fact I am only paying about $50 more that what I paid for an exposed tie down at Sierra Vista.  I was very impressed with the airport management staff and KDVT overall.  About the only downside to DVT is the two flight schools that reside on the airport.  Nothing wrong with flight training but they sure keep the ramp and pattern congested. 

[August 2, 2013]
Return to Soaring...Without an Engine

Its been two and a half years since I earned my private pilot glider certificate.  From Sierra Vista there was little opportunity to exercise the privilege.  The closest glider field was north of Tucson, not exactly convenient.  All of that has changed now with Pleasant Valley Airport only 12 miles from Anthem.  I ventured out to Turf Soaring School to get reacquainted with the Schweizer SGS 2-33 today.  My instructor Dan did not waste any time throwing me back into the thick of it by requiring me to conduct the aero tow takeoff.  I vividly remember this being the one part of glider training that I was most apprehensive about, landings were easy, takeoffs...not so much.  It feels like walking a tight rope to me and one wrong move always feels like disaster will shortly follow.  Well I did not make any friends with the Piper Pawnee tow pilot today that's for sure.  I was all over the place, pulling his tail up, pulling it down, man handling the controls, and jabbing at rudder pedals with the finesse of an epileptic seizure.  Eventually I calmed down and worked to place the Pawnee's gear on the horizon which put the glider in the right tow position.  After release from the tow at 2500 AGL we did some basic maneuvering before doing something I had never done in training, thermal.  It was noon and the desert air was extremely active, in short order I found a parcel of rising air and began to circle slowly.  We started to climb, first at 100 FPM, then 200FPM, and at times 500-600FPM.  It was pretty cool to be climbing without any power.  My original glider training had been tow up, release, practice maneuvers, land.  Pretty boring, but now I was really working the air around me, searching out those chutes of rising air, invisible yet visible to the trained eye.  We climbed up several thousand feet before moving on to find another opportunity and conduct more training.  We stayed aloft for a incredible 1.2 hours and could have gone longer if we wanted to.  Dan instructed me to land the glider like a trail dragger which was different from my training where we landed at a level attitude.  I executed the landing as instructed and did not find it as difficult as I thought it might be.  I'm looking forward to additional training tomorrow and getting checked out to fly solo again.  My first passenger will definitely be Carson.  With his 12th birthday around the corner, I want to ensure he has plenty of gliding experience over the next two years so he can solo at 14.  I guess that means I need to get my commercial and CFI for the glider here soon.  No need to twist my arm. Blue skies.

[July 30, 2013]
Bye Bye Sierra Vista, Hello Anthem, AZ

With all our belongings packed and crated I turned over the keys to the house in Sierra Vista and left for Anthem, AZ this morning to join my family in our temporary residence.  My Cessna 150 will remain behind at KFHU until I can catch a ride back to ferry her to her new home at Deer Valley Airport (DVT).

[July 8-10, 2013]
The Great California X-Country                                                    12.3

Track my tour:

[June 23, 2013]
900 Hours Logged, 600 to go

A great way to cross 900 hours, two discovery flights early this morning followed by providing a flight lesson on extreme cross wind landings and finally a ferry flight to Benson to drop off the FBOs plane and pick up my 150 from maintenance.  By the time I got to Benson the winds were blowing 220 at 22 gust to 28.  I landed on 28 without a hitch.  I'm to the point now where I'm ready to start taking on 30+ winds in the 172 and 182.   While this may sound extreme for some in many parts of the country 30knot winds are just another day, not until 45 do folks stop flying.  The 150 has been gone a week to have a 50 hour oil change completed and my Slick mags were well overdue for an inspection.  Old 044 is making 50 more RPM now and my vac pump is creating enough suction to keep my DG holding the right heading.  Life is good!  I'm still studying for my ATP written.  Chris landed a job in Scottsdale so it looks like we will be leaving Sierra Vista sooner rather than later, probably the end of the month. 

[June 16, 2013]
Prep for the ATP Written Exam

Here we go again...why do I feel like I am perpetually studying for an FAA written exam?  The Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Gleim test book came in the mail a few weeks ago, it is twice the size of any previous written test book I have studied.  There is plenty of rehashed material from previous commercial and instrument knowledge tests, but the new stuff covering Part 121 is really cool like DC-9, Boeing 737, 272 operating and performance data.  Welcome to the big leagues!  Having the ATP written done even if you are not qualified flight time wise to take the practical is a hiring requirement for most 121/135 operators and a discriminator for all other professional flying jobs.  I've decided I need this on my pilot resume along with a first class medical.  I know that I'll get the required hours to take the practical test within the next two years.  My goal is to pass the ATP written and get the medical by mid July and then start sending out resumes.  With my move to Phoenix imminent I know I can work for one of the major flight schools there and rack up some serious flight hours in a very short time if needed.  While 900 hours is only a few days away I'm really looking forward to cross the 1,000 hour mark before October.  Plans are in the works to head back to Michigan in September to pick up my Multi-Engine flight instructor ticket.  With the MEI I should be able to get the 200 hours of multi time I need to be competitive for many more flying jobs.  The journey continues, stay tuned things are going to get real interesting over the next six months.

[June 7, 2013]
Taking the Cessna 150 to its Limits

Photos:  (Left) Riding the thermal elevator to 13,100ft, (Right) Taking off from Springerville,AZ with a density altitude of 10,300ft

To say my flying activity over the last few months has diminished would be an understatement.  I had big plans to reverse the trend this weekend with a x-country flight to California but it all came crashing down this morning when I looked at the TFRs only to find to massive red circles over Palm Springs (my desired route) and most of the LA area.  Apparently the President had plans for a x-country to California as well.  So much for that idea, and the plan goes back on ice for another day.  I looked at the sectional for a long time and just could not find anywhere new that I had not already been.  What to do?  I finally settled on a short trip to Reserve, NM.  A co-worker has asked me to fly him to see his ranch in Reserve in the coming weeks so I decided to just go out a do a recon today by myself.  The trip ended up being rather interesting as I learned just what my little underpowered Cessna 150 can really do.

It’s already in the 90s here in Sierra Vista and I live at an altitude of 5,000ft so the density altitude at the airport was already hovering above 8,000ft when I arrived at my plane around 3PM.  After topping off the tanks I calculated my aircraft weight at 1430lbs, about 170lbs under gross for the Cessna 150.  I consulted the performance charts which only went to 7500ft, but even in that worst case scenario I needed 2500ft to clear a 50ft obstacle.  The winds were picking up at 15-20 knots out of the East so I asked for an intersection takeoff from r/w 8.  The intersection runway length was 6,000ft.  The controller asked me if I wanted the entire runway length.  Wow, that is 12,000ft, yeah the DA is high but does my little Cessna really need 2 miles of runway to takeoff?  I declined the offer.  Lined up on the centerline I poured on the power and was off and climbing away after only 900ft, a ground run no different than any other typical day.

As I climbed out the thermals were really making the air volatile and I was getting bounced around pretty good.  As I cleared out of Libby airspace I was fighting to maintain my altitude as the thermals wanted to push me up.  I decided not to fight it and see just how high the little Commuter could go.  At times I hit thermals so strong I was climbing at 2,000+ FPM.  Before long I was passing 10,000ft then 11,000 then 12,000.  Could I make 13,000?  Yes I could, I topped out at 13,300ft before I could climb no longer.  A Southwest 737 passed in front of me headed to Tucson.  The little Continental chugged along at this amazing altitude without a hitch.  After the flight I found the performance specs in the POH state the service ceiling for the 150 is 12,650ft.  I think I have only been higher in the 182.  The little 150 proved itself once again.

Landing at Reserve was exciting with the winds having picked up to 20 knots and burbling off the mountains and tall pine trees surrounding the strip.  Coming down on final was pretty exciting with some sword fighting going on in the cockpit as I tried to keep the aircraft tracking down the centerline.  I got her down but the winds were definitely making things squirrely.  Keeping the airplane from weathervaning off the runway to the left took a substantial amount of right rudder.  Not much of anything to see at the airport in Reserve so I was soon on my way.  Winds favored runway 24 but 24 also had an upslope of 2 degrees.  Reserve sits at 6,000 ft of elevation and has a runway length of 4,000ft so I had to choose carefully.  I used Sparky Imeson’s rule of thumb in this case, since the winds were greater than 15 knots I would take off uphill.  The take off role was longer but the climb more pronounced, as soon as I turned downwind the climb diminished and flattened out.  I headed for Springerville 30 miles to northwest for fuel picking my way around the high terrain.

Springerville is one of the highest elevation airports in the state and the highest I have landed at.  D68 sits at 7,000ft above sea level. Closing on the airport I dialed in the AWOS only to find winds howling, 25 gusting to 30.  Fortunately the winds favored runway 29 and I was able to make an uneventful landing but had to nurse the airplane over to the fuel pumps.  With the aircraft broadside to the winds it was a constant struggle to keep from weathervaning into the wind.  I parked the plane into the wind and chocked it before refueling.  Intermittent gusts rocked the aircraft back and forth and I hoped she would not take off on her own before I had a chance to finish fueling.  I am not sure what velocity of wind it would take to move the little airplane but I’m not really interested in finding out either.  A Forestry Service pilot flying a King Air C90 asked me what my ground speed was on landing, I told him it was more of a hover than a landing.  Looking back at my GPS track my short final ground speed had actually been 46kts! As cautiously as I taxied in I taxied back to runway 29.  An electronic sign just prior to the hold short line reported the density altitude at an unbelievable 10,300ft.  The runway length was only 4,600 ft, but with the wind providing half my flying speed before I even pushed in the throttle I knew my fully fueled 150 was not going to have a problem taking off in this extreme environment.  Sure enough I lifted off within 1475ft of ground roll and had over 100ft altitude before the 3/4 field point.  I climbed for another 500-600ft before my trajectory began to flatten out.  I was not overly concerned and preferred staying close to the earth for the flight home to really get the feel of flying. 

My journey home took me over pine forest and wide open prairies at the higher elevations before transitioning quite dramatically over rocky cliffs down into the lower elevations of the southern desert.  In the final minutes of twilight I returned to my home field executing my signature “slam dunk” approach maintaining a ground speed of 120 knots (in the descent) all the way up until short final at which point I leveled off, pulled the power, dumped the flaps and immediately slowed to 60 MPH allowing for a steep vertical descent down to the numbers.  This is usually much appreciated by the controllers when other traffic is in the area.  If not for my shoulder harness I would probably go through the windshield the deceleration is so pronounced.  The 150 can create some serious drag when needed, almost like stomping on the brake pedal in a car.  No need for an airliner like stable approach in such a simple machine, you can safely configure this airplane for a safe landing in only a few hundred feet.  All this talk of how GA pilots should fly more like airline pilots, I say it should be the reverse.  Most of them could use a little more stick and rudder in their lives.

[May 29-31, 2013]
Visiting the Roots of Pan Am

I have always found Pan American (Pan Am) a fascinating airline with a rich and interesting history. A few months ago I picked up a used copy of Pan American Clippers: The Golden Age of Flying Boats by James Trautman. A nice coffee table book with plenty of pictures of the Clipper Flying Boats so famous and iconic from the early days of Pan Am. With a planned vacation to Key West via Miami scheduled last week I made a point to take some time to visit some of the more historical Pan Am locations in the two towns. In Miami we made a visit to Dinner Key where Pan Am had its famous sea side terminal which serviced the flying boats coming and going to points south. The terminal still exist but is now home to Miami’s City Hall. The building is relatively unchanged save for the name on the building. The Flying Globe PAA logos still adorn the façade above the second story. Much around the building has changed. Gone are the large maintenance hangars and berthing areas, replaced by a boat marina. Walking around the building it was hard not to imagine being back in the golden era of flight watching huge Martin M-130 and Boeing B314 flying boats pulling up to the dock to unload travelers returning from exotic locales. What an amazing time it must have been. You can view the photos of Dinner Key now and then by clicking on the PHOTO link above.

In Key West I paid a visit to Pan Am’s first office. Pan Am got its start like many US airlines by flying the mail. Pan Am’s first mail route was from Key West to Havana, Cuba. Traditional land based aircraft were initially used to support the mail routes starting with the Fokker F-7 in October 1927. This mail route would quickly evolve to carry passengers beginning in January 1928. The building used by Pan Am in Key West is now owned by Kelley McGillis of Top Gun fame. Now named Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill and Brewery the building retains many artifacts of Pan Am’s heyday and even includes a flying boat in the restaurant’s logo. You can view the photos of Pan Am’s Key West office by clicking the photo link above.

I’m currently reading Joe Sutter’s book “747:Creating the World’s First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation.” It is interesting to note that we have the Boeing 747 today thanks exclusively to Juan Tripp, the man behind Pan Am. Juan was a visionary and knew that international routes would demand a high capacity airliner. He essentially commissioned the development of the 747. Sutter relates that early on in the design Tripp envisioned a double decker aircraft that would be similar in appearance to an ocean liner. This was in keeping with Tripp’s desire to keep historical ties between his airline and sailing ships of a bygone era thus the original “clippers.” Sutter’s team eventually discarded the double decker approach for a more sensible wide body design. Mock ups of both cross sections were made and Tripp was invited to tour them. Tripp was not happy that Boeing favored the wide body design before his visit but after walking through the mock ups he was convinced that it was the way to go. Pan Am would go on to make the 747 one of the most successful airliners in history. Years later Airbus would build its super jumbo A380 utilizing the double decker design that Juan Tripp had originally envisioned.


[May 27, 2013]
A380 Landing

Fantastic cockpit video of the A380 on approach to KSFO.  I took a look at the web site of the company that produced the video and it appears they have a large number of videos and other goodies.  I flew in a Lufthansa A380 from SFO to Frankfurt, Germany a few years ago.  Very cool experience.

Web Site:

[May 4, 2013]
Graduation Day

Graduation day at Embry-Riddle's Prescott, AZ campus.  We could not have asked for better weather, 70's and light winds.  A fantastic ceremony.  All done!  Of course the speeches were targeted at the young under-grads all about optimism, truly starting life, and making a difference.  I've got half of my life behind me, maybe a little jaded and wise to the realities of this world but like my younger counterparts I am truly starting anew with my Army career coming to an end and a new chapter in life about to begin.  Who says you can't have dreams after 40?  There was only one thing missing at today's ceremony....a fly over.  Why in the world does the country's premier aeronautical university not have a fly over at its commencement ceremony?

[April 13, 2013]
Trike Discovery Flight                                                                         0.8

Looking for new aviation experiences took me back to Phoenix-Regional Airport in Maricopa to try my hand at flying a Trike.  “I Fly Trikes” is run by Norm Bjornstad.  He provides lessons and discovery flights in a two seater trike that falls under the Special-Light Sport Aircraft category (S-LSA).  We met at 0700 while the winds were still calm and before the air had a chance to become turbulent from the surface heating of the desert.  The temp was a perfect 70F when I arrived at Norm’s hangar in T-shirt and shorts.  Norm was sitting behind his desk with what looked like a snow suit on….strange.  It turned out that the snow suit was actually a flying suit and even though it was 70F on the surface it was going to be much cooler 2,000ft above while flying at 40 MPH in a totally exposed airframe.  I was given a flying suit, a head set and a helmet with a face shield to don.  Because of my previous flying experience Norm allowed me to sit up front on the trike, the position he usually assumes for discovery flights.  The trike we would fly was the North Wing Sport X2, a S-LSA weight shift aircraft.  S-LSA are assembled by manufactures and have received certification by the FAA allowing one to instruct and rent the aircraft, something you can’t do with an ultralight or E-LSA.  I could not log the time as PIC for this aircraft because it falls outside of the airplane category.  In order to someday PIC this flying machine I would need to follow the same rules that apply to a sport pilot: an instructor endorsement of proficiency followed by a check ride with a different instructor who would provide a sport endorsement in my log book for the category of weight-shift.  Once I have this I can exercise sport pilot privileges with any LSA weight-shift aircraft.  No FAA involvement or updated certificates.  Confusing to say the least.  The trike consists of a single hang glider like wing with no tail boom and associated vertical horizontal stabilizers.  A Rotex engine sits behind the pilot in a pusher configuration with a three bladed composite prop.  The engine produces 65HP which is plenty for a 700lbs machine.  The cockpit consists of two seats in a tandem configuration resting on a tricycle landing gear configuration.  Nose wheel steering is accomplished with two foot pegs connected directly to the nose wheel but unlike rudder pedals in a conventional airplane you push on the peg opposite the direction of your turn (negative transfer #1).  The instrument panel consists of a single monochrome LCD multifunction display, a few toggle switches and one analog gauge displaying airspeed in MPH.

As we taxied out to the paved runway the winds had already started to pick up out of the east giving us an almost direct crosswind of 5 knots.  Trying to steer the trike took some getting used to since it required inputs opposite of what I was accustomed to.  The run up was very basic and took only a few seconds.  Norm pushed down the visor on my helmet and we rolled onto the runway.  I was amazed at the feeling of acceleration when we started our takeoff run.  It pushed me back into my seat.  Maybe the feeling of speed was due to the fact that we were so close to the pavement. It only took a few seconds before we were racing along and promptly at 35MPH or so Norm pushed forward on the bar and we leaped off the ground and began climbing up 1,500 ft into the morning air.  The climb speed was around 40MPH at some 5000+ RPM.  We were quickly up around 2,500 ft AGL with a fantastic view of the ground.  Really the only thing obstructing my view was my feet!  Norm demonstrated some turns and climbs and descents before allowing me to handle the controls which was essentially a bar.  There was no trim on the Sport X2.  Instead you just relaxed any pressure on the bar and the trike would seek out about 43 MPH.  With power adjustments to 4,700 RPM you could fly level.  Norm gave me control and I quickly realized it was like flying a boat, if you turned and tried to return to straight flight you had to null your inputs a few seconds beforehand in order to end up flying straight and not starting a turn in the opposite direction.  If you wanted to go right you pushed the bar left (negative transfer #2).  If you wanted to stop the turn you pushed the bar into the turn (negative transfer #3).  It was easy to over control and quickly get confused.  The trike has no real stability in a turn and tended to steepen the bank if opposite control inputs were not applied.  We did a couple 90 degree turns with Norm bailing me out when I became confused and the banks became too steep.  Next we worked climbs and descents.  This was a tough one to overcome the negative transfer of airplane controls.  To pitch up you push forward, to pitch down you pull back.  I found myself in pilot induced oscillations as I mentally concentrated on the correct inputs.  Releasing pressure on the bar once I became thoroughly confused would allow the Trike to execute several phugoid oscillations while it returned to a steady 43MPH.  The airspeed envelope is pretty narrow with the trike.  Norm demonstrated an imminent stall which occurred at around 35MPH.  I did not even feel the buffet.  Norm gave control back to me and I soon was getting the hang of minimizing over control.  He gave me control of the throttle which I controlled with my right foot.  A hand throttle between my legs gave me the ability to lock in a steady RPM.  Feeling in a little more confident with control I had a chance to fly over a few small hills in the area and enjoy the spectacular viewpoint.

We headed back to the airport for a few touch and goes on the dirt strips that favored the increasing winds.  I am not so sure you could categorize these dirt strips as runways or even dirt roads; they were more like trails barely wider than the trike itself.  We flew a pattern and on base began to dive for the strip picking up airspeed.  Just above the strip we leveled off, began to quickly settle and flared quickly before touching down promptly.  Power came back in and we were off again.  We did several of these iterations with Norm allowing me to fly the pattern.  The final landing was on the dirt trail leading to his hangar.  You could put a trike down just about anywhere.  We flew a .8 and while the machine is simple it was such a totally new experience for me that I had little time to digest it all.  I’m told that it will take me about 10 hours to transition and I am thinking hard about going for it.  I like how different and visceral the experience is.  This is real flying, back to its essence, nothing between you and the elements of earth and sky.


[March 30, 2013]
Back in Business                                                                              3.2

Last week I flew one of my fellow CAP pilots up to Chandler to pick up our "new" CAP Cessna 182.  Actually the plane is the oldest in the entire Arizona Wing, a 1979 Q model.  The Wing received a new G1000 aircraft from HQ and swapped about every plane in the state to ensure we received the crumbs.  I'm not complaining at least we have an airplane.  The fact that we are in one of the most strategically important locations in the state with regard to SAR is neither here nor there.  With only a few days left before my annual check pilot credentials expired I climbed into the 182 and went out to get reacquainted.  The '79 aircraft is a solid plane and well equipped, unfortunately you need a step stool to check fuel because hand holds and foot platforms where not integrated into the model.  I did a pretty intense 1 hour workout which covered all of the maneuvers required on the check ride.  I made notes of the pitch/power/trim settings required to get the performance needed for each event.  Saturday morning I headed off to Tucson to conduct my check ride which went smoothly.  I'm good for another year and look forward to checking out a backlog of new potential CAP pilots in the squadron.  The plane should get quite a few hours logged on it with so many eager pilots.  Budget cuts have not spared CAP in the least, I actually had to pay for half of the gas just to conduct my check ride thanks to a lack of money.  Pretty sad when a volunteer organization requires asks not only for your time but also your money.

[March 19, 2013]
X-Country to Prescott & Some Tailwheel Time                            7.6

Blasted off into the morning sky in my flying machine destined for Prescott and the campus of Embry-Riddle.  Enroot I made a planned pit stop at Ak-Chin Regional Airport southeast of Phoenix to experience a little old school aviation at Desert Aero Club.  I mentioned the DAC concept in my March 1st post.  Essentially owner Andy Estes has decided to teach primary students using popular training planes from the past like the Cessna 120 and Aeronca Champ.  I wanted to get some stick time in these two airplanes so I made a point to come see Andy.  Andy's primary business is restoring and recovering old rag and tube airplanes.  He took me on a tour of his shop and it motivated me to further entertain my delusions of building an RV-8.  The wood skeletons of some beautiful vintage airplanes in various stages of restoration dotted the hangar.  These were not museum pieces, every single airplane in the hangar will eventually return to the sky, a beautiful thing.  Many of the old rag and tube aircraft fall under the 1320lbs LSA weight restriction which has revitalized the interest in these aircraft and the restoration of many to factory new condition.  Just one more positive aspect of the FAA's LSA rule.

Andy introduced my to his beautiful 1959 Aeronca Champ which he had personally restored.  You would never know this was a 50+ year old airplane.  This Champ was equipped with a Continental O-200 100HP engine, the same engine in my Cessna 150, so no surprises there.  Pre-flight inspection points vary little from the Tri-Pacer I had flown for over 100 hours.  Checking fabric, struts, tail braces, and giving the wing a good tug and twist to make sure it would remain attached and airworthy during the entire flying experience.  There is a fuel tank located inboard of each wing.  No need for a stool or fancy foot holds on the airplane, you just simply step on the tire to get the height needed to unscrew the gas caps and use your finger as a dip stick.  Working our way inside the aircraft has a tandem seating configuration but unlike the J-3 Cub the student or solo pilot sits in the front seat.  The deck angle is not as steep as the J-3 either making for good forward visibility over the nose when seated.  No need to s-turn during the taxi.  The interior dash is not as sparse as one would expect from such a simple machine but I believe the dash has been heavily modified bearing little resemblance to what it looked like when it rolled out of the Aeronca factory.  A simple stick controls flight surfaces with the throttle on the left wall of the cabin.  Two odd control placements: the trim is on the roof behind the left shoulder of the pilot and the carb heat is located on the right side of the panel requiring the pilot to either reach across his body with his left hand or remove his right hand from the stick in order to adjust.  Probably safe to assume that human factor engineering & design was not yet in vogue in the 1950's.

The Aeronca sports the dreaded heel brakes which requires unnatural and uncomfortable twisting of the lower legs in order to operate.  I guess it becomes second nature at some point but that is a point I have yet to reach in my limited time of flying tail draggers.  We taxied out to the runway hold shirt without issues thanks to the great visibility.  A short runup ensured everything was in working order before rolling on to the centerline and applying power.  I knew ahead of time that I would not push the nose all the way into the level attitude for takeoff, it just feels wrong push forward on the stick during takeoff.  Sure enough as we accelerated and I released back pressure and began to move the stick forward of neutral Andy had to step in to get us in the right attitude.  At 60mph only slight back pressure is required for the aircraft to fly off, and then it’s a matter of setting the nose attitude for a 70mph climb out.

We went out to the practice area to work stalls, slow flight, and steep turns.  No real surprises from the Champ.   Stalls are straight away with minor buffeting just prior to airflow separation.  My feet were happy to be active participants once again in the act of flying an airplane.  We soon returned to the field to work landings.  We started with three point landings.  Final approach is flown at 70mph with power out once the runway is made.  A gradual transition is made arresting the descent just above the runway and slowing raising the nose to the three point attitude while airspeed dissipates.  The first round out was a foot or two high, I cringed as I anticipated the drop in but the Champ’s gear has great energy absorption capability with its steel tube and oleo strut design.  Not only was the landing soft but we did not bounce back into the air, a forgiving airplane.   Another go at the landing got the depth perception issue worked out and we moved on to the wheeler landings.  Wheelers require flying the plane onto the runway and then providing slight forward pressure to keep the tail up.  This technique is good in a crosswind when you want to maintain lateral control on the runway.  The trick here is getting over the unfounded fear of nosing the airplane over by pushing forward on the stick.  From what I am told it is just not possible due to the aerodynamic forces working on the tail.  My first attempt had me pushing forward on the stick during the flare trying to find the runway, big no-no.  Andy explained flare and feel for the runway as you normally would for a three pointer with progressive back stick and only come forward on the stick once the wheels touch.  Point noted.  Next iteration was executed without issue, I am teachable.  The final landings were simulated bounces.  We came did a wheeler, pulled back on the stick to balloon and then salvaged the landing with a three pointer.  We did several of those before calling it a day. 

Andy provided some constructive criticism after the flight.  I tended to be a little mechanical on the controls and had consistently failed to clear the extended approach path on my turns from base to final.  The mechanical control observation has come up in the past, something I’ll have to remain aware of but maybe more a byproduct of flying something new and not being completely at ease in the airplane.  The next time should be better.  I felt good about my ability to land the airplane and control it during roll-out.  Tailwheel flying makes you a better pilot, period.  I’m sure I’ll be back to see Andy again in the future especially once he gets his Cessna 120 back in the air.

[March 18, 2013]
Master of Aeronautical Science (with distinction)

Thesis: Isolating the Factors Responsible for the Decline in Personal General Aviation

A professionally published version of the thesis can be obtained from Blurb.

It feels like I just typed in my first blog entry about starting graduate school and now it is done, incredible.  I turned in the final revision of my capstone project on Sunday.  A 100+ page exploration and research into the factors influencing the decline of personal general aviation.  What a great experience.  If I thought I knew aviation before starting school I now appreciate the depth and breadth of this field.  My specialization was Aerospace Operations and I’ve touched on a wide range of subjects including human factors, ATC, rotorcraft, air carrier ops, corporate ops, and simulation just to name a few.  Most beneficial for the future will be statistical analysis and research methods taught as prerequisites before tackling the capstone project.  Twenty one months went by in a blink of an eye and I now hold a degree that could benefit me for the rest of my life.  A fair trade indeed even when I think back to the many long nights and lost weekends writing papers and studying.  Learning and growing is something we should never stop doing no matter what our age.  The big question now is if this degree from Embry-Riddle will open opportunities for me in the aviation field as I prepare to transition from military life.  If you are on the fence about embarking on a long learning commitment I leave you with this quote:

Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.
- Earl Nightingale

[March 3, 2013]
Mirror Image                                                                                    .8

Weird experience today in the pattern with a student. As we worked landings a Cirrus SR22 slipped into the pattern and reported final for 26 as we were turning crosswind at the other end. As we proceeded downwind to the midfield point he calls that he is turning downwind. This gets my attention as I still do not see him and ask him if he just executed a midfield crosswind. He fails to comprehend what I am asking and proceeds to tell me he is midfield downwind. Now I am concerned because I am also midfield downwind for RW26. RW26 uses a non-standard right traffic pattern. The SR22 pilot reports that he has me in sight and he is off my left wing. I feel better that he sees me but am not excited that he is in a position “off my left wing.” I crane my neck to visually spot him but see nothing. I broadcast that my student will be conducting a short field approach which will mean a very slow final airspeed in the hopes that this guy understands that he has got to get some serious spacing from me. I turn and report “base.” He then reports base seconds later and states that I turned inside of him. I’m getting a really bad feeling now, this is not good, where is this guy. He radios back that he has me in sight. I turn final for a steep approach, this guy is already in our “do-loop” at this point. He radios he is on final in trail. Enough is enough I tell my student to go around and offset left. I radio to the SR22 that we are going around and to go ahead and land. As my student crosses the threshold he looks down to the left to see the SR22 coming over the numbers. Incredible! What was this guy thinking. Someone on the ground who must have watched the entire event unfold radios “Hey Cirrus that just landed the pattern for runway 26 is north of the field, not south.” With that it all becomes crystal clear; this guy was flying a left pattern, not right. A transient pilot who did not bother to read the AFD or even the sectional. A typical day at a non-towered field!

[March 1-2, 2013]
Ercoupe Cross Country                                                                     4.2

I flew the Ercoupe up to the Cactus Fly In at Casa Grande this morning. The fly-in runs from Friday to Saturday with Friday being pretty slow. I had no issues getting into the field. Following a few minutes behind me was the CAF’s B-17 Sentimental Journey. He did a low pass over the field and headed out. I was really disappointed at how small the fly-in was this year. No vendors, few airplanes, and not much new. I know I said last time that I was going to stop making this trip but they got me again. No major loss since I just stopped at Casa Grande enroute to my final destination at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway 20 miles up the road for an overnight stay to run the Phoenix Marathon on Saturday morning. The Ercoupe always attracts interest and I had a few people come up and talk to me about the airplane. I also had a chance to meet up with Andy Estes who owns Desert Aero Club in Maricopa. Andy has come up with a pretty cool concept of conducting flight training and rentals in vintage airplanes. He has a beautiful Aeronca and Cessna 120 as part of his fleet. Well I love old airplanes and I am just chomping at the bit to get up to A39 and fly Andy’s airplanes. Hopefully sooner than later. Look for a write up in the future.

Departing Cactus I flew low and slow over the Santan Mountains with the side windows down enjoying the gorgeous sunny 70 degree weather. I realized that the Ercoupe bubble canopy probably gets pretty hot during the summer. It was a quick hop to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, formally Williams AFB, where I was cleared to land on 31L. As I taxied in to the FBO the distinctive outline of a B-29 Superfortress came into view on the ramp. Was this CAFs FiFi? It sure was, along with a B-17, B-25, P-51 and an AT-6. All on static display next to the FBO. What a stroke of luck for me! I had seen FiFi fly at AIRSHO in 2010 but at that time you could not even get close to the airplane. I was now parked a few hundred feet away from the aircraft and had the opportunity of a lifetime to go inside the airplane for a mere $10 admission fee. FiFi had been grounded just last year due to damage to the #2 engine. Many thought this B-29, the last flying example, was grounded for good. Fortunately CAF was able to raise the money to fix the engine and get FiFi back in the air. I gladly waited 15 minutes in line to get inside this remarkable airplane. My camera shutter clicked away the entire time I was in the airplane. What an incredible experience, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Please check out the amazing pictures here. The icing on the cake was walking across the tarmac to the B-17 Sentimental Journey and getting the opportunity to go through that aircraft as well.

When I returned the next day to fly home I found the parking spots next to the trusty Ercoupe filled with four Harriers and three Navy Goshawks. The pilots were crawling around their big jets as I walked out to my plane. I offered them a ride in a real man’s airplane which got a good chuckle. Two hours later I was back home after an uneventful and relaxing flight with the windows down. The Ercoupe did well on her first cross-country. The little Continental C-90 is a good engine but she does consume oil. I must have put a quart worth in the little 4 quart sump for four hours of total flying. I’ll miss the little airplane when it comes time to give her up.


[February 19, 2013]
Air 2 Air                                                                           1.7

For a milk shake and $20 I bribed the resident aerial photographer (i.e. Carson) to go up and snap some photos of the Ercoupe and my Cessna 150.  He took a total of 500 photos and out of that we got some real gems.  You can check them out in the photos link above.

[February 6, 2013]
Flying Hawaii                                                                    1.6

Work brought me to Hawaii and I certainly was not going to pass up the opportunity to fly the island while I was here.  I contacted George’s Aviation out of Honolulu International and made reservations for a check out in a 172R and a few hours of solo flight time to fly around the island and visit Dillingham on the North Shore.  The rental rates were pretty reasonable considering the location.

Woke up this morning to find it windy, overcast and raining in Kaneohe Bay.  The opportunity to fly based on the forecast was looking very slim.  As I made my way across the island to Honolulu International via the H3 I noted that the base of the clouds obscured the impressive mountains that dominate the island.  Once on the south side the weather improved marginally but steadily improved as I approached the airport.  Maybe I would get to fly after all.  Even without weather to contend with flying out of Honolulu’s extremely busy Class B was going to be challenging.  I had prepared for this flight by reviewing the sectional, airport diagrams, listening to live ATC, and flying the simulator.  I purchased an airport add-on for Honolulu and already owned Mega-Scenery Earth for Oahu.  Both products made familiarization with the airport layout and identifying land marks around the island much easier.

I arrived at George’s Aviation on Lagoon Blvd a few minutes early just as the sun poked out from now widely scattered clouds.  After quickly filling out only a few documents I was linked up with my flight instructor who would check me out.  He explained the departure and approach procedures for the airport and the checkout plan.  I must say I was a little intimidated by the involved procedures and wondered if I could do it alone and not screw up.  It appeared more efficient from a cost perspective, and for general piece of mind, just to take the CFI with me around the island so that is what we decided to do.  I was warned that Dillingham was a pretty intense non-towered airport with gliders, sightseeing, aerobatics, and parachuting activity making for some hazardous situations.  I decided not to go there and instead visit Kalaeloa for a few touch and go’s.

Preflighting the 172R 9512F it became obvious that the salt air takes its toll on the airplanes in Hawaii.  Corrosion was everywhere.  The plane was less than 15 years old but it would have to be junked long before planes twice its age and in far better condition back home in Arizona.  George’s Aviation is close to the primary GA runways of 4L/R and it did not take long to taxi out and get clearance to depart on 4L heading east towards downtown Honolulu.  We remained at 1500ft on the freeway departure flying over the Punch Bowl, abeam of Waikiki, and past Diamond Head before getting cut loose from Honolulu controllers just west of the KoKo Head VOR.  From this point we began to self announce positions to keep from running into the numerous tour helicopters that circle the island.  We remained at 1500 feet as we began the turn northwest at Makapuu Point.  The weather on the north side of the island had not improved much since I had left earlier in the morning.  A solid overcast sat at 2000ft with the mountain tops obscured.  I contacted Kaneohe Bay MCAS and requested transition through their airspace which they approved.  We began to parallel HWY 83 which I had driven the day prior.  I was able to start making the connection with landmarks I had visited. 

We rounded the northern tip of the island and overheard whale sightings on the radio near Haleiwa.  Something cool to checkout!  We flew a few miles off the coast and had no problems identifying from miles away the huge splash that the whales would make when they broke the surface.  These whales were quite active and there were many.  From our perch at 1000ft you could easily see these behemoths just below the surface of the clear blue water.  I asked the CFI to take the airplane while I snapped photos with my 300mm lens.  Every time I removed my eye from the viewfinder a whale would break the surface in spectacular fashion.  I caught a few shots but was unable to do any justice capturing what we were observing.  Pretty awesome to do whale watching from an airplane! 

After a few minutes with the whales we set course for Wheeler AFB to the southeast.  This was the same route the Japanese aircraft took on their way to bombing Pearl Harbor.  I climbed back up to 1500ft and in contact with Wheeler Tower overflew the field enroot to PHJR, Kalaeloa Airport.  Plenty of military hardware was on the tarmac below at Wheeler.  As we flew southeast we were bracketed by mountains on both sides but a wide valley opened up with a clear view all the way to Pearl Harbor.  I imagined my aerial perspective was very similar to what those Japanese pilots saw on December 7th.  Clear of Wheeler we picked up Kalaeloa tower and received permission to enter a left downwind for R/W 4L for a few touch and go’s.  The winds were now 070 at 11 gusting to 19 knots.  A P-3 Orion was working the parallel runway.  I was asked to make a short approach which I did by aggressively slipping the airplane to the delight of my CFI.  Coming out of the slip I picked up a little speed which caused me to float.  Floating with winds gusting is never a good thing.  It just extends the time you are vulnerable to getting ballooned by a gust which is exactly what happened.  I went up and had to arrest the descent with a shot of power and a quick snap of back elevator but still had a firm landing.  Let’s try that again.  The second turn on the pattern had me following a Robinson R22 which required me to slow the aircraft down substantially in order to retain the spacing.  A little longer on the approach I had time to stabilize the aircraft making for a vast improvement on landing.  Time to move on. 

Returning to Honolulu we were cleared direct Ford Island at 1500ft.  The over flight provided for an awesome view of the field and the Arizona Memorial.  The entire ship was clearly visible below the water.  Unfortunately I was too busy to snap a picture.  The GoPro on the wing was capturing the video but ended up fogging up from the humidity changes.  So it goes!  Winds at PHNL were 040at 9 gusting to 21.  We switched to tower and received clearance for 4L, keeping it in tight on a left downwind I slipped the aircraft over the tower and down onto the runway with a descent landing which are always so critical to ending on a high note these one-time flying experiences.

Flying Oahu or any of the Hawaiian Islands is a must for any pilot if the opportunity presents itself.  That said if I had to choose between Hawaii and the Bahamas I would take the latter every time.  While Hawaii scenery is beautiful the airspace is crowded and most airfields are built-up and busy.  This makes for high pilot workload and less time to just enjoy the experience.  The Bahamas has little traffic, small exotic strips, and beautiful scenery minus the mountains.  More time to enjoy the art of flying and less on the mechanics.  Now of course my experience is limited to Oahu so other islands may provide a better experience.  To fly off Oahu would have required a cross country checkout substantially increasing overall cost.  I was happy just to mark Hawaii as the 22nd state I have landed an airplane, Mahalo!

[February 3, 2013]
Super bowl Sunday Solo

Could the day have been any better?  In the morning I had a student complete his first solo after only 8.5 hours logged.  Three just beautiful power-off landings really made my day and his as well.  Follow this with a typical Baltimore football game that always keeps it exciting and my finger nails short.  Only to keep the narrowest of leads to finally win the game in the last few minutes.  A great, great day but one my heart could not handle if it happened more than once in many years.

[January 28, 2013]
Embry-Riddle Graduate Papers

Time to open up the archives and release a few of the papers I have written over the last year and a half for my Embry-Riddle masters. 

Corporate Aviation and the Very Light Jet (VLJ)
Pilot Fixation as a Human Factor in Aviation Accidents
Dawn of the Super Jumbo
Simulator Use in Part 61 Training
The Autogyro: Trailblazer of Rotorcraft Development
ADS-B: Flaws and Fixes

[January 21, 2013]
800 Hours Logged                                                           4.4

I guess this makes me officially closer to being an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP/1500hrs) than a student pilot (zero hrs).  With the new legislation passed by congress last year, if you ain't an ATP you ain't shit in commercial aviation.  My goal is to pass 1000 hours before year end.  This is achievable considering last year I logged 278 hours.  I'll take the ATP written this summer in the hopes that I can log the required practical time over the two years following.

[January 13, 2013]
Poor Man's De-Ice                                                           3.2

We have had a few very cold mornings here in Southern Arizona that has resulted in a layer of frost on everything.  Flying early in the morning has presented challenges with removing the frost from the wings of aircraft.  I have already spent a few hours trying multiple techniques and a whole lot of elbow grease to get the wing’s clean (see checkride on Jan 1).  There had to be a better way.  I searched the Internet and found a very simple solution….black trash bags.  Turn the aircraft with the wings to the sun, cover with trash bags, wait a few minutes and presto, frost gone.  I decided to give it a try this morning and sure enough it worked.  The trick is to wipe the water off the wing with a rag before it refreezes.  The sun was not powerful enough to do the job until about 30 minutes after sun rise but the black bags attracted enough heat to defrost the wings with the air temp still at 20 F.  If I had just repositioned the aircraft the white wings would have taken an hour or longer on their own to do the job.  A great trick that I hope others who must ramp their plane will find useful.

[January 6, 2013]
Ercoupe Sunset Cruise                                                      1.0
_[VIDEO LINK]___________________________________________________________

The Forney F-1 (Ercoupe) that I fly has a Continental 90 engine.  Not much in the way of horsepower driving the little airplane but I was still able to climb it to 12,000ft during a sunset flight today.  She still had plenty of climb left in her and I figure I could have made it another few thousand feet before she topped out but with daylight waning I decided to save it for another day.   With me and about two hours of fuel on board the aircraft weights in at 1100Lbs.  This is about 300-400lbs less than what my 100HP 150J has to haul around and the difference in performance is amazing.  Even with the short stubby wings the Ercoupe outperforms the 150J on all accounts.  The Ercoupe is also extremely stable in flight.  Anyone could fly a steep turn to commercial standards in the Ercoupe.  You roll her into the turn and she locks it in with very little back pressure required to maintain altitude.  After enjoying another wonderful Arizona sun set it was time to get back down.  I pulled power and held altitude until I was in a mushing descent at 1500FPM.  Remember the Ercoupe is incapable of a stall (at least un-accelerated stalls) so the airplane just broadcast its displeasure by pronounced buffeting but she never dropped a wing in ultimate protest.  Approaching final I found the winds 90 degrees off the main runway at 13 knots, I decided on a low pass to see just what amount of crab would be needed to hold centerline.  I blasted down the 12,000 length of runway 8 at 100MPH 10 feet of the runway with the nose of the aircraft pointed well right of centerline.  While it would have been interesting to land and well within the Ercoupe’s limits I decided to save this experience for another day as well.  2000ft from the end of the runway I initiated a zoom climb back up to pattern altitude, entered a left downwind for 12 and made my first official night landing (1 minute after EENT, but you can't count that for currency purposes!) in the Ercoupe.

[January 1, 2013]
Increasing the Pilot Population, One Pilot at a Time      3.4

I did my part to save General Aviation!  Today my student became a Private Pilot!  Probably the first certificated pilot in the state of Arizona and maybe the entire country.  His final weeks as a student pilot played out very similar to my own experience.  First there were several road bumps along the way to scheduling the check ride.  Our first DE choice ended up losing his DE designation and failed to inform me until a few days before the checkride.  This left me scrambling for an alternate DE right around the holidays.  The reschedule cost us a week delay.  On the 28th we headed up to Marana for the check ride.  As the oral portion progressed the winds outside began to pick up.  By the time the oral was completed winds were up to 18 knots.  My student was rightfully anxious to get the practical completed but the winds were stacking the deck against him before he even got off the ground.  The same thing had happened to me back in early January of 2006 and I had to talk myself out of taking the practical during a very long pre-flight inspection as the wings of the aircraft rocked in the cold gusting North Carolina winds.  It’s a tough call but it is also the right call.  In the end he made the right but difficult call to take the discontinuance.  We rescheduled for Benson on New Year’s day.  The first of January turned out to be a very cold but beautiful flying day, no clouds and no winds.  We spent over an hour removing the frost from the wing of 25Q making us late for our appointment, not the best way to start but we recovered.  My student headed off with the DE leaving me to pace and nervously wait for their return.  About an hour later they returned to the field and began the multiple landings.  Each time he taxied back or did a touch-n-go I breathed a sigh of relief.  Finally he taxied back in to park and we all held our breath.  He had done it!  We had a new pilot added to the roles.  It felt good to have been a major part of the process.  A major milestone for both of us and definitely a reason for celebration.  What a way to kick off 2013!

They say flying on the 1st is good luck for the year.  Well the amount of flying I did today should give me plenty of luck for the rest of 2013.  The day started with the flight to Benson for my student’s checkride.  After he passed he flew us home as the official PIC.  I spent another hour with my newest student, followed by an hour providing a rental checkout to one of my fellow CFIs.  I topped off the day with a flight in the Ercoupe.  Lots of time logged today, hope it is a sign of what the year holds for my flying adventures.

[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 29, 2012]
Night X-Country in 51044                                                3.0

While only just now reaching the 800 hour mark I have already started to set my sights on the ATP certificate.  Projecting that I will hit 1500 hours within at least the next two years I have decided to go ahead and take the ATP written this Summer.  From my research having at least the written completed is a plus for the resume.  As with other certificates I have dissected the sub-requirements of the ATP and have decided to start whittling away at those requirements which are achievable in the short term.  One of those requirements is to have 100 hours of night flight logged as well as 500 hours of cross country.  I currently have 56 hours of night and 361 hours of x-country (it is interesting to note that ATP x-country definitions are very different than other certificate x-country requirements but more about that in a latter post) so what better way to work the time off than to fly night x-country flights in 51044?  Tonight I flew out to Casa Grande for a touch and go to begin chipping away at the requirement.  It was a quiet and uneventful flight as most night flights are with the lack of traffic.  Arriving at Casa Grande was the exception.  Flight training in Phoenix was continuing full speed despite the holidays.  At least three aircraft with foreign students were conducting VOR approaches into Casa Grande.  I had to shoe horn my way into the pattern in order to get my touch-n-go.  After departing Casa Grande and changing the CTAF quiet returned to the cockpit for the long flight home.  I logged three hours of night x-country flight time and will work some more time in when the next full moon returns in late January. 

[December 18, 2012]
Power on Stall..."Now we are in a spin"                            1.8
_[VIDEO LINK]_____________________________________________________________

Almost a year from the time I took my spin training for the CFI certificate it finally happened….the aircraft began to enter a spin during flight training.   It occurred in the middle of a mock checkride.  We were at 7500ft, about 3500AGL, and I asked for a power on stall demonstration.  The student brought the power in and pitched the aircraft skyward but failed to keep the ball centered.  As the stall occurred and the aircraft yawed left the left wing dropped in a pronounced fashion.  In a move that was probably gut instinctive reaction my student tried to lift the wing with the yoke fully deflected right.  This action not only failed to lift the wing but stalled the left wing even more deeply causing us to roll left, go inverted, and point straight down.  It took a second for me to comprehend what was happening, time began to slow down, I remember stating “now we are in a spin” very calmly.  The aircraft was rotating left.  I said “my aircraft” and took the yoke which was fully aft.  We were pointed almost straight down and the view outside the aircraft was nothing but desert and houses.  I remember the thought of “this is it” flash through my head.   I hit the right rudder and the spinning stopped almost instantly but I still had the yoke in my lap instinctively wanting to get away from the ground that was rushing up at us.  I pulled the power to idle and mentally told myself that I had to release the back pressure on the yoke if I wanted to recover from the dive.  Once I did, and it did not take much, the plane began flying again and started to recover out of the dive on its own.  I nursed it back to a gentle climb attitude ensuring that I did not overstress the aircraft or enter into an accelerated/secondary stall.  I pushed and pulled at the throttle as the gravity of what had just happened started to sink in.  Once again I had to mentally tell myself to pull out the power until the plane’s speed had returned to the white arc.  The whole event lasted all of 15 seconds.  We lost 1000ft of altitude in that time, 4000FPM!  I returned control of the aircraft to my student and my voice was steady and calm which amazed me.  I don’t think I had time to get scared and I don’t even remember getting a surge of adrenaline, it happened that quick.  The GoPro camera was rolling the whole time and I was thankful to have such a valuable training tool now in my possession.  I must have watched that video 50 times analyzing and dissecting every second of it.  In the end it was the CFI spin endorsement training that saved our lives.  It had been a year since my last training spin recovery but the training was engrained.  While physically some of my actions were incorrect and instinctive, my mind was able to think clearly and force the physical actions that were required to recover.  Despite this anticipating a spin entry during training and entering a spin unexpectedly are two entirely different things.  It took precious seconds for me to react and comprehend what was occurring.  Thank goodness we humans have the ability to slow time down during these events J  It almost feels like a scene out of the Matrix when you get into a situation like this.  I’ve since modified my power on stall procedures with the 180HP 172 to not use full power in the maneuver which caused so much torque and yaw in addition to stressing the importance of MORE RIGHT RUDDER, and keeping these types of maneuvers at an altitude that is at least 3000ft AGL or more.

[December 15, 2012]
So Long 9431X                                   

CAP IG came out today to conduct an inspection on the Squadron.  The Squadron leadership put their best foot forward in preparing for the inspection unfortunately safety issues with the squadron’s mobile trailers caused the IG to recommend suspending the squadron’s operations.  The unit has been in the process of demolishing and removing the 30 year old trailers in preparation for newer mobile classrooms that had become excess on the Fort.  But half way through the demo the company that volunteered for the work just quit leaving us with a big mess.  In short order we lost our airplane which was sent to Deer Valley.  This comes at a time when the squadron was seeing a resurgence in the number of active pilots utilizing the aircraft.  For almost two years only I and another pilot were qualified to fly the airplane.  We logged many hours of funded flying but the number of non-funded hours had greatly diminished due to both of us finding alternative and cheaper access to aircraft.  We had just added two new pilots to the rolls and were in the process of adding two more.  Non-funded flying would have increased substantially deferring the cost to CAP to maintain the aircraft.  I think this was an additional factor in the decision to pull the aircraft.  Word on the street was the AZ Wing needed to turn in an aircraft and we just happened to provide that opportunity despite the fact that our squadron occupies a very strategic and important location in the southeast corner of the state.  I’m wondering at this point how to move forward.  I hold mission pilot and check pilot credentials but without an aircraft to train with it is almost impossible to stay current in the Cessna 182.  If I were staying in the area I would most likely walk away from CAP but with a move to Phoenix in the very near future I have to decide if retaining my check pilot status is worth the effort.  I have been flying 9431X for almost three years now and have logged over 150 hours in her.  The aircraft was an excellent high performance aircraft, well equipped, and always my first choice for retaining instrument currency in.  I’m sad to see her go.  Regardless of my decision CAP provided an excellent flying opportunity for me at a very critical time in my pilot journey.  It provided a relatively low cost alternative to a rental plane for maintaining my skills ($88 versus $120 an hour), greatly honed my stick-n-rudder and contact flying skills, introduced me to some very experienced pilots across the state, and provided many time building hours of free flying opportunities in support of the organization’s mission.  I am infinitely a better pilot because of the relationship.

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