Documenting My Journey to Professional Pilot Since 2005
['16, '15, '14, '13, '12, '11, '10, '09, '08, '07, '06, '05]
Year In Review
2014 is in the books now and it is time to take a moment on this New Year’s Day to reflect on what a year it was. For sure it was a year of change and transition and 2014 was definitely about flying. While it took the previous eight years to amass 1000 hours, it only took one year teaching to add another 500 hours. 2014 was also a year of professional growth not only in flying and instructing but also in learning the hard and expensive lessons of aircraft ownership and maintenance. Certainly the learning never stops in aviation.
It was my first year working in the aviation industry, starting a new career in January as aviation faculty in a Part 141 program at a state college. My learning curve went through the roof as I went from teaching private pilot students to instrument student and finally commercial students. For the year I graduated three private pilots, two instrument pilots, and two commercial pilots. I added a few more certificates to my aviation resume including my CFII in May and my MEI in July. In July I also passed my ATP written exam with a 98% only days before new rules went into effect. My knowledge of instrument flying increased markedly as I began teaching instrument students and flying in actual instrument conditions, the most challenging being a cross country flight during Tropical Storm Odile (which just happens to be my Mother’s name). The fact that this type of weather presented itself in Arizona, which is typically sunny and clear 95% of time, at the exact time that I needed to do x-c flights with my instrument students is quite remarkable. I am very grateful for the experience, and it left me wanting more.
The highlight of 2014 was the Great American Cross Country (GAXC). Flying coast to coast has been on my bucket list for a very long time and finally having the opportunity, time off from work and a (then) reliable airplane, was not to be passed up. We covered 2300 miles from San Diego to Maryland and the whole flight could not have gone more according to plan. The weather was absolutely fantastic the entire way. Other highlights from the year included flying the C-47 in Oklahoma and flying a helicopter for the first time. 2014 was also about giving back to the community through aviation, I joined Flight for Life in September and flew three missions across the state transporting blood products to hospitals. Participating in EAA’s Young Eagles reignited my passion for flight and reminded me why I started this journey in the first place. 2014 was also about expanding the utility of my aircraft with some more challenging flying. I set out to prove that even an underpowered nose dragger with wheel pants like the Cessna 150 could land at some pretty austere locations. I had some real bush flying fun with camping trips to two recently reopened strips thanks to the Arizona Pilots Association as well as some very exciting visits to dirt strips at Red Creek and Lake Alamo.
The lowlight of 2014 was a series of airplane mechanical problems that began with the breakdown of N51044 in Michigan. It was a very expensive experience and maybe question remaining an aircraft owner. After the disappointment of the breakdown I settled in to a period of relatively little aviation activity from mid-July until October when I went to retrieve the plane. The flight back from Michigan was probably the most demanding and harrowing bit of flying I have done in my 1500 hours of experience. I would go on to purchase a new Cessna 150 in early October and sell 044 at the beginning of December. The switch of airplanes however would not spare me the agony of more maintenance problems. In December I experienced my second magneto failure outside of Yuma and would have to declare an emergency while returning for a landing. The failure and subsequent inability to find some one to work on the plane has left it grounded for the foreseeable future.
In 2014 I also found time to enjoy several aviation events and visit a few museums. I went to the Luke AFB air show for the first time, as well as a visit to Prescott to see the B-29 FiFi. The GAXC allowed for many museum visits most of which I had seen before but a couple new ones including the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the Mid America Air Museum in Liberal, Kansas and the Glenn L. Martin Aviation Museum in Maryland.
So on to 2015, something tells me this will be a big year, a hinge point in my aviation journey and a real beginning for Carson’s own aviation adventures. 2015 will mark my 10th year as a pilot. 1500 hours is right around the corner. What doors will open with the achievement of this milestone? It has been 10 years in the making. Here is a sneak peak at the adventures that are in the works for 2015: flights south of the border into Mexico, ATP checkride, outback excursion to Utah, GAXC Part II – Flying the USA from South to North, and Carson’s glider training and solo. Looks like 2015 is going to be exciting!
Emergency at Yuma
I picked up a Flight for Life mission to Yuma today. This was my first flight to Yuma which sits in the southwest corner of Arizona, bordering Mexico to the south and California to the west. Flight time was about 1.5 hours and went smoothly. Carson accompanied me and did the flying to Yuma while I instructed him on dead reckoning and the use of a flight log. We hit each of our waypoints right on time. Yuma Approach picked us up about 50 miles outside of Yuma and brought us to within 10 miles of the airport before handing us to tower which cleared us to land straight in on runway 26. We dropped the blood platelet box off at Million Air FBO where the courier was waiting. Million Air treated us very well, giving us vouchers for a free breakfast at the adjoining café.
We filled up on some relatively cheap gas ($4.25) and then departed south to Rolle airport only about 10 miles from Yuma. Rolle sits out in the middle of the desert, not sure what purpose it serves but the runway was just repaved making for a smooth touch and go. With two more airports marked off my ever shrinking Arizona airport list we departed back to Phoenix for what we thought would be an uneventful trip. We climbed above Yuma’s Class D airspace and headed northeast. About five miles east of Yuma the engine suddenly slowed. Carson heard it and felt it and said “That didn’t sound good.” I leveled off and adjusted mixture and throttle to see if I could fix the problem, no luck. Carb heat was also unable to rectify the problem. We had lost about 300 RPMs, this was looking a lot like what happened to me over Albuquerque. I started to turn the plane back to Yuma, while I prepared to check the magnetos. I turned the key to left magneto and noted absolutely no change in the sound of the engine or change in RPM. I knew what was going to happen when I switched to the right magneto but I had to confirm. A flip of the key and the engine quit. I quickly went back to both. Yes we had lost a magneto and continuing across open desert for another hour and a half was not a prudent course of action. With two people and full fuel the Cessna 150 needs every bit of power it can muster. Without a magneto the engine was not making even cruise power, we were going to start coming down, slowly, but we were still coming down. I hit the record button on my GoPro which was still mounted near the dash. Whatever was about to happen I wanted to ensure there was a complete record of what transpired. I contacted Yuma Tower, told them we had lost a magneto and that we needed to return to the airport immediately. A trainee controller cleared me to land on runway 26, a few seconds later the controller’s boss came on the frequency and asked if we were declaring an emergency. I hesitated to respond, a ton of things flashed through my mind in that instant. To be honest I though about all those accident reports I had read where the pilot did not declare an emergency because they felt they had control of the situation and then things went from bad to worse. Flashing in my head was another article which said when in doubt don’t ever be afraid to declare an emergency, better safe than sorry. All of this processed in a nanosecond, I had an engine problem, I was coming down, I needed priority handling…..”31J is declaring an emergency.” Boom I was cleared to land on any runway I wanted, 26 was still the best because it was straight in and winds were relatively calm. The crash trucks got the alert and started to scramble. I kept a little altitude for insurance, but the engine was still producing power so I could keep the descent shallow. I made straight in, had this been a more complete power loss it would have been more prudent to fly to the key position with as much altitude as possible and then spiral down for a landing. We landed without issue and the crash trucks chased us down the runway. We parked back at Million Air, told the fire rescue team leader what had happened, gave a brief report to a Marine airfield liaison and were done. No further reports were required.
After tracking down a mechanic he found a loose P-lead on the right magneto which was the culprit of our problems. He tightened it down, did a run-up and magneto check, and the problem was fixed. I could not believe the coincidence I having lost the same mag for the same problem on two different Cessna 150s. After reflection I think I would not have changed how I handled the incident with one exception, Carson was obviously concerned when the magneto went out, he voiced his concerns and asked several questions (never did he become a distraction during the event, cool as a cucumber!) but I did not answer his questions of concerns even though there was ample time to do so once we were on the long approach to the runway. I owe it to my passengers to tell them exactly what is going on, what we are going to do, and allay any fears they may have. This is pilot function that requires not technical or management skills but leadership, the ability to instill confidence in those around you that in the end everything is going to turn out alright.
NTSB Study - An Argument Against Third-Class Medical Reform
"Drug Use Trends in Aviation: Assessing the Risk of Pilot Impairment"
From the report "Findings from this study indicate that pilots without an FAA
medical certificate who were fatally injured in accidents were more likely than
pilots with at least a third-class medical certificate to have toxicological
evidence of recent use of drugs, potentially impairing drugs, drugs that
indicate a potentially impairing condition, controlled substances, and illicit
drugs. The study findings further indicate that accident pilots conducting 14
CFR Part 121 and Part 135 operations subject to DOT mandatory drug and alcohol
testing requirements for safety-sensitive aviation personnel were less likely
than those conducting general aviation operations to have toxicological evidence
of recent use of drugs, potentially impairing drugs, drugs that indicate a
potentially impairing condition, controlled substances, and illicit drugs.
Therefore, the NTSB concludes that FAA medical certification requirements and
DOT mandatory drug and alcohol testing requirements for safety-sensitive
aviation personnel have been associated with fewer toxicological findings of
impairing drugs and conditions among accident pilots subject to those
requirements. Conversely, these results suggest that allowing pilots to fly
without a medical certificate could contribute to an increased risk of pilot
impairment while flying because study pilots without an FAA medical certificate
were more likely to have toxicological evidence of impairing drugs and
conditions. Study data also indicate that the proportion of study pilots flying
without a valid medical certificate more than doubled since the Sport Pilot and
Light Sport Aircraft Rule went into effect in September 2004. In combination,
these findings suggest an increased risk of accidents due to pilot impairment
for this group of pilots. However, there has not been a corresponding increase
in the proportion of accidents in which the NTSB determined that impairment
contributed to the accident. It is not currently possible to compare the safety
of medically certificated pilots with those flying under the Sport Pilot and
Light Sport Aircraft Rule because there is limited information about the number
and flight activity of pilots without medical certificates."
Read the entire report here: http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-studies/Documents/SS1401.pdf
School Semester Winds Down
The Fall Semester is coming to a close and it is checkride time. So far this semester I have created two instrument rated pilots, one private pilot, and two commercial pilots. One more private pilot checkride to go and then I am off until the new year. I've just passed 500 hours of dual instruction given and can almost taste logging my 1500th hour of flight. It appears that I'll just miss achieving this milestone in 2014. Next semester brings new challenges with a checkout in the Baron, multiengine flights, training CFI candidates, and preparing for my final certificate, the ATP. Always something new to be striving for! 2015 will mark ten years of flying for me. Hard to believe it has gone by so fast.
Renting versus Owning
With 044 sold I wanted to run a few calculations to see if ownership was indeed more economical than renting even after the thousands that were spent on unplanned maintenance. I owned 044 for 25 months, during that time I flew a total of 242 hours for a monthly average of 9.68 hours/month. The best rental rate I could have received in this area would have been $120/hour. Total cost for renting would have been $29,040.
Here are the costs that I incurred with ownership:
$4012 - Annuals & minor maintenance/repairs
$3000 – Cylinder Repair
$7320 – Fuel Cost (242Gx5.5G/HRx$5.50avg)
$147 – Oil Changes
$1100 – Insurance
$1725 – Tie Down Fees
$50 – Registrations
$1000 – Sale Loss in Value
$1352 – Misc
The total cost of ownership was $19,706. So even after the fiasco of a ridiculous annual (lesson learned) and the major maintenance repair (lesson learned), I still came out saving $9,334 over renting. Looking over the cost and thinking about how I would have made some different decisions now that I am a little wiser I believe I could have saved an additional $5,400 during my ownership period. Outside of those three things there is little else I could have done to reduce cost. I am very hopeful that my ownership time with 3131J will be very different given those lessons learned with 044.
Sold! 044 Moves On
I officially turned the keys over the N51044 today to her new owner. He is pursuing his private pilot certificate and will use 044 for his flight training and experience building after getting his ticket. A smart and economical move when compared with renting an airplane. 044 is staying in Phoenix so I am sure I will cross paths with her again. She taught me a tremendous amount about airplane ownership during the 242 flying hours we spent over the last two years. I'll apply that knowledge to my new 150 as we continue to seek out new flying adventures.
[November 30, 2014]
Flying with a Purpose
I recently joined an organization called Flights for Life. FFL is a non profit organization comprised of volunteer pilots who fly blood products from Phoenix to outlying communities for United Blood Services. UBS must send blood products out everyday via courier to Show Low, Flagstaff, and Yuma. These trips by vehicle courier can take as long as eight hours roundtrip, by plane it can be a just a fraction of that. In addition to daily blood deliveries, FFL pilots will also pick up boxes of blood collected during blood drives and return them to UBS headquarters in Phoenix on an as needed basis.
Bringing purpose to some of my recreational flying was very appealing to me and FFL appeared to be the perfect fit. What a win-win situation, I get to do some flying and people and communities get to benefit from it. In addition, Carson’s school requires him to perform community service for six hours each quarter. I could not think of a better way for him to meet this requirement while furthering his own flight training and experience. So far I have flown with Carson on two missions for FFL. My first scheduled flight was to be Show Low, but IFR conditions at the destination required a cancelation the morning of. FFL does not allow its pilots to fly in instrument conditions but regardless I would not take 31J into mountainous IMC. She is well instrumented with an approach certified GPS and a KX-155 with glideslope but aircraft performance is another matter.
The next scheduled flight was to Flagstaff. On this day the ceiling and visibility did cooperate, but the winds were a different story. Climbing out of Deer Valley and turning north we were dismayed to see ground speeds of 50-60 knots. What should have been a 45 minute flight turned into 1:30 minutes. As we approached Flagstaff winds on the field were steadily increasing. Whenever winds are calm on the ground and blowing at altitude I know that it is only a matter of time before surface winds follow suite. On final approach winds had picked up to 20 knots with a healthy crosswind. We powered through the descent penetrating the shear zone as quickly as possible. Flagstaff’s field is ringed by a healthy tree line which further contributed to a very turbulent and bouncy descent. In ground effect things calmed down as they usually do and the landing and roll out were uneventful. We dropped off the three boxes of blood leaving them with the FBO as the courier had not arrived. Departing Flagstaff was just as exciting as the arrival. With a strong left crosswind I held 31J on the runway about 5 knots longer than I usually do so as to have an abrupt and clean departure from the runway. This usually leads to a pronounced leap into the air followed by a just as pronounced crab into the wind. The next challenge would be the turbulence I expected to encounter just above the height of the tree line. To meet this next hurdle I kept 31J in a rather flat climb out to allow her to accelerate to a healthy speed giving us a wide margin for whatever we were about to encounter. At the altitude I expected the airplane was yawed and rolled violently, I countered with control deflections nearing max deflection. Airspeed gave us not only a safety buffer but it also allowed the control surfaces to have much more authority then they would have had at much slower speeds found at Vx and Vy. Just as quickly as it had begun it was over and we found ourselves being transported south in a powerful tailwind which made up for most of the lost time from the first leg of the journey.
The last flight was over to Show Low. Show Low is about 100 miles northeast of Phoenix, a short flight, but by car about 4 hours due to no direct highway routes to the small town. On this flight there were no headwinds to deal with however winds at Show Low were certainly strong. Fortunately they were right down the runway. Mushy breaks on 31J made taxing a little challenging. My first squawk on the new plane. Nothing a seal kit can’t correct with a rebuild of the brake master cylinder. I made a quick stop in the terminal and was amazed at the size of the 12+point bucks that hung from the walls. Show Low sits in the White Mountains which is famous for its hunting grounds. On this flight a courier was waiting for us, we traded three boxes of blood for three more boxes to be returned to Phoenix. While my Cessna 150 does not have very much hauling capacity I am able to carry about three large boxes of blood product in the rear cargo compartment. This flight really gave me the feeling of being a cargo pilot. I was hauling for a purpose. Very cool. The return flight path took us just over a small public dirt strip airport known as Cibecue. Having not landed at Cibecue and still working on visiting every public airport in Arizona I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. From altitude Cibecue looked to be in poor shape. Grass and scrub had started encroaching on both ends of the runway making it difficult to discern a symmetrical runway shape. I flew a low approach to get a closer look and ensure no large rocks or ruts were on the runway. It looked clear if not a little rough. I decided on conducting a touch and go with just the lightest and quickest touch of the tires. The approach end of the runway had a small hill about a ½ mile out on final. I had to skim the top and still slip to get down. I added a little power as I came down into the flare to make just the slightest touch possible. Touchdown and it sounded like we had landed on a coral reef, just loud and rough. I poured on the coals and pulled 31J back into the air, accelerating in ground effect. The west end of the runway dropped off into a small river bed which we followed at tree top level for a short distance before starting the climb out back toward Deer Valley. At Deer Valley another courier met us to receive the blood from Show Low. Mission accomplished. What would have taken eight hours by car had been accomplished in three with my little Cessna 150. It felt good to be able to help.
The next FFL mission will be to Yuma, the furthest of the three destinations. I’m looking forward to another cargo mission flying 31J. Flying for a purpose sure beats burning holes in the sky.
[November 7, 2014]
We took three Piper Warriors from the college over to nearby Sierra Vista today to participate in the local EAA chapters Young Eagles event. Young Eagles is an EAA community outreach program that allows children under the age of 18 to experience flight in a small general aviation aircraft. For the majority of these kids the flight is either their first in an aircraft of any size or their first in a GA aircraft. The event at Sierra Vista always has a great turn out. I had witnessed a few Young Eagle events before but this was the first time I actually participated as a pilot. Oh what fun it was! I really enjoy giving first time GA flights to anyone but children especially since they really do not hold back the joy and amazement that is felt from flying. It makes me feel good and it reminds of how I felt the first time I flew in an airplane. I flew four sorties of three children each and each time the kids just went bananas about being above it all. My favorite was a group of three girls. Once we took off and started climbing out over the town the young lady in the right front seat was just calling out “Oh my God, there is a pool in that person’s backyard. There is a park. There is the WalMart!” It was pretty funny, but I realized you just start taking things for granted the more you take to the air. I let the kid’s who flew in the right seat manipulate the yoke in flight and they loved it. Events like Young Eagles are really an investment in the future of aviation. The child is left with a memory for a lifetime. It only takes one event like this in a child’s life to focus them on pursuing a career in aviation. One of my best students is a shining example of this. It only took a visit to an air show for her to decide flying was what she wanted to do, and now she is well on her way having just received her private pilot certificate. Today recharged my passion for all things aviation. I’m hooked on Young Eagles!
What started as a great day with my student passing his instrument rating checkride turned to sadness at learning that SpaceShipTwo had crashed in the Mojave Desert.
AP - A pilot was killed and another injured as Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo space tourism craft crashed in the California desert. The craft was flying a manned test when it experienced what the company described as "a serious anomaly". It was undergoing its first powered test flight since January over the Mojave Desert, north of Los Angeles.
317th Reunion Weekend
I spent this past weekend attending the reunion of the USAF 317th Maintenance Squadron and the AAF Jungle Skippers in Lawton, Oklahoma. The annual reunion of my dad's former Air Force unit was well attended.
Friday we visited Altus Air Force Base which is the training base for new C-17 Globemaster and KC-135 (Boeing 707) pilots. The base skies were buzzing with aircraft, you would never know the military was struggling under budget cuts and sequestration. As a matter of fact I have never seen so many large aircraft in the sky at the same time. A trail of three C-17s flew over midfield while a C-17 and KC-135 made simultaneous approaches to parallel runways. The KC-135 had a shallow traditional 3 degree approach while the C-17 looked as if on a short field approach, steep angle yet a flat pitch attitude. A short flare with little to no float followed by a puff of smoke as the gear made contact with pavement. Easy work for the aircraft's rugged and tough landing gear. The training squadron welcomed us and gave us the standard VIP canned brief followed by a short bus ride out to the flight line where we were treated to tours of both the 135 and 17. I've been in both planes several times at air shows as well as flown in the C-17 into and out of various combat zones but today's tour had a few highlights to make it stand out from the others. In the C-17 the cockpit was fully powered up allowing a good look at the flight displays, the flight management computer, MCP, and the heads up display. The flight deck is very similar in instrumentation and layout of Boeing’s commercial airliners. I imagine that the transition from military to civilians will be very easy for a C-17 pilot. The KC-135 on the other hand was very much old school. Mostly steam gauges with a few very small glass instruments that harkened back to the very first glass modernization efforts. The throttle quad was so weathered and worn it looked more like a museum piece. Despite the dated cockpit this airplane gave off a nostalgic vibe of the golden era of flying heavy metal. If I had a chance to fly either the C-17 or KC-135 I would pick the 135 every time…every time! The visit to the KC-135 was set apart from previous visits not by the front of the plane but by a visit to the back. I was able to enter the aerial refueling station where the boom operator lays on his stomach while flying the boom into position to refuel the bombers and fighters that need fuel.
We also had an opportunity to tour the maintenance facility where a C-17 was going through the equivalent of a 'D' check. One engine had the cowling removed exposing the spaghetti of plumbing that brings the engine to life. A mechanic told me that each of the engines creates 40,000lbs of thrust, there are four of them on the 17 which allows for almost fighter like agility when the aircraft is not fully loaded. While Friday’s visit to Altus was very satisfying it palled in comparison of what would come on Saturday.
The highlight of the weekend was a visit to the Airborne Demonstration Team in Frederick, Oklahoma on Saturday. The ADT is a very unique organization which owns two C-47s (military DC-3) using them to reenact WW2 airborne operations by dropping paratroopers at various commemoration events. The team has even jumped into Normandy, France to commemorate the anniversary of D-day. This visit was of particular interest to me not only for the aviation aspect, but also as a former army paratrooper and WW2 buff with a bachelor’s degree in US history. I was pretty excited about this trip but it would far exceed my high expectations.
We arrived before dawn at the original WW2 era hangar that serves as the base of operations for ADT. The airport has once been Frederick Army Airfield were pilots destined for war would learn how to fly twin engine aircraft, specifically the Cessna Bobcat or “Bamboo Bomber” as it was known. As we entered the hangar the mercury vapor lamps cast an eerie glow over the shadowy forms of two beautiful C-47s. The Douglas DC-3 is the granddaddy of the modern airliner and one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built in my opinion. I took a quick picture capturing the moment. Paratroopers dressed in WW2 uniforms were preparing their gear. It was if I had stepped back in time and was back in June of 1944. Even the sweet smell of oil and hydraulic fluid mixed with the air to make the immersion complete. Not only was I going to be able to watch these paratroopers prepare to jump, I would accompany them in the C-47 and watch them exit the aircraft. The 47 was pulled from the hangar and began its engine start sequence. We loaded aboard with the paratroopers taking a seat on metal seats in very spartan accommodations. The aluminum interior skin was sprinkled with black marker comments made by real WW2 veterans who have relived their war years in the plane.
The beautiful sound of radial engines coughing, catching, and running up broke the morning silence. Airborne troopers were about to take a one way trip. After a brief run up at the end of the runway we launched into the morning sky. Winds were not calm this morning but they had not yet exceeded ADT's no-go threshold. It was a short hop to the drop zone and soon the jump master was making the call outs that I still vividly remember from my own jumps some 23 years ago. "Stand up!", “hook up”, “check equipment”, “sound off for equipment check”, “one minute”, “30 seconds”, “stand in the door!”
It was exactly the same as I had been trained at Ft. Benning in the winter of 1990-91. A first time jumper or “cherry jumper” was across from me and you could see the apprehension on his face. I remember it well, that first time out the airplane, not knowing what to expect, but knowing that your training will prepare you for anything. Green light time to jump, “go!” Out went the first man, the airborne shuffle began as the last man worked his way to the door, they were all gone in a flash. Olive drab silk shoots blossomed behind the aircraft, a beautiful sight I am sure to each man dangling under them.
Had this been the end of the story it would have been awesome enough but it was about to become a day for the ages. The engineer came back from cockpit and summoned me forward; I was going to the cockpit! The pilot got out of the left seat and motioned me to sit, I carefully wiggled my way into position trying not to hit the yoke or throttle quad. With head set on I was told I had the aircraft. I responded back “I have the aircraft” and at that moment I was commanding this historical bird through the morning skies. She was solid and steady, you could place her in an attitude and she would not deviate one inch from it. I did a 90 degree turn left followed by a 90 degree turn right and I could fly her with just a few fingers on the yoke. She showed no bad tendencies, even the turns produced little adverse yaw. I grinned from ear to ear during the whole experience and long after it was over. It was not so much the actual flying that stands out but the sharing of a moment with such a historical and iconic aircraft. I flew a C-47!
The reunion would conclude with a themed dinner and dance in ADT’s hangar under the watchful eye of the two C-47s. Big Band music played into the night playing notable tunes from Glen Miller and others. It was a fantastic weekend and one I enjoyed sharing with such a great group of people. From talking shop about airplanes to hearing stories from actual WW2 Jungle Skipper veterans every veteran had a story and every one was fascinating. The 317th meets every year and I hopeful that I will be able to attend more reunions with them, regardless of if a C-47 is involved.
The Cross Country From Hell 22.4 Hours
This entry was written two and half months after the event but I still find it fresh in my mind.
With 044 repaired it was time to go and retrieve her from Traverse City, Michigan. Repairs had taken longer than I would have liked and getting a cheap plane ticket was going to add a few more weeks of waiting. Finally by the beginning of October the time had arrived to board an airliner for the red eye from Phoenix to Dallas then over to Chicago and finally in to Traverse City. Securing an airline ticket two weeks out meant not being able to control what weather I would encounter, it was a roll of the dice. A gamble I realized I would lose as I arrived in Chicago with low ceilings and rain. Low pressure systems had been camping out over most of the lake states and did not appear to be going anywhere soon. Incredibly snow was already starting to fall in neighboring northern Wisconsin. The beautiful weather that I had enjoyed in July was gone for good. A long and harsh winter was quickly approaching. I was already on a tight schedule, I had left Thursday night, was arriving at noon on Friday and had to be back at work on Monday morning. The original plan called for picking up the plane by 1PM Friday and start flying southwest an hour later. This plan became less and less probable as the regional flight I caught from Chicago stayed in heavy cloud cover from descent all the way down to final approach. Rain and low cloud covered most of northern Michigan. Flying out Friday was not going to happen.
I rented a car at the terminal and started making a Plan B from scratch. I met the mechanic and we went over the repairs and the log book entries as well as the proper break in procedures for the new cylinders. The shop had already flown two hours on the cylinders doing the most critical break in. Mineral oil had been placed in the engine for the break in. The mechanic told me that flying cross country for long periods of time at high power settings was probably one of the best things I could do. I checked and rechecked the weather reports searching for some glimmer of hope that would allow me to get on my way before night fall. The reports showed much of the same weather all the way into Sunday. Not good. I would be spending the night in Traverse City but I had made no plans for such a stay. I started checking local hotels but only found no vacancy or last minute high prices. Trying to keep the cost of this expensive maintenance event from spiraling further out of control I decided to rough it and sleep in my rental vehicle over night. It was a long night of wind and rain with sleep coming in fits and starts. No good rest on top of fatigue from the previous night’s red eye flight across the country. I was happy to see the dawn but unfortunately it was just more of the same, gray and rainy. I pulled up weather on Foreflight and studied it for about an hour looking for any opening with which I could exploit to get a few hundred miles north to better weather.
A cold front was coming in from Wisconsin bringing snow, rain, and low ceilings. The freezing level was already down to 4000 feet making even filing an IFR flight out of the question. I cleaned up as best I could and got a bite to eat while continuing to analyze the weather. If I waited too long the cold front would make its way across Lake Michigan and close down any hope of getting out before Sunday, way too late to make it back in time for work on Monday. I wanted as direct a flight path home as possible, this required crossing Lake Michigan into Wisconsin but this was now completely out of the question. It was now just a matter of starting to fly even if it was in the opposite direction.
Finally a glimmer of hope, the ceilings had risen to 2000ft and better weather appeared only a few hundred miles to the south. It was time to go. I loaded my things into 044, had the FBO top off the fuel tanks and returned the rental car which had been my home for the last day. It was good to be back in my own plane, I said a small prayer as I primed the engine and prepared to engage the starter. The engine turned over and caught on the first try, just as she had before this nightmare, the repaired oil gauge showed rising oil pressure as the engine settled into a steady rhythm. I was in business! But everything was not trouble free, the left fuel gauge was giving erroneous readings and the radio on/off/volume knob which had been problematic before was really starting to act up now. I had to turn the radio off and on several times and then wiggle the knob in order to keep the radio operational. I decided I would not adjust it or turn it off from this point on. Not confident in its operation I now started to rule out landing at towered airports on the way home. I did bring my handheld radio in case things really got bad with the installed radio. I was glad I had packed the handheld for this trip. The radio cooperated long enough for me to get my clearance for takeoff.
I departed KTVC some time around 9AM and started heading due south. Initially ceilings were low but visibility good. It looked much more promising fromm the air than it had from the ground. The Continental O-200 ran strong. Cylinder head temps were definitely higher than normal but I was told that was normal for the first 5-10 hours while the new piston rings slowly seated in the cylinder. By Grand Rapids an hour and half into the flight I found two layers of clouds and decided to fly VFR over the top, visibility was still excellent between layers. I was racing south to get around the souther end of the cold front that was working its way slowly and methodically east. My first stop would be every bit of three hours of flight time. I had planned to land at Warsaw Muni in Indiana. I was within 20 miles of Warsaw when the weather began deteriorating again, a wall of white was off my right wing. Now visibility was starting to drop. I was concerned I might make it into Warsaw but after fueling would not be able to get out. The only direction I could go was east away from the advancing front. I studied the map and found DeKalb County 35 miles east. I was low on fuel but had to make a go for it, strong winds out of the west gave me a tailwind speeding me along. The weather quickly changed to scattered clouds, good visibility, and sunshine but winds were howling in the air and on the ground. Final approach into DeKalb was a bumpy ride. It was noon when I landed with only 4 gallons in the tanks (still legal). I made a quick turn as I still needed to get around the advancing cold front. I was out of Michigan but I was not in the clear just yet.
From DeKalb I started south again toward Ft Wayne. Things were about to get interesting. The wall of white had advanced further east while I was refueling, I skirted the east side of Fort Wayne’s Class C and watched as the city was enveloped by the advancing front. I was now committed to holding my southern course and decided I was not going to give up one more mile east. I was close to southern edge of the front and any weather I encountered would only be brief or so I thought. South of Ft Wayne the wall of white enveloped me, visibility fell to three miles and the clouds lowered. I was 1500ft off the ground, the temperature was just above freezing. Rain began to fall. The pucker factor went up. I continued on for what felt like an eternity, hoping that conditions would not deteriorate further. I started to turn west so as to pass Indianapolis from the north. Strong 25 knot winds aloft off the nose made my forward progress madly slow. My ground speed was just 65 knots! Temperatures continued to fall.
Two hours after entering the front, just north of Terre Haute, I started to lose visibility out of my windscreen. It appeared as if the clouds were starting to come down. I looked out the side window but the visibility looked as before. I finally realized my windscreen was icing up. This was something I had never experienced before and it was insidious to say the least. I looked at my wing’s lift strut and sure enough rime ice was accumulating on the leading edge. I was icing up and needed to get down to warmer air fast. I turned on the planes defrost and dropped down to just under 1000ft. The ice fortunately began melting as rivulets of water streamed across the windscreen and lift struts. Shortly afterwards the front finally gave up its icy grip on the airplane, the clouds began to lift, soon blue skies and great visibility but the winds continued to persist.
After three hours of harrowing flight I set down at KMTO, Cole County Memorial in Illinois, but not before the radio cut out several times while making position reports near the airport. I had only covered 183 miles in my circuitous route with stiff headwinds. It was now 2:30 local time. Daylight was wasting and once again I made a quick turn. CHT temps had by this point began to normalize; the cylinder break in process was nearly complete. The engine had performed flawlessly. I was feeling confident in 044 once again. I taxied to the end of the runway and began my runup, when I turned to the right mag the engine ran rough. Oh no, not again! This had happened on the way to Michigan and I had asked the mechanic to check it when he did the engine repair. He reported finding no issues. I switched back to both, did a full static runup and found the engine producing full RPM. Something to be checked upon my return to Arizona but not something I was going to abort over. I decided I needed to continue to push on.
I continued to press westward. Good weather but strong winds kept progress slow, the next two legs were shorter crossing the Mississippi River at 4:30 local south of St Louis. The winds aloft abated by 10 knots but progress was still slow. I made fuel stops at KUUV in Sullivan, Missouri and M17 in Bolivar, Missouri. The sun finally set as I refueled at the small deserted M17 strip north of Springfield. I was tired but I knew that flying into the night was the only way I was going to be able to make up for so much lost time. Night fall brought calm winds and I took advantage of the good weather flying an additional five hours across the flat expanse of Kansas. The adrenaline from the day had finally drained from my body and fatigue from 48 hours of little sleep was finally taking its toll. I wanted to just close my eyes for a minute but I knew inadvertent sleep might come instead. 044’s engine droned on steady and solid. Good moon illumination made it easy to see the grid of north-south and east-west roads that checker the Kansas landscape. I studied the roads passing underneath me thinking about how I would land on them if my engine decided to quit. The mental exercise helped keep me awake. Just after midnight the lights of Liberal, Kansas came into view. It would be the final stop for day one. I had gone as far as I could some 1023 nautical miles but not a very efficient route when compared to the 836 miles straight line. Almost 200 miles of diverting around weather. After landing I called a cab and checked into a local hotel. I fell into the bed and slept as deep as I had ever slept in recent memory. The first day was a battle with weather, the forecast predicted no such showdown for Sunday and it looked like it would be a milk run with an arrival back in Phoenix by 2PM. Pretty good considering the delayed start. Little did I know that Sunday would be anything but a milk run.
I was back at the airport by 0730. Before starting I said a small prayer and engaged the starter, 044 backfired, a cause for concern. Was the engine going to hold up? During the runup the right magneto ran rough again but the engine still made full static RPM so I launched into an atypical calm wind Kansas morning. I was now backtracking along the same path I had journeyed east three months prior. The first two legs of the trip were event free. I stopped at KDHT in Texas and then E0E, just east of Albuquerque. After refueling at E0E I launched for Arizona. The takeoff and subsequent climb was anemic, I wrote it off to the airports high elevation of 6200ft, but actually something else was going on. I slowly climbed up to altitude and crossed over the Manzano Mountains before passing south of Albuquerque. I was back in beautiful southwest weather. Life was good or so I thought. I passed over Belen, NM and prepared to enter into some of the roughest terrain I would have to overfly enroute to St Johns, Arizona, my final refueling stop, some 126 miles to the west. At 10:30AM I was at 8500ft when I hit a pocket of turbulence that jostled 044. When I came out of it I noticed I had lost 300 RPM. I tried to troubleshoot the problem but to no avail. Holding altitude caused the airplane to become dangerously slow so I started a shallow descent. After five minutes of working the problem I decided continuing on was out of the question and a diversion back toward Albuquerque was in order. Belen was only 20 miles behind me and the desert below was flat and open, I knew I could get down safely regardless. I arrived over Alexander (E80) with altitude to spare and entered into a left downwind for runway 21. After landing and clear of the runway I did a mag check. When I switched to the right mag the engine died. The right mag was gone. Once again 044, despite earlier warnings, had decided to fail at a time that kept me within easy reach of safety. Had the failure occurred just 30 minutes later the options available to me would have been more dire.
It was Sunday and the airport was deserted save for some parachuting activity. I went into the small white building that served as the airport terminal and found the number to the airport manager. I asked him if there was a mechanic on the field, he said he would give him a call but that he did not usually work on Sundays. I explained my situation and he told me he would call me back. A few minutes later he called back and told me the mechanic would come out in a few hours. Great, it was still early, maybe a quick fix and I would be on my way. Three hours passed, and no mechanic. The sun moved across the sky, daylight was slipping away. I was becoming impatient, I went back out to the plane and started it up to see if the right mag was still dead. If not, maybe I would make a go and heading home. What a poor decision that would be, “get home itis” was influencing my decision making in a very bad way. Fortunately the mechanic drove up as I was sitting in the cockpit contemplating this decision.
After explaining my situation and the symptoms experienced we got down to removing the cowling and pulling the magneto. Upon taking the magneto apart the mechanic found the spade connection to the capacitor loose if not almost disconnected. It appeared we had an easy fix and I would be on my way sooner than later. He tightened the crimp on the spade, reassembled the mag and remounted. I started the engine and attempted a mag check. Right mag and engine shuts down. So much for a quick fix. We remove the mag again and disassemble. He checks the contacts and finds them clean and functional. He turns his attention back to the capacitor using a multimeter. The capacitor’s behavior perplexes him. One check and it works, several more checks and it does not, another check and it works. There is no consistency, the worst type of situation to troubleshoot. He pulls a used but good capacitor from another magneto, tests it and then installs it into my magneto. By now daylight is slipping away, I have to get in the air soon if I am going to get home, getting to work Monday will already be a stretch. The mag is reinstalled and I try the mag check again, this time it works perfectly. We finally have solved a problem that on reflection had first reared its head before I ever landed at Traverse City. While in flight on that final leg I had performed an in air mag check and the mag ran horribly. I had told the mechanic at Traverse City about the problem but he could not reproduce it. The bad mag checks from that morning and the previous day were more examples of the mag acting up, including the anemic take off from E0E. My theory is that the spade had come loose causing surges of power to go through the capacitor slowly degrading its capability to function correctly. It would work and then fail and then work again.
With the sun setting we put the cowl back on said our farewells and then hurried to the end of the runway for a quick runup. The mag check was flawless, then I checked carb heat, nothing. No RPM drop at all. Hmmm, interesting but not a show stopper, I was in the Southwest, no need for carb heat I’ll deal with it when I get home. Bad decision. I started my takeoff roll and noted that I was not making full RPM. Probably just needed to pick up some speed to allow the prop to unload. Half way down the runway I have just enough speed to rotate and lift off. A little longer than I am used to. The climb is shallow, something is wrong, the engine is not making full power. I climb barely to 200ft and know I need to get back to the runway. I fly a slow, low and wide left pattern, nursing the bird around the pattern keeping my turns shallow so as not to stall. I land uneventfully and taxi back to the maintenance hangar. The last rays of the sun disappear below the horizon. I grab the carb heat handle to check operation and the handle comes completely out of the panel. Problem found.
I pull the cowling off for the second time today and go right to the carb box and quickly find the culprit. A broken carb heat arm has caused the carb heat box to default to carb heat on, decreasing the density of the incoming air and robbing the engine of enough power to make level flight difficult and climbs almost out of the question. Once again the warning signs were there during the run up and choose to ignore them. This is the whole reason we do a run-up, to identify problems before we takeoff! We made some field repairs (I’ll leave it at that) once again replaced the cowl, said a few more prayers, and engaged the starter. I performed another runup and the carb heat worked as designed. I took off without a hitch and climbed up over the airport to perform a few laps while I checked to ensure everything was working as it should before departing the safe confines of the airport environment and heading into what was now darkness.
Three and half uneventful hours later I was touching down at Deer Valley some 90 days after departing on the Great American Cross Country journey, finally bringing the last leg of that journey which I will forever know as the Cross Country from Hell to a close. I had flown some 22 hours and covered 1600 miles battling weather, maintenance, and fatigue. It was close to 2AM by the time I went to bed. There was no way to safely drive four hours to Douglas. Thankfully, my boss told me to come in later in the morning.
I have three parts from 044 (the only things I have left from that plane) on display in my office to remind me of the cross country from hell. They are a burnt valve, the magneto capacitor, and the attachment bolt for the carburetor heat box. Each of these failed components could have killed me, each cost me a lot of money, each taught me a valuable lesson about maintenance, decision making, and myself. For the reader I leave you with this quote from Sam Levenson, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” The FAA uses PAVE to describe those things that can influence Aeronautical Decision Making. The ‘E’ stands for external pressures. These pressures can warp our ability to make sound decisions. They brief easy in a classroom environment and sound so obvious but in the real world it is a totally different and insidious threat. You must step outside of yourself and identify these pressures and realize the influence they are having on your decisions. Fly safe.
Redbird Redhawk Demo Flight
The college I instruct at is looking for a fleet replacement for our aging Piper Warriors. One aircraft that the director is considering is the diesel powered Redbird Redhawk. For those unfamiliar with the Redhawk it is a Cessna 172 airframe that has been completely rebuilt from the ground up with some major modifications thanks to more than a few STCs. Improvements include the addition of a Continental CD-155 (155HP) diesel engine which sips Jet-A aviation fuel, a cheaper and more readily available fuel than 100LL, and a glass cockpit sporting the Garmin G500 series PFD and MFD. The school has an established relationship with Redbird through the acquisition of multiple full motion simulators as well as a cross wind simulator. Redbird made its name on developing general aviation’s first full motion simulator, the FMX. Since then they have branched out to providing flight training using a new training model that includes leveraging flight simulators and an unheard of fixed price package for private pilot training. Redbirds latest move has been the development of the Redhawk, which is geared at providing flight schools with an easy to operate glass aircraft that can reduce operating cost by saving thousands of dollars in fuel cost thanks to the CD-155.
The Redhawk showed up this morning and I was fortunate enough to get a chance to fly it. The start procedure was very simple, essentially a push of a button thanks to the FADEC system that manages engine operation. Run up was simple and straight forward, not much to do when a computer is essentially managing all engine operations. No carb heat, no mixture control, just a power lever. About the time we were taxiing out to the run-up area Northrup Grumman, another tenant on our airfield, was taking their Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle out to the runway. Hunter has to be towed out by a pick up truck. I asked if they did not mind if we taxied behind them and took off before them. They were accommodating and just warned me of the arresting cable that was being deployed at the other end of the runway. The demo pilot was pretty impressed with the whole unmanned vehicle operation. We have become pretty accustomed to Hunter because we deal with it every day. We back taxied, spun a 180 and configured for a short field takeoff to ensure we did not hit the arresting cable now laid across the runway. I applied full power and was amazed at the smoothness of the diesel engine. The engine along with a three bladed composite prop put out very little vibration and was amazingly quiet. We climbed out to the north training area where I took the Redhawk through its paces. I started with slow flight and then went into a power off stall. The aircraft displayed no bad habits. I did notice however that the Redhawk did not handle the typical Arizona afternoon bumpy air as well as the Piper Warriors. If your feet are asleep you could quickly get the plane into a series of dutch rolls as the airplane yaws back and forth from the adverse law resulting from lifting a wing. The Warrior appears to be much more accommodating which I am thankful for given that most students just don’t use the rudder pedals despite everything I have done to reinforce the skill in them.
We returned to the field where a left crosswind required a sideslip landing. Of course the Redhawk lands like a typical Cessna 172. I noticed no difference with the center of gravity. I’m not sure if the CD-155’s weight is much different than the stock 172 O-320. Overall my impression of the Redhawk was favorable. Operation is smooth and simple, some instructors felt that operation was oversimplified but I disagree. Training new private pilots is not about button pressing and knob pulling, it is about fundamental airmanship. The Redhawk lets the student concentrate on flying. It saves them precisions time and money by making the ground portion of the flight quick and effortless saving more time for flying. For flight schools it reduces operating expenses through fuel cost savings. A win-win situation for all parties. I commend Redbird for their out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to changing the training paradigm for general aviation pilots through innovations in flight simulators, flight training, and training aircraft.
[October 1, 2014]
And Then There Were Two! - Welcome 3131J
The college I work at has a very well equipped and maintain Cessna 150G which is only a few years older than my 150. The plane was used primarily for spin training with CFI students but lately larger instructors and larger students have meant that the 150 is no longer usable in its intended role. The director decided to sell the plane first listing it via an auction house with an unpublished reserve. The 150G has only 50 hours since major overhaul and has been meticulously maintained as well as hangered. I decided to bid on it feeling that it was just too good a deal to pass up for the right price. I ended up being the highest bidder but unfortunately did not meet the reserve. It turned out that the reserve price was slightly out of touch with reality given the average price of a typical Cessna 150. The school decided to repost the 150 on barnstormers.com, asking for sealed bids. Once again I submitted a bid just barely over the starting bid amount. The day that bids were to be opened came and went without a phone call. After four days I thought for sure I had been outbid. But then today I received a call notifying me that I had been the highest bidder. Now suddenly I own two Cessna 150s! The start of building my own air force. The reality however is that I don’t need and don’t want two Cessna 150s so 044 must go, but first I have to go pick it up and bring it back from Michigan. 044 sits at about 1100 hours on the engine which is about the point where further time would start to depreciate the aircraft. My new aircraft 31J with only 50 hours promises years and years of flying without depreciation. I am sure 31J will be the aircraft that Carson will solo, complete his private pilot certificate as well as instrument rating in (31J has a KX155 with glide slope as well as GPS, well equipped!). It will be tough to say goodbye to 044, the first airplane I have ever owned, having shared 200 hours with her and having flown an epic transcontinental journey with Carson. I know she will continue providing flying adventures to new owners for many years to come.
We all wake up some days and wonder we fly, is it really worth the enormous amount of money and time? Well keep your eyes on the prize and if you feel that a little of the passion that brought you into aviation has slipped away watch the following videos to become revitalized:
Airventure 2014 - Oshkosh Calling (SLICK) from SLICK on Vimeo.
Cameron Airshow 2014 from Aero Media Group on Vimeo.
[August 27, 2014]
Apologize for not updating the blog in over a month, not for a lack of flying. First an update on 51044. She still sits up in Michigan awaiting repair. The jugs were originally sent out to an outfit in Chicago for an assessment on repair. They told me the cylinders could be repaired but that they needed new rocker arms, valves, and valve guides. They quoted me $700 a cylinder which I found to be ridiculous considering a new O-200 cylinder can be had for $900. I told the mechanic I wanted the cylinders shipped to me so that I could do my own calling around. Fellow pilots and mechanics pointed me to Varga just down the street in Chandler, AZ. I took the cylinders to them and was instantly impressed with how quickly they analyzed the cylinders and took the time to explain to and show me what was bad, why it was bad, and what it would take to fix it. The cost....$450 a cylinder, an easy decision to make and a huge savings over the previous quote. Glad I went with my gut on this one. The cylinders have been yellow tagged and shipped to MI this afternoon. Now I have to see how soon the cylinders can be placed on the aircraft and tested before I head back north to pick her up.
I have been really enjoying working with my instrument students. It has been just as much a learning experience for me as for them of course in a very different way. I'm learning the intricacies of ARTCC and clearances, coming to a deeper understanding of how the system works and the why behind many of the decisions they make. Learning how to work the system. Arizona weather is usually CAVU most of the year but from June to September is monsoon season with cloudy days and air mass thunderstorms in the afternoon. This has resulted in several actual IMC flights with students as well as thunderstorm avoidance. While the students are very apprehensive about actual IMC I jump at the chance to get them into the real stuff over just wearing a hood all the time. They thank me afterwards for pushing them to fly actual on an IFR clearance. Yesterday we flew to El Paso with a fair amount of actual along the way. So far weather has not been bad enough to require flying any portion of an approach under IMC but I know as we move into the winter months that low stratus clouds will present the opportunity.
To prepare better for instrument flying I have been spending much more time on my simulator at home. With the garage heating up to 100F during the day I moved the simulator into my home office. No small feat given the size and complexity of my set up. To make the IFR training as real as possible I signed up for a service called PilotEdge. PilotEdge is a subscription based service which provides actual trained ATC personnel in the flight simulator environment. The area serviced includes most of southern California and a small part of southwest Arizona and Nevada. Controllers provide clearances delivery, ground, tower, and enroute services. You set up your Flight Simulator flight then log on to PilotEdge servers and off you go using a headset with microphone to communicated. Deviate from a clearance or fly the approach incorrectly and you will hear about it. Once I turned onto the final approach course without flying the mandatory procedure turn and was quickly reprimanded. Much better to fix a misunderstanding in the virtual world than in real life. You can fly VFR as well in PilotEdge. For those looking to improve radio skills or instrument procedures PilotEdge is worth a look.
Last thing. Another great product for both sim and real world flying is Angle of Attacks free Aviator 90 series of instructional videos. AOA uses flight sim to teach students all the basic fundamentals required to become a Private Pilot. The videos are professionally done and have great visuals. You can check out the series at www.flyaoamedia.com/aviator-90/
[July 24, 2014]
ATP Written Passed
Back at work this week prepping for the return of flight students next week. Not much new with 044, the mechanic pulled the cylinders and shipped them out to be overhauled. I've been thinking long and hard about selling the plane after this incident, I've flown about everywhere I want to fly in a small plane at this point, but then I remembered that Carson needs a plane to train in for his private and instrument. I'll be his instructor for just about everything he will need but without a plane the cost savings will be miniscule. 044 can literally pay for herself if Carson can use it for both private and instrument. Looking back at my records the total cost for me was $14,500 for both tickets. This makes the decision much more difficult. We will see what happens.
I've been hitting the ATP written prep pretty hard after completing the MEI training last week. I've been studying on and off for over a year and a half, but with new rules governing ATP about to take effect August 1 I was up against the wall to finish the test. The test is 90 questions, ten of which are FAA experimental questions that don't count against you. You have three hours to complete the test. I used Sheppard Air once again to prep along with Gleim (more so for having the printed charts and tables, which you can actually download for free off the FAA website). It took me about 45 minutes to complete the exam with a score of 98%. I believe, don't quote me on this, that this was the LAST FAA written exam I will ever take. I sure hope so. The price of written exams just increased by 20-50% this year. No endorsement is required to take the ATP, but all of that will change on 1 August. After that date ATP applicants will have to take a 30 hour Part 141 ground school which includes 10 hours of simulator time before they will be eligible just to take the ATP written, not to mention the ATP checkride. I have a feeling that the number of ATP graduates will slow to a trickle. Good for me I guess!
Is the Pilot Shortage Back? Let's Hope So
The US General Accounting Office says it does not know if there is an airline
pilot shortage in the country. The Air Line Pilots Association says there is no
shortage. The US Federal Aviation Administration says it is not the cause of the
The Regional Airline Association says: come to Cleveland, Ohio or Tupelo, Mississippi or Devils Lake, North Dakota and we will show you there definitely is a shortage and it could become everyone’s problem.
Republic Airways, for example, has grounded 27 Embraer EMB-140 aircraft it flew on behalf of American Airlines and United Airlines, telling its investors the decision was based on “the significant reduction in qualified pilots who meet the congressionally mandated 1,500h pilot experience rule and the company’s rigorous qualification standards”. Republic chairman and chief executive Bryan Bedford recently testified to the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation: “Had we been able to keep those aircraft flying, we would need nearly 800 more employees.”
Great Lakes Airlines is taking the drastic step of converting its 19-seat Beech 1900s into nine-seaters, enabling them to fly with a single pilot as a Part 135 carrier and thus cutting its pilot requirement in half. The Cheyenne, Wyoming-based carrier had trimmed service to 17 cities, some of which is being restored with the modified turboprops, but plans to park 11 of its 28 aircraft.
Florida-based Silver Airways ended scheduled service to five cities in New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia in February and another five in Alabama and Mississippi in April. President and chief executive Dave Pflieger blames “increased requirements related to new hire pilot certification”, which has had “the unintended effect of creating a nationwide shortage of regional airline pilots”.
United Airlines spokesman Rahsaan Johnson also cites regional-carrier pilot shortages when the carrier dropped Cleveland Hopkins International airport as a hub, eliminated non-stop service to over 40 cities, reduced peak-time departures from 199 to 72, and left the city of Cleveland with a potentially vacant concourse initiated at the behest of Continental Airlines, which United merged with in 2010.
The FAA's 1,500h experience rule has been named as a root cause of a possible growing shortfall of certificated flightcrew
The effect on travellers is typically two-fold: higher ticket prices and longer times to get to their destination, either via flight connections through other cities or car, bus or train rides to a major airport.
“It is not just regional airlines and the smallest markets they serve that face a pilot shortage crisis,” Bedford told the Congressional committee. “The pilot shortage is a threat to air carriers large and small and to our nation’s economy overall.” He noted that regional airlines provide the exclusive source of scheduled air service at 70% of US airports and the majority of air service at 86% of the country’s airports, adding: “Some may be surprised to learn that many larger hubs are also served mostly by regional airlines. For example, 66% of Chicago O’Hare’s flights are operated by regional airlines.”
[July 17, 2014]
A Major Problem
My luck finally ran out today in spectacular fashion. A high pressure system sat over most of the central US this morning promising excellent flying weather for my return trip from Michigan to Arizona. I planned on getting an early start and flying as far as I could today. I arrived at the airport just before 7AM and preflighted 044 after getting topped off. Ready to go I turned the starter, the engine took a little longer than usual to catch, turned a few times and then quit. Hmmm, that was not normal but not abnormal either given that it was cold, 50F, and 044 had sat for five days. I gave another shot of prime and tried the starter again. This time the engine came to life, but I knew right away something was not right, she was running very rough. I gave the engine a minute to right herself but it did not happen, she was sick. I tried a little higher RPM, only more vibration. A lower RPM and she quit. I had a serious problem. I felt the jugs, they were hot to the touch but #1 was cold. I needed a mechanic. I went back to the FBO and they gave me the local A&P's number. An hour later he had the plane in the hangar and the cowling off. He found two stuck exhaust valves, #1 and #4. Stuck valves are not uncommon in the O-200 and I suspect spending time at lower altitudes to include sea level for the last week had caught up with my much more conservative leaning procedures. Several times during run-up on this cross country I had rough running mag checks requiring me to burn off the carbon deposits on the plugs by running the engine up to 2200RPM and leaning lean of peak. I have never (ever) had to do this in Arizona.
At this point it looked as if I might still have a chance to fix the engine and depart before evening, but the news went from bad to worse. While the valve in #1 came out, the valve guide looked to have scoring on its wall. Additionally what appeared to be sand particles was found in the cylinder. Jug #4 was worse, the valve was stuck, it was not coming out. A simple fix was no longer simple, the cylinders were going to need to come off and be replaced or overhauled. This was going to require days not hours, days I did not have. The cost of the repair was also quadrupling by the minute. I knew 044 was done. I could not stay with her, I had to get back home. Work starts back on Monday and I had to be there. I scrambled to book and catch a flight out of the passenger terminal on Delta. In the end this incident will cost me dearly between the repairs and the cost of flying home and then at some point flying back to retrieve the airplane. But it would be crazy not to also appreciate the positive side of this whole situation. 044 did not fail me in the air, she kept me and Carson safe across the country and part way back flying over some very inhospitable terrain including large open water, mountains, and desert. All of the places that I needed to get to that were time critical on this trip she got me to on time or ahead of time. Along the way we landed at some pretty austere little airports with little or no services and she always started right back up and got us on our way. When 044 finally decided to give up the ghost she did it at after I had accomplished all I set out to do, on the safe confines of a parking ramp of a major airport, with good support facilities, a great mechanic right next door, and an alternate way for me to get home. I can't help but think the little airplane was looking out for me. We parted ways today, but I know she is in good hands. Once the repairs have been made I will return to Michigan and bring 044 back to Arizona. When that will be is yet to be determined.
[July 16, 2014]
Checkride Passed! Multi-Engine Instructor
KCAD 161755Z AUTO 31007G16KT 10SM SCT049 SCT055 BKN080 20/10 A2996
With yesterday rained out we needed to get about three hours of training in this morning before the checkride scheduled in the afternoon. We flew two flights in the local area about 1.5 hours each. It was the standard drill I had become accustomed to over the last few days. Engine failure on takeoff roll before Vr. This was an immediate takeoff abort. We followed this with a short field takeoff. Rotate at 85 and climb at 85 to 100ft to clear the obstacle, then pitch to Vy and climb out. Just before 1000 AGL he fails an engine and I go through the single engine procedures. Push up, clean up, blue, bank, ball. I chair flew the maneuvers all day yesterday so I no longer had to rely on my notes as we went through steep turns, slow flight, power off stall, accelerated stall, power on stall, Vmc demo, drag demo, and simulated securing an engine. For some reason right steep turns give me a challenge. Unlike a single there is no cowling reference that can be used with the Apache in a steep turn. The Apache nose just drops away and cannot be seen from inside the aircraft, this requires you to use the attitude indicator to fly a maneuver that is suppose to be by visual reference. I practice a few more times concentrating on stopping deviations as soon as they occur. We come back to the field and do a short field landing followed by a single engine landing. The Apache is a very challenging aircraft to land. You run out of elevator authority very quickly and the amount of back pressure required is enormous compared to any single I have flown. Tom tells me he has put 60lbs of ballast in the rear station of the aircraft and I am astonished, I could not imagine how much more difficult it would be land without this weight well aft of the CG. Today I finally have the landings down and can put the aircraft smoothly on the mains but the nose wheel still "clunks" down on the roll out. Tom tells me that the Apache is just that way. Unlike a training single you don't fly twins to full stalls on landing, you fly the airplane down to the runway with power. Pulling power above the runway is a big mistake, just think Cessna 182 times 10 when you pull the power. The Apache will literally fall out of the sky. On single engine landings we don't use flaps and fly the approach at 100mph. This extra energy and flat approach gives you a little more latitude with power reduction. The larger mass of the Apache makes setting up a stabilized approach much easier even in gusty conditions.
Another training sortie and we run through the maneuver series again. Time for the checkride. Nerves! This should be the simplest of all checkrides. Already having the CFI and the CFII gives me a pass for the majority of maneuvers. The oral is short and to the point, maybe an hour max. We talk about W&B, Vmc, single engine operations, aircraft performance charts. Interestingly the DE ask me if I would take off from an airport with a DA of 8000ft in the Apache. I tell him no since the single engine ceiling for the aircraft is 6500ft. He asks what I could do, I giive him the standard answer: wait until it's cooler, defuel, get rid of some baggage of passengers. He agrees and ask me to determine how much fuel and payload I would have to get rid of in order to take off if the temp dropped 20 degrees. I work the charts and come to the realization that the answer I gave sounds good but in reality it just does not work out unless you have a major season change. You would have to take off so much payload and remove so much fuel that the flight would no longer be practical. This is exactly the point he wants to make with me. While the standard answer to the problem sounds great, in reality it just does not work. His point resonates, not one I will soon forget.
The checkride closely mirrors my training over the last few days. I do dork up a few things but recover without exceeding standards. On the power off stall, I bring up 1/2 flaps, then wait for a positive rate and proclaim the maneuver complete. The DE asks me if I am sure about that. I realize I left the gear and rest of flaps still down. I quickly correct my mistake. On the drag demo I start the exercise by bringing both engine to full idle and then bring the right engine to full throttle. What I should have done is bring both engines to 12" MP and then bring the right engine to 20" MP. The amount of rudder needed to maintain heading is much greater then what I am accustomed to when I start the exercise and I know something is amiss. I go through the flaps and gear and notice that the performance is much less than other practice sessions.
The weather held and I got it done! Now I just need to make the 1300 mile flight home.
[July 15, 2014]
Multi-Engine Instructor Training - Day 3
KCAD 151335Z AUTO 28013G17KT 1 3/4SM -RA BKN003 OVC010 11/11 A2977
Crappy weather all day today, no training. Fortunately we are almost done and good weather is in the forecast for tomorrow's checkride. I'm spending the time reviewing the knowledge areas and chair flying.
[July 14, 2014]
Multi-Engine Instructor Training - Day 2
Landing at Beaver Island
KCAD 141915Z AUTO 22008KT 200V280 10SM SCT085 24/11 A2981
Today was dedicated to time building. In order to be an MEI you need 15 hours of multi-engine PIC time. With only 1.2 hours of PIC time acquired during the multi-engine add on checkride back in October 2010 I needed more stick time. We logged a big chunk of that today (6 hours) taking two flights up into northern Michigan. I can tell you that this part of the country is very beautiful. We made a flight up to Beaver Island on the first sortie. The water around the island reminded me of the Bahamas, a wonderful clear aqua color. After lunch we flew a second longer sortie flying all the way to the Canadian border landing at Sault Sainte Marie on the St Marys River and Chippewa County. We transitioned the vast Lake Huron both up and back.
[July 13, 2014]
Multi-Engine Instructor Training - Day 1
KCAD 131735Z AUTO 28009G16KT 10SM SCT025 BKN034 22/17 A2986
Here we go again, back in Michigan for Multi-Engine Instructor training with Tom Brady of Traverse Air and his Piper Apache. We logged four hours of flying today. Low cloud cover gave way to higher ceilings later in the day with winds out of the west and cool temps (75F).
[July 12, 2014]
On to Michigan for Multi-Engine Instructor Training
Video - Landing at Traverse City
Heading northwest today I am blessed with no headwind. I departed Martin
State at 0744 local and soon found morning fog and haze blanketing the earth
below me. By the time I reached Frederick, MD there was a solid cloud
layer below me. Frederick was IFR. An RV-8 tried to get in with a
SVFR clearance but could not maintain clear of clouds and had to request an ILS
approach from Potomac Approach. I droned on at 4500ft crossing the
Appalachian Mountains and finding clear skies as the sun dried up the remnants
of the morning moisture. I pushed 044 to her fuel endurance in order to
save time, making my first fuel stop at KTSO in Carrollton, Ohio after three
hours of flying. TSO has a nice little restaurant on the field and not
much more. I took on 17 gallons at the self serve and got right back in
Just prior to the GAXC I purchased a yoke mount for my IPAD. I was on the fence about a yoke mount for a long time, thinking it would be clunky and impede my use of the yoke. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm not sure how I got along without this device for so long. The mount allows for easy data entry into the IPAD and reduces the amount of head down movement when compared with keeping the IPAD on your lap. All the data from Foreflight is at the same eye level as the panel instruments making for an efficient scan, yet none of the critical instruments our obscured from view. Having the IPAD mounted to the yoke just makes flying easier.
The second leg of today's trip was interesting. I skirted the south side of Cleveland's Class B and then headed for Lake Erie, flying over a series of small islands known as the Bass Islands. I was amazed to find quite a few seagulls flying at 3000ft. The MRX does not pick up birds so I had to keep a sharp lookout. Three islands with three runways. I was very tempted to do a few touch and go's on this island chain but it was not part of the game plan so I settled for a few pictures and continued on toward Detroit flying about 20 miles over the waters of Lake Erie. After passing Detroit Class B to the south I turned north and began to close on my final destination. Thunderstorms were starting to build near Muskegon to the west and a solid ceiling began to form at 7000ft. I stayed at 2500ft. I made my second fuel stop at Mt Pleasant, MI where a jump plane was plying his trade. This x-country has made me realize that recreational parachute activity is very prominent across the country. The jumpers delayed my departure by a few minutes as I waited for the jump plane to land. It took less than an hour to make Traverse City landing at 3PM where Harbour Air FBO treated me just as courteous as if I were a big biz jet. My hats off to them for their A+ service. I covered 550NM today in 7 hours of flying, the weather thankfully cooperated and was never an issue. Tomorrow I start my multi-engine instructor training. Time to get some sleep.
[July 11, 2014]
Smithsonian Air & Space, Dulles Annex
Finally got to see a real Space Shuttle today, very impressive!
[July 10, 2014]
College Park Aviation Museum & Smithsonian Air & Space
Off to more museums today. We start at College Park Aviation Museum. College Park is the oldest continually operating airfield in the country. It was the site of the Wright Brothers first training field for US Army Signal Corps pilots. My first visit to the museum was in October 2009 and to the best of my knowledge this was my first introduction to the Ercoupe as the museum had one on display. Today marks coming full circle with my involvement with the Ercoupe. Let me explain. After my 2009 visit to College Park I did some additional research on the Ercoupe and came to realize the unique roll it has played in the history of general aviation. Moving to Arizona I found a Forney F-1 (metal wing Ercoupe) on the ramp at my local airport. It seemed to be a ramp queen, no one I talked to knew who owned it or had ever seen it move. One day after returning from a CAP mission I saw some folks prepping the plane for flight. I ran over, introduced myself, stated my fascination with the airplane, and asked if maybe someday I could fly with the owner. Months passed and nothing came from the brief meeting. About mid 2012 I came across an article in Flying magazine describing the authors experience with checking out in and renting an Ercoupe. To my astonishment the airport with the Ercoupe was only 50 miles north of my home field. I made contact with the owner and made an appointment to get checked out. At the very same time I got a call from the CFI who I had met by the Forney a year or so earlier asking if I wanted to go for a flight. I could not believe the timing. On July 22, 2012 I flew the Forney/Ercoupe for the first time and loved it. It was so easy to fly and I was convinced that a student pilot could land it safely in just one day of training. The best part was flying with the windows down. A month later I flew an original 1946 Ercoupe with the rental outfit and solo'd an hour later. Checked out I came back a few weeks later with Carson to let him experience the iconic aircraft. With the sun setting and casting a warm yellow light over us we flew across the Arizona desert snapping some really beautiful pictures of Carson flying the Ercoupe with ease and precision. He made perfect steep turns without any effort. A few months later I received a call from the owner of the Forney at my home field. He was an older gentlemen who had not flown for sometime. He told me the CFI I had flown with on my first flight had moved away. Before leavening she had recommended me to the owner as the best candidate for keeping the plane exercised. For the next eight months I must have put 50 hours of flight time on that little Forney and I loved every minute of it! When it came time to move to Phoenix it was tough to say goodbye to such a wonderful little airplane. While flying the Forney I was contacted by a writer for the Smithsonian Air & Space magazine. He had found a picture of Carson flying the Ercoupe on my blog and wanted permission to use it in an exhibit for the Ercoupe. Of all places the exhibit would be at the College Park Aviation Museum. I consented and asked for a photo of the exhibit but never received a reply. And that brings us full circle, back at the museum today we found the Ercoupe exhibit and Carson's picture flying the plane. Having flown the plane I can appreciate the genius of Fred Weick that much more. Everyone should fly an Ercoupe at least once. It would really be great if they brought the little airplane back into production like they have with the Waco and Great Lakes.
Our next stop was the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in downtown Washington DC. This museum is the holy of holies when it comes to aviation artifacts. Of particular interest to me was the original Vin Fiz Wright Flyer. This is the first plane to fly from coast to coast in 1911. It took pilot Cal Rodgers almost three months to complete the flight from New York to Southern, California. I believe my own flight paralleled and crossed Rodgers' several times. Of course we had to take a few "selfies" with the historic aircraft.
[July 9, 2014]
Mission Accomplished! - GAXC Leg 5, 352 NM, Total Distance: 2090 NM
TRACK FLIGHT PROGRESS HERE http://trackmytour.com/bNNTg
The weather has cleared and we are preparing to fly the final 350 miles to Martin State Airport just north of Baltimore, Maryland. Arrived at I19 to find the ramp full of Civil Air Patrol aircraft. CAP was preparing to conduct cadet orientation flights, a great program which provides young cadets five flights in a 172 or 182. During those flights cadets are introduced to many of the same basic concepts they will learn as a student pilot. I have conducted a few o-flights myself as a CAP pilot. Unfortunately many cadets have weak stomachs leading to at least one case of air sickness on almost every flight. Fortunately we were able to pay our tie down fee, refuel and get out of dodge just before the CAP aircraft started their operations avoiding a traffic jam at the hold short line. We blasted off into beautiful blue skies, the first nice day in the last 72 hours, heading east once again towards the Atlantic coast at approximately 8:47AM. Flying east sprawling farmland gave way to more and more trees and rolling hills. As we got closer to the Ohio River small puffs of isolated clouds began to form just below our altitude of 3500ft. They built very quickly into building cumulus clouds. Past the Ohio River the terrain changed again, from gentle rolling hills came the well weathered ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. Running north-south in multiple ridge lines the Appalachians remind me of a washboard. I check Stratus for winds aloft and find winds at 7500ft will give us a 30kt tailwind. We climb up over top of the now broken cloud layer to check the wave east. The CBs are now beginning to tower along our route but someone is looking out for us because our flight path takes us between the columns with no need to divert widely around...
UPDATE! Landed at approximately 12:32PM local time.
The Great American Cross Country At A Glance:
Distance Covered: 2,090 Nautical Miles
Total Hobbs Time: 23 hours
Total Fuel stops: 9
Amount of Fuel Consumed: 133 Gallons
Average miles covered per Hobbs hour: 90.8 NM
Average fuel consumed per Hobbs hour: 5.78 Gallons
Average Miles flown per Gallon of Fuel: 15 NM
Distance in Nautical Miles if driven by car: 2,351
Mapquest calculated driving time: 42 hours
A little history on Martin State Airport.
Early Years: Aircraft Production. A 1,260 acre site was established in 1929 as an aircraft manufacturing plant by Glenn L. Martin. One of the first aircrafts produced by the Martin Aircraft Company was the B-10 bomber, which won the U.S. National Aeronautic Association's coveted Collier Trophy in 1932 for its achievement in aeronautics.
Expansion. Three runways, seven hangars and the Airport Administration building were built from 1939-1941. The China Clipper, PBM flying boats, B-26 bombers and Martin Mars aircraft were all produced in these facilities. They each played a significant role in the evolution of American aviation.
Post WWII. After the war, Martin's 202 and 404 commercial transports, as well as jet-powered aircraft, became the focus and the company consolidated with the American Marietta Corporation to become Martin Marietta in 1961. The 747 acres devoted to airfield use was sold to the State of Maryland in 1975 to help ensure a general aviation facility was located close to Baltimore.
[July 7&8, 2014]
Air Force Museum & Wright Brothers
A good time for a stop, thunderstorms, low clouds, and high winds have dominated the last two days. Fortunately our plan called for visiting the Air Force Museum and the Wright Brothers bike shop and flying field during this time so there is no impact on our timeline.
[July 6, 2014]
Dayton, Ohio, Birthplace of Aviation & the Air Force Museum - GAXC Leg 4, 400 NM, Total Distance: 1738 NM
We crossed the Mississippi today bound for Ohio with stops in Illinois and Indiana. The toughest legs are behind us now, shorter flight times each day. Only four hours of flying today with one fuel stop. The clear skies are gone replaced by overcast which provides welcome relief from the heat of the sun. The fantastic tailwind pushing us east continues with ground speeds averaging 115 kts at only 3000ft MSL.
[July 5, 2014]
Middle America - GAXC Leg 3, 468 NM, Total Distance: 1338 NM
TRACK FLIGHT PROGRESS HERE http://trackmytour.com/bNNTg
The Kansas morning greeted us with typical winds for the area, out of the south at 20kts. We got a late start after catching up on some much needed rest after yesterdays marathon efforts. A misplaced cell phone put us a further hour behind and we did not get wheels up out of KLBL until 0922L. Carson flew the first leg and it was strictly dead reckoning, not even a map, just a course and time. The only sectional we had was in Foreflight and I did not want to use it because the program automatically puts the aircraft position on the map which would ruin our attempt to not use GPS on this flight. The first waypoint came and went, we could not positively identify anything, we kept on holding on course, waypoints 3, 4, 5 went by without being able to identify. I started to sweat, the next waypoint would be KWLD which had a rather large runway. If I could not identify this waypoint I decided I was going to turn Foreflight on and find our position with GPS. We had a wonderful tailwind during this leg helping us gain a ground speed of 130 kts. At the designated time we were suppose to be at KWLD there was no airport in front of us or around us. I had just about given up hope when I spotted the north south runway of KWLD about 5 miles north and almost exactly abeam of us. We were back in business! We had drifted south of course but we exactly on schedule. I made a correction back to the north and reestablished back on course. As we proceeded east summer haze slowly diminished the 20+ miles of visibility we are so used to in the southwest. Clouds started to appear at our altitude of 5500ft. At first it was just an isolated cloud here and there, slowly more appeared, we dropped altitude, the high pressure in the area kept the clouds from developing vertically which was a positive sign for our progress. Our first and only fuel stop for the day was Coffeyville, Kansas, landing around 11:40L. Not much going on at this sleepy airport except more Kansas wind. Good fuel prices but I got hammered buying oil, $15 a quart for Aeroshell 100W! With the threat of afternoon thunderstorms on my mind we did a quick turn, blasting off at 12:29L. We turned to the southeast bound for the northwest corner of Arkansas to log a landing in my 25th state. The clouds at 5500ft were now broken and closing quickly, we stayed at 2500ft as we crossed a landscape that had become very green and tree strewn. We crossed north of Grand Lake Regional while a Pitts was on a joy ride. I self announced my position and he gave a blast of his smoke to quickly allow me to identify his position. The lake below was teaming with watercraft as people enjoyed their holiday weekend.
Crossing into Arkansas I decided to visit the closest non-towered airport. That happened to be Crystal Lake (5M5). What a great choice. This 3800ft strip is nestled into the rolling hills of Decatur, Arkansas next to, you guessed it, Crystal Lake. 5M5 provides a challenging approach with high ground, trees, and power lines in the approach path to runway 13. With no traffic around we went straight in for runway 13. Clear of the power lines we did a "chop and drop" to get the gear down, the flaps up, and the power in for a quick touch and go. Little 44 struggled to gain altitude as the trees at the far end of the runway got closer and closer. Rising terrain did not help out cause much but we ended up clearing the trees by a few hundred feet before conducting a quick U turn left toward Missouri. I started climbing back up to altitude but found the clouds had really started to close in. We found a hole and popped out on top of the layer. Continuing north the holes in the cloud layer became fewer and fewer. I was concerned about getting stuck on top after checking the METAR at our destination KTBN so I went back down when another hole presented itself. We continued north at 3500ft picking up flight following from Springfield. Stratus started to really come in handy at this point, allowing me to pull METAR, TAF reports for airports north of my position as well as pull radar images of thunderstorms that were now building in intensity about 100 miles north of KTBN. The race was on to finish the flight before things got worse. KTBN is located on the Army's Fort Leonard Wood near the towns of Waynesville - St Robert. It is a joint use airport providing both military and civilian services. While a towered airport, the tower is closed on weekends reverting to non-towered self announce operations. I flew over the airport and executed a teardrop entry into the 45 for a left downwind to runway 14. With no taxiways and the FBO at the far south end of the airport I kept my base in tight and executed a long landing to save the hassle of a one mile taxi ride to the FBO. We touched down at 1453L, about 5.1 of Hobbs time for today's flight. The weather never did turn ugly and tomorrow looks like it will be cloudy but not a show stopper for the next leg of our journey to Ohio.
[July 4, 2014]
On Our Way! - GAXC Leg 2, 591 NM, Total Distance: 870 NM
TRACK FLIGHT PROGRESS HERE http://trackmytour.com/bNNTg
Photos - Mid America Air Museum
Video - Landing at Mid Valley E98 Los Lunas, NM
At 5:30 this morning we lifted off from KDVT in Phoenix, AZ bound for Kansas. It was not a typical sunny Phoenix morning. A high overcast and a light sprinkle of rain were the last remnants of a severe thunderstorm the night before. Fortunately skies would clear within an hour of takeoff. We clawed our way to 7500ft heading eastward across mostly barren high desert. The first leg was calculated to take three hours which was at the edge of the range limit for the 150. 044 burns a little under 6 gallons an hour leaving about 5 gallons for reserve after three hours. Dead reckoning and pilotage kept us on course and was ten times better at helping maintain situational awareness than GPS ever will. Mid Valley Airpark in Los Lunas is no easy airport to find. At only 37ft wide with no ramp area this airport is well camouflaged. Despite that we found it with not too much effort. I wanted to arrive at Mid Valley as early in the morning as possible to ensure as low a density altitude as possible. Los Lunas sits at an altitude of 4,800ft. A July sun can easily raise DA to 8000+ ft. 044 with full fuel, two people and gear put us just 50lbs below max gross weight. We needed as many variables in our favor as possible. Needles to say the takeoff out of E98 was a non-event. With the Manzano Mountains towering to 10,000 ft just a few miles to the east we skirted around the southern edge of the range before continuing northeast. Our second fuel stop for the day was Dalhart, Texas (KDHT). The wind was howling. We landed at 1:30PM after having lost two hours due to time changes while enroute. Our timing was perfect, the airport restaurant was closing at 2PM due to the holiday. We had just enough time to order up some fabulous hamburgers and fries. With full fuel and full bellies we scrambled to get back in the air bound for our final destination, Liberal. A strong tailwind had 044 moving across the ground at 125 kts as we followed Route 54. Not a cloud in the sky, perfect weather. From the pan handle of Texas we were soon over Oklahoma. We made a quick touch and go at Guymon, OK to log Oklahoma as my 23rd state. Landed in Liberal, Kansas (24th state) at approximately 3:25PM local, great weather but very windy. Liberal claims to be the home of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Fortunately no tornadoes touched down during our time in the town.
We parked at the FBO, quickly gathered up the camera and hustled the half mile down the ramp to the Mid-America Aviation Museum, a hidden gem located on the grounds of the airport which during WWII had been the Liberal Army Airfield, a training base for B-24 flight crews. Many of the original buildings from that era still stand. On the way we passed a dilapidated hangar. A weathered and paint peeling Beechcraft logo could be deciphered on the front of the building. At one time Beechcraft had a large presence at Liberal, but those days have passed into history just like the B-24s. As I said earlier our timing today was spot on, the museum was open until 5PM giving us just enough time to see everything. MAAM has a large and diverse collection of airplanes with a slight majority on the general aviation side. It was neat to see representation of almost every Piper and Cessna airplane from the last 50 years. Some of the more unique aircraft in the collection include a Beechcraft Starship of Burt Rutan design. They even let us get inside the cockpit of the Starship to marvel at its groundbreaking (at the time) glass cockpit. Another rare bird, Max Conrad's Piper which he set several non-stop distance records with including a flight from Africa to Los Angeles. This really put our GAXC flight into perspective! The plane was a flying gas tank, even the seat was molded from a fuel tank.
Today was the most intensive flying day of the trip, longest legs, high terrain, density altitudes....it gets easier from this point on.
[June 27, 2014]
Let the Journey Begin! - GAXC Leg 1, 279 NM, Total Distance: 279 NM
TRACK FLIGHT PROGRESS HERE http://trackmytour.com/bNNTg
At approximately 1708 local time N51044 lifted off from Montgomery Field (KMYF) in San Diego, California for the first leg of the Great American X-Country (GAXC). Using only pilotage and dead reckoning we navigated the 279NM in just under three hours non-stop. A slight westerly tail wind helped improve ground speed as we cruised at 7,500ft above mostly unpopulated desert. We touched down at KDVT at 2000 local just after sunset. The aircraft will remain at KDVT until July 3 or 4 while additional planning is completed before continuing eastward.
[June 26, 2014]
San Diego Air & Space Museum
What better way to motivate yourself for a transcontinental odyssey than to visit a museum that houses full scale replicas of iconic aircraft like Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis and Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega? Located in downtown San Diego the museum has a collection of over 60 aircraft. Many of the aircraft are flying replicas or full scale movie props but there are a few original gems including a Ford Tri-motor, A SPAD VII, and a Lincoln-Standard J-1. I particularly like airplane engines and have been actively collecting photos of every example I come across with the intent of eventually putting together a comprehensive picture book. I came across a few new engines while exploring the museum. They include: Curtiss OX-5, Salmson Z-9, Kinner K-5, GE J-47, and a real beast the Bristol Centauras, a radial design like nothing I have ever seen before. I learned a few interesting factoids during my visit to the museum. The two most interesting, the US landed U-2 spy lanes on aircraft carriers during Operation Fish Hawk in 1964 and US Wildcats tangled it up with US made P-36 Hawks flown by Vichy French pilots in 1942 during Operation Torch. You can see all the pics at the following link: Museum Photos
[June 24, 2014]
West to California
With 044 very close to gross weight (1600lbs) we departed this morning for San Diego. The plane performed well with two people, full fuel tanks, and luggage, climbing at much the same rate as I am used to when I am solo. This was an important test as the aircraft will be asked to perform in some rather high density fields on the second leg of the x-country. We stopped in Blythe just over the California-Arizona border to take on fuel before climbing up to 7500 for the mountain crossing. Enroute we cross the Salton Sea. The desolate lake does not have a single hint of activity upon its waters. Crossing over the mountains we drop into the San Diego basin. The MRX TCAS does its job picking up several other aircraft in my vicinity. The airspace is a beehive of activity. Having rehearsed my approach in Flight Simulator using satellite imagery the approach into Montgomery Field goes textbook. I know all of the landmarks as if I have been here before. We are cleared to land on the smaller runway 28L, 3401x60, which is dwarfed by its sister 28R. MYF is as busy as any airport I have been to. After landing a short taxi gets us to Gibbs Flying Service where they greet us with our rental car right at the tie down. Nice and very convenient! With the stop for fuel it takes us 3.7 hours on the Hobbs to cover 278NM. Video of landing at KMYF http://youtu.be/UyS4RYDKOu4
[June 23, 2014]
Final Preparations for Trans Continental Flight
Back down in Douglas today with my sponsors, Southwestern Aviation and Vertical Performance, tweaking N51044 for her long journey. The spinner needed reworking after the damage done by the Chandler shop back during the annual in December (a story unto itself). The engine baffling also needed to be replaced as it had lost much of its form due to aging. I did the work myself pulling out the old staples, cutting the new baffling and riveting the pieces back into the engine compartment. I finally got to use those clecko fasteners that I just find so cool! We also pulled all the access panels on the wing, lubricated pivot points and rerigged the ailerons after finding the cables tightened to 80 lbs, about 40lbs higher than they should be. I took care of a few other minor odds and ends and 044 is ready to go. With the cables lubricated and loosened the plane flew easily with two fingers on the yoke. Engine temps also came down between 10-40F thanks to the new baffling.
[June 18, 2014]
The Last Flying Lockheed Vega
John Magoffin brought his beautifully restored Lockheed Vega out to Deer Valley Airport tonight. This Vega has gotten an incredible amount of press coverage lately. This is the second time I have had a chance to see this rare bird. My first encounter was at the Luke AFB air show in March. John's airplane is the only flying metal Lockheed Vega in the world. A total of 128 Vegas were built. Initially, they were powered by the Wright J-5 of 225 HP, but the majority followed a 450HP version of Pratt & Whitney's R-1340 around. Of that total, nine had metal fuselages, which included Magoffin's airplane. I had the pleasure of listing to John speak at a recent Aviation Historical Society meeting. He shared his fascinating story of finding and restoring the Vegas over 18 years. The restoration was done outside of Tucson and interestingly enough the plane was stored in Douglas prior to the start of restoration work. Check out some of the shared media below to see and learn more about this unique aircraft.
Video of Maiden Flight
Article from EAA Magazine
Audio recording from Aviation Historical Society
[June 14, 2014]
ASU High Altitude Chamber
Spent half a day over at ASU training on the dangers of high altitude flying. ASU is one of the only universities in the country with a high altitude chamber. From their website:
"The Del E. Webb Altitude Chamber Lab allows students to experience the
physiological effect oxygen deprivation has on the body. It is used by ASU
Professional Flight students; private, corporate, and government agency
pilots/aircrews; and students from different flight schools. The two altitude
chambers are capable of simulating altitudes over 70,000' and have been used for
product testing/development, human subject research, and loss of cabin
pressurization simulation training."
The course included three hours of classroom training followed by a ride in the chamber up to 25,000 feet. We took our masks off and then had to complete simple math problems. O2 saturation levels were pretty low. I could feel my face flushing as a sign on hypoxia but not much else. We then went over to the explosive decompression chamber where a decompression was simulated. The air fogged up from the sudden change in pressure and it was over in a second. Cost me $200 to take that ride, not so sure that was money well spent but at least they gave me a nice certificate.
[June 11, 2014]
Old Hangar Reveals Hidden Gem
Went down to Douglas Municipal Airport today to give a high performance endorsement to one of my former students who own a Cessna 182. To my surprise the single large hangar at the airport was hiding a real gem, a Russian Antonov AN-2 biplane. What a massive airplane! Designed by Oleg Antonov in Russia in 1947 to specifications of the ministry of agriculture and forestry of the U.S.S.R. approximately 20,000 An-2s were built between 1950 and 1992 in Russia, China, and Poland. N87AN was built by PZL MI ELEC, Poland in 1987. An-2s have been and still are being used as agricultural planes, commuter airliners, parachute jump planes, freight haulers, military utility transports, forest fire-fighters and for many purposes on wheels, skis and floats. This bipe ruled the roost towering over the assortment of other general aviation airplanes that populated the hangar. And this was no ordinary AN-2. It was a real Hollywood movie star, having been featured in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The plane appears to have fallen onto dormant times with a solid layer of dust coating the airplanes flying surfaces. Pigeons appeared to have taken their turn at abusing the planes fabric surfaces as well. The links below show the plane as we found it today as well as pictures from its brief time on the silver screen. I also found the web site for this particular aircraft N87AN. Appears that it was flying regularly south of the border until recently.
Photos of the AN-2 Web site for N87AN
[June 5, 2014]
June marks my ninth year flying and the passing of another major milestone, 1200 hours of flight time, making me eligible to act as PIC in Part 135 operations. This includes commuter and on demand operations and most cargo carrying operations. There are sub-requirements in addition to the total flight time which include x-country, instrument, and night flight times but I had met these requirements a few months ago. I logged 16 hours of flight instruction in four days alone last week. My school is winding down next week so we are trying to finish up as much as possible with students before we take a five week summer break. I took in my Polar Cooler back to school last week as temps were in the low 100 F territory. Within one minute of turning on the device temperatures in the cockpit of the Warrior dropped noticeably. My students made me promise to bring the cooler back when we start the fall semester at the end of July. I need to install a voltage regulator in the cooler between now and then so it can be used in the Cessna 182RG which has a 24 volt system.
[June 2, 2014]
The Start & End Points
After a year delay planning has begun in earnest for the Great American X-Country. On 24 June I will reposition N51044, a 1969 Cessna 150, to Montgomery Field (MYR) in San Diego, California. Montgomery will serve as my West Coast start point for the x-country. The trip eastward will commence on 27 June and end on 9 July at Martin State Airport (MTN) near Baltimore, Maryland. Total straight line distance for this journey will be 2001 miles. What makes this journey unique is that I will use only pilotage and dead reckoning for navigation, no electronic navigation (ie VORs, NDB) and absolutely no GPS! There will be several multi day stops along the route which will make the flight even that much more interesting. Currently I am determining the stopover waypoints for the five legs that will comprise the trip.
[May 21, 2014]
Two YouTube Videos that Every Pilot Should Watch
I stumbled across the following two videos which absolutely blew me away. One video covers VFR into IMC and the other covers various topics including wake turbulence, near miss, and aborting due to weather. Each includes actual in-flight video of an incident. This will be required viewing for my students and should be for everyone who takes to the air. Fantastic contribution to the aviation community by FlightChops!
VFR into IMC Wake Turbulence Encounter
[May 19, 2014]
I love wandering into the maintenance bay at work. Usually there are one or two Piper Warriors or Cessna 182RGs in various stages of an annual or 100 hour inspection. Engines are exposed, cockpits gutted, and inspection panels open. One 182 has recently just had a totally overhauled engine installed. Its previous engine mounted vertically on an engine stand with every inch completely accessible for exploration. I take the opportunity to snap pictures of parts and pieces of the airplane that students never really get to see using the pictures as training aids later on when a lesson calls for discussion of a particular system. Reading about something and actually seeing it in action or two completely different things with the latter usually providing the deepest understanding. My favorite was the carburetor heat box on the Piper Warrior. I video taped the actuation of the carb heat control and the flipping of the air intake from external to heated. I often take my students out to the maintenance bay to look at airplane guts first hand. We even have a few engine cut aways which are really awesome for teaching. I only wish we had a cut away of a constant speed propeller as this is a subject that students have a difficulty time wrapping their head around.
Today our resident A&P/IA gave me a class on operating my new rivet gun, different types of rivets, bucking bars, clecos, tips & tricks when riveting. I took home a piece of aircraft aluminum to practice on. One more skill added.
[May 18, 2014]
We Meet Again - Another Visit with FiFi
The only flying B-29, FiFi, was back in Arizona once again this weekend. The port of call on this trip was Prescott, only an hour from my home in Phoenix. I first saw FiFi fly at AirSho in 2010 and stumbled across her by chance at Phoenix Gateway Airport last year but Carson had never been up close to her. I took advantage of the visit to give him the opportunity. Arriving at Prescott early we got to watch the B-29 takeoff for a sightseeing trip with those lucky enough or maybe crazy enough to pay the $1000 to go aloft in the Super Fort. Not encumbered with thousands of pounds of bombs the weapon of war got airborne after only a few thousand feet. She flew by us much quieter than I would have imagined, not sure if that is due to the replacement engines used or if that is just how quiet a B-29 really is. Carson made the observation that he was surprised how small the B-29 actually is. I have to agree. The aircraft appears only slightly larger than the B-17, Sentimental Journey, which was parked nearby. Of course the highlight of the visit was getting to go inside the B-29, well worth the $25 I had to plunk down to get us in the gates. FiFi is well cared after, the navigation area and cockpit don't give the impression that one is looking at a 70 year old airplane. Check out the posted pictures for some great interior shots and fly-by.
[May 16, 2014]
Under the Cowling
For a long time I have been wanting to delve into the maintenance aspect of aviation. I have been fantasizing of building my own aircraft, somewhat grounded in the reality that any first attempt will likely be a very simple ultralight category machine As a pilot and instructor you have to have a good working knowledge of the systems of an aircraft but until you have cracked the lid on one of these machines, how well do you really understand them? My Cessna 150 has a very simple and reliable powerplant in the Continental O-200. What better way to be introduced into the world of an A&P? I took the first steps today by receiving instruction on how to change my aircraft's oil. I've done plenty of oil changes on my vehicles including some minor repairs so I was not intimidated or doubtful of my ability, but I wanted to ensure I did it right after all doing it wrong could have some hefty consequences. The 150 cowl comes off easily in two parts which just a simple phillips screwdriver, leaving easy access to all areas of the engine. We drained the oil from a quick release valve under the oil sump, took a sample to send out to the lab for analysis, removed the old oil filter and replaced with the new. Different from a car is the safety wire that must be installed to ensure the oil filter does not unscrew itself in flight. I had been itching to buy safety wire pliers for some time and the oil change finally gave me an excuse. One of the coolest tools I know own. It did not take long to master the process. We loaded six new quarts of Aeroshell 100W back into the engine, checked for leaks and ran her up to ensure everything was working as it should. We checked again for leaks after shutdown and found none. Job complete, about 15 minutes total, faster than any car oil change I've done. I probably saved about $50 doing my own oil and I have piece of mind knowing it was done right. My oil analysis results should come back from the lab in a week or so. The analysis will show trace amount of metals and the types that are found in the oil. Any abnormally high findings will point to a problem in the engine and the type of metal will tell us where the problem lies. The last analysis 100 hours ago was normal, hopefully this one will be uneventful as well.
Following the oil change we pulled the seats out and dismantled the panel to replace the heading indicator and tachometer. The gyro in the HI was completely shot and had been since I purchased the plane. Every now and then it would spin wildly and precessed at a much higher rate than normal leaving me only with my wet compass for dependable headings. My new HI has a heading bug which sure is a nice feature even if I only fly VFR in the plane. We got both instruments installed in about an hour leaving time for a compression check of the cylinders. All 80s! A replacement of the bushings in the generator and timing the mags for 28 thanks to my STC. I probably saved about $1000 working with my A&P to order my own parts and assist in the installation. Even more valuable was the knowledge gained from working on my own airplane. We have determined that my engine baffling needs to be replaced and that I can do the work myself. Finally a reason to buy a rivet gun and cleco fasteners! Hallelujah! I'm building up my tool box and skill set for that day when I start building a plane from scratch.
I flew back to Phoenix later that evening fighting a heavy head wind that slowed my progress home. No worries, I enjoyed watching my HI and Tach operate flawlessly. I never had to adjust my HI once.
[May 15, 2014]
Out of the Nest
Another Thursday starts off on the right foot with a student solo. Always the best (and most nervous part) of being an instructor is watching a student solo for the first time. It was a beautiful morning with just the slightest of breezes. My student just did a fantastic job. Earlier in the week one of my post solo students went on her first solo cross country and also did very well. Just a great week all around as the semester slowly winds down, still plenty of things that need to be completed with three private and three commercial students on my schedule over the next four weeks.
[May 12, 2014]
CFI-Instrument Checkride 1.9
After several starts and stops I finally completed my CFI-Instrument check ride. The original oral portion of the exam was initiated at the beginning of April. Typical Arizona Spring weather delayed the practical portion of the checkride until today. The strong winds have been extremely disruptive not only to checkrides but to flight training in general. I tried to prepare myself as much as possible before the actual flight, ensuring my low altitude map was folded and ready, installing a yoke clip with approach timer, printing and highlighting all of my approach plates to make for easy briefing, having Foreflight on my IPAD set and ready with the plates and chart, and having several copies of a custom worksheet I developed for writing IFR, approach, and holding clearences.
I used a Piper Warrior for the checkride. This aircraft had a Garmin GNS 430 WAAS, VOR with GS, KX155 for COM2/NAV2, and a standalone DME. The flight started with me receiving a clearance from the DE while in the run up area. I was instructed to fly a heading until intercepting a victor airway which would take me to the IAF for the ILS-26 approach to KFHU. I departed the airport and was soon under the hood for simulated instrument conditions. Because this was a CFI-I checkride I flew from the right seat and had to literally lean against the DE in order to see the flight instruments since there are no flight instruments on the right side of the panel. As we flew toward the victor airway I had to “instruct” the DE as if he were an instrument student on the instruments that I was using as primary and secondary for climbing, turning, and flying straight and level.
Once established on the victor airway I contacted Libby Approach and requested the practice ILS-26 approach as published. I briefed the approach while simultaneously setting the aircraft up for the approach. Of course at the same time I had to explain what I was doing to the DE. KFHU was busy with other military traffic which caused approach to keep contacting me for traffic alerts. I was able to juggle the extra work load pretty well. The DE had to keep an eye on the other aircraft as I was “under the hood.” I picked up the localizer and intercepted the glide slope at the final approach fix without a problem. Knowing the power setting that would keep the Warrior on a 500ft descent allowed for a stabilized approach down the glide slope. Upon arrival at decision altitude I looked up to see the runway in front of me, the DE told me to go missed so I went back on the gauges and executed a modified missed approach procedure based on tower instructions. We flew back to the victor airway, re-intercepted and proceeded out of KFHU’s restricted airspace. So far so good!
Once clear of KFHU airspace the DE gave me several unusual attitudes which I had to recover from using only instruments. The drill was pretty straightforward, one pitched up and one pitched down. I recovered quickly and we were moving on. I was next given instructions to execute the VOR/DME RW 17 approach into KDUG. This approach required the execution of a DME arc from the IAF to the IF. I talked the DE through the procedure for flying a DME arc and kept the airplane very close to the 10 mile arc. Upon intercepting the inbound course the DE covered my attitude indicator and heading indicator. This simulated a vacuum pump failure as both the HI and AI gyros are spun via air from the vac pump. I now had to execute a partial panel approach, using the wet compass for primary heading information. Flying the wet compass required timed turns at standard rate (3 degrees per second) and understanding compass turning errors for north and south headings. I kept things under control and was able to arrive at the minimum descent altitude with the runway where it was supposed to be. The DE had me do a circle to land to RW 35. A brief touch and go and I was back under the hood flying toward a VOR to test my holding proficiency. I was given a holding clearance by the DE after which I had to determine the correct hold entry, enter the hold, and establish the correct timing for the 1 minute legs and wind correction. The first hold was 1 ½ minutes inbound. Flying 30 seconds out bound had me cross over the VOR at exactly 1 minute on the second inbound. Perfect! With the hold completed the checkride came to a successful end, it was only a short hop back to my home field. No time for celebration, an hour after I was presented my new CFI-I temporary certificate I was back in the plane teaching another student. I have taken a lot of checkrides but I was really sweating this one, probably because I just don’t do a lot of instrument flying. It is good to be back in saddle with instrument procedures. I know that teaching instrument is going to increase the learning curve even further, just as it has over the last few months with teaching private and commercial students.
[April 27 & May 10, 2014]
__[CARSON VIDEO]__[TIM VIDEO]_[PHOTOS]________________________________________________________________
A retired Army helicopter pilot at work gave me a great lead on a helicopter start up in Mesa, only about 50 miles from my home. He had taken his son to the school to let him experience flying a helicopter. I decided that Carson would probably enjoy the experience as well especially since he had been starting to fly helicopters in Flight Simulator. One Saturday we headed over to Canyon State Aero located at Falcon Field to give Carson a ride of a lifetime. Carson enjoyed the experience so much I decided to find out what flying helicopters was all about. A few weeks later I was back at Canyon State Aero for my own flight. Having spent 21 years in the military I had my share of helicopter rides in varous helicopters including the Blackhawk, the Chinook and the famous Huey. But never have I actually handled the controls on these aircraft. The discovery flight was pretty inexpensive for as much flight time as we got, about 20 to 30 minutes for $129, a really good deal. Actual flight lessons are much more expensive, about $320 an hour.
I must say flying the Schweizer Model 300C was a pretty awesome experience if not a little intimidating. My instructor, Riley let me manipulate the cyclic and the collective while he worked the throttle that is connected to the top of the collective. We flew with the doors off with just our knees in the breeze. This along with the unobstructed view from the bubble canopy made it really feel like flying. We were close to the earth, the wind blowing through the cockpit...it was pretty visceral experience. There is a lot going on with flying helicopters compared to flying fixed wing aircraft. Your hands and your feet are constantly doing something. I'm sure this transfers well to making you a better fixed wing pilot especially with rudder pedals. We took off from the hangar ramp area and flew underneath the fixed wing traffic pattern at Falcon towards the north. A DA 40 was just above us at 500 feet. We passed under him and flew at about 1800-2000 feet along the Salt River looking down on all the tubers going down the river. It didn't seem nearly as hard to fly the real helicopter compared to the FSX helicopters as far as with pitch and roll. I was able to maintain pitch to control airspeed which was not that difficult. You have to be very light on the controls so I can imagine when students first start it must be very difficult to maneuver with the typical death grip they have on the controls. The day was a little breezy and I was surprised at how much the wind influences the helicopter. The 300's max gross weight is only about 2100 pounds. We were flying at about 1500 pounds about the same weight as my Cessna 150. The 300 would yaw side to side giving me the feeling that we were not in control of the aircraft at times. On the way back to the field the instructor demonstrated a simulated auto rotation landing on the desert floor below, nice bonus! We swooped down until on a few feet from the ground when he rotated the aircraft into a flare arresting are high velocity descent. Of course the instructor took the controls back for the picture perfect landing. I wonder if landings are the most difficult part of flying a helicopter for a student to master as it is in the airplane. I never did ask Riley the answer to that question.
The school also asked me to do an interview for a promotional video they were working on after the flight. As a bonus the flight was instrumented with two GoPros threes by the producer so he's going to give me the video which I'll post on YouTube as soon as I get it. If it was something I decided to take up I probably would only fly once a month due to the cost. Fortunately the owner came in after the flight and might cut me a deal. She needs a private pilot cert in fixed wing aircraft and I am an instructor with a plane. She thinks we might be able to work a deal. More to follow.... After today's do I feel compelled now to add on a helicopter rating after my flight experience in this Schweizer? No, not really. The utility of a helicopter rating is fairly limited not too many places where you can go and rent a helicopter to go joyriding and I definitely have no desire to fly helicopters for a living nor could I even compete with ex-military pilots with the number of hours that they've obtained. I do however think expanding my experiences by flying rotorcraft can only make help make me a better pilot just by exposing myself to a wider range of experiences in all types of airships and that's what it's all about...constantly learning and growing. At the end of the day I still believe that airplanes fly through the sky with gracefulness and that helicopters just beat the air into submission.
[May 10, 2014]
APA Annual Meeting
Just attended Arizona pilots Association's annual meeting there's about 40 to 50 people in attendance. Somehow the association was able to get Mark Baker the new president of a AOPA to come speak for about 30 minutes on the general state of personal aviation today. He talked about the efforts to reduce the third class medical requirement and the recent rash of CBP unwarranted searches of GA aircraft. There's only been five presidents of the association in the last 75 years and I've been fortunate enough to meet two of those presidents in person, Mark and Phil Boyer. I was very glad to see the exit of the last AOPA president, Craig Fuller, who had done nothing to improve the association. I think Mark Baker's to going to take the association in the right direction. Mark loves flying, in fact his Beech 18 on floats was being repositioned from I believe Florida back to his home state in Michigan while he was speaking to us. APA has been very successful at opening several dirt strips in the state over the last few years including Grapevine, Red Creek and Double Circle. I've been fortunate enough to fly into both Red Creek and Grapevine over the last few months. Many of the dirt strips were closed years ago due to liability issues. Since then changes to the liability laws have decreased the chances of landowners being sued for aircraft mishaps on their strips. I'm very proud of the successes of APA of the last you years and very proud to be a member of the association. At a time when general aviation is in overall decline APA has reversed the decline and is moving things in the right direction. I look forward to more backcountry flying in the coming months thanks to the efforts of APA. On another note AOPA has done away with their annual convention and is moving to distributed fly-ins throughout the country. The closest one to us will be Chino, California in September. I'm planning on attending. The future looks bright for general aviation in Arizona in the coming years.
[May 1, 2014]
CFI-Instrument Oral Passed
Completed my oral exam portion of the CFI-I exam today but high winds ruled out taking the practical portion. Lots of discontinuance for the DE means I have to wait another two weeks to finish the check.
[April 6, 2014]
Another Night Under the Wing
Young, Arizona was the location for this weeks camping adventure with Carson. APA has worked with BLM to recently reopen the dirt strip at Young. We blasted off only a few hours before sunset to make the hour journey east of Phoenix into the higher elevation of Young. While it was hot in Phoenix it was sweatshirt weather in Young. By evening temps were dropping into the 50s. A perfect opportunity to test out my new sleeping bag purchased after freezing all night in Grapevine. With the sun setting we came in for a once in a lifetime perfect landing. Rolling out in a wheelie I was thinking just how impressive everyone would think I am as I rolled into the camping area. One problem, no one was around, just a bunch of abandoned airplanes and tents. Either the Zombie Apocalypse had finally come to Arizona or everyone had left for dinner at the local watering hole. Fortunately for us and the world it ended up being the latter. We pitched our two man tent under the wing having become pretty efficient at the process after so much practice and began to build a camp fire when headlights appeared on the horizon and our camp mates finally barreled back in an assortment of well worn pickup trucks. We built a rather large fire on which we roasted hot dogs and s'mores. A local musician came out and treated us to live music as we sipped on beers and enjoyed each others company. One of those moments when you think it can't get much better than this. We had a great time with our friends from APA until having to say our goodbyes the next morning flying back to the warmth and bustle of the valley.
[April 5, 2014]
Challenging Airstrip - Red Creek, Tonto National Forest 1.4
Today was about taking the Cessna 150J to the limits of its performance capability. Red Creek is by far the most complex and challenging airstrip I have ever landed at. Only 1200ft long, one way in and one way out with a poor surface condition most bush pilots would say a nose dragger wearing wheel pants has no business being in the area, I say "bring it on." Enjoy the videos.
[March 30, 2014]
The Pace is Picking Up 1.6
March goes into the record book as the most hours logged in one month, 47+. The only other time I have broken 40 hours was August of 2012. Work has been keeping me in the air almost on a daily basis, these .8 and 1.0 flights really start to add up quickly. Had an exciting past week, almost hit a herd of six deer when landing after a long night x-country with a student and got checked out in the 182RG with winds gusting to 25 knots. Yesterday a B-17 flew directly over my house not once but three times. Must be a sign from the airplane gods? You can't mistake the distinct sound of 4 Wright Cyclones droning away. I ran out onto the driveway to take in the glorious sight of Memphis Bell only 2500ft directly above me. The aircraft along with a P-51 had flown into my home base, KDVT, for the weekend and was giving rides for who knows how much. I snapped the picture below while at the airport for my CAP G1000 checkout. March is the month when I have to renew my CAP credentials. My new squadron has a beautiful late model Cessna 182T with G1000 glass panel. After becoming reacquainted with the G1000 on March 12th I took my checkout/Form 5 today. My check airmen really worked me out on the standard maneuvers and probed just how well I knew how to navigate the many menus of the G1000 system. Fortunately I have a G1000 simulator for the PC. This allowed me to becoming very comfortable with pulling what I needed out of the equipment. It was probably the most intense of my Form 5 checkouts since joining CAP in 2010 but I passed without issue. Looking forward to taking a few solo flights to get even more comfortable in the future. Big week coming up, I have my CFI-Instrument checkride on Thursday and heading for the bush this weekend for another camping adventure with APA at a remote dirt strip. Stay tuned!
[March 16, 2014]
Luke AFB Airshow
First time getting up close and personal with the F-35 Lightening II. Also got to walk through the V-22 Osprey. Wonder what the emergency procedures are for the V-22 when it loses an engine? Both aircraft put on a great demonstration during the airshow. Steve Hinton flew the Planes of Fame P-38 for the USAF heritage flight
[March 14, 2014]
Grapevine Fly-In and Camping 1.7
_[PHOTOS]_[LANDING VIDEO]_[TAKEOFF VIDEO]___________________________________________________
Took a short hop with Carson out to the Grapevine airstrip located on the south shore of nearby Roosevelt Lake. Grapevine is one of several backcountry airstrips that the Arizona Pilot’s Association has worked tirelessly with the Bureau of Land Management to reopen. Every third weekend of the month APA members can fly into Grapevine, the rest of the month the strip is closed and is depicted as closed on the VFR sectional. This was our first camping trip in the Cessna 150 and you can imagine we had to pack very light. Even for just an overnight we had the rear of the plane filled, more with bulk than weight. My friend Chris had to haul our collapsible chairs in his Arrow. The 150 will haul 120lbs in the rear but unless you are carrying rocks you will run out of room before you come close to that amount of weight. Flying over the field we entered a midfield crosswind for the left downwind to runway 17. No need to teardrop when no one else was in the pattern. We kept the pattern tight and had to slip on base to final. The 150 was not too happy about that with 40 degrees of flaps deployed. Lots of wind noise but no oscillations from the slip. With 40degrees a slip is probably overkill anyway since the a/c could probably be pointed at the ground and not pick up airspeed. Grapevine is not as austere as one would imagine. To start its asphalt, and while the asphalt has deteriorated over the years with weeds growing up through cracks over most of the runway, it still beats landing on dirt and rocks. The runway is also a 3800ft in length and about 40ft wide; making it usable by pretty much any GA aircraft. It does have a pretty healthy slope climbing to the south. We landed on runway 17 coming in over the lake. It did not take long to slow down while traveling up hill. While we have done several fly-in camping trips over the last few years this was the first time we actually set up right next to the plane. Camping right out of your airplane is a very cool experience. We spent the evening around the campfire roasting hotdogs and marshmallows talking about airplanes and several other backcountry strips that have been added to my must visit list. The APA is doing good things in the state of Arizona. I’m proud to be a member.
Flying out this morning we lined up on runway 35 for the slalom launch, heading downhill toward the lake. We flew low over the lake as recreational boaters below crisscrossed the lake. Carson flew the leg home to log and build his time, always nice when dad is a flight instructor. Winds were calm but forecast to pick up in the afternoon. As we came through the mountain pass south of Four Peaks into the Phoenix Metro area the winds had already picked up substantially. We did the signature approach into KDVT, coming in at about 110 knots until short final before pulling the power and dumping the flaps, instant deceleration! An uneventful landing, until my smugness was placed in check by a gust that gave us a pretty good swerve to the left, so much so that I was convinced Carson had slammed the rudder with his foot. Shame on me for not paying attention to the wind and flying the plane all the way back to the tie down. When you fly a 1600lbs airplane you need to stay on your toes when winds are 15+.
[March 12, 2014]
Flying the Bus 1.7
Been awhile since I have flown a G1000 equipped 182T. Yesterday we were reintroduced courtesy of my local CAP squadron. Wow what a bus.! When you have become accustomed to flying 1600-2200lbs airplanes, a 3100lbs airplane feels very heavy (for those of you flying 12,000+ just remember it is all relative). Suddenly I feel as if I am no longer at the whim of the wind. Its takes at least 20lbs of yoke back pressure just to lift the elevators. 230 horses under the hood also was a wake up call to my right foot that you need LOTS of rudder to counteract engine torque. I also noticed that unlike the Cherokee and 150, a left climbing turn in the 182T requires left rudder to counteract adverse yaw. What I really liked was how rock solid the aircraft was on final approach. No bouncing around and airspeed deviations, dial in the pitch and power and this plane comes down like it is on rails…..smooth. I’m pretty comfortable with getting around in the G1000 thanks to being indoctrinated in the Garmin way (we have GNS 430s in the Pipers I teach in), but I was surprised how lost I was with the primary flight display AHRS when trying to execute flight maneuvers like steep turns. I’m comfortable with determining trends quickly on analog gauges with little cognitive effort, but trying to make sense of the altitude tape on the glass display was a little boggling. I had to actually use quite a bit of processing power to figure out what was going on. Okay, I’m not a big fan of glass, I prefer steam gauges. I guess it takes time to get adjusted. With teaching in the 182RGs looming at work it was good to get back in a high performance airplane and exercise a throttle AND a prop control. I need the variety to keep me well rounded and proficient as a pilot and as an instructor. The 182T and the glass cockpit challenge me in areas I have not exercised in some time so I’ll be flying the 182T more in the coming weeks. I have been hitting the books and simulator pretty hard over the last few weeks in preparation for my CFI-I checkride. Probably looking at the end of March to take the practical.
Alamo Lake Adventure 2.3
[LANDING VIDEO] [PHOTOS]_______________________________________________________________
I took Carson along for the Pleasant Valley Fly In this morning. PVA is only 15 minutes from my home and the location of my glider flying this past summer. We flew 044 the short distance from Deer Valley to PVA dodging several hot air balloons before landing on the gravel strip 23R. The turn-out was disappointing with only about 15 planes showing up, mostly tail draggers. But I had come not for the fly-in but the fly-out to a small hole in the wall restaurant called the Wayside Inn. When I received the initial e-mail for the fly-in event announcing the fly-out to Alamo Lake for lunch my curiosity was peaked. I did not recall an airport being located anywhere near Alamo Lake. I pulled out a sectional and sure enough not public, private, or even restricted airport was charted near the lake. Even the Arizona Pilot’s Association web site which maintained a listing of backcountry strips did list an airstrip near Alamo Lake. I turned to Google for more info and uncovered a few interesting articles about the Wayside Inn and its small dirt strip. After scanning about in Google Earth I finally found the Wayside Inn and in traditional 1930’s fashion the restaurant had its name plastered across the top of its roof as a signal to passing pilots that they had indeed found their destination. To the west of the Inn was a short strip that certainly appeared to be a runway. I immediately felt compelled to visit this, relatively speaking for Arizona, “exotic” airstrip.
At 11AM we fired up the Continental O-200 and began the airplane version of the 80’s video game Frogger as we made our way to runway 23L at PVA. This required crossing 23R and 23C dodging planes and gliders along the way. A tow plane was in the downwind for 23L so I held short. Someone comes on the radio and ask if I see the glider circling to land. I don’t so I hold position. I’m looking for him on the approach to 23L since the Pawnee is setting up to land on that runway. Finally Carson spots the glider coming in from the right on RW 5. He looks like he is coming right at us but it is only an optical illusion. He touches down and whips by us skidding off to the right into the gravel and out of the way of the Pawnee landing in the opposite direction seconds later. I continue to hold position as the Pawnee passes by and pulls off to the left. I make my call to start to back taxi on 23L. As I start to move I see two guys on quads on the opposite side of the runway waving their hands widely. I hit the brakes so hard that the 150J lurches forward to the point I think we are going to have a prop strike. She eases back on the mains but still with a slight forward lean. No real emergency, the tow line is still on the runway, one of the guys grabs the line and waves me on. We back taxi on PVA’s only paved runway and blast off towards Alamo.
It takes about a .8 of flying to get to Alamo Lake. While uncharted the field is easy to find as it is the only settlement in what is predominantly virgin desert. Other aircraft are landing on RW 17 so we set up for entry on a left pattern. We are the last plane to arrive behind several Husky tail draggers. On final approach I notice a substantial dip just beyond the threshold and give a shot of throttle to carry use beyond to better landing terrain. Touching down I keep the nose off as long as I can avoiding areas of soft sand and rocks. About 1600ft of the strip is usable runway, width averages 40ft. We taxi in to a make shift parking area on the south end of the runway next to the trailer park surrounding the Wayside Inn. The dirt strip and the restaurant live up to their billing. Unique, rugged, and austere….this is one $100 hamburger run that stands in sharp contrast to the run of the mill experience usually had. The Wayside Inn is bare bones, two double wide trailers with dollar bills on the ceiling and polaroid pictures of past visits by aviators. The food is good but a little pricey for what you get. You can order a six pack of beer off the menu if you plan on spending the night at the dry campsite behind the Inn. Folks are real friendly. After lunch we headed back to the east flying low over the single dirt road lifeline connecting Alamo Lake to civilization. Passing by PVA on the way home we once again had to dodge the Pawnee which had just released a glider. I don’t think the glider ever saw us because he turned into us and required me to maneuver in order to keep safe separation. At least there were no hot air balloons to dodge.
Today’s adventure lived up to expectations. Made some new friends and broadened my experience with austere landing locations. I’m looking forward to future trips out to Alamo Lake.
Deer in the Landing Light
I usually arrive at work around 6AM. Its a short walk from the faculty apartments on campus to my office at the airport. The mornings are still cool with calm winds. Every morning a CAP acquaintance flies his Cherokee in from Sierra Vista to train for his CFI with another instructor before heading back to SV for his day job. I don't usually go out to watch his landings but today I decided to. I watched the plane turn final and waited to hear the chirp of the tires as he touched down. After a short float I heard the tell tale chirp of a good landing but it was followed closely by a loud "thunk." The plane continued to roll out normally and exited onto the taxiway. Everything appeared normal and I attributed the sound to maybe dropping the nose wheel onto the runway or pulling up the manual flaps forcefully. As I turned to enter the building a student came running out stating that the pilot had announced over the radio that he had hit a deer. We ran out to the plane to inspect the damage. The pilot stated he had landed and on roll out saw two deer on the centerline. One was standing and darted to the right, the other was laying down and did not move. The pilot swerved left but not enough to avoid impact with the deer. He hit the deer with his right main gear. An inspection of the plane showed minimal damage, a small dent on the leading edge of the wing and the trailing edge of the flap and some minor cosmetic damage to the strut fairing. The gear showed no signs of damage. Of course the deer was dead having been struck in the head. We hauled it off to the side of the runway. While I have read about warnings of wildlife on runways and the technique of conducting a low pass before landing to recon the area and scare off any potential squatters, I have never actually put it into practice. That changed today, from now on I'll be flying a low pass before I land here at night. Remember you learn from mistakes, life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself so learn from the mistakes of others!
Preliminary findings of the experiment I described in the Feb 17 Blog entry for teaching landings have been very encouraging. Yesterday we spent about a .7 in the Redbird practicing final approach, rounding out, and flaring. We were able to conduct 21 iterations in that short time by setting up the aircraft in an initial position at 500 AGL and on short final, practicing the iteration in less than one minute, resetting the simulator, and conducting the exercise again. After about 5 iterations I began to see student improvement in maintaining the approach speed, rounding out smoothly and flaring. This was a matter of isolating variables that detract from task/skill learning, rapid repetition and reinforcement, and removing the fear factor. Today we flew the actual aircraft in less than ideal conditions (winds 13G20) and the student was able to land the plane without assistance OR prompting after four iterations. I have to say I was a little surprised by the results but of course further testing and a larger sample size will be needed before any real conclusions can be made (this is far from scientific, maybe an ERAU graduate student will take this study on). One other observation I have made, when it comes to landings we tend to pile way to many task on the student at once. We need to isolate the task to be trained and remove all other task from the equation. Once the task is mastered we can begin to reintroduce additional task load. For example, expecting a student to work radios, fly a perfect pattern, do pre-landing checklist, remember all pitch/power settings, and land the plane from the start is asking for failure and frustration. Yes we train component task such as slow flight and ground-ref maneuvers as isolated skill builders in preparation for landing practice, but even when these skills are mastered the student is not ready to juggle all the balls required in a typical landing iteration. Targeted training of landing skills must occur in the pattern. Allowing the student to focus exclusively on these skills should be the CFI's top priority.
Passed CFI-I Written
Just finished my Flight Instructor Instrument written exam. For this second to last FAA written exam that I will ever have to do (just ATP left) I departed from my previous practice of using Gleim and instead enlisted the services of Sheppard Air (SA). SA’s test prep comes in the form of an IPAD app with test questions, answers, and explanations. I spent only two days preparing for the test with the SA software and was able to complete the 2.5 hour 50 question test in just 30 minutes with a perfect score of 100%. What makes SA’s program so successful is the way that you study the material. Using the principle of primacy you start by studying the question and the answer. Then you review the questions again with all possible answers. The original exposure to the correct answer makes it stick in your mind. This is a big departure from the Gleim process where you are exposed to all answers from the start of the study process. The other advantage of SA is the content is being constantly updated based on feedback from test takers. I purchased the software on a Friday night and received three updates to the exam content over the weekend. That speaks volumes to me on how dedicated SA is to your success. SA test prep software is available for commercial pilot up to ATP and everything in between, sorry no private, recreational or sport. It’s back to preparing for the CFII practical and returning to study for the ATP written.
It should come as no surprise that landings are one of the most difficult task for a student to learn given that the critical phase in the process occurs in only a few brief seconds. During those seconds there are multiple psychomotor skills that must be mastered. Further inhibiting the learning process is the fear/apprehension that is naturally felt by the student when brining the ship back a ground that is rushing up to meet them. Once the landing occurs it can take up to 5 minutes to get back to those few precious seconds that need to be practiced. Given the same circumstances any difficult skill would probably take some time to master. Human factors studies have shown that intense correct repetition of a task leads to mastery in short order. Along this line I am going to attempt to leverage the utility of the Redbird FMX FTD by creating a flight scenario where the aircraft is about to enter the round out for landing. The student will fly the landing and the scenario will be quickly reset and flown again. In the span of five minutes, the time it takes to fly one real world pattern sequence, I will be able to have the student practice 10 landings. We will continue the practice for 30 landings which will roughly equate to three hours of pattern work. Because the training is occurring in a simulator fear should not be an impediment to learning. Afterward we will fly the real aircraft and observe the results of the training. I'll report back to you on the results of what I find.
After having spent some time training in the PA-28-161 Warrior II now I have come to the conclusion that she flies like a brick...those Hershey Bar wings I guess. I have to abandon teaching a short final glide at 65 KIAS because the airplane descends at such a high sink rate that the flare required to arrest descent is abrupt with no float and a pronounced landing. This is a little perplexing given that we are well under gross weight and the short field Vref is 63 KIAS. While such a landing is good for the short field lesson it is useless for teaching the transition to a landing attitude in which case some extra energy is needed. I'm going to start having students fly the final at 70 next week and see what kind of results we get. On a separate note I do like the benign stall characteristics of the aircraft. She has no tendency to drop a wing and tends to mush down with lateral oscillations when the yoke is held full aft. I also found out what happens when you fail to secure the fuel primer in the locked position. You get a really rough running engine in the low and mid range of the tach. When you try to shut down by pulling the mixture the engine will continue to run! Lesson learned, keep an eye on your students! As Reagan said trust but verify!
My Cessna 150 has been pressed into service as my Sherpa. It is getting me to work and back to Phoenix at the end of each week in about two hours, two hours less than the car, while working off the rest of my ATP x-country and night flying time.
Mile Marker 1000
This major milestone took a lot longer than I had anticipated but I finally achieved it today. I believe there is only one flight time goal left after which logging flight time just doesn't really matter any more, and that is the ATP. There are several new rules that apply to the ATP ticket including reduced hours depending on how you earned your commercial and instrument ticket and the degree that you hold. I don't meet the requirements for these reduced hour ATP certificates so 1500 hours is still the magic number. It still feels very far away but now as a full time flight instructor the progress towards this final goal should be substantial with each passing month. Completing the requirement within two years certainly is possible. I really have to buckle down and get the ATP written completed after several false starts. New rules effective 1 August will require applicants to complete a 30 hour Part 141 ground course before they can take the written. This new course is estimated to cost $10,000. If I can pass the current ATP written before 1 August I will have two years in which to take the legacy ATP practical. But for the moment ATP has to wait as my current employer is working with me to complete my CFI-Instrument. The school also has a Baron 55 twin for multi-engine ratings. If I want to build twin time I need to get my MEI done sooner than later.
Achieving the Dream
I did it….. I am actually making a living flying as of this week. It’s really hard to believe that this goal that I have been working towards for almost nine years is now reality. I’ve landed a job as a full time faculty flight instructor with a college located in Southern Arizona. I’ll eventually be teaching students working toward various certificates and ratings from private to CFI, instrument and multi-engine. It’s a first class organization with a large fleet of aircraft comprised of Piper Warriors, Cessna 182RGs, and a Beechcraft Baron. The school also has two full motion Redbird FMX simulators. The program is based on Part 141 and while more regimented than Part 61 I am finding that I like the more structured approach (maybe due to my military background) which has an amazing amount of flexibility built in. I’m hitting the books this week getting myself up to speed on the school’s operating procedures and training course outlines (TCOs) for the various certificate tracks. Next week I’ll be taking on my first set of students while simultaneously prepping for earning my CFII which the school is providing the training for (you can’t train commercial students without it!). I will be flying up to 6 hours a day, four days a week, that is intense. I felt my pilot skills were very sharp when I was flying five hours a week, I can’t imagine what 20+ hours a week will do! The unfortunate downside of the job is the fact that it is a four hour drive from home. I stay on campus for four days each week and spend three days back home. It’s a small sacrifice that had to be made to pursue this dream and one I’m not a stranger to coming from a 21 year military career. The advantage of being “sequestered” is that I can entirely focus on the task before me. I’ve been working for years for this opportunity to arrive and I have every intention of “knocking it out of the park.” Let Chapter 2 of this journey begin today…..
Saying Goodbye to the Army
It's official, after 21 years I've hung up my uniform for the final time. One life chapter ends and another begins. I'm now a civilian in search of a new career. I've spent eight years prepping and positioning myself for this day. Time to make a go at flying for a living!
Let the bugler blow
Let the march be played
With a forming of the troops
For my last parade.
The years of wars and the years of waiting
Obedience to orders, unhesitating
Years in the States and the years overseas
All woven in a web of memories
A lifetime of service passed in review
As many good friends and exotic places, too
In the waning sunlight begin to fade
With the martial music of my last parade.
My last salute to the service and post
Now someone else will take my place
To the sharp young soldiers marching away
I gladly pass the orders of the day
Though uncertain of what my future may hold
Still, if needed - before I grow too old-
I’ll keep my saber sharp, my powder dry
Lest I be recalled to duty by and by.
So let the bugle blow
Fire the evening gun
Slowly lower the colors
My retirement has begun.
['16, '15, '14, '13, '12, '11, '10, '09, '08, '07, '06, '05]