June 24, 2009
"I have never been a very frightened person. But there is one thing I am terribly scared of, and that is that I would wake up one day, be 82 years old and realize I didn't live the life I wanted to live."
This one of the opening quotes from Monika Petrillo's documentary, Flyabout. At the age of 24, Petrillo decided to follow a lifelong dream and learn to fly. She explains that learning to fly was a way to prove to herself that she was living the life she wanted to live. Soon after, a funny thing happened: her father was so inspired by her actions that he discovered he also had an interest in flying and earned his license that same year. They then decided to take advantage of their new skills and joined a tour group for a self-fly air safari that would circumnavigate Australia.
I knew this film would be right up my alley because it combines both my love of flying and also my passion for travel. The quote above resonated so well with me because I had similar thoughts several years ago. It was that fear of living with regrets that drove me to start this blog back in April of 2004 and to finally seek my license, one of the best decisions of my life.
For me, this was a wonderful film. It is not nearly as polished as some of the more recent aviation documentaries like One Six Right or the clips we have seen from the in-production film A Pilot's Story. Most of this film was shot from Monika's point of view with her literally holding a hand held camera and often turning the camera onto herself. But it combines aviation, travel and an interesting story of a women who sees herself maturing during this experience. Petrillo spends a lot of time while flying contemplating how her relationship with her family has changed as she grows older. She begins to associate this flying experience, to be similar to an Aboriginal walkabout which is a rite of passage that often takes place during adolesence, hence the name of the film - Flyabout. She experiences many flying and relationship challenges during this trip that she was able to overcome due to her wonderful attitude. She commented that "the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is your attitude", a lovely quote I wrote down as soon as I heard it.
I want to thank Dan Pimentel of Av8rdan's World of Flying for his recent review of the film. If you are an aviation enthusiast I am confident you will enjoy this film. You can purchase it on DVD directly from the Flyabout website. If you are planning on attending AirVenture 2009 be sure to check out one of several screenings scheduled for the week. Monika Petrillo will be on hand to discuss her experiences. I recently learned that after several years of not flying due to becoming a mom, Petrillo has just recently completed a BFR and is looking forward to flying frequently again.
June 22, 2009
When I was learning to land my flight instructor spent significant time focusing on how to perform a go-around. She beat into my head that a go-around was not in anyway a failure but the smart and safe thing to do anytime you are unhappy with your approach or landing attempt. I know from conversations with my CFI one of the factors she looked for before signing me off to solo was solid decision making skills. She wanted to see that I was wise enough to recognize when a landing approach was not going well and that I was confident enough to make a snap decision to abort the landing an skilled enough to execute a go-around landing.
Bruce Landsberg wrote in an AOPA article that "...coming back for a second try at the runway is a skill that everyone needs but many lack." Bruce Landsberg. When was the last time you practiced or thought about a go-around?
Pat over at Aviation Chatter recently posted a dramatic video clip of a twin piston, making a landing at St. Barthelemy Airport, a small 2,100 foot airstrip in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, as you will see in the video the pilot failed to make the decision to perform a go-around. Instead the plane floats halfway down the runway before finally touching down then overshooting the runway. Take a look at this video. Then think about whether you have practiced or at least thought through the go-around procedures for your plane recently.
It is vital that as pilots we are accustomed to thinking about the go-around decision during each approach. Budd Davisson writes, "If at any time in the approach or landing, right into final flare, you feel as if it isn't right, go around." Pilots should know when to make the decision and the precise steps to execute the go-around. I had a valuable learning experience just a few months after earning my license that reminded me to keep "Power Up, Pitch Up, Clean Up, Talk Up" in the back of my mind on each approach.
On a turbulent and windy day I flew to Indiana to land at a narrow 40-foot single strip runway. I had a stabilized approach until I was about 100-200 feet above the ground. A gust of wind caused the plane to drift off the centerline and in fact almost over the left edge of the runway. I immediately realized this approach was not going well and I should not try to salvage a landing on this attempt. I made the go-around decision.
Unfortunately, I did not follow standard procedure and accidentally put in full power and retracted the flaps completely putting myself in a precarious position. It took a second or two, which felt more like a minute, to realize I was still descending despite the power increase and the pitch change and I quickly put in an appropriate amount of flaps for the go-around. Sure enough the plane started to accelerate and then climb safely over the obstacles at the end of the runway at which point I began to "clean up". That learning experience helped re-enforce for me the importance of getting muscle memory in place for performing the go-around procedure and also not delaying in making the go-around decision.
June 19, 2009
The folks at the always do an excellent job of bringing in the top aviation attractions to their annual airshow. One of the exciting additions to the 2009 roster will be the Airbus A380. I have enjoyed sneaking peaks of this amazing plane from my window seats on a few commercial aircraft. I am looking forward to having a chance to see this amazing aircraft close and personal later this summer.
The A380 will arrive and conduct a flight performance on Tuesday, July 28th. After the performance they will park it on the tarmac for show visitors to view. It will take to the skies again on July 31st and perform another demonstration flight before making its show departure.
Airbus Americas Chairman T. Allan McARtor commented "It makes perfect sense for the A380 to be featured at Oshkosh - not only because it is the largest passenger aircraft in history, but also because the remarkable A380 would not have been possible without the considerable support of our airline - and supplier-partners from around the world who worked with us over many years to make the aircraft a reality."
Fellow Chicago Aviation Blogger, Rob Mark of Jetwhine, had the opportunity to fly the A380 earlier this month. Visit JetWhine.com to read his write-up and to listen to a podcast interview with Rob about his experiences in the Cockpit of the A380.
The excitement for AirVenture 2009 is definitely building with this recent news.
June 18, 2009
One of the things I love about General Aviation is the great community of pilots. The pilot community is also very active on the Internet as represented by the long yet not exhaustive list of blogs on my blogroll. Two bloggers that I read often, Jason Schappert of m0a.com and Vincent Lambercy of PlasticPilot.net are organizing a cross-country flight in a Cessna 150. When I say cross-country I mean a real cross-country flight not your typical 50NM plus local cross-country.
One year from today they will fuel up Jason's trusty Cessna 150, N512R, and depart from Daytona Beach, FL and fly a yet undetermined route to Catalina Island, CA and back. The two pilots are estimating the trip, with some leisurely stops, will take approximately 70 hours of flight time over a three-week period. They will surely be discussing this trip on their blogs listed above but also on the website dedicated to this journey - FlyingAcrossAmerica.com.
Their reason for making this flight is to spread the word about the benefits of General Aviation. A message that needs to be spread now more than ever before. They are looking for financial and non-financial support for this flight and details can be found on the Support Us section of their website. They estimate the cost of this venture will be approximately $15,000. Any extra donations over the amount needed to cover their expenses will be donated to an aviation-oriented charity.
I look forward to following their updates as the plane this trip then following them once the trip begins.
June 16, 2009
As a regular participant of user review site Yelp, I decided to create a list of my $100 Hamburger experiences. I have added a Yelp $100 Hamburger badge to the right-hand column of my Blog where you will be able to see the seven reviews I have made thus far. For my non-pilot readers, $100 Hamburger is the term used by pilots when they fly to a airport to enjoy a fly-in or on airport restaurant.
John F. Purner publishes a book, The $100 Hamburger, which has cataloged and rated favorite fly-in restaurants nationwide. Earlier this year Purner released his list of Top Ten $100 Hamburgers of 2009. I have had the chance to personally check-out three of the top ten representative. I felt Cincinnati's Sky Galley and Rick's Boatyard in Indianapolis were worthy members of the Top Ten list.
Purner also included Pilot Pete's, Schaumburg, IL in his Top Ten list. I have visited Pilot Pete's on several occasions and have not been equally impressed and gave it a 3-star out of 5-star rating. I would have included Kealy's Kafe in Janesville, WI in Pilot Pete's spot on the list. Kealy's serves a great breakfast and lunch that is reasonably priced. Kealy's also have a great view of the tarmac at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.
One of the next restaurants I would like to checkout is Final Approach Steak House in Sheboygan, WI. If you have any Midwest $100 Hamburger suggestions, please leave a comment below.
June 14, 2009
Sporty's recently released Garmin G1000 Checkout ($89.95) a 2-Disc set dedicated to helping pilots transition from flying traditional steam gauges to flying the Garmin based Glass Cockpit. Having recently reviewed four other G1000 products I was interested to see how this latest entry into the G1000 training market would fare.
Included in the package is a DVD training video and a copy of the PC Software Simulator. The DVD is hosted by Airshow Announcer and frequent Sporty's Training DVD host Rob Reider. If you have used other Sporty's DVD products this course will feel familiar right from the start. I preferred this product over the previously reviewed Sporty's Air Facts: Flying Glass Cockpits which split its time between the G1000 and the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra. The Garmin G1000 Checkout provided some great scenario-based training as you fly along on two VFR flights and one IFR cross-country flight.
I enjoyed that this product came bundled with the PC Software Simulator. As expected after watching the video I wanted to jump in the cockpit but I did the next best thing and used the G1000 Simulator to try some of the steps shown in the video. Repetition is one key to learning and retaining lessons and tips learned from the DVD.
I strongly recommend this product as it is a great resource for pilots planning to fly the glass cockpit. However, the one shortfall of all DVDs is they are limited in what they can cover, and follow a pre-determined path. I suggest complimenting this DVD training course with Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook which will give you an in-depth resource that will help you to continue to learn while also leveraging your new G1000 simulator.
There is still some debate as to whether or not glass cockpits make flying safer. Either way, they sure are fun to fly. So use these DVDs to learn how to enhance your flying experience.
June 9, 2009
Each time I fly I always make a point of writing about the most recent flight here on MyFlightBlog.com. In addition to tracking my time on the blog and in my logbook I also update an electronic copy of my logbook using the Logbook Pro software. For the most part the software has been great and provides some great reporting functionality to let me total up hours by month, year or query by aircraft type. One feature though that it was missing was some sort of social integration.
That is where Jetrecord has come to the rescue. Jetrecord says their service "is to pilot logbooks what Flickr is to photo albums. Log your flights online and share them with friends and family." They recently setup a process to take a file exported from Logbook Pro that will populate your Jetrecord account.
I recently served as the test project for this new process and it worked flawlessly. I can now view and share my flight experiences more easily through Jetrecord. If you are logging time I highly recommend you give Jetrecord a look.
May 11, 2009
This weekend I had my first opportunity to confront one of the leading killer of pilots, Get-There-itis. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association say "The determination to reach a destination, combined with hazardous weather, claims the lives of dozens of pilots and their passengers yearly." For weeks I have been planning a cross-country flight to Indianapolis. The plan was for my Dad and I to fly from Chicago to Indy to visit my Grandmother (my Dad's mother) and also enjoy the first day of time trials for the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
As the flight date drew closer, the weather in the 10 day forecast continued to improve, only to disappoint the day prior to the trip. The night before our Saturday morning departure the forecast called for rain, low ceilings and high winds. When I awoke, I was encouraged by the look outside but that did not last long. A combination of online weather through AOPA's website and a call to Flight Service for a weather briefing proved that it would not be a great day for the flight. At my destination there was a direct crosswind of 18 knots, gusting to 25 with forecast for no change in winds. Additionally, at airports near Chicago there were deteriorating ceilings and reports of turbulence and wind shear. I made the executive decision to scrub the flight.
Luckily the weather looked like it would improve overnight. So I adjusted plans for a Sunday roundtrip. I woke up Sunday morning to a nearly windless blue sky. I picked up my Dad and we headed out to Chicago Executive. and before too long we were airborne and flying along the Chicago skyline enroute to Indianapolis. It was a quiet morning in the skies so we had no trouble getting flight following from Chicago Approach and throughout the flight. I enjoyed showing my Dad the the intricacies of the G1000. Having been raised in Indiana he seemed to enjoy viewing towns from above that previously he had only been accustomed to seeing from the ground level.
After arriving at Eagle Creek Airpark we drove out to visit with my Grandmother. We decided to go back towards the airport for a Mother's Day brunch. We ate at Rick's Boatyard a favorite destination for pilots. I had to sample the Boatyard burger since it was rated in the Top 10 $100 Hamburgers of 2009 earlier this year. The burger lived up to its rating. Even better was the company. It was great sharing the flight with my Dad then enjoying a Mother's Day brunch with my Grandmother (one of my loyal readers, Thanks Grandma) and my Dad.
After the enjoyable meal I re-checked the weather. According to the briefer it looked like we would have lower ceilings but fine VFR flying weather, so we fired up the trusty Cessna and rolled down the runway for departure. Again we were able to pick-up flight following, though as we approached Chicago the controllers were getting busier and busier and finally canceled our flight following. We also noticed visibility diminishing a bit as we approached Lake Michigan and a light rain started to fall on the windshield. As we passed Gary, IN the rain increased and it became apparent that there was a storm ahead in the Chicago area.
Although we were anxious to get home to enjoy a Mother's Day dinner with my mother I knew the right call was to divert. During flight training instructors often have their students practice unexpected diversions. A pilot on my shoulder reminded me of all the horror stories about pilots flying into instrument meteorological conditions(IMC). Since earning my license I have not had a real reason to divert but found the decision came easy. I always figured I would not be one of those pigheaded pilots who suffer from Get-There-Itis, and was glad to see I could resist that urge!
I called up Gary and re-routed for landing at Gary International. My Dad and I sat back in the leather chairs at the Gary JetCenter and watched part of the Cubs game while I periodically checked in on the patchy storms working their way through Chicago. After about a forty-five minute break the weather had cleared and we were back on our way. The storm had cleared out the General Aviation traffic and we were able to pick-up flight following again for the bumpy return flight up the lakefront.
Often people ask what I love about flying. I can say that this weekend's flights was one of the best reasons to fly. I was able to spend a great day with my Dad while surprising my Grandmother for Mother's Day and enjoying her company for the day. I look forward to making this flight again sometime soon. Weather permitting, of course.
April 18, 2009
Spring has arrived in Chicago, well atleast for a day it has. I enjoyed waking this morning to a nice cool breeze coming through the bedroom window and new it would be a great day to fly. I pulled up AOPA's online flight planner to get updated weather and added the weather data to my NAVLog for the flight from Chicago Executive to Porter County Municipal Airport and back.
I did a quick visual check out the window and it confirmed what I saw on my computer monitor, it was going to be a wonderful day for flying. Chicago Executive was reporting few clouds at 5,500 but everywhere else along the route was reporting clear below 12,000 and greater than 10 miles visibility.
After completing my pre-flight I contacted Chicago Executive Ground. They said I could choose any runway as there was not much traffic yet and the winds were calm, so I selected the nearest runway. As soon as I was airborne I turned Eastbound to head towards the lakefront. After clearing Chicago Executive airspace I tuned in Chicago Approach, things sounded slow so I made my VFR request for flight following which was granted. As I approached the Chicago skyline I received a single traffic advisory for a plane off my 11 o'clock reporting the same altitude. After searching for a few seconds I saw the aircraft which was about a mile away and no factor. Other than that I had the Chicago Skyline airspace all to myself.
After clearing the Chicago O'Hare Class B airspace I climbed to 3,500 feet to put me above the airspace for Gary International and turned further Eastbound toward Valparaiso. This was my first flight to Porter Country but as I neared the airport I realized I had flown out of here once before as a passenger on a B-17 Bomber, definitely a found aviation memory of mine.
I overflew the airport and entered a left downwind for runway 27 and made a smooth landing. As I began to taxi back several other airplanes entered the pattern. I did a 360 on the taxiway to view the traffic, I noticed there was a Piper Cub flying a low and tight traffic pattern and he had not been using radios, or was not equipped with them. Both the Cub and the Cessna turned base at the same time, though the Cub's base was much tighter than the Cessna's. Iannounced to the Cessna that the Cub was there as I don't think he had seen the Cub flying a lower and tighter but nearly identical pattern. The Cessna thanked me for the alert and ended up opting for a go around while the cub flew nearly the full length of the 7,000 foot runway before setting down for landing, I guess his hangar must have been on the far end of the airport.
The return flight was uneventful. Though, when I called Chicago Approach for flight following they asked me to to standby as the were busy with commercial traffic. They never did have capacity to offer me flight following services on the return leg. Though, it worked out alright as I did not encounter any traffic on the way back which surprised me on such a beautiful morning.
I logged another 1.8 hours of cross country time which will come in handy when I am ready to start pursuing an instrument rating, something I am thinking about more and more seriously this Spring.
April 12, 2009
Have you ever noticed that when you ride in a cab you never wear a seatbelt? Why is this? Do we blindly trust that fact that if the driver does this for a living we should trust their skills? Independent of all the other miserable drivers on the road?
Are you the same way in the air? Are you willing to climb into the cockpit of anyone's plane just to log a few hours or share the cost of flying? Or do you take greater precautions in the sky? I have noticed that I take flying much more seriously than land-based activities. Not to say I live recklessly when fully weighted down by gravity, just that I realize the inherent dangers of flying and was trained early on to respect the airplane and those flying around me. I have found, right or wrong, I have strict standards for those I choose to fly with. I realize that as a relatively new pilot, I still have much I can learn from fellow pilots but realize the habits I could learn can be both positive and negative.
I receive frequent invitations to go flying. I admit to not thinking twice when it is an invitation from the trained pilots of Lima Lima, Aero Shell, or Bill Leff and his T-6 Texan. I might jump at the opportunity to fly with them because I have seen their skill firsthand, or just because I would do nearly anything to fly the T-6 Texan or T-34. However, when I receive an invite from someone I have just met I am more skeptical. I have not seen their logbook to see their flying experiences, frequency of hours, etc. How do I know they believe in the same standards of safety that I do? How do I know their flying history?
Let's all admit it. We have met pilots that we know we would never fly with, let alone choose to share airspace with. I was especially concerned when I joined a safety seminar put on by the air traffic controllers at my home airport a few weeks back and they were asking simple questions like "Can you explain what the hold short line is used for?" and pilots (not students, licensed pilots) were answering the question wrong.
Earlier this week a person I met through the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group was looking for some people to join him on a flight to deliver a dog from Chicago to its new home in Southern Indiana. It sounded like a great way to enjoy a few hours in the sky while helping out a worthy cause. I had a scheduling conflict but even if I had not, I wonder if I would have flown along for fear that I would show up to learn the pilot had a lower standard of safety than I was comfortable with or lacked the experience I would want in the pilot-in-command. Worse yet, what if I did not learn about their lack of concern for safety until we were airborne?
Last night I had the opportunity to meet the pilot in question in person. Within a few minutes of speaking with him I immediately realized this pilot was one who knew the responsibility bestowed on pilots and took flying seriously. We not only talked about each other's flying experiences but I also learned about his knowledge of his plane. I realized that I would happily fly with him in the future. I realize now when an opportunity arises a quick phone call or in person chat will likely provide me the clarity I need to determine whether I want to share responsibilities of flying a plane with a fellow pilot.
How do you decide with whom you will fly?