June 13, 2013
Last year a new member joined my flying club, Leading Edge Flying Club, and brought with him a 2004 Sky Arrow 650 TNS to expand our fleet. I was immediately intrigued by this aircraft the first time I saw it. It was unlike anything in our fleet or that I had seen as a rental at our airport. This tandem seat 98 horse power pusher aircraft looks like a light sport aircraft, but this particular model is not an LSA. Every member of the club that has flown this plane since it arrived has raved about the experience saying how much fun it is to fly.
I planned a dual purpose mission for my first experience in the Sky Arrow. When I used to be a Cessna driver one of my favorite things to do was to open the window and hang my camera out the window to shot some aerial photography. Lately, I have been logging most my time in a Piper Archer III and a Piper Dakota which give limited access to canopy-glare-free shooting. I learned that the Sky Arrow has rear windows that could be completely removed. So I asked an instructor to take me up and circle a few points of interest while I shot unobstructed from the back then we could land switch seats and work towards a check-out in the aircraft.
The minute we started taxing I realized I was in love with this aircraft. There was something fun and nostalgic about taxiing with the canopy open, wind blowing in our hair and the fresh smells of the airport wafting into the cockpit. On the takeoff roll as you are sitting so much lower to the ground you get a better sense of speed which is also thrilling. However, that is the last time in the flight you will have a sense of high speeds. The plane is perfect for low and slow flying which is ideal for photo adventures or city skyline tours.
Al showed off the aircraft performance circling over my target while I enjoyed leaning out the window taking photos. Then I flew him over The Ravinia Festival to check out the show from above. When we returned to Chicago Executive he suggested I make the landing. However, from the back seat you have no gauges and limited to no view of the gauges in the front. So I had to do the landing by feeling. What a refreshing feeling that was. I think I have grown to accustom to all the benefits of a glass cockpit that sometimes I don't just fly the airplane enough.
When I moved to the front seat I fully realized that this is a perfect airplane to reconnect a pilot with their stick and rudder skills. There is no auto-pilot and if you don't use your rudders the ride won't be smooth or comfortable. Flying the Archer or Dakota it is easy to let some of your core skills diminish. The plane is fun too because it is utterly simple. Although, it has a glass panel there is not much to flying it and has the quickest pre-flight run-up of any aircraft I have flown.
I logged 1.6 hours in the Sky Arrow and need to go back out to do some of the basic maneuvers before I check out but look forward to taking advantage of this fun aircraft this summer. The video below is my first take-off from the front seat of the Sky Arrow near sunset.
May 23, 2013
I am such a huge advocate of the General Aviation community. Since becoming a pilot in 2004 I have been amazed by how open and friendly the aviation community is. Whenever I visit new places I try to seek out local pilots to go flying with. It has opened up opportunities to fly in some unique places including flying over the Golden Gate Bridge (with Jason of Finer Points) and down the Hudson River (with Mike at 110knots) with a unique view of the New York City skyline.
This past week I found myself in Charlottesville, Virginia for a conference. I did some searching and found Mike of Monticello Flying Club, a club that is just being started in Charlottesville. With my recent work on the Flying Club Scholarship, with Ground Effect Advisors, I figured spending some time talking and flying with Mike would be a great way to cap off a trip to the area.
Mike is setting a good example for others interested in creating a flying club, he is hitting the pavement (or in reality the runway) and working hard to drum up support for his club. On the day we met we hoped into a Cessna 172 rented from the local flight school and made a short hop from Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (KCHO) to Culpeper Regional Airport (KCJR) to drop off a flyer promoting the club. While there Mike found an aircraft for sale that might be the perfect first aircraft for his club.
We had an enjoyable flight chatting about flying clubs and exploring the area. Mike had a nice surprise for the end of the flight, an aerial tour of Monticello. I guess it makes sense that a flight with the Monticello Flying Club would not be complete without an aerial tour of Thomas Jefferson's plantation. Sadly, I did not have my Canon T2i with me to capture a photo to share. I had toured the property many years ago but from the air you really get a special view of the massive size of this property.
Do you seek out pilots when you travel? Doing so might get easier if OpenAirplane takes flight!
May 13, 2013
Several months ago I joined forces with three other Chicago based pilots to form Ground Effect Advisors and to offer the first ever scholarship to help create a flying club. We realized that there is a need across the country for new flying clubs to be created to foster more flying and to help keep the costs of flying down. However, starting a club is not easy.
So we developed some strong partnerships and created a scholarship that will provide over $3,500 in goods and services to the winner in effort to assist them in getting their club off the ground. Honestly, we did not know what to expect. We were blown away to receive 126 quality applications for the scholarship.
We have spent the last 14 days reviewing the applications and talking with many of the candidates as we try to identify 10 finalists, which will be announced on Wednesday, May 15. We will then select a winner by June 1, 2013.
There were some interesting data points that came out of the application data we received so we build an infographic that shares that information. You can access it through the image to the right or on the StartAFlyingClub.com website.
Stay tuned for further updates!
April 3, 2013
Paul Lemley, a fellow pilot, was dissatisfied with the quality of flight bags available on the market. At first he settled for what was available. Then finally decided he would solve the problem and build his vision of the perfect flight bag. In homage to the Pan Am era of aviation where aviation was a luxury and passengers and pilots were well-dressed he has created the Classic Flight Bag. The hand stitched bag is made with genuine Crazy Horse leather and has a very sturdy feel. The inside is cotton fabric lined and has what I would deem an appropriate amount of pockets.
I admit to having used a wide variety of bags in my nine years as a pilot, never being fully satisfied I had the right bag. I went from one extreme a duffel bag sized flight bag that could carry anything and everything I might need in the cockpit down to cramming all my needs into a headset bag. With technology taking over I think most people can fit there equipment into something between those two extremes.
This weekend I took the Classic Flight Bag for a test flight. I loaded the following into the bag with ease:
- Zulu Lightspeed Headset
- FlyingEyes Sunglasses
- Canon T2i Digital Camera
- Notepad and pens
The downfall of most flightbags is that they provide too many pockets and compartments that I can never find what I am looking for easily. Paul suggest pilots with these types of bags "throw out that over pocketed trapper keeper and take pride in what you pack your travel essentials in". The only downside I could find in the classic flight bag was that it has three buckles, which is fashionable but makes getting in an out of the bag a little time consuming. This was not a design flaw so much as Paul ensuring he developed something beautiful "It's an attempt at highlighting style over function and craftsmanship over mass production."
Sounds like a reasonable tradeoff for someone like me who flies for recreation and is not in an out of the bag all day long seven days a week. The bag worked for my purposes and surely looked nicer than my previous bag. Sadly, I don't think I fly frequently enough to justify using this bag solely for flying. Instead I think I might use this bag for commuting to work knowing that each time I look at it I will evoke a feeling of that Pan Am era of travel and flying.
The Classic Flight Bag is available online and retails at $495 but is currently on sale for $395 and ships for free.
March 14, 2013
Most pilots are familiar with the $100 Hamburger. This past week though I enjoyed my first $82.50 PB&J. For months I have been trying to think of ways to find more time for flying. Recently, I started wondering whether I could fit a flight in during lunch.
My office is a little over 10 miles from the gate to the airport. With beautiful blue skies forecasted for a few days in a row I booked a plane and decided to give it a try. Here is how things went:
11:41 Left the office
11:48 Called and had the plane pulled from the hangar
11:51 Completed preflight brief
12:04 Arrived at the airport
12:18 Complete preflight and started the engine
12:25 Rolling down runway 16 at KPWK for takeoff
12:50 Engine shut down with three touch and gos completed
12:56 Flight logged in the Leading Edge Flying Club computer
1:25 Arrived back at the office.
I logged 0.5 hours of flying and got three landings for the logbook. Not necessarily the best or most useful flight time but a different way for me to get a taste of flying and stay current without taking away time from the family in the evenings.
I think I will do this again for sure and think this might be an interesting way to share aviation with others. Maybe this summer I will try to do this type of flight once or twice a month and invite a co-worker to join me for a quick tour of the area or a flight along the Chicago skyline.
This is by far the best way I can think of spending lunch. The Peanut Butter and Jelly was average but the ambiance was unbeatable!
February 23, 2013
Sporty's recently released their Complete Instrument Rating Course as an app for Apple's iPad and iPhone. The app takes DVDs full of content and makes it portable so you that spare time can turn into aviation training opportunities.
I recently had the opportunity to take the Sporty's Instrument Rating Course App for a test flight and am loving the experience. I am about half way through the content. I have a feeling I will go through the series once then return frequently to the content during my training and in preparing for a written exam. I have used Sporty's courses before both on DVD and via online courses. Both were good but posed challenges. DVDs meant I had to carry around a DVD in my computer or be near a DVD player, while the online courses required I have internet connectivity which prevented me from enjoying the content on long commercial flights. Although with online courses from Sporty's you can stream to an iPad, that did not help me much though since I don't currently pay for a data plan. One nice benefit of the app is the ability to download content for offline viewing which has allowed me to enjoy the content over lunch, at the gym and on my commute.
This app allows me to consume the information whenever I might have some downtime. The series is broken into seven categories then within each category are topics that typically range from 4 to 15 minutes in length. Perfect for watching a few when I have an hour or one or two while waiting for an oil change on my car. Another nice feature is that you don't need to worry about lugging around your iPad as a single purchase allows you to use the content on both iPad and iPhone. The course does allow users to earn the written test endorsement and receive FAA WINGS credit directly from within the app.
The content is a mix of new and old content. Much of the content has been recently updated and included both analog and digital cockpit discussions. For topics that may not have changed much there are some old clips that Sporty's may have been using for the better part of forty years including the controller to the right, who is sporting glasses that look to be 70s era glasses which goes along with the entire look. Despite some quirky old footage spattered about the content is great.
I will state I am a bit biased by their content since I learned to fly at a neighboring airport to Claremont County where Sporty's is based. So I love seeing clips of some of the airports I spent so much time at. Even without that connection I think this is a valuable tool in Instrument training. Sporty's VP John Zimmerman said "Any pilot who has earned his instrument rating will tell you it's nothing to take lightly. Our course goes beyond simple test prep to prepare pilots for real-world instrument flying conditions."
The app can be downloaded for free which includes some demo content, but a $199.99 subscription is required to access all the content.
February 7, 2013
I am proud to announce my participation in the creation of the first ever Flying Club Scholarship. It all started several months ago I had the opportunity to join Marc Epner and Al Waterloo, hosts of Simple Flight Radio, for an episode of their show. We spent a few hours talking with Adam Smith, AOPA's Senior Vice President of the Center to Advance the Pilot Community. One of his key initiatives is growing the number of successful flying clubs in the United States. AOPA through its research has determined that flying clubs help decrease the cost of flying while creating more social opportunities for pilots and are great places to foster aviation in perspective pilots.
All three of us are firm believers in the value flying clubs can provide to the general aviation industry. As members of a successful flying club, Leading Edge Flying Club, we felt we could help share with others ideas and tips for creating a successful flying club. We looped in another aviation blogger and aviator, Louis Bowers and formed Ground Effect Advisors. Just a few months later we launched StartAFlyingClub.com a blog dedicated to assist in development of America's next great flying club.
We believe to date most aviation scholarships have been focused on the individual pilot. We believe our scholarship will help an entire community of pilots. AOPA's Adam Smith said "I love the idea of scholarships to help start flying clubs. Like a scholarship to help someone learn to fly, but a gift that keeps on giving back to aviation."
We are in the process of building out content in the form of checklists, playbooks, blog posts, audio and video tips all related to creating and growing a successful flying club. We thought there would be no better way to start things off then to offer a scholarship to help someone create a flying club from the ground up. We have been overwhelmed with the response we have received from the industry and our partners that include: AOPA, Sporty's Pilot Shop, David Clark, Signature Flight Support, PilotEdge and LiveATC.net. They are all donating products or resources that will help us build a flying club for the winner.
The Flying Club Scholarship application window is now open and will run through May 1, 2013. We will then narrow the submissions down to ten finalist and select a winner on June 1, 2013. We look forward to working with the winner to open the new flying club before the end of summer.
If you or anyone you know is interested in creating America's next great flying club, please apply today at StartAFlyingClub.com.
January 24, 2013
Nine States, four aircraft and nearly 40 hours of flying capped of a spectacular 2012. Just two years ago I logged the fewest hours since earning my license in 2004 with just 6.2 hours. About that time I joined the Leading Edge Flying Club. A club focused on the perfect combination of Great People and Great planes. Since then I have continued to increase my annual hours, 18.2 in 2011 and back to the level I hope to maintain 39.1 in 2012.
The year started off with a bang helping to ferry a Navy SNJ often referred to as the T-6 Texan from Chicago to Chino, CA. I flew back seat on the ferry flight that helped position the aircraft at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School where it would be used for a few weeks of training. During two days we logged 14+ hours in the Texan and added six states and 9 airports to my logbook. This will surely go down as one of my best flying experiences since earning my license in 2004.
The rest of the summer I spent time familiarizing myself with a variety of new aircraft. Nearly 75% of my 200 hours of flight time has been logged in Cessnas . However, the Leading Edge Flying Club has a fleet that includes a Cirrus SR20, Piper Dakota, Piper Archer and a sKy Arrow. Missing from the fleet is anything from Cessna. As a result I decided I finally had to convert and take the deep dive into the Piper Family, a move I have been very satisfied with.
My first big trip in the Piper Archer was in June when I planned another multi-state cross country, this time for trip down memory lane. As part of my checkout flight in the Archer I flew with Simple Flight Radio Host and CFI, Al Waterloo, to Blue Ash Airport just outside of Cincinnati. It was there that I did most of my primary training and successfully passed my checkout ride. I remember well the warm afternoon that I passed my test and then was surprised to find my wife there waiting to be the first to go for a ride. Unfortunately, this trip would be my last to Blue Ash as it was shuttered just a few months after this flight. I was glad to get one more flight through the pattern at Blue Ash before the closed it down.
One of my favorite flight experiences of the year was a corn run with my Dad. We flew to a little grass strip in Harvard, Illinois which is just minutes from Twin Garden Farms, suppliers of some of the best corn in the world. We took the Archer up and filled it with corn. This was a flight that kept on giving, at least for a few weeks.
Determined to log more cross country time than in any other year I joined several club members on a flyout to Gastons, AK in September. I logged several of the legs as Pilot in Command including the initial leg from Chicago Executive Airport to St. Louis' Lambert Field. The landing there was my first Class B experience, a great learning experience for sure. After an enjoyable time at a resort in Gastons I flew the first of the return legs from Gastons to Champaign, IL. Low ceilings on departure necessitated and instrument flight plan. We quickly flew up out of the soup and found ourselves with a lovely view looking down at the clouds. I loved getting some experience in actual instrument conditions and am further inspired to seek my instrument rating as a result.
One last highlight of 2012 was being a guest on Simple Flight Radio on two occasions. In September I was invited as guest to talk about my flight experiences any MyFlightBlog.com. Then in November I joined Marc and Al as an honorary co-host for an evening in which we interviewed AOPA's Adam Smith and talked about the role Flying Clubs play in rebuilding the aviation industry. It was a ton of fun on both occasions and I look forward to helping them out more in the future!
With my flight experiences in 2012 I feel like I successfully converted from being a Cessna guy to a Piper guy. That being said I am excited about expanding the number of Piper's I am signed off to fly. Late in 2012 I started logging some time in the Piper Dakota which is a Complex plane, those are not my words but literally the classification for the aircraft. Weather was not my friend in late December and I was unable to complete the checkout. However, in the coming weeks I hope to finalize the checkout in the Dakota and my first complex aircraft.
I am hoping to make 2013 another great year of aviation. I look forward to sharing the experiences with you!
November 29, 2012
I recently had the opportunity to test a new take on aviation sunglasses. Flying Eyes have created a pair of sunglasses made specifically for pilots that solve the problems of the temple bar of the sunglasses breaking the seal of ANR headset and the pain associated with that bar. The Flying Eyes can be worn in two different states that I am calling "cockpit mode" and "gravity-enforced" mode.
When in cockpit mode, you simply replace the temples with the adjustable webbing that can be tightened for a perfect fit, securing the sunglasses in place. The webbing passes seamlessly under the seal of your headset for a comfortable feel. Creator Dean Siracusa pointed out that, "If you're paying upwards of $1,000 for quality headsets, don't you want to ensure that you're getting the best performance out of them?" So why wear sunglasses the cause noise leaks? Although comfortable, in this state the sunglasses might earn you some odd looks when you are among your ground-dwelling friends. To combat this, simply replace the webbing with standard temples when you leave the airport, and you have an everyday pair of sunglasses.
The lenses themselves are perfect for the cockpit. They are non-polarized lenses with UV400 sun protection and medium lense density that protect your eyes and ensure you can use your in-cockpit gadgets like the iPad and Glass panels with ease.
Classify this product in the "why didn't I think of this?" category. After many hours in the cockpit and enduring the discomfort from wearing sunglasses with thick temples under a headset, Dean Siracusa, a pilot for 14 years, decided he might as well create a solution. Three years later he has a patent pending and has been selling his Flying Eyes since September.
My only complaint was the first few times you make the transition the clips are very difficult to release. However, after a few transitions they work smoothly.
I think Dean has a great thing going and his Flying Eyes now have a permanent spot in my flightbag.
November 1, 2012
In a dimly-lit doctor's office in 2009, my wife and I looked at two beating hearts on an ultrasound and immediately realized our lives were about to change. At the time we could never have known how positive the experience would be, but that is for another post. In the weeks after the ultrasound I started to think about what role flying should have in my life. Flying has always been extremely important to me so the thought of walking away was an unpleasant one. However with the risks of flying and its costs, it was hard not to think seriously about whether I should stay committed to this hobby.
I spent a great deal of time mulling over my options and talking with my family and other pilots. Learning to fly was a lifelong dream that I did not achieve until I was thirty. Since then it has been one of the brightest parts of my life. During my soul searching I realized that I wanted to be sure to teach my kids to follow their dreams, and how could I do that if I walked away from mine? That being said, I still needed to determine how to mitigate some of the other, more "practical" factors including risk and cost.
I determined if I was going to continue to fly I would continually work on becoming the safest pilot possible and I would need to find ways to fly more efficiently. However, that was easier said than done. In most of the country, and definitely in Chicago, the costs of flying continues to rise so it makes it harder to be more proficient on the same budget as a few years ago. As a result of all the life changes and my lack of a plan, 2010 represented the fewest hours flown in a year for me since I started flying in 2004.
I believe if it were not for Leading Edge Flying Club, my hours would have continued to dwindle away and I would have contributed to the pilot population decline. In Hangar Flying: a Dying Art Form?, I wrote about the Flight School I had been flying with from 2005 to 2010. I knew if I was going to continue to fly I needed to find somewhere new, because while that club had a healthy membership roster, they did nothing to foster social activities between those members, including sharing the cockpit. My trips to the airport were to log an hour or two by myself then return home and those experiences were not doing much to help me grow as a pilot.
I needed and wanted something more out of my aviation experience. AOPA President Craig Fuller said it well when speaking of Flying Clubs, "They make flying more affordable and accessible, often in a social environment that keeps pilots active and engaged." He couldn't have been more accurate. Since joining Leading Edge Flying Club I have been able to get so much more out of my aviation endeavors. Prior to joining Leading Edge I was primarily flying by myself. If I had a budget of two to three hours a month to fly then I was very limited in what I could do with those hours. I essentially had two choices: burn most of my hours in one longer, more fun flight, or spend them all in the pattern and practice area in a groundhog day kind of loop. I was primarily limited to learning from my own experiences and mistakes. Now, I am more frequently sharing the cockpit with one or many pilots. It allows me to seek out better and more fun flying experiences. When I am not Pilot in Command I am still learning from all the other pilots I am flying with, both those more and less experienced than I.
Prior to joining Leading Edge Flying Club my most distant trip was just a few hours away from my home base, primarily due to the cost. This year alone I have gone on a slew of multi-state cross-country flights, including two overnight trips and visited seven states for the first time by General Aviation aircraft. These are aviation adventures that just were not something I could accomplish within my flying budget when I was flying on my own. During those flights I have packed a ton of learning in as well. I landed at my first Class B airport and enjoyed the best vantage point for watching Instrument pilots fly a perfect approaches to minimums. I also have logged time in complex and hi-performance aircraft for the first time since earning my license. These are the exact experiences I was missing out on and their absence could have contributed to me drifting out of the pilot community.
I am not the only pilot and blogger to realize the value of a Flight Club community. Check out fellow Leading Edge Flying Club member Louis Bowers' post "Flying Clubs - Ceiling Unlimited" on his blog, Sky Conditions Clear. Last weekend Louis and I along with four other fellow Leading Edge Flying Club members took three planes and flew out to breakfast. I logged & paid for just under an hour but enjoyed a few hours of flying and aviation conversation and learned a bunch along the way. The photo to the right is from that flight.
It is no wonder AOPA has made their first goal for the newly created Center to Advance the Pilot Community to support the development of a network of Flying Clubs. This Sunday I will be joining Simple Flight Radio hosts Al Waterloo and Marc Epner in a Sunday evening conversation with Adam Smith, Senior V.P. AOPA Center to Advance the Pilot Community and look forward to speaking with him about the role Flying Clubs will play in their efforts. The show is recorded live at 8pm CT so tune in and join in on the conversation!