July 31, 2007
Tally is my six month old Golden Retriever puppy. She is named after my favorite little town in Alaska, Talkeetna. Talkeetna is home of a great general aviation airstrip and Talkeetna Air Taxi which offers amazing site seeing flights of Denali is based there. Supposedly Talkeetna that inspired the fictitious town of Cicely from Northern Exposure.
I am not sure if I will push aviation further on her and get her in a plane anytime soon. I have always kind laughed in the pilot catalogs with those headsets made specifically to protect a dogs ears like Mutt Muffs.
July 27, 2007
I had the amazing opportunity to ride along in a B-17 Flying Fortress flying as part of the Wings of Freedom tour, made its way from Porter County Municipal Airport in Valparaiso, IN to Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling, Illinois. The Wing of Freedom Tour is currently made up of three planes that served as the backbone to Allied air attacks in World War II, the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator and B-25 Mitchell.
When I arrived at the airport there was a nice crowd of people taking tours of the three planes. Visitors can tour the planes for $10 ($5 for children under 12). Though standing out from the crowd were several veterans that seemed content sitting and looking at these historic aircraft that many had flown in during the Second World War.
As the Collings Foundation, founded to help preserve living history, started breaking down the sales tables and preparing the planes for flight I was filled with anticipation for the flight. As we boarded I found my seat a spot on the floor on a pad leaning against the wall right next to the left tail gun. We received a short briefing explaining that we should remained belted in until airborne at which point we could have the freedom to move about the aircraft providing we did not get in the way of the pilots, lean on any doors that might not be completely secure or put our hands on the wires running through the inside of the fuselage that are responsible for moving the control surfaces.
A few minutes later the engines made a magnificent noise as they roared to life. We rolled down the runway and smoothly lifted into the air. There were ten of us aboard like there would have been for a combat mission. For us the flight would be all enjoyment for the crew that flew during the war it was much different. A typical crew of a B-17 aircraft included a Bombardier, Navigator, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Engineer, Radio Operator, Ball Turret, Left & Right Waist Gunners and Tail Gunner. I started off the flight enjoying the view from the tail of the plane from the waist gunner's vantage point. Then as the flight progressed made my way to the Radio Room which had a section of the roof opened up providing a nice breeze. After that I checked out one of the better vantage points on the plane, from the Flight Engineers turret at the top of the plane. This gave a clear view 360 degrees around from the top of the plane. As beautiful a view as it was it was nothing compared to that provided from the Bombardier's space at the nose of the plane.
I climbed down below the pilots and crawled to the front into the Bombardier nose section of the plane to the best view in the house. The nose is made of plexiglass giving a wonderful view from the very front of the plane. I enjoyed watching the Chicago skyline go by from this great vantage point.
Also on board for this flight was former B-17 Pilot Dave Weinberg who flew 28 missions in the B-17. He was joined by his Son-in-Law and Grandson on his first flight in a B-17 since the war. I am sure this was a memorable flight for them all. I had previously heard legendary stories of this planes ability to take a beating but still bring the crew home safely. Weinberg shared a story to support the legend commenting that the B-17 had about the same ability to glide as a brick yet during one of his missions he lost three of the four engines but was still able to bring the plane home safely.
It was special to hear a few short stories of his about the war and specifically the B-17. That is part of why it is so special that these planes fly on allowing those stories to continue to be told and shared with generation after generation. Despite nearly 12,000 B-17 being built there are now only 9 still in flying condition in the United States. This aircraft is an amazing aircraft but not nearly as amazing as the young men that flew it to preserve freedom. Check out the Collings Foundation website and see when this aircraft will be visiting an airfield near you. I guarantee you will not regret taking the time to visit with it and the people that share the love for it.
July 25, 2007
I recently upgraded my home computer and finally have the processing power to play the most recent versions of popular Flight Simulators. I know that X-Plane is extremely popular but I opted for Flight Simulator X Deluxe Edition mainly for one reason. I grew up playing the first version of SubLogic Flight Simulator then moved into the Microsoft Flight Simulator 2 (Right). I remember fondly reading a flight simulator manual that gave me my first taste of aviation and started to not only build my love affair with flying but also my aviation knowledge. I recall flying out of Meigs field and joy riding over pixelized lines that showed a few of the sites of Chicago. I decided to reward Microsoft for the years of enjoyment they provided me back then by trying out the latest installment in the series.
Boy, have times changed. I had fun today looking at a history of Microsoft Flight Simulators on Wikipedia. Amazing to see the changes in the quality of animations. I can only imagine how much more realistic flight simulators will be like in the future.
I have really enjoyed flying around my favorite airports this past week. To improve the game play I have been using a xBox 360 controller but may someday have to invest in a yoke and rudder pedals. Last night I decided to conduct a comparison experiment in which I would fly a virtual flight mimicking a an actual flight I had flown and documented.
A little over a year ago I took a flight from Lincoln Park Airport in New Jersey, through the Hudson river corridor to New York City and back in a glass cockpit Cessna 172SP. When I did the original flight I took several photos, so I loaded up the glass cockpit Cessna 172SP in the simulator and flew an almost exact route hoping to capture similar photos from the virtual world. Below I have put photos from the actual flight with a similar photo from the virtual flight. I was amazed how realistic the scenery is, especially the cockpit imagery.
July 8, 2007
I spent a wonderful Fourth of July holiday in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. On my last visit to the Door County Peninsula I flew a checkout ride with Orion Flight Services clearing me to rent their Cessna 172 throughout the summer. On the Fourth of July I was able to find a large enough pocket of nice weather between two storms to get in a flight over Door County.
It had been over a year since I had flown solo, when my Dad and I took in a flight from the very same airport. Since that time I have bounced around FBOs in Chicago trying to find a place to fly and am currently checking out with Windy City Flyers.
I took off from runway 28 and was airborne after a short roll due to the wind coming straight down the centerline of the shorter of two runways at Cherryland Airport (KSUE). From their I flew northeast over the town of Sturgeon Bay then out over Lake Michigan taking in a view of the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard Station and an aerial view of "The City of Glasgow" a sunken ship off the coast of Lake Michigan.
During the flight I also flew over one of my favorite golf courses, Cherry Hills Golf Course, which looked like it could benefit from the distant storm that was slowly approaching the area. I also enjoyed flying over the Dairy View Corn Maze. A pirate ship had been mowed into the crop which, surely kept maze goers lost for hours trying to navigate their way through.
I returned to Cherryland and made a single full stop landing which was one of my best landing in months. I logged 1.3 hours of solo flight and had a great time. After taxing back to the tarmac I saw an Extra 300, an plane designed for aerobatic flight, on the tarmac. The pilot was in town for a family reunion and was taking members of the family up for flights in which he performed barrel rolls and loops. So, I stayed at the airport for 15 minutes to enjoy a free airshow. All in all a great day at the airport!
You can view a few of my photos that I took during the flight on Flickr.