August 30, 2007
On Saturday I toured the control tower of Chicago Executive Airport with some fellow aviation enthusiasts. During the tour the controllers talked about how they use the radar to ensure safe separation of aircraft in their airspace. Then they explained for the non-pilots how pilots interact with each other to ensure safety when flying at the airport after the control tower closes or at uncontrolled fields. This served as a great reminder for my flight that day which was from a controlled field to an uncontrolled field and back.
After the tour I flew in a Cessna 172SP from Chicago Exec. (KPWK) about 20 miles northwest to Lake in the Hills(3CK) airport, a small single strip uncontrolled airport. Here I flew around the pattern six or seven times while working on crosswind landings. At times there were as many as four aircraft working in the pattern. At an uncontrolled airport there is no tower so all radio equipped planes communicate over the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) providing position reports and intentions for the other pilots.
At one point I was at pattern altitude when another pilot announced his intention to over fly the airport and then to enter the pattern on the downwind leg on a forty five degree angle. Nothing strange there other than the fact that he announced his current altitude of approximately 1,900 feet which is the same as the pattern altitude. This put him on a collision course with the plane behind me in the pattern that was currently on the downwind leg. When over-flying a field to enter the pattern you should be flying above the traffic in the pattern to alleviate any potential danger. Luckily the other pilot made the decision to exit the pattern and let this idiot land before resuming his pattern.
As a pilot you always need to look out for yourself and assume that all other pilots are a potential danger to you. But, this becomes ever more important at uncontrolled towers.
Upon returning to Chicago Executive it became quickly apparent that traffic had picked up at the airport since I left. Turns out the up tick in traffic was due to a series of flights that were part of the Young Eagles program were arriving at the same time as I was.
I circled Lake Zurich two or three times just waiting to get an opening to start my communications with the tower. I was told to proceed inbound but that I may need to circle from time to time as I was sixth in the order for landing. Sure enough on downwind for landing the tower asked that I please perform a 360° turn to provide greater spacing between aircraft before landing.
It was fun going from a busy uncontrolled field to a busy controlled field and getting a chance to work on both types of radio communications.
The Chicago Aviation Meetup Group August event was a tour of the Chicago Executive Airport control tower. Chicago Executive (formerly Palwaukee) is a Class D airport with three active runways. Although on Saturday only two runways were active as runway 6/24 was partially underwater from recent storms in the area.
There were five other group members that joined me for the tour. I believe I was the only certified pilot in the group but several members were working on their pilots license while others are thinking about it.
When we arrived there were three tower controllers in the tower one that was on a mandatory one-hour break and the one managing aircraft on the ground and another managing inbound and outbound aircraft. Luckily there was not a ton of traffic so the controllers were able to talk to us and explain what they were doing for the few aircraft that were maneuvering on the field or in the surrounding airspace.
One of the controllers showed us the light gun that is used to communicate with planes that are having radio communication problems. He asked if I had ever seen it in use which I have not. He mentioned that next time I am flying if their load is not to much to ask and he will shine it for me to see from the plane, which supposedly it is very easy to see at day or night. So I have added that to my next flight to-do list.
This was my second visit to a control tower and I have found both visits to be enjoyable and educational. I highly recommend a control tower tour for any pilot or pilot in training.
If you are in the Chicago area and interested in meeting up with other aviation enthusiasts check out our aviation group on Meetup.com.
August 19, 2007
I had a great day of aviation fun on Saturday. As I described in the previous post I got up early and went flying on Saturday morning. I made sure to return from the skies in time to get downtown for the 11am start of the 49th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. We arrived right as the U.S. Army Golden Knights were delivering the American Flag to the lakefront to kick-off the event.
The air show was well organized to break up military and civilian acts through-out the day. There were several highlights to the day. Probably the neatest individual demonstration was that of the F-22 Raptor. I had seen this fighter at last year's air show but it simply performed a few brief passes and did not show-off its amazing capabilities. On Saturday during a full demonstration the crowd got a chance to see why this is the most advanced aircraft in the United States Air Force. I was absolutely amazed by its maneuverability.
Sean Tucker and Team Oracle, as usual provided a great flying demonstration. During his performance they broadcast his voice over the public address system where you can clearly here his enthusiasm for flying. What was wonderful was later in the day when he came to show center and shook hands with fans. He took time to talk to some kids about aviation and give each a hat. It surely made the kids day and maybe the combination of the event and meeting Sean Tucker will inspire some of them to become pilots. I too, enjoyed getting a chance to thank Sean for the great show he put on for Chicago.
I also really enjoyed the precision flying of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. They roared through the city showing off great teamwork flying at times within a few feet of each other. They gave a performance worth of the U.S. Air Force's 60th Anniversary celebration.
For Sunday's show I was scheduled to fly along with the U.S. Army Golden Knights in their C-31 for their afternoon jump. Unfortunately, low ceilings and poor visibility caused officials to cancel the show midway through the afternoon so our flight was scrubbed. Although, I did not get to fly with them I did enjoy spending 30 minutes touring their plane and talking to two members of the Golden Knights. I can tell you that they really love their jobs.
Photos that I took from this weekend's events can be found on Flickr. Here is hoping for two rain free days for next year's 50th Annual Air and Water Show!
August 18, 2007
I headed out to Chicagoland Executive Airport early this morning to get a flight in before heading back to the city for the 49th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. It was a nice cool morning with a threat of storms, but after a call to the Flight Service Station I was confident I could get in a flight before storms would arrive.
I spent the entire day in the pattern working on my towered field radio calls and more importantly my landings. During the day I worked on a variety of different scenarios including simulated turf takeoffs and short field takeoffs and landings. A few months back I had been disappointed with my landings but as of late I am feeling like I am back in a groove. As any instructor will tell you it is really about the preparation. As long as I fly a nice stable approach it makes greasing a nice landing so much easier.
It was a very enjoyable flight and I enjoyed sharing the patter with a variety of aircraft including jets and prop planes. All in all I fit in seven takeoffs and landings and logged another 1.7 hours today. I will next get a chance to go flying next Saturday afternoon. Although, flying would have been enough to fill my aviation addict today I also enjoyed taking in the 49th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show which was amazing despite periodic rain. I will write more on the Air Show after tomorrow�s show.
August 17, 2007
It is that time of year again in Chicago where the skies rumble for the return of the Chicago Air & Water Show. This year is the 49th year of the free event that is expected to draw nearly 2.5 million people making it the largest two-day spectator event in the United States. A great line-up of military and civilian aircraft will be participating in this years event.
This is the third year that I have been invited down to the media day at the Gary Jet Center at the Gary International Airport. In 2005 I had my first air show flying experience flying with Lima Lima. Last year I had a fun flight with Aeroshell Aerobatic Team. This year I was lined up to fly with the Red Baron Pizza Squadron in one of their Stearman bi-planes. I had flown in a Waco bi-plan before but was looking forward to getting inverted in the Stearman. Unfortunately, it was not in the cards as the cloud cover and haze did not give a high enough ceiling for acrobatics.
Instead we flew in formation out over Lake Michigan and did a few steep turns. The most exciting part of the flight was when we returned to the airport to land and my pilot made a steep diving turn towards the runway and the wind really blew through my hair and I could feel the joint pull of the strong Stearman engine and gravity, I could imagine how much fun doing acrobatics in an open cockpit plane must be. I might have to try again with them next year.
About an hour later there was an opening in the back seat of one of the T-34s flown by the Lima Lima Flight Team so I jumped at the opportunity to get back in the air with Lima Lima. They are a really nice group of men that love flying and demonstrating precision flying. The ceiling was a little better and we got to do some fun performing Wifferdills and Pop-Top Breaks.
Shortly after returning from this flight the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds arrived from their survey flight over the Chicago. I enjoyed watching them land and taxi in. I had the opportunity to talk to the two female pilots in the team for an article I posted on Chicagoist.com. My photos from the day are available on Flickr
As for this weekend I am hoping the weather holds out and we get two rain free days with unrestricted visibility and high ceilings. I enjoy all the air show acts but this year I am anxious to see two new acts for me, the Firebirds & the full demonstration of the the F-22 Raptor.
August 8, 2007
I recently became the manager of the Chicago Aviation Group at Meetup.com. The point of the group is to bring local aviation enthusiast together once a month to talk about aviation or embark on some sort of aviation adventure.
We have scheduled our first get together for Saturday, August 25th at Chicago Executive Airport (Formerly Palwaukee) where we will take a tour of their control tower. For pilots it is a great learning experience to see what the Controllers life is like. While I was training for my private pilots license I toured the tower at Lunken Field in Cincinnati and found it very beneficial. For an aviation enthusiast it is a rare opportunity to see how a controlled airport works and how the airport tower controllers manage the airport operations.
August 5, 2007
I am an avid reader of Pilot Getaways Magazine, a bi-monthly magazine featuring great destinations for pilots. After reading their 2005 article about flying the Hudson River Corridor I followed some of their advice and enjoyed an amazing flight along the New York skyline. In addition to enjoying learning about new places to fly, I like seeing how they cover airports I have flown in or out of. They have covered some of my favorite airports like Ephraim Gibraltar Airport (Summer 2004) and Cincinnati's Lunken Field(Nov./Dec. 2005). The July/August issue just arrived and I was excited to see this issue has an article Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, one of my favorite places to fly.
For the past few summers I have flown several flights out of Door County Cherryland Airport (Sturgeon Bay, WI) and enjoyed the aerial views of the Door County Peninsula. Flying over the peninsula offers wonderful views of Lake Michigan, Sturgeon and Green Bay, corn mazes and shipwrecks. The article gave some great tips on places to visit while visiting the Door Peninsula. I recommend a flight to the Door County area to any pilot. The folks at Orion Flight Service are sure to take good care of you during your visit.