May 31, 2008
Over at ReportingPoints, the AOPAPilot Blog, Nate Ferguson recently wrote a post asking whether the $100 hamburger should be renamed the $200 hamburger due to the rising cost of aviation fuel. For non-pilots, the $100 hamburger is slang for a flight in which a pilot is looking for an excuse to fly so he or she takes a short flight to a neighboring airport for a bite to eat, the cost of the flight and the burger were said to be about $100. There is even a book dedicated to the best places to get the proverbial $100 hamburger.
Since I had the Cessna booked for a morning flight I opted to go in search of some breakfast. John Keating had written about a brunch destination, Kealy's Kafe, on FlyingChicago.com so I decided to check it out. The cafe is located in the terminal building at Janesville Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport. Janesville is just over 50NM miles away which means that the flight time could be logged as cross-country time that could be used towards the cross-country requirements for an instrument rating, something I would like to pursue in the future.
I was excited, but also a little apprehensive about the flight. When I checked in with the Flight Service Station to get the weather I learned that I would encounter gusting crosswinds at both Janesville and upon my return to Chicago Executive. Luckily both airports have multiple runways, allowing me to select the runways that would minimize the crosswind factor of the winds.
Enroute, I flew over Dacy Airport which offers two turf runways. Not far from Dacy Airport is Twin Garden Farms. They sell the best corn I have ever had, Mirai Corn. Each year in late Summer my parents drive out and pick up bushels of corn for the family. Seeing that it only took about 20 minutes to fly to Dacy, I might have to look into flying there this year and bring back some corn for the whole family.
After a turbulent-at-times flight, I arrived at Janesville. The flight took about 45 minutes from takeoff to engine shutdown. When I arrived there was only one other airplane parked outside the restaurant. I seemed to have arrived at the right time, for pilots in the area getting there by 10am is the way to go. After my arrival a flight of seven Van's Aircrafts came in together. Following them were three other planes that arrived for brunch. I ordered two eggs and toast which was served promptly and were quite good.
On the flight back I had a tailwind that allowed me to cut ten minutes off the return leg. The return flight went smoothly though I was a little worried to hear that Chicago Executive was reporting crosswinds and windgusts of 20kts and adding to that was a report of low level windshear. The main concern is that as you are preparing to land if there is a major change in wind direction you can immediately lose lift and therefore lose altitude rapidly. To counter the crosswinds and the concerns of windshear I opted to use only 20° (instead of 30°) and also flew a faster approach speed then normal. The plane bounced around a bunch on final but I was able to put the upwind wheel down first and then settle the plane safely on the runway.
In the end the $4.95 eggs came out to be closer to the $150 eggs when you factor in the cost of the plane and fuel. So, I agree with Nathan at AOPA that it might be time to increase the cost of the $100 Hamburger. I think $150 - $200 might be more accurate in our current economy.
May 26, 2008
Every pilot has heard it at some point that a Private Pilot's License is just a license to learn. Although the statement is a bit of a cliché, it is a very valuable statement. Paul Craig's book "The Killing Zone: How and Why Pilots Die" speaks to how the hours of flying between earning a private pilots license and hitting the 500 hour mark are the most dangerous hours for a pilot. It turns out a pilot is often a safer pilot while actively working towards earning his or her license then he or she is in the next 400 - 500 hours of flying. I think that is because to many pilots are actively involved in training and learning before earning their license and many do not continue to stay proficient in their knowledge and continue to learn about flying after earning their Pilots license.
I continually enjoy going back to my Sporty's Private Pilot Flight Training DVD Course for refresher training. I also enjoy reading aviation blogs and listening to aviation podcasts like The Finer Points to keep aviation topics and best practices top of mind.
I have found that learn best when I have a combination of clear explanations and also great visual references. My interest in seeing something visualized drew me to Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook that boasts over 1,200 illustrations and photos that help visualize aviation concepts.
I recently enjoyed coming across a website that uses flash animations to animate aviation concepts, FirstFlight.com. The site is managed by Trevor Saxty, a Gold Seal Flight Instructor with single, multi-engine and instrument ratings. The site is sure to point out that "the online lessons are not a substitute for study of the Pilots Operating Handbook/Airplane Flight Manual for the airplane you intend to fly."
The lessons available on the site, which range from how to perform a pre-flight of an airplane to flying a cross-country flight using radio navigation, are a great complimentary resource for aviation education. What makes the site unique to the many websites and books focusing on aviation education are the animations that help visualize some of the aviation concepts. For $49.99 a pilot can access the site for six months and have unlimited access to the content during that time frame. Interested in checking out the site? Trevor allows free access to Flight #7 Advanced Takeoff and Landing Techniques. Click on the image below to visit Flight Seven and check out some of the animations.
May 10, 2008
Pilot and author Rod Machado published a great article, "Keeping your head in the game" in the May issue of AOPAPilot. In it he writes, "Currency is what the regulations require to remain legal to fly; proficiency is what pilots require to remain confident." I read the article a week or two ago and it really resonated with me. In the article he explains that pilots can take a year or more away from flying and not see a large degradation of their core piloting skills. The biggest loss is to their confidence. He states that if a pilot has not flown enough to be confident they start asking themselves questions like "Will I be able to keep up with the ATC? Can I handle any crosswinds during landing? What if I have an emergency?"
I think this is exactly where I found myself going into 2008. I had not flown in several months; throughout most of the winter. Although I felt like my flying skills were still well intact, I saw my confidence diminish. So I set out a plan for myself to take several flights this spring with a CFI to bring back currency, proficiency and most importantly, confidence. The goal was to work towards a biennial flight review. I completed the biennial flight review just a few weeks ago and was thrilled to feel after that flight like my confidence was as high as it was when I was flying three days a week when I was earning my license.
The only aspect of flight I still had a little apprehension around was flying a cross-country from Chicago Executive that would require me to fly around the busy airspace of Chicago. It had been a long while since I had planned a cross-county flight, filed a flight plan and flown a cross-country flight. So I scheduled one more flight with my CFI. I decided to fly from Chicago Executive south of the busy Chicago airspace to Champaign's University of Illinois-Willard Airport.
After departing Chicago Executive Airport I called up the Flight Service Station to open my flightplan then switched over to Chicago Approach and requested and received VFR Flight Following. Whenever I fly along the lakeshore I find it very valuable to use the flight following services if they have capacity to support it, which provides just another level of safety in avoiding air traffic.
After flying by a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline I headed towards Lansing airport before turning southwest and heading away from Chicago. About fifteen minutes after passing Lansing I had the skies to myself. I don't think I saw another plane until I was within 20 miles of our destination. The arrival into Champaign was uneventful, I was proud that after pulling off the taxiway and logging my arrival time that I flew the flight within five minutes of my calculations for my flightplan.
My CFI graduated from the University of Illinois just last year. He was kind enough to give me a brief tour while we were there. We borrowed a courtesy car from the FBO and journeyed into town. We enjoyed a $100 hamburger at Murphy's in the heart of the U of I campus. After lunch, on the way back to the airport, I called up the Flight Service Station to get an updated weather report so I could finalize the return flight navigation log. Champaign's main runway, 14L/32R, is a massive runway that is over 8,100 feet in length. With little traffic at the airport the tower was kind enough to save us time burning expensive fuel taxing to the end of the runway. Instead I turned the plane onto the runway at the midway point and still had 4,000 feet of runway ahead of me.
The flight back was uneventful right up until we arrived back at Chicago Executive. As we approached the airport I found where all the airplanes in Illinois were hiding. The controller was masterfully directing at least six or seven planes that were within a few miles of the airport and also managing the five airplanes waiting to depart. I had to slow my downwind leg then fly a 360 degree turn to allow for additional spacing between planes before landing.
Since moving to Chicago a few years back I am at the height of my flying confidence, proficiency and currency. I am looking forward to flying some fun cross-country flights this summer and building up my cross-country time and possibly pursuing an instrument rating in the near future.
May 3, 2008
I think it would be hard to find a pilot who has not seen or is not atleast familiar with the movie One Six Right: The Romance of Flying. One Six Right is an exceptional aviation documentary about the Van Nuys Airport. Although, I had seen One Six Right I was not aware of a companion DVD, One Six Left until about a month ago.
Netflix delivered One Six Left to my home in time to view it over the weekend. If you enjoyed One Six Right I highly recommend you check out One Six Left. The DVD features the beautiful trailer "Into the Clouds" which features music by Enya, a 12 minute movie montage of amazing aerial shots of a wide variety of planes that fly in and out of Van Nuys. Additionally, the video has interviews with the Director and the videographer and a few other features.
This was one of those films that just connects with a pilots love for aviation. The cinematography is spectacular and should be used by any pilot that is trying to convince a friend or family member to learn to fly. The great news is Brian Terwiliger the Director of One Six Right is actively working on another yet to be named aviation documentary.