June 25, 2008
I just returned from a relaxing extended weekend in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Through a combination of long weekends and if I am lucky a full week vacation I usually enjoy 10-20 days up in Northern Wisconsin. So each year I get checked out to rent a Cessna 172 from Orion Flight Service at the Sturgeon Bay Cherryland Airport.
I had an abbreviated rental checkout ride this weekend with Orion. When I arrived at the airport it was obvious that the weather would prevent the CFI and I from spending too much time in the plane. I reviewed my past flying experiences with him, during which he took note of the fact that I have been flying somewhat consistently as of late and had also recently passed a biennial flight review. I think the combination of the recent flight experiences and his comfort with my pre-flight and first trip around the pattern convinced him we could do a brief rental checkout ride in lieu of the inbound storms.
So we decided to simply conduct a few landings. I performed both short field and soft field takeoffs and landings in addition to performing a simulated power out landing. It was at that point that we decided it would be best to end the flight before the storm got any closer. As we made our last trip around the pattern the rain started and by the time we began tying down the airplane a full fledge downpour had started.
I wished the storm had not abbreviated the flight as I would have preferred to fly north to Ephraim to perform real soft landings on the turf runway rather than simulating them on the asphalt. I guess that leaves me something to do on my next trip up north. Speaking of flights up north, I am planning to book a plane at Chicago Executive well in advance late in the summer in hopes of a weekend with great weather so I can make my first VFR weekend trip up to Sturgeon Bay.
June 15, 2008
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has recently focused on two important issues to pilots. One is the ongoing fight against user fees, the other is fighting the decline in the pilot population. The organization recently reached out to the current pilot base through a survey, looking for creative ideas to get more adults to experience the fun and challenge of Flying.
The goal is to attract more adults from the age of 35 to 65 to stop dreaming about flying and to start learning to fly. There are many ways people are achieving the goal of inspiring others to fly. There are those who volunteer their time to fly Young Eagle flights to introduce children to aviation. There is a also growing population of bloggers and podcasters that are writing about their love affair with aviation and inspiring their readers to learn to fly or to fly more often. Additionally, there are those who share their passion for aviation through film like the like One Six Right or two films in the works, A Pilot's Story and a yet to be named film from the Director of One Six Right.
In addition to publishing my blog I attempt to grow interest in aviation by managing the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group. It is a group of more than 50 aviation enthusiasts. We get together every few months for activities like touring a control tower, checking out a flight school's flightline, or flying to a local airport for lunch.
When I learned that AOPA was holding a Pilot Town Meeting in Chicago and that there was going to be two sessions one for current pilots and one for prospective pilots I knew it would make for a great Aviation Meetup Group event. We had several of our members make it to the event and most exciting was that we had three that had not yet taken their first flight. At that meeting they were given a free voucher for an introductory flight as a gift from AOPA.
Phil Boyer, President of AOPA, commented in his President's Perspective about the Chicago Aviation Groups participation at the town meeting saying groups like ours "take hangar flying to a whole new level". I hope other aviation enthusiast will create aviation enthusiast groups like the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group to help foster an interest in general aviation in their own neck of the woods.
June 8, 2008
In preparing for my short cross-country flight last weekend I knew I would likely be encountering some strong crosswinds landing conditions. I was comfortable that the crosswinds would be within the planes demonstrated crosswind limitations and also within my personal comfort levels. Before flying though I decided to look around for some articles or videos about crosswind landings as a refresher.
The best advice I found came from Budd Davisson's website Airbum.com. In "Crosswind Landings: The Real Time Video Game" he makes an interesting point about crosswind landings stating "Crosswinds are also a subject that in my humble opinion, are a) intellecutalized to much, b) not instructed nearly enough, c) avoided entirely too much and d) intellectualized too much."
From what I have seen from my own experiences flying or hanging out at the airport or on aviation forums I think this point is spot on. I know many student pilots who don't seek out opportunities to practice crosswind landings enough. I was lucky that my CFI loved deviating from our current lesson plan if she spotted a windsock at an airport flying perpendicular to the runway. We would drop in and work on crosswind procedures before returning to the lesson at hand.
While in the height of training I got to the point where I did not need to intellectualize the crosswind landing process too much, I could simply fly it and instincts and experience guided me. Budd explains his strategy for crosswinds in simple terms "Don't think about them! Do them!". He equates flying crosswind landings to playing a video game "if the picture you see in the windshield isn't what you want it to be, do what ever is necessary to make it right. Don't over-think it. Do it! If the airplane is drifting to the left, as seen in the windshield, do the natural thing. Lean into the wind by dropping that wing. Then, since part of any landing in any airplane, tailwheel or otherwise, should be to keep the tail lined up behind the nose, as the nose tries to move off the centerline, you use what ever rudder is necessary to keep it there, which is usually (surprise, surprise) opposite to the aileron you're holding. Don't think about it. Do it."
During last weeks flight I had two crosswind landings. When entering the pattern I thought about this article and reminded myself to fly the plane like a video game and the result were two nice crosswind landings.