August 31, 2008
This year has turned out to be a great year for flying for me. I have flown more total hours, solo hours and cross country hours since the year I earned my ticket (2004). I am slowly building up more cross-country experience, something that will come in handy if I begin to pursue an instrument rating. Yesterday, I logged another 1.7 of cross country time.
I knew I had the plane for about two hours so I unfolded the sectional and looked for airports that were more than 50NM miles from Sturgeon Bay Cherryland Airport but also not too far that would prevent me from getting a preflight completed and get to my destination and back in the two hour time slot. The airport that best met those criteria was New Holstein Municipal Airport in New Holstein, Wisconsin. The airport is just over 60NM from Cherryland just a few miles to the East of Lake Winnebago.
Shortly after departing from Cherryland Airport I tuned into Green Bay Approach and as expected it sounded pretty quiet so I figured they would have capacity to provide me with flight following. I hit the transmit button and said "Green Bay Approach, Cessna 378MJ". After their response I responded with "378MJ, Cessna 172 is 10 miles southwest of Cherryland KSUE at 4,500 requesting flight following, direct to New Holstein". They provided me a squawk code then verified my radar contact. From that point forward I only heard from the two more times. The first was to point out traffic at my 10 o'clock which was no factor and the second time was to terminate flight following as I approached my destination. Although, they did not provide much support I always prefer to take advantage of flight following to provide an extra layer of safety.
Although, the airplane was GPS enabled I planned the flight the old fashion way with dead reckoning. I noted small towns, windmill fields, a river and a racetrack as several good landmarks for the flight. I arrived at each checkpoint close to my planned time of arrival and almost directly on target. Any easy task yesterday as the winds aloft were very light.
There was no activity at New Holstein when I arrived. Since they don't have an automated weather system I overflew the field to check out the windsock. I found the windsock to be limp. New Holstein has both an asphalt and a turf runway. It appeared from the windtee and the way the limp windsock was situated and based on weather from a neighboring airport that runway 32, the paved runway, would be my best option. I flew through the pattern and landed smoothly then back taxied for to the end of the runway for departure.
The return flight was a little quicker due to a slightly better support from the winds aloft. I again leveraged the support of ATC for flight following.
Flying over a vast area of farmland I saw some interesting shapes cut into the corn fields and other crops below. Designs that you would miss if passing these areas by car. I saw one design that looked familiar then I realized it was because it reminded me of the RSS feed icon. In the end it was another fun afternoon of flying over Wisconsin in the Cessna 172.
August 30, 2008
Do you remember the first time you flew an airplane? I remember it well. I have been an aviation enthusiast for as long as I can remember. But, it was not until high school that I had the opportunity to go flying in a Cessna. Unfortunately, I was one of two guests flying with the pilot and being the smallest of the guests I had to sit in the back of the plane. I remember feeling tortured getting to finally fly in a small plane but having to do it from the back seat.
Then, when I went to college, one of the first people I met, Chad, turned out to be a private pilot. We hit it off well and ended up being roommates for many years, business partners, and we also jumped out of a plane together (though not one we were flying luckily). To this day we are still best of friends, and It was Chad who gave me my first flight in the front of a Cessna. I remember enjoying the great aerial view of the college campus and the excitement of watching him fly the plane and was ecstatic when he let me fly the plane for a few minutes. This flight just continued to add fuel to the fire that would eventually energize me to "go for it" and earn my private pilots license.
Chad, like a large number of pilots nowadays, no longer actively flies. So this weekend when he and a few other friends decided to join me in Northern Wisconsin I made sure to find a way to fit aviation into the trip. On the day of his arrival I rented the Cessna 172 from Orion Flight Service in Sturgeon Bay for the short flight to Austin Straubel International Airport (KGRB) in Green Bay. I parked the plane at one of the two local FBOs then went into the main terminal to await his arrival. From there we loaded his bag into the back of the plane for the flight back to Sturgeon Bay.
For me this was a special flight. When I went on that first flight behind the yoke I still dreamed of learning to fly. It was fun to now be the pilot in command and be reminded again how lucky I am to have pursued this dream. I was sure to return the favor and let him fly the plane for a while as well. I noticed it took him about two seconds to take me up on the offer. I guess you can never really take the pilot out of someone.
August 18, 2008
More and more often I am coming across pilots who are making audio or video copies of their flight training lessons. When I was learning to fly, I would come home after every lesson and write a post about it. Doing so allowed me, rather, forced me to review that lesson while it was still fresh in my mind. Taking the time to translate my experiences from something retained internally to a written description sometimes required me to think through the lesson in greater depth then I would have had I not by documenting my experiences.
This process was extremely valuable for me as I believe it helped with my ability to retain and ingrain the information in my head. Additionally, it helped me to prepare for my next lesson. I would often review my blog post and my notes before heading out for my next lesson. I believe the combination of the benefits of blogging my experiences and dedicating enough time and funds to fly two to three times per week are some of the key reasons I was able to complete my flight training in just 47.2 hours.
More and more frequently I am coming across student pilots who are not just writing or podcasting about their experiences but actually recording and sharing their actual lesson through audio or video channels. This way they can go back and actually relive the specific advice their instructor gave about maneuvers or flight concepts. From a pilot's standpoint it seems to me this could only aid the learning process and help produce better pilots. However, I wanted to get the take of a flight instructor as well.
I reached out to Paul from AskACFI.com to get his thoughts. I asked Paul how he would feel about a student recording a lesson, "As a CFI, I think it is great." He commented that John and Martha King found their success after taping one of their lessons. He went on to make a great point that, "the practice is really nothing new at all just in a different format for a different generation". The latest technology allows someone like me who did not tape my lessons to at least re-experience what it was like to learn about a specific maneuver by listening to someone like Bill at Student Pilot Cast when he publishes a podcast about a lesson including audio of him and his instructor discussing a flight maneuver.
When listening to Bill's excellent podcast I wondered how his instructors felt about being recorded. He told me that none of them have seemed to care. Oddly enough most of his instructors, although intrigued by the podcast, especially after he was mentioned in AOPA Flight Training Magazine, have still not listened. Paul said, "I could see where some 'old school' instructors have issue with that. I'm not one of those instructors. I have no problem with someone distributing my lesson". In fact he mentioned he recently purchased a mic and may start playing around with his lessons and possibly produce a podcast. I look forward to hearing more about an AsktheCFI Podcast.
Speaking of podcasts, Peter, my AOPA Project Pilot Mentee who will be kicking off his flight training this Tuesday, is planning on podcasting his flight training experiences so be sure to check out his website.
August 17, 2008
Ever wonder how a pilot knows to stay clear of an airshow? According to Federal Aviation Regulations 91.03 "Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight." Therefore it is the pilot's responsibility to determine whether there are any hazards along the intended route of flight.
A pilot can take advantage of many online services to fulfill this requirement or make a call to flight service briefer. Before each of my flights I contact Flight Service for a last minute check on the weather and also to double check for TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) or NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen). If I had been intending to fly along the lakefront I would have learned during this process that there was a Notice to Airmen restricting flight within five miles of the airshow center.
In the example of the Chicago Air & Water Show they communicate the location by using the show centers location in regards to the Chicago O'Hare VOR. For example the Airspace is defined as having a show center located at 13.6 nautical miles out from the Chicago O'Hare VOR on the 106° radial. The flight restriction is then for a radius of 5 nautical miles from that point from the surface to 16,000 feet.
You can view a sample of the Notice on the FAA website.
August 14, 2008
The 2008 Chicago Air & Water Show roared into town today. Military and civilian aircraft from all over the country began arriving this morning at the Gary International Airport where most of them will be based throughout the airshow.
Today at the airshow media day I had the opportunity to take a sneak peek at many of the acts, speak with some of the pilots, go for some rides and best of all fly the T-6 Texan! As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, one of the acts I am most excited about this year is Bill Leff's Night Airshow. His T-6 Texan is specially equipped with pyrotechnics so he can put on a thrilling unique night time airshow experience. In meeting Bill I learned that he is from Dayton, Ohio. I shared with him that I learned to fly in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas. After learning I was a pilot, Bill offered to let me fly the T-6 Texan when we went for a flight.
I had flown in a T-6 with the AeroShell team previously, though since they fly in tight formations there was no opportunity for me to fly. Shortly after getting airborne Bill told me the plane was mine. I flew us out to the practice area and performed a few turns and climbs. Once at the practice area he took over the aircraft to perform some aerobatics. We flew a variety of maneuvers but my favorites were the barrel roll and the loop. I love the power of the T-6! On the way back to Gary he gave me the plane back and had me fly us back until we were on short final where he took over the plane for landing. I had a great time talking to Bill and flying with him and am really looking forward to watching him perform on Friday night. If you are in the Chicago Area stop by the lakefront tomorrow night to see him perform.
As we parked the plane the Lima Lima Flight Team returned from a press flight. Sitting in the back seat of the lead plane was Florence Henderson (AKA Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch). Henderson will be singing the national anthem each day of the airshow. She was kind enough to take a photo with me (Available in slideshow below).
While standing there I learned there was a spare seat in one of Lima Lima's T-34s for their next sortie, so I jumped on that. Rick "Knuckles" Nichols took great care of me and gave a very enjoyable flight. We were in the seventh plane in an eight plane formation. During they show they will perform as a six-plane team, Nichols will serve as the team announcer during the show. Be sure not to miss Lima Lima's performances this weekend.
Throughout the day the Blue Angels were coming and going to do spot checks and practice flights over Chicago. I did not get to see a preview of their Chicago Show but did enjoy seeing a few maneuvers back at Gary. I guess it gives me something to look forward to during the next few days.
August 13, 2008
Prior to the 2006 Airshow, I had the opportunity to take a flight with Chicago Air & Water Show regulars, the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team. The Aeroshell team is made up of four talented pilots and their T-6 Texan aircraft. Unfortunately, this year the team will be flying a three-plane formation due to a non-flying injury to team leader, Alan Henley.
In late July, Alan was paralyzed from the neck down after a fall in his home. He is currently at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital's trauma unit, where he is listed in serious but stable condition. You can read about his recovery on a CaringBridge.org blog being authored by his wife. My prayers go out to Alan, his family and his teammates.
His twin brother, Mark, will take over as lead pilot for the formation for this weekend's show. I had the opportunity to fly with Mark in 2006. What I took away from meeting Mark and the rest of the team was that they absolutely love their jobs. These guys were extremely passionate about aviation and enjoyed entertaining fans across the country with their flying skills.
I am looking forward to their performance this weekend but saddened that they won't be joined by their team leader, Alan. Get well soon Alan!
August 12, 2008
Many avid Chicago Air & Water Show fans have relied on the fact that Friday has typically been a practice day. Airshow enthusiasts could come down to the lakeshore and experience many of the airshow acts without the massive crowds the weekend event typically draws.
This year with the Air Show adding a formal Friday night show many people have asked me, "Does that mean there will be a practice show on Thursday?". According to an Airshow representative "There will be no formal practice like in the past but there will be flying to do spot checks".
Most the performance teams will arrive at the Gary/Chicago International Airport on Thursday, August 14th. That afternoon many of the teams will be taking members of the media up for flights over the lake but well south of the city closer to Gary. After their media responsibilities, teams like the Blue Angels will likely do a city spot check so expect to hear them roaring over the city starting on Thursday. There may also be some practicing on Friday in the morning prior to Friday nights show opening.
One of my favorite weekends is just around the corner. The Chicago Air & Water Show takes place this weekend on the Chicago lakefront. Since this will the the 50th Annual Air & Water Show the city has decided to celebrate by adding an additional day to the festivities. The event is the oldest and largest free admission air and water show in the country.
Civilian and military performers will arrive in the Chicago area on Thursday. So the skies over Chicago will become active starting Thursday morning. Most the practice and spot checks will take place Thursday afternoon and Friday morning prior to the Friday night event.
Two Chicagoan Actors will help kick-off the show on Friday. Bill Murray, who played a confused Army Soldier in Stripes, will kick-off the show when he jumps with the U.S. Army Parachute Team, The Golden Knights at 3pm on Friday. Fellow Chicagoan Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band will play a free concert at the North Avenue Beach house at 5pm. After the concert there will be more acrobatics and high speed flying leading up to an 8:45 firework show.
I am especially interested to check out a new act this year. Bill Leff will be piloting a Korean War restored T-6 Texan. His plane has been retrofitted to allow him to perform a night show featuring pyrotechnics and streams of light.
The Airshow continues on Saturday and Sunday from 11am - 4pm. Unfortunately, there is not an official Chicago Air & Water Show schedule. Typically the show starts with civilian acts then moves into military acts culminating with the feature act which this year is the U.S. Navy Blue Angeles. The following appearances have been confirmed:
- F-22 Raptor Demo Team
- U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights
- U.S. Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team
- AeroShell Aerobatic Team
- The Firebirds
- Lima Lima Flight Team
- Sean Tucker & Team Oracle
- Bill Leff Airshows
- The Collaborators
Typically there are variety of additional flybys by military fighters and bombers. I am told there will be a few surprise flybys over the weekend that have not yet been announced. More on the Chicago Air & Water Show in the days to come.
August 11, 2008
While visiting Northern Wisconsin this weekend I was able to fit in a flight. I wanted to re-familiarize myself with flying to an airport within Class C airspace. I decided to fly to Green Bay's Austin Straubel International Airport (KGRB) which is in Class C airspace and is just a short 37 mile flight from Door County's Cherryland Airport where I often rent from.
Class C Airspace typically surrounds airports in mid-size towns like Green Bay, Dayton or Milwaukee. Airplanes that wish to operate within Class C Airspace must have a Mode C Transponder that allows ATC to track the airplanes altitude. Class C Airspace also has a 200 knot airspeed restriction below 2,500 feet but that of course is not an issue in the Cessna 172.
Unlike the stricter Class B airspace pilots are not required to receive permission to enter Class C airspace but must achieve radio communications with ATC. Once ATC has replied back to your request you can enter the space, unless they specifically request you stay clear of the airspace. From the point of contact forward the pilot is to comply with any ATC instructions as long as they don't pose a threat to the flight.
When I was twenty miles from the Green Bay Airport I contacted Green Bay Approach and explained I was 20NM to the Northeast and was inbound for landing. Approach control gave asked me to Squawk 0324 and verify my altitude at which point they were able to make a positive identification of my plane on their radar. They asked me to proceed inbound and to expect right traffic for runway 36. As I closed in on the airport they gave me vectors that would put me into a right base for runway 36 behind a commercial CRJ flight that was on final. There was plenty of separation between the CRJ and I which meant wake turbulence would not be an issue.
Runway 36 at KGRB is a mammoth runway that is 150 feet wide and over 8,700 feet long, nearly three times as long as most runways I typically use. I landed close to the numbers which meant a long slow taxi to Executive Air a nice FBO which is situated at the other end of the runway. I popped in there quickly before preparing for the return leg. Just a week earlier this tarmac had been filled with reporters when Brett Favre made a quick return to Green Bay before being traded to the N.Y. Jets.
When departing I was offered the ability to depart from the midway point of runway 36. Turning onto runway 36 I still had more than 4,000 feet of usable runway and was airborne quickly.
Upon departing the airport I had a nice view of Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. From there it was a short twenty five minute flight back to the quiet Door County Cherryland Airport. During the flight back I had my eye on an storm that looked to be approaching the Cherryland Airport. The storm waited for me to land and shut down the engine before releasing it's rain. Another fun flight in the books!