October 11, 2010

Fall Foliage: A Perfect Excuse to Fly

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Fall is my favorite season for flying. A combination of mild weather for preflight of the airplane, enjoying the cool breeze entering the cockpit from an open window and the view of autumn's magnificent show of colors is the perfect combination for me. This past weekend Northern Wisconsin experienced their peak weekend for the annual fall show of colors. There are numerous scenic drives in the Door County Peninsula that show off the brilliance of this season, though the best view requires getting airborne.

I rented a Cessna 172 from MaxAir, the new Fixed Based Operator at the Sturgeon Bay Cherryland Airport, and flew an oval circuit around the Door County peninsula. The Cessna is a great aircraft for fall foliage flights because the raised wings give you an unobstructed view of the colors below. The conditions were perfect for the flight. At both Sturgeon Bay and Ephraim-Fish Creek Airport the winds were calm with great visibility and high ceilings. In the air the ride was smooth and I enjoyed flying most of the flight with the pilot side window open and taking in a nice smooth and cool fall breeze.

I was not surprised that on such a beautiful afternoon, I was not the only one with the idea of enjoying the fall colors from above. The skies were crowded at times as were the patterns at the two uncontrolled airports I visited during the flight. However each pilot seemed to be operating with their "A Game" as all pilots were on the same page and communicating their intentions clearly, which was nice.

Pilots if you haven't already, get out and enjoy the show. Aviation enthusiasts and future pilots what better time to take an introductory flight and learn about flying with one of the greatest backdrops below.


Posted at 10:49 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Comments (103) | Save & Share This Story

October 7, 2010

VFR Sectional Chart: My Love Hate Relationship

skysectionals.jpgAs a cost cutting measure I have forgone my time in the G1000 and been flying the steam gauges as of late. Several of my flights were even without the luxuries of any GPS (oh mercy me). Whether you call it cheap, old school, or more authentic flying does not matter. What matters is I have enjoyed these recent flights without all the bells and whistles and spending more time with my head out the window looking for landmarks (don't worry G1000 I will return to you soon enough).

One of the things I have rediscovered is my love-hate relationship with the VFR sectional chart. Often when flying in the G1000 enabled Cessna my sectional chart plays a supporting role which finds it left folded in my flight bag. Recently however, I have been pulling out and referencing the sectional chart on a more regular basis. I forgot how much I enjoy the sectional. Preflight, I can spend hours looking at sectionals and dreaming of all the cool places to fly, choosing routes and spots to fly over, plus I like the smell of sectionals even more than a magic marker.

On the other hand inflight, I feel like I need to have trained under an origami ninja to fold the charts into a useful shape that allows me to fly safely without being distracted by this cloud of a five foot by four foot map covering my windshield. How often have you asked your co pilot to take the plane while you wrestle with an uncooperative sectional? Happens to me too often.

I guess I was not the only pilot frustrated with sectionals, enter Eric Boles and SkySectionals. SkySectionals are downloadable, print on demand sectionals (also available for TACs & Enroute charts) broken into letter-sized panels meant to a more manageable chart solution. Eric was kind enough to share with me a sample of his product for a recent flight in Northern Wisconsin.

Here are the pros and cons of SkySectionals:
Pros:


  • I liked being able to make notes on the printouts without worrying about using a pencil, erasable highlighter or destroying a sectional.

  • I was flying a short cross country so I was able to print just the panels I intended to use (packed a few extra neighboring panels to be safe)

  • It was convenient to download on demand and print prior to flight. I have at times intended to buy a sectional at the airport only to have them be out of stock.


Cons:

  • I can only imagine how much ink I am burning through printing these off (Not much good in black and white)

  • The flight I was on was a short cross country but due to the location of the airports in relationship to breaks on the page required me to flip between four different panels which was unwieldy causing it to be as inefficient if not more inefficient than pulling out my chart.

All in all I think it is a creative solution and for the uber-organized it is probable a gift from above. I think for my needs I will likely stick with the standard sectional, something about the smell of them I just can't live without.