December 12, 2010

Scenic New York City Flight Via Class Bravo Airspace

todd_mike.jpgIn my mind there is no better sightseeing than aerial sightseeing. Over the Thanksgiving weekend while visiting family, I met up with Mike Bennett from 110Knots.com to explore New Jersey and New York from the air. A few years ago I flew the Hudson Corridor route to get an amazing view of New York. On that flight we stayed below the Class B airspace. This type of flight was criticized last year when a helicopter and plane crashed in this congested and uncontrolled airspace. Mike offered to show me the other New York Flightseeing experience, the Class Bravo flight experience.

I met Mike at his home base airport, Morristown Municipal, and we pre-flighted his club's Cessna 182RG while he filled me in on his route of choice. He prefers to explore New York City from the Class B airspace. His plan was to request a frequency change to Newark Tower (just a few miles away) right after take-off, then request to fly into Class Bravo airspace over Newark up the Hudson to Central Park, cross the park and travel back down the East River then crossing back past Newark.

We were flying the Sunday after Thanksgiving, often considered the busiest travel day of the year. I was a bit worried that Air Traffic Control would be less than welcoming to our request on such a busy day. However, ATC could not have been more accommodating. As soon as we were airborne we called up Newark Tower who cleared us into the Class B and asked us to overfly runway 22 numbers at 2,500. As we approached Newark we had a fabulous view of Statue of Liberty with the city along our horizon. We received some traffic advisories but most of it was helicopter traffic below the Class B airspace.

Statue_of_Liberty.jpgAs we flew up the Hudson and approached the northern part of Central Park, we were handed off to LaGuardia, who instructed us to ensure we stayed over the East River and did not fly any further east. From there we flew south back down towards the Statue of Liberty. We took in some amazing views of the buildings, parks and bridges.

I am used to the congested airspace of Chicago but was impressed with Mike's almost effortless ability to rapidly transition from Morristown to Newark to LaGuardia, back to Newark then on to New York Center. We talked about his instrument training and how that helped him to become a better pilot, as it does for most pilots. I was inspired after flying with him and further charged to pursue my Instrument Rating.

Once we were done sightseeing we flew back over Newark and headed west to Pittstown, NJ. We landed at Sky Manor (N40) which calls itself "The best little airport in the East." It lived up to it in my book. This is quaint little airport with a 50 foot wide by 3,000 foot long asphalt strip that has a restaurant located right off the runway. The restaurant offers great windows for grading landings. A perfect place to enjoy the company of fellow pilots and to do some real flying in addition to some hangar flying. I have moved it to the top of my list of Best $100 Hamburgers.

After brunch we did a short hop back to Morristown. It was a great flight in which we logged 1.3 hours, I had my first flight in a Cessna 182, added two new airports to my list of visited airports, took in some amazing sights and enjoyed some nice conversation. This day re-enforced my belief that there is no community better than the aviation community.



Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

December 2, 2010

Rod Machado's Aviation Books Available on iPhone and iPad

RodMachado-IFR_Pilots_Handbook.jpgLast month Rod Machado released his entire series of aviation handbooks as custom iPad and iPhone applications. Anyone who has read one of Rod's books knows that a side benefit of the knowledge gleaned from his books is the definition those books can provide to your biceps. Out of curiosity, I weighed his Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook, and it came in at 5.5lbs, conversely my iPhone weighs just 4.8 ounces and goes almost everywhere I go.

I am just getting started working towards my instrument rating and had been thinking of buying Rod Machado's Instrument Pilot's Handbook ($64.95) so I was intrigued when I learned the books were available as iPhone apps ($49.99). Many people can't think of reading a book on something as small as an iPhone but I have enjoyed several books through its Amazon Kindle app. I was curious how Rod's books would work as an app rather than an e-Book through Amazon or other provider.

I am happy to report that I have enjoyed the experience. I am only a few chapters into the book but that is several chapters further than I would be if I had purchased the hard copy. I read one chapter while on a commercial flight to visit family over Thanksgiving. I was sitting at 35,000 feet holding a sleeping baby in one arm and my iPhone with the Rod Machado's Instrument Pilot's Handbook app in the other hand. With the hard copy I would never have dreamed of schlepping along a 4 pound book.

Another benefit beyond the being able to take the book anywhere is the ability to receive updates. According to Rod's website, users will receive book updates any time he makes changes, with the frequency of changes to regulations and technology this is a great advantage to hard copy books. Traditional eBooks often require you to click on illustration to enlarge them and often don't scale well. However, since his books are stand-alone apps the standard finger spreading scaling works making the process of looking at the thousands of custom illustrations included in the book a cinch.

My main request is for Machado and team to update the app to allow highlighted text and to save annotations, functionality that is available for eBooks through Kindle. To make up for this missing functionality, I have resorted to making bookmarks of topics I would have highlighted, then giving them long bookmark titles to include my note or comment.

The knowledge that is required for the Private Pilot Certificate or Instrument Rating can be monotonous. Rod's use of humor and great illustrations has helped to keep me engaged while helping me to better understand the subject matter as well. The flexibility to take the book anywhere I go is an added bonus.

If you are looking to pursue flight training or a new rating and use either the iPhone or the larger iPad I highly recommend you check out his collection of apps.

Update to original post: I heard from Rod Machado and he has confirmed that highlighting functionality is being added to the next version of the app. Additionally, they are looking into video and animation inclusions for future enhancements. Glad to hear he has plans to continue to improve this already great product.