September 27, 2012
I am an aviation content devourer, someone who consumes magazines, blogs and podcasts greedily or voraciously. I am not embarrassed to admit that, as I know most pilots are the same way. With less than a half a percent of the population being pilots we don't get our aviation fill talking at the water cooler. We need to get out to the airport or seek out aviation content to keep us satisfied. So when I receive a notification that my most recent AOPA Pilot magazine is available for download, a smile hits my face as I fire up the iPad and download the magazine. Within a few hours and usually in one sitting I have devoured the magazine and my smile erodes as I realize it could be days or weeks before another enjoyable aviation magazine is delivered.
I recently stumbled upon Loop Magazine which is a European aviation magazine that is now exclusively available by iPad, and it is FREE. I would venture to say this is the best aviation magazine you are not reading today, but you should be.
I was thrilled to learn they offer not only well written and interesting aviation articles but deliver their content in a format that takes advantage of the power of the iPad. Each article offers additional photos and interactivity that would not be available in a print magazine. This is a magazine that was reborn as a digital magazine and instead of having a version adapted for the iPad the entire magazine is designed and developed to maximize the power of the tablet. They have seamlessly integrated animation and video throughout the magazine.. The only complaint I have is that the magazine is not long enough, but that is me just being greedy again.
If you have an iPad download the Loop App then begin downloading the current and past issues. The same company also publishes P1 Aviation Magazine, a business aviation magazine and Blades a magazine dedicated to rotor-craft, both of which are free. They also offer an annual magazine called FlightTest for $0.99 per issue. Flighttest features a collection of stunning aircraft highlighted through beautiful photos and video. In the 2011 edition there are more than 250 photos and 40 minutes of video. The magazine reads completely different in horizontal or vertical mode so there is a ton of content to discover.
Discovering Loop makes me wonder what other great aviation content is out there that I am missing out on. What is your favorite hidden gem for aviation content?
September 21, 2012
I have never been much of a fisherman and frankly I am not all that fond of eating fish. So why would I find myself at The #1 Trout Fishing Resort in the country this weekend? Because their 79 cabins are wedged between the picturesque White River and a well maintained turf runway.
A few weeks ago, I signed up to join some fellow pilots and Leading Edge Flying Club members on a fly-out adventure from Chicago to Lakeview, Arkansas. Six pilots in two airplanes made the journey. Al Waterloo and Travis Ammon, Flight Instructors at Leading Edge Flight Club and Founders of SimpleFlight.net, organized this fly-out trip to Gaston's White River Resort as an excuse to go have fun with airplanes. Travis and Al are preachers of a similar message I have believed in for some time: Aviation is supposed to be fun and not much is more fun than a long cross-country overnight fly-out.
They had devised an itinerary that attempted to offer a wide variety of flying experiences including flying under Class B shelves, into a Class B airport, over a Class C airport and into a back country grass strip. As luck would have it as the weekend approached, the only place rain was developing was in the southern Midwest right over Arkansas. Rather than scrub because of rain we selected an alternate airport we could use if the weather prevented landing at the resort. We figured those of us without Instrument Ratings could get a good learning experience from the flight and those with Instrument Ratings could log some actual IFR and show off their skills.
I drew the first leg which was from Chicago Executive (KPWK) to Lambert Field (KSTL), a Class B airport. After calling flight service for my weather briefing I learned the busy St. Louis arrival and departure traffic would be funneling through just one of their four runways due to some construction work planned for the day. Despite only having one runway available they were more than happy to work us into their flow that afternoon.
I learned to fly at a small uncontrolled airport, so there was a time I was concerned about going into busier controlled environments. However, my experiences in flying in and around Chicago have helped me hone my air traffic control communications and helped make flying into a Class B airport a non-event. And while it was not too challenging it was a lot of fun. It is neat to share airspace, runways, and taxiways with the commercial pilots and aircraft.
Not only was this my first flight into a Class B airspace it was my first flight in the club's Piper Dakota which I fell in love with during the flight. It comfortably fit four pilots and our bags as well as 50 gallons of fuel which was plenty to make the first leg of this flight.
Once at St. Louis we checked the weather and confirmed that it would prevent us from making it to the Gaston's airstrip. So we filed to the nearest airport with instrument approaches, Baxter County Airport (KBPK). I moved from the front to the back of the plane for the next leg and I enjoyed watching Steve and Al fly on instruments the majority of the 2.1 hours of the second leg. The leg was capped off with a perfect instrument approach to minimums at Mountain Home Airport (see video below). I have only flown along on a few IFR flights but continue to enjoy the experience and am further motivated to seek my instrument rating.
We enjoyed a great 24 hours in Gaston's. Most of our non-flying itinerary centered on great meals that included BBQ, catfish, and a delicious brunch at the Gaston's resort. I enjoyed spending some of our down time walking the trails within the Bull Shoals State Park. Some photos from the weekend can be found in the photo player below. The main dining room at Gaston's offers a scenic view of the White River out their massive windows and a look back at history within the restaurant with a collection of old motors, bikes and typewriters that would make the guys from American Pickers salivate.
We had hoped weather would improve so we could bring the plane over to Gaston's later in the weekend for some turf landings but the stationary front lived up to its name and cloud cover barely ever rose above a few hundred feet. I moved back to the front of the cockpit for the first leg home. Travis flew us on instruments out of Baxter County Airport and I had the best seat in the house as we climbed through the clouds up to the beautiful clear skies above the rain. He tossed me controls after a while and I enjoyed flying in and out of the clouds and even logged 0.8 hours of actual Instrument Flight enroute to Champaign, Illinois. Although the Dakota is a dream to fly, I am still figuring out how to land her right. Al has given me some good tips that I need to bring to my next flight in the Dakota.
I returned to the spacious back seat of the Dakota for the last leg as we cruised back to Chicago using pilotage and flying at 2,500 feet. We capped the flight off by flying over the top of Midway then taking the 290 corridor west to skirt around O'Hare before turning north to Palwaukee. We logged just over eight and a half hours on the Dakota which sure would have beaten the 20 hours it would have taken in the car. But, who are we kidding. We did not fly so we would not have to drive. Instead we made this trip as an excuse to fly.
What a great trip it was. We saw neat places, took in some great flying experiences, enjoyed some great conversations and, most importantly, I learned a lot from flying with and watching other pilots. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Here are some photos from the weekend.
September 13, 2012
NFlightcam has launched an interesting campaign called the Solo Hall of Fame. It is their goal to help students share the accomplishment of their solo flight by documenting the experience with an in-cokpit video of the achievement. The great thing about this program is they will send you a free Nflightcam+ and suction cup mount for you to use on the day of your solo.
Once you come down from the cloud none that is soloing, you simply send them the video camera back and a week later they send you a link to a professional edited video of your flight for you to share with the world. I absolutely love this program and applaud them for giving students this opportunity. With a shrinking pilot population we all have a bigger burden to inspire others to fly and here is a company that at no cost to pilots is giving students a great means to inspire others and to celebrate their own achievement.
That being said would you have wanted a camera in the airplane for your first flight? I seem to remember bouncing with excitement and maybe even talking words of encouragement & celebration to myself on downwind leg of my first solo. Maybe those are private moments that should live on in my own memory only. But, I think instead I would have enjoyed having that video for my own personal collection and to share with others.
Check out the video below of Emily Carter on her first solo flight. She is the wife of NFlightcam's founder Patrick Carter and author behind The Pilot's Wife blog. Any pilot who has soloed will see a bit of themselves in this video. At the beginning there is that slight apprehension about stepping of the ledge and agreeing to let your instructor out of the plane. We all have the confidence needed, but it takes a moment for it to manifest itself when we were asked if we wished to solo, or atleast that is how I recall it from my experience. My favorite part of this video is the smirk at the end of the video (see the 3:32 mark in the film) which captures in visual format the sheer joy of flying and the thrill of an amazing achievement.
I think we all have the photo of us standing next to the plane or holding a slice of t-shirt post solo, but I would trade any of those for video or a picture of my version of that smirk when I successfully completed my first solo flight.
Do you know of a student that is close to soloing? If so make them aware of the Solo Hall of Fame program. NFlightcam is a small camera that records HD video, plus audio from the intercom; it is unobtrusive and self-contained, weighing a mere 5 ounces and has limitless mounting options for both inside and outside the aircraft. The Solo Cam kit includes an easy-to-use suction cup mount that works on any smooth flat surface inside the cockpit.
September 11, 2012
Ever wonder what it would be like to live in one of those aviation communities where taxiways and runways took precedence over roads and all your neighbors thought about aviation as much as you did? Once a year I get to experience one of the largest aviation communities in the country, Chicago, IL. The arrival of the Chicago Air & Water Show magically transforms my city into a land where everyone has airplanes on the top of their mind (whether they like it or not). Whether at the water cooler at work or mingling with neighbors people are suddenly speaking my language: aviation.
It is for this reason that the Chicago Air & Water Show has become one of my favorite weeks of the year. Like most pilots, I can't hide my love for aviation so friends, family, coworkers and neighbors know of my passion for aviation. When a friend of mine learned his brother, a pilot in the U.S. Navy, would be bringing his plane to town he thought to reach out to me to see if I would be interested in coming out to airport to greet him. Of course I was interested, however, the thought of sitting in rush hour traffic on a Friday night driving from the northside of Chicago, through the city to Gary and back was not too appealing. So I decided to make a flight experience out of it and instead take a beautiful flight along the Chicago lakefront to Gary. Al Waterloo, fellow club member and host of Simple Flight Radio (Check it out) joined me for the adventure.
Pilots love sharing their love of aviation with others and showing off their latest plane. The crowd a pilot draws to see their plane often varies based on the cool factor of the plane they are currently flying. As a result, John Keith, a member of the Virginia Beach based Raging Bulls (VFA-37), a squadron of F/A-18C Hornets, was greeted by a large family contingent when he arrived in Gary on Friday night and I was happy to be invited to be a part of the welcoming committee.
John took the time to point out some of the unique features of his plane and to talk about some of his experiences landing the F-18 on the USS Harry Truman Aircraft Carrier. After learning about his airplane the entire family, John, Al and I walked the tarmac at Gary International Airport which resembled a military base that night. Alongside his Hornet were a few of the larger F/A-18 Super Hornet, T-38 Talons, A-10 Warthogs a F-4 Phantom in addition to civilian planes like T-6 Texans and T-34 Mentors. As a pilot I loved looking at all these planes but also enjoyed the fact that everyone else seemed in awe of these machines as well.
It was great getting the VIP tour of the tarmac as I know on the Saturday and Sunday of the show people lineup along a fence-line to see these airplanes in action from a distance. As we were walking back to the FBO, John picked up his flight bag which was filled with all his maps and old school paperwork used to navigate a plane that was built before the age of glass panels. He pointed out that the Archer I was flying had more advanced navigational functionality than his F-18. True enough but I would trade rides in a heartbeat.
After thanking the Keith family for letting me be a part of their family for the night we climbed back in the Archer III for our return flight to Palwaukee. On the flight back the city was aglow, the moon was hidden below the horizon, making the effect of the city lights that much more impressive and a perfect end to a night of celebrating aviation.
It saddens me when the annual airshow ends and the light switch is flipped and my fantasy land of aviation enthusiasts evaporates. Though, I love that for a week aviation was brought to the forefront and surely some of those in the crowds at the Chicago Air and Water Show now have a new passion for aviation like this girl jumping up and down as the Blue Angels Fat Albert C-130 flew over during the show.