March 14, 2013

Lunchtime Laps in the Pattern

todd_PBJ.jpgMost pilots are familiar with the $100 Hamburger. This past week though I enjoyed my first $82.50 PB&J. For months I have been trying to think of ways to find more time for flying. Recently, I started wondering whether I could fit a flight in during lunch.

My office is a little over 10 miles from the gate to the airport. With beautiful blue skies forecasted for a few days in a row I booked a plane and decided to give it a try. Here is how things went:


11:41 Left the office
11:48 Called and had the plane pulled from the hangar
11:51 Completed preflight brief
12:04 Arrived at the airport
12:18 Complete preflight and started the engine
12:25 Rolling down runway 16 at KPWK for takeoff
12:50 Engine shut down with three touch and gos completed
12:56 Flight logged in the Leading Edge Flying Club computer
1:25 Arrived back at the office.

I logged 0.5 hours of flying and got three landings for the logbook. Not necessarily the best or most useful flight time but a different way for me to get a taste of flying and stay current without taking away time from the family in the evenings.

I think I will do this again for sure and think this might be an interesting way to share aviation with others. Maybe this summer I will try to do this type of flight once or twice a month and invite a co-worker to join me for a quick tour of the area or a flight along the Chicago skyline.

This is by far the best way I can think of spending lunch. The Peanut Butter and Jelly was average but the ambiance was unbeatable!


Posted at 5:59 PM | Post Category: $100 Hamburger, Flight Time | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

May 25, 2011

San Francisco Bay Aerial Tour

GoldenGateBridge.jpgVirgin America is starting service between San Francisco (SFO) and Chicago O'Hare (ORD) this week and I have the opportunity to fly on the inaugural flight to Chicago. While in the Bay Area I decide it would be fun to take a Cessna 172 up and do a San Francisco Bay Aerial Tour.

Earlier this week I reached out to Jason Miller who is a local CFI and also host of the Finer Points Podcast. Jason suggested we fly out of San Carlos Airport (KSQL) and fly North past San Francisco International Airport over the city and then tour the bay before coming back south along the Pacific coastline.

After arriving commercially, I started the day with lunch at Sky Kitchen a restaurant just off the west side of the San Carlos airport. There I sat at a giant table in the middle of the restaurant surrounded by a group of pilots that meet for lunch nearly daily, some of them for more than 40 years. I enjoyed taking in the camaraderie and enjoying hearing some long tails. This is a new favorite $100 Hamburger destination.

toddandjason.jpgAfter lunch I met Jason at West Valley Flying Club. We pre-flighted the airport then launched to the North. Soon after take-off we received hand-off to the San Francisco Tower that allowed us to transition the San Francisco Class B Airspace. It was a thrill flying parallel to the commercial traffic landing on runway 28L and 28R. Just three hours before I had been in one of those tin cans. I much preferred being pilot in command over traveling like a sardine.

Next we flew directly over San Francisco I did a lap around both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Having visited both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz before I loved seeing them from this new vantage point. Then we flew over Point Reyes National Seashore before turning south to fly low along the Pacific coastline.

Heading south along the coast we paralleled scenic highway 1 as it winded its way down from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay. As we descended to 1,400 feet to stay below Class B Airspace NORCAL announced a traffic advisory at our 11 o'clock. The traffic was a 747 departing San Francisco International and quickly became no factor, but it was a thrill none the less to briefly share the airspace with a Boeing 747 about 500 feet above us and climb.

Another enjoyable flightseeing experience in the book and one I highly recommend to all pilots. There are few icons as thrilling to fly by then the Golden Gate Bridge.

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April 5, 2011

Best $100 Hamburgers of 2011

100hamburger2011.jpgJohn Purner, author of The $100 Hamburger, released a list of the top 17 $100 Hamburgers as voted by his subscribers in 2011. His book highlights nearly 1,700 Fly-In Restaurants nationwide.

Last month he reached out to his 50,000 subscribers to ask them to select their favorite $100 Hamburger. After receiving a record number of votes seventeen restaurants pulled away from the pack and have been labeled "The Best of the Best" for 2011.

I was disappointed not to see Sky Manor, Pittstown, NJ or Sky Galley, Cincinnati, OH on this list this year. You can view a list of $100 Hamburger joints I have flown to on Yelp. Which $100 Hamburger spots do you think should have been on this list that weren't included?

121 Restaurant Bar
OXFORD, CT (WATERBURY-OXFORD - OXC)

The Airport Tiki
FORT PIERCE, FL (ST LUCIE COUNTY INTL - FPR)

Charly's
WILLIAMSBURG, VA (WILLIAMSBURG-JAMESTOWN - JGG)

DeNunzio's Italian Chophouse and Bar
LATROBE, PA (ARNOLD PALMER RGNL - LBE)

Enrique's Mexican Restaurant
PONCA CITY, OK (PONCA CITY RGNL - PNC)

Gaston's Restaurant
LAKEVIEW, AR (GASTONS - 3M0) Harris Ranch

The Hard Eight
STEPHENVILLE, TX (CLARK FIELD MUNI - SEP)

Harris Ranch Restaurant
COALINGA, CA (HARRIS RANCH - 3O8

Nancy's Air Field Café
STOW, MA (MINUTE MAN AIR FIELD - 6B6)

Nick's Airport Inn
HAGERSTOWN, MD (HAGERSTOWN RGNL - HGR)

The Perfect Landing
DENVER, CO (CENTENNIAL - APA)

Pik-N-Pig
CARTAGE, NC (GILLIAM-MC CONNELL AIRFIELD - 5NC3)

Pilot Pete's
CHICAGO/SCHAUMBURG, IL (SCHAUMBURG RGNL - 06C)
(847) 891-5100

Rick's Cafe Boatyard
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (EAGLE CREEK AIRPARK - EYE)

Rick's Crabby Cowboy
MONTAUK, NY (MONTAUK - MTP)

Southern Flyer Diner
BRENHAM, TX (BRENHAM MUNI - 11R)

Sunriver Lodge
SUNRIVER, OR (SUNRIVER - S21)


Posted at 6:59 AM | Post Category: $100 Hamburger | Comments (23) | Save & Share This Story

June 16, 2009

Quest for the Best $100 Hamburger

yelp.jpgAs a regular participant of user review site Yelp, I decided to create a list of my $100 Hamburger experiences. I have added a Yelp $100 Hamburger badge to the right-hand column of my Blog where you will be able to see the seven reviews I have made thus far. For my non-pilot readers, $100 Hamburger is the term used by pilots when they fly to a airport to enjoy a fly-in or on airport restaurant.

John F. Purner publishes a book, The $100 Hamburger, which has cataloged and rated favorite fly-in restaurants nationwide. Earlier this year Purner released his list of Top Ten $100 Hamburgers of 2009. I have had the chance to personally check-out three of the top ten representative. I felt Cincinnati's Sky Galley and Rick's Boatyard in Indianapolis were worthy members of the Top Ten list.

Purner also included Pilot Pete's, Schaumburg, IL in his Top Ten list. I have visited Pilot Pete's on several occasions and have not been equally impressed and gave it a 3-star out of 5-star rating. I would have included Kealy's Kafe in Janesville, WI in Pilot Pete's spot on the list. Kealy's serves a great breakfast and lunch that is reasonably priced. Kealy's also have a great view of the tarmac at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

One of the next restaurants I would like to checkout is Final Approach Steak House in Sheboygan, WI. If you have any Midwest $100 Hamburger suggestions, please leave a comment below.


Posted at 5:20 PM | Post Category: $100 Hamburger | Comments (7) | Save & Share This Story

May 11, 2009

A Mother's Day Brush with Get-There-Itis

flyingwithdad.jpgThis weekend I had my first opportunity to confront one of the leading killer of pilots, Get-There-itis. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association say "The determination to reach a destination, combined with hazardous weather, claims the lives of dozens of pilots and their passengers yearly." For weeks I have been planning a cross-country flight to Indianapolis. The plan was for my Dad and I to fly from Chicago to Indy to visit my Grandmother (my Dad's mother) and also enjoy the first day of time trials for the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As the flight date drew closer, the weather in the 10 day forecast continued to improve, only to disappoint the day prior to the trip. The night before our Saturday morning departure the forecast called for rain, low ceilings and high winds. When I awoke, I was encouraged by the look outside but that did not last long. A combination of online weather through AOPA's website and a call to Flight Service for a weather briefing proved that it would not be a great day for the flight. At my destination there was a direct crosswind of 18 knots, gusting to 25 with forecast for no change in winds. Additionally, at airports near Chicago there were deteriorating ceilings and reports of turbulence and wind shear. I made the executive decision to scrub the flight.

Luckily the weather looked like it would improve overnight. So I adjusted plans for a Sunday roundtrip. I woke up Sunday morning to a nearly windless blue sky. I picked up my Dad and we headed out to Chicago Executive. and before too long we were airborne and flying along the Chicago skyline enroute to Indianapolis. It was a quiet morning in the skies so we had no trouble getting flight following from Chicago Approach and throughout the flight. I enjoyed showing my Dad the the intricacies of the G1000. Having been raised in Indiana he seemed to enjoy viewing towns from above that previously he had only been accustomed to seeing from the ground level.

toddandgrandma.jpgAfter arriving at Eagle Creek Airpark we drove out to visit with my Grandmother. We decided to go back towards the airport for a Mother's Day brunch. We ate at Rick's Boatyard a favorite destination for pilots. I had to sample the Boatyard burger since it was rated in the Top 10 $100 Hamburgers of 2009 earlier this year. The burger lived up to its rating. Even better was the company. It was great sharing the flight with my Dad then enjoying a Mother's Day brunch with my Grandmother (one of my loyal readers, Thanks Grandma) and my Dad.

After the enjoyable meal I re-checked the weather. According to the briefer it looked like we would have lower ceilings but fine VFR flying weather, so we fired up the trusty Cessna and rolled down the runway for departure. Again we were able to pick-up flight following, though as we approached Chicago the controllers were getting busier and busier and finally canceled our flight following. We also noticed visibility diminishing a bit as we approached Lake Michigan and a light rain started to fall on the windshield. As we passed Gary, IN the rain increased and it became apparent that there was a storm ahead in the Chicago area.

Although we were anxious to get home to enjoy a Mother's Day dinner with my mother I knew the right call was to divert. During flight training instructors often have their students practice unexpected diversions. A pilot on my shoulder reminded me of all the horror stories about pilots flying into instrument meteorological conditions(IMC). Since earning my license I have not had a real reason to divert but found the decision came easy. I always figured I would not be one of those pigheaded pilots who suffer from Get-There-Itis, and was glad to see I could resist that urge!

I called up Gary and re-routed for landing at Gary International. My Dad and I sat back in the leather chairs at the Gary JetCenter and watched part of the Cubs game while I periodically checked in on the patchy storms working their way through Chicago. After about a forty-five minute break the weather had cleared and we were back on our way. The storm had cleared out the General Aviation traffic and we were able to pick-up flight following again for the bumpy return flight up the lakefront.

Often people ask what I love about flying. I can say that this weekend's flights was one of the best reasons to fly. I was able to spend a great day with my Dad while surprising my Grandmother for Mother's Day and enjoying her company for the day. I look forward to making this flight again sometime soon. Weather permitting, of course.

February 21, 2009

Best $100 Hamburger of 2009 Announced

pilotpetes.jpgJohn Purner, author of "The $100 Hamburger: A Guide to Pilot's Favorite Fly-In Restaurants" recently announced his Best of the Best list for 2009. Leading the pack as the best $100 Hamburger was Southern Flyer Diner in Brenham, Texas (11R).

In addition to announcing the Top Burger he also published a list of top ten $100 Hamburger's in the United States. Chicago was represented by Pilot Pete's which is located on the field at Schaumburg (06C). It is one of my favorite airport restaurants not only because it has good food but because of its location on the second floor of the terminal which provides a great vantage point to watch the planes come and go.

Also on the Top Ten list was Sky Galley located in the historic terminal at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport (KLUK). I lived no more than five minutes away from Lunken for several years and loved sitting on their outdoor patio and watching the flightline. When I finally decided to learn to fly I started my training at Lunken and that gave me even more excuses to stop by Sky Galley. If you are looking for a great place for a bite to fly to in the Cincinnati area check them out.

The last one on the list that I have tried is Rick's Café Boatyard located across the street from the Eagle Creek Airpark (KEYE) in Indianapolis, IN. They have excellent food and a beautiful view of the Eagle Creek Reservoir. What it misses is a nice view of the airport operations but if you have been in a plane all day and are looking for a place to relax with a nice view then relax on their patio and enjoy the great food at Rick's Cafe Boatyard.

Many of the other top 10 $100 Hamburgers were located a long flight from Chicago but I did notice that Final Approach Steak House in Sheboygan, WI (KSBM) made the list. After checking out their website, I think I just figured out my next cross country flight.

Take a look at the Top ten list and the 15 runner-ups and let me know what restaurant you think is missing or was over-rated.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brent613


Posted at 7:12 PM | Post Category: $100 Hamburger | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

November 2, 2008

myTransponder Fall Fly-In

janesvilleflyin_breakfast.jpgIn my previous post I mentioned the new social network for aviators, myTransponder. Although, I have met pilots from all over the country through the site I noticed there was an abundance of Midwest based pilots on myTransponder. About a month ago I decided it would be fun to meet the Midwest pilots in person. I used the myTransponder "Events" functionality to schedule a fly-in for Janesville, WI as it seemed to be centrally located for many of the pilots. Janesville also has a restaurant on the tarmac, Kealy's Kafe where we could enjoy a good meal among pilots. I was delighted that moments after scheduling the event several pilots had already replied that they were planning to attend. My only concern was if the weather would cooperate.

Sure enough the date arrived and the weather worked out in our favor. I was joined by my friend and AOPA Project Pilot Mentee, Peter. We had a nice smooth flight to Janesville that took just over 40 minutes. The only difficulty on the flight was that the Bendix Traffic Advisory system was malfunctioning and giving us incorrect warnings indicating there was airplane traffic right below us. We ended up turning off the system for much of the flight as it is very nerve wracking hearing that alarm go off in your headset even though we were confident the system was incorrect.

When we arrived at Janesville I recognized the White Cherokee that belonged to Robbie one of the myTransponder members. He had flown in from Waukegan (KUGN) and was joined by his four year old son who seemed to enjoy the flight in. We reserved a table for seven figuring we would be lucky if that many people ended up actually attending. I was amazed when more and more people started to arrive. In all we had 15 people that flew in from three different states and seven different airports.

janesvillemap450.jpg

janesvilleflyin_group.jpgSeveral blogs, podcasts and aviation websites were represented at the event including, myTransponder, Jetwhine, Flying in Chicago, Pilotcast and of course MyFlightBlog.com. We had an enjoyable meal and conversation. Special thanks to Rod from myTransponder for picking up the check. After breakfast we checked out a few of the planes on the tarmac. Those that had not yet departed posed for a photo in front of Greg Bockelman's beautiful Cessna 195.

While we preflighted the Cessna for the return trip Peter decided to wipe down the Bendix antenna to see if that would fix the false traffic alerts. Sure enough it did. I have made a mental note to add checking that the antenna is not just securely attached but also clean during future pre-flight checks. The flight back was as smooth as the flight there. We arrived back to a busy Chicago Executive Airport where we made another smooth touchdown. It was fun flying with Peter and great meeting all those fellow pilots. I am looking forward to our next fly-in!

May 31, 2008

The $150 Eggs and Toast - A Visit to Kealy's Kafe

KealysKafe.jpgOver at ReportingPoints, the AOPAPilot Blog, Nate Ferguson recently wrote a post asking whether the $100 hamburger should be renamed the $200 hamburger due to the rising cost of aviation fuel. For non-pilots, the $100 hamburger is slang for a flight in which a pilot is looking for an excuse to fly so he or she takes a short flight to a neighboring airport for a bite to eat, the cost of the flight and the burger were said to be about $100. There is even a book dedicated to the best places to get the proverbial $100 hamburger.

Since I had the Cessna booked for a morning flight I opted to go in search of some breakfast. John Keating had written about a brunch destination, Kealy's Kafe, on FlyingChicago.com so I decided to check it out. The cafe is located in the terminal building at Janesville Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport. Janesville is just over 50NM miles away which means that the flight time could be logged as cross-country time that could be used towards the cross-country requirements for an instrument rating, something I would like to pursue in the future.

I was excited, but also a little apprehensive about the flight. When I checked in with the Flight Service Station to get the weather I learned that I would encounter gusting crosswinds at both Janesville and upon my return to Chicago Executive. Luckily both airports have multiple runways, allowing me to select the runways that would minimize the crosswind factor of the winds.

Enroute, I flew over Dacy Airport which offers two turf runways. Not far from Dacy Airport is Twin Garden Farms. They sell the best corn I have ever had, Mirai Corn. Each year in late Summer my parents drive out and pick up bushels of corn for the family. Seeing that it only took about 20 minutes to fly to Dacy, I might have to look into flying there this year and bring back some corn for the whole family.

After a turbulent-at-times flight, I arrived at Janesville. The flight took about 45 minutes from takeoff to engine shutdown. When I arrived there was only one other airplane parked outside the restaurant. I seemed to have arrived at the right time, for pilots in the area getting there by 10am is the way to go. After my arrival a flight of seven Van's Aircrafts came in together. Following them were three other planes that arrived for brunch. I ordered two eggs and toast which was served promptly and were quite good.

On the flight back I had a tailwind that allowed me to cut ten minutes off the return leg. The return flight went smoothly though I was a little worried to hear that Chicago Executive was reporting crosswinds and windgusts of 20kts and adding to that was a report of low level windshear. The main concern is that as you are preparing to land if there is a major change in wind direction you can immediately lose lift and therefore lose altitude rapidly. To counter the crosswinds and the concerns of windshear I opted to use only 20° (instead of 30°) and also flew a faster approach speed then normal. The plane bounced around a bunch on final but I was able to put the upwind wheel down first and then settle the plane safely on the runway.

In the end the $4.95 eggs came out to be closer to the $150 eggs when you factor in the cost of the plane and fuel. So, I agree with Nathan at AOPA that it might be time to increase the cost of the $100 Hamburger. I think $150 - $200 might be more accurate in our current economy.