May 14, 2007

GA Incidents Hit Close to Home

On Friday night I was made aware of two aviation incidents both of which hit close to home. The first was a multiple fatality accident that involved two planes in a midair collision in which they clipped wings just north of Blue Ash Airport in Cincinnati, Ohio. Blue Ash Airport was my home airport for a few years and where I earned my license.

I was relieved to learn it did not involve anyone I knew but scary none the less. Martha Lunken a retired inspector for the FAA was interviewed by the Cincinnati Enquirerand stated it was a classic situation - "It's within five miles of the airport on a nice sunny day...that's where airplanes congregate." I recall that on beautiful days the traffic around Blue Ash could get very busy and it required all the pilots near the uncontrolled field to fly defensively and to over communicate.

The second incident was here in Chicago in which a Piper Cherokee ran out of gas and needed to make an emergency landing on a highway. The plane clipped a power line and a car but landed without any injuries to the pilot or those on the ground. I don't know all the details of this incident but do wonder how it is pilots continually make the mistake of running out of gas. Incidents like these are scary and sad but would be a further waste if other pilots did not learn from them.

So, when I arrived at the airport on Saturday to fly on another beautiful day in Chicago I had those incidents in the back of my head. I flew with a CFI as I continue to work back to a level of proficiency that I had a year or so ago when I was flying more regularly. We decided to delay our flight for 10 minutes so we could top off with fuel, seemed to us to be well worth the time to ensure we had plenty of fuel for our flight.

As I flew northwest from Chicago Executive there was plenty of traffic and I ensured that I was doing a good job of scanning the horizon and working to avoid traffic. I also changed my checklist habits to ensure I could spend more time looking for traffic. In a recent episode of The Finer Points podcast Jason Miller talked about holding up your checklist so you are not having to divert your eyes so much to see it. So I clipped the checklist to a yoke clip so I would not have to look down as much as I did when using the lapboard.

After ensuring we found a safe area with little traffic around I performed a simulated engine failure. I was able to select a suitable place to land if it were needed and guided the plane down without power to the point it was obvious we could have landed there if necessary at which point we powered off and climbed away.

We finished the day with a series of crosswind landings at Dupage airport including one without flaps, simulating a flap failure. I continue to perform safe but somewhat sloppy crosswinds and am looking forward to flying more frequently so I can iron them out.

Posted at 7:32 AM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

April 28, 2007

Working on Crosswind Landings

All week I was hoping for two things come Saturday, clear skies and a bit of wind. My wishes came true today as Chicago enjoyed a beautiful day with mid seventy-degree weather, few clouds at 5,000 or above and wind. I headed out to Windy City Flyers for my first flight as a member of the club. I talked with my CFI earlier in the week and explained I wanted to schedule 2-3 flights with him to rebuild proficiency in the Cessna 172, as I have not flown as frequently lately as I would have liked.

My first goal was to do some refresher work on crosswind landings and continue to get familiar with the area around Chicago Executive. Then in subsequent flights I want to work on mastering the use of the GPS systems something the Cessna 152 I trained in did not have. I also look forward to taking in a night flight in the coming month or so.

Today with the winds at from 300 at 15 gusting to 26 it was a perfect day to work on the crosswind landings. We departed straight into the wind from Runway 30. With the added 15 knots of the wind we were in the air quickly. We flew northeast past Campbell Airport and conducted some slow flight and a power off stall. Then we headed to Lake In The Hills for the crosswind landings.

The first time around the pattern my speeds were a bit off and I came in a bit high. The wind was pushing me off track and about 15 feet off the ground I realized this landing was not going as well as I would like and I performed a go-around. I am glad I did the next time around the pattern I flew a much more standardized pattern which set me up for better success. The second landing was much smoother. I conducted two more successful landings before coming in for a final landing before heading back. This time right before coming across the threshold a gust of wind drifted the plane off the centerline a bit. I added power and probably could have brought the plane back down and salvaged the landing attempt but again, like the first attempt, opted for the safer option and put in full power raised the flaps to 20° and performed the go around.

The trip back to Chicago Executive was smooth. I am getting more comfortable with identifying the key landmarks and finding my way around the area. I made a full stop landing at Chicago Executive and logged 1.6 hours. It was a great way to spend part of an afternoon!

Posted at 7:48 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

April 15, 2007

Joining the Windy City Flyers

wcf_noborder.jpgToday I made a new commitment to my goals of flying more regularly. After a long period of deliberation I finally selected a home airport here in Chicago. I have flown out of Schaumburg, Midway and Chicago Executive (formerly Palwaukee) over the past year but had not joined a flight club at either one.

Today, I scheduled a flight with the Windy City Flyers based at Chicago Executive. I have flown with them several times over the past year and had great experiences each time. Again today I had a great experience with the club and one of their aircraft. Getting into the air at Chicago Executive did not take long despite the beautiful weather that drove many a pilot to the airport today. I flew north and took in several landings at Waukegan Regional Airport. During high school I took a class in aviation and my teacher took me flying and we flew out of Waukegan. It was one of my first flights in a small airplane and one I remember fondly to this day. So, it was fun to visit the airport as Pilot in Command today. Visiting Waukegan brought my count for airports visited to thirty one. View my map of airports that I have landed at.

After the flight I decided it was time to make the commitment and join the club. By joining I will be able to have better scheduling access to the planes and the hourly rate for the plane is cheaper as members are charged the tach time not the hobbs time.

I have my next flight schedule for two weeks from now. I am looking forward to getting back in the habit of flying atleast one to two times per month.

Posted at 5:32 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

January 20, 2007

First Flight of 2007

wilmot.jpgThis afternoon, I fit in my first flight of 2007. I flew out of Chicago Executive (formerly Palwuakee) departing a little after noon. The weather was beautiful for flying with no visible clouds, 10 miles of visibility, and light and variable winds. I flew north out of Palwaukee towards the Illinois / Wisconsin state border and flew over the Wilmot Ski Area.

I used to ski at Wilmot when I was a kid. Seeing it from the air reminded me what a small ski hill it really is. I then made three landings at cozy Westosha Airport in Wilmot, WI. While flying through the pattern I got a nice view of the skiers and it looked like a busy day at the ski area. The photo of Wilmot to the right is from fellow pilot blog, Eblo.

After departing Westosha Airport I headed south back into Illinois for a landing at Galt Field. At Galt I performed a touch and go before heading on to Lake In the Hills for another touch and go. At that point, I headed back for Chicago Executive. Throughout the flight the air was smooth and the visibility was great. I had to keep my eyes outside the cockpit as many pilots were taking advantage of the great weather.

It was an enjoyable 2.2 hour flight to kick off 2007 and allowed me to add two new airports (Westosha and Galt) to my list of airports visited bringing my total to an even 30. My next aviation experience is scheduled for Wednesday. Sadly, I won't be in the cockpit, but going to a VIP Screening of Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag at the Imax Theater at Navy Pier thanks to my friends at the U.S. Air Force and Civil Air Patrol.

Posted at 6:10 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

October 8, 2006

Wisconsin Cross-Country Flight

LambeauField.jpgWith fall setting in across northern Wisconsin, the trees were starting to turn which made for a beautiful view from the ground but even more spectacular from the air. Having not flown an official cross-country flight in over a year, I decided to fly one. A cross-country flight is any flight to an airport that is at least a straight-line distance of 50 nautical miles from the origin airport. Flying out of Cherryland Airport, I selected Wittman Regional in Oshkosh, WI as my destination.

I awoke early and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over Lake Michigan while getting a weather briefing so I could complete my flight plan. I arrived at the airport around 8am and was airborne by 8:30am. Shortly after takeoff, I contacted the Green Bay Flight Service Station to open my flight plan for the trip down to Oshkosh which was scheduled to be a short 43 minute flight. After opening up a flight plan, I contacted Green Bay approach and advised them that I wished to transition through their airspace en route to Oshkosh, which they approved. At the same time, I asked if they could provide flight following.

LakeWinnebago.jpgWhen flying VFR a flight plan provides some protection in case of an emergency by allowing the FAA to know where you were going, when you expected to be there, where you might have diverted to and a few other vital pieces of information that could help them in case of an emergency. Another great service for a VFR pilot is flight following. If air traffic controllers have capacity, they can assist a VFR pilot by providing radar monitoring services. They will advise of any traffic along the route and keep an eye on your position during the flight.

As I approached the midway point of the flight, Green Bay, I took in a great view of Lambeau Field � Home of the Green Bay Packers. While overflying the town of Green Bay I could see Lake Winnebago and the cities of Appleton and Oshkosh off the front of the plane�s nose. A few minutes later, Wittman Regional Airport came into view. I informed Green Bay approach that I had Wittman in view and requested permission to change radio frequencies to contact the Wittman Tower.

During the Oshkosh Airshow, it becomes one of the busiest airports in the world. Today, it was quiet with only a few other planes in the area. I touched down close to my estimated time of arrival. During the flight down I had a headwind but the trip back proved to be quicker with a nice tailwind. I climbed up to 5,500 feet for the flight back to Sturgeon Bay and enjoyed taking in the beautiful fall colors and the great scenery of northern Wisconsin. It was just one of those perfect days to fly where the air was smooth and the view was wonderful.

Posted at 10:26 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Door County, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

September 4, 2006

Biennial Flight Review Passed

It has been two years and a month since I earned my private pilot's license. As part of the Federal Aviation Administration's regulations, pilots are required to pass a Biennial Flight Review if they wish to serve as pilot in command of an aircraft.

I had scheduled my BFR a month earlier but during pre-flight, noticed the airworthiness certificate was missing from the plane. I thought it was the Certified Flight Instructor's way of testing to see if I did a thorough pre-flight inspection. It turned out it was lost and the plane had to be grounded until it was found. It was not found until days later, unfortunately. Happily, this time out to the airport all the paperwork was in order.

For a few days leading up to the BFR I reviewed my Sporty's Private Pilot DVDs and the Federal Aviation Regulations/Aeronautical Information Manual (FAR/AIM) book that contains all the regulations that pertain to flying as a private pilot.

During the Biennial Flight Review the Certified Flight Instructor does a one hour long verbal flight review that covers regulations and concepts related to flying (e.g., Weights and balances, weather, etc.). My CFI and I spent about an hour and fifteen minutes and for the most part I was able to answer all but a few obscure questions. After the verbal part we went out for the one hour flight review. We departed Sturgeon Bay's Cherryland Airport for one of my favorite airports, Ephraim Airport. I showed my experience with pilotage, flying from one point to another using maps and ground references, to get us to Ephraim. Once there we took advantage of the beautiful turf strip there. I performed short field and soft field take-offs and landings on the turf. I truly love the nostalgic barnstorming feeling of landing on turf runways. After performing some nice crosswind landings we departed and headed back to Sturgeon Bay where we performed a wide variety of maneuvers demonstrated in most Private Pilot Check Rides or insurance check-outs: Turns around a point, stalls, 45&Deg; bank turns, etc.

When we got back to Sturgeon Bay I new there would be one more part of the test, a landing with a failed engine. Sure enough as I entered the pattern to land at Cherryland Airport my CFI announced my engine had failed and pulled the power out to simulate an engine failure. I cut the pattern short to ensure we would make the runway and brought the airplane down gently. Upon completing the landing I was informed I had passed my Biennial Flight Review.

July 5, 2006

Flying with Dad

Door County, Wisconsin I celebrated the Fourth of July holiday in Door County, Wisconsin. Whenever I am in Door County I try to take in a flight as it is an absolutely beautiful place to fly. The local Fixed Based Operator that I rent from is Orion Flight Service. A friendly operation based at the Cherryland Airport in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

Since it had been more than six months since I flew with them last I needed to take a brief written exam and then fly a check-ride with a CFI. Adam, the CFI, and I met and reviewed the written test then headed out to the airplane. Cherryland has two nice runways. The one running parallel to Sturgeon Bay is the one I have used in the past. The winds were situated such that no matter what runway I chose I was going to have a little bit of a crosswind.

I chose to take off from the runway that runs perpendicular to the bay since I had not flown that pattern before. It is the smaller of the two runways, although is still plenty long and wide at 3,200 feet x 75 feet. This runway lacks a taxiway so I back taxied to the end of the runway.

The flight review went smoothly. I enjoyed talking with Adam about his flight experiences during the flight. He has experience in tail draggers and in float planes which was fun to hear about. He also would love to go to Alaska to be a bush pilot, I can�t blame him for that.

After the check-out ride I had a special opportunity � My father was waiting on the tarmac for his first flight with me. Not sure how nearly two years have passed without me getting a chance to take him flying but it was a fun experience, although short. The check ride had run long so we only had time for about a 30 minute flight. We flew up and down the lake side of the Door County Peninsula and I let him fly for a bit. He seemed to do fine with that. Then we headed back. Unfortunately, I made one of the my worst landing in my two years of flying.

Due to the crosswind I flew the approach a little faster than normal which caused us to balloon a little on the landing flair but since we had plenty of runway left I flew it in ground effect for a couple of seconds to bleed of some speed then let it set itself back on the ground wind side wheel first. But, my foot must have been a little high on the rudder and pressing the break cause when the wheel came down the plane wanted to pivot on that wheel and had I not corrected it I think the plane would have wanted to swerve off to the side of the runway. Not the landing I had envisioned for my first flight with my Dad but I am sure there will be more to impress him with my landing abilities.

Until then maybe I will log some hours working on crosswind landings.

Posted at 6:59 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Door County, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

January 8, 2006

Twenty-Fifth Airport Vistited

schaumburg.jpgOn Saturday I took my first step towards my goal of spending more time behind the yoke than I did in 2004. As part of my goal, I decided I need to find an airport and FBO that I will fly from on a regular basis. After having flown at Midway and Palwaukee, two nearby towered fields, I decided to check out Northwest Aviation based at Schaumburg Regional.

Northwest Aviation has a wide variety of planes in their fleet ranging from the newer Diamond products to the more traditional Pipers and Cessnas. I scheduled time in a Cessna 172. Schaumburg is a busy single-strip airport just miles from Chicago's O'Hare Airport. I was originally worried about how the weather would be for the flight since Chicago had not seen the sun in 2006. I was pleasantly surprised to see the sun and blue sky when I went outside early Saturday morning. Unfortunately, by early afternoon when I had scheduled my flight the clouds had returned and the ceiling was little more than 3,000 feet.

We departed on runway 29 and departed to the west. Due to Schaumburg's proximity to O'Hare almost all departures head west initially to get out from under the first shelf of the O'Hare airspace which limits you to flying below 1,900 feet. Once clear of the airspace restriction I climbed up to about 2,500 and realized I could not go much higher due to the cloud cover above. Since there was no sign the weather would improve and the chance that it could get worse was good, we turned back towards the airport. But we decided to do a few landings at Dupage Airport first. The Dupage Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) weather was stating winds that were coming straight down runway 20. On short final it was obvious the winds had changed to be a steady crosswind. I made two less than perfect crosswind landings at Dupage before we decided to return to Schaumburg.

The flight from Schaumburg including the landings at Dupage represented the 24th and 25th unique airports I have visited and have updated my google map of airports I have visited. I look forward to scheduling some cross country flights in the not to distant future where I can continue to add some new airports to the tally. It was fun to get back out to the airport and get a flight in. Unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy a meal at Schaumburg's Pilot Pete's which is supposedly one of the best airport restaurants in the area.

After the flight I am not sure that I am any closer to selecting an airport or FBO. I enjoyed my experience with both Northwest Aviation and the Schaumburg airport but it is a bit of a hike for me to get to from downtown Chicago. I think I will select from the three airports and FBOs I have flown from thus far: Midway, Palwaukee and Schaumburg. But before I make a decision and commit to a flying club and FBO I may need to make a few more flights and weigh out the pros and cons of each based on convenience, costs, types of airports, planes available, atmosphere, etc. I will keep you posted.

Posted at 1:12 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

October 9, 2005

Scenic Fall Flying

ephraim_airport_3d2.jpgI just returned from enjoying a beautiful fall weekend in Northern Wisconsin. While there, I rented a Cessna 172 from Orion Flight Service at the the Sturgeon Bay Cherryland Airport. Since I had not rented with Orion since the Fourth of July weekend, I flew with one of their instructors so I could be cleared to rent with them for the next few months.

I met an Rob at 8 o'clock on a chilly Saturday morning. I think the temperature was about 40 degrees when I arrived at the airport, the winds were calm and the skies were overcast at 3,500 feet. I took off on runway 02 and quickly turned north towards the Ephraim Airport in the northern portion of the Door Peninsula. Although there were overcast skies the visibility was excellent underneath the clouds. Shortly after taking off and climbing to 2,500 feet I could see clear across Lake Michigan to the Sleeping Bear Dunes of Michigan which meant we had at least 75 miles of visibility.

The view below was beautiful as well as fall has taken effect in Wisconsin and there was a nice range of yellow, orange and red leaves on the trees below. The flight to Ephraim is a short 20 minute flight. Ephraim is a small airport that has two runways, a grass runway and an asphalt runway. The City of Ephraim and their airport were featured in the Summer 2004 issue of Pilot Getaways. I was anxious to make my first landing there. Even better was the winds were favoring the turf runway so I entered the pattern for my first turf landing in over a year.

Soft-field runways require a slower than normal touchdown speed. Additionally, you need to keep pressure off the nose wheel during the landing by using continuous back pressure on the yoke. I executed a nice pattern and followed that up with a great soft landing on the turf at Ephraim. I then back taxied to prepare for the departure. Departing from a soft-field you try to again minimize pressure on the front wheel and apply back pressure to get the plane off the ground into ground effect quickly. Once in ground effect you fly a few feet above the ground and let the airplane build up airspeed before beginning your climb. Departing from this Turf runway you climb over a forest of trees followed by a beautiful view of the bay and the city of Ephraim. After such a great experience on the turf I decided to next practice a crosswind landing and entered the downwind leg for the asphalt runway. In a crosswind landing you spend a much of the time on final approach making small adjustments to the rudders and the ailerons to adjust for the wind and then land the rear wheel on the side of the wind first befor bringing down the other rear wheel then finally the nose gear. I made another great landing and was feeling pretty good about how well I was flying.

From there Rob and I flew back towards the Cherryland Airport. Rob was nice to point out some great sites along the shore including tone of the most photographed lighthouses in Wisconsin, the Cana Island Lighthouse. We also flew over the City of Glasgow shipwreck. I really enjoyed flying with Rob, we had a great time talking aviation while enjoying a fun flight.

When we returned to the Cherryland Airport the AWOS stated the winds were coming directly down runway 02. I knew it would allow me to make a perfect landing to finish the day. Sure enough I made a nice smooth landing completing a great flight.

This was my first flight in a few months outside of the busy airspace of Midway Airport in Chicago. When flying in Midway you don't always get the benefit of flying a standard pattern and instead commonly fly a straight in landing approach. I have found that makes it harder to consistently make great landings since most training for landings is within a standard left traffic pattern. Getting back into an environment where I could perform the standard pattern I felt much more comfortable and confident and it showed in my landings. I think I may continue to look at airports in the Chicago area and see if I can find one that has that small airport feel I had in Cincinnati and I enjoy when I am in Door County.

Posted at 10:33 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Door County, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

September 10, 2005

Flying the Cessna 172

n122fr.jpgSince moving to Chicago I have flown at two different fixed based operators (FBO) that were based at two different airports. At the same time I have flown three different planes. Since I am a big fan of consistency I have decided that I am going to try and fly just one aircraft and concentrate on one FBO and airport.

I decided to select the Cessna 172 as the plane I will concentrate on in the near future. The 172 is one of the most common planes that can be found at almost any FBO and it is a larger plane than the Diamond Eclipse allowing me to have more flexibility for passengers or cargo. I did most my training in the Cessna 152 which is similar but smaller than the 172 so I feel very comfortable in it.

Today I flew out of Midway with Alex of Midway Aviators in one of their two Cessna 172s. We flew south to Lansing where we worked on landings. With today's flight I now have approximately eleven hours of flight time in the Cessna 172 but I look forward to increasing that number soon.

This was only my second flight from Midway and already I am feeling much more comfortable with the radio communications at this busy airport. I was able to make almost all the calls and replies without assistance from my instructor. I have really enjoyed my experiences at Midway.

When you fly in a controlled environment often the tower will notify you of nearby aircraft and ask if you have that aircraft in sight. Sometimes that can be difficult if the plane is small, despite being told the altitude and general direction of the aircraft. It was fun this afternoon when the tower notified me of a Southwest 173 at my 3 o'clock landing on the parallel runway to mine. No troubles spotting that tin can.

Posted at 8:09 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story