March 4, 2010

Itching For My First Flight of 2010

takeoff.jpgIt has been way to long since I have flown last and the flying itch is turning into a rash. As a result, I am hedging my bets by reserving a Cessna 172SP on both Saturday and Sunday of next week hoping that one of those days Mother Nature cooperates.

My goal for the next few flights is to fly with an instructor and knock off the cobwebs while working on my proficiency. I am quickly approaching the deadline for another flight review (formerly known as the biennial flight review). I completed my last flight review in April, 2008. My goal now is to take a few flights and spend some time reviewing all the regulations then partake in another flight review.

I am hoping Mother Nature can do her part next weekend.


Posted at 5:21 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172 SP | Comments (6) | Save & Share This Story

October 21, 2009

Sky High after Mountain Flying Experience

mountainflying1.jpgThis past weekend I had an wonderful opportunity to fly over and through the Rocky Mountain Region west of Denver. Since all of my flight time to date has been over the relatively safe landscape of the Midwest I contacted some local experts at the Aspen Flying Club to give me an overview on Mountain Flying.

Prior to the flight I took advantage of a variety of resources online to learn more about the challenges of Mountain Flying. I encourage anyone interested in flying over mountainous terrain to check out some of these great resources:

On Saturday I met Matt Beckman who would be my CFI for this flight experience. Matt has been flying since he was nine years old and grew up flying in the mountains so I knew I would be able to learn a lot from him. We spent more time than usual doing a preflight briefing, discussing some important points for the upcoming flight including density altitude, handling mountain winds, crossing over mountain ridges, emergency maneuvers, radio communications in the mountains and the effects of hypoxia. Many of these topics were well covered in the online courses and articles I had reviewed prior to the flight, but talking to Matt helped me ensure I understood each topic clearly.

We filled our flight plan then fired up the G1000 Cessna 172 and took off for an amazing flight over the Rocky Mountains. Flying in the Midwest, there is almost always a safe place to set the plane down if you encounter an engine failure. Fifteen minutes into this flight we crossed over our first mountain ridge and finding suitable places to land started to become a serious challenge. During our flight we were continuously looking for and calling out our next suitable place to land should an emergency arise.

Often the G1000 flat panels are blamed for keeping pilots' eyes inside the cockpit looking at the pretty monitors. That was definitely not the case on this flight where the mountains provided a majestic backdrop that was hard to keep your eyes off of.

The altitude in Denver is 5280 (also the name of their beautifully designed city magazine) after departing Centennial we needed to stay underneath the Denver International Airport airspace for the first few miles before then climbing up to 10,500 feet to clear the Tarryall & Kenosha mountains of Pike National Forest that ranged in height from 8,000 to 11,000 feet. After clearing the first ridge we flew over a valley enroute to Buena Vista and Central Colorado Regional Airport (KAEJ). We made two landings here including one in which we simulated a short field landing.

From there we departed northward up a valley that would lead us to Leadville, CO home of North America's highest airport, Lake County Airport (KLXV), with an altitude of 9,927. It is strange to look at your altimeter and see 10,900 as you are entering downwind for landing. Even odder for Midwest pilot was the sluggish climb we made out of Leadville as the plane labored to produce lift as we rolled down the runway at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.

mountainflying2.jpgThe FAA requires that all pilots flying aircraft above 12,500 feet for more than 30 minutes must use supplemental oxygen. This is to prevent the effects of hypoxia. However to climb over many of the mountains in the area we needed to climb above 12,500 to 13,500 feet. We watched the clock to ensure we were not above the 12.5K mark for more than thirty minutes. Even at 13,500 feet there were a few mountain peaks that were higher than we were flying which was an amazing sight.

After crossing over a large mountain range we descended back down under 10,000 feet so we could practice a simulated emergency turn to avoid a terrain collision. I pointed the plane at a mountain and as we approached I pitched back to climb. On this cooler day we likely could have climbed over the mountain but for practice initiated the turn. I pulled power and set the flaps to full then turned at a 30° bank and let the nose roll over a bit allowing the plane to make a tight 180° turn banking us away from the danger.

After that we turned East and headed out of the mountains and back to the safety of flatland below. Although the plane descended, my spirits remained sky high from this amazing experience. I would strongly encourage any pilot to enjoy applying their flying skills to this challenging and beautiful area. If you are in the Denver area reach out the folks at The Aspen Flying Club and tell them I sent you.

The video below was shot with a cockpit mounted video camera and a hand held camera. In addition to the video I shot some photos which can be seen on Flickr.

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.

April 18, 2009

Spring Flying in Chicago

flying 030_1.JPGSpring has arrived in Chicago, well atleast for a day it has. I enjoyed waking this morning to a nice cool breeze coming through the bedroom window and new it would be a great day to fly. I pulled up AOPA's online flight planner to get updated weather and added the weather data to my NAVLog for the flight from Chicago Executive to Porter County Municipal Airport and back.

I did a quick visual check out the window and it confirmed what I saw on my computer monitor, it was going to be a wonderful day for flying. Chicago Executive was reporting few clouds at 5,500 but everywhere else along the route was reporting clear below 12,000 and greater than 10 miles visibility.

After completing my pre-flight I contacted Chicago Executive Ground. They said I could choose any runway as there was not much traffic yet and the winds were calm, so I selected the nearest runway. As soon as I was airborne I turned Eastbound to head towards the lakefront. After clearing Chicago Executive airspace I tuned in Chicago Approach, things sounded slow so I made my VFR request for flight following which was granted. As I approached the Chicago skyline I received a single traffic advisory for a plane off my 11 o'clock reporting the same altitude. After searching for a few seconds I saw the aircraft which was about a mile away and no factor. Other than that I had the Chicago Skyline airspace all to myself.

After clearing the Chicago O'Hare Class B airspace I climbed to 3,500 feet to put me above the airspace for Gary International and turned further Eastbound toward Valparaiso. This was my first flight to Porter Country but as I neared the airport I realized I had flown out of here once before as a passenger on a B-17 Bomber, definitely a found aviation memory of mine.

I overflew the airport and entered a left downwind for runway 27 and made a smooth landing. As I began to taxi back several other airplanes entered the pattern. I did a 360 on the taxiway to view the traffic, I noticed there was a Piper Cub flying a low and tight traffic pattern and he had not been using radios, or was not equipped with them. Both the Cub and the Cessna turned base at the same time, though the Cub's base was much tighter than the Cessna's. Iannounced to the Cessna that the Cub was there as I don't think he had seen the Cub flying a lower and tighter but nearly identical pattern. The Cessna thanked me for the alert and ended up opting for a go around while the cub flew nearly the full length of the 7,000 foot runway before setting down for landing, I guess his hangar must have been on the far end of the airport.

The return flight was uneventful. Though, when I called Chicago Approach for flight following they asked me to to standby as the were busy with commercial traffic. They never did have capacity to offer me flight following services on the return leg. Though, it worked out alright as I did not encounter any traffic on the way back which surprised me on such a beautiful morning.

I logged another 1.8 hours of cross country time which will come in handy when I am ready to start pursuing an instrument rating, something I am thinking about more and more seriously this Spring.

March 16, 2009

Spring Weather Brings Crowded Skies

weekendflight.jpgThe mercury is on the rise in thermometers throughout the Midwest and pilots are finding their way back to the airport. I could not resist the call and reserved a plane for a weekend afternoon flight, my first in over a month. While enjoying the first jacketless pre-flight of the year I noticed all the empty spots on the tarmac and realized I was not the only one with the great idea of going flying.

After engine start-up and taking down ATIS notes I had to be patient to wait for a break in all the radio chatter to make my initial call-up to Chicago Executive ground control. I informed them that after departing their airspace I would be interested in flight following for my flight to Waukesha (KUES). Sometimes getting flight following in the Chicago airspace can be hit or miss and I worried that I might not get flight following as I figured the controllers would be busy. I was right about them being busy but they were able to support my request.

As I departed the Chicago Executive airspace I counted more than seven airplanes on the G1000 MFD. I felt confident I would have safe separation from the aircraft with the combination of my visual scan, the G1000 traffic advisories and updates from the air traffic controllers.

The weather was ideal for flying with light and variable winds, unrestricted visibility and no sign of a ceiling in any direction. After a nice 40 minute flight I arrived at a busy Waukesha airport. There were several planes performing their pre-flight run-up and three planes in addition to mine that were communicating to the tour while heading inbound for landings. I made a nice smooth landing and taxied to the terminal for a short break.

When I was ready to depart for the return leg I had the airwaves and airport to myself. On the return flight I again requested and received flight following. At one point the controller pointed out traffic to my two o'clock position eastbound and also a plane at eleven o'clock northwestbound both at ~3,000 feet I watched from a few thousand feet above and a mile or so away as these two airplanes crossed paths much closer than I would have preferred as one of the pilots. I don't believe either was taking advantage of flight following services as I never heard the controller give either of them traffic advisories.

I highly recommend pilots take advantage of flight following whenever they can on a VFR flight. When I trained my instructors never spent much time teaching me how to request flight following and how to use the service. I found this PDF to be a valuable resource for detailing how flight following works.

I enjoyed adding another new airport to my list of airports visited while also building more time and experience in the G1000 enabled Cessna 172SP. I will be publishing a few posts in the coming week outlining some of the tools I have used in the past few weeks to continue to learn all the great features of the G1000.

February 1, 2009

Cleared to Fly the Glass Cockpit

gpsmap200.jpgOn Saturday I went for my second familiarization flight in the G1000 enabled Cessna. On my first flight last week we spent most the time reviewing the basic functionality of the G1000 system. Saturday's focus was on how to handle failures and also how to use some of the advanced options such as flight planning and working with the autopilot.

I planned a 120NM cross country flight from Chicago Executive to Rockford (KRFD), De Kalb (KDKB), Schaumburg (06C) and then back to Chicago Executive. After firing up the Cessna my CFI showed me how to enter the entire flightplan into the G1000. We used two GPS waypoints and each airport to set our course. It took only a few minutes to get the hang of it and get the entire flight entered into the system.

My preflight briefing with Flight Service warned me of some light to moderate chop along the route and also some stiff winds. Sure enough as we climbed out of Chicago Executive we got tossed around a bit until we climbed above 2,500 feet at which point the ride became smoother. As I turned the plane west for Rockford we took on a direct 53 knot headwind slowing our forward progression to a measly 52 knots. I felt like I was back in my trusty Cessna 152 I used to train in. I did not mine the slow progression though as we had a beautiful view of the snow-covered farm lands below. It also allowed some time for me to learn how to use the autopilot feature. I was able to engage the autopilot to maintain our flightplan path and to maintain our altitude. It made for a very relaxing flight to Rockford.

snowyflighblog.jpgAs we approached Rockford we learned we would be following in a Boeing 767 which was cool. I have on shared runways with the big tin when flying into Midway. After making a nice landing at Rockford we taxied around to depart on their westbound runway. We had a beautiful view as I lined the airplane up on the centerline the setting sun was directly in front of us. I regret now not snapping a photo before departing. It has been a long time since I have been airborne during a sunset and forgot what a wonderful way it is to enjoy the end of a day.

From Rockford we headed southeast to De Kalb which allowed us to partially benefit from the strong winds from the West. It was after departing De Kalb that we started flying east and now enjoyed the 53 knots of wind as a tailwind. All of a sudden we were cruising along at a ground speed of just over 170 knots.

As we approached Schaumburg it became apparent we were going to have an extremely strong direct crosswind so we decided not to make an landing. Instead we continued on to Chicago Executive for my first night landing in nearly two years. I forgot how your perspective changes at night and flared earlier than I should have and our landing was not nearly as smooth as I would have liked. Though, not even a less than stellar landing could dampen my mood. I love flying this 2 year old Cessna with the G1000. I am now signed off to fly it and look forward to enjoying flights in this plan in 2009!

January 25, 2009

Addicted to the G1000 Cessna After a Brief Taste

CessnaPreHeat.jpgMother Nature was kind enough to let me go flying this weekend. Although she kept the snow and high winds away, I did have a chilly 8° pre-flight experience. After a 15-minute pre-heat of the engine the plane was ready to fly. Yesterday's flight was a fun learning experience for me. It was only my second flight in a glass cockpit equipped airplane. With all the other Cessnas booked for the weekend I had the choice to see another weekend go by without flying or check out the 47TN and its G1000 Glass Cockpit.

In order to better prepare for this flight I downloaded Sporty's Flying Glass Cockpit video. This helped me learn the ins and outs of the G1000 glass cockpit. I highly recommend the video to anyone looking to fly in a glass cockpit. On top of that video, when I arrived at the airport the CFI I was flying with sat me down and walked me through a computer-based demo of the G1000. The combination of the video and software tutorial made me feel much more comfortable in the G1000 cockpit.

GlassPanelG1000.jpgI can see how it is often said that the biggest problem with the G1000 is remembering to look outside the cockpit. The combination of great data, traffic advisories and weather information could be construed as information overload. But I think it provides information that can make your flying more precise and safe if used properly. One of my favorite features was the last call playback. After being advised by the Kenosha tower with instructions for entering the pattern and runway to use my instructor showed me that if I forgot or misunderstood the last call I could hit the playback button and hear it again. This is wonderful as it allows me to double check what I was cleared for without me having to clutter up the airways with a repeat of the call.

I realize now that my FBO is acting like a drug dealer. Giving me just a taste of the G1000 knowing now I will not want to go back to my standard Cessna 172 with its antiquated steam gauges. This plane 47TN is only two years old and even offered seat belts that included air bags (I had no idea these even existed). This is a long way from the Cessna 152 I took on my introductory flight over five years ago that had more duct tape than seat fabric inside the cockpit.

I plan on taking one more flight with a CFI next weekend so that I am checked out to fly the G1000 Cessna 172 whenever I want. On the next flight we will review the flight planning functionality the G1000 offers and also how to deal with screen failures or other emergency situations in relation to the G1000.

January 23, 2009

Preparing to Fly the Glass Cockpit

glasscockpit.jpgI am hoping to log my first hours of flying in 2009 this weekend. The weather looks to be cold but clear enough for me to fit in a flight. The only plane that was available was the Windy City Flyers Cessna 172 that is equipped with the G1000 glass cockpit.

I have only flown a glass cockpit equipped airplane once before when I had the chance to take a flight down the Hudson River to check-out the New York City skyline. After that flight I posted "After spending all of my flight time flying with traditional gauges I expected to be overwhelmed by the glass cockpit displays. But, I found them easy to read and relatively intuitive. I can see how it would take 10-20 hours to master the use of the system but after a little over an hour I was starting to understand where I needed to look to find the relevant information."

That was nearly two years ago so I am sure that the glass cockpit will seem foreign to me again but I am looking forward to giving it another try. I will update you on my experience after the flight.


Posted at 6:31 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172 SP, G1000, Glass Cockpit | Comments (2) | 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!

September 30, 2008

Start of the Fall Flying Season

septemberflight.jpgThis weekend I celebrated the end of summer and the start of the Fall flying season with a short cross-country flight. The combination of beautiful views of the fall foliage from above, smoother air and fewer concerns of a weather related flight cancellations makes Fall my favorite time to fly. The only downside of the start of Fall is we start rapidly losing daylight flight time.

I blocked a Cessna 172 for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. The weather was nearly perfect with cool temperatures and winds reported as light and variable at my home base airport, Chicago Executive (PWK), and at my destination Beloit (44C). The only negative to the weather was a layer of haze that degraded my visibility a bit as I flew towards the sun on the first westward bound leg.

Beloit is just over 50NM miles making it probably the closest airport to Chicago Executive that you can fly to and still log the time as Cross Country time. Beloit Airport is on of those quiet country airports. It has a single paved runway that is 3,300 feet long and only 50 feet wide and no taxiway.

The flight to Beloit came in right around 35 minutes. From looking at my sectional I had seen a reference to frequent glider activity in the area. When I arrived in the area though I appeared to be the only aircraft in the area. On the ground sure enough there were 20-30 gliders resting on the lawn. With light winds landing on the centerline of the narrow and short runway was not a problem. As there did not appear to be any activity or people to speak with I simply back taxied down the runway and turned around for the return flight.

I had an equally uneventful flight home. Without the sunlight fighting its way through the haze I had much better visibility. As I arrived back at Chicago Executive I noticed a familiar voice on the radios. Turns out John of FlyingChicago.com was in his Mooney following me into Chicago Executive. I caught up with him later in the weekend. Turns out he had flown by Beloit during the day while visiting Dubuque (KDBQ) and Cassville (C74). Looking for somewhere to fly this fall? Check out John's site at FlyingChicago.com.