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.

May 10, 2008

Confidence Sky-High After Successful Cross-Country Flight

kcmi.jpgPilot and author Rod Machado published a great article, "Keeping your head in the game" in the May issue of AOPAPilot. In it he writes, "Currency is what the regulations require to remain legal to fly; proficiency is what pilots require to remain confident." I read the article a week or two ago and it really resonated with me. In the article he explains that pilots can take a year or more away from flying and not see a large degradation of their core piloting skills. The biggest loss is to their confidence. He states that if a pilot has not flown enough to be confident they start asking themselves questions like "Will I be able to keep up with the ATC? Can I handle any crosswinds during landing? What if I have an emergency?"

I think this is exactly where I found myself going into 2008. I had not flown in several months; throughout most of the winter. Although I felt like my flying skills were still well intact, I saw my confidence diminish. So I set out a plan for myself to take several flights this spring with a CFI to bring back currency, proficiency and most importantly, confidence. The goal was to work towards a biennial flight review. I completed the biennial flight review just a few weeks ago and was thrilled to feel after that flight like my confidence was as high as it was when I was flying three days a week when I was earning my license.

The only aspect of flight I still had a little apprehension around was flying a cross-country from Chicago Executive that would require me to fly around the busy airspace of Chicago. It had been a long while since I had planned a cross-county flight, filed a flight plan and flown a cross-country flight. So I scheduled one more flight with my CFI. I decided to fly from Chicago Executive south of the busy Chicago airspace to Champaign's University of Illinois-Willard Airport.

After departing Chicago Executive Airport I called up the Flight Service Station to open my flightplan then switched over to Chicago Approach and requested and received VFR Flight Following. Whenever I fly along the lakeshore I find it very valuable to use the flight following services if they have capacity to support it, which provides just another level of safety in avoiding air traffic.

After flying by a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline I headed towards Lansing airport before turning southwest and heading away from Chicago. About fifteen minutes after passing Lansing I had the skies to myself. I don't think I saw another plane until I was within 20 miles of our destination. The arrival into Champaign was uneventful, I was proud that after pulling off the taxiway and logging my arrival time that I flew the flight within five minutes of my calculations for my flightplan.

My CFI graduated from the University of Illinois just last year. He was kind enough to give me a brief tour while we were there. We borrowed a courtesy car from the FBO and journeyed into town. We enjoyed a $100 hamburger at Murphy's in the heart of the U of I campus. After lunch, on the way back to the airport, I called up the Flight Service Station to get an updated weather report so I could finalize the return flight navigation log. Champaign's main runway, 14L/32R, is a massive runway that is over 8,100 feet in length. With little traffic at the airport the tower was kind enough to save us time burning expensive fuel taxing to the end of the runway. Instead I turned the plane onto the runway at the midway point and still had 4,000 feet of runway ahead of me.

The flight back was uneventful right up until we arrived back at Chicago Executive. As we approached the airport I found where all the airplanes in Illinois were hiding. The controller was masterfully directing at least six or seven planes that were within a few miles of the airport and also managing the five airplanes waiting to depart. I had to slow my downwind leg then fly a 360 degree turn to allow for additional spacing between planes before landing.

Since moving to Chicago a few years back I am at the height of my flying confidence, proficiency and currency. I am looking forward to flying some fun cross-country flights this summer and building up my cross-country time and possibly pursuing an instrument rating in the near future.


Posted at 6:45 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172 SP, Flight Time | Comments (4) | Save & Share This Story

March 30, 2008

Preparing for A Biennial Flight Review

I had my first back to back weekends of flying after completing a flight yesterday. I am working with a CFI to prepare for a Biennial Flight Review either next weekend or the weekend after that. I wanted to take two flights to prepare for the review. In the first flight last week we worked on landings and crosswind landings.

On Saturday, I was blessed with a beautiful day to fly. The goal of the flight was to work on maneuvers we did not practice on the first flight last week. Those maneuvers included power-on and -off stalls, 45 degree turns, and emergency procedures. I performed all the maneuvers well except the 45 degree turns to the left which were a little sloppy but improved the more of them I performed. Both emergency landing maneuvers went well with my CFI and I both being confident I could have safely landed on some poor farmer's field had it been necessary.

Either next weekend or the weekend after that I will go in for the BFR which will consist of at least one hour of ground verbal review followed by at least an hour of flight review in which I need to perform all maneuvers to test standards. I last successfully performed a BFR in September of 2006. I am looking forward to getting this one behind me.

March 16, 2008

One Hundred Hours of Flying

Normally, I am not an early riser or at least not a fan of rising early. Though, this morning it was easier because I knew I had a day of aviation in front of me. I got up and quickly checked the weather and verified that it looked like the weather would cooperate with the flights I had scheduled for the day.

I started off the day flying out of Chicago Executive Airport in one of my flight clubs Cessna 172SP. Forest a CFI, joined me for the flight as I need to rebuild currency with Windy City Flyers. We flew north to Waukegan Airport where I worked on landings. I conducted six landings there and one go-around which the tower requested when they spotted a coyote on the runway. That was the first time I had ever performed a go-around for that reason.

Total flight time for the morning flight was 1.7 hours which pushed me over the 100 hours of flight time mark. It was great to be back in the plane and I am looking forward to flying more regularly this Spring. I made sure of that by scheduling my next flight in about two weeks.


Posted at 6:05 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172 SP, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

August 30, 2007

Flying in Uncontrolled and Controlled Airspace

lake_in_the_hills_3CK.jpgOn Saturday I toured the control tower of Chicago Executive Airport with some fellow aviation enthusiasts. During the tour the controllers talked about how they use the radar to ensure safe separation of aircraft in their airspace. Then they explained for the non-pilots how pilots interact with each other to ensure safety when flying at the airport after the control tower closes or at uncontrolled fields. This served as a great reminder for my flight that day which was from a controlled field to an uncontrolled field and back.

After the tour I flew in a Cessna 172SP from Chicago Exec. (KPWK) about 20 miles northwest to Lake in the Hills(3CK) airport, a small single strip uncontrolled airport. Here I flew around the pattern six or seven times while working on crosswind landings. At times there were as many as four aircraft working in the pattern. At an uncontrolled airport there is no tower so all radio equipped planes communicate over the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) providing position reports and intentions for the other pilots.

At one point I was at pattern altitude when another pilot announced his intention to over fly the airport and then to enter the pattern on the downwind leg on a forty five degree angle. Nothing strange there other than the fact that he announced his current altitude of approximately 1,900 feet which is the same as the pattern altitude. This put him on a collision course with the plane behind me in the pattern that was currently on the downwind leg. When over-flying a field to enter the pattern you should be flying above the traffic in the pattern to alleviate any potential danger. Luckily the other pilot made the decision to exit the pattern and let this idiot land before resuming his pattern.

As a pilot you always need to look out for yourself and assume that all other pilots are a potential danger to you. But, this becomes ever more important at uncontrolled towers.

Upon returning to Chicago Executive it became quickly apparent that traffic had picked up at the airport since I left. Turns out the up tick in traffic was due to a series of flights that were part of the Young Eagles program were arriving at the same time as I was.

I circled Lake Zurich two or three times just waiting to get an opening to start my communications with the tower. I was told to proceed inbound but that I may need to circle from time to time as I was sixth in the order for landing. Sure enough on downwind for landing the tower asked that I please perform a 360° turn to provide greater spacing between aircraft before landing.

It was fun going from a busy uncontrolled field to a busy controlled field and getting a chance to work on both types of radio communications.


Posted at 12:29 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172 SP, Flight Time | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

August 18, 2007

Flying Around the Pattern

palwaukee_map.gifI headed out to Chicagoland Executive Airport early this morning to get a flight in before heading back to the city for the 49th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. It was a nice cool morning with a threat of storms, but after a call to the Flight Service Station I was confident I could get in a flight before storms would arrive.

I spent the entire day in the pattern working on my towered field radio calls and more importantly my landings. During the day I worked on a variety of different scenarios including simulated turf takeoffs and short field takeoffs and landings. A few months back I had been disappointed with my landings but as of late I am feeling like I am back in a groove. As any instructor will tell you it is really about the preparation. As long as I fly a nice stable approach it makes greasing a nice landing so much easier.

It was a very enjoyable flight and I enjoyed sharing the patter with a variety of aircraft including jets and prop planes. All in all I fit in seven takeoffs and landings and logged another 1.7 hours today. I will next get a chance to go flying next Saturday afternoon. Although, flying would have been enough to fill my aviation addict today I also enjoyed taking in the 49th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show which was amazing despite periodic rain. I will write more on the Air Show after tomorrow´┐Żs show.


Posted at 9:45 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172 SP, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

May 23, 2006

Scenic New York City Flight

Statue of LibertyA couple of months ago I read a great feature article in Pilot Getaways Magazine about a general aviation corridor that allowed general aviation aircraft to fly along the Hudson River to see the skyscrapers of New York City from Window-height. After reading the article I knew I needed to give this flight experience a try. While visiting some family in New Jersey my wife and I had the opportunity to fly along side New York City in a Cessna 172 SP.

In looking for places to start this flight from I came across Lincoln Park Wings based at Lincoln Park Airport, a single strip runway in Northern New Jersey. Lincoln Park Wings offers a pre-planned scenic flight of the Hudson River in a Cessna 172 complete with a Glass Cockpit. I mentioned I was a private pilot and they ensured me I could fly the route with the Certified Flight Instructor.

Garmin 1000This flight would include many firsts for me. It would be my first flight in New Jersey or New York and be my first experience in a glass cockpit. According to Wikipedia a glass cockpit is "...an aircraft cockpit that features electronic instrument displays. Where a traditional cockpit relies on numerous mechanical gauges to display information, a glass cockpit utilizes a few computer-controlled displays that can be adjusted to display flight information as needed."

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. If you have access to a plane with a glass cockpit I would highly recommend checking it out. You can read more about flying a glass cockpit at CockpitMentor.

New York City FlightFlying in a crowded airspace such as surrounds New York the features of the Garmin 1000 came in handy. It gave a clear visual image of where the different airspaces were located and helped us to ensure we did not violate any of them. The system also tracks other aircraft and would announce if traffic were near which happened occasionally as there is a variety of helicopter traffic in New York. By looking at the device you could easily determine where the traffic was and then look outside the cockpit to find it and ensure you stayed out of each others path.

Many pilots have said that in their early flights in a glass cockpit that they have troubles maintaining their normal practice of conducting visual scans of the horizon for aircraft and get caught up looking at the digital screens. Luckily, having the beautiful scenery of the New York City Skyline ensured I would keep my eyes out of the cockpit.

Our flight took us over some beautiful neighborhoods of Jersey and then over the Hudson River just North of the George Washington Bridge. We flew about 800 feet over the river which put us even with many of the buildings in New York. I am familiar with New York but it is seeing New York from this vantage point that really helped me understand what an amazingly huge city it is. Central Park for instance is much larger than I had ever imagined. We had a great view of the Concorde and SR-71 that are on display with the USS Intrepid Aircraft Carrier Museum. After passing by the city for the first time we came up to a beautiful view the Statue of Liberty before making a 180° turn to go back up the Hudson.

New York CityDuring the flight I had an enjoyable conversation with the CFI, Michael, who is teaching in NJ over the summer between years at Embry Riddle. I always enjoy the conversations I have when I have an opportunity to fly with other pilots. After completing our scenic tour of New York I flew us back to Lincoln Park, playing with the glass cockpit on the way. As, I mentioned before Lincoln Park is a small airport with a runway that is less than 3,000 feet long and only 40 feet wide which leaves little room for error on landings. But, despite making my first landing in over a month we made a smooth landing to conclude a wonderful flight.

I highly recommend any pilot that has the opportunity to fly the Hudson River Corridor to do it, check out Lincoln Park Wings while you are at it. I put up a gallery of my photos from the flight on Flickr.

May 22, 2005

First Chicago Skyline Flight

chi_skyline.jpgOn a beautiful and clear Friday evening I met Aaron an instructor with Windy City Flyers at their Palwaukee Airport offices.

We briefly reviewed my Chicago sectional and my newly purchased Chicago VFR terminal area chart. On the sectional Aaron showed me all the best airports in the Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin area. He was sure to point out the best airport based restaurants as well. After that we looked at the terminal area chart for Chicago which shows the Chicago area in greater detail.

On the terminal area chart we looked closely at the Chicago O'Hare Airspace. We decided we would fly down the Chicago skyline so we looked at how we could accomplish this flight while staying below O'Hare airspace.

Next we went out to the Cessna 172 Skyhawk SP. This was the nicest plan I have flown to date. It was relatively new, well maintained and even had some nice equipment including GPS navigation.

Shortly after completing the preflight of the plane we departed on runway 34, Palwaukees longest runway. Of course flying the Skyhawk we were airborne shortly after starting our takeoff run. As we turned east towards Lake Michigan we had a great view of the Chicago skyline to our south. We climbed up to 2,500 feet which gave us 500 feet above us before we would cross through the floor of the O'Hare airspace. After a few minutes we were over the lake and I turned us south towards the city.

It was great flying over Northwestern University, Wrigley Field, and Navy Pier on our way to the city. The view of the city from a small plane at 2,500 feet was beautiful. I loved looking out the window to see the Chicago River winding through the city. Next we flew over what used to be Meigs field. You can still clearly make out where the runway used to be. I wish Meigs was still active.

We then decided to head down to the Gary International Airport for a touch and go. With a stiff cross wind I was blown outside of the optimal flight path through the pattern but ended up making a decent landing. Though you could tell it had been a few weeks since I had flown last.

After a touch and go we headed north past Chicago and back to Palwaukee airport. I logged a very memorable 1.4 hours that night. I am excited to get back up soon to explore more of the Chicago area from the skies.


Posted at 1:21 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172 SP, Flight Lesson | Save & Share This Story