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.

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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.

August 31, 2008

Building Cross Country Time

8D1_crosscountry.jpgThis year has turned out to be a great year for flying for me. I have flown more total hours, solo hours and cross country hours since the year I earned my ticket (2004). I am slowly building up more cross-country experience, something that will come in handy if I begin to pursue an instrument rating. Yesterday, I logged another 1.7 of cross country time.

I knew I had the plane for about two hours so I unfolded the sectional and looked for airports that were more than 50NM miles from Sturgeon Bay Cherryland Airport but also not too far that would prevent me from getting a preflight completed and get to my destination and back in the two hour time slot. The airport that best met those criteria was New Holstein Municipal Airport in New Holstein, Wisconsin. The airport is just over 60NM from Cherryland just a few miles to the East of Lake Winnebago.

Shortly after departing from Cherryland Airport I tuned into Green Bay Approach and as expected it sounded pretty quiet so I figured they would have capacity to provide me with flight following. I hit the transmit button and said "Green Bay Approach, Cessna 378MJ". After their response I responded with "378MJ, Cessna 172 is 10 miles southwest of Cherryland KSUE at 4,500 requesting flight following, direct to New Holstein". They provided me a squawk code then verified my radar contact. From that point forward I only heard from the two more times. The first was to point out traffic at my 10 o'clock which was no factor and the second time was to terminate flight following as I approached my destination. Although, they did not provide much support I always prefer to take advantage of flight following to provide an extra layer of safety.

Although, the airplane was GPS enabled I planned the flight the old fashion way with dead reckoning. I noted small towns, windmill fields, a river and a racetrack as several good landmarks for the flight. I arrived at each checkpoint close to my planned time of arrival and almost directly on target. Any easy task yesterday as the winds aloft were very light.

RSS_Crops.jpgThere was no activity at New Holstein when I arrived. Since they don't have an automated weather system I overflew the field to check out the windsock. I found the windsock to be limp. New Holstein has both an asphalt and a turf runway. It appeared from the windtee and the way the limp windsock was situated and based on weather from a neighboring airport that runway 32, the paved runway, would be my best option. I flew through the pattern and landed smoothly then back taxied for to the end of the runway for departure.
The return flight was a little quicker due to a slightly better support from the winds aloft. I again leveraged the support of ATC for flight following.

Flying over a vast area of farmland I saw some interesting shapes cut into the corn fields and other crops below. Designs that you would miss if passing these areas by car. I saw one design that looked familiar then I realized it was because it reminded me of the RSS feed icon. In the end it was another fun afternoon of flying over Wisconsin in the Cessna 172.