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.

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!

October 10, 2008

Fall Flightseeing, Turf Landings and GPS Tracking

fall08flying.jpgMy wife and I picked the perfect weekend to escape the city and spend some time in the country. Here in Northern Wisconsin, we are treated to a beautiful show of colors as the trees put on their annual fall foliage show. Although the view is amazing driving down winding country roads, I know one place that offers an even better vantage point. So, I drove over to Cherryland Airport for some time in their Cessna 172. I flew north from Sturgeon Bay flying along the bay side of the peninsula as it narrows. Along the way I had a spectacular aerial view of the vast array of colors on the forests below.

Close to the northern tip of the peninsula is one of my favorite airports, the quaint Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport. It is a small two-runway airport nestled in the woods on a ridge just south and east of the town of Ephraim. After overflying the field to check the windsock that sat mostly limp I selected runway 32 which at 2,700 x 60 feet is the larger of the two runways and the only paved runway at Ephraim. I made a nice smooth landing then rolled off slowly to the end of the runway straight onto the grass. I wanted to taxi down the turf runway to ensure it was in safe enough condition to use for landings and takeoffs.

Sure enough, the turf runway was in great shape with only a few minor bumps. I followed turf procedures and turned the airplane around at the end but kept them plane rolling. I tossed in 10° of flaps and kept pulling back on the yoke to lighten the pressure on the nose wheel. Out the cockpit window was a sight every pilot must love, a well maintained turf runway with some distant trees glowing in a mixture of yellow, orange and red leaves signaling the end of the runway. As the airspeed increased I lifted the plane into ground effect just feet off the ground and let the speed continue to pick-up before pulling further back on the yoke and climbing safely over the trees and then out over the bay.

ksue-3d2-ksue_thumb.jpgOn departure I noticed a Maule in the vicinity so I flew a wider pattern to ensure we had plenty of separation. As I turned on final I picked a spot to aim for and focused on bringing the plane in nice and slow for a soft turf landing. I flared a few feet above the ground and listened to the stall horn sound then moments later the main gear settled softly onto the turf. I continued to apply back pressure until finally the front wheel also touched down. This was by far my favorite landing of the year. After that I flew back to Sturgeon Bay. On the return flight I pulled out the camera to snap a few photos. Unfortunately, the photos don't do justice to Mother Nature's show.

I brought along my GPS Data Logger on this flight. Thanks to some advice from Peter and from Jayson I was able to successfully track the flight and then overlay that track on a Google Map. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the device was to use. You can click on the photo of the track to see a larger scale version of the flight track. You can be sure that I will be bringing the GPS Data Logger along for future flights.

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.

August 11, 2008

Flying in Class C Airspace

kgrb.jpgWhile visiting Northern Wisconsin this weekend I was able to fit in a flight. I wanted to re-familiarize myself with flying to an airport within Class C airspace. I decided to fly to Green Bay's Austin Straubel International Airport (KGRB) which is in Class C airspace and is just a short 37 mile flight from Door County's Cherryland Airport where I often rent from.

Class C Airspace typically surrounds airports in mid-size towns like Green Bay, Dayton or Milwaukee. Airplanes that wish to operate within Class C Airspace must have a Mode C Transponder that allows ATC to track the airplanes altitude. Class C Airspace also has a 200 knot airspeed restriction below 2,500 feet but that of course is not an issue in the Cessna 172.

Unlike the stricter Class B airspace pilots are not required to receive permission to enter Class C airspace but must achieve radio communications with ATC. Once ATC has replied back to your request you can enter the space, unless they specifically request you stay clear of the airspace. From the point of contact forward the pilot is to comply with any ATC instructions as long as they don't pose a threat to the flight.

When I was twenty miles from the Green Bay Airport I contacted Green Bay Approach and explained I was 20NM to the Northeast and was inbound for landing. Approach control gave asked me to Squawk 0324 and verify my altitude at which point they were able to make a positive identification of my plane on their radar. They asked me to proceed inbound and to expect right traffic for runway 36. As I closed in on the airport they gave me vectors that would put me into a right base for runway 36 behind a commercial CRJ flight that was on final. There was plenty of separation between the CRJ and I which meant wake turbulence would not be an issue.

Runway 36 at KGRB is a mammoth runway that is 150 feet wide and over 8,700 feet long, nearly three times as long as most runways I typically use. I landed close to the numbers which meant a long slow taxi to Executive Air a nice FBO which is situated at the other end of the runway. I popped in there quickly before preparing for the return leg. Just a week earlier this tarmac had been filled with reporters when Brett Favre made a quick return to Green Bay before being traded to the N.Y. Jets.

When departing I was offered the ability to depart from the midway point of runway 36. Turning onto runway 36 I still had more than 4,000 feet of usable runway and was airborne quickly.

Upon departing the airport I had a nice view of Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. From there it was a short twenty five minute flight back to the quiet Door County Cherryland Airport. During the flight back I had my eye on an storm that looked to be approaching the Cherryland Airport. The storm waited for me to land and shut down the engine before releasing it's rain. Another fun flight in the books!


Posted at 6:18 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Comments (4) | Save & Share This Story

July 4, 2008

A Private Pilots View

MoonlightBay_Aerial.jpgOne of the things I love most about being a pilot is to be able to see the world from a unique perspective. We live in a world of beautiful sites. Yet, there are limits to what can be seen without the ability to get airborne. Whenever I fly commercially I love sitting in a window seat so I can check out amazing landscapes and look for sights that might otherwise be missed by those on the ground.

Since learning to fly I have enjoyed on several occasions discovering something from above that I would surely have missed or been unable to see from the ground. Things like corn mazes, shipwrecks and Civil War Munitions Factory.

While enjoying the Fourth of July holiday in Door County, WI; My wife and I decided to spend an afternoon flying. It was during this flight that we enjoyed checking out another beautiful view that we would have missed without the aid of the airplane. We overflew Moonlight Bay, from the ground it is just another beautiful bay along the Door County Peninsula. But, from above it was an amazing mixture of colors. The bay had a rust color close to shore that then melted into the deep blue of Lake Michigan. We circled the bay and snapped a few photos to share with the family. Cynthia and I have been by Moonlight Bay before while visiting nearby Cana Island Lighthouse. But, had no idea how drastically different it looked from the sky. You can view a wonderful ground level photo of Moonlight Bay on Flickr that shows how drastically different it looks from the ground.

todd_cynthia_flying.jpgThis was just one of many highlights during the flight. When we arrived at Ephraim we thought we were the only airplane in the area as the radios had been silent and no one responded to any of my calls to the Ephraim CTAF. As we started to enter the pattern for the asphalt runway their I spotted a tail dragger taking off from the turf runway. Shortly after taking off he abruptly cut into the pattern for the asphalt runway and proceeded to land, completely oblivious to my presence, despite my frequent radio calls. I made a few more radio calls without a response from that plane. It was apparent they were not equipped with radios or simply were not using them. I decided to circle and setup for a new entry into the pattern to ensure there was plenty of separation between me and this plane. Just about then another airplane chimed in that they were inbound for landings at Ephraim and commented they would follow us in the pattern.

As I was about to turn on to final approach to land, I noticed that the radio-less plane decided not to clear the runway and wait at the end before back taxiing and started to slowly back-taxi on the active runway. So, I decided to perform a go-around. I gave the inbound airplane and update on the situation. From that point forward the two of use would share updates with each other about what this other plane was doing. After another ride around the pattern we landed at Ephraim.

There we were met by my older brother and two of his three kids. They were in the area and knowing we were planning to land there decided to stop in to watch. I enjoyed showing the kids the plane and letting them sit in the cockpit. While we were on the ground the airport traffic picked up and four or five planes arrived while we were enjoying our time on the tarmac. The pilot that had shared the pattern with me, the one that I had been in frequent communication with on the radios, stopped over and introduced himself and thanked me for the updates. It was nice meeting the pilot and putting a face to the voice on the radio.

On the flight back to Sturgeon Bay we had an aerial view of the 2008 Door County corn maze and also checked out a 1,000 foot ship leaving dock in Sturgeon Bay and heading out into Green Bay. All in all it was a fun afternoon of flying!


Posted at 5:45 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Door County, Flight Time | Comments (5) | Save & Share This Story