August 9, 2013

My Old Friend the Piper Archer

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The majority of my flight time this summer was spent getting checked out in the Sky Arrow, a fun little two seat pusher aircraft that had joined Leading Edge Flying Club about a year ago. Unfortunately, soon after getting checked out in the aircraft I learned that the owner was moving across the country and would be removing the airplane from the club.

Yesterday in Chicago we were blessed with ideal flying conditions. So I rented the club's Piper Archer III, the aircraft I have been flying most frequently over the past few years. It was fun getting reacquainted with an old friend. There is definitely something special about checking out new aircraft and the learning that comes with it. But, there is something equally special about knowing an airplane well. It makes the flying experience that much more about the enjoyment of the flight as your mind and body know exactly how to get the desired performance from the aircraft. Last night there was no fumbling for switches or looking all over the place to find something as I was experiencing in the Sky Arrow.

Last night it was about enjoying a perfect night taking in a perspective of the world far too few get the opportunity to enjoy. I am looking forward to turning the Hobbes on the Archer on a more regular basis for the remainder of this year.


Posted at 6:46 AM | Post Category: Flight Time | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story

March 14, 2013

Lunchtime Laps in the Pattern

todd_PBJ.jpgMost pilots are familiar with the $100 Hamburger. This past week though I enjoyed my first $82.50 PB&J. For months I have been trying to think of ways to find more time for flying. Recently, I started wondering whether I could fit a flight in during lunch.

My office is a little over 10 miles from the gate to the airport. With beautiful blue skies forecasted for a few days in a row I booked a plane and decided to give it a try. Here is how things went:


11:41 Left the office
11:48 Called and had the plane pulled from the hangar
11:51 Completed preflight brief
12:04 Arrived at the airport
12:18 Complete preflight and started the engine
12:25 Rolling down runway 16 at KPWK for takeoff
12:50 Engine shut down with three touch and gos completed
12:56 Flight logged in the Leading Edge Flying Club computer
1:25 Arrived back at the office.

I logged 0.5 hours of flying and got three landings for the logbook. Not necessarily the best or most useful flight time but a different way for me to get a taste of flying and stay current without taking away time from the family in the evenings.

I think I will do this again for sure and think this might be an interesting way to share aviation with others. Maybe this summer I will try to do this type of flight once or twice a month and invite a co-worker to join me for a quick tour of the area or a flight along the Chicago skyline.

This is by far the best way I can think of spending lunch. The Peanut Butter and Jelly was average but the ambiance was unbeatable!


Posted at 5:59 PM | Post Category: $100 Hamburger, Flight Time | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

April 20, 2011

Aeronautical Decision Making Skills Put to the Test

abovetheclouds.jpgAs part of the FAA Wings program I recently took and completed the "Art of Aeronautical Decision Making" online course. The FAA defines Aeronautical Decision-Making as a "Systematic approach to the mental process of evaluating a given set of circumstance and determining the best course of action." More practically they use a framework for ADM and risk management: Perceive - Process - Perform.


  • PERCEIVE the "given set of circumstances" for your flight

  • PROCESS by evaluating their impact on flight safety

  • PERFORM by implementing the best course of action

AOPA's Air Safety Foundation uses "Anticipate, Recognize, Act". Both promote identifying an issue, determining a plan to mitigate or eliminate risk then putting that plan into action. ASF says "...the thing that seems to cause pilots the most difficulty -- is recognizing potential hazards and taking timely action to avoid them."

With every flight, pilots get a chance to use their ADM skills. However, I did not anticipate the level to which these skills would be used when a fellow flight club member invited me to join him for a flight in his Columbia 400 (now called the Cessna 400). The mission was to fly from Chicago to Miami University in Oxford, OH (my alma mater) to pick up his daughter and bring her back to Chicago. He was planning to file an IFR flightplan and use supplemental oxygen allowing us to fly at 18,000 feet, more than double what I typically cruise at. I figured this flight would be a great learning experience for me, having never flown in a Columbia 400 or having much experience with instrument flight plans. Little did I know what a great learning experience this flight would become.

GS_tailwind.jpgAbout forty-five minutes from our destination airport cruising along at FL180 and enjoying a 100 knot tailwind that was helping us achieve a 290 knot ground speed, Ray and I felt a hiccup in the engine and what felt like a short-lived decrease in power. We looked at each other than quickly switched the G1000 Multi-Function Display (MFD) engine page to check for any anomalies. There were no red flags As we were doing that the issue replicated itself. At that point we agreed an issue might be imminent and that he would continue to fly the plane and I would take over the radios if an emergency developed. We knew altitude was on our side and we agreed on an airport we could safely glide to while we troubleshooted the issue. Unfortunately, we had not identified a likely cause when the issue happened twice more in short succession. Each time we were seeing manifold pressure decrease with the hiccup and we noticed the oil temperature was lower than normally expected but still no clear cause or resolution presented itself.

Despite that we had a specific mission for this flight, "to pick up his daughter", we agreed there was a significant risk at hand and that we would be best to troubleshoot this issue on the ground and have a mechanic checkout the engine. It would have been easy for Ray to have stayed in "Mission" mode or to be swayed by Get-There-Itis and keep pushing through. But, we are both all too familiar that too many pilots have lost their lives or their aircraft with such decisions.

Without thinking about it we had just completed Perceive and Process in the FAA's Solution and Recognize in the Air Safety Foundation's thought process. Now it was time to Act or Perform. We agreed now was a good time for some Crew Resource Management (CRM) so Ray continued to focus on flying the plane while I took over responsibilities for radio communications. We informed Air Traffic Control that we wished to divert to Delaware County Airport in Muncie, IN. As we switched over to the Delaware County Tower the controller was aware we had been experiencing some engine irregularities and radioed "Columbia N262RK are you declaring an emergency?", a phrase no pilot wants to hear. I was relieved to be able to respond "Negative, we are not declaring an emergency and we have the runway in sight." A few minutes later we were safely on the ground.

A few years ago I made a precautionary diversion due to deteriorating weather conditions, this was the first diversion related to a mechanical malfunction but proved to be my best example in my flying experiences of appropriate use of Aeronautical Decision Making skills. A few days later I learned the mechanics determined the issue was caused by pin size holes in an exhaust host to the engine manifold, which I guess is common in turbo planes. The plane was not in imminent danger but I believe we made the right decision mitigating the risk.

A wise person once said "the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is your attitude" and on that day we had the right attitude and enjoyed our afternoon at the quiet Muncie airport enjoying a meal at Kacy J's Airport terminal restaurant while we waited for the cavalry. Marc, the Leading Edge Flying Club President, offered to fly down in the club Cirrus SR20 to help us complete the mission. As a result I got another new experience out of the day. It was my first time flying in the Cirrus SR20 which Marc let me fly for much of the short flight from Muncie, IN to Oxford, OH. I enjoyed a brief visit to Oxford before we turned for home. With four passengers and some baggage we had to manage fuel and make a fuel stop in Lafayette, IN before successfully completing the trip back to Chicago.

Although the flight did not go as planned, I had a great day of flying and aviation camaraderie none the less. Below are some photos from the day.

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December 12, 2010

Scenic New York City Flight Via Class Bravo Airspace

todd_mike.jpgIn my mind there is no better sightseeing than aerial sightseeing. Over the Thanksgiving weekend while visiting family, I met up with Mike Bennett from 110Knots.com to explore New Jersey and New York from the air. A few years ago I flew the Hudson Corridor route to get an amazing view of New York. On that flight we stayed below the Class B airspace. This type of flight was criticized last year when a helicopter and plane crashed in this congested and uncontrolled airspace. Mike offered to show me the other New York Flightseeing experience, the Class Bravo flight experience.

I met Mike at his home base airport, Morristown Municipal, and we pre-flighted his club's Cessna 182RG while he filled me in on his route of choice. He prefers to explore New York City from the Class B airspace. His plan was to request a frequency change to Newark Tower (just a few miles away) right after take-off, then request to fly into Class Bravo airspace over Newark up the Hudson to Central Park, cross the park and travel back down the East River then crossing back past Newark.

We were flying the Sunday after Thanksgiving, often considered the busiest travel day of the year. I was a bit worried that Air Traffic Control would be less than welcoming to our request on such a busy day. However, ATC could not have been more accommodating. As soon as we were airborne we called up Newark Tower who cleared us into the Class B and asked us to overfly runway 22 numbers at 2,500. As we approached Newark we had a fabulous view of Statue of Liberty with the city along our horizon. We received some traffic advisories but most of it was helicopter traffic below the Class B airspace.

Statue_of_Liberty.jpgAs we flew up the Hudson and approached the northern part of Central Park, we were handed off to LaGuardia, who instructed us to ensure we stayed over the East River and did not fly any further east. From there we flew south back down towards the Statue of Liberty. We took in some amazing views of the buildings, parks and bridges.

I am used to the congested airspace of Chicago but was impressed with Mike's almost effortless ability to rapidly transition from Morristown to Newark to LaGuardia, back to Newark then on to New York Center. We talked about his instrument training and how that helped him to become a better pilot, as it does for most pilots. I was inspired after flying with him and further charged to pursue my Instrument Rating.

Once we were done sightseeing we flew back over Newark and headed west to Pittstown, NJ. We landed at Sky Manor (N40) which calls itself "The best little airport in the East." It lived up to it in my book. This is quaint little airport with a 50 foot wide by 3,000 foot long asphalt strip that has a restaurant located right off the runway. The restaurant offers great windows for grading landings. A perfect place to enjoy the company of fellow pilots and to do some real flying in addition to some hangar flying. I have moved it to the top of my list of Best $100 Hamburgers.

After brunch we did a short hop back to Morristown. It was a great flight in which we logged 1.3 hours, I had my first flight in a Cessna 182, added two new airports to my list of visited airports, took in some amazing sights and enjoyed some nice conversation. This day re-enforced my belief that there is no community better than the aviation community.



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October 11, 2010

Fall Foliage: A Perfect Excuse to Fly

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Fall is my favorite season for flying. A combination of mild weather for preflight of the airplane, enjoying the cool breeze entering the cockpit from an open window and the view of autumn's magnificent show of colors is the perfect combination for me. This past weekend Northern Wisconsin experienced their peak weekend for the annual fall show of colors. There are numerous scenic drives in the Door County Peninsula that show off the brilliance of this season, though the best view requires getting airborne.

I rented a Cessna 172 from MaxAir, the new Fixed Based Operator at the Sturgeon Bay Cherryland Airport, and flew an oval circuit around the Door County peninsula. The Cessna is a great aircraft for fall foliage flights because the raised wings give you an unobstructed view of the colors below. The conditions were perfect for the flight. At both Sturgeon Bay and Ephraim-Fish Creek Airport the winds were calm with great visibility and high ceilings. In the air the ride was smooth and I enjoyed flying most of the flight with the pilot side window open and taking in a nice smooth and cool fall breeze.

I was not surprised that on such a beautiful afternoon, I was not the only one with the idea of enjoying the fall colors from above. The skies were crowded at times as were the patterns at the two uncontrolled airports I visited during the flight. However each pilot seemed to be operating with their "A Game" as all pilots were on the same page and communicating their intentions clearly, which was nice.

Pilots if you haven't already, get out and enjoy the show. Aviation enthusiasts and future pilots what better time to take an introductory flight and learn about flying with one of the greatest backdrops below.


Posted at 10:49 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Comments (5) | Save & Share This Story

February 2, 2010

The Hibernating Pilot and Blogger

flighttime.jpgI have been flying now for nearly six years. One thing that has been consistent throughout that time frame is my inability log significant flying time in the winter. Although, I had hoped things would be different this year, alas I have not flown in several months as we work through the one of the cloudiest winters in Chicago's history. According to Tom Skilling we had 27 sunless days between December 1, 2009 and January 31, 2010 making this the third cloudiest winter since records have been kept in over 116 years.

With fewer clear days it makes it difficult for us pilots who rent the aircraft we fly. With fewer days of sunlight in the winter the competition gets fierce when a sunny day finally shows up on the five-day forecast which often makes it difficult to find a plane to fly in the winter.

Curiosity drove me to look through the logbook to determine how much less I fly in the winter compared to other seasons. I factored out the four summer months in 2004 when I logged most of my hours to earn my license as to not skew the data too heavily. Even with the omission of the training hours I discovered that only 10% of my flight time has been logged in the winter. The number was even worse, just 6.5%, if I included the 47.5 hours flown in the summer of 2004 to earn my license. This is a frustrating fact for any pilot who knows that flying consistently is directly tied to safety.

On the bright side, although Punksatony Phil may think we have six more weeks of winter, based on looking at my flying history I only have about four more weeks of Winter. Come March I tend to end my flying hibernation as I typically begin to make up for lost time and fly much more consistently from March through May making the Spring the season I log the most hours.

Fall nudges out summer for the number two season, which is no surprise as it is by far my favorite season to fly. It is hard to beat viewing the changes in the fall colors from above?

Thanks for all those who have reached out to ask where I have been. As I start to get airborne more regularly I am sure I will post more frequently as well.


Posted at 9:32 PM | Post Category: Flight Time | Comments (5) | Save & Share This Story

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.

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