April 15, 2007

Joining the Windy City Flyers

wcf_noborder.jpgToday I made a new commitment to my goals of flying more regularly. After a long period of deliberation I finally selected a home airport here in Chicago. I have flown out of Schaumburg, Midway and Chicago Executive (formerly Palwaukee) over the past year but had not joined a flight club at either one.

Today, I scheduled a flight with the Windy City Flyers based at Chicago Executive. I have flown with them several times over the past year and had great experiences each time. Again today I had a great experience with the club and one of their aircraft. Getting into the air at Chicago Executive did not take long despite the beautiful weather that drove many a pilot to the airport today. I flew north and took in several landings at Waukegan Regional Airport. During high school I took a class in aviation and my teacher took me flying and we flew out of Waukegan. It was one of my first flights in a small airplane and one I remember fondly to this day. So, it was fun to visit the airport as Pilot in Command today. Visiting Waukegan brought my count for airports visited to thirty one. View my map of airports that I have landed at.

After the flight I decided it was time to make the commitment and join the club. By joining I will be able to have better scheduling access to the planes and the hourly rate for the plane is cheaper as members are charged the tach time not the hobbs time.

I have my next flight schedule for two weeks from now. I am looking forward to getting back in the habit of flying atleast one to two times per month.


Posted at 5:32 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

January 20, 2007

First Flight of 2007

wilmot.jpgThis afternoon, I fit in my first flight of 2007. I flew out of Chicago Executive (formerly Palwuakee) departing a little after noon. The weather was beautiful for flying with no visible clouds, 10 miles of visibility, and light and variable winds. I flew north out of Palwaukee towards the Illinois / Wisconsin state border and flew over the Wilmot Ski Area.

I used to ski at Wilmot when I was a kid. Seeing it from the air reminded me what a small ski hill it really is. I then made three landings at cozy Westosha Airport in Wilmot, WI. While flying through the pattern I got a nice view of the skiers and it looked like a busy day at the ski area. The photo of Wilmot to the right is from fellow pilot blog, Eblo.

After departing Westosha Airport I headed south back into Illinois for a landing at Galt Field. At Galt I performed a touch and go before heading on to Lake In the Hills for another touch and go. At that point, I headed back for Chicago Executive. Throughout the flight the air was smooth and the visibility was great. I had to keep my eyes outside the cockpit as many pilots were taking advantage of the great weather.

It was an enjoyable 2.2 hour flight to kick off 2007 and allowed me to add two new airports (Westosha and Galt) to my list of airports visited bringing my total to an even 30. My next aviation experience is scheduled for Wednesday. Sadly, I won't be in the cockpit, but going to a VIP Screening of Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag at the Imax Theater at Navy Pier thanks to my friends at the U.S. Air Force and Civil Air Patrol.


Posted at 6:10 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

December 30, 2006

Weather Scrubs Flight of Chicago Bloggers

DiamondStar.jpgThis morning I picked up fellow aviation blogger, Midway Six (Cpt. Rod), for a $100 breakfast burrito adventure. Capt. Rod flies regularly out of Midway as part of the Civil Air Patrol and also for his personal aviation through Midway Aviators. Today we planned on flying Midway Aviator's Diamond Star DA-40 which Rod has flown many times before. The Diamond Star is the four place sister plane to the Diamond Eclipse DA-20 I have enjoyed flying a few times.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate again today. It was the third flight this month that was been cancelled due to weather. The flight was scrubbed due to low visibility and low ceilings. But, I did get to fly a few days ago so I was not too let down (more on that in a moment).

Although we did not get to our destination Morris Municipal Airport (C09), we did get to enjoy some time talking about aviation and checking out some planes on the tarmac while we hoped the weather would improve. We took a look at the Civil Air Patrol's Cessna 182 and Rod showed me around the Diamond Star which looks like a roomier version of the Eclipse.

It was fun being back on the general aviation tarmac at Midway and makes me wonder whether it would be a good place to be my home base for flying. Just a few days prior I took a brief flight out of the newly renamed Chicago Executive Airport, formerly Palwaukee. I flew with Alex of the Windy City Flyers flight club. We spent most of our time reviewing the ground paperwork necessary to be checked out to rent Windy City Flyer aircraft.

Once that was completed there was not enough time to do a full checkout flight so we took a Cessna 172 SP up and flew around the pattern a few times while practicing some landings including a short field landing simulation. Alex and I have a Cessna 172 SP scheduled for next weekend so I can perform a full checkout ride so I can rent planes from Windy City Flyers.

Here is hoping January's weather is more cooperative than December's.


Posted at 4:31 PM | Post Category: Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

October 8, 2006

Wisconsin Cross-Country Flight

LambeauField.jpgWith fall setting in across northern Wisconsin, the trees were starting to turn which made for a beautiful view from the ground but even more spectacular from the air. Having not flown an official cross-country flight in over a year, I decided to fly one. A cross-country flight is any flight to an airport that is at least a straight-line distance of 50 nautical miles from the origin airport. Flying out of Cherryland Airport, I selected Wittman Regional in Oshkosh, WI as my destination.

I awoke early and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over Lake Michigan while getting a weather briefing so I could complete my flight plan. I arrived at the airport around 8am and was airborne by 8:30am. Shortly after takeoff, I contacted the Green Bay Flight Service Station to open my flight plan for the trip down to Oshkosh which was scheduled to be a short 43 minute flight. After opening up a flight plan, I contacted Green Bay approach and advised them that I wished to transition through their airspace en route to Oshkosh, which they approved. At the same time, I asked if they could provide flight following.

LakeWinnebago.jpgWhen flying VFR a flight plan provides some protection in case of an emergency by allowing the FAA to know where you were going, when you expected to be there, where you might have diverted to and a few other vital pieces of information that could help them in case of an emergency. Another great service for a VFR pilot is flight following. If air traffic controllers have capacity, they can assist a VFR pilot by providing radar monitoring services. They will advise of any traffic along the route and keep an eye on your position during the flight.

As I approached the midway point of the flight, Green Bay, I took in a great view of Lambeau Field � Home of the Green Bay Packers. While overflying the town of Green Bay I could see Lake Winnebago and the cities of Appleton and Oshkosh off the front of the plane�s nose. A few minutes later, Wittman Regional Airport came into view. I informed Green Bay approach that I had Wittman in view and requested permission to change radio frequencies to contact the Wittman Tower.

During the Oshkosh Airshow, it becomes one of the busiest airports in the world. Today, it was quiet with only a few other planes in the area. I touched down close to my estimated time of arrival. During the flight down I had a headwind but the trip back proved to be quicker with a nice tailwind. I climbed up to 5,500 feet for the flight back to Sturgeon Bay and enjoyed taking in the beautiful fall colors and the great scenery of northern Wisconsin. It was just one of those perfect days to fly where the air was smooth and the view was wonderful.


Posted at 10:26 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Door County, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

September 4, 2006

Biennial Flight Review Passed

It has been two years and a month since I earned my private pilot's license. As part of the Federal Aviation Administration's regulations, pilots are required to pass a Biennial Flight Review if they wish to serve as pilot in command of an aircraft.

I had scheduled my BFR a month earlier but during pre-flight, noticed the airworthiness certificate was missing from the plane. I thought it was the Certified Flight Instructor's way of testing to see if I did a thorough pre-flight inspection. It turned out it was lost and the plane had to be grounded until it was found. It was not found until days later, unfortunately. Happily, this time out to the airport all the paperwork was in order.

For a few days leading up to the BFR I reviewed my Sporty's Private Pilot DVDs and the Federal Aviation Regulations/Aeronautical Information Manual (FAR/AIM) book that contains all the regulations that pertain to flying as a private pilot.

During the Biennial Flight Review the Certified Flight Instructor does a one hour long verbal flight review that covers regulations and concepts related to flying (e.g., Weights and balances, weather, etc.). My CFI and I spent about an hour and fifteen minutes and for the most part I was able to answer all but a few obscure questions. After the verbal part we went out for the one hour flight review. We departed Sturgeon Bay's Cherryland Airport for one of my favorite airports, Ephraim Airport. I showed my experience with pilotage, flying from one point to another using maps and ground references, to get us to Ephraim. Once there we took advantage of the beautiful turf strip there. I performed short field and soft field take-offs and landings on the turf. I truly love the nostalgic barnstorming feeling of landing on turf runways. After performing some nice crosswind landings we departed and headed back to Sturgeon Bay where we performed a wide variety of maneuvers demonstrated in most Private Pilot Check Rides or insurance check-outs: Turns around a point, stalls, 45&Deg; bank turns, etc.

When we got back to Sturgeon Bay I new there would be one more part of the test, a landing with a failed engine. Sure enough as I entered the pattern to land at Cherryland Airport my CFI announced my engine had failed and pulled the power out to simulate an engine failure. I cut the pattern short to ensure we would make the runway and brought the airplane down gently. Upon completing the landing I was informed I had passed my Biennial Flight Review.

August 31, 2006

Flying Along For the Ride

aeroshell1.jpgI have had some great aviation experiences over the past few weeks. I recently had the opportunity to fly with the AeroShell Aerobatic Team as they prepared for the 2006 Chicago Air & Water Show. The four plane team performs in their T-6 Texans, a plane used by the military to train pilots for World War II. The T-6 is a powerful single prop plane capable of inverted flight.

We took off in formation and flew out over Lake Michigan where we flew loops and barrelrolls. It was quite an experience flying inverted and flying a loop and I loved every minute of it. This was my second opportunity to fly with a performance team. Last year I flew in the backseat of of T-34, a plane used by the Lima Lima Flight Team. I uploaded some photos and video from the flight and from my time at the Press Day for the Airshow.

waco_sedona.jpgJust days after my experience with Aeroshell I was in beautiful Sedona, Arizona for vacation. While there, my wife and I visited one of the most picturesque airports in america, Sedona Airport (KSEZ). While there we could not pass up an opportunity to take in a flight in a Waco bi-plane and seeing the beauty of the Red Rocks of Sedona from above. This was the first time my wife or I had flown in a bi-plane. Like my flight experience with Aeroshell it was excellent. I have always enjoyed flying my Cessna with the windows open but flying in an open cockpit plane is a wonderful thrill.

With some of my aviation rides out of the way it is time for me to get back into the cockpit. This weekend I am scheduled for my first biennial flight review. During the biennial flight review I will undergo an hour of ground instruction followed by an hour of flight time in which I need to prove to a certified flight instructor that I still have the knowledge and skills to serve as pilot in command. It is an FAA Requirement that must be fulfilled every two years in order to continue to act as pilot in command of an aircraft.

July 5, 2006

Flying with Dad

Door County, Wisconsin I celebrated the Fourth of July holiday in Door County, Wisconsin. Whenever I am in Door County I try to take in a flight as it is an absolutely beautiful place to fly. The local Fixed Based Operator that I rent from is Orion Flight Service. A friendly operation based at the Cherryland Airport in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

Since it had been more than six months since I flew with them last I needed to take a brief written exam and then fly a check-ride with a CFI. Adam, the CFI, and I met and reviewed the written test then headed out to the airplane. Cherryland has two nice runways. The one running parallel to Sturgeon Bay is the one I have used in the past. The winds were situated such that no matter what runway I chose I was going to have a little bit of a crosswind.

I chose to take off from the runway that runs perpendicular to the bay since I had not flown that pattern before. It is the smaller of the two runways, although is still plenty long and wide at 3,200 feet x 75 feet. This runway lacks a taxiway so I back taxied to the end of the runway.

The flight review went smoothly. I enjoyed talking with Adam about his flight experiences during the flight. He has experience in tail draggers and in float planes which was fun to hear about. He also would love to go to Alaska to be a bush pilot, I can�t blame him for that.

After the check-out ride I had a special opportunity � My father was waiting on the tarmac for his first flight with me. Not sure how nearly two years have passed without me getting a chance to take him flying but it was a fun experience, although short. The check ride had run long so we only had time for about a 30 minute flight. We flew up and down the lake side of the Door County Peninsula and I let him fly for a bit. He seemed to do fine with that. Then we headed back. Unfortunately, I made one of the my worst landing in my two years of flying.

Due to the crosswind I flew the approach a little faster than normal which caused us to balloon a little on the landing flair but since we had plenty of runway left I flew it in ground effect for a couple of seconds to bleed of some speed then let it set itself back on the ground wind side wheel first. But, my foot must have been a little high on the rudder and pressing the break cause when the wheel came down the plane wanted to pivot on that wheel and had I not corrected it I think the plane would have wanted to swerve off to the side of the runway. Not the landing I had envisioned for my first flight with my Dad but I am sure there will be more to impress him with my landing abilities.

Until then maybe I will log some hours working on crosswind landings.


Posted at 6:59 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Door County, 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.

March 12, 2006

Flying on Autopilot

autopilot_1.jpgWhy hasn't anyone told me about this autopilot thing before? Sure, I have heard of planes with autopilot before but had never flown one. On tonight's flight we flew a Cessna 172 that was nicely equipped with GPS and autopilot. I have only flown an aircraft that has GPS a few times so just having that was nice. I was excited to see how the autopilot worked.

I was flying with Matt, an instructor at Northwest Aviation, since it had been a while since my last flight. We had a perfect night for flying as the temperature was in the mid-fifties. We had 10 miles of visibility and wind was less than five knots. I was surprised that with the beautiful weather the airport was not too busy.

I took off on runway 29 and headed west. Schaumburg's airport is located under the shelves of O'Hare airspace so we flew under 2,000 ft. for a while. Once we got to the practice area we did some of the basic maneuvers: slow flight, stalls (power on and off) and 45° bank turns. After that we decided to fly to a control towered field, Dupage, for some landings.

On the way Matt showed me how the autopilot worked. We first set the GPS to give us a direct course to Dupage Airport. Once we had the best course we entered it into the autopilot and set the altitude we desired, we turned on the auto-pilot. I let go of the yoke and pulled my feet from the rudders and the plane started to fly itself. It handled the turn to the proper heading and descended to the new altitude and maintained it once we reached it. As I contacted the tower and received our landing instructions and clearances, I would simply give the autopilot new instructions for heading and altitude and it would handle the rest. It was really neat to see. It allows the pilot to concentrate on doing checks for traffic, monitoring the gauges and to handle some navigation tasks. As we turned onto final approach for Dupage runway 20R I disengaged the autopilot and made a nice landing.

We circled around and did a simulated engine out landing before heading back to Schaumburg. It was a great night of learning and flying. It was great to get more experience with a GPS enabled aircraft and to explore the benefits of autopilot. I have a feeling there will be more flights in this plane in the near future.


Posted at 4:41 PM | Post Category: Flight Time | Comments (88) | Save & Share This Story

January 8, 2006

Twenty-Fifth Airport Vistited

schaumburg.jpgOn Saturday I took my first step towards my goal of spending more time behind the yoke than I did in 2004. As part of my goal, I decided I need to find an airport and FBO that I will fly from on a regular basis. After having flown at Midway and Palwaukee, two nearby towered fields, I decided to check out Northwest Aviation based at Schaumburg Regional.

Northwest Aviation has a wide variety of planes in their fleet ranging from the newer Diamond products to the more traditional Pipers and Cessnas. I scheduled time in a Cessna 172. Schaumburg is a busy single-strip airport just miles from Chicago's O'Hare Airport. I was originally worried about how the weather would be for the flight since Chicago had not seen the sun in 2006. I was pleasantly surprised to see the sun and blue sky when I went outside early Saturday morning. Unfortunately, by early afternoon when I had scheduled my flight the clouds had returned and the ceiling was little more than 3,000 feet.

We departed on runway 29 and departed to the west. Due to Schaumburg's proximity to O'Hare almost all departures head west initially to get out from under the first shelf of the O'Hare airspace which limits you to flying below 1,900 feet. Once clear of the airspace restriction I climbed up to about 2,500 and realized I could not go much higher due to the cloud cover above. Since there was no sign the weather would improve and the chance that it could get worse was good, we turned back towards the airport. But we decided to do a few landings at Dupage Airport first. The Dupage Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) weather was stating winds that were coming straight down runway 20. On short final it was obvious the winds had changed to be a steady crosswind. I made two less than perfect crosswind landings at Dupage before we decided to return to Schaumburg.

The flight from Schaumburg including the landings at Dupage represented the 24th and 25th unique airports I have visited and have updated my google map of airports I have visited. I look forward to scheduling some cross country flights in the not to distant future where I can continue to add some new airports to the tally. It was fun to get back out to the airport and get a flight in. Unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy a meal at Schaumburg's Pilot Pete's which is supposedly one of the best airport restaurants in the area.

After the flight I am not sure that I am any closer to selecting an airport or FBO. I enjoyed my experience with both Northwest Aviation and the Schaumburg airport but it is a bit of a hike for me to get to from downtown Chicago. I think I will select from the three airports and FBOs I have flown from thus far: Midway, Palwaukee and Schaumburg. But before I make a decision and commit to a flying club and FBO I may need to make a few more flights and weigh out the pros and cons of each based on convenience, costs, types of airports, planes available, atmosphere, etc. I will keep you posted.


Posted at 1:12 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story