October 9, 2005

Scenic Fall Flying

ephraim_airport_3d2.jpgI just returned from enjoying a beautiful fall weekend in Northern Wisconsin. While there, I rented a Cessna 172 from Orion Flight Service at the the Sturgeon Bay Cherryland Airport. Since I had not rented with Orion since the Fourth of July weekend, I flew with one of their instructors so I could be cleared to rent with them for the next few months.

I met an Rob at 8 o'clock on a chilly Saturday morning. I think the temperature was about 40 degrees when I arrived at the airport, the winds were calm and the skies were overcast at 3,500 feet. I took off on runway 02 and quickly turned north towards the Ephraim Airport in the northern portion of the Door Peninsula. Although there were overcast skies the visibility was excellent underneath the clouds. Shortly after taking off and climbing to 2,500 feet I could see clear across Lake Michigan to the Sleeping Bear Dunes of Michigan which meant we had at least 75 miles of visibility.

The view below was beautiful as well as fall has taken effect in Wisconsin and there was a nice range of yellow, orange and red leaves on the trees below. The flight to Ephraim is a short 20 minute flight. Ephraim is a small airport that has two runways, a grass runway and an asphalt runway. The City of Ephraim and their airport were featured in the Summer 2004 issue of Pilot Getaways. I was anxious to make my first landing there. Even better was the winds were favoring the turf runway so I entered the pattern for my first turf landing in over a year.

Soft-field runways require a slower than normal touchdown speed. Additionally, you need to keep pressure off the nose wheel during the landing by using continuous back pressure on the yoke. I executed a nice pattern and followed that up with a great soft landing on the turf at Ephraim. I then back taxied to prepare for the departure. Departing from a soft-field you try to again minimize pressure on the front wheel and apply back pressure to get the plane off the ground into ground effect quickly. Once in ground effect you fly a few feet above the ground and let the airplane build up airspeed before beginning your climb. Departing from this Turf runway you climb over a forest of trees followed by a beautiful view of the bay and the city of Ephraim. After such a great experience on the turf I decided to next practice a crosswind landing and entered the downwind leg for the asphalt runway. In a crosswind landing you spend a much of the time on final approach making small adjustments to the rudders and the ailerons to adjust for the wind and then land the rear wheel on the side of the wind first befor bringing down the other rear wheel then finally the nose gear. I made another great landing and was feeling pretty good about how well I was flying.

From there Rob and I flew back towards the Cherryland Airport. Rob was nice to point out some great sites along the shore including tone of the most photographed lighthouses in Wisconsin, the Cana Island Lighthouse. We also flew over the City of Glasgow shipwreck. I really enjoyed flying with Rob, we had a great time talking aviation while enjoying a fun flight.

When we returned to the Cherryland Airport the AWOS stated the winds were coming directly down runway 02. I knew it would allow me to make a perfect landing to finish the day. Sure enough I made a nice smooth landing completing a great flight.

This was my first flight in a few months outside of the busy airspace of Midway Airport in Chicago. When flying in Midway you don't always get the benefit of flying a standard pattern and instead commonly fly a straight in landing approach. I have found that makes it harder to consistently make great landings since most training for landings is within a standard left traffic pattern. Getting back into an environment where I could perform the standard pattern I felt much more comfortable and confident and it showed in my landings. I think I may continue to look at airports in the Chicago area and see if I can find one that has that small airport feel I had in Cincinnati and I enjoy when I am in Door County.


Posted at 10:33 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Door County, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

September 10, 2005

Flying the Cessna 172

n122fr.jpgSince moving to Chicago I have flown at two different fixed based operators (FBO) that were based at two different airports. At the same time I have flown three different planes. Since I am a big fan of consistency I have decided that I am going to try and fly just one aircraft and concentrate on one FBO and airport.

I decided to select the Cessna 172 as the plane I will concentrate on in the near future. The 172 is one of the most common planes that can be found at almost any FBO and it is a larger plane than the Diamond Eclipse allowing me to have more flexibility for passengers or cargo. I did most my training in the Cessna 152 which is similar but smaller than the 172 so I feel very comfortable in it.

Today I flew out of Midway with Alex of Midway Aviators in one of their two Cessna 172s. We flew south to Lansing where we worked on landings. With today's flight I now have approximately eleven hours of flight time in the Cessna 172 but I look forward to increasing that number soon.

This was only my second flight from Midway and already I am feeling much more comfortable with the radio communications at this busy airport. I was able to make almost all the calls and replies without assistance from my instructor. I have really enjoyed my experiences at Midway.

When you fly in a controlled environment often the tower will notify you of nearby aircraft and ask if you have that aircraft in sight. Sometimes that can be difficult if the plane is small, despite being told the altitude and general direction of the aircraft. It was fun this afternoon when the tower notified me of a Southwest 173 at my 3 o'clock landing on the parallel runway to mine. No troubles spotting that tin can.


Posted at 8:09 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

August 18, 2005

Flying with the Lima Lima Flight Team

limalima1.jpgToday I had the opportunity to attend the press day for the 47th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show. Over the next few days I will post some stories about the day. I will dedicate this post to the highlight of the day: A Flight with the Lima Lima Flight Team.

I drove down to Gary International Airport where most of the planes are based during the air show. The only other time I had been to the Gary International Airport is when I did a brief landing there while flying in a Cessna 172. The 172 would have looked out of place today with the military jets and all the performance aircraft.

When I arrived I learned I would have a chance to fly with the Lima Lima Flight Team. It was hard containing my excitement. I had talked on the phone earlier in the week with John "Ripper" Rippinger about the team. In our conversation his enthusiasm for the T-34 jumped through the phone I new if I had a chance to go flying during the press day I wanted to go with Lima Lima. John suggested I fly in the plane that occupied the fifth spot in the six plane formation which would afford me a great vantage point for some photos. So he introduced me to the pilot of that aircraft Skip "Scooter"Aldous.

I felt comfortable with Skip as my pilot from the moment I met him. He was a gentleman who seemed to exude confidence. Maybe the fact that he has been flying for over forty years. Most of his flight time was in the U.S. Air Force where he built a nice resume of planes including: T-33, T-37, T-38, F-102, F-106, and the F-16 (same as will be seen this weekend flown by the Thunderbirds). Between his time in the military and after retirement he has flown over 6,000 hours and he has flown with Lima Lima since 2000. With approval of his credentials in place I was ready to strap myself into the T-34.

Literally, I strapped myself to the plane. The first thing I had to do was put on my parachute (yeah I said it I needed a parachute). Next I belted myself to the rear seat of the T-34. Bill went through the emergency bail out procedure but promised it would not be necessary. With the safety review out of the way we fired up the powerful T-34 and began our taxi to the runway.

The Lima Lima Flight consisted of six planes. The first four took off in formation then my plane and the sixth plane in the formation took off a few seconds later. We met up with the others creating a formation of six shortly after takeoff. It was amazing to see aircraft so close to our wing.

limalima2.jpgIt was a bumpy morning but as the planes flew over Lake Michigan we found smoother air. That is when the show really began. We started off with some steep banks which were amazing. Then we performed a maneuver called the Wifferdill where each plan in the formation one at a time would peal away by pulling back on the yoke and sending the plan into a nearly straight up climb. Then the pilot would rotate to the left until the nose of the plane went from a climb into a dive back towards the lake. During this move we experience 2.5 to 3Gs. It felt like I had two men standing on my chest. I cannot imagine what it would be like to experience more intense g-forces.

During some of the manuevers the planes would turn on the smoke machines which made for a cool site being in a plane at the rear of the pack. It was exciting to watch us whip through a tight turn following the trail of the flight in front of us.

On our return to the airport we did a fly over of the runway then performed a Pop-Top Break where each plane pulled back and to the side of the yoke pulling the plane out of the formation and rolling us back around the other dirction. That was followed by a tight turn to bring us onto final for landing. It was the quickest twenty minutes I have experienced in a long time.

I cannot wait to see the Lima Lima Flight Team perform this weekend in their beautiful yellow T-34s. I know they will put on an enjoyable show for all to see.

I put together a minute and a half long movie that includes some photos and video clips which you can be downloaded here in two sizes: 2mb .mov & 7mb .mov (higher quality). I also created a Lima Lima Flight Photo Gallery. Additionally, Chris Booker of the Chicago Tribune shot some great footage of our flight. The plane he is shooting during takeoff is mine.

August 6, 2005

Chicago Midway Flight Experience

swa_737_small.jpg
What a great flight experience I had today. I woke up early to make it out to Midway Aviators by 8am. As I drove down Cicero Avenue I heard the roar of a Southwest 737 departing Chicago Midway International Airport - the very airport I would be flying out of this morning.

The security at Midway is much more stringent than the standard uncontrolled fields I have spent so much time at. Instead of walking from my car directly to my plane, I met with Alex, my Certified Flight Instructor, at the Midway Aviators office. From there we drove to a security gate where he needed to show Midway credentials for us to have access to the flight line.

We completed the pre-flight review of the plane so next up was to start the communications with Midway ATC. First, I contacted Midway Departure Clearance. I let them know I had listened to the most current weather briefing and told them I would be departing to the south. After that, I was directed to contact Midway Ground Control who said "2-2-zulu-mike taxi to 4 left via foxtrot-kilo hold short of 4 right." A Southwest 737 was landing on 4R so we held short as directed and enjoyed watching it land right in front of us. As soon as that flight passed we expedited our taxi across 4R and made our way to our runway.

Once at runway 4L, I contacted the Midway Tower and notified them I was ready to depart. The provided me clearance to take-off and asked me to follow the runway heading on departure and to climb to 2,000. I was excited that I was able to handle all of these radio communications without difficulty. I was feeling very confident.

Once I began my takeoff roll the Diamond Eclipse did not take long to get airborne. This runway points directly at downtown Chicago so I had a great view of the city skyline in front of me and the Midway Terminal filled with 737s below and to the right. I was in heaven!

After clearing Midway airspace and flying south for a while I performed some standard practice maneuvers (slow flights, stalls, 45° banks, etc.). All of which are fun in the Diamond Eclipse. Then I performed my best landing in a while at Lansing Municipal Airport where we stopped to fuel up.

midway_final_small.jpgAfter departing Lansing we tuned the navigational devices for Midway and flew directly to the airport. The airport activity had picked up while we were gone. I was now having more difficulty listening to and deciphering the radio communications. Luckily, Alex was there to help out with many of the communications with Midway during our return so I could concentrate on landing the plane. The ATC had us fly over the airport so we could make a left turn onto the downwind leg of 4L. So as we flew over the airport we were flying directly over runway 31C which had an ATA 737 that was waiting for us to clear the airspace before departing. It was kind of fun knowing those people below were waiting for my little two seat general aviation plane to fly over before their trip could begin.

As I turned onto the downwind leg I could see a Southwest 737 coming in on final on the runway parallel to mine. As I turned us onto final for 4L we had a great view of the airport and the city and Alex was kind enough to take a photo of it for me. I think I must have been distracted by the view because my landing was not very good But, it could not put a damper on my day.

I really enjoyed flying out of Midway and my second flight in a Diamond Eclipse. I look forward to getting back out there. I uploaded a few photos from the flight to share with you.


Posted at 7:36 PM | Post Category: Diamond Eclipse, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

August 5, 2005

Preparing for Midway Flight Experience

midway.jpgWhen I moved to Chicago I asked my readers for suggestions on airports and fixed based operators in the area. I was surprised how many people posted or e-mailed me about how much they enjoy flying out of Midway. I always assumed a large airport like Midway wouldn�t be friendly to general aviation pilots. I am excited to hear that is not the case and tomorrow I have the opportunity to experience flying from Midway airport firsthand.

Thanks to suggestions from a few readers I have chosen to take a flight with Midway Aviators. I was excited to see that in their fleet of planes they have a Diamond Eclipse which is a plane I had the joy of flying once before. I am excited and nervous about this first flight in Class C airspace.

In this month's AOPA Flight Training Magazine I read an article that was perfect for preparing me for tomorrow's flight. In B is for Busy, career pilot Karen Kahn, writes about three steps for making flights to Class B and Class C airspace easier. One of her tips includes planning ahead by making sure you have an organized system for accessing airport layouts, frequencies, charts, etc. She has her own system which makes use of a letter-size clipboard. I prefer to use a knee-board. Prior to each flight that involves a new airport I update a cover sheet that I created in Excel that I put on my knee-board. The document I developed includes an airport diagram (supplement to my full size one), information for nearby navigational devices, frequencies, traffic pattern information and room for notes about weather and clearances.

Another tip that Karen offers is to actively listen to the Air Traffic Control and to anticipate what they will say to you and plan your response. By listening to how ATC is directing aircraft ahead of you it can allow you to prepare to receive your instructions. It can also get you prepared to make a clear and concise response to ATC.

Lastly, Karen offers a list of Do's and Don'ts. Here first "do" is "Take a test drive(flight) with an experienced pilot". That is exactly what I plan to do tomorrow!


Posted at 10:05 PM | Post Category: Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

July 4, 2005

Scenic Sturgeon Bay Flight

shipwreck_200.jpgHappy Fourth of July! I spent my Fourth of July weekend in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. This was my second weekend in a row up north. During my last visit, I took a check ride with Orion Flight Service in order to be able to rent planes from them over the summer.

On Saturday, I rented one of their two Cessna 172s. This was my first time flying without an instructor in over four flights, since I have been flying so many check rides. I was lucky to be joined by my wife on this adventure. I was excited for this flight as we would get to explore the northern part of the Door Peninsula that I missed on my previous flight and it would be my wife's first flight in the four place Cessna 172, having only joined me on flights in the Cessna 152 previously.

We had a great flight that started with a beautiful view of the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard Station and lighthouse (see photos). From there, we flew up the shore of Lake Michigan where we looked down upon the "City of Glasgow" shipwreck. That delivered us at the northern tip of the Door Peninsula where we looked down on islands that included: Rock Island, Washington Island and Horseshoe Island. Off in the distance we could also see the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. During our return to Sturgeon Bay we flew along the bay side of the peninsula and even spotted a corn maze. This was the second time I have flown over a corn maze, which I recommend to all pilots as it is fun to see from above.

Besides the wonderful view I was encouraged to see how much my wife enjoyed the flight. In the past she had been a little uneasy flying in the cramped and at times bouncy Cessna 152. The Cessna 172 is much more stable in flight and made her feel much more comfortable. I think her days of flying in the cramped two seater are over.

Flights like these remind me that being a pilot has many benefits but none as special as being able to explore new places and to see old places from a new perspective.


Posted at 9:50 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Door County, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

June 27, 2005

Cherryland Airport Checkride

DoorCounty.jpgI just returned from a three day weekend in Door County, Wisconsin. One of the highlights of the weekend was taking a flight out of Cherryland Airport (KSUE) in Sturgeon Bay, WI. Since I had never flown from there before I had to be checked out by the fixed based operator that rents planes from that airport, Orion Flight Services.

They had me take a brief written exam prior to the check out flight. The written exam consisted of questions that would prove I knew how to fly safely - questions about icing, weights and balances and emergency procedures. After passing that I went flying with Jason, a flight instructor with Orion. We did a basic checkride spending time covering the basic manuevers: 45° turns, stalls, simulated engine outage and some landings. I passed the checkride and am cleared to fly with Orion.

Sturgeon Bay is a beautiful place to fly as it is situated on the Door peninsula just north of Green Bay. The peninsula is a narrow swatch of land between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. It makes for a scenic flight. The folks at Orion pointed out some great places to fly next time I am up that included flying over a shipwreck that is visible from the sky, historic lighthouses and several islands.

I would also like to fly to the Ephraim airport in the northern part of Door County. Ephraim was featured in a 2004 issue of Pilot Getaways Magazine.


Posted at 6:49 PM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Door County, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

June 10, 2005

Flying in the Comfort Zone

Over the past few months as I prepared for the move to Chicago and during the move I had to cut back my flight time. As a result when I would get out once every month and it would take me a while to feel perfectly comfortable in the plane again. It is not to say I ever felt unsafe because that is not the case but instead I felt like I needed to concentrate twice as hard and rely on checklists much more that when I was flying more regularly.

Today I had my first flight where I felt as comfortable again as I did when I was in the height of my training. It was one of those days where I really felt at one with the plane. I flew northwest to Lake in the Hills Airport. This is a nice little uncontrolled airport. I wonder if it was flying in an uncontrolled environment like I did for so much of my training that helped me feel so at home today. Lake in the Hills is a typical small field with a 50 foot wide runway and about 3000 feet in length. I loved it!

After completing three nice full stop landings I flew north to Campbell Airport in Gray Lake, IL. At Grays Lake I made a nice smooth landing only to have it be bounced around once on the ground by a runway that is in need of being flattened and resurfaced.

At that point it was time to return back to Palwaukee airport. As I prepared to turn my base leg for runway 34 I had a great view of O'Hare International Airport which was quite a site.

As usual it was wonderful spending a little over an hour in the air tonight and I look forward to my next flight.


Posted at 12:24 AM | Post Category: Cessna 172, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

April 10, 2005

Shaking the Dust off the Wings

It was a beautiful weekend in Cincinnati with clear skies, calm winds and a mild 70 degree temperature. Since I had not flown in over a month, I scheduled a Cessna 172 and a flight instructor. It was my first flight with Tom, a flight instructor with Co-Op Aviation based at the Blue Ash Airport.

Before today's flight I had only logged 5.5 hours in the Cessna 172 so I was anxious to get some more dual instruction in this aircraft. We spent the first half of the hour in the pattern working on my landings. Since I did not fly much during the winter my landings were kind of sloppy at the beginning. After three or four trips through the pattern, the landings were getting better but no where near as smooth as I used to be able to perform them. I am going to need to continue practicing landings in the 172.

Next we departed the pattern and flew north towards the practice area. We did standard procedures for an insurance or aircraft check ride. We did 45° turns, stalls and slow flight. Like the landings, it was obvious I was rusty but I improved as the flight went on and just need a little practice to get back to performing up to my standards.

flight_time_small.jpgIt was great to get back in the air today! I enjoyed flying with Tom and am going to try and schedule another flight with him soon. As I mentioned earlier, I am a little rusty having flown only a handful of hours in the past few months.

I put together a chart of my flight time since I started learning to fly. You can click on the thumbnail image to the right to see the full size graph. I really racked up the hours last fall. When I first started working towards my license I wanted to be as efficient as possible so I flew up to three times a week. I would recommend that for anyone learning to fly. After earning my license in August I flew about 5 - 6 hours per month for the next few months which was enough to stay proficient and feel comfortable in the plane. Unfortunately, as the winter came along I cut my hours back to about 1 - 2 hours per month and missing flights completely in March. I hope with the nice spring weather starting to take hold I can get back in the habit of logging between 4 - 8 hours a month.


Posted at 5:14 PM | Post Category: Flight Time | Save & Share This Story

February 27, 2005

Successful Checkride in a Diamond Katana

katana.jpgOver the past few months while flying out of Blue Ash Airport I have encountered a fun looking plane called the Diamond Katana. I have always wondered what it would be like to fly it. I decided to find out first hand. For the past two weeks I have been planning to fly the plane but have been hampered by the weather. Saturday, the weather was hazy but clear enough to allow me to fly.

The plane is owned and rented by Blue Ash Aviation. It is the neighboring fixed based operator to the one I normally fly with. Before I could get out to the plane I had to fill out a few forms and have them review my logbook. But, that was only about a 15 minute set back. Then I met with Tom, a nice flight instructor, who would walk me through the pre-flight and accompany me on my flight and help familiarize me with the plane and its characteristics.

This plane is drastically different to the Cessna's I am used to flying. Here are some key differences:


  • The Katana is a low wing plane

  • The Katana uses a control stick rather than a yoke

  • The are no doors only a sliding canopy

  • The plane is built from plastic not aluminum

  • Fuel is not gravity fed but requires a fuel pump

katanacockpit.jpgWe spent 10 minutes reviewing the cockpit features then did a thorough walk around pre-flight check of the plane. After the pre-flight review was completed we climbed in, started her up and headed out to the runway. On our way out to the runway we reviewed the flight performance information. The Pilot Operating Handbook for this plane recommends the use of flaps for takeoff and has a specific takeoff setting for flaps. With the use of flaps the plane begins its takeoff rotation at just 44 knots. Initial climb is at 57 KIAS and then after flaps are raised the final climb is conducted at 78 KIAS.

I could not believe how quickly the plane jumped off the runway as soon as I pulled back on the control stick. This plane wants to fly! One of my biggest concerns for this flight was going to be flying by control stick versus the yoke I am accustomed to. Getting used to the control stick took about 10 seconds if that. It is really and easy way to fly.

We flew direct to the practice area. On the way I enjoyed the enjoyed the great view from the Katana's great canopy window. Once at the practice area I performed some 45 degree bank turns. It was at this point that I realized this was a sports car compared to the Cessna 152 which is a dependable plane but not built for performance. The plane maneuvered through tight 45 degree banks effortlessly. Next we performed a variety of stalls: Power off, Power on, Takeoff configuration, etc. Although the plane would stall it took barely any effort from me to recover from the stall. The plane naturally wanted to rotate back into a safe flying attitude. This plane just wants to fly!

We then returned to the airport to work on landings. Landings were my other concern coming into this flight. I wondered if landing a low wing plane would be much difficult from a raised wing plane. It really was not. I made four really nice smooth landings.

After the final landing the instructor said he was signing me off on the aircraft so I am free to fly it on my own. I am sure I will soon as it was a joy to fly!


Posted at 5:46 PM | Post Category: Diamond Katana, Flight Time | Save & Share This Story