My Flight Blog

August 9, 2009

2009 Chicago Air & Water Show Schedule

seantucker_chicagp.jpgComing off the heels of strong crowds of nearly 600,000 aviation enthusiasts celebrating all aviation has to offer at Oshkosh's AirVenture, nearly 2.2 million people are expected to line the Chicago shoreline this weekend to enjoy the 51st Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. The Airshow returns to its traditional two-day schedule after celebrating its 50th anniversary last year with the addition of a Friday night show. That means Chicago Airshow Junkies can get a sneak peak with minimal crowds by setting out a blanket on the lakefront on Friday afternoon.

Most performers who have been hallmarks of recent Air & Water Show will be on hand again for this year's show including the locally based Lima Lima Flight Team, Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and The Firebirds Delta Team. Of course no airshow is complete without an appearance from Sean D. Tucker and Team Oracle, always a crowd favorite.

Herb Hunter will return as MC for the event, his 22nd year in that role. Each year he brings a great enthusiasm for and deep knowledge of aviation to this event.

New this year is Chuck Aaron in the Red Bull Helicopter. Helicopters have traditionally played minor roles in airshows unable to perform the awe-inspiring acrobatics feats that their fixed wing counterparts can. That changed a few years ago when aviation enthusiast and Red Bull founder, Dietrich Mateschitz, convinced Aaron to find a way to perform aerobatics in a helicopter. Aaron now pilots the Bölkow Bo-105 in a way most airshow attendees have never seen. Max has performed more consecutive rolls in a helicopter, five, than anyone else. I expect him to quickly become a crowd favorite at this year's airshow.

thunderbirds_chicago.jpgThe United States Air Force Thunderbirds are this year's headliners and will be arriving in town, earlier then normal, on Monday. They will be taking Chicago Hometown Hero Brian Otto for a ride in the back seat of one of their F-16s. So you can expect to hear the roar of their jets over Chicago all week long.

This year the water and air portions of the show have been combined. So all activities will begin at 10am this year and run through 4pm. A complete list of airshow performers can be found on the Chicago Air & Water Show website.

As in previous years I will bring coverage of the Airshow to you throughout the week. I will be attending the Airshow media day earlier in the week. If you have specific questions you would like answered let me know and I will seek out the answers for you.

Posted at Aug 09, 9:41 PM | Post Category: Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 2, 2009

Better Understanding the Value of the Sport Pilot & LSA Movement

iconaircraft.jpgDespite the Sport Pilot License being around for nearly as long as I have been flying, I have to admit that I have paid little attention to it or the growth in Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) options. Sure it is a common topic in magazines and aviation websites but having earned my license through the traditional Private Pilot process I often flipped or clicked past those articles having little interest in learning about the Sport Pilot License. It was an article in Plane & Pilot written by Kirk Hawkins, Founder & CEO of Icon Aircraft, which opened my eyes to the value of both this new license and category of planes. I will point out that I understand his point of view is not unbiased, but he makes an excellent case for the role light sport aircraft in conjunction with the Sport Pilot license can play in helping to rebuild the pilot population.

We all know that the pilot population in America continues to move backwards rather than forward. At the same time Pilots have needed to get more active through organizations or direct contact with their representatives to protect our interests in General Aviation. What we need now more than anything are more young and passionate pilots that get the bug for aviation and become staunch supporters of aviation for years to come. Having to fight the United States Government to stomp out user fees and tighter restriction on General Aviation the aviation manufacturer's and organizations and the general public have been focusing on the fact that General Aviation serves America and provides functional benefits to pilots and aviation communities. In that communication though we have lost the ability to excite some of those that are looking to fly for the fun and adventure of it, likely the spark that got most of us into flying.

Hawkins writes "In our quest for more speed, range and payload and fancier glass cockpits--we seem to have forgotten what brought us to aviation in the first place--the freedom, the fun and the adventure of flying! How many of us can remember zooming around the house at age seven, holding a plastic airplane over our heads while making airplane noises? Well, I bet none of us were thinking, 'Boy, I could really save some time getting to grandma's house, and think of the TSA lines I'll be avoiding!'"

Learning to fly five years ago in Cincinnati, OH the rates were very reasonable and I earned my license for just under $5,000. If I were to start today in Chicago where instructors charge more and access to lower cost airplanes is harder to come by I would need to budget closer to $10,000 to earn a Private Pilot certificate. If I had not learned to fly when I did the price today would likely have kept me on the wrong side of the airport fence.

RemosGX.jpgWhat the Sport Pilot License does is makes learning to fly more accessible. Cutting the hours needed to earn a license in half from forty hours down to just 20 hours. This new path to an aviation license can save a student as much as $3,000 - $5,000 greatly lowering the barrier to entry for learning to fly. Couple that with new Light Sport Aircraft that burn less fuel, rent at lower rates and can be purchased new for what many traditional aircraft cost many years after taking their first flight and this new movement makes flying financially more accessible, especially in the current economic conditions.

Hawkins references a great quote from Orville Wright "The exhilaration of flying is too keen, the pleasure is too great, for it not to be a sport." I learned this weekend while having my first experience behind the stick of a Light Sport Aircraft how much fun flying one of these sporty little planes can be.

Stay tuned for a review of a flight in the Remos GX, my first experience in a Light Sport Aircraft. Until then check out Bringing the Sport back to Flying by Kirk Hawkins. Also, please don't be like I was and scoff at the Sport Pilot License or the Light Sport Aircraft associated to them. They may just be what the industry needs to bring growth back to General Aviation.

July 30, 2009

Celebrating Five Years as a Private Pilot

ChicagoAirandWaterShow2008_t-6.jpgI spent much of my childhood and adult life looking up at the sky and dreaming of flying. In April of 2004 I decided to stop dreaming and making learning to fly a reality. Ninety-five days after taking my first introductory flight and after logging 47.2 hours I earned my Private Pilots license on August 1, 2004.

On Saturday, I celebrate five great years enjoying the benefits of my license including all the great places I have flown and experiences I have gained. To honor this milestone I am heading to Oshkosh, I can think of no more appropriate way to enjoy this achievement then a weekend of aviation fun at AirVenture.

In addition to my own personal flying experiences through this blog and the wonderful people I have met I have enjoyed some amazing flying experiences. Below are links to some of my favorite flights, experiences and lessons from the past five years.

Enjoy, I know I have:

Posted at Jul 30, 12:06 AM | Post Category: Flight Experiences | Comments (6) | Save & Share This Story

July 27, 2009

Pilots Unite to Celebrate Aviation at AirVenture

av09_logo.jpgPilots and aviation enthusiasts from all over the world have once again begun to converge on Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for AirVenture, the annual celebration of aviation. This event helps to stoke the fire of enthusiasm for aviation dreamers. I vividly remember attending this event and dreaming of coming back some day as a pilot. This week, I will be making my third visit to AirVenture since realizing my dream. On Saturday I will celebrate the five year anniversary of earning my Pilot's License in the best way possible: surrounded by fellow pilots and aviation enthusiasts at Oshkosh.

One of the biggest challenges for a visit to AirVenture is planning your days. I will have little more than two days at this event and will do my best to fit all I can during my time there. The AirVenture website offers a nice planning tool that allows you to search the vast list of activities and meetings and filter them by your own preferences. You can save and print your personalized itinerary. Sadly, they have not figured out a solution to clone speakers or attendees so I am going to have to miss some exciting events to participate in others.

Here are just a few of the events, meetings or sights I plan to enjoy during my visit to AirVenture.

Posted at Jul 27, 7:19 PM | Post Category: AirVenture, Airshows | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

July 22, 2009

Island Hoping to Washington Island

washingtonislandhangar.jpgJulie Summers Walker, Managing Editor of AOPA Flight Training, wrote a great article about 10 "Island Hoping" destinations in the United States. She writes "'Island hopping' may bring to mind Caribbean blue water, but in the United States, there are a number of island escapes, each with its own personality and hue, best visited in a small airplane. Your newly minted private pilot certificate can get you access to places few people get to see."

She recommends ten great island destinations to fly to and even provides some tips for planning an trip to an island based airstrip. Here list of ten Island destinations included:

  1. Tangier Island Airport (TGI), Tangier, Virginia
  2. Mackinac Island Airport (MCD), Mackinac Island, Michigan
  3. Catalina Airport (AVX), Catalina Island, California
  4. Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK), Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
  5. Put in Bay Airport (3W2), South Bass Island, Ohio
  6. Ocracoke Island Airport (W95), Ocracoke, North Carolina
  7. George T. Lewis Airport (CDK), Cedar Key, Florida
  8. Friday Harbor Airport (FHR), Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington
  9. Jekyll Island Airport (09J), Jekyll Island, Georgia
  10. Katama Airpark (1B2), Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

washingtonislandairportdeparture.jpgMissing from the authors list was one of my favorite island airports, Washington Island, situated six miles of the northern tip of Wisconsin's Door County Peninsula. If you are planning on visiting Washington Island you will need to arrive by boat, bring your bike or car by ferry or fly into Washington Island Airport. Flying to Washington Island from anywhere south of the Island provides a scenic flight along the Door County Peninsula. The Peninsula is 75 miles long and 10 miles wide and narrows as you travel northeast and culminates with the quaint Washington Island. You will enjoy viewing corn mazes and beautiful bays and lighthouses along the route. On Washington Island there are several great places to catch a bite to eat.

For the 56th year the Lion's Club of Washington Island hosted their Annual Fly-In Fish Boil this past weekend. Typically the event draws planes from all over the Midwest and Canada. The island airport features two runways, one of which was recently closed to be expanded from a 1,300 feet to a more manageable 2,250 feet. When completed the airport will feature two turf runways each with a length of 2,250 feet which will surely make this airport more accessible on those windy days.

Below are some of my photos from a visit to Washington Island Airport last year. If you are looking for a fun place to fly to this summer, I recommend you check out Washington Island.

Get the flash player here:
Posted at Jul 22, 10:09 PM | Post Category: Door County, Fly-in, Flying Destinations | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

July 12, 2009

Identifying Your Aircraft in Uncontrolled Airspace

In the most recent issue of AOPA Flight Training Rod Machado answers a reader's question about the proper way to describe your airplane when making radio calls in uncontrolled airspace. The Aeronautical Information Manual is unclear stating that pilots should state the "aircraft type, model or manufacturer's name followed by the digits, letters." As soon as I read the question I knew my preference and was interested to read Machado's response which turned out to be in agreement with my method.

Machado suggests identifying your aircraft by manufacturer name rather than model as "some folks may not know all the different models of airplanes." However he explains "most people can tell the difference between a Cessna and a Piper aircraft" based on their wing position.

While approaching an uncontrolled airport last week there were two other aircraft in the vicinity and one was departing the airport toward the direction I was arriving from and I was scanning the horizon for him. The plane in the pattern was a Piper and the departing aircraft announced himself as a Centurion, which sounded familiar but I could not picture the plane. Moments later I saw a high wing planned and assumed that was the southbound traffic. It turns out the Centurion is a Cessna 210. Had he announced that he was flying a Cessna I would have known immediately that this was the plane I was looking for based on its raised wings.

For this reason I have always used "Cessna" in my calls no matter whether I am piloting a Cessna 152, Cessna 172 Skyhawk, or a Cessna 182 Skylane. The only exception is when I am talking to controllers I will often provide both the manufacturer and model as the controllers are often interested in the model to estimate your speed, however at uncontrolled airports I believe the shorter and simpler manufacturer name will suffice.

What is your preference?

Posted at Jul 12, 7:19 PM | Post Category: In the News | Comments (5) | Save & Share This Story

June 24, 2009

Spread Your Wings and Fly

flyabout.jpg"I have never been a very frightened person. But there is one thing I am terribly scared of, and that is that I would wake up one day, be 82 years old and realize I didn't live the life I wanted to live."

This one of the opening quotes from Monika Petrillo's documentary, Flyabout. At the age of 24, Petrillo decided to follow a lifelong dream and learn to fly. She explains that learning to fly was a way to prove to herself that she was living the life she wanted to live. Soon after, a funny thing happened: her father was so inspired by her actions that he discovered he also had an interest in flying and earned his license that same year. They then decided to take advantage of their new skills and joined a tour group for a self-fly air safari that would circumnavigate Australia.

I knew this film would be right up my alley because it combines both my love of flying and also my passion for travel. The quote above resonated so well with me because I had similar thoughts several years ago. It was that fear of living with regrets that drove me to start this blog back in April of 2004 and to finally seek my license, one of the best decisions of my life.

For me, this was a wonderful film. It is not nearly as polished as some of the more recent aviation documentaries like One Six Right or the clips we have seen from the in-production film A Pilot's Story. Most of this film was shot from Monika's point of view with her literally holding a hand held camera and often turning the camera onto herself. But it combines aviation, travel and an interesting story of a women who sees herself maturing during this experience. Petrillo spends a lot of time while flying contemplating how her relationship with her family has changed as she grows older. She begins to associate this flying experience, to be similar to an Aboriginal walkabout which is a rite of passage that often takes place during adolesence, hence the name of the film - Flyabout. She experiences many flying and relationship challenges during this trip that she was able to overcome due to her wonderful attitude. She commented that "the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is your attitude", a lovely quote I wrote down as soon as I heard it.

I want to thank Dan Pimentel of Av8rdan's World of Flying for his recent review of the film. If you are an aviation enthusiast I am confident you will enjoy this film. You can purchase it on DVD directly from the Flyabout website. If you are planning on attending AirVenture 2009 be sure to check out one of several screenings scheduled for the week. Monika Petrillo will be on hand to discuss her experiences. I recently learned that after several years of not flying due to becoming a mom, Petrillo has just recently completed a BFR and is looking forward to flying frequently again.

Posted at Jun 24, 8:03 PM | Post Category: Aviation Movies | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

June 22, 2009

Knowing When It Is Time to Go-Around

When I was learning to land my flight instructor spent significant time focusing on how to perform a go-around. She beat into my head that a go-around was not in anyway a failure but the smart and safe thing to do anytime you are unhappy with your approach or landing attempt. I know from conversations with my CFI one of the factors she looked for before signing me off to solo was solid decision making skills. She wanted to see that I was wise enough to recognize when a landing approach was not going well and that I was confident enough to make a snap decision to abort the landing an skilled enough to execute a go-around landing.

Bruce Landsberg wrote in an AOPA article that "...coming back for a second try at the runway is a skill that everyone needs but many lack." Bruce Landsberg. When was the last time you practiced or thought about a go-around?

Pat over at Aviation Chatter recently posted a dramatic video clip of a twin piston, making a landing at St. Barthelemy Airport, a small 2,100 foot airstrip in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, as you will see in the video the pilot failed to make the decision to perform a go-around. Instead the plane floats halfway down the runway before finally touching down then overshooting the runway. Take a look at this video. Then think about whether you have practiced or at least thought through the go-around procedures for your plane recently.

It is vital that as pilots we are accustomed to thinking about the go-around decision during each approach. Budd Davisson writes, "If at any time in the approach or landing, right into final flare, you feel as if it isn't right, go around." Pilots should know when to make the decision and the precise steps to execute the go-around. I had a valuable learning experience just a few months after earning my license that reminded me to keep "Power Up, Pitch Up, Clean Up, Talk Up" in the back of my mind on each approach.

On a turbulent and windy day I flew to Indiana to land at a narrow 40-foot single strip runway. I had a stabilized approach until I was about 100-200 feet above the ground. A gust of wind caused the plane to drift off the centerline and in fact almost over the left edge of the runway. I immediately realized this approach was not going well and I should not try to salvage a landing on this attempt. I made the go-around decision.

Unfortunately, I did not follow standard procedure and accidentally put in full power and retracted the flaps completely putting myself in a precarious position. It took a second or two, which felt more like a minute, to realize I was still descending despite the power increase and the pitch change and I quickly put in an appropriate amount of flaps for the go-around. Sure enough the plane started to accelerate and then climb safely over the obstacles at the end of the runway at which point I began to "clean up". That learning experience helped re-enforce for me the importance of getting muscle memory in place for performing the go-around procedure and also not delaying in making the go-around decision.

Posted at Jun 22, 7:28 PM | Post Category: Flight Lesson, In the News | Comments (6) | Save & Share This Story

June 19, 2009

Airbus A380 is Coming to AirVenture 2009

airbus.jpgThe folks at the always do an excellent job of bringing in the top aviation attractions to their annual airshow. One of the exciting additions to the 2009 roster will be the Airbus A380. I have enjoyed sneaking peaks of this amazing plane from my window seats on a few commercial aircraft. I am looking forward to having a chance to see this amazing aircraft close and personal later this summer.

The A380 will arrive and conduct a flight performance on Tuesday, July 28th. After the performance they will park it on the tarmac for show visitors to view. It will take to the skies again on July 31st and perform another demonstration flight before making its show departure.

Airbus Americas Chairman T. Allan McARtor commented "It makes perfect sense for the A380 to be featured at Oshkosh - not only because it is the largest passenger aircraft in history, but also because the remarkable A380 would not have been possible without the considerable support of our airline - and supplier-partners from around the world who worked with us over many years to make the aircraft a reality."

Fellow Chicago Aviation Blogger, Rob Mark of Jetwhine, had the opportunity to fly the A380 earlier this month. Visit to read his write-up and to listen to a podcast interview with Rob about his experiences in the Cockpit of the A380.

The excitement for AirVenture 2009 is definitely building with this recent news.

Posted at Jun 19, 2:47 PM | Post Category: Airshows, EAA AirVenture | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

June 18, 2009

Two Bloggers Flying Across America

flyingacrossamerica.jpgOne of the things I love about General Aviation is the great community of pilots. The pilot community is also very active on the Internet as represented by the long yet not exhaustive list of blogs on my blogroll. Two bloggers that I read often, Jason Schappert of and Vincent Lambercy of are organizing a cross-country flight in a Cessna 150. When I say cross-country I mean a real cross-country flight not your typical 50NM plus local cross-country.

One year from today they will fuel up Jason's trusty Cessna 150, N512R, and depart from Daytona Beach, FL and fly a yet undetermined route to Catalina Island, CA and back. The two pilots are estimating the trip, with some leisurely stops, will take approximately 70 hours of flight time over a three-week period. They will surely be discussing this trip on their blogs listed above but also on the website dedicated to this journey -

Their reason for making this flight is to spread the word about the benefits of General Aviation. A message that needs to be spread now more than ever before. They are looking for financial and non-financial support for this flight and details can be found on the Support Us section of their website. They estimate the cost of this venture will be approximately $15,000. Any extra donations over the amount needed to cover their expenses will be donated to an aviation-oriented charity.

I look forward to following their updates as the plane this trip then following them once the trip begins.

Posted at Jun 18, 6:14 PM | Post Category: Aviation Adventures, Aviation on the Web | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story
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