August 2005

August 24, 2005

Runway Finder

runwayfinder.jpgA couple of weeks ago I worked with the Google API to create an interactive map of airports I have flown to as a general aviation pilot. I recently came across, a site that uses similar technology, to display airport locations across the United States overlayed on a google map.

Like a traditional Google Map users can select to view in map view, satellite view or in a hybrid view that gives you a bit of both. This site adds in its own custom view called chart view. The chart view replaces the traditional background map with a sectional map to show aeronautical chart information including obstructions and special use airspace. RunwayFinder also shows weather conditions for an area at a glance by evaluating the cloud ceiling, visibility, and wind at specific airports.

I would advise against using the weather or maps for official flight planning and continue to use FAA sanctioned resources for flight planning and preperation. But, this is a really nice site for viewing airports around your home base and getting general information to prepare for your next flight.

Now if we can just get someone to make an interactive map of the best $100 Hamburgers.

Posted at 9:11 PM | Post Category: General | Save & Share This Story

August 21, 2005

Sunday at the Chicago Air and Water Show

goldenknights.jpgOn Saturday, two Thunderbird F-16s grazed wings while in the diamond formation, causing a missile rail from one of the planes to fall into Lake Michigan. This lead to the demonstration being ended early so all the planes involved could safely return to the Gary International Airport. In addition, it was determined the Thunderbirds would not participate in Sunday's Air & Water Show.

I am glad to say the 47th Annual Air & Water Show was still a success without the Thunderbird performance. The crowd enjoyed demonstrations from all the branches of the armed forces in addition to the great civilian demonstration teams.

One of my favorite performances today was by Sean Tucker flying the Oracle biplane. Sean performed some amazing maneuvers that as a pilot had me wondering how he pulled them off. The U.S. Army Golden Knights were also very entertaining. The skydivers jumped from 10,000 feet descending at 120 MPH towards the beach where they each landed within a small ten foot circle.

aeroshell.jpgDuring the show I saw a few fun sights. The first, a child running around playing with his two diecast airplanes. It is airshows like this that will inspire the future pilots that will defend our country, fly us commercially and enjoy the benefits of general aviation. Secondly, I saw an elderly gentleman with his retired Air Force hat on who look as content as can be watching the AeroShell Aerobatic Team in their WWII trainers. From what I can tell all that made it out for the show enjoyed it.

I uploaded some photos into a gallery of images from Sunday's Chicago Air & Water Show.

Posted at 6:59 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 20, 2005

Confessions of An Airshow Addict

f22stealth.jpgSo my plan was to go to the Chicago Air & Water Show on Sunday as we have guests in town today. But when they left to have lunch with a friend of theirs, I hailed a cab and followed the roar of jet engines to the lakefront. How could I resist the excitement of the airshow since I had an hour or two to kill?

My wife and I enjoyed watching the Lima Lima Flight Team perform. It was a thrill to watch after having flown with them just two days before. While there we also enjoyed the Red Baron Squadron and part of the Sean Tucker Oracle plane performance.

The highlight of our brief trip to the show were the two F/A-22 Stealth Fighters. I knew they were only on the show schedule for today so I was excited I had the opportunity to see them fly.

The F/A-22 is a multipurpose attack and fighter aircraft being built to replace the F-15s. According to an Air Force website "the F/A-22 has demonstrated the ability to 'supercruise', flying at sustained speeds of over Mach 1.5 without the use of afterburner."

With my air show fix fulfilled for the day I think I can make it through until tomorrow's show.

Posted at 2:47 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

View Your Tax Dollars at Work

airshow1.jpgA parade of your tax dollars will be on display on Saturday and Sunday at the 47th Annual Air & Water Show. As you have read there are great military performance teams like the Army Golden Knights and Air Force Thunderbirds, but those are not the only military aircraft expected to be flying over the Chicago shores this weekend.

The list provided by the City of Chicago stated that the line-up is subject to change and planes performing will be based on availability. Thought the line-up is expected to include attack aircraft like the A-10 Thunderbolt, Bombers such as the B-1 and B-52 bombers and fighters including F-14 Tomcats and the F-117 Nighthawk. Those visiting the show on Saturday are expected to see the Stealth F/A-22 Raptor.

I uploaded some of my photos of military aircraft that were arriving to the area on Thursday to a military gallery. All planes photographed are American except the bright red Red Bull Mig Magic (Mig 17-F).

Posted at 10:52 AM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 19, 2005

United States Air Force Thunderbirds

thunderbirds_animation.jpgThe Thunderbirds are the United States Air Force's demonstration team and they are schedule to perform Saturday and Sunday in the 47th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. I had the opportunity to get up close to learn more about them and enjoy viewing their F-16s in advance of the show. For a great animation of some of the Thunderbirds manuevers and to learn about their F-16s visit the Chicago Tribune website.

I had the opportunity to listen to Major Rusty Keen talk about some experiences with the Thunderbirds. Keen flys the number two plane. He discussed the importance of planning prior to an airshow. They use maps in advance of arriving at the location. Then they try to memorize all visual references within five miles of show center in the few days of practice prior to the show. He equates the air show to a large Vegas production were everything needs to be choreographed down the most minute detail.

thunderbird_5_small.jpgHe also talked about all that goes into preparing for an airshow. Even though there are only six pilots performing in the show the Thunderbirds utilize more than 65 people to prepare the planes and to manage the show. The had a giant

While viewing the Thunderbird F-16s I noticed that plane number 5 had it's number painted on the plane upside down. Keen explained that the pilot of plane five Maj. Scottie Zamzow spends almost 80% of the show upside down so it is only fitting that his number be painted so it can be read.

The Thunderbirds will roar over the Chicago Lakefront with their wings as close as 18 inches apart on Saturday and Sunday. I cannot wait to see them perform!

Posted at 7:41 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | 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 15, 2005

Red Baron Pizza Squadron

red_baron1.jpgThe first time I saw the Red Baron Squadron® perform was last summer at the Blue Ash Airport Days in Cincinnati, OH. Flying their vintage Stearman biplanes they entertained the crowd with some close quarters formation flying while performing amazing acrobatic maneuvers. I was excited to see that the Red Baron Squadron is scheduled to perform at the 47th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show this weekend.

The pizza brand and their air show performance squadron are named after the WWI "Ace of Aces" Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen better known as "The Red Baron". The German is famous for downing 80 enemy aircraft in World War I.

The Red Baron Pizza Squadron, which is the longest-running, non-military air show act, has been performing at air shows since 1984. The team includes eight pilots who have logged more than 48,000 flight hours. Their open cockpit Stearman Bi-Planes were built in 1941 and 1943 and have been slightly modified to allow for inverted flight. The Stearman was used by the Army and Navy as a training plane during WWII. After that it became a favorite of barnstormers and crop dusters.

I am sure the Red Baron Squadron will put on a great show this weekend.

Posted at 10:56 PM | Post Category: Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 14, 2005

Chicago Air and Water Show - Press Pass

airshow_press.jpgThis weekend, more than two million people will get kinks in their necks while looking to the skies in awe during the 47th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show. The air show is the oldest and largest free show of its kind. Starting mid-week, Chicago residents will begin to hear the roar of the air show participants' planes as they practice their manuevers over the lakefront.

This year is an exciting one for me and I requested press credentials so I could have access to meet with some of the pilots, get up close to their aircraft and for opportunities to take some great photos. I am proud to announce that according to the Public Relations Coordinator at the Mayor's Office of Special Events, I am the first blogger to ever receive press credentials for one of their events.

So this week I plan to bring you a variety of posts about the Chicago Air & Water Show including some interviews with some of the pilots and some great photos from the flightline. If there are questions you have always wanted to ask an air show pilot send them along and I will do my best to get your questions answered.

This years shows includes air show performances by:

I will tell you more about each of these acts later this week!

Posted at 12:24 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 6, 2005

Chicago Midway Flight Experience

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