June 16, 2009

Quest for the Best $100 Hamburger

yelp.jpgAs a regular participant of user review site Yelp, I decided to create a list of my $100 Hamburger experiences. I have added a Yelp $100 Hamburger badge to the right-hand column of my Blog where you will be able to see the seven reviews I have made thus far. For my non-pilot readers, $100 Hamburger is the term used by pilots when they fly to a airport to enjoy a fly-in or on airport restaurant.

John F. Purner publishes a book, The $100 Hamburger, which has cataloged and rated favorite fly-in restaurants nationwide. Earlier this year Purner released his list of Top Ten $100 Hamburgers of 2009. I have had the chance to personally check-out three of the top ten representative. I felt Cincinnati's Sky Galley and Rick's Boatyard in Indianapolis were worthy members of the Top Ten list.

Purner also included Pilot Pete's, Schaumburg, IL in his Top Ten list. I have visited Pilot Pete's on several occasions and have not been equally impressed and gave it a 3-star out of 5-star rating. I would have included Kealy's Kafe in Janesville, WI in Pilot Pete's spot on the list. Kealy's serves a great breakfast and lunch that is reasonably priced. Kealy's also have a great view of the tarmac at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

One of the next restaurants I would like to checkout is Final Approach Steak House in Sheboygan, WI. If you have any Midwest $100 Hamburger suggestions, please leave a comment below.


Posted at 5:20 PM | Post Category: $100 Hamburger | Comments (4) | Save & Share This Story

May 11, 2009

A Mother's Day Brush with Get-There-Itis

flyingwithdad.jpgThis weekend I had my first opportunity to confront one of the leading killer of pilots, Get-There-itis. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association say "The determination to reach a destination, combined with hazardous weather, claims the lives of dozens of pilots and their passengers yearly." For weeks I have been planning a cross-country flight to Indianapolis. The plan was for my Dad and I to fly from Chicago to Indy to visit my Grandmother (my Dad's mother) and also enjoy the first day of time trials for the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As the flight date drew closer, the weather in the 10 day forecast continued to improve, only to disappoint the day prior to the trip. The night before our Saturday morning departure the forecast called for rain, low ceilings and high winds. When I awoke, I was encouraged by the look outside but that did not last long. A combination of online weather through AOPA's website and a call to Flight Service for a weather briefing proved that it would not be a great day for the flight. At my destination there was a direct crosswind of 18 knots, gusting to 25 with forecast for no change in winds. Additionally, at airports near Chicago there were deteriorating ceilings and reports of turbulence and wind shear. I made the executive decision to scrub the flight.

Luckily the weather looked like it would improve overnight. So I adjusted plans for a Sunday roundtrip. I woke up Sunday morning to a nearly windless blue sky. I picked up my Dad and we headed out to Chicago Executive. and before too long we were airborne and flying along the Chicago skyline enroute to Indianapolis. It was a quiet morning in the skies so we had no trouble getting flight following from Chicago Approach and throughout the flight. I enjoyed showing my Dad the the intricacies of the G1000. Having been raised in Indiana he seemed to enjoy viewing towns from above that previously he had only been accustomed to seeing from the ground level.

toddandgrandma.jpgAfter arriving at Eagle Creek Airpark we drove out to visit with my Grandmother. We decided to go back towards the airport for a Mother's Day brunch. We ate at Rick's Boatyard a favorite destination for pilots. I had to sample the Boatyard burger since it was rated in the Top 10 $100 Hamburgers of 2009 earlier this year. The burger lived up to its rating. Even better was the company. It was great sharing the flight with my Dad then enjoying a Mother's Day brunch with my Grandmother (one of my loyal readers, Thanks Grandma) and my Dad.

After the enjoyable meal I re-checked the weather. According to the briefer it looked like we would have lower ceilings but fine VFR flying weather, so we fired up the trusty Cessna and rolled down the runway for departure. Again we were able to pick-up flight following, though as we approached Chicago the controllers were getting busier and busier and finally canceled our flight following. We also noticed visibility diminishing a bit as we approached Lake Michigan and a light rain started to fall on the windshield. As we passed Gary, IN the rain increased and it became apparent that there was a storm ahead in the Chicago area.

Although we were anxious to get home to enjoy a Mother's Day dinner with my mother I knew the right call was to divert. During flight training instructors often have their students practice unexpected diversions. A pilot on my shoulder reminded me of all the horror stories about pilots flying into instrument meteorological conditions(IMC). Since earning my license I have not had a real reason to divert but found the decision came easy. I always figured I would not be one of those pigheaded pilots who suffer from Get-There-Itis, and was glad to see I could resist that urge!

I called up Gary and re-routed for landing at Gary International. My Dad and I sat back in the leather chairs at the Gary JetCenter and watched part of the Cubs game while I periodically checked in on the patchy storms working their way through Chicago. After about a forty-five minute break the weather had cleared and we were back on our way. The storm had cleared out the General Aviation traffic and we were able to pick-up flight following again for the bumpy return flight up the lakefront.

Often people ask what I love about flying. I can say that this weekend's flights was one of the best reasons to fly. I was able to spend a great day with my Dad while surprising my Grandmother for Mother's Day and enjoying her company for the day. I look forward to making this flight again sometime soon. Weather permitting, of course.

February 21, 2009

Best $100 Hamburger of 2009 Announced

pilotpetes.jpgJohn Purner, author of "The $100 Hamburger: A Guide to Pilot's Favorite Fly-In Restaurants" recently announced his Best of the Best list for 2009. Leading the pack as the best $100 Hamburger was Southern Flyer Diner in Brenham, Texas (11R).

In addition to announcing the Top Burger he also published a list of top ten $100 Hamburger's in the United States. Chicago was represented by Pilot Pete's which is located on the field at Schaumburg (06C). It is one of my favorite airport restaurants not only because it has good food but because of its location on the second floor of the terminal which provides a great vantage point to watch the planes come and go.

Also on the Top Ten list was Sky Galley located in the historic terminal at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport (KLUK). I lived no more than five minutes away from Lunken for several years and loved sitting on their outdoor patio and watching the flightline. When I finally decided to learn to fly I started my training at Lunken and that gave me even more excuses to stop by Sky Galley. If you are looking for a great place for a bite to fly to in the Cincinnati area check them out.

The last one on the list that I have tried is Rick's Café Boatyard located across the street from the Eagle Creek Airpark (KEYE) in Indianapolis, IN. They have excellent food and a beautiful view of the Eagle Creek Reservoir. What it misses is a nice view of the airport operations but if you have been in a plane all day and are looking for a place to relax with a nice view then relax on their patio and enjoy the great food at Rick's Cafe Boatyard.

Many of the other top 10 $100 Hamburgers were located a long flight from Chicago but I did notice that Final Approach Steak House in Sheboygan, WI (KSBM) made the list. After checking out their website, I think I just figured out my next cross country flight.

Take a look at the Top ten list and the 15 runner-ups and let me know what restaurant you think is missing or was over-rated.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brent613


Posted at 7:12 PM | Post Category: $100 Hamburger | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

November 2, 2008

myTransponder Fall Fly-In

janesvilleflyin_breakfast.jpgIn my previous post I mentioned the new social network for aviators, myTransponder. Although, I have met pilots from all over the country through the site I noticed there was an abundance of Midwest based pilots on myTransponder. About a month ago I decided it would be fun to meet the Midwest pilots in person. I used the myTransponder "Events" functionality to schedule a fly-in for Janesville, WI as it seemed to be centrally located for many of the pilots. Janesville also has a restaurant on the tarmac, Kealy's Kafe where we could enjoy a good meal among pilots. I was delighted that moments after scheduling the event several pilots had already replied that they were planning to attend. My only concern was if the weather would cooperate.

Sure enough the date arrived and the weather worked out in our favor. I was joined by my friend and AOPA Project Pilot Mentee, Peter. We had a nice smooth flight to Janesville that took just over 40 minutes. The only difficulty on the flight was that the Bendix Traffic Advisory system was malfunctioning and giving us incorrect warnings indicating there was airplane traffic right below us. We ended up turning off the system for much of the flight as it is very nerve wracking hearing that alarm go off in your headset even though we were confident the system was incorrect.

When we arrived at Janesville I recognized the White Cherokee that belonged to Robbie one of the myTransponder members. He had flown in from Waukegan (KUGN) and was joined by his four year old son who seemed to enjoy the flight in. We reserved a table for seven figuring we would be lucky if that many people ended up actually attending. I was amazed when more and more people started to arrive. In all we had 15 people that flew in from three different states and seven different airports.

janesvillemap450.jpg

janesvilleflyin_group.jpgSeveral blogs, podcasts and aviation websites were represented at the event including, myTransponder, Jetwhine, Flying in Chicago, Pilotcast and of course MyFlightBlog.com. We had an enjoyable meal and conversation. Special thanks to Rod from myTransponder for picking up the check. After breakfast we checked out a few of the planes on the tarmac. Those that had not yet departed posed for a photo in front of Greg Bockelman's beautiful Cessna 195.

While we preflighted the Cessna for the return trip Peter decided to wipe down the Bendix antenna to see if that would fix the false traffic alerts. Sure enough it did. I have made a mental note to add checking that the antenna is not just securely attached but also clean during future pre-flight checks. The flight back was as smooth as the flight there. We arrived back to a busy Chicago Executive Airport where we made another smooth touchdown. It was fun flying with Peter and great meeting all those fellow pilots. I am looking forward to our next fly-in!

May 31, 2008

The $150 Eggs and Toast - A Visit to Kealy's Kafe

KealysKafe.jpgOver at ReportingPoints, the AOPAPilot Blog, Nate Ferguson recently wrote a post asking whether the $100 hamburger should be renamed the $200 hamburger due to the rising cost of aviation fuel. For non-pilots, the $100 hamburger is slang for a flight in which a pilot is looking for an excuse to fly so he or she takes a short flight to a neighboring airport for a bite to eat, the cost of the flight and the burger were said to be about $100. There is even a book dedicated to the best places to get the proverbial $100 hamburger.

Since I had the Cessna booked for a morning flight I opted to go in search of some breakfast. John Keating had written about a brunch destination, Kealy's Kafe, on FlyingChicago.com so I decided to check it out. The cafe is located in the terminal building at Janesville Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport. Janesville is just over 50NM miles away which means that the flight time could be logged as cross-country time that could be used towards the cross-country requirements for an instrument rating, something I would like to pursue in the future.

I was excited, but also a little apprehensive about the flight. When I checked in with the Flight Service Station to get the weather I learned that I would encounter gusting crosswinds at both Janesville and upon my return to Chicago Executive. Luckily both airports have multiple runways, allowing me to select the runways that would minimize the crosswind factor of the winds.

Enroute, I flew over Dacy Airport which offers two turf runways. Not far from Dacy Airport is Twin Garden Farms. They sell the best corn I have ever had, Mirai Corn. Each year in late Summer my parents drive out and pick up bushels of corn for the family. Seeing that it only took about 20 minutes to fly to Dacy, I might have to look into flying there this year and bring back some corn for the whole family.

After a turbulent-at-times flight, I arrived at Janesville. The flight took about 45 minutes from takeoff to engine shutdown. When I arrived there was only one other airplane parked outside the restaurant. I seemed to have arrived at the right time, for pilots in the area getting there by 10am is the way to go. After my arrival a flight of seven Van's Aircrafts came in together. Following them were three other planes that arrived for brunch. I ordered two eggs and toast which was served promptly and were quite good.

On the flight back I had a tailwind that allowed me to cut ten minutes off the return leg. The return flight went smoothly though I was a little worried to hear that Chicago Executive was reporting crosswinds and windgusts of 20kts and adding to that was a report of low level windshear. The main concern is that as you are preparing to land if there is a major change in wind direction you can immediately lose lift and therefore lose altitude rapidly. To counter the crosswinds and the concerns of windshear I opted to use only 20° (instead of 30°) and also flew a faster approach speed then normal. The plane bounced around a bunch on final but I was able to put the upwind wheel down first and then settle the plane safely on the runway.

In the end the $4.95 eggs came out to be closer to the $150 eggs when you factor in the cost of the plane and fuel. So, I agree with Nathan at AOPA that it might be time to increase the cost of the $100 Hamburger. I think $150 - $200 might be more accurate in our current economy.