April 12, 2009

Who Do you Fly With?

whodoyouflywith.jpgHave you ever noticed that when you ride in a cab you never wear a seatbelt? Why is this? Do we blindly trust that fact that if the driver does this for a living we should trust their skills? Independent of all the other miserable drivers on the road?

Are you the same way in the air? Are you willing to climb into the cockpit of anyone's plane just to log a few hours or share the cost of flying? Or do you take greater precautions in the sky? I have noticed that I take flying much more seriously than land-based activities. Not to say I live recklessly when fully weighted down by gravity, just that I realize the inherent dangers of flying and was trained early on to respect the airplane and those flying around me. I have found, right or wrong, I have strict standards for those I choose to fly with. I realize that as a relatively new pilot, I still have much I can learn from fellow pilots but realize the habits I could learn can be both positive and negative.

I receive frequent invitations to go flying. I admit to not thinking twice when it is an invitation from the trained pilots of Lima Lima, Aero Shell, or Bill Leff and his T-6 Texan. I might jump at the opportunity to fly with them because I have seen their skill firsthand, or just because I would do nearly anything to fly the T-6 Texan or T-34. However, when I receive an invite from someone I have just met I am more skeptical. I have not seen their logbook to see their flying experiences, frequency of hours, etc. How do I know they believe in the same standards of safety that I do? How do I know their flying history?

Let's all admit it. We have met pilots that we know we would never fly with, let alone choose to share airspace with. I was especially concerned when I joined a safety seminar put on by the air traffic controllers at my home airport a few weeks back and they were asking simple questions like "Can you explain what the hold short line is used for?" and pilots (not students, licensed pilots) were answering the question wrong.

Earlier this week a person I met through the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group was looking for some people to join him on a flight to deliver a dog from Chicago to its new home in Southern Indiana. It sounded like a great way to enjoy a few hours in the sky while helping out a worthy cause. I had a scheduling conflict but even if I had not, I wonder if I would have flown along for fear that I would show up to learn the pilot had a lower standard of safety than I was comfortable with or lacked the experience I would want in the pilot-in-command. Worse yet, what if I did not learn about their lack of concern for safety until we were airborne?

Last night I had the opportunity to meet the pilot in question in person. Within a few minutes of speaking with him I immediately realized this pilot was one who knew the responsibility bestowed on pilots and took flying seriously. We not only talked about each other's flying experiences but I also learned about his knowledge of his plane. I realized that I would happily fly with him in the future. I realize now when an opportunity arises a quick phone call or in person chat will likely provide me the clarity I need to determine whether I want to share responsibilities of flying a plane with a fellow pilot.

How do you decide with whom you will fly?

Posted at 8:24 PM | Post Category: Continuing Education, General | Comments (5) | Save & Share This Story

December 28, 2008

2008: A Pilot's Year in Review

yearinreview.jpgAt this time of year I always enjoy taking a few minutes to pull out my logbook and also to pull up the blog and look back at flights and posts from the past year and think of the great aviation experiences I have had. I broke some of my favorite moments into two categories: Flight Experiences and Aviation Community.

Flight Experiences
Going into 2008 I wanted to fly more regularly and start to build up some cross country time. My first flight of the year pushed me over the 100 hour mark of flight time. Shortly after I completed my second Biennial Flight Review. Both of those accomplishments were nice but more valuable was returning to a more frequent flight schedule that allowed me to become as confident in the cockpit as I was when I first learned to fly. I took advantage of that confidence to log several cross country flights with nearly 45% of my 2008 flight time being on cross-country flights. This will help should I decide to seek out an instrument rating in 2009.

Here is a list of a few of my favorite flights from 2008:

Aviation Community

Part of my enjoyment of aviation has come from meeting other aviation enthusiasts. Every pilot is aware that the pilot population has been dwindling and if we are to protect the interests of general aviation we need to start rebuilding the aviation community. In 2008 I had several ways to help spread my love of aviation.

I enjoyed meeting many fellow aviation enthusiasts through the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group. Although we had fewer meetings than I would have liked we did enjoy checking out a flightline, Flying-in to Lansing for lunch and meeting Meeting AOPA President Phil Boyer at an AOPA Town Meeting.

Another great aviation community moment in 2008 was when several Midwest members of the online aviation community, myTransponder, met in person at Janesville, Wisconsin for the first myTransponder fly-in. We had 15 members from three different states fly-in to talk aviation over lunch.

Although, this is my year in review post I hope to fit in one more flight before the year concludes. I will post an update on that flight should the weather hold-up.

Posted at 1:25 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story

December 21, 2008

Blogging While Grounded by the Weather

letsgoflying.jpgMother Natures continues to prevent me from flying this winter. I have had two flights scrubbed due to extremely high winds and one due to all-around bad weather. I am hoping while I take some time off around the holidays I can fit in one more flight for 2008.

In the meantime I have been thinking about flying and writing about flying, just not actually getting airborne. I have agreed to write periodic posts for AOPA's Let's Go Flying blog. The blog is dedicated to encouraging aviation enthusiasts to learn to fly.

Please check out my first post for the AOPA Let's Go Flying blog - "A Dream Deferred No Longer". While you are there check out the posts from many great colleagues: Evan of FlyingToga, Paul of Ask a CFI, Andrew of 2fly, Jason of FinerPoints, Steve of Airspeed Online and Francois of Flyin' and Ridin' and Lauren.

Posted at 4:07 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story

November 25, 2008

My First International Flight Scrubbed Due to Weather

versailles.jpgI recently returned from a wonderful trip to France. I spent several days for work in the south of France then met my wife in Paris for several days of exploring Paris.

As soon as I learned I would be going to France I started thinking about trying to fit in a flight while visiting. I was excited about the opportunity to see Versailles and the sites of Paris from above.

I had troubles locating fixed based operators or flight schools. So, I contacted PlasticPilot who is based in Germany for some advice. He suggested Air & Compagnie based at the Toussus le Noble airport near Versaille about 30 minutes from Paris.

I reserved a safety pilot and a Cessna 172SP for an afternoon during my visit. My wife and I planned to tour the Palace of Versaille in the morning then fly in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the morning of our day trip to Versaille we woke up to a terentual downpour. But, as all pilots learn to do I did my best to not focus on the weather hoping it would clear in time for the flight.

eiffeltower.jpgSure enough while walking the grounds of Versaille the rain stopped and the closed began to clear. I started to think we would fit the flight in. Although we had a high enough ceiling and visibility the winds were in the 20 - 30 knot range and with 10 knot gusts. The problem is that the Toussus le Noble airport has two runways but they are parrellel to each other and the winds were directly perpindicular to the runways.

I waited another 30 minutes after the initial flight time but the weather did not improve so I had to scrub the flight. I often say one of the hardest parts about being a general aviation pilot is the let down of having to scrub a flight. I look forward to visiting France again and will be sure to look up the friendly folks at Air & Compagnie. For now a flight in Microsoft Flight Simulator X will have to do.

Posted at 8:57 PM | Post Category: Flight Experiences, General | Comments (7) | Save & Share This Story

April 23, 2008

Aviation Town Meeting Spurs Passion for Flight

aopa_townmeeting_group_small.jpgI enjoyed a great night of aviation at the AOPA Pilot Town Meeting tonight. Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association President, Phil Boyer, spends about a week each month traveling around the country to meet with pilots and to talk about issues that are near and dear to pilots. I remember attending a Pilot Town Meeting several years ago and was excited to see Phil was bringing his show to Chicago.

I arrived nearly an hour early so that I could save some seats for fellow members of the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group who were going to join me for the event. As is often the case at any pilot get together or at a local airport it is nearly impossible to be alone long around pilots. Within seconds of sitting down I was engaged in a conversation with several fellow pilots. One of which was a remarkable man, Clarence (Clancy) Hess. Clancy was one of the first members of AOPA when he joined for the price of $3 in 1940. He was a Marine Aviator in WWII and also was a co-founder of Wings of Hope, a non-profit organization that delivers food and medical assistance to third world countries. He shared with me and a few fellow pilots some amazing photos including one of him with Jimmy Doolitle who inspired Clancy to pursue aviation. Clancy was recently inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.

In looking around the room it was obvious why AOPA is working so hard to bring new pilots into aviation as the median age had to be close to if not over 50 years of age. I knew that this particular AOPA event had both presentations for current pilots and for prospective pilots. I was excited that three of the six members of the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group who were able to attend were interested in learning to fly. Mid-way through the evening those interested in learning to fly were taken to a separate room to learn about the steps it takes to learn to fly. As a special gift, AOPA presented them each with a voucher for a free introductory flight. It was great hearing from the three future pilots after the meeting, each of them sounded very excited about taking the introductory flight. A.J. commented that he always knew he wanted to fly, he even was close to attending Embry Riddle to learn to fly but chose another career path. He now wants to get into aviation and stop putting off his dream of flying. He said this event just fueled his interest in learning to fly which was great to see.

Another fun story was from Mark, a private pilot who has not flown in several months. He mentioned this weekend he was outside when his young daughter pointed to the sky and said "airplane". He was so excited he took her to the local airport and showed her the planes up close as they watched from the fence line as planes came and went. He is looking forward to getting current again this spring and taking his daughter flying.

Tonight my eyes were opened once again to what I already knew but just needed a reminder of; all of us pilots are very passionate about aviation. In most cases it is a love affair we have had since we were children. It is our duty as pilots to be good ambassadors for aviation. We need to be vigilantly looking for the twinkle in one's eye when the topic of aviation comes up or one's attention is drawn to an overflying plane and we need to seize that moment to share our passion for flying with that person. I know I find great joy in helping people step away from the fence line and cross over to the tarmac to take an introductory flight or simply to visit an FBO or look at the inside of a General Aviation plane.

Tonight was one of those great nights where I enjoyed the camaraderie of other pilots and remembered again what a joy it is to have the privilege of flying. Thanks AOPA for looking out for the interests of pilots and offering this great forum to bring fellow aviators together for a great evening!

The photo above is of several Chicago Aviation Meetup Group Members along with the President of AOPA Phil Boyer and Clancy Hess. (Left to Right: Rob, Catrina, Phil, Clancy, A.J. & Myself.)

Posted at 1:03 AM | Post Category: General | Comments (2) | Save & Share This Story

November 30, 2007

Roger Wilco Wear Line of Aviation T-Shirts Launched

rogerwilcowear_launch.jpgAs frequent readers of this site know, I have been mostly disappointed by the lack of quality aviation apparel available through catalogs, websites or at airshows. I decided to do something about it and create a line of t-shirts inspired by aviation.

Roger Wilco Wear was developed with the pilot in mind; our line of t-shirts utilize elements familiar to pilots. After spending hours looking at sectionals I realized that images from the sectional chart would make for great t-shirts and many of our offerings feature those images.

The site currently features airport specific t-shirt designs including Door County Cherrlyand Airport, Lunken Field Airport, New Garden Airport, Palwaukee Municipal Airport, Van Nuys Airport. Each week we release a new airport specific shirt as our Aviation T-Shirt of the Week. Let me know if there is a shirt you would like to see featured.

Additionally, we offer several customizable t-shirts. We have a General Aviation Pilot t-shirt that can be customized to include your home airport three letter identifier. Additionally, we offer custom t-shirts that let you commemorate where you flew your first solo or learned to fly.

One last note, our t-shirts are being sold through Spreadshirt.com. They will handle fulfillment of your order and unfortunately, I will not know specifically who has bought a t-shirt. So please drop me a line if you buy one!

Visit the store today at RogerWilcoWear.com

November 1, 2007

Win a Free Hat from a Cool Aviation Art & Furniture Design Company

moto_art_desk.jpgAs a pilot and aviation enthusiasts I love pretty much all things plane related. A few years ago Discovery Channel had a show called Wing Nuts that followed two artists who founded a company called MotoArt. MotoArt builds and sells furniture made out of used airplane parts. Their work surely makes any aviation buff salivate. Sadly, because these are functional pieces of art and not just plain old furniture they cost a little more than I currently want to spend on a desk. But, I keep their site bookmarked for the day when I am ready for a slick airplane wing desk.

MotoArt is not the only group that fuses art, furniture and aviation heritage together. I came across InterFlightStudio recently, they create not only aviation furniture but contemporary art and design as well.

moto_art_hat.jpgI went the cheap wrote a few weeks ago and instead of ordering a desk from IFS or MotoArt I simply bought a few MotoArt t-shirts and a hat. My order was slightly delayed as they had run out of hats. Though they made up for it by sending me an extra hat with my order - thanks MotoArt! So, that means one of my readers lucks out. Leave a comment below or drop me an e-mail via the contact form between now and November 15th and you will be entered to win the extra MotoArt Baseball Cap.

Good Luck!

Posted at 7:35 AM | Post Category: General | Comments (9) | Save & Share This Story

October 24, 2007

Letter to the Editor of Pilot Getaways Magazine

Back in August I mentioned that Pilot Getaways Magazine feature Door County as one of their destinations for their July / August issue. Since Door County is one of my favorite places to fly I enjoyed seeing their take on it. For the most part I think they did an excellent job as usual, though they missed out on two of my favorite sites.

So I sent the editor a note mentioning that they overlooked two great aerial sites for pilots flying over the Door County Peninsula, corn mazes and shipwrecks. I just received the September / October issue of Pilot Getaways Magazine and was honored to see my letter to the editor included as well as a photo I shot this summer of the local corn maze.


August 30, 2007

Chicago Aviation Meetup Group Outing: Control Tower Tour

chicago_executive_airport_t.jpgThe Chicago Aviation Meetup Group August event was a tour of the Chicago Executive Airport control tower. Chicago Executive (formerly Palwaukee) is a Class D airport with three active runways. Although on Saturday only two runways were active as runway 6/24 was partially underwater from recent storms in the area.

There were five other group members that joined me for the tour. I believe I was the only certified pilot in the group but several members were working on their pilots license while others are thinking about it.

When we arrived there were three tower controllers in the tower one that was on a mandatory one-hour break and the one managing aircraft on the ground and another managing inbound and outbound aircraft. Luckily there was not a ton of traffic so the controllers were able to talk to us and explain what they were doing for the few aircraft that were maneuvering on the field or in the surrounding airspace.

One of the controllers showed us the light gun that is used to communicate with planes that are having radio communication problems. He asked if I had ever seen it in use which I have not. He mentioned that next time I am flying if their load is not to much to ask and he will shine it for me to see from the plane, which supposedly it is very easy to see at day or night. So I have added that to my next flight to-do list.

This was my second visit to a control tower and I have found both visits to be enjoyable and educational. I highly recommend a control tower tour for any pilot or pilot in training.

If you are in the Chicago area and interested in meeting up with other aviation enthusiasts check out our aviation group on Meetup.com.

Posted at 6:51 AM | Post Category: General | Save & Share This Story

August 8, 2007

Chicago Aviation Group - August Meeting

meetup.jpgI recently became the manager of the Chicago Aviation Group at Meetup.com. The point of the group is to bring local aviation enthusiast together once a month to talk about aviation or embark on some sort of aviation adventure.

We have scheduled our first get together for Saturday, August 25th at Chicago Executive Airport (Formerly Palwaukee) where we will take a tour of their control tower. For pilots it is a great learning experience to see what the Controllers life is like. While I was training for my private pilots license I toured the tower at Lunken Field in Cincinnati and found it very beneficial. For an aviation enthusiast it is a rare opportunity to see how a controlled airport works and how the airport tower controllers manage the airport operations.

If you are interested in joining the Chicago Aviation Group visit the group page on Meetup.com. You can learn more about this first event on the event detail page.

Posted at 6:37 AM | Post Category: General | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story