Valentine's Day Aerial Tour

Posted by my wife:

Jason took me up for a combo birthday/Valentine's Day flight today. It's the first time that I've been up with him since he started flying again a few weeks ago. The last flight description in his logbook where I participated says something, as I recall, like "circlek in the clouds".

So we had a lazy morning and left around noon to grab a sandwich at the Coffee Beanery. We've been there for coffee before, but never for food. A coworker mentioned that their sammies were good. Jason had a "kickin roast beef" sandwich on foccacia, but the horseradish won about 3/4 of the way through it. I had smoked turkey and swiss on wheat and it was very tasty.

We then went to the airport and a family was just returning with the 5199A plane that we'd be taking. We got the key and went out on the tarmac to check out a few unusual planes, and the plane wasn't parked in the usual place for the school's planes. JGG was extremely busy ("hopping" as one of the airport workers told us), and we wandered around the tarmac for about 10 minutes before I finally spotted it, and called to Jason who was 100 yards down the other direction -- we had split up to look for it.

So, we found the plane. Time for pre-flight. Jason got the checklist, played with some of the switches inside, had me remove the pitot tube cover, did the pitot warmer thingie (no sizzlin bacon, thanks) and showed me where I'd plug in his spare headset that I'd be using. Then he lowered the flaps.

We did the outside steps, starting at the tail and moving to the right, front and left. He moved things around and looked at the screws and surfaces, checked the antenna. I untied the cord holding the tail to the pavement. At the right wing, he checked the gas level from the top of the wing and did fuel tests at 5 spots beneath the wing, one of which had a tiny bit of water so he did it again (and maybe once more after that).

What you have to know is that it can be a messy ordeal. Jason has enough smarts to wear a glove on the hand he uses to hold the little tester cup. What you also have to know is that on this particular day he needed a full body suit. We giggled about it as he pivoted so quickly as to slosh fuel out of the cup or banged into the wing strut and spilled.

The tire was a little low, but not enough to worry about. On to the front to check the oil (just over 6 quarts, 5 quarts to fly), clear engine intakes, propeller looked ok, wheel was okay. There's another fuel checkpoint under the nose, and this one had a pretty good dispersion as it sprayed into the test cup -- Jason said it was a very forceful spray and the dispersion was essentially from liquid ricochet.

The left wing was much the same as the right. I untied both of the wings, Jason removed the chocks, and we hopped in. We got our seats situated, I strapped on the knee board, we plugged in the headsets, and learned that the co-pilot jack was kinda sketchy. I played with it for a little while before abandoning it and plugging into one of the rear jacks. Buckled, doors closed and locked, elbow tests. Jason did what had to be done with mixture and throttle and cranked it. There was some sputtering and vague smoke off to the left before it stopped (or he stopped it). He waited a few seconds and suggested he might have flooded it, then gave it another go and it started up just fine.

Well, fine included some good rocking from front to back, gauges running amuck and the yoke moving in and out, which was from the sudden unsettled air currents going from propeller to elevators. With a big grin, he asked if I was ready to go and I gave him the ok. We waited for another plane to taxi by us before pulling out of the parking space and following him down toward the end of the runway.

We were second in line, waiting for the first guy who was waiting on someone to land. As plane #1 moved onto the runway, Jason ramped the engine up to full and then eased out to test the idle, which was fine. All of a sudden there were three planes behind us, in a kind of diagonal waiting pattern. Jason called over the mic that we were leaving and would be exiting the pattern to the southeast.

There's a noise abatement program at JGG and I don't recall what the implications are... Maybe that when you hit 400 feet you're supposed to turn west or something. I snapped a few pictures of the shrinking airport as we left. We headed out west and I could see the shopping center where we'd eaten lunch.

It was kind of a crappy day for taking pictures -- grayish white sky, hazy, blech. But according to Jason it was a great day to fly -- smooth, fairly calm winds, and the temp was generally comfortable.

Before long we were out over the James River. We got a good view of Jamestown Island, some of the Colonial Parkway, and the ferries. The James, as it turns out, is incredibly muddy. On the right side of the plane I couldn't see much that I recognized since we rarely venture to the other side of the river. Out that way, there's lots of forest and farmland with pockets of houses here and there. On the left, Jason could see Williamsburg, the mothball fleet, and as we went farther Fort Eustis and Newport News (NN). Down the river a bit we could see what we think may be called the Southside Bridge, and farther out was the Chesapeake Bay. We conjectured that had it been clear we'd have been able to see the Atlantic Ocean with no problem. Much of the flight up to now was "assisted" by the autopilot, which must be one of the most appreciated inventions of all time for pilots.

Our plan was to do a near flyby of PHF (NN airport) and then head back up the peninsula to the Jordan Point Bridge (that's not it's real name, I don't think, but one side of it lands on Jordan Point). As we approached NN we turned "left" a little -- and I say left because NN feels like it's south of WMSBG but it's really east, slightly southeast. So turning left may have meant north or northeast. We picked out Jefferson Avenue, which is the main shopping strip, and saw PHF and the places we frequent, like Barnes and Noble and Don Pablo's.

I snapped a few pictures of PHF so we can show Mom and Dad C where they'll be flying into at the end of this week. Once past PHF, we quickly came upon the York River and started heading upriver (west/northwest, I'd guess). I saw a neighborhood that I think might be where Mark Levitt (my systems architect at work) lives, but will have to ask him to be sure -- got pictures.

This is about the time we took that picture of us. The next landmark was the Coleman Bridge which crosses over to Gloucester. VIMS is just to the right of the bridge. On the peninsula side of the bridge is the end of the Colonial Parkway and the Yorktown battlefield.

Off in the distance at about 11 o'clock was what Jason surmised to be the Busch brewery. To the left of the brewery from this angle would be Busch Gardens, and we saw the roller coasters when we got closer. To the right of the brewery is the corporate park where our office lives. Jason took a few pictures, and when blown up on the computer at home we could see the office but from the air we couldn't pick it out. We then pushed a little farther to the north so's to avoid any potential airport traffic, and this took us right over Camp Peary, one of the CIA training grounds. They have an airstrip and, right on the water, a few courses that must be used to train agents in driving fast on different surfaces; there were some straight-aways and some very curvy parts, both paved and dirt.

We went over I-64 and 199 up around the Lightfoot area and started crossing the peninsula to go back to the James and find the Jordan Point Bridge. Jason dialed in a VOR that was up that direction and let the auto-pilot take over again. There were lots of neighborhoods and lots of snaky inlets of water, but this is another area I was unfamiliar with and so don't have much commentary on. It was also about now that I realized it had cooled off a fair bit in the cockpit and we pulled out the heater pull-knob.

Jason spotted the bridge and suggested that I take the controls for a few minutes. He turned off the autopilot and my objective was to maintain 3100 feet and just keep our heading toward the bridge. It's MUCH easier to do in a real plane than on the flight sims at home. Picking a point on the horizon or out in the landscape is very natural, and sensing whether your gaining or losing altitude just happens as opposed to having to look at the sim controls every 5 seconds. He instructed me to head off to the right just a bit so that we could later turn left and have the bridge be on my right when I wanted to take pictures.

Flying makes you hot. Well, flying made me a good deal warmer. The rest of the flight was punctuated with instances of easing the heater knob in by half inches. On cue from Jason, I started our turn to the left to put us along side the bridge and pulled up a bit to keep us at 3100. Once we leveled out, Jason took over so I could take pictures of the bridge. We could see Richmond off in the distance, a hazy little area of non-trees. It really was not a pretty day for snapshots.

We crossed the river and flew down the southern shore for a while, then cut northeast to cross the river again and head toward our neighborhood. We passed over a lot of marshy areas, ran along Highway 5 for a while, and went by the Chickahominy River and drawbridge. Shortly we could see the ponds in our neighborhood and the one across Centerville Road. We looped around the northern side and did a pass so that our house went right past my window (snap, snap). We then went south again toward the river, seeing the ferry mooring and Colonial Parkway again, as well as the big farm with all the cows. About now Jason called for a sterile cockpit (no talking, don't mess with the pilot) for the remainder of the flight.

We went down the river and Jason announced our position and intent a few times. Another plane had just taken off and was on the west-bound portion of the pattern, which we wanted to enter on our approach. Jason said that had the guy been going any slower or been a few seconds behind where he was or on a non-90-degree angle to our current path, he'd have had to make some adjustment to avoid him by a greater buffer. We could see him pretty well, let's just say that. During this entry into the pattern, I saw some freakin huge houses. There's some neighborhood just west of the airport along the river that has the biggest houses I've seen in our area so far.

Now we were all lined up on the runway and Jason was slowing the engine a bit. Landings are by far what concern me the most during a flight, but this was a very soft and stable touchdown, one that Jason said later was a nice boost to his confidence (a few previous landings were not so gentle apparently due to crosswinds and an awkward seat position). We welcomed each other back and taxied off the runway.

As we were pulling off the runway, a guy called over the radio that there was one parking space available near the school that he'd like us to take and that he'd be out in a sec to help us push the plane into position (had to back into this spot). Jason lined up, a little farther from the spot than intended, and we started to pack up. The gentleman came over, commented again on how very busy they had been today, saying they had had at least 100 operations so far (it was about 2 pm), and he and Jason worked it into its spot. Jason had to hop in at one point and give some rudder, which also turned the nose wheel, to straighten it out into the spot.

We did the post-flight procedure, tied it down, and then hopped in again. We sat just for a minute to look at the controls. Lastly we wandered back to the school to turn in the key, pay for our time, and reserve the plane for the weekend when Jason's family visits in two weekends. We've already got it reserved for next weekend when my family will be in town.

And we all lived happily ever. The end.


Popular posts from this blog

Updating data on the Garmin Perspective system

Hiking to Rocky Peak in Steamboat Springs

G1000 transistion training - emergencies - final flight