Showing posts from 2005

Short cross country flight

We had nice stable air today, under high overcast clouds. My friend, Maciek, and I decided to take the Arrow out for a little trip over to Petersburg, VA. We had a heck of a time getting the airplane started. Thankfully the flight school owner was able to help us out with a jump start. Once we were underway, however, it was a very easy, smooth trip. We took off on 13 at Williamsburg as the lunch crowd was starting to depart (Charlie's restaurant is a huge draw for pilots, and with good reason). We headed west, using my handheld GPS for guidance. I made one of my best landings yet at KPTB and taxied back to takeoff again, on runway 5. Back in Williamsburg we got another soft landing in (that plane is not hard to land softly, once you get a few under your belt) and stopped off for some soup at the restaurant before doing some ramp walking to drool over the planes. Before we left we talked with the flight school owner about some bad news. He is having to close up the business.

Watching the big iron land at Reagan National

Since we were in D.C. today, my wife and her brother and took the metro to Reagan National airport . We had heard that you could get pretty close to the approach end of one of the runways and watch the airplanes come in. After getting off at the metro stop we had to get directions to learn how to walk to the sight-seeing point. Once we arrived we weren't disappointed. The view was impressive as the massive jets came turning in to line up on final. I stood right within the "running rabbit" lights and watched the planes over my head at maybe 100-150' AGL. The image to the right is a psuedo-3D image (just an animated gif) that I made of the view to the runway. I was trying to get the same effect I read about here , but mine isn't quite as good.

Interesting diagrams of WWII gear

Found this online: UNUSUAL TECHNICAL IMAGES OF EQUIPMENT USED IN WORLD WAR II . Has some interesting aviation-related images in there.

Long overdue IFR practice

Hopped back in the ole C-172R today to get 4 practices approaches taken care of. I needed to get instrument current before the 16th. Charles was my instructor/safety pilot and we shot the new ILS 25 approach in Newport News, with the autopilot coupled. Then we used the autopilot to shoot a GPS approach into West Point. After that we did a hand-flown VOR approach into West Point without the GPS and a single radio, no GPS approach back to Williamsburg to cap it off. I did ok considering I have not shot a series of approaches like that in a long time. I had a few little kinks to work out, but all in all I felt pretty good about the performance.

More aerial touring of S.C.

This afternoon I took my Dad up for a flight out of KUZA in the CH2000. The goal was to get some video and pictures of his friend’s place, where my Dad goes hunting, as well as the family land in Fairfield county, SC. We took off and headed to his friend’s house first, where we made a multitude of steep turns to the right over his property. We did a few passes with the video camera and then 2 with the still camera. It was tough to keep my distance from his house while still keeping the low wing out of the picture. I would start a nice little “turn around a point” and then need to really drop the wing so my Dad could get a few seconds of good picture taking time. We performed similar maneuvers over our family land further south before heading back to fly-by my dad’s childhood house, then his and my Mom’s current house, then back to KUZA for an “on-par” landing. I enjoyed flying out of KUZA – it is a really nice size runway with plenty of room around it for a comfortable approach,

A solo tour of northern S.C.

This morning I decided to take advantage of my holiday vacation to get some more practice flying the Alarus CH2000. The family was all out doing their Black Friday shopping, so I was left to fly solo. Since this was the first time I had a chance to fly solo in Rock Hill, SC since 1996 I decided to make an aerial trek to nearby Crowder’s Mountain. Really it is a craggy hill but since it is surrounded by flat land a hike to its peak gives great views of the area. Of course, the views you get on a hike don’t match those from 3000 feet in an airplane, so I enjoyed the sights from my lofty perch. I simply made a quick left hand turn around the mountain and headed back to over-fly my parent’s house. From there it was a quick left hand turn to get lined up on a long final for runway 02 at UZA. I used the Garmin 430 to tune in the ILS on the way down but saw weird indications from the glideslope needle. The needle was bouncing up and down though the flag seemed to indicate it was gettin

Checked out to fly the Alarus CH2000

While visiting with the parents for Thanksgiving I decided to go to the local airport to get checked out in a plane I haven't been in before: an Alarus CH2000 . This is a minimalist IFR trainer that has a nice set of avionics on board. It is a small plane, with 2 seats, that, I believe, shares the same engine as a C-152. My first impression of it while preflighting was that it was flimsy feeling. The doors are very thin and light, and the overall design of the airplane seems pretty bare bones. But once I hopped in it felt just fine. My checkout instructor, Nate, walked me through the systems before we took off to the south for a little airwork. We did some slow flight and found that when we pointed the nose right into the wind we could get our ground speed down as low at 15 kts (using the onboard Garmin 430 for the groundspeed readout). The airspeed indicator was reading 20 kts when it would finally stall in a landing configuration. In general, the slow speeds of the air

A relaxing afternoon flight

I just finished one of the most relaxing flights I have had in a long time. I spent 1.1 hours in the local area, with no set plan, just enjoying flying for flying's sake. Had a little bit of fun starting the Arrow today. Recently the starter will not engage until you turn the prop a little, so you get yourself all belted in and go to start it, only to find that you have to hop out and turn the prop maybe half way around to get the starter gear seated. But after that it started right up. I had to cancel an early morning flight yesterday because I ran out of battery power before I could get the engine to start in the 32 degree temp (I only ran the starter 30-40 seconds total, so maybe the battery was still asleep that morning). But back to today: I shot a landing at FYJ where I had to wait on the taxiway for parachuters to land, I did a stall and a steep turn, and a quick landing down the ILS7 at PHF. Then it was back to JGG where I had a fairly decent touchdown.

Shooting an ILS approach with Microsoft Flight Sim

I thought I'd write up this quick tutorial on shooting an ILS approach with MS Flight Sim for 2 reasons: 1) as an exercise for myself to make sure these procedures are solidly still in my head, and 2) because I have seen that there is some interest in it from readers. Disclaimer: I am no instructor, so take all this with a critical eye. If I say anything flat out wrong in here, please let me know, but I won't pretend to make this a complete tutorial - some stuff will be left out. :) For this flight, we will ignore ATC completely (which is obvious a terribly bad idea in real life or multiplayer sim games). Before reading my write-up, I'd recommend you take a look at this post from a real-life flight instructor to gain some context. Here's my tutorial (in 1.5MB PDF form) .

Fun with GPS overlays

UPDATE - 2007: MapSource makes this easy for Garmin handhelds now - they have added a "show in Google Earth" option. This morning I stumbled on a blog about using Google Earth with GPSs . Determined to finally get my copy of Google Earth to show a track file from my GPSmap 296, I followed a few of the links from that blog to decipher how to do it. Google Earth is supposed to read the data right off the GPS, once you pay the $20 to upgrade. However, there are apparently well known problems using a Garmin USB device with it, so you have to go a ‘round about way. The way I finally made it work was this (see comments below to learn how this is the TOO LONG way to do it): Use Garmin MapSource to download the track files from the GPS Save the MapSource file (a .gdb file) Use the graphical interface of GPSBabel to convert the GDB file to a GPX XML file Open this XML file in excel – Excel will load the data from it into columns Pull the 3 columns that matter out of that file and c

Second Flight to the Wright Brother's National Memorial

Today we decided to do a little cross country flight back down to First Flight airport, near Kitty Hawk, NC. We had planned to travel west to Roanoke, VA to see the leaves change colors in the mountains, but a storm front over the Blue Ridge range made us decide to go south instead. It was a nice flight, with some winds making the landings interesting. Coming back into Williamsburg at 2pm was particularly interesting – the AWOS weather report was saying that there were near 90 degree crosswinds at 11 kts, gusting to 17. Seeing as how 17 knots is just above the limit for a crosswind in the Arrow we were flying I was on my toes for that approach. I almost had to go around when high winds at 500 AGL were blowing us way off centerline. The wind let up enough for me to correct mere seconds before I was going to put the throttle in and try again. My touchdown was OK but I could use some improvement on getting rid of the side-loads as the wheels meet the ground. That is tough to practi

First "solo" flight in complex airplane

Today I took my wife and her brother up for a little flight around the local area. I had the airplane scheduled for tomorrow morning but since the wx was so nice, I called to see if I could move it up to today. Luckily it was available. When we got to the airport we saw the lunch crowd was huge. There was a P-51 called Double Trouble 2 , a Piper Mirage, a chopper "taxiing" down the runway all while 5-6 planes were moving toward runway 31. By far the busiest I've seen out there. Charly's sure is an attractive $100 hamburger joint (it IS good). I preflighted and we all got in to start the engine. However, when I hit the starter I could hear it turning but the prop wasn't moving. I tried once or twice more, then called the owner to get his thoughts on how to fix it. He told me to turn the prop, by hand, a few times to see if that got the starter in a better state. I did that (maybe 1 turn) and the prop turned right over - a few seconds later and the engin

The trials of a Ramp Monkey

I was remembering back to my high school days this evening. One of the jobs I had back then was probably one of the best I've ever had: Airport Ramp Monkey . No, that wasn't the real title - I don't even think I had a title. Generally I was to go-to guy for AvGas fill-ups, push backs, pull outs, and airplane parking at a small airport in Rock Hill, S.C (back when its ID was 29J). I applied for this job for one reason: flight training money. But I ended up enjoying it for much more than just that. A typical day involved me getting to work right after school, at around 3pm, and letting the previous guy end his shift. He'd tell me if anybody was waiting to have their airplane pulled out or if any big wigs were expected to come in that afternoon. When someone called ahead to get their airplane pulled out of their hangar I'd drive a rusted, little VW Rabbit to their machine and ease the airplane out with a little hand tug. Most of the hangars were open-air (lik

A goal reached - complex endorsement finished

After too many months working on the complex endorsement I finally finished it today. The primary delay was 2-fold - 1) I had to get 5 hours dual minimum for insurance reasons, and 2) weather and schedules kept me from flying very much at all. But I have finally gotten it and plan to take the wife up for a quick ride in the local area sometime soon. Overall, getting used to flying a complex airplane was not too hard. After about 3 hours of training I started to feel comfortable. It took those first hours to get used to the proper way to make power changes and to get a good idea of when the lower/raise the gear. The biggest change is the increased importance of checklists. Granted, they are important in the simplest airplane, but their value takes new heights when you have more systems to manage (and potentially forget about). I still need work on checklist discipline but have improved greatly over the last couple months. I’ve read about people doing even their initial primary tr

Taking my complex time to ~4.5 hours

Today I earned another 0.9 hours of complex time in the Arrow. It has been a while since I've been able to fly; the weather has been poor for a week or so. The decent weather today brought the fellow pilots out of the woodwork to work off their pent up need to soar. We had gone through most of the procedures before today, so this flight was to knock out the last two: power-on stalls and simulated engine outs. The stalls were nothing surprising - fairly docile if you keep on top of the rudder input. The engine outs were another story. We practiced a few at West Point airport and when you pull that sucker back to idle you are landing REAL soon. For instance, we pulled it to idle when I was a little past abeam the numbers (coming from too-wide a downwind leg) and we weren't going to make the runway - we would have had to settle for a field in front of the runway if this had been for real. When we were about to add a little power in order to make the runway on that first &qu

A little simulated time in the Cirrus

Yesterday I bought a new aircraft model for MS Flight Sim 2004: the Cirrus SR20 from EagleSoft . I have wanted to buy a good model of the Cirrus for a while, and have been following EagleSoft's progress on this for the last 6-7 months. They recently released it and I have to say I am impressed. From my point of view, they have made a top notch simulator, all the way down to mimicking the Avidyne glass panel. In the screenshots below you can see the PFD (primary flight display) in the middle. In that image, I am in a climbing left hand bank. The slip/skid indicator is the little triangle near the top of the panel, with the dark parallelogram under it showing that I need more left rudder. The rate of turn is shown as the blue arc over the compass rose in the bottom half of the screen (I am turning a little harder than standard rate). If you have an interest in learning the Cirrus or just the Avidyne setup, spend the $30 on this model. It is well worth it.

More complex time, but not great time

Today I spent 0.8 hours in the pattern. This was likely only the third time I have "stayed in the pattern" since I picked up flying again a year or so ago. We were practicing short/soft field takeoffs (neither of which have I done in many years). Needless to say, there was plenty of rust. Especially when coupled with the fact that I haven't flown in a few weeks and I am still getting use to a complex airplane. No dangerous rust thankfully, just rust. In fact, my first landing today was supposed to be a short field landing. What did I end up doing? The best NORMAL landing I have ever done in the plane. In fact my instructor even said that he doesn't see people make many landings that nice in that airplane, but that it was a crummy short field landing. :) I said "I'll take what I can get". :) I'm fighting some kind of virus or other bug, so even though I performed quite poorly today, I'll take it.

Touring "Many Glacier" in a Bell chopper

Today Krista and I hopped aboard a Bell 206L-3 helicopter to get a 1 hour tour of Many Glacier National Park. That was only the second time I have ridden in a chopper (I've yet to ride up front). It was quite enjoyable to zoom low over the terrain, and of course the views were second to none out there in Montana. We were lucky to get absolutely gorgeous weather for the trip out of West Glacier, MT. The temp was around 75 with low humidity and nary a cloud. We had the little vent window open so that the camera had a clear view of the incredible mountains and glaciers. We saw parts of the park that are only seen by those that fly in or hike many miles in. We even circled a mountain on the Canadian side of the park (the "peace" park). BTW, the pilot simply amazed me when he brought us in to land. He was so precise it felt like the craft was a part of him. I assume that most chopper pilots get to that skill level, since landing in the exact right spot is important for m

Flying to Montana with the handheld GPS

As my wife and I were flying (commercially) to MT for a much delayed honeymoon I hooked up my portable GPS receiver to follow our progress. We flew Northwest, and they allow the use of the GPS in cruise (thankfully they understand it is about as harmful as a digital wristwatch to the aircraft). I stuck the remote antennae up to the window (I couldn't get much of a signal with the built-in one) and watched the satellite signals come in. It wasn't as cool to watch the progress as I imagined it would be - I am a big fan of situational awareness (yeah, I know how massively geeky that sounds) but what it showed wasn't all that surprising. We took a bit of a circuitous route, though I doubt it added more than 10 minutes to the trip time. In fact, we didn't go direct (RIC->MSP) until about halfway through the trip. I spent time trying to ID towns we went over and trying to improve my distance estimations, but we didn't fly over many landmarks that existed on the GPS

3rd lesson toward complex endorsement

Today I spent another hour getting acquainted with the Piper pa28r-200. I got the chance to fly with my old IFR instructor, Charles, which was nice because I got another perspective on things. It was yet another hazy day, with 5 miles visibility and no horizon to speak of. We did a power-off stall, a few steeps turns (where my holding of altitude left something to be desired), and an emergency gear extension. We finished the lesson with 2 landings (the last one being just a hop around the JGG pattern). Here are some of the notes I have taken during my first 3 lessons: Airplane specific notes: 200 horsepower (more right rudder than usual) airspeeds are on MPH - just treat it like a number, don't try to work in kts Vx - 85 (96 gear up) Vy - 95 (100 gear up) Best glide - 95 (105 if have auto-gear extender) Vr - 70 Va - 131 (120 with 2 people) Vfe - 125 Vlo (landing gear operation - raising) - 125 Vle (extending gear OK below) - 150 Emergency gear extension max - ~95 Uses electrohydr

A few links from

NASA video of air traffic data The ultimate flight sim monitor Pictures of weather you DON'T want to fly in SpaceShip 2 makes legal progress

A little excitement for my 2nd complex lesson

Well, the two most memorable parts of today's flight (my 2nd towards a complex endorsement) were: The heat - even at 9am we had reached 85 degrees with plenty of humidity A few moments of uneasiness when a large twin engine tried to salvage an approach that was un-salvageable from early on I'll start with the heat. Today's plan was to do a thorough preflight - me walking Tucker (my CFI) through the procedure so that he could point out weak spots and give me tips along the way, then head out for power-on and -off stalls with a few landings to cap it off. I had scheduled the flight for 9am, knowing full well the heat wave we've had recently, and hoping that an early flight would help. I'm sure it was cooler than say, 2pm, but even when doing the preflight, with a slight breeze blowing, I was sweating and wishing there was a huge tree or awning providing some shade. I guess it would be hard to shade the tarmac without limiting the size of airplanes that could taxi in

Aircraft bird strike video

My dad sent me a video of a bird striking a single-engined Canadian BAES Hawk trainer/fighter aircraft carrying an instructor and a student. The pilots ended up OK from what we've heard, thankfully.

Starting a new endorsement

Today I sat in the left seat of a complex aircraft for the first time, adding 0.9 hours in my logbook. I decided to go for a "complex" endorsement, which will allow me to fly airplanes that have: Flaps (OK, no big deal) Constant speed propeller (the blades can change pitch) Retractable gear (now we're talkin!) The airplane I am getting checked out in is a 200HP Piper Arrow PA28R-200 built in 1974 [ Checklist ]. I don't think the POH (Pilot's Operating Handbook) is still in print but I managed to find one at The flaps are nothing new to me, so that is non-issue for this endorsement. The only interesting thing about that one is that the Arrow has a hand lever to operate the flaps, instead of an electrical switch like the C-172. I haven't decided which I like better yet. There is something nice about using your own hand power to make a change to the airplane's flight controls though (instead of a motor). I have always preferred manu

Plane crash in my home town

My Dad let me know of a V-tail Beechcraft crash in my home town of Rock Hill, SC yesterday. It is too soon for a preliminary report of the cause, but NTSB is supposed to be on scene today. Very tragic thing; it sounds like the pilot worked hard to prevent people on the ground from getting hurt.

Even more first timers

This weekend I had to chance to take my brother-in-law and his wife for their first trip in a small plane. We lumbered up to 4000' (at max weight - had a full tank) in order to find cooler temps and get over some clouds at 2500'. We just did a quick circle over a few of the highlights in the area and came back for a nice straight-in landing on 20 at KPHF. I had the best landing I've had in a while that day. I think the reason was because of my even-more-careful attention to the approach speed. I tried to hook up an iTalk to my ipod to record the flight's audio, but the device was unhappy with the intercom connection as an input. Time to send it back. Instead, I used the iPod to give us some mood music in the headsets.

First-time Passengers

Yesterday I had the chance to take someone on their first flight in a small aircraft. He (Steven) is the son of a co-worker of mine and both he and his mom joined me for a 30 minute flight in the area local to KJGG. He's a big fan of airplanes and I hoped he'd get a kick out of the flight. Apparently he did, as his mom said he told everyone he saw afterward that he was a "total pilot" now - and if that pose in the picture doesn't say "total pilot" then nothing does. :) Steven sat up front (on a small pillow) with my spare headset engulfing his head like it was trying to swallow him alive. I let him take the controls for a bit and he seemed to get the hang of it fairly well. I told him to lightly push the yoke forward and the slight descent gave his mom a little touch of a nervous feeling - but both she and he did great! :) I tried out my iPod in flight for the first time that day. It worked very well. There is a normal 3.5mm stereo input in the

Thinking of a new endorsement

I am giving serious thought to going through a little more training sometime soon. I'd like to get my complex endorsement so that I can fly planes with constant speed props and retractable gear. My local flight school has the airplane pictured here available for training: a 1974 Piper Cherokee Arrow II (making the airplane 3 years older than I am). I think the engine is rated at 200HP which I guess means that I can't use it to get a high-performance endorsement. I believe the horsepower has to be greater than 200 to count toward that. I wish I could find a good reference to other people's experiences getting their high-perf endorsement. I am curious to know how hard it was, and what was involved. I am expecting the endorsement to take about 6-8 hours of flight time.

Flight to First Flight

Posted by my wife: Today Jason and I flew from KPHF to KFFA for lunch. Our plan was to walk to a nearby Dairy Queen or Subway that Jason had read about, grab food to go, return to the park, have a leisurely lunch in the grass, and tour the monument and museum before the return flight. Jason asked me (the non-pilot wife!) to write this up to give a different perspective. My role today was part nagivator, part entertainer :) You must give me both creative license and a large quantity of forgiveness for everything that is stated improperly or called by the wrong name! We got to PHF a little later than planned, around 11:15. We got checked in and went out to the tarmac. Jason walked through the preflight a little more slowly than usual, talking me through what he was doing and having me spot check some things. Bear with me and I'll recite some of what I learned, in no particular order... (jump down to the ----------- a few paragraphs down to skip this section...) The flat little d

Good helicopter story

I saw this post on PitchPull (a great blog) today. It has a link to a funny, fairly short story about someone's first helicopter lesson.

Somebody, somewhere is using a GPS

Today Krista and I went up for an instrument flight of 1.6 hours. We went over to Petersburg to shoot an approach, which was in "actual" until we were a few miles out. We then went over to RIC to go for an ILS approach. Unfortunately, it was down for maintenance, so we shot a GPS approach in its place. We canceled IFR shortly thereafter since there were no clouds at JGG and we had time constraints. But the real point of this flight was to try out the new toy: a Garmin GPSmap 296 . We bought this about 2 weeks ago, to act as a automotive-based GPS and an aviation one. I can't say it has been without problems. The battery that came with it would not take a charge so a call to Garmin got them to send a new battery to me (BTW, call the non-800 technical support number if you want prompt phone service). However, during the call to get the battery fixed up, they had me do a special reset, where you hold down the "out", "quit" and "nrst" butt

Aviation videos

I found this link containing high quality videos of aircraft (written in french; you can translate with this ) from a posting on the House of Rapp . Those videos are even worth downloading and installing the Real player , in my opinion (especially since Real has removed some of the naggy parts of their software).

Flying to the island

Today my wife and I made a 1.8 hour cross-country flight that we have been thinking about for over a year: we went the 50 NM to Tangier Island in the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay. This island is an isolated place, home to about 600 souls, and is only accessible via a few (2?) boat ferries and the small airport. The people on the island live a life focused on crabbing and commercial fishing, both of which are demanding professions. It was first settled in the early 1600's by John Smith. Shortly thereafter, supposedly, John Crockett and his 8 sons came to the island to setup permanent residence. I have read that almost 1/3 of the modern day residents have that last name, but I didn't check. :) The 3 most popular modes of transportation on the island are, in order: golf cart, moped, and bicycle. But Krista and I didn't use any of those; we had other means at our disposal today. Preflight I had been watching the weather since yesterday, as any pilot with an airpla

Scary picture making its way around the web

My Dad forwarded me this picture recently; I am glad to say I was not the photographer:

Langley air show

Spent the morning at the air show today. I wanted to see Jim Varden's routine so we got there early (he made a great performance). As we walked into the gate Sean Tucker was doing a practice routine which was very impressive. We only spent a few hours there (since we needed to go car shopping) so we used most of that time to visit the static displays. We didn't stick around for the Thunderbirds or the F-22 flight, so I know we missed some good stuff. As we were leaving we were getting "buzzed" by a B-2 - it looked unreal.