Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2006 in Review

This was a good year.

My objectives were to fly about once per week, roughly 50 hours, complete my Instrument Proficiency Check and possibly get checked out in a taildragger.

  1. 44 hours in 2006. It would have been more, but I got 'shut out' in the 4th quarter due to aircraft maintenance.
  2. IPC was completed on the first flight of 2006. I also got checked out for instrument flight in the G1000 system. I flew a handful of times 'in the system', enough to feel comfortable flying into Class B airspace. Less then an hour of actual.
  3. I all but got checked out in the Decathlon. I am very comfortable with the landing pattern, but failed to get the sign off due to maintenance. (I'm 'Grandfathered in' as far as the endorsement goes.)
  4. I flew my wife for the first time at night, ever. A beautiful flight on a thundering Fourth of July.
  5. I flew my Mom & Dad for the first time ever. Just a few minutes in the smooth morning air around Falcon Field, but an unforgettable time for all of us.
  6. Quality time in the Tiger (AA5B). I actually feel that most of 'the rust' has been knocked off when flying this airplane. I have a 'feel' for it and know where the envelope is.
Money...well, I spent it. The chart shows a rough breakdown of where the money went. I'm glad to say that most of it went into actual flying costs (not that headsets, charts, etc are not important too.) I spent less then last year, but flew more hours, that's a good trend.

Objectives for 2007:

Very difficult for me to project right now. I'm in the process of moving my base of operations from warm, sunny Georgia to cold, windy Pennsylvania. I'm not sure what the future will bring, but will let you know once I get figured all out.

Time 2006 = 44.0

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reservation canceled

Reservation from 12/02/06 10:30A to 12/02/06 12:00P has been canceled.  Aircraft in Maintenance 

There are huge financial advantages in belonging to a flying club and renting airplanes. The club I belong to has over 15 planes ranging from the newest Cessna's with G1000 to a '78 model with steam gauges. I have loved flying the Tiger and most recently really got a kick out of learning to fly the Decathlon. There is just no way my limited budget would have allowed me to experience so much variety without being part of the club.

There is of course a downside. The owner decided it was time for an engine overhaul and the plane I want to spend my money on has been down for maintenance since my last post. He is still waiting on parts and I, well I'm just waiting. At least I don't have to pay for it.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I got it.

The weather was spectacular. The seasons have changed here and morning temps have been cool in the low 50's. The visibility was a little less today, but still better then 10 miles.

Objectives: Landings

I got out to the airport a little early, in time to preflight before my instructor arrived. Many of the staff and instructors were on a "Fly Away" down to Florida, followed by a Caribbean cruise. So it was quiet when I went into the office to get the dispatch kit. By the time my instructor came back the plane was ready to go. Information Xray, and again we decided to save some time by staying in the pattern.

During the taxi down to the run up area for 27, my instructor asked if we should start with 3 pointers and ease into the Wheel Landings. No, I had been thinking about this all week and was "chompin' at the bit" to try Wheel Landings again. Takeoff was normal, and performance was great in the cool air. No traffic for distractions, I concentrated on speed and rate of descent. My gaze transistioned from the cockpit down to the far end of the runway and I waited. Patience. Squeak, and I gently but deliberately pushed the nose to the take off attitude. Beautiful. It was at least a 9 on the pretty landing scale.

But was it a fluke? Back around again, speed dead on, nice rate of descent and bingo...two in a row. This time I got a small jounce, but corrected it nicely for extra pretty points (9.5). One more time around and I know I have learned how do this. (I realized I no longer had a 'death grip' on the stick, but used the gentle touch of three fingers with my thumb to finesse it onto the deck.)

The next one we were asked to fly a close pattern for traffic. Too fast and too high led to the expected result, a go around. I felt good and decided to see if I remembered how to do the 3 pointer. Slower speed (below 70) and put the stick in my gut when the mains touched. (maybe an 8). I'm ready for the check out ride next week, and told the instructor the next one would be a full stop.

Another full stall with just a bit of jounce (6.5) but I taxied off on Bravo 4! It usually takes two more exits before I'm slow enough to get off the runway. (Change that to a 7)

Obviously a Great day!

Time = 0.7

Saturday, September 23, 2006


I called McCollum ATIS to find out what the conditions were at the field. Information 'Juliet' said the clouds were broken 1100' and broken at 1800' with light a variable winds. I looked out the front door to see low dark gray clouds with little patches of blue peeking through. I called the club and asked if it was good enough for the Decathlon to do some T&Gs, and my instructor said 'it was getting better'. I took that as a yes.

Objectives of this flight: Wheel Landings.

When I got to the airport the plane had already been fueled. As I approached I noticed an access panel missing under each wing. I never saw that one before. (Maybe this was a 'catch the dumb student' preflight trick?) Nope when my instructor came out he noticed the same thing. Seems that the owner had been out playing and popped them doing some aerobatics. No big deal, and not a hazard to flight, the rest of the preflight, and ground procedures were normal. We decided to stay in the pattern for the workout.

The winds were picking up a bit as we finished the runup, to a fairly good left crosswind. Good, I need the practice. Takeoff was normal, as was the pattern work. My 'arm chair' flying had convinced me that I was trying to do it all wrong last week. I was really trying to make the Wheel Landing like a full stall. Nope, can't do it. They are DIFFERENT! The Wheel Landing is more like a very, very low pass. It should almost be a surprise when the mains touch. The key word here is PATIENCE. The airplane will land when it wants to, you just can't force it. So, in my mind the sequence is to set up on the proper approach speed (75), with power on to minimize the rate of descent. Get into the 'belly of the flare' and wait. It worked! (well, kinda sorta.) The touch down was good (squeak), but I failed to coordinate the nose attitude. Jounce!

The other thing about a wheel landing is the Pilot Induced Oscillation (PIO). See, the airplane is flying slow( just a bit above stall), and you are trying to pin the wheels on the deck. If they come off the ground because you didn't nail the nose position and you still try to pin them down...well, it gets ugly fast. Porpoise is an understatement. I got some good practice exercising the 'go around'.

Progress was made on each pass, and one was actually very good. I learned a lot! During this work the winds continued to increase, and at one point the tower called 20 KTS. (That's a lot for a taildragger, especially since it was still coming off my left side.) I see the picture now, just a few more circuits should do it.

The final full stop was planned as a full stall (3 pointer) and I executed it well. A great way to end the day.

Time = 1.0

Friday, September 15, 2006

Introduction to Wheel Landings

Last time I mentioned that there were two options when landing a taildragger; 3 point (full stall) landings and wheel landings. I got a taste of 3 pointers last week, and while not perfected I'm getting comfortable with them.

Wheel landings are a bit different. My preparation for this flight included spending some time on the internet:

In a wheel landing, the airplane is flown onto the runway under power, instead of stalling it on without power, and the two mainwheels touch down first. Once that's done, power is taken out while the airplane is held down on the runway. This is done by keeping the wings at a very low, or perfectly flat, angle-of-attack (AOA) in order to not develop lift: the tail of the airplane is kept off the runway to flatten the AOA until speed bleeds off below that needed for flight.

I also listened to two good Podcasts from Part One stressed the differences in taildraggers due to aerodynamic forces and discussed the work needed for a tailwheel endorsement. Part Two talked about landings.

Another good source I found stated:

The key difference between the three-point landing and the wheel landing is sink rate. Successful wheel landings require minimum sink rate. If the airplane at all settles, falls, or sinks toward the runway in the last few feet, a wheel landing will be difficult or impossible. And if the pilot flinches and applies back elevator as the main wheels touch down, the airplane will rebound into the air. At this point, the pilot needs to react quickly and efficiently--either convert the landing to a three-pointer or add power and execute a go-around. The wheel landing occurs at a higher ground speed than a three-point landing. Consequently, wheel landings tend to use up more of the available runway. It's also easier to instigate a pilot-induced-oscillation (PIO) during a wheel landing.

So, my prep work completed, I was ready to try this stuff out.

The weather was just beautiful. Excellent visibility, with small little puffy white clouds meant it would be a good day to fly.

Objectives of this flight; Landings

I got to the airport a little early, in time to see another student doing some T&Gs in the Decathlon. I sat on the picnic bench enjoying the weather and watching the show. When they were done the other instructor recommended to refuel with about 5 gallons on each side. I did the preflight and checked to be sure the fuel caps were on tight. My instructor arrived and we discussed going to Cartersville, but opted for home field. The winds were light and variable, the runway changed from 9 to 27 when I called for ATIS. The run up and takeoff went well.

The rest of the flight was spent driving around the pattern, giving me the experience and sight picture to fly the airplane into the landing. One was particularly good, with mains squeaking as the touched, but I was too slow to pin the tail down. (It went from a '10' to a '5' real quick.)

I never really got the picture with wheel landings. My approach was good, speed control good, but when I got into the flare I tended to push the nose down BEFORE the mains were on the ground. Not good.

So again, I have the concepts...Ideas about what I need to do, but haven't developed the techniques yet to execute the maneuver. Other airplanes allow you to 'pad' your speed just a bit. 5 Knots is not critical in them, but an additional 5 knots in a taildragger is going to cause a 'jounce' every time. It is a matter of precision. As the instructor said; "after a day like this, you can't wait to come back for more." Its hard work, but it puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. I can hardly wait until next week.

Time = 1.9

Saturday, September 9, 2006

3 Points

Conventional Gear airplanes provide the option of using two landing techniques. The first is a full stall, or 3 point landing. The airplane is flown close to the ground at ever slower speed until it stalls and settles to the ground. The second, called Wheel Landings are flown a bit differently and just might be discussed next week.

There was nothing special about the weather today. Possibly a scattered layer at 5000, but mostly haze with visibility about 5 miles. Nothing that would keep us on the ground.

Objective of the flight: 3 Point Landings.

I got to the airport a little early for my flight. The owner of the aircraft had the bucket and hose out washing it down. (He warned me not to smash any bugs.) He finished as my instructor arrived and we completed the preflight. Ground procedures were normal (once I remembered to plug in my headset).

The takeoff; this one was actually pretty good. My 'arm chair' flying at home had uncovered a major error with my scan. At the most critical time (raising the tail) I wasn't looking far enough down the runway. I was able to correct this and had pretty good control. Not wanting to allow any drift, I "snatched it" off the ground instead of letting the airplane accelerate and fly off.

We departed to the north to practice some stalls. The nice thing about this airplane is that it really stalls. No mushy, slushy bubbling along, it just sounds the horn breaks clean. I like that. Power on and power off both act pretty much the same.

OK, back to the pattern. I picked up my bearings quicker, but was having a slight problem picking up tower calls. I don't like that. I'll check my batteries to see if I can boost the volume a bit. Traffic was called as base, but was really downwind for runway 9. It turned my pattern into a long straight in. My "arm chair flying" had also uncovered a flaw here. I was flying into the flare too fast. So I really concentrated on speed control as I got into the landing position. It worked well, not great but acceptable. The instructor rode the controls pretty closely and I liked that. That immediate feedback of where the stick should be coupled with the visual cues for nose attitude really gave me the sense of where the plane should be.

The next takeoff went well. I felt very comfortable with the controls and let the airplane fly this time. It felt better. Again traffic pushed us a bit deep on final but it really wasn't a problem. I lined up a bit left but made my corrections. Got on speed and descended to my spot. This was nice. No help from the instructor, this one was mine. And it worked well.

The next takeoff also went well. I'm OK with takeoffs now. Nose position probably needs a bit more fine tuning, but rudder control is no longer a problem. This time the approach was short for traffic, and I carried a bit more speed then I would have liked. A small 'jounce' but under control. I'm learning. The primary objective was met...I had fun.

We flew 70.4 miles, climbed to 5738 feet and reached 133 mph over the ground.

Time = 1.2

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Conventional Flying

There was a time when the third wheel was located on the back of the airplane. When they started putting it up front it was considered unconventional, tricycle gear. Since it was so much easier to control the airplane on the ground (including take-offs and landings) the tricycle configuration became standard and conventional gear went the way of the manual transmission. So, like sports cars, conventional gear is found on really fun airplanes.

My preparation for this transition included two books: Conventional Gear, Flying a Taildragger by David Robson, and The Complete Taildragger Pilot by Harvey S. Plourde. I think Harvey's book is superior by providing more analysis of the aerodynamics, especially what causes the 'jounce'. I also studied the Pilots Operating Handbook for the Decathlon and took the written test required by the Flying Club.

The weather was iffy. Ernesto had just passed through to the east of us and some of its remnants were stirring up the air. Bases were anywhere from 1200 broken to 1700 overcast, and nearby Dobbins AFB (KMGE) was reporting variable ceiling height (CIG). No showers and an occasional hole with blue sky peeking through kept me optimistic during my short drive to the airport. Due to some scheduling changes, my flight had fortunately been pushed back to noon, and when I arrived my instructor was still out on another (instrument training) flight.

Objectives of this flight: Introduction to conventional flying.

My log book says my last flight in a taildragger was 1.5 hours solo in an Aeronca 7Ac up in Slatington (69N) during the fall of 1970. My instructor at that time had limited me to full stall (3 point) landings, and I don't remember the limits on crosswind component. FAR 61.31 (i) (2) says that I'm grand-fathered in for my tailwheel endorsement, but 36 years seems to be just a bit long between flights for me to be safe. I wasn't sure that this was 'like riding a bicycle', so I scheduled plenty of time to get checked out. Note: the Decathlon is a fully aerobatic aircraft. However I didn't think it wise to put my already overloaded frame though 3.5 g pull ups. Just too many pounds and too many years since I did that the last time. I'll forego the aerobatics for now.

My instructor arrived and we introduced ourselves, talked about experiences, etc, and what I wanted to get out of this training. I mentioned spin training, soft field operations and just getting back to basics. Preflight and ground ops were straight forward. This airplane has a constant speed prop (which I haven't played with before) but otherwise the cockpit is pretty basic. Taxiing is not unlike the Tiger, just a bit slower and the need to anticipate corrections sooner. I got through the runup with a few embarrassments, but overall not too bad.

Ah the takeoff. All of the studying told me what would happen. My mental rehearsals warned me what might happen. Even so, the darn airplane went heading for the weeds on the left of side of the runway as soon as I lifted the tail. (Torque, P-factor, winds...Whatever, the airplane goes left and pushing the rudder full right is NOT the correct response.) Just plain ugly.

Once airborne (thankfully) we headed north to a practice area over the lake. Unfortunately the clouds were too low to allow any stalls. So I just got familiar with the controls, slow flight, etc. Sitting on the aircraft centerline and flying a stick instead of a yoke...Is FUN! I'm falling in love again.

Well, let's go try some landings. First, where is the airport? No GPS, low clouds, can't see Mt Kennesaw, where the heck am I? My instructor pointed out the bridge that marks about 9.5 miles northwest of the field and slowly I got my bearings. ATIS remained the same and I was cleared for a right downwind. My spacing was good, speed was good, altitude a little sloppy (-200), but I was comfortable. Nice line up on final, good rate of descent to my spot, everything was good. I got into my flare a bit high, held it off and...'jounce'. The third landing was pretty good. (I could only log one of them though.) We took the next taxiway and went back for more.

OK, so what is the 'jounce'? When you land a tricycle gear plane, the mains touch and you lower the nose. The angle of attack (AOA) is reduced, reducing lift. In a taildragger, after the mains touch you lower the tail, increasing the AOA and therefore the lift and up you go...jounce.

The next iterations were similar, showing some slight improvement. Lets just say that I'm getting the picture but it is not yet fully developed. So, was this a successful flight? This is FUN stuff! Humility is good for the soul, so that part of me is very healthy right now, and I still have a smile on my face.

We went 73.3 miles, climbed to 2647 feet and reached 135 mph over the ground.

Time = 1.3

* Note: Olathe did a great job with the 96c. Overnight air got it back quickly and I'm happy with the results.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Cartersville, Georgia

I received a notice from the Flying Club stating that "Currency in aircraft type AA5B will expire within the next month." I had spent so much time and effort learning to fly the G1000 that my first love had been neglected. It was time to go have some fun.

The local weather hasn't changed much. It is, maybe 10 degrees Cooler, but we are still in the summertime cycle of hot, hazy mornings turning into dark noisy CBs in the afternoon. I scheduled the Tiger for an 11:00 (L) go to bounce in the local area for about an hour. There were no applicable NOTAMS, and nothing else in my planning indicated any reason not to play hooky and go flying.

Objective of the flight: re-familiarization with the Tiger.

Ground procedures all went well, and my comfort level was high. Even after a month away this airplane still felt like home. I decide to depart to the Northwest and try the new GPS approach at Cartersville (VPC). Runup and takeoff were normal. There was a thin cloud layer at 3000 ft due to the power plant stacks, so I snuck above it and leveled at 4500 ft. It was very smooth air, trim it up and hands off kind of flying. I dialed up VPC in the GNS 430, pushed enter/enter and followed the purple line. Checked the AWOS, (no surprise,) and found a Robinson helo and a Baron were inbound to the field when I checked CTAF.I did my calculation to figure out the holding entry, then reported outbound at DACEG (probably mispronounced it), about 10 miles north of the field. The GPS confirmed my entry (teardrop) and I did my 6 T's. One turn in the pattern was good, so I decided to opt out of the approach and dial up the LOC 19 instead. This was interesting because the frequency has changed, and I wanted to confirm that the new freq was in the updated data base. (Yes, I'm still a skeptic.) It was, and I flew the rest of the approach as a straight in.

Another lousy landing. I HATE THAT! The truth is, I gave up on it and allowed myself to 'drop it in'. Not horrible, but when you can do better you should. That was just plain being lazy.

Departed there and headed for home. Just for completeness I dialed in KRYY in the GNS430 and drove down the purple highway. ATIS was 'November" and they were still using 27. Once I got south of runway centerline I called the tower and was surprised with a RIGHT downwind "call 1.5 from the field". So, I dropped the left wing to get north of the field and descended down to 2000 (pattern altitude). I was number 2 behind a Cessna (company traffic) on a 2 mile final. I haven't flown a right hand pattern in awhile (or left hand for that matter...Shooting approaches are mostly straight ins), so my spacing wasn't great. However my airwork was good, found my traffic in plenty of time and made a great (finally) landing back home.

Time = 1.0

*Update; The 96c is in Olathe getting tweaked a bit. Hopefully I'll have tracks and stats on the next update.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Electric Airplane - 2

The evening weather for the past few weeks has been typical for the deep south. We've had clear blue mornings, high humidity with building thunderstorms by the late afternoon. Our temperatures have been over 100 degrees providing enough energy to the cells to make them nasty. My plan of flying in the evening after their dissipation just wasn't working. I cancelled last Thursday for weather and decided to take some time off from work to try and get up before the weather got too bad. I used the down time to take the written test for the C172s. I needed more time with the operating manuals, and this was a good way to do a review.

Objective of the flight: Instrument work with the G1000 system.

I got to the airport about 10:45 (l) under MVFR conditions. There were lots of scattered and broken layers below 5000 Ft, but no airmets or sigmets. So it was a perfect day for some actual IFR! The plan was to use the G1000 and autopilot to depart RYY, fly over to the Rome VOR, enter holding for the ILS, hand fly the approach to mins, then execute the missed, transition back to cruise and hand fly a GPS back home. I filed a flight plan, got a weather brief, picked up the dispatch kit and went out to the airplane.

Preflight was normal (I found all of the 13 fuel drains) and the prestart checklist went well. I still had a slight problem with the start by probably advancing the mixture to rich too quickly. Overall I feel comfortable with the ground procedures now. I was 'Cleared as filed' and entered the squawk into the transponder. I'm not completely at ease with the softkeys yet, but can get the job done with a little forethought. Entering the flight plan information was a snap, really no different then the GNS430.

Takeoff was normal, and we were 'in the goo' by 1500 Ft. The autopilot worked as advertised by taking us up to 4000ft on course to the Rome VOR. I got the checklists complete, leaned the mixture and prepared for the approach. AWOS for the weather was as expected (bottoms at about 1000 Ft), no gyro to align, we were pretty well set up for the approach. Approach Control told us to report KAREL (IAF) inbound. This fix is defined by the Final Approach Course (007) and a radial (284) from the VOR. I made a mistake here. I misread the active and standby navaids and DEselected ILS from the active box. After a bit of confusion I realized the error and corrected it, but it is a small example of the transition that has to occur using the G1000.

The actual approach went well. The very large attitude indicator and digital VSI make flying the ILS much easier. However I do miss the turn and bank indicator for establishing a standard rate turn following the missed approach. (The little bar at the top doesn't quite do it for me.) Following the missed it was back to the VOR for holding(!) before getting cleared for home. I was only just entering the holding pattern when the "cleared direct" was given.

I went direct to the Initial Approach Fix (IAF) for the GPS RWY 9 with no problems. The transition from IFR back to visual went well as I picked up the runway immediately and made a nice adjustment to reach my touchdown point. Then I made a lousy landing. I hate that. I recovered well, but not the way to end a flight.

Time = 1.4 (with about an hour of actual)

* I had another achievement last week. I passed my medical! I'm good for another two years.

** The 96c is not doing too well. Garmin Tech Support has asked me to send it in for repairs. No track or stats for this flight.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Electric Airplane

No, I haven't given up Blogging, or flying for that matter. I had scheduled this flight for two weeks, but cancelled for weather both times. (Last week I actually got the preflight done, only to put the tie down ropes back on when I observed lightning in all quadrants. I got back to the office just before the rains hit. On a related but separate topic, my computer took a hit. The only one that could run the G1000 software got toasted. (Creating this image took about 3x as long due to lack of processor power.)

Today the weather was good. Summertime convection and high humidity had built some cells in the local area, but no lightning and only occasional rain meant we could go.

Objectives of this Flight: Introduction and orientation to the G1000 system.

I like technology and this was just too cool to pass up. Plus, in all my time in the sky I have never flown a new airplane. Yes, it is a little pricey but the 'geek' factor is way high. In addition to the glass cockpit, the additional functions and acronyms (AHRS , ADC, TIS, Mode S transponder, Weather datalink receiver, Automatic Flight Control System) are truly wonderful. I had to give it a try.

I actually started with a written test required by the club for all who wanted to venture into this 21st century aircraft. It forced me into the various flight guides, Pilots Operating Handbook (POH), and even FAR/AIM for a few of the questions. I mentioned that I had the simulator running at home until the computer got fried, and still plan to spend some time at school running that.

I got to the airport about 7:00(L) just as my CFI was returning from another flight. I got the dispatch kit and went out to preflight. Since this is a new model, I went strickly by the book (13 fuel drains?!?!). I notice that some things I typically check (flaps & lights) weren't on the list. The CFI briefed me on his plan, which was essentially to implement the enroute automation features available. He stressed the use of the autopilot and what interfaces were and were NOT there. We would use the typical training route: RYY, RMG, 47A, to RYY.

Sitting in a new plane is great. All the plastic works, everything is still clean. It is oh, so much better then a new car. Startup is different with a fuel injected engine. Interesting that the very important "advance mixture to full rich" is on the next page. (More POH study for me!) After the brake check he took the plane so I could play. I entered the flight plan, experimented with setting up frequencies, and validated what I had learned about the Audio panel, etc. Runup was normal with no 'new' or unexpected items.

Take off was smooth, the biggest change being to arm the autopilot at about 200ft. Set for best rate of climb, all I had to do was sit back and monitor. And what a LOT to monitor! I was initially overwhelmed. There was simply too much data to comprehend. The huge attitude gyro is great, but where is the RPM, what are the vectors on the MFD, where are my nav and com frequencies? I was looking at the right stuff, but wasn't comprehending what I saw.

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate - back to basics. Fly the airplane first, and the flight instruments make that easy. Ah, the engine instruments are over there on the MFD (co-pilot side) and its pretty easy to see if they are 'green'. Am I enroute to Rome? Yes, the purple line is still there, and the CDI works just like before, just prettier. OK, leveling off at 4500ft and all I have to do is adjust power. Pretty easy. All right, we're leaving RYY airspace, time to tune in Cartersville CTAF. Nearest/airport, select frequency just like the GNS430. I can do this. OK, lets switch from GPS direct to KRMG to the Rome VOR. Select the new source to the CDI, bingo bango off we go. Slick. Go back to GPS, no problem.

what's going on over on his display? All the engine stuff is there, but he has some additional cool stuff. This is the first time I used Traffic Information System (TIS) and liked it. NEXRAD showed where the clouds were and it also has the Terrain functions. I'm falling in love. Note: this could be a very difficult plane to fly in VFR conditions. There are just too many cool colorful things to look at inside the cockpit.

Enroute to Cherokee County we let the autopilot takes us down to 3500, played with "lean Assist" function and discussed emergencies. Then we made the turn, and contacted ATC for the ILS27. "Radar contact. Come left to 180...'. I turned the heading bug and she obeyed. In the digital world, 179 is not close enough as the panel gives you a precise readout. Although NOTAM'd out, since VFR, we went ahead with a coupled approach. WOW. All I had to do was set the correct power for my approach speed and this 'high wing wonder' did the rest...on path, on glideslope. I took it at about 200ft (set up perfectly) for a nice landing. Simply awesome.

C172s - G1000
Time = 1.2

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Franklin County, Canon Georgia

The weather was good. The high pressure in the Atlantic was holding a cold front to the north and the associated clouds could not quite reach Atlanta. Few to scattered at 6000ft with a slight chance of thunder-bumpers in the afternoon, winds were calm and mostly out of the west.

Objectives of this flight: practice enroute procedures.

I got to the airport about 7:00 (L), picked up the dispatch kit and went out to the airplane. Panel lights were still squawked as inop. Normal preflight and start, but an annoying back-tone on Comm 1. (I played with the various volume controls/squelch adjustments and finally eliminated it after I accidentally pulled off and replaced the button on the GNS430.) As I was doing my runup a beautiful RV9(?) made a low pass. He was clearly having some fun as he pulled nearly vertical to enter a left downwind.

Take off and climbout were normal. I climbed to 3500 completed my cockpit checks and prepared for my "x-country". The GNS was set for 'track up' instead of my preference for 'north up', which I quickly changed with the menu button. I always keep a log of important data I'll use along the route. For this flight I wanted to replace a lot of that information by using the GNS430. Instead of writing down all of the CTAF/Unicom/Tower frequencies, I wanted to use the Nearest/Airport page to pull them up as required. This worked well. It turned out to be very convenient and less prone to error.

I am not pleased with fuel management procedures in this airplane. I can lean the engine by looking at the RPM, but GPH is only a guestimate from the POH. So it looks to me like you do the plan, then stay way conservative with the GPH calculations.

I seldom play with the autopilot, since I have had less then stellar results. This one proved to be no exception. The "wing leveler" had a very annoying oscillation as it constantly tried to hold a heading. I put Electric City (ELW) in the Nav2 VOR and tried to use it to track there, but had the same poor results. No heading bug, no real tracking mechanism meant it is pretty much useless. I wouldn't trust it in actual IMC.

After my problem with the flaky directional gyro, I wanted to play with the vertical compass card on the GNS430 (Nav/page 3) and was pleasantly surprised. Not only does it provide the simulated DG, but also has the pretty purple line showing where your track is in relation to the airplane. Very nice.

There is nothing out in North East Georgia, unless you like poultry farms. I arrived at 18A about 8:30 made my turn, climbed to 4500 and headed for home. This part of the trip was pretty uneventful. I put direct-to KRYY in the GNS430, selected vectors to the ILS27, activated it, and got lined up for a straight in about a gazillion miles out. (The only mistake I made was calling 10 miles out, when I was actually 10 miles from AKONE.) I was little high/fast on final, but acceptable for a night landing. I made a nice touchdown.
Time = 1.9

*I downloaded a new patch for my handheld. Unfortunately my "Flightbook" software fails to accept any data from the new level of code. No stats until/if I can get this glitch fixed.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Independence Day

The weather started out bright and sunny, but by mid-afternoon a high pressure ridge to the south had provided enough moisture to allow some clouds to form. The local METARs had a few at 5000, scattered to broken at 7000, and a few nasty cells. Most of those would be dissipated by the time we planned to take off.

The route would be pretty simple. I wanted to go east to Athens (AHN) for a good look at the weather, then up to Lake Lanier for an aerial view of the fireworks. After that, head south and pick up vectors for the ILS 27 back home.

I got a call from the flying club GM around noon time that they were shutting down to celebrate the holiday. He would leave the dispatch kit with the FBO and I could have the plane for as long as I needed it. After the flight, I could just drop it off with them as well. GREAT!

We got to the airport about 8:00 PM (local), took the cover off and started the preflight. She needed gas so I went for my cell phone to make the call. Kathy asked what I did before we had cell phones? Hmmm, well, I usually had a plane captain that took care of that, and before then I would just fill it up myself. I've gotten spoiled. The rest of the ground work was normal, and ground had us taxi to runway 09 for take-off. She made a very nice takeoff from the right seat.

I took back the airplane and continued the climb to 5500ft, noted rain showers to the north and the bottoms of the broken layer seemed to be about 7,000ft. Visibility was about 4 miles, so I decided to go back down to 3500 ft, where the visibility was closer to 7 miles. The nice thing was it was a very smooth ride. Once east of the rain showers I turned north to head up to the lake. Along the way we could see a few eager neighborhoods launching their rockets creating tiny fountains of color. About this time the panel lights went out.

Lake Lanier had a small shower over it and we brushed the edge washing the airplane as we passed KGVL. It appeared that most of the firework activity was centered on a peninsula about midway on the western edge, so I made some easy turns there while trying to stay out of the shower. ( Just some minor turbulence when I got a bit close on one pass.) By 9:00 the show was really starting and we could see some activity in all quadrants.

We departed the area by about 9:15 and headed south to intersect an extended OBS line for the ILS27 approach. This is when the REAL show started. Gainesville, Buford, Duluth, Alpharetta, Roswell, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Marietta, Smyrna as well as Kennesaw all had things going on. To make the flight even more interesting, some of the cells had not dissipated as we saw a few lightning strikes out in the distance. (I would later learn that Atlanta had to postpone activities at Centennial Olympic Park due to lightning.) Absolutely a beautiful display!

I called the tower at AKONE and was cleared for a visual Rwy 09. The fireworks were still going as we approached midfield and Kathy asked if we could stay up a bit longer. Wow, what a great thing to hear her say. I wasn't about to push my luck and continued with the landing. "Cool landing, is that what you call a squeaker?"

We covered 95.8 miles, climbed to 5015 feet ( but stayed at 3500 for most of the flight) and got up to 151 mph over the ground. This was the first time Kath had flown with me at night.

Time = 1.4

* I forgot to turn the GPS off. After flying we were starved, so went over to Waffle house for a late evening dinner.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Thomaston-Upson County, Georgia

I love flying VFR, and the weather called for clear skies and unlimited visibility. However, I also like flying in "the system", and the Tiger has a new Garmin 430 and I haven't 'scratched my IFR itch' in awhile, so I decided it was time to go back into the Class B. Since the weather was so nice I would try to fly directly over downtown Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and see the city lights. The last time I tried this I got vectored way out to the west and barely scraped the controlled airspace, so I looked for a destination that would increase my odds of overflying the city. KOPN looked pretty good, had an ILS and was only about 60 miles away.

Objectives of the flight: IFR in the Class B and a night landing.

I got all of my planning done and called Flight Service for a weather briefing and filed my flight plan. I still think its great that you can do this from home with a computer. I got to the airport about 15 minutes late to find my instructor manning the desk. One of his other student pilots had asked to observe radio procedures and wanted to come along. While he may have been more interested in how to handle calls at an uncontrolled field, he would surely get some experience with radios on this flight.

Preflight and ground procedures were all normal. Ground control was ready with my clearance when I called for taxi. I was astounded; "Cleared as filed, climb to 3000, expect 7000 in 10 minutes, Atlanta Departure on 121.0 squawk 5211". AS FILED! Fantastic, I would fly over the city in daylight on the way down, and come back over the city lights! Wonderful.

RYY was busy. I guess that's to be expected on a beautiful day in the evening. Bizjets and Cessnas, and even one guy on floats were all trying to get in and out. When I got the call it was 'lights, camera, action,' and we were rolling. All gauges were good and we were airborne. Switched to Atlanta Departure and waited for "radar contact". "68Romeo your Mode C is not working, say your altitude". Hmmmm. Responded, cycled and punched the darn thing. "68Romeo you are radar contact, come left heading 180 climb to 4000 report reaching." Rats! Off/on, check the breakers, punch the ident all no joy. I guess Atlanta would be safe for another day.

I checked in at 4000ft and told him I would still like to do the ILS down at KOPN. So we flew down the west side of the area underneath the Class B shelf. As we got within 15 miles we were handed off and asked for our intentions. Without the Mode C he told me to expect the full approach, go direct to YATES (IAF) and report procedure turn inbound. I went through my setup (nice to have the Garmin) and turned to go direct. hmmm, the directional gyro wasn't doing to well. Timed out bound and did the procedure turn and checked the DG again - 20 degrees off. Turned back inbound - 20 degrees off. Turned on final - 15 degrees off. Well that stinks.

*Trivia - While preparing for the flight I noticed the number in the circle was different then the minimum altitude at the final approach fix. (Its the same for the ILS at RYY.) So that number indicates the Glide Slope altitude at the FAF, the number underlined is the Glide slope intercept altitude."

So we executed the missed approach there and started for home. Very smooth air as the sun set, adjusted the panel lights and stretched a bit. The 430 kept us aware of the various airports along our route as we listened to the (light) traffic buzzing around Atlanta. Poof! The panel lights went out. GNS is still on, radios are working, AMPS/VOLTS are OK. No CBs are popped. OK, so probably a fuse. Tough to check, so I tell my passenger not to worry about it and we pull out our flashlights. Rats.

The rest of the trip home is pretty uneventful as we coordinate our flashlights and get ready for our arrival. I let him do the checklists as I arrange for vectors to the ILS back home. OK, bad call. Trying to do vectors at night without panels lights and a flaky DG is not smart. It is doable in VFR and very smooth air, just not too smart. I just should have set up for the visual. Anyway, the approach was uneventful to a full stop.

Sorry, I forgot to turn on the 96c, no track or stats for this flight.

Time = 2.5

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Cherokee County, Georgia

The summer season is really starting to roll down here. Temps have been in the low 90s, and both warm and cold fronts have made the air very unstable. An approaching cold front had the weather guessers calling for thunderstorms this afternoon, so I thought for sure I would be hanger flying. Fortunately the weather never developed as predicted, and while the radar looked kind of ugly, the air was actually pretty nice. Definitely nice enough to go flying. Now that the weather has turned warmer I'll have to change my routine and either fly before the build ups or after the dissipation. I prefer later.

The objectives of this flight: some T&G's at a different airport.

I got out to the airport about 5:30, picked up the dispatch kit and went out to the airplane. To my surprise the Garmin 430 was finally installed! Toys! I decided to stick with my plan and fly up to Cherokee County (47A), but would enter the pattern via a GPS RWY 4 approach. Normal startup and ground procedures. Winds were from the east so I had a RWY 9 departure, turned north and immediately got set up for the approach. Pretty much a standard "T" GPS approach, made interesting by the step downs on the final course. It leaves you at 650 feet AGL at two miles to touchdown. Full flaps and a healthy slip got me there, but it was an effort to get down.

Three bounces and I departed for home. Since my path took me right over the lake, I decided to do some slow work including a power off stall. I like this airplane. Normal entry for a straight in back home resulted in a nice landing. I flew 95.8 miles, reached 151 mph and climbed to 5015 ft.AA5B
Time = 1.1

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cedartown, Georgia

The weather was great. A weak cold front had stalled just south of us yesterday, turned stationary for awhile and had been over come by a high pressure area in the Gulf turning into a warm front moving the other way. Clear sky, 10+ miles visibility and calm winds made for a perfect late afternoon flight. Cornelius Moore Field in Polk County GA is about 25 miles due west of home base. 4000ft of paved runway it is very busy on weekends with Skydivers. I usually avoid it for that reason, but I figured there wouldn't be any traffic on a Wednesday afternoon.

Objectives for this flight: Stay current in the Cessna 172. Hard to believe but my last logbook entry for a C172 was March 30th, so it was getting close to the 60 day limit for the club. I scheduled the airplane and arrived at the airport at about 5:30, just as it was coming back in. I got the dispatch kit and walked out to the airplane with just a slight sense of unfamiliarity. That went away quickly when I bumped my head on the extended flap during the preflight. It became very comfortable when I turned on the avionics master and the Garmin 430 sprang to life. I like this! Comm 2 has Ground dialed in with ATIS on standby, the 430 has the Tower as active and I can put the Unicom on standby. TOYS! (I love 'em.)

The plan is to fly west to the DALAS intersection, do the VOR/GPS RWY 28 into 4A4, then turn north to the Rome VOR and try the GPS-A back into 4A4. Next depart Cedartown and go over to Cartersville via ERLIN for a few T&Gs and return home for a visual full stop. That should give me some good use of the GPS, cover all the checklists and procedures, and have some fun as well.

Ground procedures all went well. Takeoff was normal and I climbed to 4500ft while heading toward DALAS intersection. The high wing does limit visibility compared to the Tiger, but I have to admit I really enjoy flying this plane now. She's a friend. My traffic is an Experimental, but he departs by the time I'm procedure turn inbound. Its nice to have the place all to myself. Checklists complete, there are some rather intimidating trees close to the end of the runway, so I come in a bit high (according to the VASI) but make a nice touch down.

So, depart to the north, use Nav 2 VOR to go to RMG and take a turn in the holding pattern to reverse my course. UNICOM is still quiet but I make my calls at the VOR inbound, 5 miles, and 1 mile approaching the field. It is hard to see the runway down in the trees. Once over the field I time for 20 seconds and make a standard rate turn to the left for 90 degrees. I'm pleasantly surprised when I raise the wing to find myself just where I want to be. Another comfortable landing there and I turn north for ERLIN. Checking my watch says its time to go home, so I skip the Cartersville leg and head for Lost Mountain. It is just a beautiful day. Entry back home is uneventful. The most difficult part of the day is pushing the plane back into its slot. Steering is just a bit different on the Tiger...and today I had to push up hill.

I flew 114 miles, climbed to 4669 ft and reached 155 mph.C172
Time = 1.3

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mandy and the Tiger

A long cold front stretched from the Great Lakes down to Atlanta and then back up to the Northeast giving New England floods of 'biblical proportions'. The precip wasn't quite so bad in the south but we had unstable air and wind gusts higher then 25 kts. Even when right down the runway, that's getting out of my comfort zone. My flight the previous night was cancelled due to high winds and very powerful isolated storm cells which moved through like freight trains.

METARs were still reading high winds, but now they were in the teens and forecasted to subside. No reported thunderstorm activity so I thought we could give it a try. On the drive to the airport we saw a few little puffy ones, and the winds seemed to be much better. We arrived about 4:30 local and watched some light airplanes taking off which just confirmed that we could go.

Mandy helped me take the cover off and do the walk around. Just back from a 100 hour inspection, everything seemed to be in order. Still some mix up with the avionics shop, so no new equipment to play with. Startup took a few extra cranks, I suppose because it had been sitting for awhile. After she started everything looked normal.

Ground told me to follow a King Air out taxiway bravo to the end of Rwy 27. As I got out of the ramp area a King Air was just about to take the runway. I mistakenly thought he was my traffic. Another pulled in behind me. No issue as I had room at the end of the taxiway to do my run up and be out of his way, but I'll remember to look more carefully next time.

It was a busy day. We watched a number of planes land including a Citation, a C172 a few helicopters and a an RV. Lights, camera, action and we were ready to go. Smooth take off and climb, I planned to go up to 4,500 but passing 3,000 she had a problems with her ears. So, I went back down to 2,500 and headed toward Cartersville (VPC). After a few minutes she felt better so I continued a gradual climb with no further problems. I let her fly a bit and she made a beautiful 360 degree turn. Later we headed up to Rome for a couple of T&Gs. She liked it.

Departed there and headed for home. As we got close to our housing development I circled to see if we could find our house, but no joy. So I called the tower, entered the down wind for a visual and made 'squeaker'. I like the Tiger.

We flew 128 miles, 156 mph over the ground and got up to 4891 ft on a beautiful clear day.

Time = 1.5

Friday, May 5, 2006

Northern Hills

The weather had been unstable. Driving back from Georgia Tech the previous night I encountered pea sized hail and gusty winds. The slow moving cold front was still in the area stirring things up, and during my short drive to the airport I saw a 'big ugly' to the south. Once at KRYY all sectors but south looked OK, and the radar confirmed that going north should be acceptable.

My plan was to fly up to Campbell, TN(1A3). Just on the other side of the state border and the north Georgia mountains. My planner said it would be about 60 miles and take about 40 mins to get there.

Objective of the flight: Practice pilotage. I decided to 'hop" from one airport to the next, while keeping a close eye on the weather.

I had a slot from 6:00 to 8:00 local, but when I got to the airport the Tiger was out. Not a big deal since I was very flexible with my plan. I was surprised though, because until recently I had been one of the very few flying it. I just thought I would have it to myself until the new avionics were installed. (The shop got all the equipment, but there is some issue coupling the autopilot to the GPS. Maybe next week. The good news; a new DG was installed!)

All ground procedures were normal. Smooth takeoff and as I turned to the north I noticed some little puffy ones at about 5000ft. I leveled at 3500ft and headed toward Cherokee County. The air was smooth and visibility better then 8 miles. My predicted heading was validated with the GPS. So far, so good.

As 47A passed under my left wing I made the turn and climbed to 4500. Winds were calm, visibility still good and I began to see that the cloud deck was going from scattered to broken, and coming down. As I passed Pickens County I had a decision to make. The highest peak on my route looked to be 4262, and the quad height was listed at 4400 ft. The layer was still broken, so I could probably sneak through and get above it. But why? When out for a joy ride, discretion is the better part of valor. Time to go home.

I put 49A under my left wing, made the turn, descended to 3500 and headed for home. About 25 miles out I dialed up approach and asked for vectors to the ILS. Misty haze made westward visibility a problem, but I picked up the PAPI just inside AKONE (about 5 miles). I set the power just below the yellow arc, sat back and enjoyed the view. Zero wind. Flaps down, I ballooned a bit (need to work on that, maybe more nose down trim), but made a 'squeaker'.

A very nice flight. 5026 ft, max ground speed of 163 mph and a total of 114 miles.


Time = 1.2

* Colorized track by goFlying.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Angels Over Atlanta

No, I didn't fly, but I can do an awesome low pass. This event was reserved for the professionals, and it showed. I was an invited to attend "Family Day" with a Marine friend, at NAS Atlanta on a beautiful Friday. This is the practice day for the show but is only open to 'special guests' and I was honored to be invited.

The schedule of events included: Sean Tucker flying a Columbia, (showing that you can get out of very unusual attitudes in a GA airplane), Manfred Radius, doing aerobatics in a Sailplane (beautiful), Dale Snodgrass in an F86 (now that is a low pass!) and of course; The Blue Angels.

The show opened with The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Parachute Team. Zero wind made their job easy, but no less impressive.

I had never seen an F86 demonstrated and it was just WOW. The current line fighters definitely have the power and awe, but the classics still show beautifully what energy management is all about. Another first for me was watching Rick Svetkoff fly an F104 Starfighter. A Kelly Johnson design, this airplane has always been one of my favorites (yes I built the Monogram model when I was a kid.)

Some other old friends were also there. Mentors, Trojans and Trackers; although I hadn't seen them in sometime, the orange and white still looked familiar. This one clearly wasn't airworthy because oil wasn't dripping profusely from the cowling. It was fun to complain about the ugly old girl back then, but it is probably the closest thing to a WWII fighter I will ever fly. (It actually has a speed brake...and needs it!)

There were some real beauties on display as well. There has been a recent internet poll going around asking who is/was the best aviator. Silly yes, but always good to start an argument while hanger flying. My vote goes to Doolittle, and not just for the raid on Tokyo, but for his lifetime contribution to aviation. Anyway, we watched a gorgeous B-25 land and taxi over to the static display area. I've seen the movie, read the book, and still can't believe he and his Raiders got those things off the carrier.

I can't close without mentioning another friend. The reason I moved down to Georgia was to support the Lockheed Martin company design and build the pinnacle of modern aviation, the F22. (Yes, I'm a fan of the F35 as well, but am not as intimately involved with that airplane.) It is always good to see the leading edge and in this day and age, great to know that it is ours.

*An unexpected update. Seems that the low pass that Dale Snodgrass (Top Gun grad, Navy Fighter Pilot of the Year) did in Atlanta, wasn't as low as he can go. See "Gear-Up: Those Who Have, Those Who Haven't Yet" in Avweb.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Peachtree City, Falcon Field, Georgia

It's a long way from Slatington, Pa. My parents are down visiting, celebrating my sister's X0th birthday and I scheduled the Tiger to give them a little tour. I said if the weather was good I would fly down to Falcon Field in the morning and give them a ride.

The weather was great! A stationary front stayed north of us, held in place by a high pressure area to the south. Hazy misty mornings, but absolutely still air. Perfect for what I wanted to do. The plan was to pick them up, maybe go down to Calloway Gardens and return home after some easy maneuvers.

Objective of the flight; Give Mom & Dad a ride in the Tiger.

I got to the airport a bit late due to rush hour traffic. (Working out of a home office, I don't have to put up with clogged roads all that often. I can understand road rage.) Fortunately the plane was in good shape and ready to go. Start, taxi and runup were all normal. I was in the run-up area by 9:00. I departed VFR to the southwest, planning to stay beneath the shelf of the Class B airspace. I picked TEMPO intersection as an intermediate fly to point, just to be safe. The Tiger still doesn't have her new avionics, so once again I was glad to have my handheld.

The flight down was fine. I always enjoy the adventure of flying to a different airport, and although Falcon Field is close (less then a legal cross country), its new to me. ASOS gave winds as calm, and one other call on CTAF was using RWY 13. This worked out great, so I just used a long straight-in ( a slip took care of the extra height on final) and landed just about on time. The four of them were waiting as I shut down on the ramp.

I have always tried to let passengers know that some people don't like to fly. It isn't like being in a car, perhaps more like a boat. Some of the sensations are fun, some are not. I told them all that if for any reason they weren't having fun we would return immediately.

Mom climbed in the back, Dad sat in the right seat. People are familiar with the seatbelts in cars. They aren't quite sure what to do with the 3 ends presented to them (usually two, because one is hidden behind or next to the seat) in an airplane. Headsets can also be confusing. I explained everything, took time to see if that had any questions or fears, and made my way to the runway. No problems. Dad took the plane at about 1500ft and departed the pattern to the southwest. Gentle climb, easy turns, not too hot, and smooth smooth air. Mom was fine in the back seat, and the vent for the Tiger was providing plenty of air. No problems.

My sister had soloed at Falcon Field XX years ago, so was already comfortable, but her husband had not flown in small airplanes before. I assured him once again that if he would only let me know of any discomfort that we would come back to land immediately. This part of the flight also went well. She made some easy turns, and did a nice job maintaining altitude. He seemed to enjoy the view and was able to pick out a number of landmarks.

Overall, this was just a great flight. GPS says that it was 53.6 miles down, 42.8 with Dad & Mom, 48.6 with Sister & brother-in-law, and 68.7 on the way back. Max speed on the way home was 171 mph, and Dad took us up to 4401 ft when he was flying.

Time = 2.5

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Back to Sammie's

It was a clear but windy Saturday, the day before Easter. The Flight School had arranged for a speaker to discuss his frequent trips to the Bahamas. I figured it would be something good for Kathy to hear, and I could top it off by a late lunch at Sammie's.

The objectives of the flight: get Kathy in the Tiger and go somewhere.

Absolutely beautiful skies with winds gusting to 18kts right down the runway. We got the dispatch kit and went out to the airplane. She helped me take the cover off, loaded her gear inside and did the walk around with me. We climbed in, adjusted seats and belts, although she couldn't get quite comfortable with the shoulder harness. Normal start and taxi, and I left the canopy cracked for air on our way to the runup area. She was nervous, worried about getting airsick.

Runup was normal, and no clearance since I decided VFR would get me maximum flexibility should we need to alter our plans. Takeoff was fine, although the gusty winds made her a bit uncomfortable. Passing 1000ft I gave her the airplane, pointed at a prominent landmark and told her to continue to climb to 4500ft as I completed the checklists. She did well, and although I didn't notice it, we were still in some little "bumps" at level off. I figured it out after a bit, and climbed to 6500ft where it was glass. However, you pay a price, indicated 140mph was just over 100mph groundspeed on the handheld GPS. We flew southwest, intercepted Interstate 20 and flew west. Outbound would take a bit longer then planned.

"I'm glad you like this, but it just seems like too much work." Well, at least she wasn't sick.

We flew just south of KANB (staying away from R2102A) and over Talladega Raceway. The VOR is located just east of the airport, and I flew approximately 260 outbound from there looking for KPLR. I spotted the airport early, but it was nice to have confirmation on the GPS. Initial CTAF said that they were landing on 02, but later I heard departing on 20. I decided to overfly the airport and enter on an upwind leg for a RWY 20 left hand pattern. That worked out well. Normal landing (floated a bit and corrected for x-wind) and taxied over to the restaurant.

We landed about 20 mins late due to the headwinds, and met another couple for another great Sammies Hamburger. Kathy's friend was kind enough to give a mini tour of the airport, including a peek at his fine Cherokee hangered there. Just a wonderful afternoon.

But now we had to get back. I did a mini-preflight, carefully taxied around a C182 that had parked on the grass next to us, and made my way out to the runway. Thorough run up and a nice take off, I extended it just a bit to fly over the lake. This is very pretty country.

I flew back the way we came, 5,500ft wasn't too bad, but not glass either. Since she seemed to be doing well, I decided to ask for vectors for an ILS, just to show her the ATC side of things. This was a mistake. Leaving 5,500 for 3,000 started to get bumpy, and the vectors took us too far east. While she enjoyed listening to the radio calls, and got some appreciation for an approach, she was also tired after a long day and a big meal. "I'm glad I didn't eat the whole hamburger." Once on final we were back fighting the headwinds, which made for a rather long approach. She did well with all of this, but I should not have imposed the extra 25 mins just to show her what an approach was like. A little burble on short final had her ask if I was OK, but a smooth landing calmed her down. Cracked the canopy before clearing the active to get some air.

This was a great day for me. She enjoyed it too (but not quite as much.) We traveled over 250 miles, got up to 7023ft, and reached 183mph.

Time = 2.8

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Lee Gilmer Memorial Field

Spring has come to Georgia. While cold fronts still push their way across Alabama, most of them move north before getting to Atlanta. We've had some breezy weather (and a few early morning thunderstorms) but most days have been good for flying. 10 miles in light haze, better then 5500 scattered and just a slight southerly crosswind meant I could make my 4:00pm reservation.

Objectives of the flight: 1) solo the Tiger, 2) play with the navigation (without the Garmin 430), and 3) see how she handles on an ILS. My plan was to fly over to Cartersville (VPC), then to Gainsville (GVL) and the ILS back home.

I took my time with the preflight, and carefully reviewed the checklist after my walk around. I still have that "new" feeling, and wanted to make sure I hadn't missed anything. Startup and taxi were all normal (nice to have the canopy open for the trip to the runup area). Once use to the differential braking, the ground control on this plane is great. Runup complete, I was tempted to leave the canopy open for take off, but didn't. Climb out enroute to VPC goes fine, and the visibility is superb.

Rather then just enter the pattern, I decide to do the Loc 19 just to see how the needle lines up. Call traffic and find three in the pattern, one is entering on the VOR A that goes too close to the power plant cooling towers, and another is inbound at the FAF for the same approach I'll be doing. I can see the guys in the pattern, I'll keep looking for the other two. By procedural turn inbound, all heads are accounted for and the LOC needle is right on. A Seminole is on downwind and I do a 360 to take interval on him (I got what I needed out of the approach). My two landings are a bit fast, but OK. Depart Cartersville and head east.

Gainsville is about 60 miles to the east, so I have a little time to play navigator. ENSOR intersection is about half way there, so I head for it. I have One VOR, and no GPS, so this should be interesting. My basic airwork suffers (but not too bad) as I twist radio frequencies and the OBS knob. You know, this stuff still works. Once I've convinced myself that I can do it, I go back to the 'easy way' and pull out my handheld GPS. (Nearest function, find GVL, direct/enter/enter and the purple line shows the way.)

GVL is located on the eastern edge of Lake Lanier, a beautiful reservoir and one of the main boating spots for Atlanta. It looked like everyone was out on the water. One other plane was shooting the Loc Rwy 4 so I gave myself vectors and followed him down for a low approach. Missed at mins and headed west.

After climbing to 4500 ft, I got my only Comm Radio tuned to ATIS, then switched it over to Approach, listened for a bit, and found they were not too busy. 'AMICEATM' complete, I called for vectors, was given a squawk and a heading to fly. And another heading to fly. And another heading to fly. Finally the controller asked me what heading I was on and when I confirmed he cautioned me that I was still too close to the final approach course. BING! The first 'M' in AMICEATM stands for Marker Beacons on AND Magnetic compass (align Gyro.) I had done this correctly going into Gilmer, but not for McCollum. It was about 30 degrees off. (Ouch). OK, so how many time will I do that again? (Note the squirrelly blurb just prior to the ILS.) I 'fessed up' and the rest of the approach was normal.

Very nice landing at home. Except for a minor seat problem (adjustment lever came off in my hand when I tried to push my seat back to get out) normal shutdown and clean up. After tying her down, a beautiful old Twin Beech came down the taxi way. No paint, just polished aluminum and just wow. I traveled 190 miles, a max speed of 165 mph(!) and got up to 4735 feet.

Time = 1.9

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tora, Tora, Tora

Back in the Tiger! The log book says that last flight in a Tiger was back in June 2005.

Objective of this flight: get checked out in the American General AA5B.

I reviewed the POH to get familiar with the speeds and systems. (No prolonged descents at 1850 to 2250 RPM. Start the engine on the left mag, etc.). I got to the airport a little early so that I could take my time getting reacquainted. I bought a brand new laminated checklist and walked out the airplane. She is not a showgirl, looks like some hail damage, numbers are faded and walk areas on the wings need work, but she still looks good to me. The engine compartment is the cleanest I've ever seen, and the interior is nice new leather. A new stack (including a Garmin 430) is expected to be installed this week.

I'm excited to be back in the Grumman again, and nervous (although I shouldn't be) to have an instructor looking over my shoulder for the check out ride. I don't want to disappoint him. The plan is to stay in the pattern, do some T&Gs, and if we still have some daylight, go north and do some high work.

Startup, taxi and runup are all normal. (WOW, as I'm taxiing out a Piaggio Avante lands. Just Gorgeous! OK, when I win the lottery...) RYY is busy. There must be 3 or 4 planes doing the ILS, as well as traffic in the pattern. While I still enjoy just sitting in an airplane, the CFI is ready to go. Change in plans, lets depart here and go over to Cartersville.

Take off is normal, however the nose attitude is much lower then the C172. I can actually see where I'm going. Airspeed is in MPH with the inner ring in Knots. Climb at about 105 mph. Its a beautiful spring evening out there, and the visibility from this airplane is spectacular.

Two other airplanes in the pattern, with another entering on the 45 about 5 miles out. I make the calls and take interval, ask the CFI to show me one so I can get the picture again. Round out is a little lower as is the nose attitude on the flare. My turn.

I call crosswind and hear chatter about the pattern being so busy. It makes me laugh (4 airplanes is NOT busy.) First landing goes well (I'm in love again.) The next has to be extended very deep due to traffic, but also goes well. Downwind on the next he pulls the engine. Best glide is 83 mph, I look over my shoulder and extend the pattern a bit. This airplane likes to fly. Base is still high, full flaps before turning final and a full slip brings her down nicely. Straighten out and he tells me to execute a go around. No problem. Let's go home.

Normal entry back home (well, actually by this time I'm more familiar with the ILS) and no traffic. Cleared to land. Here I break one of my rules, no chatter once on base leg. I guess the relief and excitement got to me. I missed a tower call, and he caught it. Lesson relearned. Landing was not great, but acceptable.

Overall a very good flight. I'm going to love flying this airplane.

Time = 1.6

Monday, March 27, 2006

Rome, Georgia

Nate had come home from Spring Break with a brand new Student Pilot's certificate for a Sailplane. Now he wanted to compare what he had learned with powered flight. Well, any excuse to fly sounds good to me.

Objectives of this flight: VFR flight rules, touch and goes, and radio communications.

Cold fronts have still been passing through Georgia stirring up the air. Ceiling and visibility was great, but preflight planning showed winds were gusting up to 20 kts with nearly 90 degree (variable) crosswinds. Forecast was for the winds to subside later in the day.

We arrived at the airport about 6:00pm local. The plane was already back from a previous flight so we were able to get the dispatch kit and start the preflight almost immediately. I took some time to brief him on the plan. He would handle the radio with ground/tower, and after takeoff fly to the Rome VOR. Enter the pattern trough the ILS approach, do some bounces, depart and get vectors to the ILS back home with a night landing.

Taxi and runup all normal. His communications work was good. (Listening on his transceiver over the past few months definitely helped.) The pattern was busy for a Sunday afternoon and Tower was able to squeeze us in for takeoff just in front traffic on base. He made a nice takeoff with a gusting right crosswind and climbed to 4500 on course to the VOR. The expected turbulence was nil. Since this was a VFR flight, I had him get outside reference and told him to fly just left (south) of the cooling towers at Cartersville. (I never realized that this is a coal powered generating plant.)

I explained 'AMICEATM' and set him up for the ILS 01 at KRMG. He had flown this on MS Flight Simulator, so thought this would enable him to make a nice comparison. I walked him though the parallel entry, timing and intercept for the final approach course. The whole time I was talking to traffic. Two other planes were using Rome, one in the pattern and one on a VOR approach behind us. No factor, but I relaxed once we all saw each other. Having a landing light on at dusk really helps. He did a nice job all the way down.

I knew it was a left hand pattern, but what was the pattern altitude? (Note to self; check this in the Airport Directory BEFORE getting into the pattern.) I guessed at about 1100 ft (missed approach height), it turned out to be 1440 ft, so obviously the first approach was low. Corrected to 1500 ft for the next orbit which worked well. Finally, he had learned to do slips in the sailplane, so I flew a high (+300 ft) approach and slipped it in for him. Not as dramatic as a sailplane, but effective. Departed the pattern and headed for home.

It was full night time now and as always, beautiful. Cartersville passed under our right wing and the air was smooth as glass. Nate did a good job of maintaining 3500 ft as I dialed up Atlanta Approach to see if we could get vectors. Ran into a minor problem here, as the GPS display was dimming too far. When I pointed my flashlight on the sensor I could get it bright enough, but then in would automatically dim back to a low level. While this works, it was distracting so I asked the chief pilot about when we got back to the school. One fix it to go to the last AUX page, select Display, and go from AUTO to MANUAL with the small knob.

"Squawk 0123 (did I hear that right?) maintain 3500 and fly heading 110." Nate flew and I did the readbacks. Nice smooth turns and good airwork on the ILS. Cleared to land #2 behind a Caravan. No problems. A great evening flight. We went 149 miles, got up to 4747 feet and a max ground speed of 147 mph, and we had fun.

Time = 1.6

Friday, March 17, 2006

Just Practice Approaches

My flying partner put together a list of objectives to consider when planning our flights. He summed it up this way:
So we have three categories of flying:
I. Fun Cross Country
II. Instrument Approach Hopping
III.Busy Cross Country with Instrument Approaches.
After the serpentine approach I flew last week into KPLR, I decided I really need to work on II. The objectives of this flight were 1) basic airwork and 2) simulated instrument approaches.

We both arrived at the airport at 4:00pm local, after a rather stressful day at work. Conference calls, email, phonemail and powerpoint presentations were still unanswered and incomplete, and I was weary from the confrontations and compromises made throughout the week. I sensed he felt about the same. However, there is just something refreshing about preflighting an airplane on a beautiful Springtime afternoon that helps to melt the real world away.

The plan was for him to take the first leg, do the ILS at KRMG to a low approach, then the ARC/GPS at C22 to a full stop. There we could switch seats and I would take us east to 47A for a GPS low approach, and finally vectors for the ILS back home to KRYY. Nothing new here, we had both flown these approaches before. Weather was not predicted to be a factor.

Preflight was normal except for one point. The plane had just come back from a previous flight, and when I checked the oil it was down around 4. I had another quart put in. I was told that I should have considered that there was still oil in the engine and that this was probably an overfill. Well, maybe. It may have put me over 6, but definitely under 7.

Taxi, runup and takeoff were all normal. He had his foggles on before passing 2000 and climbed on course to 4500. There was a broken level above us at about 8000, little bumps in the air and smog/smoke drifting in from the west. We also had an annoying 'tornado' in the airplane due to fact that we couldn't close an air vent.

His first chore was to track inbound to the VOR, then enter holding for the procedural turn. Rome isn't that far away from Cobb County, so he was kept busy with checklists and instrument procedures while I looked for traffic and checked in with the other folks using the VOR and landing pattern. He got a little behind the airplane trying to do his 'Ts' and 'AMICEATM' but overall flew a pretty good approach down to mins. We could have made the landing.

Missed there (carefully watching for cross traffic) and climbed back to the VOR. Opposing traffic was inbound to the field and the smoky haze made seeing him difficult. We passed well clear, no factor. Next setup was for the GPS into Centre Municipal in Alabama. The IAF happens to be about a mile Southeast of Cedartown, so I was glad for the silence on CTAF. I didn't want to be in the middle of a shower of Skydivers.

He used the GPS as primary and backed it up with the VOR. The arc went very well and he rolled out nicely on course. As we traveled the 15 miles to the airport, we both noticed a discrepancy in the needles. The VOR had us right of course, while the GPS had us dead on. I advised him to stay with his primary. Haze obscured the field until about 5 miles and at that point I knew that the VOR was giving a better indication. (I would have expected the GPS to be more accurate.) When he took the foggles off at mins he was forced to do some "fancy footwork" to set up for the landing. He concluded with a nice landing.

Time = 1.5

C22 is just a little field about a half mile from nowhere. Nestled away just on the other side of Weiss Reservoir, its the home of about a half dozen airplanes and is (I believe) a rest stop for the local arm of the airborne State Patrol. An old building with a head and not mush else. Sprint service was not available.

We stretched our legs and switched positions (headsets, flight bags, etc.) and I got my foggles and approach plates ready. My copilot checked the oil, seemed to be OK. So we jumped in and started her up. Everything looked good so I made the call to back taxi on 27. This was something new for me as I haven't had many opportunities to take off from small fields like this in a long time. It was only after I had gotten to mid field that I thought about the run up. Hmm. Well, I took position and just did a 'quick' run up before takeoff. No other traffic around so this was probably OK, but in the future I'll do it before taking the active. Also, doing anything 'quick' requires extra vigilance. It opens up all sorts of opportunities to miss things.

Takeoff and climb out on course normal. Local brush fires only made the haze worse, but we were flying east now so the visibility wasn't quite so bad. I leveled at 3500 direct to the RMG VOR. That acts as a feeder fix for the GPS RWY 4 Cherokee County. Airwork and procedures were good. I really felt "on" with enroute procedures and airwork. Maybe a minor 'flub' or two enroute on the radios, but overall I flew up to my standards.

The approach went well, although my copliot thought I was a bit high on final. It was hard for me to tell as I had foggles on and by now it was night time. He told me that the '5 clicks' worked and as I neared the final waypoint I executed the missed. I was very comfortable with course control.

Next task was to prepare for the ILS at RYY. I climbed up to 3000, roughly heading East and dialed up Comm 1 to talk to ATC. We were assigned a squawk and told to fly south while he tried to find us. AMICETAM complete, radar contact and vectors to the final approach course. However he allowed us to pass through the localizer before the final vector to intercept. This is when having a GPS is so helpful for situational awareness. We both caught it, but it was great to have it confirmed by the 430. Just as I was approaching the FAF he called to have us turn north to allow closing jet traffic to pass. Actually this was good news since I wanted to fly this one on speed rather then sprint down the glideslope. Vectors back around and we were once again ready to go.

This was one of those few times when I was 'wired' to the gauges. The needles were dead centered on the donut, speed was good and rate of descent was just about 500 fpm. Corrections were minor and seldom did I get outside the ring...until about 500 feet above DH. Bing(1), the course needle jump about 3 points to the right! This was NOT me! Copilot said he was watching the airplane move left of centerline, but the needle was dead on centered until the jump. I made the correction, completed the checklists and made an 'OK' night landing.

Back at the school we asked a CFII about it, and he verified that I had VLOC selected, no red flags, etc. We'll play with it now to see if it can be reproduced. The good news here is that I'm very comfortable it wasn't my airmanship.
Time = 1.3

This was a big confidence builder. Airmanship is getting back to where it should be, procedures are becoming natural. I Still have a way to go, and am learning more about 'practical' flying every flight, but I'm finally comfortable.

*Good news: I learned that there is a good chance that a Tiger will be back in the fleet soon! While I have learned to enjoy the 'high wing wonder' I'm anxious to get back into a Grumman.