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