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About 80% of general aviation aircraft fly using Lycoming engines. Clearing the trees at the end of the runway. Leaving 4500ft for 6500ft. Maintaining airflow and generating lift across the wings. All are impossible without a reliable engine. Lycoming powers my training aircraft and so fuels my quest for a private pilot certificate. This blog is a record of my thoughts and experiences on life, flight, and learning.

16 March 2006

Flapjack Flight

Today, I flew to Carroll County (TSO) with my Dad for some breakfast. It was what the pilots in our little corner of the world term a "flapjack flight". Winds were calm, and there were some scattered cirrus clouds above 10,000ft as our wheels left the tarmac at 7:15AM this morning. For fun, we left the all-present Garmin off, and navigated by VOR radios out of Newcomerstown and Akron. TSO is on a 49° radial from Newcomerstown VOR (CTW), and so we flew to CTW and then to TSO. Our altitude was about 3,000ft, and the air was smooth. Visibility was good and we could see quite a ways. Landing in TSO is fairly straightforward. The photo shows the short final for runway 25. What it doesn't show, is the 50ft hill about 500ft off the end of the runway 25. You can sort of see how far down the runway the approach lights are, that's because a standard approach for the end of the runway will have your undercarriage scraping the treetops. I'll have to remember that in the future, and especially for flying out on runway 07. If you had an engine failure departing from 07, you would have a hard time putting the aircraft down in an open field.
We chowed down some fried eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee (no flapjacks, due to weight restrictions and winds aloft reports). It was a nice morning. I had been bugging my Dad for some time to take some time off work and get out and fly the airplane. Things at work have slowed down nicely (things are running okay), and we just don't need to be at the office as much as we have over the last year. We sat in the airport cafe, and just chatted about food fads (transfatty acids, tropical oils, etc.) and business dealings. It was a nice relaxing morning, and the best part was....no emergencies while I was gone! I had a very nice relaxing day at the office today, and felt for the first time in a long time the benefits of having a job with a family business.

08 March 2006

Landing Practice

Yesterday was such a beautiful day, I couldn't help but get out and fly. Clear skies, stable air, and low winds - it was probably the nicest day for flying this year. I managed to get a lot of good practice on landings and traffic patterns in, and setting up a stabilized approach. Here you see a photo of one of my later nice, stable approaches - note the white/red lights indicating the proper approach descent angle. I logged 1.7hrs of flying time, and made six really nice landings. There was another student in the pattern with me for three of the landings, so it was fun to fly around the pattern together. It's definitely more fun to talk on the radio when you know that someone is actually listening to your transmissions, instead of just chatting away into the empty air, annoying pilots three airports away.

I flew over the proposed site of the Coshocton Ethanol plant, and it looks like there is some dirt being moved. That might be the archeological survey being conducted, but someone is moving piles of dirt....I'll keep flying over there to check on the progress over the next few months. They are supposed to start breaking ground this spring, but the news has been a little on the slow side with reporting on this plant.

Finally, I captured a nice photo of another C172 Skyhawk on short final, as I was holding short, waiting my turn, staring into the setting sun. I wish that I had a nice camera with a longer lens to really capture this one....it had a lot of potential, and my sony point-n-shoot just didn't do it justice. It's still nice:).

06 March 2006

Lamb Days

So, now March is upon us.....so I have to make sure that I fly on the "Lamb Days" and not the "Lion Days". Today was a "Lamb Day", with temperatures above 7°C, 12,000ft ceiling, and light variable winds. I went up to I40 and dragged Six-Golf out for a few short hops around the pattern. I managed to log 4 landings, one missed approach, and 1.1hrs of flight. Not a whole lot to say about this flight...pretty routine, but I'm starting to get bored with my current endorsement. I have a solo endorsement for flights originating from Coshocton, staying within 15nm of the airport. This limits my flying experiences to a class G airport with no tower, little traffic, and no navigational challenges. I'm starting to stagnate....I need to get some new challenges besides the perfect landing on the same runway in the same direction. I just need a change of scenery and some new challenges. I think that I'm going to call my instructor and get some serious flight time in the next few months.

Minister Creek, PA

Well, it wasn't but a short three days that I was back from Montana when I packed the ol' sleeping bag for another trip. This time, I wasn't sleeping on the floor of a warm apartment in Bozeman. I was going to be sleeping on the cold hard ground in the dead of winter. Time to break my North Face 0° mummy bag out and put it to some good use.

So, I went on a weekend winter-camping/backpacking/snowshoeing trip to MInister Creek in the Allegheny Nat'l Forest in Northwest PA with some guys from my church. I was excited, because I had been snowshoeing before, but never on a long term trip. In addition, we had received virtually no snow this winter in Coshocton, so I was snow deprived. Back in the dark ages when Helfinstine roamed the earth and heat transfer was the dreaded saturday class with Dr. Clauss, I made several trips to Minister Creek for some fun backpacking and camping. However, the difference contrasted with my previous trips was that I had to lead a bunch of inexperienced campers on the first or second trip, trying to introduce them to the joys of camping. These guys were prepared! It was so refreshing to be able to concentrate on my own gear and my own needs and not have to constantly evaluate whether so and so had extra batteries for their flashlights, or if I was going to have to carry them out after they fell out of the tree that they were climbing. Here you see a very cold sunrise on Saturday morning - the temperature was about 10-15°F both mornings. Brisk. Wakes you right up. Where's that hot oatmeal, Robert? Here is a photo of Robert & Steve checking their waypoints against a compass and map. Robert (The Black Goat) wanted to make sure that we had a true wilderness experience, so he had plotted out many waypoints onto a TopoUSA map of Minister Creek, and connected those waypoints with straight lines, and not well-traveled trails. Robert seemed to have a real adversion for trails (perhaps he had been forced to walk on trails as a small child...I'm not sure). As we trudged along in our snowshoes, bushwacking through the woods, you could distinctly tell when the ground underfoot changed from soft and cushy to a familiar hard-packed trail. No sooner would we arrive on a trail, when Robert would point us 90° to the right or the left. It was hilarious. The same principles held for bridges. Bridges were shunned, just as trails were. Now, to be fair, snowshoes combined with gore-tex boots and a shallow stream bed make for an okay stream crossing. I didn't have the skill that Brad had (as shown in the above photo). I managed to spe-lunk my feet into Minister Creek just before the big climb out of the valley. It was cold and I needed some serious time in front of the fire to dry out later. All in all, I had a very enjoyable time over the weekend, getting to know these guys better, getting to trudge around outside in the snow all day (we hiked about 14 miles over the two days, at about 1 mi/hr average speed). It was good exercise, and good fellowship.

05 March 2006

Big Sky

I have really fallen behind on my blogging, but you know how things go...too much fun, and not enough time to write it all down! So, these next few posts will be a sort of "catchup" for the last month. I managed to sneak away with my brother and two guys that we work with for an epic 31hr drive to Bozeman, MT for a 3-day snowboarding adventure at Big Sky.
We left after work on a Wednesday, and started driving. The route is pretty simple....pick up I-80, switch to I-90 in Chicago, and keep headin' west. It may be hard for some of you to completely understand this, but there is something so incredibly exciting about getting into a car, and just driving for a thousand miles and seeing how the country changes. This is a truly beautiful and varied landscape that we live in, and I love it all, from the barren landscapes of South Dakota to the dramatic peaks of the Rockies, to the rolling hills of Ohio....there are few places in this country that I am just in awe of this wonderful creation. Bilbo Baggins is my hero: "The road goes ever, ever on..." (Bilbo and the Elves are always going West. Coincidence? I think not. Go west, young man. Okay, okay, I'm starting to get choked up.....let's just say it had been a long time since I had been on the road towards the mountains, and my heart was overflowing with joy and anticipation.

31hrs of non-stop driving later, we arrived at Bozeman, and I unfolded myself from the backseat of the Land Rover to see mountains and snow. I was just happy to be able to stretch my 6'-2" frame. Montana is really a different state. It’s got that cowboy/rancher/redneck/hippie vibe....which is truly unique. While I was on the lifts out there a guy told me that last year they passed a law that you can’t drink in your truck anymore. You used to be able to consume adult beverages as long as you were under the limit, but not any more. Apparently it was not a popular law. Being from Ohio, talk about a little culture shock:). I really enjoyed boarding at Big Sky – it was a fairly even mix of terrain, difficulty, and had a couple of parks. What was cool about it was that the resort didn’t have a bunch of mid-mountain lodges to bring the people in that were there to see and be seen. Basically, if you were on the mountain, you were there to ski and board. The snow was great – we got about 2-3 inches of powder every day, and 4-5 inches on the last day. Perhaps the best thing about the resort was the fact that there were literally no lines. None. The longest line that I had was on Saturday afternoon around 3PM, when there were 4 people in the lift line in front of me. The rest of the time, I didn’t have but one or two people in the lifts in front of me. Needless to say, there was a lot of time spent riding, which was very cool. The lift tickets were reasonable as well – only $63/day for a three day pass. There are none of the snobby rich Vail crowds that sit in the lodge and drink, and the slopes were super un-crowded. You just have people skiing and riding. It’s all good.
The longest run in the resort started at the top of the Lone Mountain Peak (11,166ft), you took a 15pax gondola up, and then rode about 1600ft in elevation down to the top of the next lift.

Winds up at the top when I rode it were about 70mph. You couldn’t see very well, and I was afraid that my board was going to be ripped out of my hands and blown off the side of the mountain before I had a chance to strap in. I saw a guy almost lose one of his skis like that – he went diving for it, and caught it just before it went over the cliff. Crazy. Definitely not snowboarding on groomers. The biggest problem for me was that the blowing snow felt like millions of needles poking me in the face (I didn’t have a facemask) and I just wanted it to stop, so I got down as quickly as I could. If I had spent more time up there, the peak would’ve been lots of fun to explore. Maybe next time - now that I'm over the psycological barrier, I can concentrate on riding the mountain. I'm just a poor farm boy from Ohio....them mountains are scary!

Check out the incredible open stretch of downhill here! This is about 400-500ft from the top, where I could sit down and take my camera out without getting my hands frostbitten. The boarder is my brother, shredding it Ohio-style!
That's me, doing my post-superpipe gold medal run pose for the cameras, as I'm waiting for the scores to tally. Please note the $1.99 ANSI Z27.1 standard issue safety glasses. Yup. Too cheap for real shades:). Give me a few years, and I'll be like those old dudes feebly driving their baby blue cadillacs around with the over-sized el-cheapo molded plastic super dark sunglasses... Of course, the real gold medal went to my brother, who busted out this method and a bunch of other tricks that I wasn't able to catch on camera.

All in all, it was a great trip, since I got to see mountains and didn’t have to work. I definitely want to go back there soon, and probably do a little longer trip so that I can squeeze in a day or two at Jackson Hole (3hrs away) and see Yellowstone in the winter (1hr away). It was really fun, and a great break from work.