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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.

24 February 2007

Trip to Kent (1G3)

Today, I woke up to a buzzing cell phone. "You have '3' missed calls." I checked the numbers and they were all from my Dad. "Are you up yet?" It was 9:15AM, and I told him - "Sorry - I overslept, and I'll be there in 15 minutes." Due to the truly fantastic weather creeping our way, we had planned to visit my brother who lives up in Stow, OH today. Unfortunately, we hadn't agreed upon a firm "wheels up" time, so I was sawing logs in the back 40 all morning, when I should've been pre-flighting the airplane.

Well, I threw on some clothes, brushed my tooths, and drove off to the airport, just as Dad was pulling the DA40 out of the hangar. This was the first time that the airplane had been out since we had chipped out the 6 inches of ice that had accumulated around the hangar door over the past two weeks. It looked like it could go 150mph, just sitting there in the morning sun. Beautiful.

We packed into the plane, and dodged the snowdrifts piled by the sides of the taxiways at Richard Downing as we made our way to the runway. Once up in the air, we cruised at about 3500ft and about 135kts groundspeed on the 35 minute flight to Kent (1G3). The air was really clear, and with the exception of the haze stuck in the inversion layer, the air was crystal clear at an altimeter of 30.35inHg. If you look at the picture that I took off the wingtip into the morning sun, you can really see how clear the air was. Fantastic!

The air was also so clear that downtown Cleveland and the lakeshore were clearly visible from over 40nm away, just around Wadsworth, OH. My camera only has a 3x zoom, so it doesn't really do the view justice. I'd really like to have Nikon D10 and a 300mm Zoom lens, and then I'd have a good shot....but I'd also be $1500 poorer. I've got a good memory:).
Downtown Cleveland from ~40nm south, over Wadsworth/Akron area

Same photo, just cropped a little better

We had a very nice visit with my brother and his wife, and my little nephew, Ambrose, who is getting bigger and cuter every time I see him. We drank some exquisite vanilla coffee, talked a little shop, read books to the little guy, ate some Hungry Howie's Pizza, and zipped back to the airport for departure. The plan was to fly directly to Newark-Heath (VTA) and drop me off to go have a belated valentines dinner/birthday party with my wife's sister and her husband. Right before we got into the airplane, I looked at Dad and said "Are you going to let me sit here?" (pointing at the left-hand seat) "Sure." he said, sealing his fate:).

I was really stoked - First hours as PIC in the DA40. It was a fairly routine flight, about 82nm from 1G3 to VTA. I programmed in the flight plan to the G1000, completed the checklists, and taxied down to runway 1 at Kent. We took off, and started climbing away at ~1000-1300ft/min. Before we had gone very long, I was over 1000ft above the Class C CAK airspace, but I thought it would be a good idea to call in and request flight following. Practice, you know, and I can always use more of that! It was fairly routine, and I really like flying the DA40 - great visibility, and I really think that the visibility is BETTER from the left-hand side:). It sure seems that way, anyhow:). Total time logged was 1.1hrs. I was walking on air after the flight. It took three cannelonis later at Buca di Beppos in Columbus to weigh me down enough so that my feet touched the ground. It was a truly great saturday.

22 February 2007

San Francisco Bay Tour

Part of my objective during my stay in San Francisco was to meet up with Jason Miller of The Finer Points and to do some flying together. You know….”fly your best”…We were planning to do a little mountain flying, since the 200ft hill that Richard Downing (I40) sits on is the highest mountain around. Unfortunately, the weather up in the mountains wasn’t very good, and Jason was not feeling well, so we bummed around California Airways at Hayward Executive Airport and went for a Bay Tour with Paul Smythe, a young instructor pursuing his aeronautical degree with Embry-Riddle.

After speaking with Keith Amaro, the proprietor at California Airways, about the choices of flying machines available, we settled on N182BG, a newer 2005 Cessna 182, equipped with the G1000. It was a heavy beast compared to the C172 that I am used to getting in. Kind of like driving a Ford F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab around. Nimble doesn’t exactly describe the 182. Overall, there were a few differences, but nothing too intimidating, sort of a weird combination of my 172 experience and my DA40/G1000 experience in a much heavier aircraft. It was a nice looking airplane, however...3-blade prop!

N182BG ready for departure!

After we left the ground in Hayward, I was SOOOO glad that Paul was along to smoothly handle the radio work. The SF bay area has some seriously complicated airspace! In 15nm, we went through three controlling agencies (Class D, Class C, and Approach, all under a Class B shelf) and had seen about 15-20 aircraft ranging from Cessnas to Boeing 747s. It was REALLY cool. I was really excited – “OOoo! There’s a 777! Look at that! Isn’t that cool? Check out that A320 on final approach! That’s an Emb145 to your 10 o’clock!” I think you get the picture. If not, merely accompany me to any airport and substitute “777” and “737” for “Long-EZ” or “SR20”.

After preflight, we taxied out, took off from Runway 10R, and flew up the bay from Hayward, turning west past the Bay Bridge, and towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We flew over Alcatraz and part of the city of San Francisco. It was really fun, and all the time there was endless radio chatter and Paul kept talking with NORCAL approach and reporting traffic and position. One of the neatest things was to be flying along with ‘heavy’ aircraft crossing overhead with about 1000ft clearance, they just felt SO close, and it was pretty exciting to see that many aircraft in the air at one time. Conditions were beautiful – a slight 7-8kt wind out of the southeast and decent visibility throughout the bay. The Bay is a really beautiful area, and really pretty from the air, plus you don't have to slog through traffic on the ground!

Hayward Executive (HWD) from the air

Bay Bridge & Yerba Buena Island

The Rock and The Bridge

Yerba Buena Island

Looking South over the Presidio towards Lincoln Park

Looking East at the whole country from behind the Golden Gate Bridge

Downtown SF - Can you see the hills?

Alcatraz from 12 o'clock high

Fisherman's Wharf & the Presidio is below, Marin County is ahead

Check out the tank farm on the hill at this oil refinery in Richmond, CA!

Looking east at Mt. Diablo. Rather impressive, don't you think?

Oakland International Airport

After the standard Bay Tour, we flew across the peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose to fly over Half-Moon Bay. Half-Moon Bay is on the coast, and is in a really nice locaion.

Half-Moon Bay

Getting some hang time over the Pacific Ocean

Look at the taxi-ways! HAF takes up a lot of valuable real estate!

After careful consideration, I think that the DA40 was the right choice over the C182. The 182 felt like I was driving a full size truck. It was okay, lots of power, lots of payload, but also lots of weight – I’ll bet that it handles turbulence fairly well, but I can envision a lot of queasy rear passengers because of the limited rear visibility. The sight picture for rear passengers really isn’t that great. MAN are those IO-560’s thirsty! It was sucking about 11-12GPH @ 130kts. The DA40 will still make 115-120kts at 7gph. That’s saving me about $15-$20/hr! Trucks are good for haulin’ stuff. But when I go flying, I’d rather have a lighter-feeling aircraft that really wants to fly. It’s hard to beat the DA40 for sheer flyability (is that a word?). I know, I know....build an RV and I won't be happy with anything else:). I'll think about it, Steve....

21 February 2007

Cracked Windshields @ DEN

On my flight back from San Francisco, our flight was delayed for about 2 hours in Denver due to a cracked windscreen. The Denver Post reported that there wasn't a good explanation for the cracked windshields. Our gate agent told us that it was gravel damage from the high winds, and it seemed at the time like it would be pretty high winds to take a piece of gravel 25 ft in the air and smack it into the windshield of an airliner with enough force to crack the glass. Weird.

(Quoted from the Denver Post)

The National Transportation Safety Board said its glass specialist will examine 22 damaged front and side windshields that were removed from affected airplanes, investigator Jennifer Kaiser said.

Wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour were recorded at the airport and there were rapid temperature changes and some snow Friday afternoon when airlines reported the cracked windshields.

Kaiser said the NTSB is also investigating whether an air pressure change may have contributed, she said.

DIA spokesman Chuck Cannon said airport operations and maintenance employees could offer no explanation for the windshield problems. "It's baffling," he said.

SkyWest Airlines, a regional carrier for United Airlines, reported nine planes suffered windshield cracks, while Frontier Airlines said four of its aircraft suffered similar damage. One plane from Great Lakes Airlines suffered a cracked windshield, Kaiser said.

NTSB's Kaiser confirmed that there were no reports of impact from flying debris.

I wonder how much a new windscreen costs - I would guess something on the order of $6000-$9000 for a new plexiglass or acrylic panel. Anyone know?

20 February 2007

San Francisco Trip

I flew to San Francisco on Sunday for a trade show last Sunday. I wrote up a nice long blog entry, and as I went to type my last sentence, the web browser crashed. Dangit! So, this blog entry is basically a rehash of my previous blog entry. You really should’ve read the other entry. Shew! It was a good one! I laughed, I cried….I was truly moved. And that was even after the web browser crashed. Okay, on to the story…

I woke up early, early on Sunday morning and drove through the biting cold (1°F) to the Canton Akron Regional Airport. I decided to fly Frontier Airlines, mostly because they don’t connect through Chicago for westbound routes. Plus, they have this sweet moving map/GPS display that gets me all geeked out. I love knowing exactly where I am (in between advertisements for the $8 pay-per-view movies). Frontier also offers 24 channels of DirecTV, but since I’m one of those crazy people that can stare at a G1000 simulator all afternoon, virtually flying around the country, I kept my $5 nice and safe in my pocket, and watched the free moving map perched by my window seat at Flight Level 380.

We took off from CAK, and flew at 250kts at about 9000ft for about 40-50nm, until we hit Mansfield and then started the climb up towards our cruise altitude. I suppose that this departure pattern has something to do with the traffic patterns into Cleveland. I’ll have to check the TAC for what the approach and departure patterns are for Cleveland, but it’ll make me think twice about flying at 10,000ft around Mansfield. I’m glad that those guys fly with TCAS. It was a nice smooth flight from CAK with clouds obscuring the ground until we started our descent into Denver. Landing was nice and smooth, and I walked from my arriving flight directly onto the flight bound to San Francisco. Not much of a layover – maybe 20 minutes…

On our departure out of Denver, the pilot almost stood the A319 on its tail as we tried to gain as much altitude as possible before the mountains. If you’ll take a look at the picture I took of downtown Denver, we had gained about 7000ft AGL by the time we hit downtown. AWESOME! We had only been flying for what like 3 minutes or something. This bird was rocketing up into the sky. The captain kept relaying warnings of moderate turbulence ahead over the mountains, but we didn’t get anything. After a short period of clear skies over the Front Range, there were thick clouds over most of Colorado and Utah, finally clearing up near the Nevada/California border.

I took this picture of the Sierras, just as we were crossing over the California border. It was like watching a sheer mountainous wall rise up out of the desert as we flew toward California. I remember how dramatic the mountains were from the ground as I drove up that valley about 10 years ago. You usually expect mountains from the air to flatten out a little, but the Sierras were still very impressive from 35,000ft.

We started to make our descent into San Francisco, and on the final approach into SFO, I saw an Asiana 777 peeking in and out of the clouds, lined up on a parallel runway. Eventually, it came closer and closer until it was only about 1500ft off our wingtip or so, and then they dropped their landing gear and hung well back of our position for a staggered arrival.

It was quite a shock landing in SFO with the temperature hovering around 60-65°F. After my 45 minute ride in the stuffy unventilated BART train from the airport and lugging my suitcase all over the streets, I was burning up! First thing that I did upon arrival was to turn the A/C in my hotel room on full blast. Sit in the cool air stream for 25 minutes, dunk my head in some ice water, and then I grabbed my camera and met up with my parents to go find some lunch. We rode the Cable Car (personal first!) from Powell & Market Street over to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we ate lunch at IN-N-OUT burger. MMmmmm….a Double-Double hamburger animal style. Does it get any better? I think not.

After wandering around Fisherman’s Wharf for a while, we took a Crazy Taxi ride to the Legion of Honor museum in Lincoln Park. Get this – The taxicab driver DIDN’T know where Lincoln Park was! He’d only been a taxi driver for 7-8 years…talk about a lack of situational awareness! Not going to share a cockpit with that space cadet if I can help it! Not only is the Legion of Honor museum in a very beautiful part of San Francisco, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, but it is an impressive building as well. They have a really nice exhibit of Rodin sculptures, and some good examples of the Dutch masters. It was well worth the time.
"I wonder if I should go with a DA40 or a SR22? Hmmmm...."

After bumming around the Legion of Honor museum, we hopped another cab to Golden Gate Park to visit the Conservatory of Flowers. This time the cab driver knew where the heck he was going, and we had a nice time wandering aamonst the flowers. However, I think San Francisco has nothing on the Franklin Conservatory in good ol’ Columbus, Ohio. Take that, west coast weenies!

19 February 2007


I now am the proud owner of plastic proof that I passed the FAA pratical exam last year! I like to think of it as a credit-card with a limit of 18,000ft MSL, 3 miles visibility, and VFR separation from clouds....what trips will I go on with this ticket to fly the friendly skies? Only time will tell...

03 February 2007

Winter Training

Since spring was declared to be "just around the corner", I figured that I should get cracking on my spring break trip. So while it was bitterly cold outside today, I curled up indoors with a cup of soup, the Garmin G1000 simulator and Max Prescott's G1000 training course. This is the way to learn how to work with the G1000...you know...all warm and comfy at home, drinking some Earl Grey, eating some munchies. Much different than trying to concentrate on flying, watching out for traffic, and trying to insert new waypoints into an active flight plan. Anyhoo...I'm planning to do a little flying when I am in San Francisco in February, so I set the DA40 on 500kts airspeed, and flew from the Bay area up to Truckee, near Lake Tahoe and back, learning about the G1000 as I went. That was step one.

Step two was to plan the ultimate spring break trip to Florida. Since I dragged Beth to Oshkosh and made her sleep in a tent in Camp Scholler for three nights last summer, I really owed her. Especially, if I ever want to go back to Oshkosh with her!:) This is going to be the relaxing spa vacation that I promised her in exchange for those three hot, dusty nights. And...we're going to fly, which totally makes it super cool. Destination Florida! We are headed to Amelia Island near Jacksonville, FL for some beach time, some spa time, some golf time, and....some flying time! Why Amelia Island? Well, it's far enough south that I don't have to wear a parka, and there is an airport within 2-3 miles of a nice resort. It does not appear to be frequented by the typical spring break crowd, so....sounds like the perfect place for a nice relaxing vacation, that involves flying. Did I mention that we're flying? Yeah, I'm pretty stoked.
I'm also really stoked because I "flew" down to Amelia Island (55J) this afternoon. Yup. Set that simulator on 500kts, then just sat back and watched the miles roll by. Man, I can't wait to actually get in the air and make that trip!

02 February 2007

Groundhog Day TAF

Well, February 2nd has rolled around again, and it's time for that Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, Punxsatawney Phil to make his prediction:

Phil's official forecast as read 2/2/07 at 7:28 a.m. at Gobbler's Knob:

El Nino has caused high winds, heavy snow, ice and freezing temperatures in the west.
Here in the East with much mild winter weather we have been blessed.

Global warming has caused a great debate.
This mild winter makes it seem just great.

On this Groundhog Day we think of one thing.
Will we have winter or will we have spring?

On Gobbler's Knob I see no shadow today.
I predict that early spring is on the way.

I think that Phil must be a pilot, because it sounds like he is tired of plugging in the Tanis heater everytime he wants to go flying. It's really no fun checking the fuel sumps on a cold and windy FBO ramp, and it's definitely no fun skidding off the runway because of low braking response. Not to mention that his cabin heater cable is stuck closed and it's just plain cold at 5000ft. Thanks for the TAF, Phil! Maybe I'll fly over to Punxsatawney this spring to thank you for the forecast, it's only about 135nm from I40.

To celebrate this mid-winter event, common among midwesterners....Well, maybe not so common. Actually, we are the only people that I know of that celebrate this odd little holiday. It's bigger than Flag Day, bigger than Labor Day....It's Groundhog Day!!!! It's really just a fun excuse to have a party in the midst of winter, when things seem the dreariest. It's nice to know that Spring is just around the corner.

The tradition goes....bake a rich chocolate bundt cake (commonly referred to as "Groundhog Cake" by those in the know, regardless of the time of year). Cut out a piece of paper, draw a groundhogish figure on it, and stick it in the middle of the Bundt cake, just as if it is coming out of its hole to view a shadow. My sister Anna, with aspirations of fine art, has provided the groundhog for this year. Next year, I'm hoping for a groundhog sculpture, you know....move into the 3-d world.

The second part of the tradition is to devour said chocolate cake while watching "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray. If I ever have kids, they're going to think that I'm SO weird. Especially when on February 2nd, 2045, we all sit down to watch a VHS version of Groundhog Day. It's a sickness, I know. But it's fun to watch at least once per year. Remember...don't drive (or fly) angry...