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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.

22 April 2009


Today, I got about 0.5hrs of actual IFR! It was my ninth IFR lesson, and we went flying through a blustery spring afternoon. Winds were pretty gusty and brisk today, winds at 280@9 gusting to 18 as I left Coshocton. The ceiling was fairly high, with an overcast layer at around 4000ft, but it was gusty. Since I wanted to do a little longer training flight to really get some different approaches under my belt, we planned a flight from Newark to Delaware, OH (KDLZ), then to Marion, OH (KMNN), then to Mansfield (KMFD), and finally back to Newark. We took off and headed towards Delaware, and immediately ran into some rainstorms. We vectored around the worst of it, but we were definitely NOT VFR, which was pretty cool. It was a very challenging day to fly, perhaps the most challenging that I have ever flown. There was a lot of windshear and updrafts/downdrafts, so I was constantly battling the altitude. Once I found a power setting that seemed to hold 3000ft fairly well, I'd hit an updraft and before I knew it, I was up at 3200ft, in a 10degree descent, struggling to get 250FPM down to get my altitude centered. I feel like I did pretty well with the communications, but the altitude holding and course headings with all of the wind changes were really giving me a hard time. It was definitely challenging. We did the GPS-28 and the GPS-10 approach into Delaware, and decided to scrap Marion, because of the poor weather. Instead, we headed straight to Mansfield for a couple of approaches there. On our way, at 4000ft, we headed directly into a cloud bank, where the snow was falling, BIG FLAKES, and started to pick up some ice on the leading edge. Not only was this my first actual, but it was also my first encounter with icing! Very exciting! Here's a depiction of a part of my ground track from Delaware, OH to Mansfield, and some of the weather that I flew around.

11 April 2009

Smoky Mountains!

Last week, Beth and I made the drive down to Gatlinburg, TN, home of 1000 go-kart tracks, pancake houses, and wedding chapels. Unfortunately, we didn't even have one single pancake when we were down there, because our goal was to HIKE! The Great Smoky Mountains holds a special place in my heart, mainly because it was where my parents led us on many a forced march as a child. It was where I first learned about water management on hikes and the importance of carrying your own food. On a typical hike as kids, we would race to the top of the climb, only to wait around starving for a half hour while Mom & Dad would saunter up with the food. While I had been to the Smokies a number of times, I hadn't been for several years, really since 2002, so my visit was long-overdue. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are just as crazy as ever, a monument to miniature golf and salt-water taffy and fudge shops galore! But the mountains are familiar, well-worn like an old pair of underwear. Beth & I headed to the Elkmont campground, which is a very nice campground, surrounded by streams and the sound of rushing water. The rushing water sounds are very important to help drown out my snoring (at least for Beth).

Here's our sad little fire that we built. I understand that because of the emerald ash borer, that it's not a good idea to bring your own rotting wood into the park, but to make me pay $3/bundle for soaked wood? Outrageous! If the wood was free, I wouldn't say a peep - not me. But to fork out $9/night for a fire that never acheives steady combustion? Unacceptable! BTW - the flames that you in the picture there are from the firestarter that I had just crammed into the fire. I would've been better off getting those giant fire starter logs instead...

Our first hike was to Ramsey Cascades, and here's a view of the rushing water along the Little Pigeon River. Ramsey Cascades is a short, but fairly challenging hike. You climb about 2100 feet in four short miles, and most of that elevation gain is in the last two miles. The streams and scenery are definitely worth it, but it's not for the sunday stroller.

A mossy cove along the Ramsey Prong of the Little Pigeon River.

One of two bridges crossing the Ramsey Prong on the hike up.

The 80ft cascade of water at the end! It's definitely worth the hike!

I recall when I took one of my friends from Malaysia on this hike, promising a large waterfall at the end, and when we got to the top, he was a little disgusted with the puny falls. "You call this a big fall? I take you to Malaysia and show you a big falls!" It's still big for the East Coast of the US - most of our fresh water is contained in lazy rivers.

I also ran into a Slim Shady look-alike on the trail, hoarding her fruit snacks.....

And, I tried to measure the diameter of one of the large trees along the trail, but I think that I need a little larger wingspan.

The next day was absolutely miserable, it was 40-45°F and spitting rain in Gatlinburg, and I suspected that at a typical lapse rate of 4.4°F for every 1000ft, we would be in a blowing snowstorm on any hike above 3600ft (Gatlinburg is only at about 1600ft elevation). So, we applied our hiking energies to the Tangier outlet malls, and found some great deals....however, I was little perturbed at the 9.5% sales tax. I guess they gotta bilk those tourists somehow. The following day, however, was an absolutely perfect day for hiking, clear, sunny, and just some wispy cirrus clouds high in the sky. We decided to hike one of my favorite trails, the Alum Cave Bluffs trail to Mt. LeConte. I've hiked this trail many a time, and really enjoy the views and the memories of racing Joshua to the top. I wasn't in racing mode today, though, because there was a lot of residual ice and snow from the previous day covering some of the more challenging parts of the trail.

Icicles along the trail!

Standing on Heath Bald, just below Alum Cave Bluffs

A random fuzzy green moss bank along the trail - after a long Ohio Winter, I'm fascinated with green!

One of the many overlooks along the Alum Cave Bluffs trail.

Looking towards Newfound Gap from Cliff Tops on Mt. LeConte.

Snow and ice clogging the pine trees on top of Mt. LeConte - it was chilly up there yesterday!

Hanging out at the top of Mt. LeConte.