Monday, July 3, 2017

Finally notching some Skyhawk time

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-I19-40I
Weather: Scattered clouds, 84 degrees, wind light and variable

It's been some time since I sat in the left seat of the Skyhawk, nearly 10 months in fact. Our return flight from Boston via Albany last year is the last time I was behind 14L's controls. Aside from the general lack of currency, I'd like to take Mariella for her first flight soon - and to do that, I need to be able to competently fly the 172 again.

Jamie texted me the other day to let me know he had an opening, as we've been trying to set this up for a couple weeks. I did a thorough preflight while we chatted on the ground. There was more than two hours of fuel onboard so once I fired up the O-300 we were ready to fly.

It was another great summer afternoon for aviating

I took off on Runway 26 and made two laps around the pattern. I came in a little low on the first one but managed to finish the approach with a smooth landing. The next time around was more stable and the landing was again quite soft. We then departed the pattern to the east, climbing up over the lake to do a few steep turns. While all were borderline acceptable, they were far from my finest. I'll have to put in a bit more time working on maneuvers next time I'm up in the sky practicing solo.

Today's vaguely triangular route across the countryside

Wanting to practice on pavement and having not been there in a while (the logbook says May 2013 when we met pilot friend Samuel there, in fact!) we decided to land at Greene County. I came in a tad fast and landed long but the touchdown was smooth. Lifting off again on Runway 25 on the subsequent takeoff, Jamie pulled the power and I touched back down on the pavement during the simulated engine failure. I departed again sans instructor shenanigans and climbed back to 2,000 feet and headed straight for Waynesville.

My final landing was probably the best of the bunch, with my speeds on target and a soft touchdown followed by the shortest rollout of the day. Similar to the Cub, it's crazy just how much flying the 172 is like riding a bike... it came right back to me even after a lengthy break. Obviously there's more than stick and rudder skills when it comes to currency but I'm looking forward to getting up again soon.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 375.0 hours

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Nine years (and one month) later

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 81 degrees, wind 260 degrees at 8 knots

When it comes to the overarching purpose behind this blog - flying - this past year has clearly been underwhelming. But life - and, alas, flying - is nothing if not a constant struggle to find and maintain equilibrium between opposing forces. So it's in that vein that this past year has also been overwhelmingly joyful and momentous on a personal level with the birth of our first child.

Prior Years: 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

So what did the past year thirteen months entail?
  • As is often the case, a bunch of travel - mostly for work, but also a few vacations with Gina (to Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and the Dominican Republic)
  • Getting to go flying with a coworker in Germany on the aforementioned trip last summer
  • Work has generally been quite fulfilling as I've taken on some new projects with more responsibilities, interacting with more customers and partners all over the world
  • Flying up to meet the in-laws for lunch (and to tell them we were pregnant)
  • Our only - but large - real flying trip, when we flew the 172 to Boston and back to meet our first nephew last Labor Day weekend
  • A very belated but welcomed first flight in pilot and blogger friend Chris' beautiful Warrior late last summer
  • Still managing to squeeze in one Young Eagles flight; it's always rewarding to be able to take kids up in a small airplane for the first time
Given my extreme lack of currency that I only recently remedied, this is the first year I've truly missed my annual birthday flight. And with an infant at home, it's also the first time I've ever flown it solo. However, I'll be damned if I completely break the tradition, so getting up in the Cub one month late this evening absolutely kept it alive in my book.

You couldn't have scripted much better weather

Door wide open, enjoying the lush scenery in every direction

The winds decided to get gusty (to 15-16 knots) just as I arrived at Stewart around 6 pm. So I ended up hanging around on the ground for a little while until they calmed back down. In an unusual move for the 65 hp Cub, it did not want to start this evening. However, after probably ten minutes of hand-propping and cycling through a combination of settings, it finally fired up without a care in the world. These old engines certainly have minds of their own at times.

With a still-decent wind blowing almost directly down the runway, my takeoff roll was short and I was quickly climbing westward. Between the light plane and good headwind aloft, I was at pattern altitude (800 feet AGL) before I was even able to turn crosswind on all but one takeoff. I threw in one short field takeoff for fun good practice and was airborne in less than the distance between one set of runway cones.

I know it sounds improbably full of horse manure, but my landings were darn near perfect every time around the pattern. Honestly. Other than the one time I made a simulated engine-out and bounced slightly, every touchdown was a true three-point greaser. Maybe the headwind helped but my stick and rudder skills in the roundout and flare were on point tonight.

Turning towards Caesar Creek Lake

After four takeoffs and landings, I flew north of the airport and passed over a friends' house. Unlike most times I pass over, I saw someone outside, so I circled around and heartily waved the wings before I flew away. Texting them later to ask if they saw me they said yes, their daughter saw the airplane and ran inside to get them to come out and wave. It's the small things... :)

The shadows were getting longer as the sun was getting lower

More lush greenery along the Little Miami River

Before what seemed like very long, it was time to get back to the airport as my reserved block of time was almost up. I'd been flying just about an hour as I entered the pattern for the final time. Keeping with the prior performance, the wheels softly touched down on the green grass; a short rollout and taxi later, I was pushing the plane back into the hangar.

If I didn't have to work for a living, this would be the perfect life

Tradition-keeping and flying practice aside, tonight was a very nice and much-needed mental reprieve. Work has been kind of insane and, while we're lucky that Mariella's truly a very calm and easy baby as babies go, any parent who doesn't admit to needing a little "me time" on occasion is probably lying. Getting up in the sky solo is perhaps still the only way for me to cut everything out and completely focus on something I love for an hour or two.

I did of course rush right home afterwards to see the adorable little girl waiting for her daddy.

Mariella Margaret is already looking skyward, it seems

Next up is getting current in the 172 so we can take this future aviatrix on her first flight. While I do plan on introducing her to the venerable Piper Cub when she's ready, I'd prefer we start out in the safety of a car seat. This new father certainly wants to protect his precious little girl!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 373.9 hours

Thursday, June 8, 2017

This father can still fly an airplane

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Instructor: Jamie
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Few clouds, 73 degrees, wind 350 degrees at 5 knots

I can still fly an airplane! I mean, yes, you're technically always a pilot once you receive your certificate. And I didn't exactly think I'd forgotten how to fly. Nonetheless, after 8 months (by far the longest hiatus since my checkride) without flying and nearly 10 months since my last Cub excursion I finally got back in the cockpit this evening. I didn't even break anything.

Why such a lack of flying? Well, as I mentioned in my sole post thus far this year, we had a baby on the way. Well, she was on the way - our daughter Mariella was born back in April and is adorable, healthy, and altogether a pretty darn good baby if I do say so myself. We hope to take her on her first flight sooner than later! Anyway, between the major life changes, work, and my usual downturn in flying during the cold, dark winter months it simply took a while to get myself back down to Stewart.

Could tonight have been any more perfect for Cubbin? I vote no.

Given the painfully long gap in aviating, I of course needed to fly with an instructor. Jamie was available and he met me a bit past 7:30. By the time he walked over to the hangar, I'd already completed a very thorough preflight and pushed the plane out onto the soft, green, almost-summer grass.

We chatted for a few then I climbed in, he hand-propped the engine, and I taxied over to top off the fuel tank. Propeller turning again, I ran through my pre-takeoff checklist then pulled onto Runway 26 and managed a pretty soft and smooth takeoff to the west. Jamie had me climb out over the lake and we first went through some turns. Then he just let me fly around for a bit and do some sightseeing before eventually re-entering the pattern.

Landings are usually where rust is most apparent, at least for me. I reminded (warned?) Jamie that, in my experience, I usually either grease the landings or totally muck them up after an extended break. He, in turn, said he'd be happy to laugh at me if I really screwed the pooch.

Fittingly, the first approach and landing were exceptionally smooth. Jamie said he was upset he didn't have a chance to laugh. Nice guy. I was cautiously optimistic. Two more laps around the pattern fortunately did nothing to temper the optimism; I nailed all three landings and my takeoffs became smoother each time.

Cubs, grass, and blue sky just belong together, don't they?

Maybe the giant break served to erase my mental sight picture so well that, with the luck of nailing it that first time, I had no bad habits and instantly re-established good ones. Or maybe it's just that Cubs are easy to fly. Either way, there's still nothing better than a Cub with the door open on a warm evening.

Well, except perhaps being able to fly a Cub solo with the door open on a warm evening again.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Total Time: 372.9 hours

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

So yeah... I didn't exactly close 2016 out strong, despite somewhat miraculously logging more total hours than I did in 2015. The little bit of flying I did do last year was quite enjoyable, though. I am hopeful this coming year calms down enough to give me more cockpit time.

However, we've got a baby on the way! While I'm obviously very excited about our growing family, something tells me that won't exactly leave me with more free time in 2017. :)

Prior Recaps: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

Sadly I haven't flown myself since our awesome trip to Boston to meet our new nephew over Labor Day weekend. In the four months just since that trip, I've been to Michigan (six times), San Francisco, South Dakota, Boston (again), Chicago, Minneapolis (twice), Wisconsin (thrice), Kentucky, Charlotte, South Carolina, Indianapolis, Dallas, Germany, and the Dominican Republic. In total, I visited 18 states, nine countries, and flew over 115,000 miles on 118 commercial flights that had me aloft for 323 hours in 2016. So while I hate to continue making excuses for my lack of personal flying and blog updates, I think the travel statistics speak for themselves.

Probably 75% of my travel is work-related and I do expect that will be somewhat reduced this year, which leaves me hopeful that I'll be able to do more flying on my own terms. I am also considering joining a flying club of some sort for access to better - and faster - planes, especially as we anticipate more frequent visits to Boston for the cousins (and their parents!) to hang out.

Total Hours: 24.5 | Solo: 2.4 | XC: 17.5 | Dual: 1.0 | Night: None | Landings: 39

Aircraft Flown: C172, Cub

New Airports: S24, UNV, IPT, OWD, ALB, TSO

New States: Massachusetts

First Flights: 4 (Garrett and Anthony + Joseph + Isabella)

People Flown: 6 (above, plus Tommy and Gina)

$100 Burgers: 1 (we met the in-laws to the deliver the incoming baby news in August)

Fly-Ins: None

What I'll Remember: Gina and I having the awesome opportunity to go flying in a coworker's Mooney in Germany in July. Finally taking to the sky with pilot friend and blogger, fellow former Kalamazoo resident, and awesome photographer Chris. Cubbin' with another former Kalamazoo resident and pilot friend Garrett. Avoiding storms with my first taste of ADS-B in August. Stretching my wings and flying the furthest I've been yet, from Ohio to Boston, to meet our new nephew; it was full of great experience including a diversion for extra fuel and an extra overnight on the way home.

2016 Goals: I'm still out of excuses on the glider front. Pilot friend Tommy even offered me a free glider ride for my birthday - I need to set that up ASAP! A few of us pilot bloggers have discussed a meet-up and I hope we can coordinate that later this year.

After a complete false start three years ago, I again hope to start and finish my Instrument rating this year. That plan ran into a couple walls, financial and otherwise, but Gina graduated with her Master's in December (which we're done paying for!) so it seems doable this time around. Of course, that may change if I fall back into last year's travel patterns - time will tell.

^ Well, as mentioned earlier, I fell back into said travel patterns... and then upped them by 50% for good measure. So that put a damper on most of the planned activities.

2017 Goals: Given my lack of goal achievement these past couple years, part of me feels like I should change them up. That said, I still really would love to experience a glider flight sooner than later. In a similar vein, although it's probably pretty unlikely with a newborn coming in May, it would be nice to start work on the IR. I think the most realistic goal is my complex checkout, especially if I am able to join the local club some friends of mine are in.