May 11, 2009
This weekend I had my first opportunity to confront one of the leading killer of pilots, Get-There-itis. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association say "The determination to reach a destination, combined with hazardous weather, claims the lives of dozens of pilots and their passengers yearly." For weeks I have been planning a cross-country flight to Indianapolis. The plan was for my Dad and I to fly from Chicago to Indy to visit my Grandmother (my Dad's mother) and also enjoy the first day of time trials for the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
As the flight date drew closer, the weather in the 10 day forecast continued to improve, only to disappoint the day prior to the trip. The night before our Saturday morning departure the forecast called for rain, low ceilings and high winds. When I awoke, I was encouraged by the look outside but that did not last long. A combination of online weather through AOPA's website and a call to Flight Service for a weather briefing proved that it would not be a great day for the flight. At my destination there was a direct crosswind of 18 knots, gusting to 25 with forecast for no change in winds. Additionally, at airports near Chicago there were deteriorating ceilings and reports of turbulence and wind shear. I made the executive decision to scrub the flight.
Luckily the weather looked like it would improve overnight. So I adjusted plans for a Sunday roundtrip. I woke up Sunday morning to a nearly windless blue sky. I picked up my Dad and we headed out to Chicago Executive. and before too long we were airborne and flying along the Chicago skyline enroute to Indianapolis. It was a quiet morning in the skies so we had no trouble getting flight following from Chicago Approach and throughout the flight. I enjoyed showing my Dad the the intricacies of the G1000. Having been raised in Indiana he seemed to enjoy viewing towns from above that previously he had only been accustomed to seeing from the ground level.
After arriving at Eagle Creek Airpark we drove out to visit with my Grandmother. We decided to go back towards the airport for a Mother's Day brunch. We ate at Rick's Boatyard a favorite destination for pilots. I had to sample the Boatyard burger since it was rated in the Top 10 $100 Hamburgers of 2009 earlier this year. The burger lived up to its rating. Even better was the company. It was great sharing the flight with my Dad then enjoying a Mother's Day brunch with my Grandmother (one of my loyal readers, Thanks Grandma) and my Dad.
After the enjoyable meal I re-checked the weather. According to the briefer it looked like we would have lower ceilings but fine VFR flying weather, so we fired up the trusty Cessna and rolled down the runway for departure. Again we were able to pick-up flight following, though as we approached Chicago the controllers were getting busier and busier and finally canceled our flight following. We also noticed visibility diminishing a bit as we approached Lake Michigan and a light rain started to fall on the windshield. As we passed Gary, IN the rain increased and it became apparent that there was a storm ahead in the Chicago area.
Although we were anxious to get home to enjoy a Mother's Day dinner with my mother I knew the right call was to divert. During flight training instructors often have their students practice unexpected diversions. A pilot on my shoulder reminded me of all the horror stories about pilots flying into instrument meteorological conditions(IMC). Since earning my license I have not had a real reason to divert but found the decision came easy. I always figured I would not be one of those pigheaded pilots who suffer from Get-There-Itis, and was glad to see I could resist that urge!
I called up Gary and re-routed for landing at Gary International. My Dad and I sat back in the leather chairs at the Gary JetCenter and watched part of the Cubs game while I periodically checked in on the patchy storms working their way through Chicago. After about a forty-five minute break the weather had cleared and we were back on our way. The storm had cleared out the General Aviation traffic and we were able to pick-up flight following again for the bumpy return flight up the lakefront.
Often people ask what I love about flying. I can say that this weekend's flights was one of the best reasons to fly. I was able to spend a great day with my Dad while surprising my Grandmother for Mother's Day and enjoying her company for the day. I look forward to making this flight again sometime soon. Weather permitting, of course.
April 18, 2009
Spring has arrived in Chicago, well atleast for a day it has. I enjoyed waking this morning to a nice cool breeze coming through the bedroom window and new it would be a great day to fly. I pulled up AOPA's online flight planner to get updated weather and added the weather data to my NAVLog for the flight from Chicago Executive to Porter County Municipal Airport and back.
I did a quick visual check out the window and it confirmed what I saw on my computer monitor, it was going to be a wonderful day for flying. Chicago Executive was reporting few clouds at 5,500 but everywhere else along the route was reporting clear below 12,000 and greater than 10 miles visibility.
After completing my pre-flight I contacted Chicago Executive Ground. They said I could choose any runway as there was not much traffic yet and the winds were calm, so I selected the nearest runway. As soon as I was airborne I turned Eastbound to head towards the lakefront. After clearing Chicago Executive airspace I tuned in Chicago Approach, things sounded slow so I made my VFR request for flight following which was granted. As I approached the Chicago skyline I received a single traffic advisory for a plane off my 11 o'clock reporting the same altitude. After searching for a few seconds I saw the aircraft which was about a mile away and no factor. Other than that I had the Chicago Skyline airspace all to myself.
After clearing the Chicago O'Hare Class B airspace I climbed to 3,500 feet to put me above the airspace for Gary International and turned further Eastbound toward Valparaiso. This was my first flight to Porter Country but as I neared the airport I realized I had flown out of here once before as a passenger on a B-17 Bomber, definitely a found aviation memory of mine.
I overflew the airport and entered a left downwind for runway 27 and made a smooth landing. As I began to taxi back several other airplanes entered the pattern. I did a 360 on the taxiway to view the traffic, I noticed there was a Piper Cub flying a low and tight traffic pattern and he had not been using radios, or was not equipped with them. Both the Cub and the Cessna turned base at the same time, though the Cub's base was much tighter than the Cessna's. Iannounced to the Cessna that the Cub was there as I don't think he had seen the Cub flying a lower and tighter but nearly identical pattern. The Cessna thanked me for the alert and ended up opting for a go around while the cub flew nearly the full length of the 7,000 foot runway before setting down for landing, I guess his hangar must have been on the far end of the airport.
The return flight was uneventful. Though, when I called Chicago Approach for flight following they asked me to to standby as the were busy with commercial traffic. They never did have capacity to offer me flight following services on the return leg. Though, it worked out alright as I did not encounter any traffic on the way back which surprised me on such a beautiful morning.
I logged another 1.8 hours of cross country time which will come in handy when I am ready to start pursuing an instrument rating, something I am thinking about more and more seriously this Spring.
April 12, 2009
Have you ever noticed that when you ride in a cab you never wear a seatbelt? Why is this? Do we blindly trust that fact that if the driver does this for a living we should trust their skills? Independent of all the other miserable drivers on the road?
Are you the same way in the air? Are you willing to climb into the cockpit of anyone's plane just to log a few hours or share the cost of flying? Or do you take greater precautions in the sky? I have noticed that I take flying much more seriously than land-based activities. Not to say I live recklessly when fully weighted down by gravity, just that I realize the inherent dangers of flying and was trained early on to respect the airplane and those flying around me. I have found, right or wrong, I have strict standards for those I choose to fly with. I realize that as a relatively new pilot, I still have much I can learn from fellow pilots but realize the habits I could learn can be both positive and negative.
I receive frequent invitations to go flying. I admit to not thinking twice when it is an invitation from the trained pilots of Lima Lima, Aero Shell, or Bill Leff and his T-6 Texan. I might jump at the opportunity to fly with them because I have seen their skill firsthand, or just because I would do nearly anything to fly the T-6 Texan or T-34. However, when I receive an invite from someone I have just met I am more skeptical. I have not seen their logbook to see their flying experiences, frequency of hours, etc. How do I know they believe in the same standards of safety that I do? How do I know their flying history?
Let's all admit it. We have met pilots that we know we would never fly with, let alone choose to share airspace with. I was especially concerned when I joined a safety seminar put on by the air traffic controllers at my home airport a few weeks back and they were asking simple questions like "Can you explain what the hold short line is used for?" and pilots (not students, licensed pilots) were answering the question wrong.
Earlier this week a person I met through the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group was looking for some people to join him on a flight to deliver a dog from Chicago to its new home in Southern Indiana. It sounded like a great way to enjoy a few hours in the sky while helping out a worthy cause. I had a scheduling conflict but even if I had not, I wonder if I would have flown along for fear that I would show up to learn the pilot had a lower standard of safety than I was comfortable with or lacked the experience I would want in the pilot-in-command. Worse yet, what if I did not learn about their lack of concern for safety until we were airborne?
Last night I had the opportunity to meet the pilot in question in person. Within a few minutes of speaking with him I immediately realized this pilot was one who knew the responsibility bestowed on pilots and took flying seriously. We not only talked about each other's flying experiences but I also learned about his knowledge of his plane. I realized that I would happily fly with him in the future. I realize now when an opportunity arises a quick phone call or in person chat will likely provide me the clarity I need to determine whether I want to share responsibilities of flying a plane with a fellow pilot.
How do you decide with whom you will fly?
April 9, 2009
The Chicago Aviation Meetup Group will be meeting at Rockit Bar & Grill this Friday at 5pm for a happy hour. We will be joined by two featured guests for this event. Co-Sponsoring this event is Chicago's own Rod Rakic, founder of aviation social network myTransponder. Our other featured guest will be Jason Miller, host of The Finer Points of Flying Podcast.
Come join us for a few drinks and some aviation conversation. If you are not already a member visit the Chicago Aviation Meetup page to signup and to RSVP for the event.
March 24, 2009
All of my 2009 flight experiences have been in the G1000 enabled Cessna 172SP. I took a few introductory flights with an instructor then most recently flew a short solo cross country to continue to build both confidence and proficiency in the Glass Cockpit.
I have had the privilege of checking out several products that have been designed to help pilots transition into the glass cockpit and wanted to share my reviews with you.
Garmin G1000 Cockpit Poster Sporty's offers a free Garmin G1000 Cockpit Poster with an order over $4.50. If you are already planning on placing an order with Sporty's add this to our shopping cart before checking out. I found it to be a valuable reference while trying to memorize the location of the G1000 knobs and keys. I kept it laid out on a table while referencing many of the materials listed below.
Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook
I know several pilots that have transitioned into the glass cockpit and nearly all of them used and highly recommended Max Trescott's line of products. Max is a Master CFI and Master Ground Instructor that was named the 2008 National CFI of the Year. He did an excellent job of cataloging his knowledge on the G1000 in the Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook. I found it to be a quick and easy read that provided many valuable tips for getting the most out of the G1000. Many of the tips Max provided where either overlooked by my CFI in my introductory flights and things I am glad I learned before bad habits formed. I think the G1000 Glass Cockpit is a must own manual for G1000 pilots. Read it once then keep it on your bookshelf or in your flightbag for future reference. The book can be purchased on Max Trescott's website for $34.95.
Max Trescott's VFR+IFR Garmin G1000 CD-Rom Course
I also checked out the complimentary CD-Rom course that Max Trescott developed for G1000 pilots. Much of the content that is on the CD-Rom is duplicated from the book but presented with narration and interactive imagery. If you are on a limited training budget you might be able to get by with either the handbook or the CD-Rom. Choose which is most appropriate for the way you prefer to learn. Personally, I enjoy having both options in my arsenal. I liked that the The CD-Rom did a good job of showing all the softkeys and how they interact with the different screens of the PFD and MFD. As, I have not gone through Instrument training yet I have not checked out the IFR CD-Rom. Priced at $99.95 this is the most expensive of the products I checked out.
Sporty's Air Facts: Flying Glass Cockpits
The Sporty's Air Facts: Flying Glass Cockpits video download is another great resource for the G1000 bound pilot. The advantage of the video is it shows the G1000 in action, not through screen captures and still images but through live motion video. You can see how the G1000 is likely to appear when you are behind the yoke. I liked the portability that allowed me to bring this along via my iPhone for viewing at my convenience. The one downside to a video compared to a manual or CD-Rom is it is harder to jump to a specific spot for reference purposes. It is a great product for getting an overview and introduction to the G1000 and the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra. The video can be downloaded directly from Sporty's for $9.95.
If you plan to fly the Glass Cockpit I highly recommend all of these great products. Safe flying!
March 16, 2009
The mercury is on the rise in thermometers throughout the Midwest and pilots are finding their way back to the airport. I could not resist the call and reserved a plane for a weekend afternoon flight, my first in over a month. While enjoying the first jacketless pre-flight of the year I noticed all the empty spots on the tarmac and realized I was not the only one with the great idea of going flying.
After engine start-up and taking down ATIS notes I had to be patient to wait for a break in all the radio chatter to make my initial call-up to Chicago Executive ground control. I informed them that after departing their airspace I would be interested in flight following for my flight to Waukesha (KUES). Sometimes getting flight following in the Chicago airspace can be hit or miss and I worried that I might not get flight following as I figured the controllers would be busy. I was right about them being busy but they were able to support my request.
As I departed the Chicago Executive airspace I counted more than seven airplanes on the G1000 MFD. I felt confident I would have safe separation from the aircraft with the combination of my visual scan, the G1000 traffic advisories and updates from the air traffic controllers.
The weather was ideal for flying with light and variable winds, unrestricted visibility and no sign of a ceiling in any direction. After a nice 40 minute flight I arrived at a busy Waukesha airport. There were several planes performing their pre-flight run-up and three planes in addition to mine that were communicating to the tour while heading inbound for landings. I made a nice smooth landing and taxied to the terminal for a short break.
When I was ready to depart for the return leg I had the airwaves and airport to myself. On the return flight I again requested and received flight following. At one point the controller pointed out traffic to my two o'clock position eastbound and also a plane at eleven o'clock northwestbound both at ~3,000 feet I watched from a few thousand feet above and a mile or so away as these two airplanes crossed paths much closer than I would have preferred as one of the pilots. I don't believe either was taking advantage of flight following services as I never heard the controller give either of them traffic advisories.
I highly recommend pilots take advantage of flight following whenever they can on a VFR flight. When I trained my instructors never spent much time teaching me how to request flight following and how to use the service. I found this PDF to be a valuable resource for detailing how flight following works.
I enjoyed adding another new airport to my list of airports visited while also building more time and experience in the G1000 enabled Cessna 172SP. I will be publishing a few posts in the coming week outlining some of the tools I have used in the past few weeks to continue to learn all the great features of the G1000.
February 22, 2009
Last year your help was needed to try and put a halt on the implementation of users fees. Now you are needed to once again write your representatives and share your feedback with the government officials over the TSA's proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP).
Max Trescott wrote a great post explaining why this should be the number one aviation issue on your mind this weekend. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association "The proposed Large Aircraft Security Program, or LASP, would impose a whole range of expensive and burdensome requirements on Part 91 operators of aircraft weighing more than 12,500 lbs. Those requirements include criminal history record checks for crew members, matching passengers to TSA watch and no-fly lists, checking passengers and baggage for dangerous weapons or prohibited items, and paying for biennial third-party audits".
Please don't assume that because this does not effect the type of aircraft you fly that this is not a serious issue for you to be concerned about. AOPA's VP of Government Affairs Andy Cebula makes a great point saying "We're also concerned that the regulations could easily be expanded to include all aircraft, regardless of size or type of operation, because the TSA hasn't said anything to justify the 12,500-lb limit."
Max Trescott referenced a very appropriate quote from Benjamin Franklin in his post on this matter "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither." What concerns me is that there is not validation of any of the alleged security benefits.
You have until February 27, 2009 to share your comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). There have been nearly 3,000 comments posted thus far, but that is a fraction of the aviation community.
So, I urge you to read Max Trescott's post on the matter and visit AOPAs online member action center. Than take a few minutes to craft a message to share with your representative and submit a formal response to the notice of proposed rulemaking. If you need help figuring out just what to say write AOPA's guide to writing your response to this issue.
February 21, 2009
John Purner, author of "The $100 Hamburger: A Guide to Pilot's Favorite Fly-In Restaurants" recently announced his Best of the Best list for 2009. Leading the pack as the best $100 Hamburger was Southern Flyer Diner in Brenham, Texas (11R).
In addition to announcing the Top Burger he also published a list of top ten $100 Hamburger's in the United States. Chicago was represented by Pilot Pete's which is located on the field at Schaumburg (06C). It is one of my favorite airport restaurants not only because it has good food but because of its location on the second floor of the terminal which provides a great vantage point to watch the planes come and go.
Also on the Top Ten list was Sky Galley located in the historic terminal at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport (KLUK). I lived no more than five minutes away from Lunken for several years and loved sitting on their outdoor patio and watching the flightline. When I finally decided to learn to fly I started my training at Lunken and that gave me even more excuses to stop by Sky Galley. If you are looking for a great place for a bite to fly to in the Cincinnati area check them out.
The last one on the list that I have tried is Rick's Café Boatyard located across the street from the Eagle Creek Airpark (KEYE) in Indianapolis, IN. They have excellent food and a beautiful view of the Eagle Creek Reservoir. What it misses is a nice view of the airport operations but if you have been in a plane all day and are looking for a place to relax with a nice view then relax on their patio and enjoy the great food at Rick's Cafe Boatyard.
Many of the other top 10 $100 Hamburgers were located a long flight from Chicago but I did notice that Final Approach Steak House in Sheboygan, WI (KSBM) made the list. After checking out their website, I think I just figured out my next cross country flight.
Take a look at the Top ten list and the 15 runner-ups and let me know what restaurant you think is missing or was over-rated.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brent613
February 8, 2009
In preparing for my last cross country flight I took advantage of some newer tools. I started my planning with the new online version of the AOPA Flight Planner powered by Jeppesen. I have used the software based version of the flight planner in the past and enjoyed checking out their web-based version. It was fairly intuitive and only took me a few minutes to build my desired route. I was able to add GPS waypoints and airports simply by clicking on the appropriate icons on the online chart. I also wished to add one custom waypoint for the Arlington Park racetrack which was easy enough to do with a right-click.
After you select your route if you have aircraft entered into the system it will generate a navlog with the appropriate speeds. As you get closer to flight time you can run weather reports for the route of flight and then the AOPA flightplanner updates your navlog with the appropriate speeds and headings accounting for the winds. If you plan on filing a flightplan you can do that too from the system. All routes your create can then be saved for future reference. If you are an AOPA member I highly recommend you check it out.
For this flight I brought along my traditional sectionals but left them in the backseat. Instead the Jeppesen VFR+GPS Great Lakes (GL-3) Chart sat in my lap for most the flight. I first learned about these maps while at AirVenture this summer. Most of my flying takes place in northern Illinois and throughout Wisconsin which would require a few sectionals. With this chart I could fly from Champaign, IL to Cherryland Airport in Door County, WI with a single chart.
These new charts have ditched the greenish color we all are familiar with from our sectionals and instead is white allowing colors used for airspace, airways and airports to pop more. I feel they have made these charts easier to read. One major improvement was the very clear markings of ceilings and floors of airspace. These charts took into account that so many pilots are using GPS in flight and are designed with that type of flight in mind.
Many pilot shops are starting to stock them but if you can't find them at your local shop you can purchase one directly from Jeppesen. I now keep one in my flightbag for all flights.
February 1, 2009
On Saturday I went for my second familiarization flight in the G1000 enabled Cessna. On my first flight last week we spent most the time reviewing the basic functionality of the G1000 system. Saturday's focus was on how to handle failures and also how to use some of the advanced options such as flight planning and working with the autopilot.
I planned a 120NM cross country flight from Chicago Executive to Rockford (KRFD), De Kalb (KDKB), Schaumburg (06C) and then back to Chicago Executive. After firing up the Cessna my CFI showed me how to enter the entire flightplan into the G1000. We used two GPS waypoints and each airport to set our course. It took only a few minutes to get the hang of it and get the entire flight entered into the system.
My preflight briefing with Flight Service warned me of some light to moderate chop along the route and also some stiff winds. Sure enough as we climbed out of Chicago Executive we got tossed around a bit until we climbed above 2,500 feet at which point the ride became smoother. As I turned the plane west for Rockford we took on a direct 53 knot headwind slowing our forward progression to a measly 52 knots. I felt like I was back in my trusty Cessna 152 I used to train in. I did not mine the slow progression though as we had a beautiful view of the snow-covered farm lands below. It also allowed some time for me to learn how to use the autopilot feature. I was able to engage the autopilot to maintain our flightplan path and to maintain our altitude. It made for a very relaxing flight to Rockford.
As we approached Rockford we learned we would be following in a Boeing 767 which was cool. I have on shared runways with the big tin when flying into Midway. After making a nice landing at Rockford we taxied around to depart on their westbound runway. We had a beautiful view as I lined the airplane up on the centerline the setting sun was directly in front of us. I regret now not snapping a photo before departing. It has been a long time since I have been airborne during a sunset and forgot what a wonderful way it is to enjoy the end of a day.
From Rockford we headed southeast to De Kalb which allowed us to partially benefit from the strong winds from the West. It was after departing De Kalb that we started flying east and now enjoyed the 53 knots of wind as a tailwind. All of a sudden we were cruising along at a ground speed of just over 170 knots.
As we approached Schaumburg it became apparent we were going to have an extremely strong direct crosswind so we decided not to make an landing. Instead we continued on to Chicago Executive for my first night landing in nearly two years. I forgot how your perspective changes at night and flared earlier than I should have and our landing was not nearly as smooth as I would have liked. Though, not even a less than stellar landing could dampen my mood. I love flying this 2 year old Cessna with the G1000. I am now signed off to fly it and look forward to enjoying flights in this plan in 2009!