November 29, 2012
I recently had the opportunity to test a new take on aviation sunglasses. Flying Eyes have created a pair of sunglasses made specifically for pilots that solve the problems of the temple bar of the sunglasses breaking the seal of ANR headset and the pain associated with that bar. The Flying Eyes can be worn in two different states that I am calling "cockpit mode" and "gravity-enforced" mode.
When in cockpit mode, you simply replace the temples with the adjustable webbing that can be tightened for a perfect fit, securing the sunglasses in place. The webbing passes seamlessly under the seal of your headset for a comfortable feel. Creator Dean Siracusa pointed out that, "If you're paying upwards of $1,000 for quality headsets, don't you want to ensure that you're getting the best performance out of them?" So why wear sunglasses the cause noise leaks? Although comfortable, in this state the sunglasses might earn you some odd looks when you are among your ground-dwelling friends. To combat this, simply replace the webbing with standard temples when you leave the airport, and you have an everyday pair of sunglasses.
The lenses themselves are perfect for the cockpit. They are non-polarized lenses with UV400 sun protection and medium lense density that protect your eyes and ensure you can use your in-cockpit gadgets like the iPad and Glass panels with ease.
Classify this product in the "why didn't I think of this?" category. After many hours in the cockpit and enduring the discomfort from wearing sunglasses with thick temples under a headset, Dean Siracusa, a pilot for 14 years, decided he might as well create a solution. Three years later he has a patent pending and has been selling his Flying Eyes since September.
My only complaint was the first few times you make the transition the clips are very difficult to release. However, after a few transitions they work smoothly.
I think Dean has a great thing going and his Flying Eyes now have a permanent spot in my flightbag.
November 1, 2012
In a dimly-lit doctor's office in 2009, my wife and I looked at two beating hearts on an ultrasound and immediately realized our lives were about to change. At the time we could never have known how positive the experience would be, but that is for another post. In the weeks after the ultrasound I started to think about what role flying should have in my life. Flying has always been extremely important to me so the thought of walking away was an unpleasant one. However with the risks of flying and its costs, it was hard not to think seriously about whether I should stay committed to this hobby.
I spent a great deal of time mulling over my options and talking with my family and other pilots. Learning to fly was a lifelong dream that I did not achieve until I was thirty. Since then it has been one of the brightest parts of my life. During my soul searching I realized that I wanted to be sure to teach my kids to follow their dreams, and how could I do that if I walked away from mine? That being said, I still needed to determine how to mitigate some of the other, more "practical" factors including risk and cost.
I determined if I was going to continue to fly I would continually work on becoming the safest pilot possible and I would need to find ways to fly more efficiently. However, that was easier said than done. In most of the country, and definitely in Chicago, the costs of flying continues to rise so it makes it harder to be more proficient on the same budget as a few years ago. As a result of all the life changes and my lack of a plan, 2010 represented the fewest hours flown in a year for me since I started flying in 2004.
I believe if it were not for Leading Edge Flying Club, my hours would have continued to dwindle away and I would have contributed to the pilot population decline. In Hangar Flying: a Dying Art Form?, I wrote about the Flight School I had been flying with from 2005 to 2010. I knew if I was going to continue to fly I needed to find somewhere new, because while that club had a healthy membership roster, they did nothing to foster social activities between those members, including sharing the cockpit. My trips to the airport were to log an hour or two by myself then return home and those experiences were not doing much to help me grow as a pilot.
I needed and wanted something more out of my aviation experience. AOPA President Craig Fuller said it well when speaking of Flying Clubs, "They make flying more affordable and accessible, often in a social environment that keeps pilots active and engaged." He couldn't have been more accurate. Since joining Leading Edge Flying Club I have been able to get so much more out of my aviation endeavors. Prior to joining Leading Edge I was primarily flying by myself. If I had a budget of two to three hours a month to fly then I was very limited in what I could do with those hours. I essentially had two choices: burn most of my hours in one longer, more fun flight, or spend them all in the pattern and practice area in a groundhog day kind of loop. I was primarily limited to learning from my own experiences and mistakes. Now, I am more frequently sharing the cockpit with one or many pilots. It allows me to seek out better and more fun flying experiences. When I am not Pilot in Command I am still learning from all the other pilots I am flying with, both those more and less experienced than I.
Prior to joining Leading Edge Flying Club my most distant trip was just a few hours away from my home base, primarily due to the cost. This year alone I have gone on a slew of multi-state cross-country flights, including two overnight trips and visited seven states for the first time by General Aviation aircraft. These are aviation adventures that just were not something I could accomplish within my flying budget when I was flying on my own. During those flights I have packed a ton of learning in as well. I landed at my first Class B airport and enjoyed the best vantage point for watching Instrument pilots fly a perfect approaches to minimums. I also have logged time in complex and hi-performance aircraft for the first time since earning my license. These are the exact experiences I was missing out on and their absence could have contributed to me drifting out of the pilot community.
I am not the only pilot and blogger to realize the value of a Flight Club community. Check out fellow Leading Edge Flying Club member Louis Bowers' post "Flying Clubs - Ceiling Unlimited" on his blog, Sky Conditions Clear. Last weekend Louis and I along with four other fellow Leading Edge Flying Club members took three planes and flew out to breakfast. I logged & paid for just under an hour but enjoyed a few hours of flying and aviation conversation and learned a bunch along the way. The photo to the right is from that flight.
It is no wonder AOPA has made their first goal for the newly created Center to Advance the Pilot Community to support the development of a network of Flying Clubs. This Sunday I will be joining Simple Flight Radio hosts Al Waterloo and Marc Epner in a Sunday evening conversation with Adam Smith, Senior V.P. AOPA Center to Advance the Pilot Community and look forward to speaking with him about the role Flying Clubs will play in their efforts. The show is recorded live at 8pm CT so tune in and join in on the conversation!
October 12, 2012
I recently had the opportunity to be a featured guest on Simple Flight Radio, a weekly two hour online radio show focused on general aviation. Hosts Al Waterloo and Marc Epner are on a quest to find amazing people doing amazing things in aviation and share their stories with Simple Flight listeners.
Last week they talked with Charles Stites, Executive Director of Able Flight. The Able Flight organization mission statement is "to offer people with disabilities a unique way to challenge themselves through flight training, and by doing so, to gain greater self-confidence and self-reliance." Although the show is live you can check-out the Simple Flight archive to listen on your computer or via podcast on your phone or iPod.
If you visit the archives, be sure to check out the Ahoy MyFlightblog episode in which I was a guest. I had a great time hangar flying with Marc and Al and discussing a variety of apps, websites and technologies relevant to general aviation pilots.
This week's show "What's on Your Runway" will feature Jim Krieger (Manager at ORD, and Chairman of the Airport Construction Advisory Council - ACAC) and David Siewert (Air Traffic Manager at JFK and member of the ACAC). Jim and Dave are focused on making airport operations safer. Both of them are pilots which will help them bring a valuable perspective to their ACAC work, as well as to ATC.
Al Waterloo, the founder of Simple Flight Radio, has held nearly every job in aviation from delivering lost airline luggage to being a professional pilot. Co-Host, Marc Epner, has been a lifelong aviation addict who flies for both business and recreation.
If you have not listened to Simple Flight Radio, I encourage you to give it a listen this week.
October 5, 2012
On my most recent cross country flight I tested out the CloudAhoy app to track and store flight data including route of flight, altitude and speed for the entire flight.
CloudAhoy is a free app for the iPhone and iPad that lets you keep a visual record of each flight. For whatever reason I have always enjoyed the idea of documenting flights. The process of tracking and creating a visual representation of a flight used to be much more intense, so much so that I think few people did it. For me it required bringing along a GPS Data Logger then somewhat manually merging that data with a Google Earth to create a map of my flight including speed and altitude information (see such a flight). The process was kind of messy and time consuming.
I was pleasantly surprised with how well CloudAhoy accomplished this task. Before my last cross country I downloaded the app and signed up for a free account. Prior to take off I signed into the app and then entered the aircraft tail Number, my name as the pilot and clicked "Start". Simple as that. When I landed in St. Louis and came to a complete stop it automatically stopped, which is a nice feature as I would never remember to stop it on my own.
After a flight you can debrief on an iPad or on the CloudAhoy website. From there you can see your flight track from various views. Overhead gives a good view of the path of flight, from the side or at an angle provides great information on altitude. But, the most fun view is "Cockpit" view where it shows you what the view would look like based on a Google Earth image. You can view my public debrief of this flight here. I saved out a flash video where you can view my takeoff from Chicago Executive from Cockpit View. I should note I manually added in the LiveATC communications from that flight.
I reached out to Chuck Shavit, creator of the app to learn more about what his goals were for this app. Chuck has been a certificated pilot for more than five years and holds and instrument rating and is working on a commercial license. He basically developed the prototype for this app while he was pursuing his Instrument Rating as a way to debrief after each training lesson. In fact I think that is one of the most valuable features of this tool is to be able to merge data from your actual Instrument Approach with the published approach to see how you did (as shown to the right). I believe this product could be extremely beneficial for private pilot students too to track their cross countries and to track maneuvers like turns around a point and then review with their instructor. Check out this video of an ILS Approach via Cockpit view.
Chuck mentions he tracks ever flight but does not necessarily with the intention to debrief each flight. He mentions that you never know when that flight might occur that you would wish you had this data. For him it was a year ago on an IFR flight in an Arrow with no auto pilot. He lost electric power and went NORDO while in Class B over Boston and continued to his destination. He debriefed after the flight and looked at how he handled the plan while working to restore power. He mentioned it was a reminder why pilots are taught to Aviate first.
I expected this app to be a battery hog, but it was not. It is also important to point out you can use this app in conjunction with other apps like ForeFlight, it just continues to run in the background then stops tracking when you land.
I had video from my landing at my destination from this flight. Below I have merged a small snippet of the CloudAhoy Cockpit view with actual video from an iPhone of that landing.. I was not able to sync them up perfectly or add in LiveATC but you will get the picture. This sure makes for a fun way to keep enhance a memory from a flight.
Download CloudAhoy and give it a try on your next flight!
September 27, 2012
I am an aviation content devourer, someone who consumes magazines, blogs and podcasts greedily or voraciously. I am not embarrassed to admit that, as I know most pilots are the same way. With less than a half a percent of the population being pilots we don't get our aviation fill talking at the water cooler. We need to get out to the airport or seek out aviation content to keep us satisfied. So when I receive a notification that my most recent AOPA Pilot magazine is available for download, a smile hits my face as I fire up the iPad and download the magazine. Within a few hours and usually in one sitting I have devoured the magazine and my smile erodes as I realize it could be days or weeks before another enjoyable aviation magazine is delivered.
I recently stumbled upon Loop Magazine which is a European aviation magazine that is now exclusively available by iPad, and it is FREE. I would venture to say this is the best aviation magazine you are not reading today, but you should be.
I was thrilled to learn they offer not only well written and interesting aviation articles but deliver their content in a format that takes advantage of the power of the iPad. Each article offers additional photos and interactivity that would not be available in a print magazine. This is a magazine that was reborn as a digital magazine and instead of having a version adapted for the iPad the entire magazine is designed and developed to maximize the power of the tablet. They have seamlessly integrated animation and video throughout the magazine.. The only complaint I have is that the magazine is not long enough, but that is me just being greedy again.
If you have an iPad download the Loop App then begin downloading the current and past issues. The same company also publishes P1 Aviation Magazine, a business aviation magazine and Blades a magazine dedicated to rotor-craft, both of which are free. They also offer an annual magazine called FlightTest for $0.99 per issue. Flighttest features a collection of stunning aircraft highlighted through beautiful photos and video. In the 2011 edition there are more than 250 photos and 40 minutes of video. The magazine reads completely different in horizontal or vertical mode so there is a ton of content to discover.
Discovering Loop makes me wonder what other great aviation content is out there that I am missing out on. What is your favorite hidden gem for aviation content?
September 21, 2012
I have never been much of a fisherman and frankly I am not all that fond of eating fish. So why would I find myself at The #1 Trout Fishing Resort in the country this weekend? Because their 79 cabins are wedged between the picturesque White River and a well maintained turf runway.
A few weeks ago, I signed up to join some fellow pilots and Leading Edge Flying Club members on a fly-out adventure from Chicago to Lakeview, Arkansas. Six pilots in two airplanes made the journey. Al Waterloo and Travis Ammon, Flight Instructors at Leading Edge Flight Club and Founders of SimpleFlight.net, organized this fly-out trip to Gaston's White River Resort as an excuse to go have fun with airplanes. Travis and Al are preachers of a similar message I have believed in for some time: Aviation is supposed to be fun and not much is more fun than a long cross-country overnight fly-out.
They had devised an itinerary that attempted to offer a wide variety of flying experiences including flying under Class B shelves, into a Class B airport, over a Class C airport and into a back country grass strip. As luck would have it as the weekend approached, the only place rain was developing was in the southern Midwest right over Arkansas. Rather than scrub because of rain we selected an alternate airport we could use if the weather prevented landing at the resort. We figured those of us without Instrument Ratings could get a good learning experience from the flight and those with Instrument Ratings could log some actual IFR and show off their skills.
I drew the first leg which was from Chicago Executive (KPWK) to Lambert Field (KSTL), a Class B airport. After calling flight service for my weather briefing I learned the busy St. Louis arrival and departure traffic would be funneling through just one of their four runways due to some construction work planned for the day. Despite only having one runway available they were more than happy to work us into their flow that afternoon.
I learned to fly at a small uncontrolled airport, so there was a time I was concerned about going into busier controlled environments. However, my experiences in flying in and around Chicago have helped me hone my air traffic control communications and helped make flying into a Class B airport a non-event. And while it was not too challenging it was a lot of fun. It is neat to share airspace, runways, and taxiways with the commercial pilots and aircraft.
Not only was this my first flight into a Class B airspace it was my first flight in the club's Piper Dakota which I fell in love with during the flight. It comfortably fit four pilots and our bags as well as 50 gallons of fuel which was plenty to make the first leg of this flight.
Once at St. Louis we checked the weather and confirmed that it would prevent us from making it to the Gaston's airstrip. So we filed to the nearest airport with instrument approaches, Baxter County Airport (KBPK). I moved from the front to the back of the plane for the next leg and I enjoyed watching Steve and Al fly on instruments the majority of the 2.1 hours of the second leg. The leg was capped off with a perfect instrument approach to minimums at Mountain Home Airport (see video below). I have only flown along on a few IFR flights but continue to enjoy the experience and am further motivated to seek my instrument rating.
We enjoyed a great 24 hours in Gaston's. Most of our non-flying itinerary centered on great meals that included BBQ, catfish, and a delicious brunch at the Gaston's resort. I enjoyed spending some of our down time walking the trails within the Bull Shoals State Park. Some photos from the weekend can be found in the photo player below. The main dining room at Gaston's offers a scenic view of the White River out their massive windows and a look back at history within the restaurant with a collection of old motors, bikes and typewriters that would make the guys from American Pickers salivate.
We had hoped weather would improve so we could bring the plane over to Gaston's later in the weekend for some turf landings but the stationary front lived up to its name and cloud cover barely ever rose above a few hundred feet. I moved back to the front of the cockpit for the first leg home. Travis flew us on instruments out of Baxter County Airport and I had the best seat in the house as we climbed through the clouds up to the beautiful clear skies above the rain. He tossed me controls after a while and I enjoyed flying in and out of the clouds and even logged 0.8 hours of actual Instrument Flight enroute to Champaign, Illinois. Although the Dakota is a dream to fly, I am still figuring out how to land her right. Al has given me some good tips that I need to bring to my next flight in the Dakota.
I returned to the spacious back seat of the Dakota for the last leg as we cruised back to Chicago using pilotage and flying at 2,500 feet. We capped the flight off by flying over the top of Midway then taking the 290 corridor west to skirt around O'Hare before turning north to Palwaukee. We logged just over eight and a half hours on the Dakota which sure would have beaten the 20 hours it would have taken in the car. But, who are we kidding. We did not fly so we would not have to drive. Instead we made this trip as an excuse to fly.
What a great trip it was. We saw neat places, took in some great flying experiences, enjoyed some great conversations and, most importantly, I learned a lot from flying with and watching other pilots. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Here are some photos from the weekend.
September 13, 2012
NFlightcam has launched an interesting campaign called the Solo Hall of Fame. It is their goal to help students share the accomplishment of their solo flight by documenting the experience with an in-cokpit video of the achievement. The great thing about this program is they will send you a free Nflightcam+ and suction cup mount for you to use on the day of your solo.
Once you come down from the cloud none that is soloing, you simply send them the video camera back and a week later they send you a link to a professional edited video of your flight for you to share with the world. I absolutely love this program and applaud them for giving students this opportunity. With a shrinking pilot population we all have a bigger burden to inspire others to fly and here is a company that at no cost to pilots is giving students a great means to inspire others and to celebrate their own achievement.
That being said would you have wanted a camera in the airplane for your first flight? I seem to remember bouncing with excitement and maybe even talking words of encouragement & celebration to myself on downwind leg of my first solo. Maybe those are private moments that should live on in my own memory only. But, I think instead I would have enjoyed having that video for my own personal collection and to share with others.
Check out the video below of Emily Carter on her first solo flight. She is the wife of NFlightcam's founder Patrick Carter and author behind The Pilot's Wife blog. Any pilot who has soloed will see a bit of themselves in this video. At the beginning there is that slight apprehension about stepping of the ledge and agreeing to let your instructor out of the plane. We all have the confidence needed, but it takes a moment for it to manifest itself when we were asked if we wished to solo, or atleast that is how I recall it from my experience. My favorite part of this video is the smirk at the end of the video (see the 3:32 mark in the film) which captures in visual format the sheer joy of flying and the thrill of an amazing achievement.
I think we all have the photo of us standing next to the plane or holding a slice of t-shirt post solo, but I would trade any of those for video or a picture of my version of that smirk when I successfully completed my first solo flight.
Do you know of a student that is close to soloing? If so make them aware of the Solo Hall of Fame program. NFlightcam is a small camera that records HD video, plus audio from the intercom; it is unobtrusive and self-contained, weighing a mere 5 ounces and has limitless mounting options for both inside and outside the aircraft. The Solo Cam kit includes an easy-to-use suction cup mount that works on any smooth flat surface inside the cockpit.
September 11, 2012
Ever wonder what it would be like to live in one of those aviation communities where taxiways and runways took precedence over roads and all your neighbors thought about aviation as much as you did? Once a year I get to experience one of the largest aviation communities in the country, Chicago, IL. The arrival of the Chicago Air & Water Show magically transforms my city into a land where everyone has airplanes on the top of their mind (whether they like it or not). Whether at the water cooler at work or mingling with neighbors people are suddenly speaking my language: aviation.
It is for this reason that the Chicago Air & Water Show has become one of my favorite weeks of the year. Like most pilots, I can't hide my love for aviation so friends, family, coworkers and neighbors know of my passion for aviation. When a friend of mine learned his brother, a pilot in the U.S. Navy, would be bringing his plane to town he thought to reach out to me to see if I would be interested in coming out to airport to greet him. Of course I was interested, however, the thought of sitting in rush hour traffic on a Friday night driving from the northside of Chicago, through the city to Gary and back was not too appealing. So I decided to make a flight experience out of it and instead take a beautiful flight along the Chicago lakefront to Gary. Al Waterloo, fellow club member and host of Simple Flight Radio (Check it out) joined me for the adventure.
Pilots love sharing their love of aviation with others and showing off their latest plane. The crowd a pilot draws to see their plane often varies based on the cool factor of the plane they are currently flying. As a result, John Keith, a member of the Virginia Beach based Raging Bulls (VFA-37), a squadron of F/A-18C Hornets, was greeted by a large family contingent when he arrived in Gary on Friday night and I was happy to be invited to be a part of the welcoming committee.
John took the time to point out some of the unique features of his plane and to talk about some of his experiences landing the F-18 on the USS Harry Truman Aircraft Carrier. After learning about his airplane the entire family, John, Al and I walked the tarmac at Gary International Airport which resembled a military base that night. Alongside his Hornet were a few of the larger F/A-18 Super Hornet, T-38 Talons, A-10 Warthogs a F-4 Phantom in addition to civilian planes like T-6 Texans and T-34 Mentors. As a pilot I loved looking at all these planes but also enjoyed the fact that everyone else seemed in awe of these machines as well.
It was great getting the VIP tour of the tarmac as I know on the Saturday and Sunday of the show people lineup along a fence-line to see these airplanes in action from a distance. As we were walking back to the FBO, John picked up his flight bag which was filled with all his maps and old school paperwork used to navigate a plane that was built before the age of glass panels. He pointed out that the Archer I was flying had more advanced navigational functionality than his F-18. True enough but I would trade rides in a heartbeat.
After thanking the Keith family for letting me be a part of their family for the night we climbed back in the Archer III for our return flight to Palwaukee. On the flight back the city was aglow, the moon was hidden below the horizon, making the effect of the city lights that much more impressive and a perfect end to a night of celebrating aviation.
It saddens me when the annual airshow ends and the light switch is flipped and my fantasy land of aviation enthusiasts evaporates. Though, I love that for a week aviation was brought to the forefront and surely some of those in the crowds at the Chicago Air and Water Show now have a new passion for aviation like this girl jumping up and down as the Blue Angels Fat Albert C-130 flew over during the show.
August 13, 2012
The 2012 Chicago Air & Water Show will roar back to life over the next few days leading up to the 54th Chicago Air & Water Show this weekend. The headline act, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, will arrive Wednesday night to begin preparing for the show. Most of the civilian and military acts will be based at Gary International Airport through the weekend and make the short flight up the lakefront for their Chicago Air & Water Show practice schedule and for the main event.
Expect record crowds this weekend as the forecast currently shows unseasonably cool but comfortable weather for the airshow weekend. The good news is the nearly two million people that attend the show annually will have two beautiful days to choose from as both days currently look rain free.
For many one of the best places to check out the show is the fenceline at Gary International. However, if you plan to view the show from the lakefront then check out Chicago Air & Water Show Viewing Guide with a few recommendations for the best place to view the show. Expect to hear planes flying overhead on Thursday for media day and Friday for a full practice show. The show will start at 10am both Saturday and Sunday and run until 3pm.
If you are an airshow regular you will recognize many of the acts on this years lineup. The civilian acts include perennial favorites like Lima Lima Flight Team, Sean D. Tucker & Team Oracle, AeroShell Aerobatic Team & the Firebirds to name a few.
Red Bull has often sponsored an act or two including Chuck Aaron in his aerobatic helicopter. Joining him this year and making their Chicago Air & Water Show debut will be the Red Bull Air Force performance skydiving team. They will jump from high over the lakeshore and speed to North Avenue Beach in their Wingsuits and surely be a thrilling addition to this year's show.
U.S. Navy Blue Angels, U.S. Army Golden Knights and U.S. Navy Leap Frogs will headline the show and represent our armed forces. Expect demonstrations by pilots of F-16s, T-38s, an F-4 Phantom and KC-135 Stratotanker to name a few. I became huge fans of the U.S. Army Golden Knights last year when I got to spend a few days with them. During the show I road along in their Fokker C-31A Troopship as the jumped from 10,500 feet above the lakefront. Then a few weeks later I was able to join them for a tandem skydive. See what is it like to skydive with the U.S. Army Golden Knights.
As the show approaches I will be meeting with many of the teams and flying with a few and look forward to sharing updates and news about the 2012 Chicago Air & Water Show. Feel free to e-mail me send me a tweet if you have a question about the show. You can stay up to date with my airshow updates on the MyFlightBlog Chicago Air & Water Show Ultimate Guide.
August 10, 2012
The sun was just starting to rise over the eastern horizon when we arrived at Hutchinson County Airport in Borger, TX to continue our journey to Chino. After 7.0 hours of flying the previous day, we were nearly halfway there, and the weather continued to make us optimistic that we would make our final destination before sundown.
Normally a refinery does not make for the most picturesque sight but with the sun rising in the background and knowing it was producing the juice that would make our bird fly, it was a magical sight for me that morning. Before we strapped into our parachutes and climbed aboard the Texan I had to check out some airplane relics we saw while driving into the airport. Turns out there were nine Mig-23 carcases sitting on the tarmac. According to Ronnie, the Lineman at Hutchinson County Airport, they were bought more than seven years ago by a local who had a dream of refurbishing them. This morning it was obvious that dream had faded and these shells would remain stationary for years to come.
Our plan for Day Two was to fly mainly IFR, but not to be confused with Instrument Flight Rules, we were instead flying by the I Follow Roads (IFR) mantra. Borger is just north of Historic Route 66 (now Interstate 40 West of Oklahoma City) so shortly after departing we intercepted the highway and put it midway off our right wing where it would sit for much of the remainder of the day.
Fellow pilot, blogger and friend, Al Waterloo of SimpleFlight.net, says if he could teach students only one thing it would be to fly an airplane with two finger tips. He rightfully believes a plane should not be manhandled but instead gently guided which usually means becoming good friends with the trim wheel. On the first day I fought with the trim wheel and would put the plane through alternating parabolic curves as I tried to use the sensitive trim wheel to fly straight and level. It was somewhere over New Mexico that I finally think I figured out how to fly the T-6 Texan with two fingers.
As we approached Albuquerque we started to see our first mountains and true elevation growth. The Sandia Mountains just east of Albuquerque have peaks just under 10,000 feet high and provided for a great backdrop for some photos. When we arrived at Double Eagle II Airport, just west of Albuquerque, we landed at 5,808 feet, nearly 2,500 feet higher than the field elevation at Borger. As a result it was significantly cooler than it was in Texas which was a relief.
As we continued our journey westward we reached higher altitudes. On the first day 6,500 feet worked out real well for us. On our first leg of Day two, 8,500 worked fairly well but we then moved up to 10,500 feet as we progressed towards Flagstaff, AZ where the field elevation was 7,014 ft and with mountain tops were well above that. Flagstaff is home to Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet, just 10 miles north of Flagstaff. Again I found myself giving Mike the plane so I could open my canopy open and start firing off shots from my Canon.
When flying to general aviation airports it is not uncommon to run into someone famous at an FBO as they await to depart on a private plane. That was the case at Flagstaff where I noticed six unusually large men who had to be professional football players. Although the Cardinals have their training camp in Flagstaff I did not recognize them so I could not confirm they were football players until Cardinal star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald arrived. I must have been gawking because he walked right over and gave me a fist bump and then agreed to a photo (sadly it came out blurry). I thought they were going to board one of the jets on the tarmac but instead they squeezed these guys into a King Air which proved its performance capabilities when it effortlessly lifted these huge guys off the runway with ease.
Our second encounter with weather was a small cell of thunderstorms just a few miles west of Flagstaff along our route of flight. We monitored them and then decided we could deviate just south, then return to our intended course. As we skirted past the storms we saw a few strikes of lightning but were safely distant from the storm. At this higher elevation in the west the plane took its time climbing but Mike put his glider experience to work and found a thermal that helped us go from a 500 foot per minute climb to a 1,000 FPM climb with no additional strain on the 600HP Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN-1 Wasp radial engine.
On the final leg from Flagstaff to Chino we overflew Kingman Airport which has an airplane boneyard on field mostly comprised of old DHL Aircraft. It was wild seeing the bright yellow planes lining the airport. I am not sure why but I am enamored by airplane boneyards and touring one is definitely on my bucket list.
As we continued southwesterly from Kingman we received the benefit of a strong tailwind, giving us nearly a 160kt ground speed. I realized I was secretly hoping the winds would die down as I was sad that the flight was coming to an end. As we approached Chino we again enjoyed majestic mountains with the Santa Ana mountains to our south and the Chino Hills mountain range to our north. We split them following highway 15 into Chino. What surprised me most was the odor when we opened the canopy over Chino. It was as if I was transported to Wisconsin as the smell of a farm was evident. When I looked down I learned that Chino is home to many cattle farms, not what I was anticipating.
Upon touchdown at Chino Airport, I looked out the window to see an L-39 Albatros roaring down the parallel runway. Seemed a good bookend to the trip since the first plane I saw in the Gauntlet Warbirds hangar the previous morning was an L-39.
We left the T-6 in the good hands of Encore Jet Service who would keep an eye on the plane for a few days until Greg Morris of Gauntlet Warbirds arrived later in the week to transport the plane up to Edwards Air Force Base where he will spend a few weeks instructing U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School students in the plane.
I thought the adventure was over but then learned that Planes of Fame one of two museums on the airport were offering a special talk on Saturday about the use of long range escort aircraft in World War II. After spending two days flying cross country in a WWII trainer I had an even greater respect for the brave men who flew in WWII. On Saturday we were able to hear two WWII pilots give their first hand account about their experiences flying over the European battlefields and the role that escort fighters planned in winning air supremacy.
It took us two days and 14.7 hours on the tachometer and 380 gallons of avgas to cover 1,600 miles from Chicago to Chino. The return flight on a Southwest 737 was just under four hours but I would take the low and slow route in the T-6 Texan anytime!