Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Keys

I have been following multiple posts on AOPA and the Beech Aero Club about flights to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.  I think for our extended get-away the Florida Keys will likely be our target.  If the timing is right we hope to make this trip the end of March or first week of April. The process has started for flight planning. Following up on a different post from the Pilots of America Forum "IFR Preflight planning checklist" this will give me a good chance to review 'my' process, the method to my madness, what I do to plan the flight and what keeps me in my comfort zone.

Weather is always the key ingredient for any of these type of trips.  Yes, I know, I now hold in my hand the instrument rating.  Great, that's all well and good but low time in actual is not a warm and fuzzy for this pilot. I do trust my skills and I do keep current, but as all pilots know current does not equate to being proficient. The instrument rating is a good thing and I'm very happy to have it in hand. I'm a better pilot because of it and it makes me think ahead even more than before obtaining the rating.

Wx is the key, as previously stated, and I will begin to track this aspect as March rolls around. Mary and I will search for a place to stay, taking into consideration all the forum posts and books we can read along with the online search.  I would venture a guess that we would depart on a Friday morning after an early breakfast. We would be arriving at the plane with bags in hand, iPad current with destination airport plates printed as my back up. 08Romeo will be filled to the top with 100LL and eager to launch for sunny wx. 

I have run potential routes but most have us making a first stop around the three hour mark for fuel and snacks at Grand Strand, SC-KCRE. From Grand Strand it will be south towards Jacksonville then a turn south west to the middle of the state and a second stop for a fuel top off at Marion County Airport in Dunnellon, Florida.  I guess at this time we would break out the life vests and either put them on or have them at the ready. Here is the vest I am looking at purchasing through

Revere's Comfort Max™ series of inflatable life vests provide all the comfort and safety you need while looking smart wearing it. It's so comfortable fitting, you'll want to wear it all the time!
  • USCG approved for persons at least 16 years of age weighing 80 lbs. and above with a chest size between 30™ and 52™
  • USCG Approved Type III Manual Life Vest
  • Dual waist belt stainless steel adjusters. Provides for easy adjustment with both hands and a more custom fit
  • Exterior inflation system access flap. Allows for clear, direct access to the CO2 cylinder for rearming. CO2 cylinder can be replaced without opening and unfolding the entire PFD
  • Waist strap and back strap attachment points fully connected and reinforced from inside for added strength
  • Heavy duty 420 denier nylon packcloth outer cover,Twin 2™ wide back straps for comfort and security
  • Includes whistle and SOLAS Grade retro-reflective tape panels on inflatable bladder
From Marion County Airport we would head south passing over Lakeland, home of the Sun & Fun adventure then continue on to overfly Ft Myers. Once approaching the southern tip of Florida's mainland I would put the vest on as a precaution and make for feet wet. Its a short hop across the Florida Bay to Fiesta Key and the next way point MNATE. From MNATE it's a south west heading of 247* and a flight over the islands. We would be looking for Marathon and then the seven mile bridge which would leave 45 miles to Key West our final destination.

Places to Stay...

Key Lime Inn is a 37 room historic hotel in Key West Florida that resides in the center of Key West’s Old Town area – just two blocks from amazing Key West nightlife on the world famous Duval Street. You can walk to restaurants and nightlife and enjoy the quaint houses in Key West’s historic neighborhoods. Rooms are situated in several buildings spread out on an acre of grounds, giving the property a very tranquil, spacious feel. Garden paths and tropical foliage separate buildings and quiet resting spots. A large heated pool is surrounded by palm trees, and has plenty of deck space for comfortable chaise lounges. Continental breakfast is served poolside each morning. Convenient and free parking is available on-site at our hotel in Key West.

Historic Key West Inns is an extraordinary collection of five boutique hotels in Key West, Florida. With prime locations in the “Old Town” section of the island, you can conveniently walk to the shopping and nightlife of Duval Street, stroll through the neighborhoods of the historic district, or reach the shoreline by walking, bicycling, or driving in any direction. With the Atlantic Ocean to the south, the Gulf of Mexico to the north, the harbor to the west, and the Florida Keys chain of islands to the east, you will be surrounded by the beauty of this charming tropical island at the southernmost tip of the continental USA.

and things to do...

Conch Train and Old Town Trolley
The Conch Train depot is at the foot of Duval Street. Trolley stops are all around town. Check out for more information.

Duval Street
Duval Street is the hub of Key West nightlife, dining, shopping, and sightseeing. Stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, Duval offers a mile and a half of galleries, Key West restaurants, shops, bars, nightclubs, and plenty of people watching. There is always live music playing somewhere and good food being served. From 9am to 4am every day, the street embodies the diversity of Key West from highly refined to completely deprived of good taste.

Southernmost Point in the USA
Key West is the southernmost city in the continental USA. The Southernmost Point, located at the southern end of Whitehead Street, is the official marker and a good place to document your visit with a photograph.

Mallory Square
Mallory Square is a public plaza at the western end of the island and is the gathering spot for the daily sunset celebration, complete with music, and a full contingent of performance artists. Plan to arrive at least 45 minutes before sunset for this free daily show.

The Historic District
Key West was founded as a trading settlement in 1825, and is one of the oldest cities in Florida . Several hundred nineteenth century buildings remain, with typical island architecture that includes wood siding, tin roofs, gingerbread trim, and shuttered windows. The oldest part of the City was added to the National Register of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior in 1983. Locally referred to as “Old Town”, this western-most portion of the island is where you will find the Historic Key West Inns and all of the places of interest listed here.

Sunrise Brightening The Key West Sky
Grab a hot cup of java, head to the beach and look to the east. It’s always a beautiful sight.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Quick Fix

 The forecast called for 40 degrees today so I knew I had to get some air time in. I finished up work at 3:15pm and headed straight to the airport. I had 35 gallons on board 20 left tank 15 right which would carry me around the area with plenty to spare. I left my SUV in the lot and walked to the plane, normally I drive in get everything ready then go park. I really wanted to get in the air and not waste any time. I pulled the cover and left it in a pile behind the tail, that's a first for me. Picture the addict on TV needing that fix and getting the shakes, well ok, not that bad but you get the picture. I was as excited as a little kid taking his first ride all over again. I unlocked the cabin and baggage, climbed aboard and removed the gust lock and picked up the check list. I haven't used the check list on the pre-flight walk around in ages even though before start I review the list.
Ok, with checklist in hand I perform every item, it's been a few weeks and I know I am charged up to fly so I take the extra time and flow through the checks. I climb into 08Romeo and strap in. Cockpit organized, the before start checks completed I reach for the primer. Seven shots on a cold start and fuel pump until pressure comes up. Maybe three blades turn and 08Romeo comes to life, I have missed that sound.

I pick up the current ATIS and wait for oil temps to come up before I start to taxi. Brakes released and I'm on my way. I roll to the edge of the Red Eagle ramp and call ground for taxi clearance. Wilmington tower, Sundowner 6708Romeo at red eagle, with Mike (ATIS info), VFR North East. I am cleared to runway two seven at intersection Mike. I complete my run up and call the tower for release, it's almost time to dance.  The tower instructs another aircraft landing on three two to hold  short of two seven then turns me loose. I am looking for the arriving traffic to my left but do not see it. 08Romeo is climbing out at 1200 feet a minute loving the cold air and the chance to fly.
I dial in the Modena VOR and start heading that way with the plan for a landing or two at Brandywine, KOQN. I set up the Garmin 530 and 496, plugging in the VOR A approach to OQN. My VOR tracking skills are still sharp and 08Romeo is running along about 120 knots. I announce my position for Brandywine traffic and fly the pattern. Base to final and looking at the narrow runway with snow on each side. It looks black full Length and I'm hitting my speeds very nice. Short final pulling the power rounding out looking down the runway and I hear the mains chirp. Sweeeet....gezz that felt good. No need to use up brakes, let it roll to the end and taxi back.  I take comfort in knowing I could have turned off mid field but just enjoy the roll instead.
I am off again this time headed towards the Wilmington practice area just south east of Elkton Maryland. I turn up the XM radio and sing along with the hits of the seventies. The sky looks gorgeous and it's smooth as could be today. I am watching the time since Mike said he would be leaving work around 5pm and meet me at the airport. I play around with some steep turns, take a few pictures and decided to head back home. I pick up the ATIS info and contact Wilmington to advise position and intentions. I am directed to enter a left down wind for three two and acknowledge. I begin to let down from 2,500 and point the nose towards ILG. I scooted in quick at 135 knots, slowing upon entering the pattern at altitude. I kept my turns tight practicing the circle to land inside of 1.3 miles rolling out aligned with three two and adding flaps. Another nice landing in the book, I am feeling good!

Mike walked through the gate around 6pm and climbed aboard.  I was already tucked in right seat ready to play safety pilot.  Mike needed some air time and the distraction of flying tends to blank everything else out around us. The plan was to shoot an approach or two and enjoy the break in mother natures cruel weather.  We launched off two seven and headed towards KEVY, Summit Airport.  First up was the RNAV GPS 35 approach. We were pointed to WENDS, did the procedure turn and headed inbound. An experimental RV was also knocking out a landing or two and we coordinated easily with that pilot.

One down and in the book as we keep rolling and depart to shoot a few laps in the missed approach. Mike was on it tonight and made the landings look easy, I hope to get my night landings there too. Back to Wilmington for two landings followed by a full stop and taxi to red eagle.  We tucked 08Romeo in knowing the snow was on its way.  We met at Cheeseburger in PAradise for dinner and flight review. Always a good time with Mike and a learning experience. I am going to start my commercial with Mike when the wx breaks, it should be fun!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Flight "Stuff"

Temps are in the 20's today so no flying for me.  I guess I could go plug the plane in and maybe fly tomorrow.  Honestly, The flying is not the problem because 08Romeo is very warm and airtight.  The part that really stinks is the pre-flight and then securing the plane when I land, it's just to darn cold. So for now I connect to flying with my keyboard and try to get my aviation fix for the day, please bear with me.

What's that pictured above you ask? It's my five year membership pin from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) that I received this past week. The five year pin got me thinking about how my flying has changed over time and all the flying stuff I have "collected" in this room.  Since my closet is overflowing with certain items lets start with my flight bag collection!

I started flying with the flight bag supplied with the King PPL learn to fly or cleared for take off course. Once I obtained my private pilot certificate I decided to purchase a bag that would hold all my "stuff" and an extra headset for Mary. I purchased an ASA bag that would hold it all and the extra headset. This lasted for a short time. I felt like every time I was going flying I was moving out of the house hauling that large flight bag and all my junk flight gear.  I was renting aircraft at the time so I had to carry everything "I" needed including a portable GPS.
Mary and I joined the Archer II flying club based at Wilmington (KILG)and that reduced some of the load.  I switched to a smaller bag, this one was made by Sky High, it was slimmer and easier to handle.  Mary was also given her own bag to haul, a headset bag from AOPA. This could carry the headset and extra flight items she liked to bring along, usually her music, reading material, snacks, water and handi-wipes.
I really liked the Sky High Bag and still have it today.  I toyed with the idea of the Brightline bag but sent that back the day I opened the box. While most pilots love it, I have to say it didn't do much for me. To many tiny compartments that were not big enough for what I needed and it reminded me of a back pack.  Repack the box and tape it up, it went back the next day.
Somewhere along this time line of bags or my flight bag fetish as Mary calls it, Mary and I purchased our own plane and left the Archer club. This move opened a whole new world for us.  We really didn't have to carry headsets back and forth each time we wanted to fly but I still do.  I don't want to leave my Lightspeed Zulu's in the plane baking in the heat (even though we have solar shields and a cover) or present the opportunity for someone to see them and break in.
The Garmin 496 is panel mounted and the recent purchase of the iPad makes the cockpit pretty much paperless.  I still keep a WAC chart current for emergencies and my favorite flying area Sectional chart, even though expired, tucked between the back seats with a hard bound flight guide.  I switched to the AOPA blue headset bag that can fit my iPad, headset and kneeboard. I do miss the extra pens, portable radio, extra LED flashlight and miners type headlamp and extra batteries that I always carried. Yes, the plane has a large flashlight in baggage for night time preflight activities, an LED light in the pilots pocket and a regular unit too along with extra pens.

I am once again looking for the flight bag of my dreams, maybe I should go back to the Sky High bag, it's been the best fit so far and kept me happy the longest. Maybe I should seek treatment for this flight bag fetish, so many things to think about. 

I decided to give another flight bag a shot, it's smaller, seems to be able to hold all my gear and not leave me feeling like I am moving away from home but yet provide storage for the items I need.

I recently purchased the Sportys Headset Bag.  I'll report back once I get a chance to try it out. Attached is the Sportys product description.

Flight instructors always have a lot to carry, but multiple lessons per day can make a big bag difficult to use. That’s why the instructors at Sporty’s designed this new Flight Gear Bag to store everything CFIs carry, but in a lightweight, compact bag.


• Padded external transceiver pocket with Sporty’s patented split flap
• Padded external GPS pocket protects your expensive gear
• Single quick-access chart pocket stores just enough for local flights
• Large, wide-mouth center compartment is perfectly sized for a headset
• Front organizer section has room for business cards, ID, fuel tester, flashlight and more
• Six year warranty

Measures only 12”w x 5”l x 11”h overall.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dreams of Spring

Mary and I have already started kicking around idea's for a four day get-away.  While we have our list of destinations we want to visit, this trip is just a quick fix to help us make it to Spring.

We love Nags head but the temps are just about as cold as they are here in the tri-state area. We will have to push farther south to satisfy the need for sunshine and warm temps. While we are faced with day time temps in the mid thirties Jekyll Island GA is mid sixties, Daytona high sixties/mid seventies and Orlando about the same. Maybe a trip to see the head mouse is in order. We really enjoy Epcot and that may work out for a nice Valentines gift for each other.

Flight times to any of our southern destinations will require a lunch stop in Grand Strand, SC and a top off of fuel at KCRE which is just a bit past three hours from home. The hop to Jekyll Island would be another two hours from KCRE and into Orlando's Kissimmee Gateway Airport four hours from KCRE.  Flight planning continues.

It sure would be nice to leave the snow behind and relax at the Disney Beach Club or the Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort on a charming wicker beach chair and soak up some rays sitting on the white sand beach....Ahhhhh...Another captain and coke for me and an extra dirty martini for my Bride please.

UPDATE - Monday 1/17/11

The Beech Aero Club (BAC) is talking about a flight to the Bahamas prior to Sun & Fun. To quote my Bride....."We're there". Maybe it's the forecast for 1-3 inches of snow tonight followed by freezing rain in the morning. Whatever the reason, I'm sending for the sportys book 'Bahamas & Caribbean Pilot's Guide '. More to follow.....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Déjà vu...Snow Part II

Once again mother nature has some fun and dumps snow on the mid-Atlantic.  We are not the only "lucky" recipients of the white stuff, the north east is getting hammered!  I made the call to check the wx information and yes, I had a liberal leave day!  Liberal leave means take anything you want; sick, vacation or personal time.  I have plenty of sick built up so that's what I'll use.  Now that the fun part of the day is done it's time to drag my butt out of bed.  It appears I have another date with our snow blower, best dam Christmas present I ever got, thanks Mary. 

I quickly knocked out the driveway so my Bride could go to work, then did the sidewalks.  I loaded up my tools of the trade and headed to the in-laws condo to dig Mom out. After digging Mary's parents out I decided to take a shot and head to the plane. I had hoped I wouldn't need the snow blower.  I made my way into the Red Eagle parking lot, there were a few cars and trucks that had tracked their way in ahead of me. I switched the ML320 to low range and punched in my access code to enter the ramp.  I made fresh tracks to the plane making a loop around the ramp. Enough funtime driving in this stuff it was time to broom. I cleaned off as much snow as possible including brushing off the cover.  It was a no brainer, I had to head home for the snow blower.  I made a quick snack and drink stop at our local Wawa then hauled butt home.  It was a quick turn and burn back to the plane.  I guess I was out there for just under an hour in order to clear a path out to the taxiway and around the plane for pre-flight inspection.  I forgot to take an "after" picture.
I cleaned off the snow blower and loaded it back in my SUV for the trip home. Traffic was very light, no school today.  I pulled in and unloaded then decided to do the neighbors sidewalk and also did his driveway.  He went to work early and I figured I would get his done in case his wife needed to get out.  They have a pick up and a dodge durango so no real problem, I just wanted to help out.  This snow fighter is beat, time to shower and relax.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Lazy Saturday

Forecast calls for 2-4" of the white stuff so the plan was to kick back let it all happen then shovel or snow blow.  Mary and I had breakfast, scrapple on toast with American cheese and a side of home fries, then got a few things done around the house.  About mid-day the snow let up so I ventured outside to clean up the driveway, back deck and my SUV. It was a light powder and I used the snow shovel like a broom to finish up the drive and I actually used a push broom to do the back deck. I decided that while I was playing snow fighter I may as well go to the airport to clean off 08Romeo. 

Roads were wet, our development road was the only hard part of the excursion. Why people don't park in their driveways during snow events just puzzles me. For one, it keeps the street clear for the plows and second it covers your drive way and leaves less to shovel.......Duh.....Hello...McFly! I make my way on to the airfield through the Red Eagle gate and notice the winds have blown a good portion of any snow accumulation away.  08Romeo had a few inches on her wings and stabilator  but with a soft bristle broom it cleaned off very easily.  I took the extra time to clean off the cover, check that the pitot and nose plugs were secure before heading home.

I made a stop at our favorite deli to pick up a large italain hoagie and a bag of chips. The fireplace was cranking out the heat as we enjoyed our lunch, it is amost time to watch football!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Transponder and Timing

I decided to stop in and check on 08Romeo and what day it could be brought into the avionics shop. With a date penciled in I decided to walk out on the ramp and pull the garmin 496 out of the panel and check for anything obvious, loose wires or maybe something disconnected. When the shop installed the gizmo dock they cut open the back to allow easy access, at first I didn't like the idea, thinking if the 496 is out there will be an open hole in the panel.  I got to thinking, when would the 496 be out if I was flying? Never! 

The Garmin 496 pops right out of the gismo dock and it's connections are bundled neatly, I set it on the throttle quadrant. I reach in to the panel and with my LED flashlight give things a look.  Tray seems stable and connections seem ok, I decided to crawl under the panel. Now for those of you who know me and understand I am not that bendable would really get a kick out of my next maneuver.  I flip upside down and roll over feet over the front seats and head leaning against the rudder pedals. Ahhhh...I see a connection that I think is loose.  I secure the cable and give everything else a once over, gezzz there are plenty of wires all neatly bundled running everywhere.

Once back to a normal seated position and the blood rushes back out of my brain I fumble for my keys to give 08Romeo a test. Wait, the blood rush must have made me fuzzy, duh flip the battery switch and power up the avionics.  Yes, the gyros spin to life and I am thinking clearly now. Avionics on, transponder on .....and the reply light is blinking away!!  I shut the Collins unit off and turn it back on, still working.  I shut down the avionics and battery and reverse the process two more times to make sure all is peachy. Cool! I'll test fly Wednesday night and see how it goes.  I walked back into the shop and canceled the check up. 

Ok, the timing part of this post title has you wondering.  Jason gave me a heads up that they were installing a Garmin 327 in a plane this week or next and that owner is trading in his 320. What timing! The shop will give me a call and we will talk numbers, I may swap out the Collins. The Zaon PCAS will work much better with out the Collins more ghost images on my 496!

As a side note, Jason is leaving Red Eagle this week.  I know he reads this blog from time to time so Jason, blue skies my friend, thanks for your service and friendship.  Mary and I wish you the very best on your relocation and new job in Minnesota....Brrrr cold.

UPDATE - Wednesday, 1/5/11

A quick flight after work to confirm the transponder is working as it should be.  I made a 13 mile hop towards 58M - Elkton, MD turned back towards Wilmington.  Multiple altitude checks with Wilmington to verify my transponder is working and then I called it a night.  My landing you wonder, it stunk.  Flared high, didn't add enough throttle to compensate and came in with a kerplunk!  Firm but no bounce, but not one I'm proud of.  08Romeo is covered and secure, awaiting this weekends snow.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Transponder Woes

During the last Dog rescue flight to Hanover, VA and back Mike and I encountered a problem with the transponder. The problem showed up again on the flight home just north of Easton, MD heading back into Wilmington.  I placed a call to Red Eagle Avionics with the very slim hope they were open on New Years Eve.  At worst I would leave a message to fit me in on Monday, best case they were open and I could get the plane in the shop, sorry the Christmas holiday has passed, no gifts, they were closed.

My transponder is a Collins Mode C TDR-950 that came with the plane.  My wish list, owners always have a wish list, is to replace it with the Garmin 327 but that's not in the cards right now. 08Romeo is going in the shop this morning and I hope its something very simple, read easy on the flying account to fix.
I have been checking out other transponders but a major upgrade right now is out of the question, besides with ADS-B coming out I don't want to invest big bucks on equipment that will be worthless in the near future. An alternative is the Garmin 320, a good unit, cost is reasonable (used would be better) and it will allow my PCAS traffic system to function correctly without seeing myself as a traffic threat. 

Updates to follow....

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year - 2011

It's time for my annual year in review and a look forward to some new goals for 2011.  Here are the goals I set back in January.

2010 in Review
Hours: 169.4 Total flight hours 543
Ratings:  Instrument checkride passed!!!   August 19, 2010
Airports (new):  KFCI, 9N3, KVVS, KMGY, 40I, KEDE, KACY, KOFP, KMFV
States (new):  Ohio
Aircraft: I got to fly a Stearman!!  Thanks Steve!
Medical:  Hip doing great, now I need to shed some pounds.
Flights:  Dayton Ohio trip with Rob to visit Steve and a chance to fly a Stearman.  Mary and I did our first dog rescue flight for the Mid-Atlantic English Springer Spaniel Rescue (MAESSR) to Hanover, VA.
Notes: I did get the M1 Loran out and the garmin 496 installed this year, it makes flying so much safer having wx and GPS back up.

2011 Goals
Hours: At least 150 and I hope to make total time of 700 hours
Ratings:  Commercial and add a tailwheel endorsement
Airports: As many as possible. I would like to visit Jeff out in Champaign, IL  (KCMI).  I would love to finally land on grass too.
States: As many as possible.
Flights: Mary and I want to fly to the Florida Keys, and a visit to my brother and sister-in-laws new home in Jupiter Florida. Mackinac Island is very high on the list along with a weekend get-away back to Niagra Falls. Nashville is still high on the list too.  So many places, so little time.

Aircraft Upgrades:  Get the autopilot fixed! During this years annual Cecil Aero pulled the roll servo and Penn Avionics agreed to bench test it, it was working fine.  By having the servo checked while the floor was opened up saved many $$$.