Tuesday, September 23, 2008

W05 - Kim's Road Trip

Today I bagged a day of work to meet Purple Board for Pilots forum creator and fellow pilot, Kim (4763E). I asked my co-worker Joe to join me on a lunch run to Gettysburg, PA and meet up with fellow pilots Rick (chekout my six or sixie as Kim calls him), Tim (TMetzinger) and his co-pilot for today Paul.

Kim was planning a solo road trip from Jacksonville, FL to Biddeford Pool, ME starting on September 22nd. Kim and Phil are attending their best friends' son's wedding in Jacksonville on September 20, so she convinced her husband, (also a pilot) that it would really be cool if they drove to Jacksonville. After the wedding Kim Dropped Phil off at Jacksonville Airport on Sunday afternoon so he could fly back home, then she will start her "road trip".

Just from reading her posts and all the comments associated with it, her trip is more then just "a road trip". I have followed along Kim's blog and listened to the comments she made today while enjoying lunch at Gettysburg. Yes, the trip has a purpose and as all destinations, a reason for taking place. I have always said in sports, which always seems to carry over as a life lesson, it's the journey we should enjoy and savor, it fills our memories and gives meaning to the ultimate destination. I would say we all had a fun day today, laughing and trading stories, learning about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and sharing good company. It's always nice to put a face with those you share time with in the online world of flying, pilots and forums.

Today's trip started out a bit behind schedule since my flight briefing called out Instrument Flight Rule conditions (IFR) around Gettysburg, York and Hagerstown. Not a problem, Joe and I headed to the local Wawa for some cold water and I had to have something for breakfast so I picked up a rice pudding. We returned and made a second call to 1-800-WX-BRIEF and I asked for an abbreviated wx brief with a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) update. The wx was now Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and only getting better as the day would go on. TFR's were non-existent in my planned route of flight with the biggie R-4009, P-40 (Camp David) not expanded. Joe and I saddled up and taxied for departure from Wilmington.

The tower alerted us to a Falcon jet departing behind us and climbing through 4000' so I offered to hold my altitude at 3000' and with that was no factor for the jet. I was soon cleared to climb at my discretion, it's always nice to help the folks in the tower when I can. It was hazy as usual but Joe managed some photo's along the way. We made good time looking at ground speeds of 125kts (144mph) most of the way out. I did not see the Gettysburg airport at first so I held 500' above the pattern altitude as I crossed midfield (obviously having spotted the runway). I made the call crossing midfield to enter left down wind for runway six and started an immediate descent. I watched Tim turn base and final then set the Diamond down and taxi out to the ramp. I was next, now on short final and adding rudder as needed. The winds were light and I set 679er down with a good bit of stall horn which means a no flat landing. I retracted the flaps and taxied clear of the runway.

Rick (check out my six) provided transportation, and the group loaded up for Herr's tavern. Herr's is not open until 11:30 (lesson learned from our last trip) but today the sign read "closed on Tuesdays". I'm beginning to think this place has a thing for pilots and screwing with our plans. We all loaded up and Rick had us heading into downtown Gettysburg to find some eats. The Farnsworth House Inn was the choice. The service was good and the food was fine by me. I had the open face hot roast beef that came with mashed potatoes. I saw some garden salads with chicken served and everyone seems to enjoy their lunch. We sat and chatted, Kim revealing she had control issues, I acknowledged that is the first step in recovery, recognizing the issue. She was quick with the comeback asking if I was a psychiatrist, we all had a good laugh. The talk turned to airplanes of course and drifted to the UAV's as mentioned above.

As I have stated before and I will again, time with friends, especially those we share time in the sky with passes by way too fast. Pictured on the left is Kim, Paul and Rick. It was time to head back to the airport and head east for home. We said our good byes and everyone wished Kim a safe road trip on the rest of her journey. Joe and I saddled up once I completed a walk around and checked our fuel. 679er came to life and we taxied out for departure. I watched the winds favor both runways and as the windsock/airplane looked to be a steady crosswind I decided on runway two four for departure. I announced our intentions and was on the roll when Joe said the windsock changed to a tailwind, I had already decided on two notches of flaps for the warm temps, 41 gallon fuel load and our full tummy's. 679er climbed out with no problems and we turned cross wind and downwind prior to departing briefly to the south for some pictures of the battlefield. We heard Tim departing from runway six and watched him take off. The ride home was about an hour and we returned via runway one entering on a left base. I kept it close, turning a base to final and landing a bit long to save taxi time. Another good landing in a 22kt gust heard the stall horn moan and ever so gentle chirps.

2.0 hours in the book, a good lunch and fun flight. I was happy to share some flight time with Joe and chit chat along the way. It was nice to meet Kim, Rick, Tim and Paul. We hope to take a road trip (by air) some day and bounce around and meet fellow pilots and explore this great country. Mary and I often talk about taking off and flying until we feel like stopping for the night and exploring everything that destination has to offer. We would get up the next day and repeat the previous plan. All in good time....

Safe travels Kim! Enjoy Bloomsburg, the road trip and friends along the way. Take time to enjoy the sights, recharge the soul and clear the mind. Blue Skies!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wheels & Warbirds Airshow

I had four tickets to the airshow and could not find a single person to go. Mary was enjoying her weekend get away with the girls in Ocean City Maryland and the others I asked had a change in plans. I even posted on all three forums, POA, AOPA, Purple Board for pilots and the Cherokee Chat page. Hmmm, well I guess I'm solo....no pun intended.

The weather was perfect even though some clouds followed me into Millville. I did find an officer where I work that was looking for three tickets so I got up early to drop them off at the police dispatch at work, I hope his family enjoyed the show. I hustled back over to Red Eagle, uncovered 679er and completed my preflight. I helped a ramp neighbor push back his Cessna and we stood around and chit chatted for a short time. I finally climbed aboard 679er and called clear prop!

I was instructed to taxi to runway one hold short at taxiway Kilo. No problem, I completed my run up and made the call to the tower letting them know I was ready to go. I was cleared to back taxi on runway one and cleared for my southeast departure. I responded, repeating the information back to the controller. 679er climbed into the cool air this morning like her hair was on fire. We screamed out at over a thousand feet a minute and I made a quick call to inform the tower that 679er was turning on course to the southeast. It was a nice smooth flight over the twin bridges and over top of New Jersey. I made my call to Millville at fifteen, ten and five miles out to advise of position and intentions. I followed a flight of two RV's that were ahead of me.

I could not park where I wanted today instead I followed the direction of the CAP youth and was marshalled into a nice spot in front of my friends at Big Sky Aviation. I made the rounds saying hello and then went about taking pictures of the aircraft that I was interested in as I strolled along the nice neat lines. The aircraft were grouped how they would fly and with like aircraft. I really like the P-47's and the B-25's and......well if they fly I like em'.

My Camera work is really bad, I forgot my tripod. Try to enjoy the aircraft and the video, if you need something for the motion sickness.....well, your on your own.

Did I mention I had the BEST seat in the house? I decided not to enter the race track area, instead I would ride along with our operations folks. I jumped in with Joe C. and I helped set out the big yellow X's to designate the runway is closed. There is a NOTAM out for the show with a 5000' ceiling and if I remember from this mornings briefing it was a 3 mile radius. As you could see by the video's I was very close to the active runway and show center (which was runway 10-28).

I hope you enjoyed the video's and photo's as much as I did taking them. It was a great day to be around airplanes, the airport, pilots and crew that keep these pieces of our aviation history flying.

A Sample of Joe's Aviation Photo work.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

N31 - Kutztown for Dinner

Rob (Rob's Flying Adventures) posted on the AOPA and POA forum about a dinner flight to Kutztown Airport. The FBO there recently closed and had a huge sale. This is not a good sign for the folks flying out of this facility. The airport hosts gliders, parachute training and flight lessons. At the end of the runway there is the Airport Diner, great place and good food.

The plan was for Mary and I to meet up with the few pilots that planned on attending. I rushed home to take care of the beast (Maggie) and pick up a change of clothes and shoes for the Bride. I scooted back to ILG and preflight 679er, waiting on fuel to top of my tanks. I was ready to fire up the minute Mary came through the gate. Well, at 5:15 the Bride called and said she was stuck at work, go on without her. If I hadn't finished the preflight I might have cancelled but I was at the starting blocks waiting to turn the key. I decided to go.

I was cleared to taxi to and hold short of runway 1-19. There was a flight of two Air National Guard C-130's setting up for a low pass. They broke the low pass off early turning out to the east, I was now cleared to back taxi on runway one. I made my turn around at the three thousand foot marker, added a notch of flaps and launched into the cool evening sky. The flight was about 30 minutes and 50 miles, good for cross country time. I punched in N31 on the GPS for a direct flight and also set up the nav 2 for the East Texas (ETX) VOR on the 234* radial. This would be my indicator when I arrived, or so I thought.

Yes, I almost missed the airport. I think this was a carryover from my first PPL XC. I missed the same airport as my checkpoint. I had the East Texas VOR dialed in (234* radial, can't remember) as the needle moved to center I knew I was there just didn’t see it, the airport. Off my left side just behind the wing, I have a visual. I started to circle to enter the downwind for 35 and Bob came on and said you missed us or it or something. I started to laugh and (I know I won't live that one down) entered the pattern.

Nice airport and a great little diner. Let's hope it all stays there. They had a very good turnout for the airport meeting, that's a good sign. As always the time with friends when flying is too short. It was great to catch up with Rob, Bob and meet Eric.

We all saddled up for home and I followed Rob and Bob out to runway 17. We were both off and heading south. The high wingers turned southeast and I stayed on my 180* heading. Did I mention how dark it got? Whew, it was dark out there. Great ride home as I picked out the airport beacons for MQS and OQN. I made my call to ILG tower and was instructed straight in runway one nine, report 4 mile final. No problem, I pass by the Rollins building and have Wilmington off to my left. The twin bridges are in view but no runway in that big black hole where the airport should be. I could not even see the airport beacon. At five out I call and ask for lights since I have no runway (or airport) in sight. The tower lights the place up, it looked great and I was aligned as I should be now on short final. I ask them to bring the light back down and made a nice landing needing to add power to make it to the first right turn on to Kilo. When I did taxi clear of one nine I then asked the tower if anyone else has complained about not seeing the beacon. He said yes and another pilot based at ILG said if I didn't ask for the lights to be brought up he would have flown over the airport too. At least it wasn't just me.

Thanks Rob for the great photos!

As a side note to my flight I wanted to add that I passed two hot air balloons. The flight of two passed between me and the Pottstown nuclear plant cooling towers. I was maybe 15 miles west at the time heading north and the balloons were heading south. The lead balloon was maybe 2000-2500 feet and the second about 1500 feet. They were beautiful as they floated south. I mention this because earlier this month a former club member that flew 679er was lost in a balloon accident. This man was a very good pilot and instructor. Blue Skies Earl, gone but not forgotten.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Written Frustration

I was scoring in the mid to upper 80's a few weeks back and put off taking my IR written, now I am frustrated and scoring in low 70's and can't seem to break out of the rut. I am ready for my checkride but of course must complete the written test first. I'm frustrated and ready to burn my books and use the DVDs for Frisbee's. Ok, well not to those extremes yet but I may get there very soon.

I am thinking of taking a week off then a sort of start over by reviewing the King DVDs cleared for the approach and the instrument knowledge courses. Time for two Advil's with dinner and cool compress for my vapor locked brain.

Thanks to all who responded to my post on the Pilots Of America forum, your wisdom and support help take the edge off my test taking issues.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Elusive River Tour

Today started out with the best of intentions, I know, famous last words. Airmet IFR warnings covered my general area of flight but it looks to be burning off around 10:00 am or 1400 Zulu. Not a big deal, I was in no rush and just wanted to enjoy the day. I made a change to my flight plan and decided that since it was a later start I would fly direct to Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley (KWBW), use the crew car or rent for transportation and take care of my parents grave site, the reason for the WBW stop. Mom loved geraniums so Mary and I planted them for memorial day. They are still blooming and doing fine and needed only a drink to make 'me' feel better.

I still miss my folks so much, Mom always the tough one and Dad the teacher and best friend. I miss his words of wisdom and all his quick come backs, I guess I got them honestly. I visited where my Grandparents are buried and most of my Aunts and Uncles, their generation is almost gone. It's kind of scary, the place I called home really doesn't have a lot of family left, just great memories of times gone by. I had to stop by and say a prayer for my dad's sister Rita, who always had a smile to share, her husband Joe and one of my favorite Aunts (really like a second mom) Josephine and her husband "Murph". Murph passed a month after my Mom in November 2003, he was awarded a bronze star and a purple heart during his military service. He and I really got along well, all the time. Between my Dad and Murph's construction stories it doesn't take much to understand why I do what I do for a living.

Back to the flight to get here....

679er ran great as she always does. It was a smooth flight north in decent time and flight following provided the extra eyes. I was kicked around by Philly approach, handed off to another section, then kicked to Potomac, then to Harrisburg, I was starting to get a complex. Finally I called Allentown and they said I had about ten miles until their area. Great, I respond that I'll ride along this frequency, 679er. Sure enough in just a few minutes Allentown contacts me with a squawk and I'm on my way. I flipped frequencies so many times in that short span I think I have a blister!

Once on the ground Ed from Valley Aviation met me with chocks and I shut down where I was instructed to park. No crew car so I had to call Enterprise. They showed up and gave me a lift to their office (paperwork) then I was free to roam. I made the rounds as noted above, made a quick stop for lunch at Burger King and wandered my way back to the car rental office. I had a short wait for a ride back to the airport and was soon playing counselor with the young driver. I must be getting old. We talked about work, dealing with the boss and job prospects in Delaware. He was a nice young man, fresh out of college with a biology degree.

Finally back to my plane! I hang out with Ed for a few talking about how much the area has changed since I was a teenager and places of interest for future travel and the latest update how his family was doing. Well, there is not a lot of traffic today so instead of playing airport bum any longer I decided to tour the river. On departure after contacting Wilkes-Barre Approach I flew south and really had a hard time picking out the mountains that lined my path. I climbed to 6,500 and the haze was still covering the valley. I decided it would not be fun slow and low having to pick my way and the camera shots would really look crappy so I turned for home. I advised approach that I was changing my final destination to ILG, India Lima Golf, Wilmington, Delaware the controller thanked me. Once south of Blue mountain I dropped down to 4500 and rode that until Reading Approach couldn't get me handed off to Philly. Not a problem, I continued down to 3000 ans monitored approach until needing to contact ILG. I picked up the ATIS and called Wilmington at 11 miles out. An easy straight in for runway one nine with a five mile call on final.

Not exactly the day I had planned but a good day for my heart and soul none the less. I just needed to get north and recharge, reconnect with the area and my family. I feel better, I still have the tour to complete and I had fun just flying with nothing to think about but "flying the plane".

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

RERUN, Susquehanna Tour

I dusted this flight plan off (October 2007) and decided to take a day and make it happen. The original plan for tomorrow was for Mary and I to fly to Nags Head, NC for a short get away vacation. Due to the Tropical storm Hanna heading our way I thought it best to cancel. No, not permanently, we rescheduled that trip for October 10th - 13th.

Instead I revisited this trip "back home", to the place my family is from, Wilkes-Barre, PA. I have made this trip many times by land and air but never once following the Mighty Susquehanna River. I have been toying around with a few stops and planning a flight for a clear sunny day. I plan on heading west towards the Maryland Pennsylvania border then turning north to follow the river. I guess my inspiration is from reading about the Citabria gang , aka the Trunk Monkeys, fun days of slow and low over the tri-state area and forging lasting friendships.

The Susquehanna River (originally "Sasquesahanough" per the 1612 John Smith map)the longest river on the east coast winds its way south from Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, New York, through the northern and central ranges of the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania. By the time it meets the Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River has flowed 444 miles. With an average daily rush of 22 billion gallons of water, the Susquehanna is the largest contributor of freshwater to the Bay.

In the mid-Atlantic states, it's called the "Mighty Susquehanna." It's the largest river lying entirely within the United States that drains into the Atlantic Ocean and the 16th largest river in the United States. The River's 27,500-square-mile watershed covers parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. This is about 43 percent of the Bay's 64,000 square miles of drainage basin.. I have listed the airports I would like to visit along my proposed route.

Donegal Springs Airpark (N71)MOUNT JOY/MARIETTA, PA
Elevation: 458 MSL
Traffic Pattern: All Aircraft: 1258 MSL
Runways: (10-28) 3250X50; asphalt

Elevation: 450 MSL
Traffic Pattern Light Aircraft 1500 MSL
Runways: (17-35) 3800X75; asphalt

Elevation: 481 MSL
Traffic Pattern: All Aircraft: 1410 MSL
Runways: (8-26) 2800X50; asphalt
Elevation: 545 MSL
Traffic Pattern: All Aircraft: 1546 MSL
Runways: (7-25) 3376X75; asphalt; (9-27) 2200X100; turf

Total flight time non-stop to KWBW is 1.5 hours and along the flight plan pictured about 165 miles. I hope to make a day of it with the above mentioned airports for stops. I hope to post a video when completed.