Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Pilot Community

After driving Mike B back to the Salisbury Airport, I had some time to think on the return drive home. In itself that should be scary, but, it triggered some thoughts on how lucky I am to have such great friends. Here are just a few thoughts that came to mind. 

Much like back in my Corvette days the hobby (we pilots like to call it our passion) promoted a togetherness of sorts.  Club meetings, car shows, and travel to distant overnight shows really fostered the camaraderie between members. I know the RV community is the same way, despite miles apart the core keeps in contact and there is always a network available for help.  This like minded thought process I assume would apply to sailing, cruisers in particular and maybe the weekend warriors too.  

Now for the pilots.  I have never been around a group of people so willing to help, or share information like aviators do. I'm talking about the basic text or email conversations about safety, airports, avionics, purchase tips and even selling tips. 

A chance to fly trumps all, we all crave the mission. Sometimes, like this week, the mission was help with my training. My friend and fellow pilot Mike B jumped on a plane, flew commercial to get here just to fly right seat and help me become familiar with the autopilot and GPS. To reach a step further the previous owner, Bill, sent me an email after reading my blog posts and offered invaluable information on the avionics speak for the particular units I have. 

Some of the type clubs are the same, shared experiences and support without strings attached. The Beech Aero Club should be the poster club for all others. Having only been a Commander Owner Group member for eight months I have found that they are cut from the same cloth. The people I have met went out of their way to be helpful, I can only pay such kindness forward. 

Mary and I are indeed blessed. From the support we received from fellow BAC member and pilot Mark G and his bride Candy and all the other pilots who texted, emailed, called and visited...just an amazing outpouring. 

In order to just get back in the cockpit I had friends supporting me, none more than Charles G.  To say he was relentless would be an understatement. His intent wasn't to just get me to climb back in a plane, he really helped me keep my head on straight and still believe in myself with regard to flight. 

The strangest part about pilots is that I  feel I could overnight in just about any state on a moments notice. I know Mary and I would do the same for any pilot we know. It's more than camaraderie, it's a brotherhood of men and women who do indeed share this passion.  

I'm proud to be one of the brotherhood.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Training Day 4

The final day...

Another late start for our last day of flying.  The hope is that we can build on yesterdays afternoon session and keep moving forward.  We will be flying to Delaware Coastal once again, it provides multiple approaches and it's close to home.

Once at the hangar I stuck 3TC's tanks to see how much fuel was on board.  The right tank had 2.5", approximately 19.5 gallons.  The left tank registered just barely a half inch on the fuel stick, leaving maybe 12 gallons.  The JPI displayed a total of  31.4 remaining, we shall see.  I took on 10.7 in the left and 7 in the right, just touching the tabs in each tank.  Tabs should carry 48 gallons, I think it all checks out.

31.4 On board
17.7 Taken today
49.1 Total gallons

With the pre-flight completed we tugged the plane out and climbed aboard. It was starting to get warm but there was a least some breeze blowing. I set up the ActiveOn Gold to view the six pack and the Garmin VIRB in the typical location looking over our shoulders. 

We launched from runway two-zero into a beautiful blue sky, I was ready to get after it.  The Garmin 480 was programmed for KOXB - KGED, easy peasy.  Mike hand flew for a good bit while I was eyes in working on buttonology.  I selected the GPS RWY 22 approach and updated to direct HUVOX, we were on our way.  Now I was flying in HDG mode with the GPSS selected along with capturing my altitude at two thousand five hundred feet.

As we were just about to cross HUVOX and do a teardrop entry Mike called me off and instead directed me to fly vectors. Two reasons, a good training scenario and we had another plane shadowing us at same altitude or within a hundred feet. This is no time to take chances, bug out and return to try the approach again.  
He finally passed us
With this change Mike was back in his element, ATC role play and making me work. I switched off of the GPSS on the Aspen which now made my heading bug come alive to my changes. We flew up the coast and then turned back inland to work our way back to the GPS 22 approach.

As I closed on the inbound track for the approach I switched the GPSS on and selected HDG and NAV simultaneously. In a very short time the HDG display went out and NAV with APP now locked in. Once established the VS lit up and the approach was smooth until I disconnected around five hundred and flew down to minimums. 
I throttled up and followed the Cram, Climb, Clean and Cool to power away from the airport environment. Next up was a return to Ocean City, but, the 480 and I did not communicate. It took me a few tries to get us pointed to OXB direct.  Once the plan was updated on the GPS I selected the LOC RWY 14 approach. Mike once again role played ATC with vectors to final (VTF). I crossed the final approach and made my way back, really giving the GPSS a workout. Once established I disconnected and hand flew up until we had another plane pass below and out front of us, we were out of there.

I made my position calls and entered the pattern, crossing midfield, and turning down wind for runway two zero. Turning final I set 3TC on the runway smooth and soft, a nice ending to the day and the training. 

Sadly the best day of training did not get videoed, yesterday afternoon. I'm ok with that, when nothing goes wrong there isn't much to learn from.
My homework is to work through various scenarios with the Garmin 480 sim and make notes of each attempt until I can make the transition from one flight plan to the next without a snag. I'm also looking forward to more flight time.

Why is there no Aspen cam? Because the screen shattered and out of all the videos it took, only one was corrupted, yep, the flying time.  I should note it was a codec issue so I may be able to save it. Anyone have any ideas???

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Training Day 3

Day 3

By the time everyone woke up and got ready to head to the airport it was after 10am.  Once we arrived at the airport and opened up the hangar, Mike and I got 3 Tango Charlie ready to go, tugging her out on the ramp. It was a BEAUTIFUL day!

Both video cameras were set up, one inside facing us and the typical over the shoulder shot facing the windscreen.  The ActiveOn Gold facing us had plenty of footage, but the file was corrupted and would not download. 

The plan was to head over to Delaware Coastal, KGED, and shoot a few approaches, working through the lessons we covered in our ground session the previous two evenings. We had a few bugs to work out, as far as GPSS and the use of the Stec Heading (HDG) vs the  Nav features. One solid takeaway was that we switched into NAV mode too soon and instead of doing the procedure turn the autopilot turned for the shortest intercept to the final approach. I must mention that it's not an equipment issue but an operator error issue. 
I quickly disconnected and used the HDG function and performed a Procedure Turn before heading towards the airport on final. Once on final I did reengage the NAV function and the autopilot immediately captured the the glideslope, riding the rail down to five hundred feet where I disconnect and continued down to four hundred feet before going missed. The second approach was a little better, but still had the wrong turn issue in NAV.

Of course with my patience level I was getting frustrated, and I could not settle. I could no longer use the correct buttonology to get out of the current flight plan and set up for Salisbury (KSBY). Keep flying the plane was the main goal and with the added buttonology I was overloaded.  My response was a WTF moment. Mike quickly jumped in and instead of fixing it or talking me off the ledge he simply and very matter of factly said, complex planes with new to you avionics take some time, if you can't handle it, go back to flying your Sundowner. Ouch! To Mike's credit, once I was mentally back in the game he said he wouldn't be here if he didn't think I could handle a complex aircraft.

Mike knows me well enough and gave me exactly what I needed, a kick in the arse! After all that set in he talked me through the positives, I was still flying the plane, we were in a safe area moving away from the airport environment and we will just try setting it up again. Well of course that makes sense and I settled in working on, as my bride likes to say, that pilot stuff.  I honestly am not used to feeling behind the plane and with the operator button pushing that's where I felt I was. 
I used the nearest soft key, selected Ocean City and off we went. Mike was right, we needed to take a break. I made an ok landing, that's being polite, and taxied in to park.  It felt good getting out and walking away, I did need a break. We decided on lunch at the Southgate grille.  The food and service was very good and the ice tea with lemonade hit the spot.  

It was time for round two. We drove back over to the airport and there sat 3TC, in a tie down, not her nest. Mike and I did a walk around and I checked fuel for this next session.  We were ready to go, it took a few tries but 3TC fired up and was ready to have another go. I must mention that during lunch I texted Bill, 3TC's previous owner and asked him a few questions on the autopilot.  Bill quickly responded with an excellent well thought out description of the process, and it really helped square things away. Thanks, Bill!
We climbed out of Ocean City and once again headed towards Delaware Coastal. This time we flew along in HDG mode, with GPSS engaged.  With this setting selection 3TC flew like a perfect lady.  All the correct directives were on the Garmin 480 GPS, the autopilot flew smooth and gentle standard rate turns and the entry and subsequent racetrack for the PT was like overlaying the approach plate. On the money!
I was feeling  much better about my afternoon performance.  I still had an issue clearing the existing flight plan and selecting a new destination. I cheated again and used nearest and direct, we were on our way to Salisbury. Mike contacted SBY and requested the ILS RWY three-two. Tower approved and advised report inbound COLBE, the final approach fix. 
As you can tell by the track  posted above, the heading and GPSS combination flew another perfect procedure turn. We asked for another lap to complete the hold portion of keeping current and also wanted to confirm the suspend button action.  Once established inbound I set my heading bug for the wind correction and switched to NAV.  The glideslope appeared and I watched it go from active to alive as steady as can be. 3TC rode the rails, smooth and straight down the glideslope despite gusting winds at twenty plus knots. At just about a half dot high I dropped the gear, adjusted power to stay at 105 knots indicated, and continued in. I disconnected at five hundred feet and flew to the minimum descent altitude of three hundred feet. We called going missed and I followed the four C's; Cram, Climb, Clean and Cool.  Cram for throttle full, climb for climbing out, clean for tucking the gear and flaps away, and cool for the cowl flaps open. It was all starting to click. 

It was time to call it a day, ending on a very positive note. I turned for home and made an excellent landing at Ocean City. Mike and I tucked 3TC in her nest and cleaned all the bugs off her pretty paint.  We are up again tomorrow!

By the numbers: Three GPS approaches, one ILS, and one hold. Total time 3.2 hours. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Training Day 2

Day 2

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Today we were going to jump in and set up the aircraft numbers table and then move on with autopilot work.  All that faded away as we sat and watched the weather poop on our parade.

SPECI KOXB 281008Z AUTO 02007KT 3SM -RA BR OVC005 22/22 A2988 
SPECI KOXB 281015Z AUTO 02008KT 3SM -RA BR OVC004 22/22 A2988 
SPECI KOXB 281046Z AUTO 02007KT 5SM BR OVC005 22/22 A2988 
SPECI KOXB 281134Z AUTO 02007KT 8SM BKN006 OVC014 22/22 A2989 

Mike and I headed back to the house so we could pick up my bride and go out for lunch. The unanimous vote was for the Sunset Grille located at the Sunset Marina in West Ocean City. We each enjoyed the Guacamole dip appetizer followed by crab cakes. My sandwich had shrimp salad too, everything was very good.

I gave Mike the nickle tour of Ocean City, heading up Ocean Highway to see all the condos and restaurants.  Traffic wasn't too bad so we decided on a stop at Dumsers Ice Cream. I had a sugar cone with banana, Mary had a soft ice cream chocolate, and Mike had a Sundae.

Once home and settled in Mike and I worked through multiple scenarios on the Garmin 480 Simulator. Approaches, holds, using the suspend button while in the holds and just clear of the hold.  The 480 will revert back to the Procedure turn or hold if you hit suspend (SUSP).  Pretty neat feature. 
The revised plan is an early start for flight time tomorrow morning. We are both ready to get after it, so stay tuned for video and another blog post!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Training Day 1

Day 1 

It’s going to be a busy day so buckle up and get ready.  My day started with a visit to the office and a few hours of computer work before starting on my to-do list.  Mary is still feeling pretty sore from her slip and the resulting sore back she sports as a prize.  With bed rest her priority,  I needed to get a few things done before Mike B arrived.  The spare room needed the sheets put on the bed and the room vacuumed, along with fresh towels and a supplies check of the guest bath. Done.

Next up a grocery run to fill the list on the fridge that we keep updated. How did the list of ten items grow to a full cart, who was adding items?  Obviously I’m not a good shopper and end cap promotions do work.  Oh well, the fun part of shopping is done, now to get everything home, unloaded, and put away.  With the shopping completed I made lunch for Mary and I. We enjoyed hot ham and cheese sandwiches and the time to relax and hang out, it's all good.

Mike is scheduled to arrive in Salisbury (KSBY) at 2:50, so, I have enough time to cross another item off my list.  I clean up lunch and point the SUV west for the Salisbury social security office.  I seemed to have lost my original card and I need a replacement, which can only be done in person. Surprisingly, the crowded room sorted out rather quickly and within twenty minutes my number was called. The transaction took less then ten minutes and I also walked out with info on my retirement numbers, of which I am entitled to as of December, at age sixty-two. At least I can apply online in September, three months in advance. 

Watching the clock I’m in good shape to get to the airport with time to spare. As a pilot we all have an app for tracking flights and my favorite is FlightAware.  Mikes flight is ahead of schedule and lands shortly after I arrive, great timing. I get a text from Mike that he landed and is seated in the very last row.  I acknowledged, I was in the terminal. It was great to see Mike, it’s the first time following the accident. Mike was a lifeline for Mary and I both through our recovery.

The bags are loaded in the SUV and we are headed to the Ocean City airport to see 3 Tango Charlie. Once the hangar is open we complete a walk around and then remove the top cowl to locate the source of a single drip of hydraulic fluid on the hangar floor. This is the first drip in thirty-one hours of flying our Commandeer. I locate the source, a valve block for the parking brake, just above the right cowl vent.  All lines are checked and secured, and with a clean up we are ready for a test. Mike climbed aboard and pumping the brakes he set/released the parking brake numerous times with no sign of a leak, I will continue to monitor.
Bottom view

Top view

With the drip issue addressed we both climbed aboard for some systems review and just getting to know what’s what for the avionics. We must have sat in the plane for at least an hour with the only distraction being the need for some eats. Together we closed up the hangar and headed to the house to drop of his bags and see if Mary was up to dinner out. My bride took a pass, so Mike and I headed to Harborside for dinner.  
The music was excellent, and the food and service just as good. For starters we split a calamari as an appetizer, it was very good. For dinner, Mike had flounder and a side salad while I enjoyed a cheeseburger with bacon and onion and fries. Mary had asked for a crab cake so I placed the order as we were finishing up dinner so I could take that  home for my bride. We sat and talked airplanes and the training plan for the next few days. 
The fun begins

Mike and I did a ground session on the Stec 60-2.  I will say he is just as tenacious with the books as he is in flight. We started out with a review of every button and indication on the Stec Controller and how each affects flight control. We reviewed the block diagram to get a better understanding of the system.
We then moved on to controller indicators as noted in appendix A. It was a good review and I did learn a lot about faults and functions I haven’t seen or tried as of yet. Mike had a training syllabus he put together and we followed each section addressing every aspect of the autopilot.
The discussion then turned to application with regard to flight planning, route amendments, procedures, approaches and equipment failures. Before one could imagine it was almost 11pm. We completed the plan Mike prepared and called it a night. Fly time starts tomorrow, weather permitting.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Training Time

Mike B and I have coordinated schedules and he will be coming to Ocean City for some fly time.  It looks to be an excellent week as far as weather and that means training time.  Oh how I'm looking forward to those foggles...NOT.  
The tentative plan is many many approaches, with and without the Autopilot. Mike is famous or is that infamous for his what if situations and really pouring it on from the fire hose.  I look forward to the challenge and hope to once again earn the moniker of 'the machine'.

I have to honestly spew here for a bit.  Although I passed all the transition training along with a BFR and IPC I still have that hesitation, maybe it is confidence.  I know I can, I just need that confirmation, a validation of sorts, something to make it all feel right like it used to.
I found this clip from Top Gun, on YouTube. As goofy as it sounds, I get it. To quote Viper... 

"The simple fact is you feel responsible and you have a confidence problem. Now I'm not gonna sit here and blow sunshine up your ass, Lieutenant. A good pilot is compelled to evaluate what's happened, so he can apply what he's learned." 

So, this week will be hard work, many flight hours and hopefully I'll be back to who I was prior to June 29, 2018. 

I should have some great video and blog posts...Stay Tuned!!

Monday, August 19, 2019

In Remembrance

This really hurt, the first person I knew and had flown with that lost his life in a crash. Mary and I grieve for the pilots and their families. This stirs so many thoughts and emotions.
Al was a coworker at the DRBA. Even though he worked at the airport, and me in engineering, we had a common bond, we were pilots. We shared many conversations about flying, airplanes, my airport contracts, and contractors. 
Al was always the one who would drive up in the Airport Op's vehicle while I was getting 08Romeo ready, and greet you with a smile. Al loved flying and instructing. We typically discussed my flight, weather, and with a smile and wave he would say safe flight and get back to his duties in Operations.

When I purchased our Debonair Al instructed for my transition training.  While in training I needed a part at 58M, he volunteered the 78 Cessna 182Q he flew to run down and pick it up.  I naturally went to climb in the right seat, I was quickly directed to the left seat for additional high performance time.  Vince climbed in the back and Al was right seat.  Uh...Al? I haven't flown a Cessna in many years and never a 182. "If you can fly the Debonair you can fly the 182, climb aboard", okie dokie. 
Vince summed it up, "ILG will not be the same without you around. Blue skies and tail winds, Al." I will miss him, and so will the flying community. Vince, thanks for sharing the pics of us on our flight in the 182.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

BAC Pie/Fly-in

Since or trip north to New Hampshire was cancelled due to weather I thought I could get a little payback on Mother Nature and head south west instead. The plan was to attend the Beech Aero Club Pie/Fly-in at Louisa County, KLKU. 

Mary slept in, not really feeling up to a flight this morning. In her place my friend Ted wanted to go for a ride in the new plane.  The timing worked and Ted was going to join me. 
Ted and I decided we would meet at the office parking lot, it's on my way out of Ocean Pines. The plan was to complete my pre-flight, take on fuel and launch around 10:15. The sky was showing me a different plan, there's no messing with mother nature. 

After completing the pre-flight and fuel we climbed back in my SUV and sucked up as much air conditioning as possible while we waited for the 10:15 departure. 
I locked up the SUV and we climbed aboard 3 Tango Charlie, ready for the adventure.  I climbed out from runway one-four, turning crosswind, down wind, and base,  then finally south. The flight along the peninsula was at two thousand feet, as I looked for a whole to climb through. I couldn't find anything until we crossed the Chesapeake Bay, then I climbed for four thousand five hundred. The ride was smooth despite the build-ups. As we approached Louisa, LKU I picked a large hole that lead me down to pattern altitude, following the cloudy chute. I made a nice landing and taxied for the ramp. Alan landed in his University of Tennesee paint scheme Sundowner not far behind me as I was shutting down.
Thanks for taking the picture, Ted.
The group had lunch at a large hangar behind the terminal building.  There were hot dogs and hamburgers, soda and water. BAC settled in and ate lunch then Alan brought three pies from another hangar that he had preordered from Floozies pies. The three choices were cherry, chocolate and I think blueberry. The pie was good and it hit the spot, finishing off lunch. 
 With the sky starting to get dark we all saddled up for home. 3 Tango Charlie responded with a first try hot start, it made very me happy.  I taxied out behind a Sundowner and once he was clear I launched for Ocean City. 
The plan was to climb through one of the large openings and top out at five thousand five hundred.  This worked out and Ted and I settled in for the ride east dodging build-ups along the way.
As we made our way across the Chesapeake Bay we both noticed a huge wall of ugly clouds that would block our path north.  As the clouds developed a large Michelin man type figure grew out the top, pointing the way home, or maybe just taunting us. 
Either way I wasn't going to climb over and then have to descend for OXB, instead I started my descent early and road along at three thousand feet. We passed under the big ugly layer and flew through a very light shower, just perfect to wash off the bugs.

I continued in for Ocean City, making my calls and setting up to cross mid-field.  I would enter the left down wind for one-four and make my landing right before the call for jumpers away. 
It was a fun day flying and learning. I really need to get back in the IFR game. Today I monitored each approach but did not check in for flight following. I think that was my longest trip without talking to approach. I miss the radio calls and exactness of IFR flight. I am going to focus on becoming proficient once again.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Flight Planning Revisited

In the past, I have put together a few flight planning posts to detail my process and I have read a few of my favorite blogs about their process. It's time I revisit the subject, for my own good, and maybe share a tool that you may not use at this time.

Up until this week I have played around with flight planning just to keep in the game, since the accident. However, this week I am in it for real. As much as I hate to admit it, I feel a bit rusty. 

One of the keys to this trip is that it's an overnight only. For Mary and I that limits our window for arrival. We want to arrive early morning so as to take advantage of a full day with our friends. Early arrival also means getting the most bang for the buck with hotels, hangaring the plane, the rental car, and boarding Ziva.

Lets get started... 

A first step is checking all TFR's and NOTAM's. We all have our favorites for putting together a flight plan, I really like Foreflight. So, let's start there for the basic plan.

There were multiple options but I like the V1 route the best. Following V1 keeps you close to land. If you look close you may wonder why, if like V1, did I not go over JFK. Good question. With the POTUS TFR's I thought it best to give some room and maybe not have to deal with a reroute from approach, time will tell. Here is a blow up shot of the slight change for JFK.
The Yellow route was the original intended plan but I made the slight change from DIXIE to LOKOE then on to DPK, Deer Park VOR.  The overall flight time is two hours and thirty minutes with a few knots tailwind. 

Ok, this part I'm solid on. I love to plot a course and work the best flight plan. The fun is trying every possible combination for best fuel prices and balancing out each leg of the flight. This one was really easy, one leg, a non-stop.

On to the weather...

This is where I need to shed some rust. It's true if you don't use it, you will loose it.  Foreflight provides all the imagery you will need to flight plan.  I still check NOAA and a few other places but the best combined info with easy access has been Foreflight.

The plan is to depart OXB by 7am and arrive at Lawrence LWM around 9:30. We have a hangar secured along with a hotel and rental car. 
PROG Chart
The first look is from the NOAA Aviation Weather Center, the same chart on Foreflight. This is the Low Level Significant Weather Chart. Our destination is calling for ceilings less then one thousand feet and visibility less then three miles.
Above is the Ceiling Height forecast and below is the Visibility Forecast for our approximate arrival time.
Normally I would review the ice levels but for this summertime trip it warrants just a cursory glance. Winds aloft is showing the tailwinds I mentioned and it doesn't look too bad for our return trip.  Here are the charts for 24 hours out, at six and nine thousand feet.
Last but not least is the terminal area forecast (TAF). I like to give this a look and I monitor closely right up until launch.  I also look at all alternate landing locations that I have planned. 

 Looking at the TAF I would normally bump my departure and push the scheduled arrival to sometime after 11am. Whats the big deal, I'm IFR rated, recently passed my IPC, I should be good to go.  That doesn't check all the boxes for me, yes, I am current, but NO, I'm not proficient. 

I haven't flown in actual since April of 2018. At that time I was a proficient IFR pilot, capable of shooting approaches to minimums without a second thought. Since the accident in June of 18, the only IMC flying I've done is under the foggles for the transition training and IPC. That's just not good enough for me or carrying passengers. 

It feels good to review all the wx information and plan my attack on the flight. Sadly, I need to get some actual or a brutal simulated IMC torture session with a CFII.

There will be plenty of opportunities to head north and visit our family and friends. For this mission I'm going to call it a no-go. If for no other reason then just to be safe and not put myself in a potential bad situation. I'm chomping at the bit to get back to where I was with my flying, but, I know it takes time. I now have the ride, I have the right mindset, now I need to focus on the patience to get to where I was with regard to being proficient.