Dec 16 2013

Crazy Landing on Moving Ship

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 8:01 am

I remember when I was training for my PPL, my flight instructor told me that sometimes on a very windy day you can seemingly “hover” in mid-air (especially with a very light airplane).  He also told me stories about planes lifting of the ground while parked if it’s windy enough.  It is simply all about airspeed over the wings.  Well, some crazy daredevils off the coast Portugal really put the theories of “windspeed over wings” to the test!

Check out this video of a small STOL Aeroprakt Foxbat A22 plane landing on a moving ship at sea (with no arrestor wire like on aircraft carriers).  The landing strip (i.e., deck) was only 60 meters long, and they nail a pretty amazing landing….and then proceed to takeoff as well!  According to the video folks, the ship was sailing at 9 knots speed over ground, and true windspeed was 14 knots, combined just under the full flap stall speed of the airplane.

Mar 26 2013

Aviation W&B – App Review

Category: iPhone Apps,RamblingsDaniel @ 6:35 pm

Weight and Balance Results

I recently was able to check out the app “Aviation W&B” by Roy Kronenfeld (full disclosure, I received the app free to review).  This app functions as the name implies, it helps pilots determine the weight and balance implications for a given airplane and loading.  The app is a solidly developed piece of software, with a combined version that function in full resolution on both new iPhones and iPads (always welcome in my book).  No bugs and the app operates nice.  One main plus for this app is the comprehensive library online of various plane models that you can download for free.  This saves A LOT of data entry time inputting weights and arms for various planes.  I was quickly able to find the specs for a Cessna 172SP (my usual flight club plane of choice) as my base.  After inputting a tail number, empty weight and arm, I was on my way!  Slap in how much fuel and the weights of your passengers and baggage and it spits out the all the necessary envelope calculations and graphs.  It also provides a nice “summary” screen which can email as a PDF or save to your camera roll on the iOS device, which I thought was pretty cool.

Overall the app does it says, and does it well, but not much else.  The app costs $9.99 (at the time of this review), so I’ll leave it up to you whether it’s worth it.  In general, I’m surprised there aren’t more free calculators for W&B on the web, but certainly having this app in your pocket for instant access could be a benefit and justify the price.  You can check it out on the iTunes Store here – Aviation W&B Calculator or see the full website at

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Nov 29 2012

Hilarious Delta Safety Video Parody

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 8:50 am

I’m noticing on YouTube there is a recent trend of people muting the audio of movies/videos and re-dubbing new sounds and voice-over.  I came across this parody for a Delta Airlines Safety Video and hilarity ensues (in my opinion, at least).  Check it out if you haven’t already, you’ll get a good chuckle out of it…

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Sep 18 2012

Longest Cross-Country Flight Yet and Dinner at a Great Restaurant

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 7:57 am

This past weekend I flew my longest cross-country flight yet, down to Bloomington, Illinois (KBMI).  It was also the best meal I’ve flown to, as well as taking up two new people in a small plane.  All-in-all, a great day of flying!

A good friend of my wife’s family opened up an Italian restaurant in Bloomington, Il Caffé Italia.  We were originally thinking of driving down for dinner one weekend, but I when I looked up driving directions, I noticed the restaurant was literally adjacent to the KBMI Airport!  When I mapped it out, it would be a 3hr 15min drive from our house, versus about 1hr 15min flying.  Needless-to-say, I knew we HAD to fly there!  Plus my wife’s Uncle had been itching to fly with me, and I knew this could help kill a few birds with one stone.

The weather was gorgeous this past Sunday: about 75° F, clear skies, and <10kt winds in all of Northern Illinois.  The four of us (me, my wife, my wife’s uncle, and his fiancé) flew down in my club’s trusty 2003 Cessna 172SP, and made it in 1hr 25min.  There was a bit of a head-wind which slowed us down just a tad.  My in-laws (who were driving down) were supposed to meet us at the airport to drive us over to the restaurant once we landed.  Much to my delight when we landed, the FBO (Image Air) insisted on letting us use their Crew Car.  I had always heard about free cars for pilots to use at smaller airports, but I never actually took advantage of one before.  I found it particularly funny when the regular guy before me at the airport was filling out paperwork to rent a car for money; and when I just walked in as a pilot they throw me keys to a car, no questions asked, no ID, no anything!   That was pretty sweet!  Image Air was a very nice facility and the staff was super friendly.  We then drove over to the restaurant in the crew car (about 90 second drive).

Dinner at the restaurant was awesome; super authentic Sicilian food.  We had all my favorites like Arancini, Linguini and Clams, Penne Bolognese, Cannoli and Lavazza Espresso.  Homemade Limoncello finished off an incredible meal with family and friends (which unfortunately I only got to taste a sip since I was flying).  Thank you to Frankie and Renell for a great afternoon!

The flight was back was a little quicker due to the tailwind, and we made it back in about 1hr 10min.  My Cessna virgins (Lino and Pam) loved the whole experience.  I can’t wait to take them up again.  As I said before, it was just an awesome day to fly.  Thank you to everyone to made it a great day (including my wife who came with, and it was over a year since we last flew together).

And if you are ever flying through KBMI, be sure to stop at Il Caffé Italia, it’s definitely worth the trip!  I logged 2.9 hours of Cross-Country PIC time  (126 nautical miles each way) this trip.

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Aug 25 2012

Second Biennial Flight Review Complete

Category: Lessons,RamblingsDaniel @ 9:17 pm

Last week I completed my second Biennial Flight Review (BFR).  In other words, it’s been about 4 years since I first earned my Private Pilot License.  I find it hard to believe time has passed so quickly, but it has!  I guess technically it’s not called a BFR any more, but per the FAA, you need at least 1 hour of ground instruction and 1 hour in-flight training with a qualified flight instructor in the last 2 years to continue to fly (so how is that NOT a BFR?).

Anyway, like last time, my instructor uses the FAA WINGS program to track progress and create the official endorsement.  A few weeks ago I completed the ground portion by dong a few online interactive classes, and then the in-flight was last week.  I must say I highly recommend a course by the AOPA Air Safety Institute called “Essential Aerodynamics: Stalls, Spins, and Safety.”  I must admit I’m VERY hesitant to practice stalls when I fly solo, and in all honesty the last time I stalled the plane it was during my LAST BFR (when my instructor requested it).  Of course we practiced them again this go-around as well, but this online course helps describe a lot of the underlying aerodynamics that relate to stalls and spins.  And it’s completely free for AOPA members!  Definitely check it out…

Well, I’m good for another 2 years, so now it’s time to fly some more!!

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Apr 09 2012

My Favorite Things – Flight Planning and Weather

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 8:15 pm

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over four years since I started flying (and started this blog). Along the way, I’ve been able to test out a lot of great websites, products, and applications. I figured I’d write down a list “my favorite things” that I frequently use while flying and/or to help me prepare to fly.

Prior to any flight, I almost ALWAYS use SkyVector to help me plan. It’s a 100% free website ( with up-to-date, high resolution scans of sectionals and area charts. It’s super easy to use and even has fairly decent flight planning capabilities. It’s very easy to map out different routes and see the mileage and necessary waypoints. Furthermore, almost every object on the map (Airports and NAV points especially), you can click and get very detailed information about. I know it says you aren’t supposed to use it for official navigation purposes, but I honestly haven’t purchased an official sectional since the printouts of these can look even better and you don’t need to figure out how to fold a huge map.

The AOPA flight planning tool (from is another useful flight planning tool. Its “maps” aren’t as great as SkyVector (I like the usual sectional maps from SkyVector more), but the AOPA tool can help me calculate winds and flight times since it has a robust database of planes and performance. It definitely helps with the math aspect….and it’s free for AOPA members.

In terms of weather, I use two websites and one iOS app to help me plan. To help me plan my future scheduling, I’m usually using Weather Underground to keep a general eye on what I think the weather will be on the day(s) I want to fly. It can get VERY detailed and tends to have real observation data from all the airports/areas I would want to fly. A few hours before my flight, I then use DUAT to get me an official briefing and route-specific weather. Plus, that will give me the OFFICIAL information I need regarding TFRs and NOTAMs and such. If there’s any doubt in my mind that it won’t be a beautiful day to fly, I’ll actually CALL for a briefing, but since I’m always flying VFR on generally pretty days, DUAT works for me.

On the way to the airport, I start using the AeroWeather Pro app on my iPhone/iPad. It pulls all the current METAR observations and terminal area forecasts (TAFs) and translates it into normal English – no decoding required (unless you like reading the code, you can choose which you prefer). The other great thing about this app (there’s a free ad-supported version or for $3.99 (as of April 9, 2012) you get the PRO version (which I use)), is that it uses your device GPS to pull the nearest stations. VERY useful when checking weather en-route or at my destination prior to flying back.  You can read my full review of this great app I did a while back, if you want further details.

Well, that completes what I usually do PRIOR to actually getting to the airport and flying. What does everybody like to use? Next post I’ll cover what I use AT the airport, during flight, and beyond.

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Apr 01 2012

Helicopter Flying

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 5:01 pm

Helicopter FlyingThis most recent Christmas, my wife got me a Groupon for an introductory helicopter flying lesson.  I finally put it to good use this afternoon and flew a helicopter for the first time in my life (actually it was my first time even IN a helicopter).  It was a lot of fun, and it felt like my first lesson in an airplane all over again!

I was firstly surprised at the amount of space inside the copter.  From the outside the thing looks dinky (it’s just a two-seater Bell), but on the inside there was plenty of room spread out…more room than the typical Cessna 152’s or 172’s that I’m used to flying at least.  I was also surprised by how sensitive the controls are.  I remember being scared of airplane controls at first, but then quickly realizing it takes a LOT of input to move the plane.  With this helicopter, literally 1-2 millimeters of movement on the stick could drastically change the course/angle of the craft.  Granted, I’m sure with practice it becomes second-nature, but today it was definitely challenging to keep the copter in proper hover.

It was a LOT of fun, but I think I’ll stick to my fixed-wing airplanes.  It just took toooo much control; you have to constantly be adjusting and manipulating the controls.  Definitely not a craft that you can relax, sit back, and “let the plane fly itself” as my instructor sometimes used to say.  Plus, generally speaking, you are only a few hundred feet above the ground, so any issues and you VERY QUICKLY need to fix them.  The lower altitude and glass-surround cockpit really make you feel like you are IN the air though…that was sweet.

So, although I didn’t catch the helicopter fever, this once again sparked my passion for flying.  I can’t wait to get up in the air again (in a trusty Cessna)!

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Apr 01 2012

AnywhereMap for iPad and Android, FINALLY!

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 10:31 am

Just a few short years ago (pre iPhone and iPad days), the handheld General Aviation GPS unit market was booming.  It was RIGHT when I was earning my private pilot’s license and I was DYING to have one.  I remember seeing ads for Control Vision’s AnywhereMap software and system, it looked like the coolest thing ever, and a heck of a lot cheaper than Garmin units.  Of course, I still couldn’t drop about $795 (I think that’s what it cost back in the day) to support my occasional flying.  Well, maybe that situation has now changed!  Control Vision has released iOS and Android versions of their AnywhereMap moving map software package, and it’s under $100!  (Actually, it’s $79.95 at the time of this post, April 1st, 2012).  Granted, I’m very happy with my sub-$20 SkyCharts Pro app still, but I’m seriously considering plunking down a few bucks for this one.  If anyone has used this package, what do you think?  If you want to check it out yourself, here’s a link to the iTunes store!

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Jan 13 2012

Crazy Crosswinds

Category: Lessons,RamblingsDaniel @ 5:42 am

I’ve landed in some heavy winds in my relatively short time as a pilot (see my other postings linked below), but I can only imagine the types of winds commercial pilots see day in and day out.  Apparently there was a storm over Düsseldorf airport in Germany last week, resulting in some great footage of big planes landing in HEAVY crosswinds.  I remember during flight training explaining to my family and friends how during heavy crosswinds you are basically flying at the runway at an angle and only at the last second do you yaw the plane in line with the runway.   The landings on this video definitely exemplify that quite awesomely.  You can just hear how heavy the winds are roaring that day, crazy stuff.  Enjoy!


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Nov 13 2011

Slow Groundspeed with a Great Headwind – Airbus A330 Hangs in Mid-air

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 1:26 pm

I remember when I was doing my training for my private pilot’s license, my instructor and I had flown on some VERY windy days (much more windy than I’d be comfortable taking passengers up as a PIC these days).  One day in particular, my instructor taught me that if you configure the plane for slow flight and fly straight into a strong headwind, you can actually “hang” the plane in mid-air, creating a zero (or even negative) ground speed situation.  Essentially if the wind speed is at or above the airspeed necessary to keep the plane from stalling, you can achieve this situation.  I thought it was pretty cool back then to do this in a 2-seater Cessna, but seeing an Airbus A330 do it now is pretty darn amazing!  Enjoy (check out around 40 seconds)…


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