Oct 25 2010

Night Flying – Been a While

Category: Solo FlightsDaniel @ 5:44 am

It has been a while since my last blog post because it has been a while since I’ve flown.  Things have been crazy busy with work, along with enjoying the unseasonably warm weather on the boat/water, instead of in the plane/air.  Finally I got to fly this past Friday evening – and it was great to get back in the sky.  My wife and I flew down to our usual fly-in date place, Pilot Pete’s restaurant at Schaumburg airport.  I bolted home from work so we could make it to Schaumburg before the sun went down.  It had been over 90 days since my last night flight – so I knew after dinner I’d have to do 3 full-stop takeoffs and landings alone before my wife could join me back to Westosha.  The flight to Schaumburg was fine, skies were very clear , winds calm, and the landing was smooth.  Dinner was great (as always) as night set upon us.

After dinner I left my wife down in the little terminal area while I did my 3 laps.  It was nice to practice at a fairly well-lit airport – all three full-stop TOLs went fine and my confidence was up.  I picked up my wife and drizzle began to fall.  I was surprised by this rain because skies appeared clear and weather reports (along with my pre-flight briefing) called for clear skies and no precipitation.  After looking at my trusty iPhone weather map, it looked like just a small raincloud above the O’Hare area so we decided to continue back home.  The flight back was fine, but apparently some very high-level clouds were creeping in, causing drizzles along the way.  I wasn’t concerned because visibility was still great (20+ miles easily), and the clouds were very high, probably at 20,000 feet.  Nevertheless, the cloud cover did block the almost-full moon, causing the Westosha area to be PITCH DARK – and the winds starting picking up.  I radioed the lights on at Westosha and those dim lights were the ONLY things we saw around there – it was DARK.  I’m sure glad I had practiced just minutes before, otherwise that final landing would have been EXTREMELY stressful.  Happily, my glide and approach was on the money, and the landing was quite smooth, even with the light rain and small gusts of wind.  No doubt, the law to have recent night landings before taking up passengers is a good one!  The rain stopped as I fueled up and we were able to tie up the plane without getting wet.

All-in-all, a fun night.  I logged 1.3 hours of pilot-in-command time – 0.8 being night.

Aug 27 2010

Biennial Flight Review

Category: Lessons,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 2:21 pm

Today I successfully completed the flight portion of my Biennial Flight Review.  The Biennial Flight Review (BFR) is a review required of every active pilot at least every 24 calendar months.  Since I first got my license back in mid-September of 2008, I actually have until this September 30th to complete all the requirements.  My instructor uses the FAA WINGS program to handle the ground-school portion and track completion of the flight portion.  FAA WINGS is basically just an online tracking tool developed by the FAA.  I still technically need to complete 2 credits of online training to fully complete the BFR, but today I completed the actual portion that requires an instructor and flying a plane (in other words, the hard part).

The Biennial Flight Review is not actually a true TEST like my initial exam with the FAA examiner get my license – there is no pass/fail criteria, although the instructor can decline to endorse your log-book that a flight review has been completed.  As such, I wasn’t too stressed about it, but really wanted to use the time to revisit flight procedures and maneuvers that I don’t frequently use.  We ended up going through pretty much all the activities that were required for my initial license exam – and I was happy that I handled them all very well.  We practiced “under the hood” – to simulate being stuck in clouds – and utilizing the autopilot to help manage our way out.  That was fun and something totally new for me.

I purposely chose to take the BFR in a 4-seater Cessna 172SP plane since that’s the type of plane I’m mostly flying now (since I’m usually carrying  a few passengers).  It was nice to practice stalls and emergency procedures in the larger plane.  We actually practiced an emergency engine-out landing from about 5 miles away from the airport.  As always, I’m amazed how far these planes can glide with absolutely NO engine power.  We made it back to the airport with plenty of altitude to spare – I actually had to perform a slip on final to lose the final altitude and speed necessary for landing.

Back at Westosha, we reviewed short and soft-field landings, and went into a little more detail on the autopilot and GPS functions of the 172SP’s.  All-in-all, the review went great, and it was nice to have a “clean bill” from an instructor that I still fly safely and smoothly.  Once I complete the ground-school portion (which I’ll do early in September), I’ll be good to fly for another two years – until 2012.

I logged 1.5 hours of dual and Pilot-In-Command time.

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Jul 03 2010

Back in the Air Saddle Again

Category: Ramblings,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 11:05 am

Okay, I HAVE flown a couple times in the past few months since my last blog posting, but it hasn’t been much other than doing laps around the pattern just to keep my skills up. This week, though, I finally flew a few times TO somewhere – and it’s great to be “back in the saddle again” this summer! On Tuesday, my wife and I flew down to Pilot Pete’s at Schaumburg airport. As always, the food (and date) were great, and the flying was wonderful as well.

Yesterday I had the day off work and decided I HAD to fly somewhere new. I originally was going to fly to Dubuque, Iowa (DBQ) but during my flight planning I found out there is an airshow there this weekend and they have a temporary flight restriction (TFR) around that area. So, I decided to fly down to Bolingbrook Clow International Airport (1C5). It’s not too far, and they have a little cafe on the airport. Since my flight was around lunchtime, it would work out perfect. The weather was absolutely gorgeous yesterday, truly clear skies without a cloud in sight. The flight down was uneventful, and my landing there was super smooth. The cafe at Clow (Charlie’s) was very nice and my “$100” lunch was delicious. On the way back to Westosha I practiced a few flight maneuvers I may have to review when I do my biannual flight review later this summer/fall. I did two landings back at Westosha, both really nice. It’s amazing how smooth landings can be when the wind is right down the runway.

Anyway, it’s great to be flying a little more regularly now – and I hope to be blogging a little more regularly too! I logged 1.1 hours for the Schaumburg trip, 1.3 hours for the Clow.

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Apr 19 2010

Some Windy Flying

Category: Guest Blogger,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 8:30 pm

As I’ve said many times in the past, flying in Chicago can be a little frustrating. The weather never seems to cooperate, especially on weekends. The last few times I had a plane booked recently it was either too low ceilings, pouring rain, thunder-storming, foggy, or a combination of all three. I was itching to fly. I had a plane booked for this past Saturday for over two weeks, so when the weather reports said skies were going to be clear, I was definitely rearing to go. I had my parents coming up to fly and it just worked out that my new friend and guest blogger Kenan was finishing his 3rd flying lesson minutes before I had my plane booked. So, the four of us were going to hit up lunch in Sheboygan.

When we got to the airport, it was windy (I won’t lie), but nothing atrocious. Automated reporting stations had it at 15 knots gusting to 20. I had flown in worse plenty of times, so I wasn’t too worried it – and didn’t really feel like canceling since so many recent flights were scrubbed for weather. We didn’t want to waste this beautifully clear day. The takeoff went fine and although the flight was a little bumpy at times, the air was fairly smooth and everyone enjoyed the 77 nautical mile journey. Upon getting to the Sheboygan area the winds had picked up though, and although KSBM has two almost perpendicular runways, the windsock had the wind splitting the runways at a 45° angle no matter which way you cut it. I knew landing would be fun. I tried Runway 31, didn’t like the approach and went around. I then tried Runway 3 and things weren’t lining up again and I went around. Finally, on my 3rd try I put her down quite smoothly on Runway 3 (more smoothly and softly than even on some no-wind days). Needless-to-say, the first topic of conversation at lunch was how happy we all were to be safely on the ground.

What I failed to realize earlier in the day is that although I’m plenty used to going around, my passengers (my parents in particular) might not be so cool with it. I have no ego, I’m totally fine with going around if something isn’t lining up correctly – ultimately it’s the safest thing to do. However, it’s easy to forget sometimes that even normal landings can be a bit stressful for some passengers in a general aviation plane – doing it 3 times in a row doesn’t help or lend to their confidence. Kenan, a fellow (student) pilot, who went around a couple times earlier that day himself, didn’t bat an eye about my going around – but I know my parents definitely had their hearts racing and probably a little sweat too. The flight back was fairly smooth but the wind was solidly perpendicular to the one runway at Westosha (see the picture of the wind sock just after we landed). I nailed the landing the first try (I guess it’s all about knowing your home runway). BUT, like many good crosswind landings, it involves a substantial crab angle, landing on the windward wheel first and putting the plane down seemingly at an angle. Again, although everything went textbook, one could cut the stress tension from my parents with a knife.

Ultimately, we all laughed about the experience and my parents still want to fly again with me – just maybe on less windy days now. Lesson learned – flying alone or with other pilots is a LOT different than flying with general passengers fairly new to general aviation. And although landing in crosswinds is good practice, letting your parents “see the workings of the sausage factory” might be something to keep for solo days. Lunch at Sheboygan was great though – “The Final Approach” restaurant is a nice classy airport restaurant right off Runway 21. All in all, a really “fun” day though! Check out the pic of Kenan, my dad, and me – and all our hair (what’s left of it) being blown around. My Mom had to take the picture because the mini-tripod for the camera wouldn’t stand up in the wind!

This flight I logged 2.3 hours of cross-country pilot-in-command time.

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Feb 16 2010

Valentine’s Day Flight – First Flight of 2010

Category: Solo FlightsDaniel @ 5:43 am

Unfortunately it took a month-and-a-half before my schedule and the weather would cooperate enough for me to fly in 2010.  Fortunately, this past weekend, I was able to have my first flight of 2010…and man, was it great to get back in the sky.  Last weekend, my wife and I went up Kohler, WI for a pre-Valentine’s Day spa getaway, so on actual Valentine’s Day we were taking it easy and staying home.  My wife was making us an awesome dinner so she urged me to take a few hours to practice and fly on such a beautiful day.  I’m glad I found the time!

The weather was indeed clear and crisp and the plane performed great.  The colder/thicker air certainly helps the propeller cut into it more!  I did a couple laps around the pattern at Westosha, then down to Campbell Airport (C81) in Grayslake for a change of scenery.  Along the way, I flew by our house and my wife came out and waved…it was pretty cool, the first time she saw me actually IN flight from the ground.  I was happily surprised when my landings were nice and smooth, even with the moderate cross-wind that day.

After 4 greaser landings between the 2 airports, I jolted back home and spent the rest of V-Day with my awesome wife.  This flight I logged 0.8 hours of flight time.  Let’s hope 2010 brings a LOT more time in the air!

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Sep 10 2009

Longest Flight to Date and Back from a Blogging Hiatus

Category: Ramblings,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 5:30 am

It feels like forever since last I’ve posted on this blog, and I apologize for that!  Work has been very busy lately (which is good… job security), and although I’ve flown a handful of times, they’ve just been quick jaunts around the pattern or to Pilot Pete’s for a bite to eat.  However, this past weekend I went to the furthest airport I’ve flown to…. Sheboygan (KSBM)!  Granted, it’s only 76.9 nautical miles away, but it’s still technically the longest straight-line distance I’ve flown from Westosha.  My wife and I went up to visit  some friends who are living there for the summer.  This was actually my third attempt at this flight, the previous two tries we had been rained-out on, so this flight was due!Sheboygan

The flight up to Sheboygan went great.  I had a newer plane with autopilot and GPS, so I let the technology handle the mundane stuff.  I was diligent to listen to the traffic/tower frequency of every airport I flew over/around, to help keep the flight interesting.  Upon landing at KSBM, we picked up our friends flew back down the lake Michigan shore to see a few sites – their college Alma Mater (Concordia) for one.  We also flew over their house, which they thought was awesome and I let one of my friends fly the plane a bit, which he absolutely LOVED.  I tell ya, it’s great to share the joy of flying with others!

We parked the plane at FBO for the afternoon and had dinner with our friends and flew back at night.  The moon was nearly full, so it was rather bright as few travelled back to Westosha.  I was tempted to fly into Milwaukee’s Class C airport since I knew it wouldn’t be too busy at that time, but my wife was tired so we went straight back home.  All-in-all, a great day of flying.

I actually logged almost three hours of PIC time (2.9 hours to be exact, 1.0 hours of night time too)…one of my longest time and distance flights to date!  And since the airport was 50+nm away, all this counts as cross-country time!

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Jul 06 2009

Dad’s Birthday 2009

Category: Ramblings,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 5:46 am

flightplan20090703July 3rd is my Dad’s birthday. Like last year, we went flying to celebrate his special day. Unlike last year, now I have my license and was able to take him, my mom and my wife for the birthday flight all by myself without an instructor tagging along. The weather was gorgeous and I had a busy flight planned for us. We first headed down the lakefront to view the Chicago skyline, which my parents hadn’t yet seen in the air. They loved it, identifying all the sights along the way and taking tons of pictures and videos (see the pictures here). The skies were fairly busy that afternoon, and two times other Cessnas passed a little too closely for my comfort level – where I altered my heading a bit just to make sure. Obviously everything went fine, but just reconfirms for me how important it is to always stay alert (especially when the autopilot is engaged).

After the skyline, we headed back north, west, and then south around O’Hare’s Class B airspace to get to Pilot Pete’s at Schaumburg Airport (06C) for some early dinner. My Mom hadn’t eaten there yet and we had a great dinner there (the food is always really good). On the way back to Westosha, we flew over my house and even spotted my neighbor outside his house. Later he said he was able to see us from the ground and figured it was probably us.

After the flights, we quickly drove back down to Arlington Park for some horse racing action and fireworks later in the evening. All-in-all, it was a great day for me as a pilot and as a son. I love being able to celebrate special days with my Dad, Mom, Wife (my family) in such a cool and unique way.

This flight I logged 1.7 of pilot-in-command time.

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Jun 05 2009

200th Landing and First Flight to DuPage Airport!

Category: Solo FlightsDaniel @ 1:49 pm

$100 Club SandwichToday marked my 200th landing as a pilot and my first flight to DuPage Airport (KDPA).  After getting back in the air yesterday after almost 50 days without flying, today I wanted to fly somewhere new and different for me.  I decided upon DuPage Airport because I wanted more practice at a towered airport as well to try the Kittyhawk Cafe there – which I heard is pretty good.

The flight down to DuPage went great as I had both the plane’s (1981 Cessna 172P) old GPS system as well as my new trusy Mio C320 with NavGPS Pro software on it to get me there.  Both systems worked great and had perfectly consistent data between the two.  The southerly winds today lent to a straight-in approach to runway 20R at DuPage.  That runway was absolutely huge and I felt like I landed literally in the first TENTH of it!  After taxiing to the ramp I had lunch at the Kittyhawk Cafe.  I felt like lighter fare, and in homage to the $100 Hamburger, I had what I’ll call a “$100 Club Sandwich”…even took a pic, what you see pictured here (what was left of it halfway through lunch, anyway).  It was great food and the flight center is very modern and posh.  I felt like a high roller.

The flight back to Westosha I just enjoyed the gorgeously clear skies and the view.  The flight went quickly as those southerly winds helped push me back north a little more swiftly.  The landing back at 5K6 marked my 200th as a pilot.  It’s hard to believe that less than 1.5 years ago I had never landed a plane, now I have 200 landings under my belt!  Time certainly does “fly”!

This flight I logged 1.2 hours of flight time and my 200th landing.

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Jun 04 2009

Back in the Air…Finally!

Category: Ramblings,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 8:29 pm

I finally found some time this evening to get back in the air!  Almost 49 days since my last flight and I was worried I was going to be rusty.  Tonight’s flight was just to get up in the air again and practice takeoffs and landings.  I did two quick loops of the pattern at Westosha.  I have to admit the first landing was a little snarky but I had everything dialed in by the second.  After that greaser, I flew up to Burlington (BUU) for a change of scenery.  Apparently a lot of other pilots around there had the same idea I did, because there was a lot of traffic up there (especially for Thursday dusk).  Ultimately I was happy for the challenge and the radio work, though…since it had been so long.  I did three landings and takeoffs at Burlington (all nice in my opinion) and flew back to Westosha to end my flight.

Man, it was great to be flying again!  I know 49 days days isn’t THAT much, but I was itchin’ to fly.  I actually have a plane booked for tomorrow as well.  I think I’ll fly to DuPage Airport and the Kittyhawk Cafe for lunch.

I logged 0.9 of Pilot-in-Command flight time this flight and 6 landings.

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Apr 17 2009

First Chicago Skyline and Lakeshore Flight

Category: Ramblings,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 5:52 am

Last night I went on my first Chicago lakefront / skyline flight.  We had our first real taste of Spring yesterday with temperatures reaching up into the mid 60’s, and clear skies and little wind all day, so I couldn’t resist going up with my wife for a flight.  I figured visibility would be incredible, but unfortunately there was a little bit of haze once we got up into the sky.  That being said, once we were fairly close to downtown, everything was visible just fine to the naked eye.  However, photographs still were affected by the haze and the dusk light.  We tried our best though and posted pictures here.  We got some neat pictures of downtown, Navy Pier, and even a controlled brush fire in (I’m guessing) Mundelein on our way back.cimg2876

The flight itself was fairly uneventful and super smooth as the winds were calm.  I departed Westosha and headed direct to Campbell (C81) to avoid Kenosha and Waukegan airspace.  From there I headed East-Northeast to the shoreline and just followed that down.  I cruised around 2,400 feet the whole trip to give myself plenty of vertical buffer (600 feet to be exact) from the 3,000 lower edge of O’Hare’s Class B airspace.  The flight was surprisingly quick to get to downtown, about 34 minutes after takeoff.  If only travel by car could be so efficient!  And oh how awesome it would have been if Miegs Field was still open… darn! darn! darn!

Overall it was a great flight and a good change to give me more experience for when I take more guests up to fly.  I’ll have to try it during broad daylight and a full night flight too eventually.  I logged 1.2 hours of flight time.

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