More Simulated IFR

Finding myself out of currency for IFR, and suffering a prolonged period of heavy overcast here in San Diego, I called up my CFI to get my 6 approaches. It’s an expensive way to go for sure but I made myself feel better by saying to myself that I’d get some good Garmin 430 instruction which I might not get from a safety pilot.

The plan was to file tower en-route to Oceanside, do some holds before the VOR approach there. After that we would do the GPS into Palomar followed by the ILS, and then we’d head home to Montgomery Field for a GPS and two ILS approaches.

It pretty much went as planned other than the controller giving me the ILS in Palomar rather than the GPS. I was busy trying to work out what was going wrong with the vector onto the approach when my instructor caught it. So we did the ILS followed by the GPS. It was very useful here to have the ILS frequency already in the backup position on the nav.

I struggled with vertical descent control on all the approaches, mostly couldn’t get down fast enough. My CFI said I had too tight a grip on the yoke and when I was making course corrections I’d inadvertently adjust pitch too. It wasn’t bad enough that I would have missed any approaches but I was working way too hard, that’s for sure.

All in all a quite enjoyable time under the hood though I missed a spectacularly sunny day in San Diego, and I’m now IFR current through the end of January 2011.

Last night, for something to do, I went through the LiveATC.Net archive to try and find my communications and put together an audio clip. It was a lot harder work than I thought and after tracking me down on KMYF’s frequencies I abandoned the idea of going through Approach as well. So, here’s a little clip of me calling up for our clearance, taxi and take off, and back home on the last approach.

More on Running on Empty

Back in April I wrote about a flight where we pretty much emptied one tank during our flight and could not understand why. During my (club mandated) annual flight review this week I asked my instructor if he had ever found out the cause.

He had not but he turned to someone in the lounge and asked them for their opinion. They offered up an explanation that if our flight had been uncoordinated, especially in all the holds, then the gravity feed would be feeding from one tank only for a long period of time. This prompted my memory that we had been using the autopilot with the Garmin 530 for a lot of that flight and we had noted that it was not coordinated in the turns. Indeed, the plane had just come out of the shop having “fixed” this problem.

So in retrospect I would say that the unbalanced fuel drain was caused by the pilot’s (me) lack of action to correct uncoordinated flight caused by a malfunctioning autopilot.

Messy Instrument Clearance Readback

I didn’t actually get to take the flight so there is no more to this video than what you see and hear here. Not my finest radio transmission but it wasn’t until I was driving to work that I realised why the controller was being so picky about the readback. Anyway, for no reason other than I have it to post, here’s a little video of me asking for, and getting, a tower en route clearance from San Diego’s Montgomery Field to Carlsbad’s Palomar airport.

Strongest Winds

The winds are blowing throughout Southern California right now: I almost got blown out off the freeway coming over the mountains this morning! I tweeted something about the winds and got this reply:

Which reminded me of a trip to Laughlin (KIFP) a few years ago for my birthday, took a friend from San Diego for an overnight. Had a great trip over and a fun time in the casino but in the morning the winds were howling. We got to the 172 I opened the passenger door and the charts I had put on my seat instantly flew out of the plane. I ran after them (not knowing if it was one I needed or not) but it kept on going and going. At some point a guy from the FBO overtook me in a golf cart and got hold of the chart: it was not one I would need.

There is no ATIS or AWOS at Laughlin so I have no idea what the winds were (it’s possible the tower told me but I don’t remember) but it was tough to stand up so that meant pretty damned windy to me. My friend asked me if I had ever flown in winds this bad before – I said not. But seeing the look on his face I said that we’d taxi real careful and, since the wind was right down the runway, we would have no trouble taking off at all.

I taxied out doing my best to get the flight controls in the right places to overcome the wind, got our takeoff clearance, full power and we were off! I’ve never felt the plane lift off so quickly and so powerfully! It didn’t take long to get enough height to get over the wind and we had an uneventful flight back.

Anyone want to share their strong wind stories?

Btw, I highly recommend Laughlin as a fly-in destination. You can see some pictures and a trip report from an earlier flight in my trip report section.

Angel Flight Command Pilot Orientation

On Saturday I flew, with two other club members, to Santa Barbara for a mass Angel Flight West command pilot orientation. I flew in Paul and Gina’s turbo-charged Mooney decked out with a great panel which they used to full effect to get through the 700ft overcast marine layer. You can see some pictures of the trip on my flickr page.

Angel Flight West is a an organisation that provides free air transportation for people with a compelling medical, or compassionate, need who need assistance to get their destination. The cost of transportation is covered entirely by the pilot flying the mission, and is a charitable donation for tax purposes. Passengers must be medically stable, ambulatory, and be able to sit up in an airplane seat for the duration of the flight. Angel Flight is not an air ambulance service, and passengers need to have alternative arrangements available in case the flight is canceled.

This year Angel Flight West expects to fly approximately 1200 missions and is in desperate need of pilots. As gas prices increase, pilots are flying less and people are being turned away – just as more people are needing their help. Other than an initial application fee, a pilot can become a Command Pilot (someone who can fly missions) by undergoing a brief orientation and document check. Most missions can be flown in a 172 or similar.

For our orientation, about 12 pilots braved IFR ceilings to get an early start at KSBA. We had a short talk from one of the wing leaders about how the organisation works, how to accept and run missions, and about the satisfaction one can get from helping someone get through a bad medical time. After that our logbooks, proof of insurance were verified, as well as a flight plan/briefing for a fictitious mission that we had been asked to prepare.

If you have access to a plane, and meet their minimum requirements (250 hrs PIC, 75 hrs cross-country), why not take a look at their website and see if you can help out.

End of the long cross country?

With gas prices rising, and with it the cost of plane rentals, I wonder if the long cross country trip will soon be (is already?) out of the reach of most hobbiest pilots.

For this July 4 weekend, Teri and I were thinking about a trip to Pine Top, AZ. which would mean a flight to Show Low Regional. AOPA’s flight planner estimates about 5.5 hrs for the roundtrip from San Diego in a 172 RG. The field is as 6500 feet and density altitudes are in the 8k+ range so I’d want the extra power of the RG.

In reality, the flight would be San Diego to the home base of Brawley, and then on to Show Low, same on return so we’re probably talking more like 7 hrs total time on the Hobbs. The RG I like rents at $125 an hour so that makes a cost of $850-900.

No one has ever said flying was inexpensive but Show Low is only 500 miles or so away and a trip up near a $1000 to get to such a place is just too much for my pocket, and I’m sure many others. I’ve always wanted to take a flight across multiple states but there’s no way I can ever justify spending the kind of money that would take.

And as gas keeps rising, I wonder how many of us will soon be able to do much more than fly over the city once a month?

Back In The Air!

Well, it’s been 5 months almost to the day but my logbook finally has some new ink in it. Some MRSA infections, colds, flu and other (mostly mental) factors have kept me on the ground but last night I finally kicked myself in the ass and got back behind a yoke. It helps that I found a new club plane that I wanted to fly, it’s only a C172 but has a great interior, nice looking panel and just a good feel to it. Also, it’s available to take to Mexico so I might get myself checked out for that.

I had no fixed agenda for the flight other than to head down the coast and back around, see how it was feeling and then to decide. It all felt good so I decided to head on east to Imperial and then to Brawley where I hoped to surprise my wife with a visit. Unfortunately she wasn’t home so after 20 minutes I turned around and flew back, mostly in night conditions, to San Diego.

I want to make some videos of the flights and although I have a decent camera I decided to try out the Flip for last evening’s flight. The mount I had bought was too big for the dashboard so the only way to take footage was to hold it in my hand: this meant no takeoff or landing clips! Yeah, I know, those are usually the best parts to watch. Next time I will try a different mounting idea, and the better camera which I can plug the radio into so you hear all the SoCal controller goodness.

Total time was 3.0 dead on, 3 day landings and 1 night landing, not to mention a good chunk of night flying. I plan to fly again on Thursday and restore the night currency as well.

McKinley Flightseeing Pictures

Had a great time in Alaska, only one bad weather day in the two weeks that we were there. Only got to do one flight – around and over the Mount McKinley base camp. Unfortunately we were too late in the season to make a glacier landing, the snow had already become too hard. Also unfortunate, we were two days too late taking the flight for perfect weather. Two days before our flight it had been cloudless over the mountain but the day we did it, the clouds were around 16,000 feet so we did not get to see the summit (but had enjoyed great views from the ground earlier in the week).

Hoping to get my flying club annual review taken care of on Thursday. There is a big storm coming down from British Columbia right now which may get in the way, we shall see. But in the meantime, feel free to take a look at my McKinley flightseeing pics or, if you have lots of time on your hands, take a look at the entire Alaska album.

Decision Was Easy: No Fly

In the end my decision was made easy by the fact that the plane was grounded due to a large oil leak and no other plane was available. It also would have been easy on the day, too: driving last night I was caught in a huge downpour which I clearly would not have flown through and on the other side the clouds were low enough that there was no way I could have flown VFR over the mountains.