Yep, been a while since I have posted, but I really have not had any super momentous flights to discuss—until this weekend! Did another downtown Dallas tour, but due to some photo shoots going on around downtown, they had to route me way east and over Fair Park. That’s OK though, it allowed James to take these twoshots.
Kristen got to tag along as well! She is a mighty fine pilot I should add, so she needs to get down here and start training for real!
On the way back, we were routed south of Love Field, and directly over DFW Airport at 3,500 feet. Someone else flying 29W also was routed over DFW on Saturday, so maybe it was just a slow day and the controllers needed something to break up the monotony! Either way, James got to have his first flight directly over the airport.
The other thing I’ve been working on is keeping the bubble centered. I find that I get pretty lazy with rudders when I am flying, and I’m trying to break that bad habit. I’ll ask my instructor to keep me honest when I do my biannual flight review next month. Next time I go, I might have to get back in the saddle of 29W!
There is a video making the rounds from a crash that happened at my home airport of Northwest Regional Airport (52F) in Roanoke, TX, where a student pilot impacted a vehicle in a 2005 Cessna 172. As a pilot who has shot many approaches at that airport (and a true aviation enthusiast), I wanted to offer my perspective of what happened.
Right main and nose gear missing.
News reporters seem to be making a huge deal about Kelly Dr, the road that borders the north end of the active runway 17, where the word “STOP” is painted on the ground to warn drivers of aircraft overhead. This road is actually not managed by the airport, but I don’t see that as a safety issue. There are signs EVERYWHERE that help drivers understand where they are—not to mention that when you are on that road you see the runway right there. In the video it is unclear to me if the driver stopped and looked, but the result seems to clearly indicate that he did not. I’ve waited at the STOP line before and watched planes flying in on final. If the weather is OK for landings at the airport (there are no instrument procedures here so fog or low clouds are not an issue), there is no reason why you can’t see or hear an aircraft. The driver was the trigger that caused the accident—and if he had been paying attention like a self-proclaimed aviation enthusiast, he would have seen that aircraft and waited until it was over the runway to continue. But was it entirely the driver’s fault?
Landing and takeoff are the most dangerous portions of flight. Things happen very fast on landing, so pilots must be alert. If you go to YouTube and look for cockpit videos focused 0n the pilot in command you will see very few eye blinks and a pupils-dilated, steady gaze out the window and at the instruments. Every time I fly that approach to 17, one of the things I am looking for is idiot drivers who are not paying attention to the signs and crossing into my path. My hand is on the throttle and I can quickly goose it to go around if needed. And believe me, when I land, I’m going to find that car and give the driver a talking to. The pilot of the plane in question was a student, but a student at the flight school on the field. There is no question in my mind that he had landed aircraft dozens of times at that field and was well aware of the danger of cars (as well as other unwritten rules at that field). So, it’s not like this was his first time landing there. He should have seen the car and gone around.
But even that isn’t really the issue. Go watch the video and watch his approach right before he crosses the white fence on the north side of Kelly Dr. He sinks quickly which turns his steady, straight line descent into a dangerous curve.
One of the first things you are taught when shooting approaches is to have a stable, constant descent rate into the into the field. You learn this especially with fields with obstacles on either end of the runway, which is why the touchdown point you aim for is not at the end of the runway, but 1,000 feet from the end. Back to the video, you’ll notice that he sinks dramatically, clearing the fence by 2-3 feet, and slamming his landing gear right into the SUV. He wasn’t over the runway yet, but he was just 5 feet off the ground? That’s dangerous. Unsteady approaches during a checkride would cause an FAA examiner to think twice about passing that student.
Was this a preventable accident? Absolutely! Both parties were at fault. A pilot with an unstable approach and a complacent driver who wasn’t paying attention to where airplanes are when near an active runway.
Does this impact my view of Northwest Regional Airport? No! I’m more concerned about the issues we’ve been having lately around working fuel pumps.
There have been a string of accidents related to that airport recently, but it’s nothing to do with the airport. In every case it was some form of pilot error. In fact, I went through all the NTSB accidents listed for that airport and this is the first time a car has been struck. When it comes down to who is at fault, the NTSB will blame the pilot for failing to maintain a safe altitude. I can’t say I disagree with that ruling, either. When talking to my family about this, I mentioned that steeper approaches wouldn’t allow something like this to happen, but as always, I will remain quite vigilant about traffic on Kelly Dr. when landing.
Pilots can use this as a safety reminder for airport operations. It could’ve been a whole lot worse. Thankfully it wasn’t. Everybody walked away with minor cuts and bruises. This is an easily preventable incident with a proper, stable approach and pilot awareness of the traffic around the runway.
Been a few flights since I have updated, but let me tell you what I’ve been up to. I got checked out on 29W a week after my first flight. James came along as ballast! She flies so much differently with a little more weight in the back. Was really fun!
The New Bird!
Next flight was taking my uncle and cousin up for a tour around downtown. About halfway through the flight I looked over at my uncle and realized that the door was open! No big worries, she still flies fine. Just noisy. And if you happen to go searching for the ATC recordings (I’m too embarassed to post them here) you can hear how loud it was, and how hard communication was. Next time that happens, its an immediate landing to get the door shut, then we can go again.
Our club just got a new plane as well, a 1961 172B. Boy, she is a SWEET bird. She may not fly fast, but she is clean and has many upgrades both inside and outside the plane. I got checked out on her early this AM and loved every minute sitting in her left seat. I’m really looking forward to spending time with her in the air. Now, I also realized I have been counting my cross country hours incorrectly. According to FAR §61.1(3)(i), any flight as a private pilot where I land at another airport is technically cross country. So I’ve WAY underestimated my cross country hours. I fixed it on this page, but won’t go back unless I need it to justify a rating of some sort. Here are the stats.
Well, it’s time for a new adventure. My previous facility has stopped renting planes, so unless I become a student again, I won’t be flying any of the beautiful planes at KDTO. That’s OK. After some searching, I found a FANTASTIC flight club back at the airport where I learned to fly, and they have a beefy Piper Cherokee Pathfinder PA-28-235B. It’s an old bird (1967), but she’s a sweetie. I’m going to work on convincing the flight club to spend money on a new radio stack and a 430 (or equivalent).
Ain't she purdy?
Anyway, in order to be fully checked out in this aircraft, it’s time to get a new endorsement! High Performance Aircraft, here I come!
I flew an hour this morning and will go back to finalize the endorsement. I was surprised at the sheer power of the aircraft as she clawed through the dense morning air. She LEAPS off the runway, and races to wherever you want to go. This is by far the most powerful craft I have ever flown, even though it is only about 30 kts faster in cruise than the DA-40.
Landing her is going to be a challenge I am accepting with open arms. After flying a stick aircraft for so long, switching back to the yoke takes practice with trim. Where small inputs and relatively light pressure makes a huge difference in the DA-40, this craft requires a steady hand on both the trim wheel and the yoke. I’m looking forward to spending lots of time with her!
Some of you may have seen some tweets from me last night about a strange issue that has popped up since American Airlines has gone into bankruptcy. Let me explain what I have learned so hopefully American can adjust their policy and the fantastic gate and telephone agents that support them won’t have to be the frequent bearers of bad news1.
Flyers with certain kinds of elite status on American Airlines occasionally earn something called a “systemwide upgrade” (sometimes known as an eVIP or VIP). These upgrades allow you to move up one class of service, inventory permitting, on any flight operated by and ticketed through American Airlines and typically expire within the current or next calendar year. I’ve used these things over the years to upgrade into a Business class seat on a long haul flight that was booked on coach, and recently have even been lucky enough to use one to get into First class. Pretty sweet!
Then American Airlines enters bankruptcy. While the status, miles, and upgrades for elite fliers are kept intact, something strange is happening.
American Airlines, by CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK
American Airlines is part of the OneWorld alliance that includes such prestigious airlines as British Airways, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific. These airlines partner in order to broaden their geographic reach by operating flights for each other’s fliers, known as “codeshares.” Essentially, this means that in some cases, you can book a ticket marketed and sold as British Airways but end up flying on an American Airlines plane, as I did this week.
Due to a number of factors, bankruptcy being a big one I suspect, airfares at American have risen dramatically over the last six months both domestically and internationally. In some cases, booking the exact same American Arlines flights under a OneWorld codeshare will save you money! In my case, I saved 15% on my fare by booking all of my flights as British Airways, even though I’ll be on an American Airlines plane for the long-haul components (Dallas to London).
But here’s the catch. I don’t have any status with British Airways! This means that as an American Airlines Elite flyer sitting on an American Airlines aircraft that chose the lowest fare by buying through a partner, my years and miles with American are worthless. American cannot touch the ticket if they didn’t ticket it, and British Airways won’t touch it because I don’t have status with them. I would not expect to use an American Airlines upgrade on a British Airlines aircraft, but I would expect to be able to use an American Airlines upgrade on an American Airlines operated flight regardless of how it was marketed to me.
Essentially, it’s a standoff—American Airlines tells me to call British Airways, and British Airways says ring or visit an American Airlines agent. In fact, I learned that the only way that an upgrade can occur is through a complimentary upgrade when a flight is oversold. So even though I have expiring upgrades with American Airlines that I am begging to use, their policy prohibits agents from allowing their best customers to use their status when the flight is marketed as a codeshare.
For the record, I love American Airlines. I’ve been flying them pretty much exclusively since I was a child on my grandfather’s Airpass. In fact, I have many fond memories streaking across the sky in those silver planes with red and blue stripes. I’ve been flying with American so long, I remember when they had 747s and MD-11s, and I flew on DC-10s and 727s with their sometimes-flaky tail-mounted engines. I am sure there are many people rooting against AA while they restructure, but as someone with over 2 million miles with the airline, I’m rooting for success. I’m rooting for a new executive team that takes competitive pay without ridiculous bonuses that hurt the pay of of pilots, mechanics, and agents.
American Airlines can’t forget their loyal customer base that is now having to justify staying a customer. I urge American Airlines to remember us so that we continue to fly the friendly marketed and operated skies while delivering revenue, growth, and seat sales for years to come.
Training is an issue here as I had mixed answers from several agents, including two gate agents at the same gate that said different things. [↩]
Well, it’s finally happened. After three and a half years of flying I hit the 100 hour mark! This time with a couple of Infosec friends as we hit up the classic Hard 8 in Stephenville (KSEP) for lunch. What a great day to fly!
The only thing about yesterday’s flying was the stiff northern winds at altitude. Did get some Class B time on the way back in, and saw a few big aircraft in and out of the DFW Terminal Area. This time we had our primary radio go out on N204SG. I love this aircraft, and haven’t flown it in several months. Getting back behind those big glass screens was awesome, and I just wish we had both radios working. I like having two sets of radios as it allows me to snoop on other frequencies without leaving ATC. Alas, was a bit clunky yesterday.
Did also get to make some good use of the autopilot on the cruise portion of the flight. Hand flying when you are altering the plane’s configuration is fun, but holding straight and level for 20-30 minutes is kind of boring. Yaay autopilot!
Nice little exchange between a rather happy tower controller and my crew while flying around. The airport was not terribly busy on the second flight, but there were jet operations happening and a bird can cause problems with those things. Enjoy that!
On the earlier flight, it was pretty much business as usual, but it got super busy toward the end. Five planes in the pattern, and others getting turned away that wanted to do touch & gos. It was race weekend so I couldn’t head over to Alliance, but wanted to.
Now, on to the flight I had last weekend! Yes, still behind, but here we are.
James & I took the DA-40 up at the last minute to get some currency time and test out a route I want to do later in the year. We FINALLY made it to Tyler! For those of you that read often, you might remember I have tried this trip nearly three times now, all of them scrubbed due to weather at Tyler Pounds Field.
This flight was unique for a few reasons.
While this was a DA-40, I had never flown this DA-40 before.
I was back to using steam gauges, glass cockpit (G1000 panels) in this bird.
James learned how to taxi! Steering with your feet is hella weird if you have never done it before.
I am becoming increasingly comfortable with RPM/manifold pressure settings in climb, cruise, and descent on this bird.
For whatever reason, we were flying at 10-15 KIAS slower than we should have been. Neither one of us put anything on the airframe to cause this, but it slowed our progress down considerably.
I was cleared into Class Bravo on the way back (not on the way out), but skirted the edges of the shelf for the most part, per ATC request. Frankly, I think I was hastily given clearance into Bravo upon departure and I was never given the instruction from the tower. When I asked the controller, he said I was cleared, but then immediately started to vector me underneath Bravo.
The controller at KDTO (who will remain nameless here) got a little antsy with me as this one tends to do. I was cleared to land, read back my clearance, and then was asked by the controller minutes later what my intentions were. For real.
Got the HD video going, but again had some audio issues. I will get this resolved FO SHO on the next one. I know exactly what I need to do to make sure it works. Frankly, it’s not my top priority (flying the plane is), but I want to get some good video for you guys.
So I’m good for a few weeks! Next flight may be over to Pop’s new lease, or back down to Tyler to see friends.
I’m slow to post, but that’s OK. I took Garrett and Dad up in the DA-40 for currency reasons. It was so quick that when I walked back up to the dispatch to return the keys the guy asked me what was wrong with the plane.
Also, this was the first time I got to use my new HD camera to record the flight. Unfortunately, not only is there an interesting isolation that happens in the in-flight audio management, but my Garrett was just humming in the mic. So that’s pretty much all you hear. To make matters even worse, the camera was faulty and making some terrible recordings (since fixed).
Let’s take a break from information security for a few moments so I can tell you about my experience with Photorefractive Keratectomy, or PRK.
I got my first pair of glasses as a young child in elementary school, and wore some kind of corrective lens ever since. For those of you that live with glasses or contacts, you know how much of a hassle they are—or better yet, you know how much of a hassle it is when they are not working properly or when you are missing them.
I had bad eyes. Really bad. I couldn’t see the big E on the chart without corrective lenses. I was between a -9 and -10 diopter correction, with astigmatism, in both eyes. That means that if I had a prayer of seeing what time it is in the middle of the night, I had to buy a clock with BIG digits, keep it close to the bed, and squint really hard to make it out. My eyes were so bad, in fact, that I wasn’t even a candidate for LASIK (here is an explanation of the difference).
PRK, Courtesy of Stahlvision.com
After much personal reflection and discussion with my wife, family, and friends, I decided to go to an eye surgeon to see if there was anything that could be done to correct my vision. I learned that I was a candidate for PRK and set my surgery date. My surgeon told me that PRK will provide me a much more stable long term result than LASIK would, but the recovery is much longer and more involved. LASIK patients tend to have 20/20 vision within weeks, where PRK patients could take months or up to a year to fully settle into their permanent vision.
On my surgery day, my wife and I made our way after breakfast to the surgery center. The butterflies started as I walked into the operating room with the big laser. Not like James-Bond-strapped-to-the-table big laser, but a large room that was 2/3 machine and 1/3 people. Had I been wearing my glasses, I am sure I would have been more intimidated, but I was being lead around by “handlers” that put me on the big table while my wife watched through a window.
The actual process of being under the laser was not that bad. The most painful part was the speculum that kept my eyelids open. It pressed on my cheekbones and caused me quite a bit of discomfort, but there was no pain from the laser itself. While the laser was going, I was instructed to focus on a little orange dot. Sounds easy, right? Well consider that you can see (and smell) the laser vaporizing tissue from your cornea. It looked like a lightning show, but again, no pain. After 60ish seconds under the laser for each eye, my handlers lifted me up and asked me to read the clock.
I COULD READ IT!
My vision was not crisp or perfect by any means (read the differences between PRK and LASIK to understand why), but I could see orders of magnitude better on my way out of the big room dominated by the machine. After a minor post-op exam, I was sent home with a shield over my eyes that would have looked fashionable only inside a chemistry lab. The drive home was where my discomfort started. See, the doctor prescribed a smorgasbord of drops and pills, but not until after my surgery. As the drugs used to numb my eyes started wearing off, I felt quite a bit of discomfort. It was a combination of aching pain and what I can only describe as sand grit. Think about walking into a sand storm, opening your eyes for 30 seconds, and then blinking. It felt like that all the time. I kept my eyes closed with the seat leaned back and prayed for the pharmacist to fill those prescriptions rapidly. One tip, if you decide to go through with this surgery, URGE YOUR DOCTOR to give you the prescriptions BEFORE you have surgery so you can fill them in advance and take the pain medications as soon as possible.
I got home, laid in bed, and waited for the drugs. My doctor prescribed a pain medication as well as an anti-anxiety drug to be administered several times throughout the day—the primary goal being to sleep the weekend away. My eyes needed to rest and stay closed to promote healing and regrowth of tissue scraped away during the PRK procedure. I literally lost that weekend. I have only flashes of memories here and there and for the most part I slept.
The next week saw me getting my bandages out (basically clear contacts to protect the cornea) and slowly returning to work. How much time you should take off of work will vary with the kind of work you do. I would highly recommend taking a full week. I found it hard to read my computer screen during the first week of my recovery, and often had minor headaches that would test my concentration.
The most frustrating part of my recovery was waiting on my vision to improve. While LASIK patients dance around with 20/20 vision within a week, PRK patients take longer to get to the same level. When I used my clear drops, I could see a perfect 20/20 for a few seconds until my eye absorbed the medicine, and then it would go back to anywhere from 20/60-20/100. In fact, I couldn’t read the 20/20 line without correction until almost four months later—and even then it was blurry. I was paranoid about my vision problems, but just needed to be patient (as do you if you are reading this post-op). My vision improved week by week (it was hard to track daily improvements), and then month by month. Over the last four to five months, the improvements have been so subtle that I didn’t notice them until I spoke with my doctor and we reviewed my history.
I still have a few side effects that I am told will not clear up. I have trouble when light is shined directly in my eye or looking at bright objects when ambient light is low. Traffic lights at night have tiny starbursts around them. If I go to a concert with moving stage lights, I have a hard time seeing the stage when one of those lights moves over my face and near my eye line. I’m finally off my steroid drops (and the additional drops I had to use to keep my internal eye pressure under control), and I am now dealing with dry eyes. When my eyes get tired at night or dry, I don’t see a crisp 20/20—more like 20/30. My doctor told me that these could get better or even disappear over time.
So, was it worth it?
Every penny. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Even with the long term side effects, I can read 20/15, and recently read 2/3 of the 20/10 line at the surgeons office. During my recovery I would notice new things on a weekly basis, but the one thing that made the biggest impression on me was something that happened at 3am one night about a month after my surgery. I was sleeping on my side, facing my wife’s side of the bed and woke up. Wondering what time it was, I lifted my head up a bit to read the small clock on HER side of the bed. I instinctively looked at the clock that would allow me to move the least, and then I had one of those adrenaline fueled moments where I said (not aloud, wife would smack me), “Holy crap! I just read a clock that was six feet away from me in the middle of the night!”
Choosing your doctor is important. I would not choose a doctor that treats LASIK and PRK like an assembly line, and if you choose PRK you should ensure your doctor does plenty of those procedures. You want a doctor that will his time with you and focus on your needs. You will pay more for this, but it’s your vision! You elect to travel to find a doctor as well. Dallas has a high concentration of experienced refractive surgeons advertising prices anywhere from $500 to $3,000 per eye. Before booking your trip, make sure you talk to your doctor about how long you should wait before flying home.
I’ve been free of glasses and contacts for over a year now. It’s the little things that remind me of how cool this is. Things like opening my eyes under water while swimming, reading the clock in the middle of the night, and not being crippled when the tiniest spec of dust floats into my eyes. PRK may not be for everyone, but it was definitely for me.
I have some audio here from a flight that I was on this year. I wasn’t sitting in the pointy end, but back in steerage. The mistake I am highlighting isn’t the fact that he was too high in the approach (as you will hear on the audio), but that he told us passengers that there was a plane on the runway and that’s why we needed to go around.
Transcript (in case you can’t pick up the conversation):
Pilot: Tower, American 1152, We’re a little too high, we’re going to break off the approach.
Tower: American 1152, Roger, climb and maintain three thousand, fly runway heading.
Pilot: Three thousand, runway heading, American 1152.
Essentially what has happened here is the pilot realized that he had too much altitude on his descent to the runway, and could not lose that altitude safely and within the operating regulations of his airline. So he called the tower to go around. He didn’t execute a missed approach here as he was on a visual approach. The main difference is that missed approaches have a specific flight path to follow and the pilot would let the tower know he is executing a missed approach. He would then, most likely, be handed off to departure as soon as he was not a factor to other planes the tower was responsible for directing. Since he was doing this visually, the tower had him climb to an altitude of 3,000 feet and maintain the runway heading as to not affect other arrivals or departures.
Tower: American 1152, fly heading 360, maintain three thousand.
Pilot: 360, three thousand, American 1152
Tower: American 1152, turn left now heading of 290, remain this frequency.
Pilot: 290 on heading, remain this frequency, American 1152
Tower: American 1152, 360 and just, uh, remain this frequency
Pilot: 360 and this frequency, American 1152
Now this part is standard vectoring around traffic and getting us set up to do the approach again. But it appears there was a slight miscommunication, or just some quick jogging as in a very rapid fashion the heading changed by 70 degrees.
Tower: American 1152 contact Boston Approach 133.0, Good day.
Pilot: 33 0 American 1152, Good day.
At this point, the tower needs to transfer our flight back to one of the regional approach controllers so he can focus on the incoming and outgoing traffic. And if I must say, in the original, unedited audio, this controller sounds REALLY excited when he clears someone for takeoff. I get a kick out of it every time.
Pilot: American 1152 back with you about… uhh. uhhbeddebydyyuh the ILS 27.
Tower: American 1152, Boston Tower, wind 320 at 19, Traffic is a CRJ, short final, runway 27, cleared to land.
Pilot: 27, cleared to land, American 1152.
Now we land.
Tower: American 1152, right on Kilo, contact ground, point niner.
Pilot: Right on kilo, point niner, American 1152.
Then we exit the runway, and contact a ground controller on 121.9.
Afraid to fly? Don’t be. Even with all the minor issues here, you can observe MULTIPLE safety nets that keep us all safe when we fly.
This was a very enjoyable flight for me for many different reasons. For one, I was able to share it with my cousin! Was awesome having Alex flying right seat. The weather was beautiful, and we had a reprieve from the crazy winds that we’ve seen in North Texas.
I also got to play with my new Drift HD170 camera and Panavise mount! Check out the video on Vimeo here. It’s a little bumpy while we are on the ground simply because the ground is BUMPY! The only runways I have ever landed on that were as smooth as glass were recently repaved ones like Stephenville (KSEP) or the north 1-2K feet of Denton (KDTO). I’m going to take another look at the mount that I am using to see if there is a potentially better option that might have a bit more cushion for the runway activities. Also, there is no intercom audio on this one because I was missing an adapter cable (should have read the WHOLE review), but that will be remedied for the next video!
We took off to the north and headed south east toward Dallas. I’ve learned that when the winds are from the north, air traffic around downtown Dallas gets pretty complicated. We had to do some circles outside of Addison’s airspace to wait for a path to be opened up for us. Once we were granted in, we had to stay east and south of downtown Dallas (you can see in the video). I was OK with this because for some reason the G1000 was kicking out a strange error that I had seen before, but was not part of the normal operations. Apparently there are other conditions where you want to leave the fuel pump on (as opposed to following the checklist which instructs you to turn off the fuel pump in many scenarios). I found another screen that I can use to diagnose issues around fuel PSI that is not in the main engine readout on the MFD. Also would LOVE to figure out how to get that readout back on the PFD. Low fuel PSI did not negatively affect the FLOW of fuel, but I think it made the engine run leaner than it should have, and one of the cylinders started heating up a bit. Nothing that would have caused an unsafe issue because I had Dallas Love very close if we had an emergency, and flipping on the fuel pump immediately resolved the problem.
You will also see me using the autopilot a bit. If you can get set up on an altitude prior to entering ATC control, the autopilot absolutely helps from a workload management perspective. See me enter a heading change at 3:40 in the video when we were cleared over the top of DFW Airport.
If you are wondering why my right hand seems to eternally have a pen in it, it’s because I will write down instructions from ATC if they give me rapid fire details so I can read it back. When in congested, controlled airspace, it’s pretty critical to be on your toes and focused.
The lyrics to my new favorite bluegrass tune! Info:
Hinky Dinky Dee
One Riot One Ranger
Trad.; PD; arrangement by One Riot One Ranger; addtn’l lyrics by C. Williams
Paul Brown – banjo, vocals
Mark Gaskill – guitar, vocals
Peter Remenyi – resonator guitar, vocals
Chas Williams – mandolin, vocals
Mark Wyatt – bass, vocals
Engineered by Dean Imboden @ Rome Recording Studios, Columbus, OH
Produced by One Riot One Ranger
One week before this flight, Chris asks me how long it takes us to fly to the airport by her sister’s house (about 20 minutes) after she sat through some Friday afternoon traffic to get home. I said, I’d be happy to fly us as a family down there, but just remember that the amount of time will be pretty close to the same because we have to drive to and from the airport and pre-flight the plane. She said, let’s do it.
So we did!
This was the first time that we flew as a family where everyone was outside the womb. Payton flew once before when Chris was pregnant, but n0t since she would need her own headset.
We got to the airport, moved all of our gear into the DA-40, and got started! Unfortunately, Chris had to hold Garrett’s car seat on the way down because the seat was too large to allow me to fully control the yoke to fly the plane (which could be a very serious problem). Garrett sat right seat and enjoyed!
This is how she rolls!
It was a busy day, and ATC vectored us around several areas of congested airspace and around other airports. We did not have clearance in to the class Bravo airspace on the way down, but did get cleared on the way back (FWS AFW DTO). I took FULL advantage of the autopilot so I could monitor the radios and watch for traffic (in addition to relying on the collision avoidance feature of the G1000).
We landed without incident, were marshaled in, and met the cousins outside the FBO. This was the first time that they saw a small plane, and both kids were crawling all over it while we unloaded our gear.
We loaded all the kids up in the van, waved Buh-Bye, and then headed our way back to the plane to get going! Upon takeoff, we saw the kids in the van and flew right over the top of them before heading back to KDTO. We went direct Alliance first, then direct Denton to avoid traffic. We landed on a very warm ramp, expedited our taxi off the active, and parked right back where we started just an hour prior.
Fun little flight, and my new audio cable works FANTASTIC! See the video below!
Been about two months since the last flight in 4SG, and enjoyed this one as well! It’s not as sexy as this Eclipse 500 that was parked on the ramp next to US Aviation, but still lots of fun!
This flight had Ryan and Doug as my passengers and again we tried to make the run down to Tyler. One of these days, I’m going to get there! This time the weather was nice and VFR to the west and north, but all IFR like to the east. Even two hours later when it was supposed to be cleared up Tyler still showed marginal VFR to IFR conditions. That’s no fun.
So we decided to make a turn north and head up to Ardmore. I’d been there before, and was hoping we could grab lunch after landing. Turns out, The Blue Pig closed over eight months ago. DOH. And that airport was freaking deserted. One guy in the tower, three guys in the FBO, and a Snickers to fight over. So we talked to the guys there and they suggested we hit Gainsville and eat at Dieter Brother’s Restaurant. We took back off and headed south to Gainsville and had an interesting interaction with ATC. We were flying at 4,500 feet mainly because the run to Gainsville from Ardmore is only thirty-three miles (20 minute flight). We’re headed south and get the following call:
ATC: “4SG, traffic between 2- and 3-o’clock, eight miles, traffic is descending through 7,000 feet, type unknown.”
Me: “OK, we’re looking, but don’t have the target in sight, 4SG.”
Essentially what that communication was is a warning to me to avoid traffic that is not in the ATC system. Since there is no requirement to always stay in contact with ATC outside of controlled airspace, you might often run into another plane that is not in the system. At this point, we were looking but didn’t see him, and I looked down at my traffic avoidance system and noticed that it was not functioning (for some reason).
ATC: “4SG, traffic, now 2-o’clock, fife miles, traffic descending through 6,000 feet.”
Me: “We still don’t see him, do you want to give us some vectors to avoid, 4SG?”
ATC: “He’s not in the system, so I have no way to tell you what he is doing. Standby.” (ATC did not want to give me vectors in case it ultimately made things worse for us)
Me: “OK, still looking, don’t see him, 4SG”
ATC: “4SG, traffic now tree miles, descending through fife thousand, do what you need to do.”
That was a new one. I’ve never been given that instruction by ATC before, but I figured if he didn’t have a better option for me, it was time to climb over him and turn right to have him pass below and to our left.
Me: “OK, we’re going to climb over and turn right, 4SG.”
Right about the time we zoomed up 500 feet, I saw this guy. He was moving pretty fast, and possibly headed into the Sherman/Denison area, but would ultimately pass in front of us by about two miles.
Me: “FT. Worth Center, 4SG, we have the traffic in sight and he will pass in front of us. Won’t be a factor.”
ATC: “4SG, good to hear (could almost hear the ‘phew’ in his voice), maintain VFR, resume own navigation.”
Me: “Resuming own navigation, 4SG.”
After that excitement, things went pretty smoothly from then on out. Denton was VERY busy all day with the nice weather, but we didn’t have to hold anywhere on approach and landing. Nice flight!
I’ve been lazy. I had another flight since my last one, and neglected to blog about it. I have one more you will see immediately after this one as well from this past weekend.
After getting rated in the DA-40 with that beautiful glass cockpit, Cayce, Nancy, and I made a run down to Stephenville for some BBQ! The original plan was to go into Tyler, but low ceilings and en-route IFR conditions sent us west.
Initially, we had to hang close to the ground, which makes me very uneasy. We finally got a hold of a flight service station that helped us decipher the clouds we were looking at outside the glass. Sometimes clouds are an optical illusion, and you can’t really tell where the lines are until you are in the clouds. For someone not on an IFR flight plan, that can be terrifying and illegal! After we determined that climbing was acceptable, we shot up a few thousand feet.
We had some serious headwinds on the way down that turned into tail winds on the way back. 160Kts over ground on the way back is pretty fun! Makes for a very short flight.
We had some fun with ATC on the way back as we usually do at some point during the flight. We were cruising at 6,500 feet heading direct to KDTO from KSEP, several miles outside of the Class Bravo airspace (including the 30NM ring around KDFW), and we heard the following conversation from Ft. Worth Center:
ATC: “Eagle 1234: Traffic, twelve o-clock, fife miles, traffic is a Cessna at six thousand, fife hundred.” (At this point, I started looking around because any small plane is often entered into the ATC system incorrectly as a Cessna. Shortly after I started looking around I saw a blip pop up on my traffic avoidance system.)
Eagle 1234: “Roger, we’re looking but don’t see him yet, Eagle 1234.”
Two minutes pass.
ATC: “Eagle 1234: Traffic, twelve o-clock, tree miles, turn left heading 270.”
Eagle 1234: “Turn left, heading 270, Eagle 1234.”
At this point, I looked out the right side of the aircraft and saw the wingspan of an ATR-72 banking away and behind us, but coming up quickly from below. At this point, there is no way the pilots could see us because they would almost have to look through the floor to find us.
Me: “Ft. Worth Center, 4SG, we have that Eagle traffic in sight and he will pass behind us.”
ATC: “Roger 4SG, maintain VFR.”
Then a few minutes later that poor eagle flight got the call to re-intercept the intersection or point they were shooting for on their departure. So thanks to us, fully abiding by regulations, some poor schleps on their way to Abilene or something had to fly around us in our glorified lawn mower in the sky. It’s amazing flying in the system and watching all of the various elements of the air traffic system work to prevent accidents.
Was a great flight, and a great airport! Hard 8 in Stephenville is SO MUCH better than the one in Coppell.
It’s been a while since my last flight because I finally took the plunge and got PRK (like LASIK), and I have not turned back. My vision was so bad I could not see the big E on the chart, and now I’m seeing 20/25 uncorrected. There is still some healing and potentially an adjustment to be done, so by this time next year I hope to be seeing a very crisp 20/20.
FAA requires that you see at least 20/40 uncorrected to pass a Class 3 medical, so I got my forms signed off and I’m ready to go!
I needed to do a few things before I could just go nuts again. First, I needed to get my Biennial Flight Review done. This review is mandated by the FAA to include at least one hour of ground instruction and one hour of flight instruction. My flight instructor grilled me on the ground, and frankly, I learned a few things. For example, in a Class G airport, I could do touch & gos with a 1,500ft ceiling. Never thought about it that way because with clouds 1,500 off the ground I typically stay home.
But of course, I couldn’t make it that easy. NOOOOO. I decided to also get checked out in a new aircraft at the same time! The Diamond DA40 is the bigger brother of the DA20 that I have some hours in. But it doesn’t stop there! This plane also had a Garmin G-1000 glass cockpit, autopilot, AND a constant speed propeller, none of which I have ever flown before! Talk about making something that should be relatively routine a royal challenge!
Look at that beautiful glass!
The plane looks like its younger, sporty brother, but it sure does not feel like it. From the minute you sit down in the seats, you can tell that this aircraft is a well maintained, sporty little guy.
And really, not that little!
The useful load is comparable, if not better, than many of the 172s I have flown, and it cruises faster with similar fuel consumption! That glass is BEAUTIFUL. I found the interface very intimidating at first, but after working it a bit, I really love everything about it. I found that it was easy to monitor engine performance, and easy for navigation. It even has collision avoidance built in!
The constant speed propeller was another fun difference. It was almost like driving a standard transmission, but without hard/fast gears. After flying it and taking diligent notes on the ground, I am confident I can master this method in a very short period of time.
Oh, and the instructor messed with me. I’m flying along and all the sudden I notice the control stick becoming very hard to move. I looked out at the aileron and couldn’t see it responding either. I asked him what was going on, and he says, “Oh, I turned on the autopilot.”
THANKS FOR THE WARNING!
Autopilot was AWESOME. Holy moly. I could program in a course into the G-1000, engage the autopilot, and that’s all she wrote. Very cool.
The last thing that was interesting was the amount of travel that the control stick had to do in order to complete my round out and flare for landing. It caught me by surprise. Still much lighter touch than a traditional yoke, but definitely quite a bit of travel to flare compared to the rest of my experience in flight.
Overall, LOVED flying this plane. Can’t wait to go back up!
Well, my fun with the Silverado is over. I turned it back to my North Texas Chevy Dealer a few hours ago, and I am missing it. I wanted to wait to write about my favorite feature until after I turned it in to see what I missed it most.
Love those Silverados!
Want to guess what it was?
Yep, it was the iPhone integration and XM Radio. I got back into my car after dropping off the Silverado and found myself wanting to tune to the 90s on 9, or Blue Collar Radio.
No such luck.
With the iPhone integration and iPod port, I could listen to all of my music that I normally carry with me and tune to it through the truck’s radio interface. No poking around the touch screen for me! And when a call came in, I could focus on the road, hit one button on the steering wheel, and solve whatever crisis the world had presented to me via the miracle of the Ma-Bell handheld transceiver.
Callers on the other end could tell I was in a car, but they said the audio was crisp, and it was not a challenge to hear or understand me at all. I truly do miss that feature, and even though my current vehicle has something similar, it is not set up for bluetooth, OR the iPhone integration. It makes me a very sad panda.
Thank you very much to the North Texas Chevy Dealers for letting me tool around in one of your trucks for a month!
As my time with this fantastic vehicle is coming to a close, I thought of another thing that I would upgrade on my Silverado. I was listening to one of my new favorite albums, Be My Thrill by The Weepies, and one particular song was causing the speaker’s bottom end to distort the top end (meaning the bass was so strong, it was causing the higher pitched vocals to vibrate). The song is Empty Your Hands and the stock speakers just can’t handle the chorus.
Before I go any further, I should explain. I’m not just a run of the mill music listener. I didn’t major in music in college, but I did learn more than one instrument, spent six years of my primary education in band, and took a music theory class. Certain harmonies in certain situations give me goose bumps, but you can’t really feel the music unless it fills the space you are in.
If you ask the wife, she says (ok yells), “IT’S TOO LOUD! Turn it down!!” I, on the other hand, have it at a volume in which the space is filled with the music. It doesn’t hurt my ears, but I can hear all the tops, all the bottoms, and every middle tone quite clearly. Just means you have to turn it up a little bit.
That said, I have had a few situations where the stock speakers just won’t perform. Keep in mind, many entry-level stock speakers in any vehicle are going to have this issue for me, and I would always opt to get a better speaker than the basic one. With the fantastic audio options that the sound system offers (XM, Bluetooth, iPod integration, Auxiliary audio jack, 36 available presets, CD), you need something additional to make the sound really jump.
This weekend is RACE WEEKEND! I’ll do a final Silverado post after that last lap is run.