Archive for April, 2008

Are we down yet?…a crosswind memory

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

My most memorable crosswind: How could I have forgotten? Well, maybe it was because I wasn’t technically flying the airplane, although I was in the left seat at the time. Here’s what happened.

On a multistate cross-country trip with a large group of pilots (which I described in the March 2003 issue of AOPA Flight Training), I was flying a Piper Archer with a CFI in the right seat and a passenger in the back, bound from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Burlington, Vermont. We’d just enjoyed a lobster lunch and were happily taking in the breath-taking scenery as we passed over the mountains.

On this summer afternoon, thunderstorms began to form while we were still several miles from our destination. We listened to the tower and noted that some airplanes were being diverted to a lake near the airport to wait out the storm. Were we next on the list?

As it turned out, no. We were told to continue our approach. But as the clouds formed and the storm spooled up nearby, the winds got a little raucous. I remember trying to plug in a frequency on the Garmin 430, but I couldn’t quite manage it. When our heads hit the ceiling and the CFI’s camera floated in the air, he offered to fly the airplane, and I accepted. With pleasure. (I like to think that if I were in that left seat today, I would have said “Yee haw!” and kept flying the airplane.)

The winds were straight across the runway at 30 to 35 knots, and Mark had to use a lot of aileron and a lot of rudder to keep us on the centerline. When we touched down and taxied to the parking area, the skies opened up, and we were drenched as we ran inside the terminal. And Mark wore a giant grin. “That’s flying!” he said.


The most awful crosswinds on the face of the Earth

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

One word; Maui. I went out there to do a crosswinds article a few years ago (I used my frequent flyer miles) and what I had heard was true. A Cessna 210 months earlier had been sitting in the runup area with the engine at full power (engine test), and it flipped on its back. Wasn’t even moving. Calm morning winds are those at 10 to 12 knots, while normal midday winds are usually 30 knots. My instructor suggested entering a sideslip while still at 100 feet when landing to see if the winds were too powerful to maintain the center line. If they are, come up with plan B, like another runway or airport. Airplanes don’t land as much as they play elevator, descending at very low or no ground speed. Once on the ground it takes everything you can remember about taxiing in high winds to make it to the FBO. Routine day in paradise.

Crosswind technique

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

My favorite crosswind landing technique is pretty mundane–I fly down final using the crab method and then transition into wing-low mode prior to touchdown, making sure to prevent side loads on the landing gear. The flight training handbook calls this the combination method.

If the runway is sufficiently wide, there’s another technique you can use, one that I used a lot on Roswell, New Mexico’s 13,000-foot, un-grooved Runway 21. I’d do a short approach with a long landing, into the wind at an angle to the runway centerline, rolling out on an adjoining taxiway. Often, the winds were so strong, the Husky would be stopped before reaching the runway crest. The tower controllers found this amusing, and would offer it before I had a chance to ask.


The screamin’ sweeps

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Since everyone else is blogging on their rides back from Sun ‘n Fun, I feel obliged to discuss mine.

I had the great fortune of flying the sweepstakes airplane home and the bad misfortune of doing it with a headwind the entire way.

After showing off the airplane in Naples, Florida, on Monday afternoon (thanks Chris LeCroy for the grub and for organizing), I was off to the north. The plan was to stop in Gainesville, Fla. on Monday and make it the rest of the way Tuesday. Gainesville is a great airport. Of course, I’m partial given that I learned to fly there and still root for the Gators. The flight from Naples was beautiful. It was one of the late afternoon/early evening flights when everything is clicking. I took off over the shore and headed north among a scattered layer of puffy white. The sun was setting, the ride was smooth, and the music from my ipod was groovy. We live to fly for days like this.


The people you meet

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Last year AOPA Pilot launched its series highlighting America’s airports, and I was one of the lucky people who got to contribute to the story. We chose 11 airports located all over the country, and by some kismet I got my first choice, Friday Harbor Airport in the San Juan Islands of Washington state.

This was a pretty big deal for me on many levels–I’m still a student pilot with 65 hours but no solo because I still can’t shake my lack of confidence; I’m a local Frederick girl who is not widely traveled; and for the past 20 years I have been raising my two sons pretty much on my own. So to travel across the country alone and then board a seaplane to the islands was stretching my boundaries.

There were four of us on the Kenmore seaplane, and we took off in Seattle’s normal weather–rain and fat, thick clouds. (more…)

Airshow gawkers–the horror!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Some people make lousy airshow visitors. During our flight from Tampa to Wichita, Hawker Beechcraft’s Brady Stewart spun some shocking yarns about his experience standing duty with airplanes on display. Here’s a partial list of some of the things people have done to some VERY expensive airplanes:

Opening cowlings. Smoking near the wing tanks. Wanting their pictures taken in the cockpit, but getting stuck so that they couldn’t get turned around and properly seated (“one guy got his butt stuck in the control yoke”). Kids throwing toy gliders and frisbees into turbine intakes. Raising the gear handle (!!). Spinning the props to show how easy it is to move a free turbine engine (“the Wheel of Fortune” spin). Standing on the wings! (This trick is especially popular in Russia, where the (non-pilot) participants are usually drunk, I was told).

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the chart-topper: CHANGING A BABY’S DIAPER IN ONE OF THE AIRPLANE SEATS. No, I’m not making this up.

Shuttling with Hawker-Beechcraft

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

I was luckiest with my departrure from Sun ‘n Fun. I hitched a ride with Hawker Beech’s Trevor Blackmer, Brady Stewart, and two other HBC employees aboard a Premier IA and a King Air B200GT. The Premier flight took us to HBC’s service center at Tampa Intl. From there, it was on to Wichita in the B200. Like the C90GTi I recently flew (look for the full story in June’s AOPA Pilot) the B200 now has the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite.

The leg from Tampa to Little Rock was three hours–headwinds were large, maxing out at 117 knots at our cruise altitude of FL260. True airspeeds were 282 knots under warmish (-28 degrees C, or ISA +8 degrees) conditions.  The restaurant in the Little Rock FBO served what it calls “The World’s Greatest Aviation Burger,” and, yes, I ordered one up. This massive slab o’ beef overwhelmed me and, in a first, I walked away from half of this bovine artery-buster.

One more hour put us in Wichita. What a capable airplane! It flew seven and lotsa bags … to meet our weight limits all we had to do was trade 1,000 lbs of fuel for pax. Best of all, I got to learn more about the Pro Line 21.

Now I’m dreading the airline flight back to BWI–it’s an American flight, and it launches at 6:55 a.m. from ICT. Seven hours later, I’m home. That’s three hours more than the trip from TPA to ICT. I’ll take GA any time over the airlines.

Sunburned, tired, happy . . .

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

A few closing thoughts on an exhausting and invigorating week:

* Aircraft parking areas at Sun ‘n Fun were beginning to resemble used car lots. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “for sale” signs on so many airplanes in one place.

* Supersize that airplane! Bulbous, load-hauling airplanes abounded at SNF. The AirVan was my favorite of the Beaver derivatives. Too bad so many of them have nosewheels . . .

* My aviation roots are in aerobatics, and I’ll always be drawn to the precise, physically, and mentally demanding aviation niche. So it’s with surprise and reluctance that I point out the airshow’s aerobatic performances were painfully dull and monotonous. One unlimited monoplane performing gyroscopic maneuvers after another became mind-numbing, even for a guy like me who eats that stuff up. I can’t imagine how dull it must have been for people who aren’t necessarily drawn to akro.

The sound of screaming IO-540s made me think about the late Chris Smisson and the beauty, grace, and finesse that he showed flying his Zlin with Ray Charles singing “American the Beautiful” in the background. We miss you, old friend.

* Thanks to Brady and Trevor from Hawker-Beechcraft for letting me stow away in their King Air for the trip to SNF–but it was the hat that saved me. My neck and ears were getting lobsterized by the scorching sun, so I pickup up a floppy, wide-brimmed hat at the H-B tent about halfway through the show. It sure was goofy looking, but it was a lifesaver. I stopped by the H-B booth a couple days after the University of Kansas won the NCAA basketball championship, and the folks from Wichita were still celebrating . . .

* Aspen’s “Evolution” PFD and Garmin’s “Synthetic Vision Technology” were the biggest hits of the show, and major developments that I’m convinced will improve general aviation safety. So here’s the question: How long do you think it will take Garmin (or some other innovative firm) to put synthetic vision in a portable GPS? VistaNav is getting close, but I’m talking about SVT on something the size of a Garmin 496. This is a pure guess, but I’ll bet that we’re be able to buy synthetic vision hand-helds in 2010 for $5,000 each . . .


North to Milwaukee

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

I got up before the crack of dawn to catch a 7 a.m. USAir flight to Milwaukee by way of Charlotte, North Carolina. Everything went very smoothly. It was 36 deg F in Charlotte, and 36 deg F in Milwaukee under sunny skies. Picked up a car and drove south to Racine where I spent a few hours at DeltaHawk diesel aircraft engines. Doug Doers, vice president of production Integration and Dennis Webb senior vice president and CEO gave me a tour of their facility. They told me that the company, which produces a V-4 stroke turbocharged and supercharged 160 -200 horsepower engine, is expecting a major funding transfusion within “a few days,” according to Webb.

What do you have in common with this man?

Monday, April 14th, 2008

The man pictured is an Inuit Nunamiut Eskimo, George Paneak, the mayor of Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska. You may have guessed by now that he is a pilot. An inactive one, but in his youth he got his certificate because his friends said he couldn’t. You will read about him as part of our series on America’s airports in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot. Here are some pictures by AOPA photographer Chris Rose taken in Anaktuvuk. The guy in the orange mask is me, at minus 38 degrees F, windchill minus 60 degrees F. The Cessna Caravan is flown by Bill Miller of Wright Air whose cargo was taken by snowmobile sled to the village. The street sign shows the blending of the old Inupiaq language with the new.