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Monday, August 30, 2010

Learning to fly

Not me.  Her.

I'm practicing for becoming an instructor by teaching my oldest daughter, Thing 1 how to fly.  We're only on lesson 3, and already she can climb, descend, speed up or slow down and trim, and perform level turns without gaining or loosing more than 100ft.

Next time - take offs and circuits.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hudson River Approach

Those of us who fly respect Captain Sullenburger, who successfully ditched his Airbus in the Hudson River last year, after a double engine flame-out caused by geese, but we do not worship him.  We realize he did what he was trained to do, with a high degree of competency, but that many other pilots could have done the same.  So we applaud the demonstration of skill, and understand the "oh shucks" attitude, mistaken for modesty by the press, as actually being a form of embarrassment at all the fuss.

In instrument flying, we use approach plates to describe the horizontal and vertical maneuvers need to end up safely in the touchdown zone - this gag version shows what would be needed to replicate Captain Sullenburger's Hudson River Approach.

BTW, has anyone else, other than me, noticed that the cause of this was CANADIAN geese?  Were they in this country illegally?  Were they Muslim suicide geese?  Why is no-one else crying "FOWL" over this?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Turn hard right, mind the trees (and the hill)

Time to leave Gaston's. 

Where I normally fly from, McKinney airport in Texas, we have a 7,000 foot concrete runway with no building or trees within 1/2 a mile of either end of the runway.  I have room to take off and land 3 times on the runway without turning, and I'm at 500 feet or more before crossing over an obstacle.  So the departure from Gaston's was a new experience.

We loaded up the airplane with all four of us, plus luggage and the fish.  With 30 gallons of fuel in the wings, the Sundowner was just under it's maximum gross take off weight, and within the center of gravity limits ( I know because I had previously run the numbers).  I did a careful check of the airplane and engine, and taxied to the end of the runway as far back as I could get.  3,000 feet on dry, short grass is plenty, but nothing is less valuable than runway behind you.

Running up to full power, with 15 degrees of flaps and brakes hard on, I checked I was getting full RPMs and let her roll.  It seemed to take a long time to get the airspeed needle alive, but finally we had 60 kts and I eased Charlie into the air.  I stayed low in ground effect to let the speed build up until I had 75kts (best climb speed), and reached for the sky.

Best climb with full gross weight was not going to clear that trees covered hill, so I started a long curve to the right, intending to get into a downwind position where I could land back on the field if anything went wrong as soon as possible.  Did I say that I'm not used to trees?  Or hills?  It was a perfectly normal take off if you are used to such things, but I felt crowded.  Simulating a short field, max climb take off and doing one for real are not the same experience at all.  But they are the same to actually execute the movements and configuration, so all was well.

Continuing the climb on the downwind, I immediately felt better - I knew I could S-turn onto the grass if I had to glide in; I was visualizing the maneuver in my head.  Non-pilots would probably be surprised at how much we think about emergencies and "what I would do now if the engine quit", but this is actually normal.  Both guys in the front of your airliner are doing the same thing - only they have more procedures.  They calculate how much runway they need to accelerate to takeoff speed and then emergency stop - and based on that they call out V1 and V2 airspeeds on the take off run - V1 means you have to go - there isn't room to stop.  I do the same, only for me I make the decision to fly just before using 50% of the runway.  And yes, I have abandoned takeoffs if something wasn't right at that point.  But not this day.

Thing 2 wanted to fly over the dam, so having more than 1,000 feet at this point, I left the field and flew over the dam, then turned on course.  Fuel was too pricey at Gaston's, and I was already near max weight, so I had checked fuel prices on www.100LL.com, and selected Mt. Ida as my fueling stop.

Mt. Ida was just over an hours flying time away.  Fuel there was $3.85 a gallon, instead of over $5 at Gaston's, and nearer to $6 at my home airport.  It also has a 4,000 foot concrete runway, and was right where I was planning to turn to avoid the Hog MOA (Military Operation Area).  It was a Sunday, so I was sure the MOA was not active, but I don't like the high ground and lack of airports under it, so I determined to go around, expending the extra 10 minutes of so for additional safety margin (there we go again....).

After partially replenishing the fuel ( I couldn't just fill up like in a car - that would have made the airplane too heavy with all of us and our luggage), I took off from Mt. Ida heading west.  Once again it became clear that I couldn't get over the ridges with our heavy load on a straight climb out, so I made a right turn and did a spiraling climb over the airport.  Thing 1 thought we were like a big hawk looking for a large mouse!



Once above the ridges, I turned on course.  The air was becoming bumpy in the hot afternoon air, so I climbed (slowly) above the clouds to 8,500 feet where it was smooth, and slaved the autopilot to the GPS, pointing straight home.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

4 Arrived, 10 Left

The water at Gaston's Resort is COLD!  It used to be a warm water river, typical for Arkansas, until they built the dam and hydo-electric plant.  Now the water comes from deep in the lake, and it's 45 to 50 degrees year round (7 degrees C).

While bad for the native river flora and fauna, this was good for tourism, and the State of Arkansas, smelling gold, stocked the river with Brown and Rainbow trout, and the occasional Cutthroat.  Outfits like Gaston's sprang up on the shore, and the rest is history.

The cabin we rented came with a free boat - but we had to rent the motor, chain, and chairs!  We didn't hire a fishing guide, and so for the first 2 hours, we caught nothing.  After breaking for breakfast, we talked with the dock guys, and followed their advice on how to load up the hooks, and where to cast.  Perhaps it was also that the river started to run, as they opened more generators at the dam, but soon we were catching fish!  Since we declined to pay for fishing licenses, only the 2 Things could fish, but I manned the motor and Sally de-hooked our catch and put them in the wet well.  The fishing limit was 10, and we caught 11, putting the littlest one back to gain some weight.

The dock guys killed and gutted the 10 keepers, for a small tip. 4 we ate for dinner, the other 6 went into the freezer and came home with us.