Thursday, March 30, 2006

Twice in a Night

High pressure dominating the area and Daylight Savings rapidly approaching, the IFR Pilot decided to tackle some of the night solo takeoffs and landings at a controlled airport required for the commerical rating. Launching into the calm air, alone in the cockpit, 78S performed like a jet! Well, not quite, but she easily achieved 1500 fpm climb. Not bad for a forty-year old 172.

ATIS at CAK indicated runway 1 would be in operation, so tower calls for a right base entry.

But, not two minutes later, they shifted operations to runway 19. Hmmm, OK. Left base to 19.

The first landing wasn't too bad, just needed to watch out for the wake turbulence from a landing Falcon.

Tower called for right traffic for the second landing. This provided some wierd sensations, as we don't often fly right traffic patterns, especially at night. But, right traffic for runway 19 means that your downwind is right over the highway. This landing was better.

Then tower called for left traffic for the third landing. Geez, guys, can we make a decision here?

On downwind, tower advised that we'd be #3 behind a Citrus flight and an Archer. This means an extended downwind. After passing the Archer, the IFR Pilot turned base, then final. A long, slow final. Tower advised to expect the landing clearance on short final, and they weren't kidding. 78S was well into the MALSR approach lights when the clearance was delivered.

The nicest of the three landings ensued, and then it was back to the home base. It's always a challenge landing there at night. The runway is soooooooo short and narrow. The winds were favoring runway 3, which unfortunately doesn't have any kind of VASI or PAPI. Plus, the threshold isn't more than 20 feet from a road. It's always a nail-biter, but the IFR Pilot managed to make it onto terra firma without damaging the aircraft.

So, that takes care of 3 of the 10 required night solo takeoffs and landings and another .7 solo night. Only another 3.9 night hours and 7 more takeoffs and landings. (Updated commerical pilot flight experience requirements here.)

MS was waiting. Time to safety pilot for him, as he continued renewing his instrument currency. Back to CAK for the ILS 19 twice. We had some S-turns to intercept the localizer, and we weren't helped by the crummy vectors approach gave us. In fact, at one point, he corrected the vector by twenty degress.

MS's second ILS was excellent, and we blasted out of CAK for the GPS 28 into BJJ. We were 10 miles out and getting more strange vectors from approach when MS queried to make sure they had us down for the right approach. Doh! They had us on the VOR 28. Another quick vector back to final. Then, MS fired the IFR Pilot, who had handed him the VOR 28 approach plate instead of the GPS 28. Double doh! (Interestingly, the VOR 28 and GPS 28 are independent approaches, i.e., the GPS isn't overlaid over the VOR approach, though I'm not sure why that it.)

MS made a nice landing at BJJ, and we taxiied back for takeoff. The IFR Pilot needed a hold to finish renewing his instrument currency, so right after takeoff, we switched controls and the IFR Pilot flew a hold from the right seat. Not as hard as it sounds, except that the Foggles don't agree the the IFR Pilot's glasses. (Usually, contacts are the name of the game when it's simulated instrument flying time, but I chose the lazy path tonight....)

That task accomplished, control was ceded back to MS for landing at the home base. He made a nice landing on runway 3 at the home base, and we tucked 78S back into the hangar.

But, we'll bust her out again in about 36 hours for a Boys Weekend as we venture to Lexington, Nashville -- or both! Stay tuned for updates, so long as they don't tend to incriminate either of us....

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Accident of the Week

This one caught the IFR Pilot's attention, as it involved Part 133 operations. Part 133, you ask? That's right. Not Part 91, 121, or even 135. Part 135, as in "Rotorcraft External Load."

From the report, the actual incident doesn't seem to have involved the external load. It also sounds like the accident was over in the blink of an eye.

Greybeard, any ideas here? What would cause a helicopter to go inverted?

NTSB Identification: SEA06LA067
14 CFR Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load
Accident occurred Friday, March 17, 2006 in Dayville, OR
Aircraft: Kaman K-1200, registration: N263KA
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On March 17, 2006, about 0935 Pacific standard time, a Kaman K-1200 helicopter, N263KA, collided with terrain in an uncontrolled descent following a loss of engine power while hovering out of ground effect about 16 nautical miles north of Dayville, Oregon. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries, and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Grizzly Mountain Aviation Inc. of Prineville, Oregon. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 133 flight. The helicopter was being used for long-line logging and operations for the day had commenced about 0700.

Witnesses reported to local authorities that the pilot set down a load of logs and stated on the radio that he was going to reposition the helicopter to land at the service area. At this point, the helicopter was about 200 feet agl, hovering, with the long line still attached. The witnesses then heard the engine "shutdown." They observed the helicopter descend vertically, roll inverted, impact the ground in the inverted position, and roll onto its left side. There was no fire. During examination of the helicopter at the accident site under the supervision of an FAA inspector, 80 gallons of fuel were drained from the helicopter's fuel system, and the fuel filter and fuel samples appeared to be clean.

A lovely little whirlybird, no?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

2006 Annual Inspection - Final Report

Well, the Final Report is just about the same as the Interim Report. We needed the spark plugs, one new tire, and a carb air filter.

Total bill, including labor - $808.

Not bad.

JP's taking her for the pitot/static/altimeter checks today. That's $125, but we contibute money for that bill each month.

And, we're supposed to get the prop dynamically balanced. That's $150.

All in all, pretty cheap when divided among four partners.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Happy Birthday...

to the IFR Pilot. For my the 38th anniversary of my birthday, should I:

a) Treat myself to a one-hour flight in a multi-engine aircraft (total ME time now: 0 hours).
b) Treat myself to a one-hour flight in a whirlybird (total rotorcraft time now: 0 hours).
c) Take '78S for a $100 hamburger flight.
d) Stay home, watch One Six Right, and eat ice cream?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Plan...

The IFR Pilot's Goal #2 for 2006 is obtaining the commercial pilot, single-engine certificate. Unfortunately, with nearly 25% of the year gone, no progress has been made on this goal (except for reading one chapter in the Gleim study guide).

A plan's been forming in my devious little brain, however:
Take a week off from work, fly twice a day, and knock it out.

The set-up will be to get the basic requirements taken care of: the written, the solo night work, the solo cross-country, perhaps even the required day- and night-VFR flights with a CFI (though those could be saved for the designated week).

Thus, the actual focus of "Training Week" will be on the required performance maneuvers and the complex airplane time.

I saw JD, the CFI I'm planning to work with time, and fronted the idea with him. He seemed amenable, and I'm gonna call him later this week and see if we can pick a time to get it done. Ideally, May would great, as it'll be after daylight savings, so we can fly in the morning and evening, leaving the afternoons open for me to do so solo flying and prep for the oral exam. Plus, it's before thunderstorm season, so we should have (hopefully) benign weather.

We'll see what happens.

Friday, March 17, 2006

2006 Annual Inspection - Interim Report

A quick call to the A&P discloses that he started early on the annual. (Helps that he has a key to the hangar.) All we need is one tire replaced, which we knew already, and new spark plugs.

All in all, not too bad. $40 for the tire. The plugs will be a bit more, but that hadn't been changed in about 500 hours, so it's hard to quibble with that.

There's a bit of buttoning-up work left to be done tomorrow, so we'll get in the and lend a hand and hope to save a few bucks.

*whew* Annuals always make the IFR Pilot nervous.

Accident of the Week

This week, we return to the beautiful fantasy land of Hawaii, visited once before during another AOTW post. Presented today is the crash of a Cessna 414 (model nickname: "Chancellor"). The report gives little detail as to what may have brought about this unfortunate accident, which killed all the occupants of the plane -- and laid waste to somewhere between 10 and 20 BMWs parked in the dealer's lot where the wreckage came to rest.
NTSB Identification: LAX06FA126
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, March 08, 2006 in Kahulu
i, HI
Aircraft: Cessna 414A, registration: N5601C
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On March 8, 2006, at 1913 Hawaiian standard time, a Cessna 414A, N5601C, collided with terrain while maneuvering approximately 1 mile west of the Kahului, Hawaii, airport, on the island of Maui. The airplane was operated by Hawaii Air Ambulance, Inc., as a positioning flight under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The airline transport pilot and two flight medical attendants were fatally injured; the airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight plan had been filed. The flight originated at Honolulu Airport, Honolulu, Hawaii, at 1830.

Hawaii Air Ambulance reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that the airplane was to fly to Kahului airport to pickup a patient for transport.

Witnesses reported that they observed the twin engine airplane maneuvering very low, between 100 and 300 feet, over Kahului about 1 mile west of the airport. The wings were wobbling at times and the airplane rolled up to 60 degrees angle of bank at other times. All witnesses said that they heard engine noises that they associated with an engine or engines operating at high power, and saw the landing and position lights on. All witnesses said that they observed the wings wobble and then watched it drop straight down out of the sky. It exploded as it went into an automobile dealership.

The wreckage was in the BMW automobile dealership and was completely destroyed by a post impact fire along with about 10 automobiles.

It seems very strange that the airplane would be that low (100-300 AGL) so far away from the airport. The NTSB brief doesn't report about exchanges between the pilot and ATC, so there's no way of knowing at this point whether the low-level maneuvers were intentional or the product of some other problem that beset the crew or the airplane. One news report indicates that the aircraft almost crashed into a highway. Fortunately, no one at the dealership was hurt, apparently because of sheer luck -- according to this report, the dealership had closed for the day, but the cleaning crew hadn't yet shown up. (Another good report, with pictures of the victims, located here.)

Looks like a pretty raging fire ensued, thanks to these photos from KHNL Channel 8:

(There's video of the post-crash dealership fire available if you go to KHNL's story on the accident. Look on the right-hand side near the top for links to several different video clips, including one entitled "Raw Video of Crash Aftermath in Kahului.")

In an interesting development, shortly after the accident, a number of other pilots with Hawaii Air Ambulance signed a letter supporting their deceased colleague, saying that he likely had done everything possible to prevent the accident. (Story here.) Apparently, the same pilot had previously suffered an engine failure and escaped without injury.

Finally, if you vaguely remember Kahului Airport, good for you. It was the point of origin for the April 28, 1998 tragic flight of Aloha Airlines flight 243 in which a flight attendant was lost after part of the fuselage was torn away in flight and she was sucked out of the resulting hole.

Tomorrow is the annual in 78S. Please say a good word for us that we don't find any unexpected repairs that will lay waste to the IFR Pilot's savings account....

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lunch Run

The IFR Pilot and MS were tentatively scheduled to go fly on Sunday. A look at the weekend weather forecast showed that Sunday was not going to be as favorable for flying as would Saturday. A brief call ensued, during which the IFR Pilot managed to persuade MS that finishing the drywall in his basement remodeling project could wait; what couldn't wait was some flight time in 78S. Two hours later, we blasted off for the proverbial $100 hamburger lunch run.

Destination: PHD. A quick hop, with a nice little restaurant on field. The IFR Pilot handled the flying duties, including the GPS 14 into PHD. Akron Approach gave us pilot nav, and we had a nice exchange on the air over the proper pronunciation of the fix "EPIBY." You say To-may-do, I say To-Mah-Do...

Landing on runway 14 at PHD is always a little bit ominous. It's never difficult, and there's a PAPI to guide you. What produces that feeling of dread is crossing over the graveyard on short final!

As we were on short final, we heard this call over the CTAF: "New Philly traffic, Stat 8, crossing runway 14, no factor for the landing traffic."

MS and the IFR Pilot quickly debated the wisdom of the last part of that transmission. Should the PIC of the landing flight be making the decision about what's a factor and what's not? Just advise of your location so that the other traffic can make a reasonable decision about whether there is an issue. Turns out there wasn't, we saw the helicopter crossing at the far end of Runway 14, so he really wasn't a factor.

The IFR Pilot managed a greaser of a landing, and we deplaned for an inspection of Stat 8, a medivac helicopter that was adding some fuel. She was only about 4 months old, and a delight to peek into. Dual 430's, a MFD, cyclic and throttles chock full of handswitch buttons. Hmmm, how can I add a remote ident button to the yoke of our beloved 172???

One strange item: The helicopter was clearly placarded for VFR flight only. When the pilot was queried about that, he said, "Oh no, it's an IFR ship." Well, don't let the FAA ramp check you...

Way too much lunch ensued. That's the problem with $.99 burgers and $.99 fries. It was almost gluttonous enough to require that we redo the W&B for the flight home!

The trip back to the home base was in VFR conditions, but with rain and visibility of maybe 5 miles. The winds had shifted a bit, and we were consistently seeing groundspeeds of 130 kts. Even on downwind to the home base, with an airspeed of 80 mph (78S's airspeed indicator is calibrated in both mph and knots, but mph is far more prominent), we were still pushing 100 kts. The pattern was ugly, even with the crab angle that IFR pilot established. We were blown way past the final segment, and had to haul back over to the left to get on the centerline -- being careful to remain coordinated so as not to produce a stall/spin on short final. The landing was a bit firm, but hey, we're replacing the tires this weekend at the annual.

I'd post some pictures, but the batteries once again died. I really need a camera that I can recharge via 12 volt DC in the plane!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Accident of the Week

This accident report was mentioned in AvWeb earlier this week. A reminder to turn your cell phone off in flight. (Though during the IFR Pilot's private pilot checkride, the DPE fielded a phone call on his cell phone. This was treated as a good sign that the checkride was going well....)

NTSB Identification: NYC06LA073
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, February 23, 2006 in Weyers Cave, VA
Aircraft: Cessna 182D, registration: N9178X
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On February 23, 2006, about 2315 eastern standard time, a Cessna 182D, N9178X, was destroyed after it impacted power lines while maneuvering near Weyers Cave, Virginia. The certificated airline transport pilot was fatally injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the flight that departed Eagle's Nest Airport (W13), Waynesboro, Virginia. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The airplane was partly owned by the pilot, and based at W13.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the pilot was flying above Interstate 81, and communicating via a cell phone, to a friend driving a tractor trailer northbound on Interstate 81. The driver of the tractor trailer was also a part owner of the accident airplane. The pilot was maneuvering in the vicinity of the tractor trailer when the airplane struck power lines, and subsequently impacted the ground. The airplane came to rest in a ditch on the east side of the northbound lane of interstate 81, and was destroyed during an ensuing post crash fire.

Examination of the airplane by an FAA inspector, and a representative from the Cessna Aircraft Company, did not reveal any pre-impact malfunctions.

The pilot reported 4,000 hours of total flight experience on his most recent application for an FAA first class medical certificate, which was issued on August 31, 2005.

The weather reported at an airport that was located about 2 miles southeast of the accident site, about the time of the accident, included, scattered clouds at 9,500 feet, and winds from 260 degrees at 10 knots, with 19 knot gusts.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

SFO Flightseeing

The IFR Pilot finally finds a bit of free time and can write about the flightseeting trip with the Freight Dog (who was kind enough to correct me that he was referring to the 172RG as the "Super Chicken," not the "Chicken Hawk," as previously written).

Anyway, the day began with a quick trip on the BART from downtown San Fran to Oakland. Switching trains at the West Oakland stop, in and of itself, was an eye-opening experience. Just keep a low profile and hope that the next train shows up promptly.

John picked me up, and we made our way to Oakland Flyers to retrieve a nice little 172 he had rented. We moseyed on over to Kaiser Air, where we initially stopped so that he could return some materials to the cockpit of his Caravan. This wasn't the first time seeing one (indeed, having been inside the factory where they are built), but it had been several years, so I was again stuck but the size of the 'Van. For those that don't know, the Caravan sits so high off the ramp that when you open the pilot-side door, there's a little fold down ladder to climb when entering the cockpit. Almost like a fighter. Well, maybe vaguely like a fighter, except that you can't go supersonic in a Caravan!

We then grabbed a table at Kaiser, opened up the sectional and TAC, and planned our route. Initially, it was going to be the mid-span San Mateo VFR departure, then over to Half Moon Bay. The IFR Pilot's original plan of trying to visit Monterey was scrapped due to time constrains. John then indicated that after Half Moon Bay, we could go north, over the Golden Gate, then do a 180 and fly the "Bayshore Transition" to San Carlos, where he was dropping me off. The plan quickly morphed into a takeoff from Oakland, northwest to the bridge, then the Bayshore Transition to HAF, and the SQL after that.

Out we went to preflight the 172 (as John couldn't be persuaded to help steal a nice looking Columbia 350 on the ramp). The IFR Pilot was just starting the preflight when John said, "Take a look at this," pointing at the front nose strut.

Which was totally compressed.

And which meant that we weren't going anywhere in that particular plane.

Indeed, this problem had been written up in the squawk sheet and had supposedly been resolved a couple of weeks previously. Clearly, it hadn't, or some other problem had cropped up. John theorized that the seal that had been replaced had been damaged during the repair and had allow the strut to deflate.

So, we pile back into John's car and drive back to Oakland Flyers to negotiate the rental of an alternative aircraft. The board shows that there's a 172RG available at only $5 more an hour, and since the commercial requires 10 hours complex, I jump at the opportunity to get some complex time logged as part of the flightseeing tour. We prepare the necessary paperwork and head back to the Kaiser Air parking lot. John is forced to demonstrate the top-secret procedures that facilitate one's admission to the Kaiser parking lot -- but he made the IFR Pilot pinky swear not to divulge the contents of that Masonic-like ritual, so no further comment can be made here about that....

Here's what our faithful "Super Chicken" looked like before takeoff:

A quick preflight and we launched off runway 27R. This was just the least big disconcerting, as it meant that we were taking off with a slight tailwind. With a 5400' runway, however, we had plenty of concrete available to us.

The takeoff was not too shabby, if I say so myself. Retracted the gear after establishing a positive rate of climb and ensuring that there wasn't sufficient runway available to make an emergency landing. A quick turn to the right for noise abatement, and we were switched off to Norcal Approach.

We quickly headed west, and John pointed out the former Alameda Naval Air station, visible in this photo:

Then, there was another nice-looking island, though I can't recall what it's called now:

Soon enough, we were over the Bay, and had a great view of Alcatraz. This picture doesn't do it justice, obviously, but that's due more to the IFR Pilot's crappy skills as a photographer more than anything else.

Next up was an absolutely breathtaking view of the Golden Gate bridge itself. Kids, take the IFR Pilot's word for it: If you're in the Bay Area, you simply have to rent a plane and see the bridge from up above!

We crossed over the bridge and went out over the water. We then turned back to the east and flew just north of Golden Gate park. Norcal approved our request for the Bayshore Transition and we got to take in some absolutely breathtaking views of downtown San Francisco.

Keeping west of the 101 freeway, we were then treated to the most amazing view of San Francisco International itself!

From here, we hopped over the hills and did a stop and go at HAF. Then, it was a flight along the coast and the opportunity to see the spectacular cliffs along the west coast.

Before long, it was time to head back to SQL. The exchange went like this:

IFR Pilot (being lazy and not wanting to do any navigation): "We should probably head back to San Carlos. Where do I go from here?"

Freight Dog (continuing to make the IFR Pilot be the PIC): "Well, where are we."

IFR Pilot (silently cursing the Freight Dog for making him fly and navigate, reviews chart, determines position with a doubtful degree of accuracy): "Ummm, OK, we're here." (pointing)

Freight Dog: "Are there any navaids we can use?"

IFR Pilot (more silent cursing): "Yeah, there's one." Tunes in, identifies, sets OBS. Considers firing Freight Dog by pushing him out, but determines this will not be advisable.

Freight Dog: "Good. Now see those clouds over the ridges? Think we're gonna get a smooth ride?"

IFR Pilot: "Not likely."

Freight Dog: "So parallel the mountains, then cross over the Crystal Reservoir, and then call San Carlos."

Before long, we were talking to SQL tower. The IFR Pilot had some trouble spotting the airport amid all the urban clutter, but eventually I picked it out. We flew the pattern as requested for noise abatement purposes, and landed without incident. Some cash changed hands, the Freight Dog filled out my log book, and the final picture was taken:

And that's the details on how I accomplished Goal #3. I strongly recommend John as an aerial guide and a CFI (this, based on his complimentary review of the IFR Pilot's procedures. I believe the assessment was "Very smooth. I usually worry about doctors and lawyers." Go figure.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Flight with the Freight Dog (Quick Summary)

Just a quick update - the IFR Pilot and the Freight Dog managed to accomplish the IFR Pilot's goal #3 today: an aerial tour of San Francisco. Logged 1.2 hours in what the Freight Dog affectionately referred to as the "Chicken Hawk," a lovely Cessna 172RG Cutlass based at Oakland Flyers.

There's a bit of a story on why we ended up in that bird instead of the old fashioned straight leg 172. But, it was worth it, and there's pictures to prove it. Will provide a complete narrative when the rest of the sightseeing in San Francisco is over in a couple of days.