Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Year In Review

It’s time for the annual retrospective on what was accomplished, flying-wise, during year 2007. Let’s start with the goals set in the beginning of the year, and recap whether they were met.

Obtain commercial pilot, single-engine rating, including the written test by February 28 and the certificate by June 30. Passed the written on January 13 with an 89%. An impressive start. Took a number of flight lessons in April once the weather broke and supported regular flying. Things fell apart after that, due to work and other life commitments. So, we’ll generously call this one a “D.”

2. Obtain flight instructor license, including the written test by September 1 and the certificate by December 31. Nothing accomplished here, with the notable exception, squeezed in at the proverbial eleventh hour, of passing the Fundamentals of Instructing written test. Call this a “D----.”

3. Fly ten Angel Flights. Volunteered for a bunch, several were cancelled by Angel Flight, a few by the IFR Pilot due to changes in work commitments, and one (on December 26, which was a GREAT weather day) due to sickness within the preceding 48 hours. Since the “no illness in 48 hours” is a personal minimum for me, I really had no choice. All of this is a long way of saying that the IFR Pilot did fly one actual Angel Flight during 2007. So, this one is also a “D-,” especially after a really nice article was written earlier this year about the IFR Pilot’s involvement with this very worth charity.

4. Log 20 hours of actual instrument time and 10 approaches in actual. Given that I only flew a total of 57.7 hours during 2007, there’s no surprise here that this goal wasn’t met. reports that I flew a total of 5.9 hours in actual instrument conditions and another 2.9 under the hood, with a total of 14 approaches. So, that’s a total of 8.8 hours, or 15% of my total time for the year. In the past, I’ve averaged around 110 to 120 hours for a year. Had I flown the average and met the 20 hour goal, that would have translated to a total of about 17% of my time on the gauges. Call this a “B” performance for the year.

5. Return to publishing "Accident of the Week" each week, or at least on a more regular basis. I did this for a while, but frankly, the content of some response e-mails that I received convinced me that this isn’t a worthwhile endeavor at this point. Call this a “withdrawn goal.”

6. Publish one freelance aviation article. This one was accomplished, but only after pounding the pavement to find a willing publisher (Piper Flyer magazine, September 2007 issue). The freelance aviation writing gig appears to be a harder nut to crack than I first thought. However, I was asked to submit some more to the magazine, and I’ve finally had time to sketch out some ideas, so perhaps we can keep the momentum moving on this one.

Overall, it’s tough to grade the year. I guess I’d call it a “C,” in other words, average. Some goals weren’t met, but I did at least make an honest effort towards them. Also, I did conceive and help organize the first Blogging Pilot World get-together in Toronto. Here’s hoping we can do that again this summer.

So, what’s the plan to 2008? Simple: Meet the goals of 2007, and add in obtaining the Ground Instructor ratings this winter while the weather precludes regular flying. Some of these goals could be even more challenging in the coming year, as there’s a bit of uncertainty concerning Mike Hotel’s future. But, those issues aren’t ripe for full analysis or disclosure here yet. Stay tuned on that front!!!

Here’s one last piece of analysis, something I’ve shied away from doing in the past. We all know and understand that aviation is an expensive addiction, and airplane ownership is the apex of that addiction. That being the case, I have never tried to sum up how much I’ve spent in a year to operate either N3978S or N72MH. But, let’s explore the actual costs of operation for a minute.

For the 57.7 hours that I flew in 2007, I wrote checks to our little partnership for a total of $9932.83. After subtracting $558.00 for expenses that I would classify as not directly related to owning the plane or are one-time expenses, I spent $9374.83 to own Mike Hotel during 2007. That translates into $162.48 per hour to own, insure, operate, and maintain a very, very nicely equipped Piper Arrow. I don’t think that I could find a plane of the same caliber anywhere in the local area. Keep in mind, our equipment includes Garmin GNS 430, MX-20 MFD, Garmin 396 with XM weather, standby electric attitude indicator, autopilot, and vertical card compass. These are all items that increase the safety and reliability factor. Then, add in having the plane available anytime I want it, with no daily minimums, etc., it starts to approach a “no-brainer.”

Assume for a moment that I had actually flown 100 hours in 2007, the level that is often bandied about as the “break-even” point for aircraft ownership. My costs would have increased by $1607.40 (assumes fuel only, no additional maintenance, which I recognize might not be entirely accurate), for a yearly total of $11,540.23. Or, about $115 an hour.

Now that makes it a real bargain. A 182RG at our airport rents for about $136 an hour, but its Garmin 430 isn’t kept up to date. I’d have to purchase a renters insurance policy ($300 to $600 for the year). And, if I wanted to keep my Garmin 396, I’d still be paying $50 or so a month for the data. Also, our monthly payment to the airplane partnership includes subscriptions for charts, approach plates, and the Flight Guide. So, I’d still have those expenses if I was renting. All of that piles on to the hourly rental rate. Then, throw on the intangibles, such as not having the plane available when I want it, not controlling the maintenance decisions, and the like.

Ultimately, there’s no denying that it’s expensive to own and operate an airplane, especially when you don’t engage in deferral of maintenance squawks and aren’t afraid to make the decision to spend more to upgrade the airplane. So, I’ll take what I’ve got and be happy.

Happy New Year to all of you.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Update from Lake Erie's Shores

It's been pretty quiet, aviation-wise, here on the shores of Lake Erie. Although there have been a number of spectacular days for flying, they have yet to coincide with days that the IFR Pilot has off from work. Translated, that means no flying. Our fingers are crossed that Sunday will permit a local flight, but who knows.

In the meantime, our Faithful Narrator can reveal that -- in an effort to accomplish something aviation-wise this month, he crammed for and passed the Fundamentals of Instruction test this afternoon. To tell the truth, it's the easiest of the five FAA written tests taken so far, and it was over in about 15 minutes. A perfect 100% was not achieved; instead, a healthy, respectable 92% was achieved. Not bad.

As crummy weather shall be upon us for the better part of the next couple months, the immediate goal will be to achieve AGI and perhaps IGI ratings.

Happy 2008 to you all, I'll have the annual recap post done soon.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mmmmm, Breakfast

Saturday, the IFR Pilot dragged his lazy butt out of bed early enough to justify taking Mike Hotel out to play. The weather gurus were predicting lovely weather here in Northeast Ohio until about 6:00 p.m., after which Old Man Winter was going to make his first appearance of the season, in the form of freezing rain, sleet, ice, and maybe even some snow. That was plenty enough reason to take the plane out while the taking was good.

Fortunately, after last weekend's touch and go session, I had installed the AeroTherm heater, so the engine was ready to go upon arrival. Not so much so for the Garmin 430 display, which doesn't like to cold weather too much. It takes a loooooooooooong time to warm up, so if you're the betting kind, don't be surprised that when the 430 goes in for its WAAS upgrade in February, Garmin tells us we need a new display as well. (MS, you've been warned!)

After filling the tanks, it was time to blast off. Man, the airplane leaps off the runway in winter! Briefly holding 70 KIAS in the climb, the VSI was showing probably 1000 FPM. Quickly dropping the nose to effect 80 KIAS, the VSI still showed a nice, healthy rate of climb, which is always nice when you're using Runway 3 at the Home Base -- lots of tall trees immediately beyond the end of the runway.

Destination was KMFD, which the "Flying Turtle" has changed hands and morphed into "Flyboys Cafe." Vectored for a visual to 32, ATC then switched the active to runway 5. Already established on a left base for 32, Tower offered the option of 5 or 32. The IFR Pilot elected to remain inbound for 32. Might as well get a cross-wind landing in the book.

All went well, and before you know it, Mike Hotel was properly secured and the IFR Pilot was eating the biggest ham steak in the history of mankind. Of course, I'm sure that it sent my sodium content through the roof, but hey, what's the point of eating a "healthy" $100 breakfast???

After laying waste to the eggs, homefries, and toast that accompanied the ham steak, it was time to head home. Remember, stay awake even though your tummy is quite full.....

Holding #2 for takeoff on runway 5 behind a Twin Comanche, the IFR Pilot's ire got the best of him. With a Decathlon just exiting the runway and a Cirrus on a 2 mile final, the TwinCo pilot requested a takeoff clearance. "We can expedite if it will help."

Tower did the proper thing and denied the clearance due to traffic on final. The TwinCo pilot's response was unbelievable:

"Well, if we're going to have to hold much longer here, I'll have to shut down an engine."

Amazing. You want to shoehorn a takeoff in front of a aircraft on final, probably doing 85 to 90 knots, just so that you can save about 3 minutes of fuel in your one engine? Brother, if that's the case, go back to flying a Single Engine Comanche!!! You just aren't that important to jeopardize safety so you can save $5 or so in avgas!!!

OK, rant over. After the TwinCo departed, the IFR Pilot got cleared for takeoff with an immediate right turn towards the Home Base. Rocketing up to 3500 feet, Yours Truly settled in for a leisurely flight back home. The landing was pretty much a non-event, except for the bottom dropping out on final and a bit of extra throttle having to be applied to salvage the landing.

And that was that. By 7:00 p.m., it was snowing. Today, it's Lake Effect Snow Warnings, with some areas expected to get 15" or so. Who knows when there will be another beautiful CAVU winter day.

(Forgot the camera. Again. Doggone it.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Still Alive!

Well, some most of you probably think the IFR Pilot has gone out in a blaze of glory.

Sorry to disappoint those of you hoping this might be true. Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

It's just been awfully quiet on the aviation front, with concomitantly higher activity on the lawyer front. Gotta pay those bills, you know.

Anyhoooooo, a couple of developments to report.

1. MS and the IFR Pilot escaped the 2007 Annual of Mike Hotel relatively unscathed. Other than routine stuff (brake pads, filters, oil change), the only item of note was new spark plugs. We did have a vertical card compass installed, so that just about completes our list of planned upgrades. (We are having a WAAS upgrade in February.) Total was $925, so that's not too shabby.

2. Our old compadre, JS, has returned to the fold and has been taking Mike Hotel to see some new sights, inc

3. Did a few takeoffs and landings last week, just to knock a bit of the winter rust off. The first was absolutely outstanding, you gotta love being in the flare with the stall warning horn going off. Although I had the camera with me, I didn't snap any photos. Why, again, did I spent too much money on a new camera last year if I'm not going to be using it???

4. I'm just about ready to take the FOI exam. The goal of becoming a CFI by the end of 2007 is clearly not going to happen. Perhaps now the question is whether I can get my AGI rating in the next 30 days. We shall see, we shall see.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"You Flyin' A Jet???"

The trials and tribulations that are the practice of law coalesced and sent the IFR Pilot back to Buffalo. Twice in six weeks. Ugh, why can't we have some clients with legal predicaments in more exotic places?

Anyway, it was an absolutely beautiful afternoon to fly. The flight plan was filed was ACO DKK LODIY KBUF, and the clearance came back "as filed." Nice, gotta love that. Climbed immediately to 5000, and caught a tailwind. Ground speeds averaged 145+ for the better part of the trip. Wheels up to wheels down was 1:20, much faster than one could do the trip by car.

Cleared for the visual to 23 behind a landing DC-9, the ALSF2 was lit up in all its glory. The ILS was dialed in just for practice, and the IFR Pilot managed to hold the glide slope all the way to touchdown. Wahoo!

Best part was as soon as I had parked at the FBO and turned on the cell phone, it started ringing. MS must have been watching the trip on Flight Aware. Opening salvo:

"What were you flying? A jet?"

Obviously not. But Flight Aware reported an initial ground speed in excess of 160 -- even though I'm certain it never got that high.

All good things must come to an end, however. I'm sure that todays tailwind will be tomorrow's massive headwind, and it'll take three hours to return to the Home Base. Oh well, as long as I make it back for Trick Or Treating, it'll be all good.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mother Nature: Vanquished!

Wednesday saw the IFR Pilot skipping work and performing his first Angel Flight of the year. Despite a New Year's vow to do 10 of them this year, the demands of work and other distractions have limited the time available for this incredibly worthy cause. (We'll see how many more we can get done between now and the end of the year.)

Anyway, the synoptic picture wasn't pleasant. We were on the backside of a low pressure system that had moved into the Atlantic. Happily, there was no convective activity to be found. There were, however, very widespread areas of low-hanging clouds, along with lots of precipitation. The freezing level was at or above 10,000' MSL, so at least ice wouldn't be on the top of our list of worries for the flight from BKL to N94 (Carlisle, PA).

(Side note: Anytime I see this patient needing a flight, I try to volunteer. Carlisle Airport features somewhat prominently in the early part of Rinker Buck's cross-country flight at age 15 in a Piper Cub, recounted in his memoir Flight of Passage, one of my favorite reads. Go and get yourself a copy and enjoy it as much as I do. Or, get it on tape or CD, and listen to Rinker himself entertain you with a wonderful blend of aviation and teenage angst/familial conflict.)

The reposition flight from the Home Base to BKL was the usual milk run. Cleveland Approach always sends you 30 degrees further east than you want to, and then it's a turn back to the west once they cut you loose. Keep it high over the dense urban terrain, cross over the shoreline near the power plant, chop the power, and put it down on 24 Right. These days, listen carefully for your taxi instructions as there is a big repaving project underway, leaving men and equipment all over the place.

After loading the passenger and his wife, we had the usual chore of hot starting the Lycoming. Some days, it just doesn't want to jump to life after it's been run.

Then, it was verbal sparring with Ground Control who claimed that I had no flight plan on file. I knew I did, I spoke with the briefer personally (instead of filing via DUAT). Things got sorted our quickly when I gave the ground controller the exact location of my briefer and the specific N number that I used to file. (Angel Flights use "NGF" followed by the last three letters/numbers of your normal call sign.) He obviously found it and we got cleared direct.

But then he directed us to takeoff on runway 6L. Hey, that means taking off with an 8 knot tailwind. We're pretty heavily loaded, with three not-so-FAA-standard passengers and a bit over the tabs on fuel. This could be interesting... At least the runway is 6000' long.

Keeping a bit of forward pressure on the yoke to ensure the nose remained down, we accelerated quickly. I let an extra 5 or so knots of airspeed build before I rotated and we screamed off the ground and were airborne.

Of course, we were immediately instructed to turn to a heading of 350, sending us right over the waters of Lake Erie and well away from our on course heading of 120. We climbed into the clouds, obligingly maintaining a heading of 350. But, having learned my lessons on this once before, I simply started nagging Cleveland Approach to allow me to turn on course and get feet dry. The second time was the charm, and we got our right turn on course.

Within about 15 minutes, we were out of the clouds and enjoying the scenery. We climbed to altitude and enjoyed the tailwinds. I turned control of the XM radio over to the passenger, hit the "Pilot" button on the audio panel, and reveled in playing hookey and doing a good deed simultaneously!!!

Crossing into Pennsylvania, the NEXRAD starting painting some showers ahead. There was much green, a bit of yellow, and the occasional red. The supplemental weather spotting equipment - a/k/a my eyes - showed very little and it looked like we were going to miss it all. After a bit, ATC started reporting that we were headed toward an area of heavy precipitation. But there was no sign of it out the front window. We did finally get a bit wet, performed a small deviation "just in case," but never really hit anything coming anywhere close to "heavy." Just a nice ride between layers.

Soon enough, however, we were in the thick of it and I was on the gauges. Turned over to Harrisburg Approach, we were told to expect the VOR-A into N94. No problem, it's an offset approach, haven't practiced one of these in a while, but we've got lots of redundant equipment to back us up and keep us from getting into too much trouble.

I queried Approach whether we would be vectored or should expect to perform the full procedure, which uses a hold in lieu of a procedure turn. The obliging controller advised that he would vector us, and I thanked him for that.

The vector ultimately diverged from my expectations, however. Perhaps I should have spoken up, and perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here. Anyway, I expected that he would vector me to a position outside the IAF/FAF, in this case the HAR VOR. Instead, however, he vectored me to a position about one mile inside the fix. I thought this strange, because I couldn't then time the approach to have a backup basis for determining whether we had reached the MAP.

I started our descent, killed the XM, and instructed my passenger to get his eyes up and look for the airport. I fired up the light to help us, but we were still in IMC. There were moments of clear below, but I was momentarily confused about how to read the DME off of the GPS, when I realized that we had passed the MAP. Hey, no farting around here, we're going missed and the paxs are taking a cab to their car.

I firewalled the throttle, initiated the climb, and reported missed with a request for the ILS 13 at MDT, my alternate. We were immediately vectored for it, and it resulted in the 360 degree turn you saw on my "Teaser" post.

Soon enough, we were inside the FAF, needles alive and centered, everything's looking peachy. Whereupon, my approach clearance was canceled, turn left 070, there's an Air Canada inbound behind and overtaking you on the approach, we'll send you around. Ugh!

Once again, we complied. But then, Momma Nature did her best to really mess with everyone: Winds at the surface shifted 180 degrees and the airport switched to landing on runway 31. OK, cancel the ILS 13, grab the ILS 31 plate, quickly review it, and get vectored to the other side of the airport. Air Canada gets cleared first, then we're turned onto the final approach course, needles alive, let's ride 'em down to the patch.

And that's just what we did. We broke out about 900 feet above the runway, transitioned to the visual, and got Mike Hotel safely on the ground.

What should have been an 1:45 to 2:00 flight turned into 2:30, with three different approaches, and lots of time in the clag.

Of course, then I had to fly through it all again to get home...

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Did an Angel Flight yesterday. Thanks to Mother Nature, this was not to be the usual milk run. Expect a full report when I have time to write this evening. But in the meantime, here's a bit of a teaser for you. Too bad it doesn't show all of the machinations we had to endure to get on the ground safely...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So, I Forgot the Camera

Last week's flying adventures to Columbus and Buffalo, NY were delightful. It was total CAVU weather on all of the flying legs. And there would have been great pictures for your viewing pleasure. Except, the IFR Pilot left the camera at home. Doh!

On the bright side, however, the RITTR article was published in the September 2007 issue of Piper Flyer magazine. Right on page 58. Contact me via private e-mail if you'd like to review the article yourself.

Sunday looks like a dinner flight to TZR for some ribs. This time, I'll try to remember to bring the camera!!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

He's Going Flying...

It's been crazy, crazy, crazy the IFR Pilot's world the last few months. There's been no flying whatsoever. Last week, I finally climbed back in the saddle and did three night takeoffs and landings. So, I'm good for the next 90 days to carry paxs at night, a very useful thing as the days grow shorter and night arrives sooner.

But, today through Wednesday, I'll be putting Mike Hotel to good use. Tonight, I'll blast off from the Home Base and head to KOSU. Not a long flight, an hour or so, but so much better than driving to Columbus. What's the occasion, you ask? The IFR Pilot is presenting at the annual meeting of the Ohio Aviation Association. I'll be bridging the aviation/law gap, and hopefully the attendees will find my remarks to be of at least some interest.

Then, tomorrow afternoon, I blast off from KOSU to KBUF. A lovely little flight following the shore of Lake Erie. The occasion is an appearance in federal court on Wednesday morning.

Can I gloat a bit, and just say how certifiably awesome it is not to have to drive from Columbus to Buffalo? The computer says that would be about a 5.25 hour drive. Via Mike Hotel, it's under two hours. Plus, I can jump right back to work after court on Wednesday, rather than killing the day driving back home.

That's it, kids. I will try to remember to bring the camera, as the weather gods predict CAVU weather for tonight's flight, and probably the same for tomorrow. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Yet Another Upgrade

Breaking his silence, the IFR Pilot reappears...

Mike Hotel has been scheduled for another upgrade. As many of you may know, Garmin will be dramatically increasing the pricing on WAAS upgrades to its series of 430/530 GPS/Nav/Coms at the end of this month. Something like doubling the price overnight!

With some insightful questioning of our avionics tech, we learned that to obtain to current pricing, we didn't need to have the work done by the end of August, only to have it scheduled. And it could be scheduled months out. The only hitch is that its a "must-do." You can't change your mind and cancel, although you don't have to give Garmin any money in advance.

So, guess what we did today? We decided to schedule to upgrade. For February 2008! That gives us months to worry about how to pay for it, although truth be told, we planned for this when we installed the 430. We already have the proper type and length of coax cable in Mike Hotel. Essentially, this should be a remove and replace the unit (after the factory does its magic), and then change out the antenna.

It'll be nice to have that WAAS upgrade, although now I'll have to decipher all of the strange acronyys at the bottom of the NACO charts showing MDAs and DHs....

Friday, August 03, 2007

More Success!!!

Another quiet period on the aviation front. Nothing to report, as the IFR Pilot hasn't been aviating since the Delaware junket. Still need to offload the pics taken while at Blogging Pilot World 2007.

In the meantime, there is good news to report: After six months of pounding the pavement, someone has finally stepped up to the plate and accepted my article on RITTRs for publication! Yea for the IFR Pilot, another 2007 goal accomplished -- though it may prove to be the last.

Anyway, when it finally appears in print, you will be duly notified. And now, back to reviewing documents at my desk...

Monday, July 16, 2007


Despite some nasty weather in the DelMarVa area this afternoon, MS and the IFR Pilot literally "threaded the needle" and managed to get from the Home Base to Dover, Delaware. About an hour of actual conditions, much of it after sunset, into a 2500' foot runway at 33N. Tomorrow, I work, and MS does whatever MS does to keep himself happy in the hotel.

Further updates upon return to the homestead.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Aviation Is Resuming Its Proper Place In My Life

It's self-evident that the IFR Pilot hasn't been much of an aviation junkie the last two months. Just look at the paucity of entries in this here little blogetty-blog. But looking forward to the next three weeks, it appears that my aviation feng shui is being restored:

Friday-Sunday of this week: Fly Mike Hotel to Toronto for the inaugual Blogging Pilot World fly-in. As I don't want to miss an entire day of work, I'll fetch Mike Hotel in the morning and commute to work by air. Then I bust out at lunch time and head for Toronto. Sounds like a plan, eh? All I need now are my USCIS decal and my charts that I ordered from Sporty's (I waiting too long and so the shipping rates and delays from any Canadian sources were prohibitive.)

Tuesday-Wednesday of next week: Return to Delaware for the removal of components from a wrecked aircraft that is the subject of litigation yours truly is helping defend. This will also involve commuting to work by air. It will also allow me to avoid the absurdity of a 45 minute flight to BWI and a 2+ hour drive to Delaware; instead, 2 hours and 34 minutes of flying time in Mike Hotel will put me within 20 minutes of my destination. That's a "much mo' bettah" proposition, as Justin Wilson would say.

July 31: The IFR Pilot serves as the AOPA Legal Services Plan at the Air Safety Foundation's presentation "Regulations: What Every Pilot Should Know." Since it's in Toledo (not Kent, as I was originally advised, but who cares), the IFR Pilot will be "forced" to once again commute by air to work, and then take Mike Hotel to the presentation.

It looks like a good month, aviation-wise. If only I could find some outlet to publish my RITTRs article...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Well, it's been a while since I've done any flying. In fact, other than some brief sightseeing flights during the Memorial Day BBQ, I haven't done any flying since my trip in early May to Baltimore with S and W for crabcakes and a dinner flight with N a couple of days later. My instrument current lapsed on Saturday, and with next weekend's planned jaunt to Toronto for the inaugural gathering of pilot bloggers, it was time to do some flying and get current.

Tuesday night, I enlisted the help of my (worthy?) partner, MS. We blasted off, and it was clear that the IFR Pilot was rather rusty. No major snafus, but just a little behind the plane. We flew the ILS 1 at CAK twice, first time without the autopilot and the second time with.

On the first approach, the controller vectored us waaaaaaay to close, and I couldn't lose altitude fast enough. Managed the keep the localizer somewhat close, but overall, I'm glad this was in VFR conditions! Low approach only, then we're getting sent around.

On the second approach, we were vectored a bit further out and, combined with the autopilot flying the localizer, this one worked out much better. We departed straight out to the south for the GPS-A into PHD.

This one went fine, but after reaching the MDA, we realized how uncomfortably close you are to some radio towers on a hill northeast of the airport. Make a note, be real, real careful if we ever fly this one in actual conditions!

Naturally, we couldn't stop at PHD without dinner. Nachos, chicken wings, salads, and pasta made us a fat and happy crew on the way home. My night currency has also lapsed, so I insisted that MS earn his dinner and bring us home.

Being the night before the Fourth of July, the skies were dotted with fireworks everywhere. A great sight indeed, although it did make picking out the Home Base's airport beacon a bit more challenging than usual. MS did a nice job getting set up for the landing to 21, which involves a final approach over trees that are far too tall and near the runway threshold for anything other than a dead-on approach. MS did well, but the landing was a bit firm. He later suggested that we add a user waypoint to the 430 over the trees and establish a descent height so that in the future we have some assurances that we really are, in fact, clear of the trees.

After tucking Mike Hotel away, we prowled around the airport for a bit, sipping on beverages from the vending machine that MS recently acquired and installed in the hangar. As you can imagine, it holds quite a bit more than our dorm fridge did, so there's always certain to be a cold one available for you if you stop by our humble hangar.

Wednesday, I dragged JS out. Turns out we've had Mike Hotel over a year and this was to be his first flight in it. (Sorry about that...)

Back to CAK for the ILS 19. No problems this time. Our wishes were granted, and we received the ASR to 23. I always like doing these, and you can't always get them. But, I figured, hey, it's a holiday, it was relatively quiet on the approach frequency, maybe they'll indulge us. And they did!

This also went well, although it involved a somewhat steep descent for the runway after the controller commanded, "Descend to your minimum descent altitude now."

We were then cleared for a low approach behind a departing Boeing, "Caution, wake turbulence." Umm, yeah, we'll break it off now, please. No need to get anywhere close to that big mutha!

JS and I then hopped over to the RITZS intersection for the obligatory hold. I mangled it pretty good on the first try. The second time was much better, and so with that task accomplished, it was time for the GPS 2 into 3G3. This approach is a bit different from the usual T-based GPS approach, as it involves a 13 degree right turn after passing the FAF.

The only hiccup here was the pattern traffic that was landing opposite us due to the prevailing surface winds. We spotted them early enough and broke off the approach to the east of the airport for the 2 mile trek back to the Home Base. All that remained now was the task of landing the airplane well enough to impress my safety pilot.

I'll let him decide if I passed, but I noticed no loose dental work on the seat or in the foot well of the cabin, so I think it was acceptable! JS kept commenting about how comfortable the seats were in Mike Hotel compared to those in the rental planes he's been relegated to since we dissolved the 78S partnership. Hey buddy, you're welcome to fly with me anytime if you survive next week's skydiving adventure!

With that, the IFR Pilot can once again call himself that, as he's instrument current. Toronto, here I come!!!

Friday, June 01, 2007


Not much flying here lately, just lots of work and soccer refereeing. Commercial training has been placed on hold after three lessons until I can focus exclusively on that, which likely won't be until after my lad's baseball season concludes. Attending games three nights a weeks precludes doing much else when you're still trying to work an honest amount of hours.

Plus, there's now this little distraction:

Should make those 35 mile drives to the Home Base a bit more enjoyable, don't ya think?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


No, this isn't some on-line confession to a horrible VD. As if I were some drunken sailor. Puh-lease.

As previously reported, Mother Nature conspired to abort the original plan for early May: To hop down to NOLA and take in what was appropriate described as the best Jazzfest lineup in years. Even if we could have circumnavigated the horrible thunderstorms that were predicted to be blowing through the area, who wants to spend the better part of two or three days on the infield of the Fairgrounds -- surely to be a mudpit by then??? So, we scrubbed the trip.

But Mike Hotel was mine, and so it was time for the proverbial "Plan B." Hmm, where to go. Hey, I know, let's go have some crab cakes for lunch. My original travel companion, S, was game, and so we her friend, W. So, we jumped into the plane, filed (almost) direct to KMTN, and off we went.

S had flown with the IFR Pilot once before, back when he was a newly minted private pilot. And even though W had never been in a light aircraft before, she confessed that she was looking forward to it.

Travel time was just a couple of hours from KBKL, and we had CAVU weather for 95% of it. Here's a couple of obligatory in-flight shots of the flight crew and pax:

Inbound to KMTN, a Falcon was hot on our tail. Just as we turned final, the tower instructed us to remain west of the final approach course, make a right 360 for spacing, and cleared us to land #2 behind the Falcon. Jeez, those jet guys get all the first class treatment... :-)

Anyhow, we landed without incident, and other than having to wait inordinately long for clearance to back-taxi, we made it to the FBO. Whereupon, we experienced our only real hiccup of the day - the IFR Pilot forgot to make advance arrangements for a rental car. And they had none available on the field. OK, we'll just cab it down to the Inner Harbor. We have a lovely preview of downtown Baltimore as we sped down the interstate highway:

When prompted, the driver gave us a primo recommendation for a luncheon spot: Legal Sea Foods. Given that S and the IFR Pilot both share this occupation, we thought it a good omen for a great lunch. Especially when we realized they had outdoor seating that was just PERFECT for a spring day. See for yourself:

We promptly occupied the one remaining outside table, and proceeded to order more food than you can shake a stick at. This included three different soups (I was especially fond of the Clam Chili that S ordered), and perhaps that most delicious crab cake I have ever had. Loads upon loads of delish lump crab, and very little bread crumbs. In addition, some "adult beverages" were also procured for the non-crew members. S particularly enjoyed her sangria. I've got the evidence to prove my case, ladies and gentlemen of the jury:

Dining outside is always a favorite activity, as it allows vast amounts of people watching. It's an amusing spectator sport. You get to sights like this:

Hey dude, nice hat.

Anyway, after eating way too much, we took a walk around the Inner Harbor. More obligatory pictures:

After traipsing around the Harbor, we found our way into Little Italy. On the advice of the man behind the counter at Velleggia's Casa di Pasta (from which the IFR Pilot purchased the most delicious Lobster Ravioli, which he cooked up for dinner the next night), we found our way to the nearby Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop. Whereupon, even more calories were consumed:

For the gourmand challenged, that's 3 mini cannoli in the foreground, with a bowl of Amaretto gelato on the back right and some mini creme puffs on the back left.

To work off some -- but certainly nowhere near all of the calories that we wolfed down -- we hiked over to Camden Yards. Ladies, strike a pose please!

With that, we cabbed it back to MTN. Hilarity ensued when the IFR Pilot tried to fuel up and the ground cable detached itself from the reel. Great, just my luck. With a bit of assistance from the line crew, we straightened out that snafu and launched into the Wild Blue Yonder.

Initially, our routing to the west was pointing us right into a mass of developing storms. But, an opportunely-requested "any chance direct destination" met with a favorable reply, and a turn to the northwest kept us well clear. Not even a drop of rain on Mike Hotel. A couple hours later, after a spectacular overflight of downtown Pittsburgh, we were home, safe and sound.

Truly, a great way to spend 5.1 hours in the air!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and the Just (Plane) Weird

I'm a day week late, and a dollar short on joining the Blogging Pilot World for the first group theme post. But, now that I'm back from frolicking networking with these folks (NO, I can NOT get you a discount on your renewal premiums), I thought I'd chime in.

The Good. There have been a panoply of "goods," including many of which I've shared here. The first flight (November 15, 2000, N94589, C-152, .5 hours at BKL). There's the obligatory first solo story. There was the sightseeing flight in Las Vegas during AIA 2004. And, of course, the Great Alaska Adventure (tm) with the Dadster. I'd be remiss if I didn't also include the acquisition of Mike Hotel and the flight home over Memorial Day 2006 (posts here, here, and here.

The Bad. Topping the list would be the crash in Lethbridge. No, not the IFR Pilot's crash, but the crash of the gentlemen in the Long-Eze while I was preparing to test fly 78S after our encounter with a rough running engine. Believe you me, you don't ever want to fly over the smoking wreckage of an airplane crash. Oh, and the Pink Slip on my instrument checkride wasn't a particularly high point in my aviation career, either.

The Just (Plane) Weird. So here's a story that I haven't shared with you, my loyal and faithful readers. It was May of 2005, and the IFR Pilot was out for his first Angel Flight. It involved a flight from Carrol County, Ohio to Eagle Creek Airpark in Indianapolis. My passenger was en route home from New York, where she had been receiving treatment for Lyme Disease.

I rendezvoused with the linking pilot on time. The passenger seemed like a nice lady as I help her into 78S. She was not unattractive, perhaps 5'5" or 5'6", thin and lithe, with longish hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. Dressed casually, as you'd expect for someone about to be crammed into a light airplane for the better part of several hours.

Walking was obviously painful for her, and she maintained balance with the use of dual walking sticks. I invited her to take the right front seat, explaining that she would be free to have PIC responsibilities for the satellite radio, but she demurred in favor of the rear seat, saying she'd probably zonk out for the flight. OK, no problem by me.

So, after getting her strapped in and her luggage on board, we blasted off for Eagle Creek. Twasn't a long flight, maybe 2.5 hours or so, and she said nary a word to me, having eschewed the headset in favor of ear plugs. I peeked back occasionally to make sure she was OK, and each time she appeared to be fast asleep.

I politely roused her when we were about 15 minutes from touchdown. She donned her headset and we chatted briefly about her condition, how she contracted it (hiking in the Mountain West), and the various ways in which she fought to reclaim some semblance of normalcy in her day-to-day activities. I tried not to ask too many questions, but rather to let her talk about whatever was on her mind. Just because I'm flying people doesn't mean that I have the right to ask about their personal details. But, I'm a good listener and I think she liked sharing.

We landed without incident, and retired to the FBO. She was to wait for her ride and I was waiting for a top off of 100LL. We talked some more and then her ride arrived. I bid her adieu, and she said she'd be traveling for more follow-up treatment, perhaps I could volunteer to fly her again. I was flattered, after all, this was my first Angel Flight and I really wasn't quite sure how it would turn out. So, I guessed that it went well.

So, I wasn't all that surprised when a few days later, an envelope arrived with a return address in the Indy area. I assumed it was a thank you card, which it was.

What I wasn't prepared for was the letter inside. After expressing her personal thanks for the flight, she then went on to say something like this:
I can't believe I'm writing this, as I know nothing about your personal life. Perhaps you are in a relationship, perhaps not. But I thought you were very handsome and kind. There's quite some distance between us, obviously, yet I wonder if you might be interested in dating me.
Gulp. Am I seriously reading this? Have I just been asked out -- by letter -- from a woman living hundreds of miles from me that I have only talked to for maybe an hour? It reminded me of a letter I got from a stalker ex-girlfriend when I was in middle school (but that's a story for another day). Sure, I was flattered, but I was also weirded out.

So, I did the most mature thing I could do: I just ignored the offer and didn't respond.

Don't hate. Maybe you would have done something different, but I didn't. Clearly, I couldn't date her. First, I was already involved. Second, dating a passenger has to violate some sort of Angel Flight ethical code. Third, even if those didn't apply, maybe this was nothing more than a manifestation of some Florence Nightingale syndrome. Thanks, but no thanks, I'd rather not have any part of that.

There you have it, my best Just Plane Weird story. Now, what's the topic for the next group theme post, y'all?

Weather Blues

Mother Nature has once again, literally, rained on the IFR Pilot's parade. Plans to steal down to New Orleans and take in the best Jazzfest lineup in 20 years have been scrubbed due to predicted thunderstorms all weekend. Not good to fly in. Even worse to stand in during on outdoor, day-long series of concerts. Guess we'll have to try again next year.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Travels Abound

The IFR Pilot leaves tomorrow for Palm Springs for, ahem, "work." No, really, one must hob-nob with potential clients on the golf course and during the convention. I'll be there through Tuesday morning. Anyone want to go fly in the desert? I'm free on Saturday afternoon...

Then, I'm back in the office on Wednesday before blasting off on Thursday for -- hold on now -- New Orleans. Haven't been there in, what, a couple of weeks? This time, the plan is to take in JazzFest. For your viewing pleasure, here's a sample of what I'll be reveling in during three days of glory at the Fairgrounds:

Steely Dan

The Radiators

George Benson

John Mayer

Here's hoping I don't get too bad of a sunburn!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Quick Update

Not much time to blog, dear readers. Here's a quick update from the trenches:

Commercial lesson #1 on Saturday. Chandelles, steep spirals, emergency descents. Wow, the ground comes at you fast at 120 knots!

Commercial lesson #2 on Tuesday. Lazy eights, eights on pylons. Not altogether bad, but nowhere near PTS standards, obviously. Much work to be done.

MS and I signed papers and purchased the hangar we've been renting for the last year. Building equity always better than paying rent.

More commerical lessons scheduled for Friday and Sunday. Stay tuned for further details! Now, back to work.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Stag Flight 2007 - In Pictures

Two weeks late, but better late than never. Proud to present: The 2007 Stag Flight.


We blasted off into the clag, MS handling the aviating and IFR Pilot managing the communicating, including the air-to-air with our colleagues in the 182RG.

Approaching the Ohio River, things cleared up and we were treated to some spectacular views:

We landed at JWN, and headed to downtown Nashville for some grub for our hungry bellies.


Our colleagues in the 182RG. Smile, boys, you're on the blog!

Space Camp, here we come:

MS and the IFR Pilot put down in Alabama for some 100LL. The airport was rather quaint, and the fuel was attractively priced!

Look, Ma - Mike Hotel grew an extra engine. OK, just kidding, but this paint job was vaguely deja vu all over again.

Three miles base to final at Panama City. You don't want to be low on the glideslope here if you're inbound on the ILS:

Working off the intersecting runway was a banner tow operator. Wonder if this qualifies as an acrobatic move:

An old friend arrived before we did:

Views from the motel room:


Here's the "beach" that was out the back of our room. Hidden from view was the oil storage facility that abutted us.

Hmm, gonna be a long time before we get to the parking lot at the airshow...

OK, we're outta here. Let's hit New Orleans. Aerial tour of the Panhandle Beaches of Florida along the way:

Short final for Runway 18R at BKL. This makes the third time the IFR Pilot has handled the duties of landing at Lakefront, yet another airport that you want to be just a bit above the glideslope!

Another plane vaguely reminiscent of Mike Hotel. This one seats 6, however, and appears to have been well designed for this family's needs:

Nearly two years after Katrina, Lakefront is still struggling to mount a comeback.

And so are many homes in the city, although most have had the door signatures of the urban search and rescue teams painted over. Not this home, however:

While the streetcars haven't returned to St. Charles Avenue yet, they are plying their trade in the French Quarter:

Shipping along the River remains as vigorous as ever:

Strangers hamming for the IFR Pilot's camera:

Muffalata anyone?

How about a close up of that fine sandwich? (Hand modeling complements of MS.)

Jackson Square was partially occupied by a film crew, shooting a pilot of "K-Ville," a new series supposedly being developed for Fox.

Sights and sounds of the Quarter:

Recruiting standards for the NOPD appear dubious.

Not quite the Rebirth Brass Band, but they were still banging out quite the tunes.

Only in NOLA, baby!

For those in the know...

That's how we roll, drinks in the Quarter on a Saturday afternoon, BlackBerries close by:

With live jazz to boot!

The NOPD's French Quarter vehicles:


IFR takeoff:

Breaking up as we approach the North Shore of the Lake:

Downwind to the Tennessee fuel stop:

A little high on final:

That's more like it:

On the ground, safe and sound.

The crew car. MS did his best impersonation of Boss Hogg throughout the trek to Applebee's, the hottest Sunday afternoon luncheon joint in all of McMinnville, Tennessee!

Well, that's about it for the pictures.

2007 Stag Flight turned out not too bad, although MS and I deviated "slightly" from the advanced agenda.

Stay tuned for more adventures. The IFR Pilot returns to NOLA in early May for JazzFest! (Yes, K, I do have a day job...)