Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Flying Moments of 2013

I say this every year since I started listing my favorite flights in 2010. Man oh man does time fly! This year seems more than most. 2014 will be bringing some changes for me, hopefully slowing this momentum down. However, I hope it means even more awesome moments to come! So here you have it, my selected favorite flying moments of 2013.

January: Adopting Turbo
All my readers should now be aware of the other boy that holds my heart, Turbo the Flying Dog! He now has a Facebook and has logged over 40 hours in the air as a flying pampered pooch.

March: WOAW 2013
It was my third year running the local Women Fly it Forward event. Going with the Women Of Aviation Week space theme, we had amazing guest speakers to include a female astronaut and beat our previous record for women flown! I was also the US Team Leader, encouraging airports and pilots around the country to participate!

March: Flight Deck Diner formation flight
Just another $100 Hamburger run, but one that offered spectacular sunset views and fun with another pilot friend.

April: Fairy Stone State Park
It's amazing how much camping gear (and puppy gear!) you can cram into a small plane! But we did it, and had fun hiking in and learning all the legends of Fairy Stone State Park.

May: Atlanta Birthday Flight
It's my birthday and I'll fly if I want to! For my 28th birthday, we headed to Atlanta for an Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show concert. Other activities included two new $100 hamburger stops, the (amazing!) Georgia Aquarium and picking up a new flying mascot since Turbo was not with us.

May: Leaning In
In April, I found myself devouring the book, Lean In, by CEO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg. So much resonated within me, that I soon found my story featured on the Lean In website. Check it out and go get a copy of the book for yourself.

May: Elementary school visit
"What happens if you have to go to the bathroom?" "Are there snacks on your plane?" All fun questions from eager Elementary school students I spoke to in May. I wonder how many are now considering a career in the sky?

June: NYC Skyline
A trip to a dog beach in New Jersey was just too close to the Hudson Corridor not to take the opportunity to get the coolest sky view of New York City.

July: $100 Hedgehog
We lost our previous hedgehog quite suddenly and knew we definitely wanted another. As it turned out, we had concert plans in Ohio near a hedgehog breeder and picked a new one up on our way home. Poka turned out to be a natural flying hedgehog.

September: Ford Trimotor Flight
A piece of aviation history landed in Frederick this past September. I could not pass up the opportunity to fly in such an aviation gem. Turbo and Bob joined me for the ride!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Out of the Darkness

"People do not die from suicide, they die due to sadness."

This is not my usual aviation-centric post, except for maybe I'll fly to the walk. Please help support me in the 16 mile Out of the Darkness overnight walk in June. This is for Mel, who just became my family who left this world last month; and for Carla, who was practically family who is now at peace.
The Out of the Darkness Overnight Experience is an 16-18 mile walk over the course of one night. Net proceeds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, funding research, advocacy, survivor support, education, and awareness programs – both to prevent suicide and to assist those affected by suicide.
Visit here to donate or join in on the walk!

Carla and I - 2008

Monday, December 23, 2013

Glasair Rescue, Part 2

*** Guest post by Bob ***

We had left the plane outside weeks earlier, and one of the airport ground crew had been very helpful in arranging a monthly rate in an unheated hangar, instead of the $50/nightly rate paid by transient pilots in the heated hangar.  He also setup a hot-air preheater so the engine would be ready to start when I arrived.  When the city told him I would have to wait for the morning, he so arranged for me to give $20 to the late-night ground crew guy who normally leaves as soon as the 11:30pm airline arrival turns off the runway to stay longer and open the hangar for me. But because the airline landed to late and the weather had turned worse as forecast, I would not be going anywhere except the couch that night.  But at least the airplane was warmed up and clear of snow. 

The backup window on Friday I had planned to use looked OK in Houghton but was now showing a cold front that would be in lower Michigan, setting up low IFR and icing conditions that I would have to travel through.  I went back in the terminal around before the afternoon departure to thank my flight crew for the decision to spend 3 hours waiting for fuel trucks instead of a few minutes of holding that cost me the late night weather window. 

A FedEx Caravan turboprop single took off a few minutes later.  I walked out to the hangar and grabbed my handheld radio, the battery half-dead from cold.  I managed to get Green Bay center’s ground RCO and asked them to get a PIREP from the 208.  The result was tops at 4000, clear above,  and negative icing.  Not too bad!  While I was afraid of any potential layers above that I decided it would be best to get the airplane as far south as possible before the cold front I would pass over turned lower Michigan into an icy mess.

I fired up the engine- and nearly slid out of control on the icy ramp despite holding the brakes- and back-taxied to the departure end about 15 minutes after the airline, who confirmed the Caravan’s tops report.  Weather at the time was overcast at 1300', visibility 1.25 miles, light snow, wind 12 gusting 20 and temperature –8C.  

 View down the departure runway. 

 I pushed the throttle in and the plane accelerated great with the low fuel load and cold temperatures.  A frozen gear indication switch worried me for a second, but after one cycle I could tell it was shut tight as no air was coming through the flap handle opening.  The light went out just as I went into the soup.  Climbing around 1800 FPM I soon broke out to a clear sky with only another layer well above my 7000’ IFR altitude and no traces of airframe ice. 

Safe above the clouds heading south.  

 Planes arriving into Traverse City were reporting light clear ice while inbound, but luckily Pontiac was far enough away from the approaching front that their weather reported clear skies (they were more like scattered at 3000’) and I was above the weather.   Landing around 4PM in Pontiac I filled up on Avgas and had a Jimmy John’s sandwich delivered, as there was no food to be had at CMX and I had not eaten since dinner the night before at ORD.  About 45 minutes later I climbed through those scattered clouds a little slower with full tanks, but a howling tail wind soon pushed ground speeds above 215 knots.  Before I knew it I was descending at 240 knots into Frederick- which prompted Potomac ATC to alert another plane about a “GLAS…A Turboprop?” that was converging on his path.  

240 knots coming into Frederick!

A smooth landing with clear sky and calm winds followed and the plane was tucked back into its hangar, only 12 gallons of fuel lighter from the 384 statute mile journey from Pontiac- 32.2 MPG!  And then I remembered… how am I going to get home, my car is still at Dulles!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Glasair Rescue, Part 1

*** Guest post by Bob  ***

The saying in Michigan goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes!”  This is especially true in the Keweenaw Peninsula where Lake Superior has major sway over the weather.  Thirty miles south may be bright and sunny while the peninsula is under constant low clouds and snow.  This winter has been especially harsh in the U.P., with the snowfall hitting over 118 inches by late December, well on the way to break the record 390 inches set in 1978-79.  The two weeks after we left were especially harsh, with single-digit highs, 30 knot winds and half of the airline flights being outright cancelled if not greatly delayed.  I would constantly stalk the weather on my phone, sometimes it would show a good ceiling (over 2500’ is rare) but if I booked an airline ticket it would most likely be totally different upon arrival.  At one point I did see what was potentially a window, for Friday Dec. 20.  I booked a flight from Chicago to Calumet, a 50-seat United regional jet service ran by SkyWest Airlines for a 11:30pm arrival Wednesday night, the second of two daily arrivals.  To get to Chicago, I used a hidden city fare, a little trick to get a lower price.  I used the ITA Matrix search engine, a very powerful flight search tool that allows you to search every single flight that makes a stop at your real intended destination.  The result- a ticket from Dulles to Birmingham, which makes a stop in Chicago was only $125, compared to $380 for a direct flight!  I tossed the second leg and killed the layover by walking past every single gate at ORD, which was about 5 miles of walking!  When my flight was finally ready to leave I sat down in the gate area surrounded by Michigan Tech students and staff, the primary customers on this route.  (Michigan Tech is in nearby Houghton).

 Snow against a hangar at CMX

 The gate agent announced a 30 minute delay, as the flight crew had not yet arrived.  Annoying, but still doable, as the TAF was showing a 2500’ ceiling until about 3AM when it was forecast to go down to 1500’ with snow and mist, and continue that way for who knows how long as a front moved through.  When the crew arrived we boarded a few minutes later, and the captain announced that the aircraft was overweight with the passenger load and the fuel load for the planned alternate- back at ORD.  He was able to change the alternate to Duluth, which lowered the required fuel and made the flight possible- excellent thinking on the captain’s part.  This required refueling the aircraft, which unfortunately did NOT go nearly as smoothly as changing the alternate!

After about an hour one fuel truck arrived, and I watched it depart without even hooking up to the plane.  After that the flight attendant asked for volunteers- 4 people- to leave and take $300 vouchers.  That is about 800 pounds of fuel.  No one volunteered, so we waited for a second tanker which arrived about 40 minutes later.  It took 10 minutes to pump out a measly 112 gallons of Jet-A, and then we pushed back and started to taxi.  Unfortunately the taxi ended NEAR the runway but did not culminate with a takeoff.  I watched out my window as the heavy night-dwellers did their thing, a FedEx DC9 and DHL 777 departure followed by a Korean Air 747 arriving from Seoul.   This went on for about 20 minutes before the captain informed everyone that the refueling did not remove enough weight, and we were going to sit there and idle until enough fuel had been burned off.  During this time I watched the METAR at CMX slowly degrade to marginal VFR, which did not concern me in itself, but with lots of ice shown on the supplemental icing product at NWS, a very helpful tool for winter IFR flight planning that shows the chance of ice at various altitudes.  

The plane finally departed, almost 3 hours behind schedule on a 52 minute trip.  The sky was clear until about 30 miles from CMX, and I watched as we descended through clouds, mist and snow.  I popped my head in the cockpit before going down the air stairs and the crew said they picked up a "decent" ice load on the windshield on the approach, from the tops at 6000 down to the ground. Which brings me to a major complaint I had that night- a quick google search showed a CRJ200 burns about 3000 pounds per hour in cruise, that extra 800lb of fuel could have been turned into exhaust gas with only about 15 minutes of flying at cruise, probably about half that if doing a low-altitude lap around ORD before climbing out…  The airline would rather make 50 people wait 3 hours instead of burn off a few hundred dollars of fuel.  For everyone on board, this was not a major problem since they would just go home when they arrived.  But not me, my weather window was closed because of this decision, and I had no idea when the next one would open.   Looks like I would not be departing that night after all. Now I was stuck in Houghton with nowhere to go at 3AM.  I explained my frustration with this delay to the SkyWest gate agents in Houghton but they didn’t seem to care about the delay because the flight did actually arrive.

Snow plowed into small mountains in the parking lot at CMX

So I slept on a couch in the pilot’s lounge, wondering if I would be able to get home some time that week… 

The couch in the pilot's lounge- not as comfortable as it looks and possibly my home until further notice?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

SMAC062 – Broken Throttles, The AirCam, & Our Aviation Holiday Wish List

Episode 62 returns with your favorite group of aviation misfits - Carl, Victoria, Rick, Sean, and Len and holiday season is in full effect!

In this episode we share and discuss some listener mail from Ron,  who, tells us about an emergency landing he made due to a broken throttle cable. Then the SMAC gang reveals their holiday aviation wish list. If you’re feeling generous, we’re sure we can find some hangar space to store those gifts you send us *wink wink*.

Monday, December 16, 2013

We took the bus instead of the plane...

My Christmas gift from my darling husband was to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree in New York City, it's been a dream of mine to see it in person. Just the tree and I'm satisfied. Well, we ended up doing much more and I got a few more gifts in the process.Unfortunately the plane is still stranded in Upper Michigan awaiting its rescue soon. I will be unable to depart on that adventure due to responsibilities back at home, but I'll have Bob report in on that.

Even if we did have the plane, the decision to take a bus to NYC would have proven better. While flying GA is usually the most cost effective for weekend travels, to a city such as NYC it is not. We were considering flying into KEWR (Newark Liberty International) and take a half an hour train ride to NYC from there. Landing fees near large cities can be immense, and EWR included an increased landing fee during peak hours, on top of FBO fees. As it turns out, as the song goes, the weather outside was frightful. Low, grey clouds and snow (which turned out to be beautiful by the tree).

We decided on taking the Megabus, which departs from a carpool lot in Baltimore. Fares start at only $1 and we got our round trip tickets in late at just $35 each. While it would be a three hour trip from Baltimore, it saved much money for little extra time. Tying down the aircraft, putting on the cover, registering at the FBO and then taking the train into the city would have taken some time. That saved money went towards some fun shopping at Macy's and a new Swarovski necklace from Bob at Rockefeller center.

The moral of the story? Sometimes choosing another method of transportation can be quicker, more cost effective and safe. Plus, we got to nap! But I still miss the plane...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

WOAW is Ready for Takeoff

Women Of Aviation Week has been making the dreams of girls and women around the globe come true for over four years. Much like the Olympics, a week with such an impact deserves an appropriate opening ceremony. 

Nadia Marcinko - Gulfstream Girl
The inaugural WOAW Opening Ceremony will ignite the spark to awaken aeronautic vocations among girls and women in the local region and those watching the livestream online as we introduce them to our special guest women of aviation. Come and make history as you mingle with our special guests and enjoy unique aviation activities.

Jacquie Warda
With a resume that includes Chanel and Christian Dior, model Nadia Marcinko has moved up to much longer runways. Now widely known as “Gulfstream Girl”, Nadia is now a commercial pilot and flight instructor. Always the passionate entrepreneur, she is also the CEO of AviLoop an online business connecting pilots to aviation deals. Whatever the runway, Nadia is a role model to girls and women around the globe and is excited to act as host of the opening ceremony.
Jana McWhorter

A career change at age 50 launched Jacquie Warda into the world of aerobatics. Exclaiming that “the sky never runs out up!” Jacquie flies her Extra 300 in Reno air races and aerobatic competitions. Always full of adventure, she’s tumbling in planes or tumbling out of them while skydiving, or riding her Harley and learning new languages, Jacquie is proof that it’s never too late (or early) to start something new. It’s this contagious drive that brings Jacquie to the Women Of Aviation Week opening ceremony.

While our other special guests are flying planes, Jana McWhorter prefers to be walking on their wings. Always the daredevil, Jana earned nickels from boys in her neighborhood by accepting dares. Now accepting the awe and applause from crowds, Jana performs regularly for the Flying Circus. As she dazzles those crowds, Jana will dazzle future wingwalkers around the world.
Aude Lemordant

Closing off the list of inspirational women, travelling all the way from France to inspire at the opening ceremony is Aude Lemordant. Doing aerobatics as both a hobby and a career, in 2011 Aude was the French Female champion and 2nd place worldwide champion of the Aerobatic Freestyle Challenge. In 2013, Aude became was named the World Aerobatic Champion. When not flying, Aude can be found exploring Paris or kite-surfing. Proving that aerobatics is not just for the boys, Aude is the perfect guest to interact with the future of aviation.

Besides meeting prominent women of aviation, the Opening Ceremony offers participants exciting learning activities. Participants will learn how air traffic control keeps tracks of all the aircraft in the air and on the ground in a miniature airport activity. Participants are invited to try on jackets and goggles to see what they would look like if they were to become a fighter pilot. Other museum activities include hands on displays and simulators to learn all about the science behind flight. The College Park Aviation Museum is a 27,000 square foot facility that resides next to the oldest continuously operating airport in the country. Rich in history, the museum is home to many firsts, to include the first military aviation training center, the first US Air Mail service and the first women passenger. The museum exhibits, wall to wall windows with a view of the runway and history leads participants to the ultimate venue for the Women Of Aviation Week Opening Ceremony.

On Monday, March 3rd, come out to the College Park Aviation Museum or direct your browser to our live internet stream. The Women Of Aviation Week Opening Ceremony will inspire you to push your limits, to dream big, and to know what it’s like to be a woman of aviation.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Airplane Backseat just for Flying Fidos!

Turbo the Flying Dog has grown some since he was the four pound puppy we rescued out in West Virginia. While he used to fit on my lap and I could fly comfortable he has more than doubled to the long legged lanky medium sized dog he is today. I found that laying straight, he took up my whole leg, but just a bit too close to the stick. If he lay closer to my stomach, he'd have to hold a perfect curled position around the stick. While usually still, I did not want to risk something to happen because he moved during an important stage of flight. Also, it got quite uncomfortable attempting to fly around a pooch.

I had an idea in my head to make a "shelf" or "hammock" for Turbo to lay in, but also be above all of our luggage. I thought PVC pipe could work. I had the vision, but it was up to Bob to make it happen-and he did! 

The PVC pipe has two connected L shape bases with removable pipes where the hammock slid on. The bases were all glued together, but the pipes connecting them were to be removable so the doggie seat could be taken in and out of the aircraft easily. The hammock is some rockin' tie dyed skull fabric with sleeves to be easily taken on and off the PVC pipes. For our airplane, the doggie hammock base must be put in the aircraft first, followed by the luggage, then the pipes. Next, the pipes must be connected and insert dog and you're on your way!

I was so impressed how it worked! I was worried about the pipes sliding out, but the pressure from the sides of the airplane kept it together in one piece. My second worry was whether Turbo would enjoy staying in there or not, but that worry was unwarranted, as he loved it! Turbo had his own area all to himself to spread out and was level with us. When we first departed, he kept his head up and looked out the window. I can't help but wonder what was going on in his little puppy mind in regards to what he was seeing.

True to his usual form, Turbo soon nodded off. It was a cold and chilly flight, especially towards the back of the plane, so he got to bundle up in Bob's jacket. The doggie hammock has been used for two, two and a half hour flights to a great success. Sometimes it hovers just above the luggage and others he rests a bit on top of it. Regardless, we have a happy flying puppy in the back and a happy flying couple (with room to move!) up front.

Monday, December 9, 2013

First-to-Solo Challenge Grand Prize: $1,500 USD in Training

First-to-Solo Challenge Grand Prize: $1,500 USD in Training

December 3, 2013 in Headlines by Mireille - Intl Team Leader

The Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide (iWOAW) is delighted to announce that one of its founding members, Sennheiser, will award $1,500 USD for flight training to the winner of the 2014 Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week’s First-to-Solo Challenge.

2013 First-to-Solo winner (left to right) Lindsay, and her instructor, Sandra
2013 First-to-Solo winner Lindsay (left) and her instructor, Sandra

Any girl or woman, anywhere around the world, who goes on a discovery flight during the 2014 Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week, March 3-9 2014, may be eligible to win the prize.
To qualify for the prize, girls and women must go on either a commercial or free discovery flight from March 3 to March 9, 2014 included; the pilot must file a proper flight report; and the prize applicant must declare her intention to learn to fly before starting flight lessons.

The first eligible applicant to conduct and document her solo flight after discovering flying during the 2014 Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week will win a $1,500 USD credit on her account at the flight school of her choice to assist her with her next step in her aviation education.

Although attracted to the idea of flight, 2013 First-to-Solo Challenge winner, Lindsay Kitson of Winnipeg, Manitoba, thought that becoming a pilot was “something that people more awesome than herself got to do”.

She learned otherwise by attending the Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week event at the local St Andrews Airport. Two months later, she was soloing. Now a Private pilot, she is taking flight lessons to obtain a Commercial pilot license.

More than half of the girls and women who attend Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week events across the world annually are inspired to become a pilot. The First-to-Solo Challenge aims to turn that enthusiasm into action.

Founding Member

Sennheiser is offering this prize in partnership with the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide as part of its Live Your Dream program. The program is a key implementation of Sennheiser’s stewardship towards its constituency. Through industry collaboration, it aims to provide the extra support to assist aviation enthusiasts like Lindsay Kitson to materialize their dream of flight.
Flight schools and flying clubs interested in promoting discovery flights to qualify their aspiring female pilots for the prize are encourage to download our ad templates.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

99's Grow During WOAW Week

99 News – November/December – 2013
Sugarloaf Chapter

The most effective way to do it, is to do it. — Amelia Earhart 

Amelia Earhart caught our imagina tion and helped spark our ambition and daring as we took the path to becoming pilots and future members of the organization she started. Although she will forever be an inspiring woman written about in history, what future women pilots need most is a female role model with whom they can interact today. They need a Ninety-Nine. 

The annual Women of Aviation World - wide Week (WOAW Week), March 3-9 in 2014, is the perfect opportunity to reach out to women in the shadows, those who are not quite sure if aviation is for them or who don’t know how to get started. WOAW Week events taking place during just one week have welcomed over 40,000 girls and women into aviation facili ties around the world over the years. Many individual Ninety-Nines and Chapters re sponded to the challenge and contributed significantly to make this female aviation outreach initiative the largest ever created. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Ninety-Nine, it’s that we are driven to share our passion; nothing excites us more than to share our advice and wisdom with others to spark their interest in aviation. In fact, I know that their many tireless efforts played a vital role in the success of Frederick, Maryland, events since 2010. The Frederick Municipal Airport has seen over 750 girls and women take their first flight during WOAW Week, and I was in awe of how a small Chapter can make an impact on so many people. 

A popular question from participants following WOAW Week is, “This was amazing; I want to learn to fly! How can I continue to get support from here?” When - ever The Ninety-Nines are involved in an event, the answer is personal and simple: “Come and join us. We are here to support you.” 

The organization behind Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week, the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide (iWOAW), encourages and supports everyone who wants to make a difference and grow the female pilot population. No membership or fee is required to participate, but there are many prizes for all participants to win. In addition, after you re - quest your organizer kit, a dedicated group of volunteer team leaders (including me) is ready to assist you if you are planning an event. And while events are fun, they’re not the only way to participate — everyone is invited to take a girl or a woman on their first flight to celebrate. 

All that is needed is a decision. “ yes, I want to make a difference!” Then, visit the website and click on “Participate” to view the many ways you and/or your Chapter can get involved. y our participation will help you to not only grow your Ninety-Nines Chapter but for you to grow as a mentor, as a pilot, as a woman. Visit WomenOfAviationWeek.org to get started!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

SMAC061 – Drones & Unmanned Aerial Systems With Airplane Geek Max Flight

Episode 61 is live and in living color with your favorite group of aviation  drones - Carl, Victoria, Rick, Sean, and Len. We've got a special guest  on the show today who's going to talk about drones and unmanned aerial  systems. From the in's and out's of regulatory concerns to privacy and  security, we learn nearly everything there is to know about this  often-controversial topic of unmanned aerial vehicles navigating our nations airspace. This show is full of really great information and takeaways.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Time to Spare? Go by Air! -The Conclusion

Part 1 - Delayed to lower MI
Part 2 - Delayed to upper MI
Part 3 - Stuck in upper MI

Part 4 - How she returned home!

In my previous post, I watched my husband fly away as the not-so-flying puppy and I returned to visit with my grandmother another night. It sucked that I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, but I was so blessed to have an extra day with my 85 year young grandmother. We went back home and while she took her daily nap I walked the dogs on the beach once again and we enjoyed a lovely dinner and reading together in the evening.

I talked with Bob that night, waiting to hear the weather as Grandma has no internet or cell service where she's at. It was relaxing at times, but when "everything is up in the air" it tends to bring some anxiety. And anxiety is what I got with the weather report. I would not be flying anywhere the next day, let alone anytime that week. I had to get at least partway home. Turbo and I had a nine hour drive ahead of us. 

I forgot how beautiful the drive through upper Michigan was and it went by surprisingly fast. We made several stops so Turbo could spread his legs, including by Mackinac Bridge View Park, where I just couldn't pass up a photo opp. I returned to my parents home in lower MI and worked remotely from there for the next two days and visited with friends. 

I was in luck that my friend Matt who also has a Glasair had Tuesday and Wednesday off and was always looking for an excuse to fly. Unfortunately, weather did not permit that on Tuesday, but Wednesday afternoon Matt flew up to PTK to "rescue" Turbo and I. It confused the linemen at the FBO, same girl, kind of the same plane, but that's not the same guy.... I got a kick out of it.

The flight home was just over two hours with an instrument departure and arrival. We flew at 11,000 feet between overcast layers and the sunset was lovely. Turbo slept, Matt ate this $9 Subway foot long sub I got him, I flew. Fun stuff. 

I made it home, and returned to life with hubby. But our beloved plane is up in the cold awaiting our return! Many our jealous of our lifestyle, with a new city every weekend, but sometimes you just end up stranded when airliners may not! While the past series of events were extremely inconvenient, we made safe decisions that resulted in us still being together, and alive. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Time to Spare? Go by Air! -Part 3

In part 1 of my crazy Thanksgiving week, I discussed how we were delayed getting to lower Michigan due to weather. In part 2, our trip to upper Michigan was delayed due to cold starts and dropping landing gear. In part 3, the weather strikes again!

We were enjoying a "heat wave" in upper Michigan. That heat wave being 28 degrees! We enjoyed some fun walks on the icy Lake Superior beach, bringing Grandma out to nice meals and to a craft show and church, and quiet nights by the fire. Due to icing conditions, the warm spell had us wishing for either much colder, or much warmer weather.

Cloud bases were just above 3,000 feet and looked to be mostly overcast. We departed VFR out of CMX and hoped to find a hole to climb through and get above the chilly soup. About 20nm from CMX there was still no hole to be found and the cloud bases were driving us to a lower altitude. Soon, we were closed in by the descending cloud layer and mist started to freeze on the windshield. Pilot reports suggested that the cloud tops were 3,000 feet above us. That meant 3,000 feet of ice to fly through. We quickly turned around to land back at our departure airport.

We were both upset, and due to Bob's unique career, he had to get home that day. At times he regretted not trying to fly up through the clouds, but in the end we both agreed we made the right decision. That's 3,000 feet of ice to climb through and we'd gather just as much changing our mind and descending back through it as we did climbing into it.

Two airlines fly out a day at CMX and the last one was leaving in an hour and a half. Bob booked the last seat to DC and soon was giving Turbo and I hugs goodbye. We watched him board the plane and went back to Grandma's to await his return in a day or two to fly the Glasair back with us (yeah, I can't reach the rudder pedals-kind of important!).

But a snowstorm was quickly approaching...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Time to Spare? Go by Air! -Part 2

As mentioned in Part 1 of my post, 'tis the season to be jolly, and weary of winter weather! Our flight following Thanksgiving from lower Michigan to Houghton, MI in the Keweenaw Peninsula (KCMX) had us weary towards the end due to weather, but it was the issues in the beginning that had us the most aggravated!

A timely arrival to the airport did not make for a timely departure towards CMX. The weather was unbearably cold, below freezing (so much that I wore fleece lined leggings under my jeans for the flight) and our poor plane just would not start. We had asked for a pre-heat, but the one at the FBO we parked at was unavailable. To our great dismay (I still cannot believe this!) not a single working propane pre-heater was available at any other FBO on the field! We were forced to put the plane in a hangar and wait.

But wait! I had a hairdryer with me! Bob soon created a great impromptu space heater. A half hour later (and my hairdryer that now smells like oil!) we were on our way.

After departure, Bob made a comment on how the plane was climbing slower due to full fuel and full luggage. But something still was off, it was climbing a bit too slow for that. It turns out that the gear didn't retract fully. We recycled it, no luck. We landed at Flint just ahead of us and checked it out. Some slush was cleared but nothing obvious. We departed, buzzed the tower who said all looked fine, and were on our way.

As we approached the most northern part of lower MI, the plane found a sudden air-brake. The gear had dropped again. Something was fishy. Luckily, Cadillac airport was just to our west and had a freshly plowed runway. We came in to land and to check out what was going on. It had turned out that when unpacking in lower Michigan, a valve was moved that was used for emergency gear extension, causing us to lose hydraulic pressure and for the gear to drop. So, after two landings, we were finally fixed up and continued on our way.

Our route took us over Lake Michigan where it looked cold and windy below us. We passed several islands with snow covered cliffs that were absolutely picturesque. We'd be sharing a hangar with a TBM, and we heard him on the radio on our way. We thought he'd be way ahead of us due to our stops, but he had encountered 120 knot headwinds and had to stop for fuel! He landed about 10 minutes prior to us at CMX. He did an instrument approach, and we decided to just fly under the clouds since visibility was fine. Although we were under the glideslope for a bit, we made it in with no further problems...until it was time to leave again...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Time to Spare? Go by Air! -Part 1

The holidays always create a sense of urgency and a time of rushing from place to place. General aviation makes that rush a bit easier, helping families cross great distances in a speedier time. GA airplanes have made travelling from Maryland to Pennsylvania or Michigan to visiting family around the holidays a breeze...IF everything cooperates.

The original plan was to fly up the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to visit my side of the family. We wanted to be able to rest and spend some time with them before the Thanksgiving-cooking-craze took over the new kitchen. Unfortunately, the weather's wants did not align with ours and the state of Maryland continued to be bombarded by rain and sleet as it had for the past unseasonably chilly week. I quickly noticed we were reaching the winter season where the freezing levels become very important and clouds can be quite dangerous to a plane without any anti-ice systems. We left Thursday morning instead.

The flight up to MI was relaxing and fun to see the gradual change from snow-less Maryland, to a dusting in PA and southern OH to several inches of snow later on.  It was super chilly, so we wore our hats over and under our headsets (my new Halo allowed both ways which is awesome) and Turbo sat in the back in his new seat bundled under Bob's Carhart (more on his new seat in another blog!). Weather looked questionable at our point of landing (KPTK) so we stopped in Youngstown,
OH to take a potty break and check the weather on NOAA. Winner Aviation is the local FBO and I got red carpet service...literally! They put a red carpet down on my side of the aircraft as I got out, they even helped Turbo off the wing. Bob got nothin'. The weather at PTK looked grey, but OK so we continued on after a short break and landed under an hour later.

Even with being a day late, we were able to enjoy almost a full day full of family, friends and good Thanksgiving eats. Friday would be another adventure...and another blog post!