Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Sad Trip... and an IFR training update.

A Sad Flight...

As some of you may know, I have been itching to fly to DuBois-Jefferson County (KDUJ) because it was built on my paternal grandmother's parents' farm.  April 27 provided me the opportunity, but unfortunately flying was the only saving grace of the trip.  My maternal grandmother died a few days before, and it was her funeral that prompted the trip.

Initially, I had planned to depart on Sunday April 28.  However, the forecast weather between Chicago and there was forecast to be MVFR to IFR pretty much the entire day.  After scurrying about, securing an aircraft, and reworking my flight planning, I was airborne and hugging the Chicago shoreline by 1745z a day early.  Once clear of Chicago's Bravo airspace - a place into which few VFR aircraft are permitted to tread - I climbed to 7500 MSL and settled in for the next few hours in the Skyhawk.  Only the foolish do not talk to Chicago departure on this route as it is very near Midway's (KMDW) approach/departure path.  My flight was uneventful to Wood County (1G0), although that pattern was very busy with Bowling Green flight students and favoring the shorter runway 18.  Sweet landing with a flair over the numbers.  The young gentleman who worked my plane was very helpful, and I can't say enough positive about this airport.

After addressing all the issues that necessitate a stop along with a few text messages to family updating my projected arrival time, I was back aloft and smoothly cruising about at 7500.  Hearing "cleared through the bravo airspace" is such a strange phrase to me since it never happens in Chicago, but was welcome since it meant no deviations around Cleveland.  I crossed just about 5 miles south of Hopkins (KCLE), which was interesting.

Approaching KDUJ, I began listening to the weather only to be reminded why I hate airports with only one slab of concrete or well-tended turf.  The winds were shifting between 80-degrees off favoring runway 7 and 80-degrees off favoring 25, and were 12 gusting 17.  Great.  If landing half-way down the runway is good, then I did great.  Not my finest hour and was seconds from the go-around when the mains touched down with plenty of room to slow (along with the wicked upslope on the departure end).  Got myself out of the way with just a few minutes to spare for a United commuter to come in.

Coming back to Chicago on Tuesday turned out to take a lot longer than I hoped for.  I sat under marginal VFR weather most of the day.  I had made provisions for leaving a day later if that was required, though my family was certainly ready for me to be home.  At 3 pm ET, the weather seemed ok and my mother took me to the airport post haste.  I saddled up and was airborne by 4:15.  I had to plan a bit south because there was some nasty, stormy, convective crapola over Detroit, and I was not interested in flying through it.  I also took quite a while to get to 4500 because of the clouds.  I actually tried to climb over them because they were scattered and I could see the clearing, but at 6500 I still was not quite high enough.  Back down...  About 1:45 to Findley (KFDY), where I touched down beautifully at about 6:15.

Findley was deserted.  Not a soul in sight.  Valuable lesson - if you're going to select a stop, make sure that there are either self-serve pumps or someone there to fill your tanks.  Since I was totally full upon leaving KDUJ, I knew that I would make it home with about 90 minutes of fuel to spare.  Legs stretched and bladder emptied, I was again en-route to KPWK.  As I turned toward the west in my climb, I was totally blinded by the sun.  Not to panic... got enough instrument training to work though this temporary problem.  Then, I noticed something... my rate-of-turn coordinator was inoperative.  I can't say when that happened, but I can sheepishly admit I did not pre-flight it either coming or going. Bad instrument student and I'll never do that again.  Fortunately, I have done some partial-panel work and knew about how much bank I needed to complete a standard rate turn.

As I approached the Chicago shoreline, I expected South Bend to hand me off to Chicago approach for the last few minutes of my flight.  Another quirk of Chicago is that they do not like to accept VFR flight-following hand-offs, and I was reminded of that with the ever-popular "squawk VFR" instruction.  However, calling up approach quickly reestablished flight following.

Approaching Chicago Executive was "entertaining."  It was unexpectedly busy for 7:30 in the evening, and the winds were "delightful."  Although I touched down a bit harder despite than I would have liked, the gusty, squirrely cross-winds made this a few notches above acceptable

This qualifies as my longest cross-country to date: 411 nm PWK-10G-DUJ

4-27  C-172SP N378MA  KPWK - 1G0-KDUJ  4.5 hours
4-30  C-172SP N378MA  KDUJ - KFDY - KPWK  4.1 hours

IFR Training Update

I have also been trying to get solid IFR training and other hood time ever since the weather became "good enough," with my most recent flight being this morning.  A few thoughts on this:

  • I have 17.5 hours simulated and 1.5 hours actual instrument time
  • 17 instrument approaches
  • I am told we have covered everything in the syllabus except DME archs - Flight planning, holds, approaches, flying with and without the autopilot, precision and non-precision approaches, radio work, partial panel and other things to be sure. 
  • I have been oscillating between our club's Archer and Arrow, though I am hoping to just fly the Arrow from now until the check ride.  This has made some things rather interesting - like I have a heck of a time holding proper altitude in the Arrow.  These two planes are somewhat similar, but switching out the the Arrow after it's trips to the Bahamas, the avionics shop for a sexy Aspen, and an annual has been an adjustment.  Since this is a complex plane, it requires some additional thinking that I'm not used to.  
  • Critique of today: not bad.  We had some bumpy, gusty nonsense but I flew three approaches and two different holds relatively well.  My last approach (ILS 2L at KDPA) was quite nice overall, although when my instructor removed my foggles to announce I had in fact found the runway, I lost the glideslope as a transitioned to visual.  I am told this problem is common.  I was pleased that I was doing a lot more multitasking (e.g., pretty good hand-flying and briefing approaches) and just need to keep working to sharpen, tighten, build fluidity, and drum the 5 T's into my head.  Staying above the MDA would also be a good idea...
  • King ground school complete and I'm studying for the written.  I'm a recovering graduate student, and perfectionism is an important personality trait when pursuing a doctorate. 


  1. Well, congratulations on your longest x-country flight to date, even if the circumstances were sad ones. If you ever return to DUJ, let me know - I'd be happy to meet up.

    It sounds like your instrument training is at about the same place mine is, though I have a few hours on you. I am finding it very challenging to coordinate my busy schedule with another pilot's busy schedule so that I can get safety pilot time. Good luck and keep at it!

    I laughed out loud at your last comment on perfectionism. I am right there with you, so I was kind of annoyed with my score of 92. But, hey, box checked, move along... :-)

    1. Thanks, Chris - it did provide a good excuse and motivation to finish that IR. Perfectionism - ha... I thought of you as I wrote it, knowing that you too would likely understand.

      Next time I am at DUJ, I'll let you know I'm coming in. I laughed at the TSA people there as I walked around the corner to the ramp.

  2. Sorry to hear about the circumstances, but good job on the flight. There's nothing like a long XC for lesson-learning. I think all my most "a-ha" and/or "d'oh!" moments have come on our long trips.

    Agree that 1G0 is a nice little place - I landed there on my long XC during PPL training back in '08.

    1. Hi, Steve - I agree with the a-ha and d'oh moments. Sigh... I always get them both.

      So, what can you tell me about KHAO and I68? We are going to be down there visiting friends over memorial day (we went to graduate school at UC) and I wonder what the airports are like.

      BTW - I love your videos. My wife asks how I can watch them, and I smile and say "it's an obsessed pilot thing..."

    2. Sorry for the delayed reply - been busy!

      Both airports are nice; I'm more familiar with I68, though I did finally land at HAO last year. HAO is bigger but I don't think that matters too much in what you'll be flying. It may be slightly-more-conveniently located to where you're going, too. I presume both have options when it comes to rental cars if you'll need one. Runway condition and all that kind of stuff is great at both. Not sure on fuel prices - I'm just a lowly renter.

      Send me an email (address on blog) if you have any specific questions and I'll respond much faster!

      Glad at least one person's crazy enough to watch all that I edit/post... ;-)