Friday, June 28, 2013

2013 Half-Way Point: How Go the Goals?

At the start of 2013, I sent out a few goals.  The half-way point of the years seems like a good time to review how things are going. 

    As of this writing, I have72.9 hours of piloting time (1.5 was in a simulator).  Jeez!  No wonder I don't have time to write. 

    • Fly at least 15 hours at night
    I've actually flown 4.6 hours at night.  Guess I have to be behind somewhere!  
    • Fly at least 70 cross-country hours
    I've logged 43 hours of cross-country time.  I've even managed to see a few new airports - Champaign, IL (KCMI); Boscobel, WI (KOVS); Dubuque, IA (KDBQ), Wood County, OH (1G0), Findlay, OH (KFDY), DuBois, PA (KDUJ), and Lebanon - Warren County, OH (I68) to name the most memorable.  
    • Complete my instrument rating.  
    Mrs. Dr. Flying Shrink is so ready for this to be done, and I am too.  As of this writing, I have completed 61 approaches and have a total of 41.8 hours of instrument time (10.5 actual; 1.5 of the remaining time came in a simulator... you know, it turns out the simulator is pretty darn hard to fly after all).  Things are clicking now, and it's just a matter of doing a bit more tightening.  I've been really working on altitude hold since that is one of things that would result in the pink slip.  My last few flights have been pretty tight.  The written exam is also checked off (93%, which is pretty good but still offends my perfectionistic sensibilities). I can see this being done in the next few weeks.     
    • Complete Complex Endorsement and required transition training in our club's Arrow.

     A few additional milestones. 

    On Saturday 6/22, I crossed 200 hours total piloting time.  As of today, I have 203.9 hours.  Nice. 

    First Flight: Flying Shrink's Mama

    At the end of last month, my mother decided to pay a visit to the grandchildren as a change of scenery,  On May 31, I took her on a short flight along the Chicago shoreline.  I expected it to be a somewhat bumpy day given the weather - gusty winds and somewhat low ceilings (although just fine given all the higher we could get to avoid KORD's Bravo airspace) for example.  My mother likes roller coasters, but I was not sure how she'd feel about the flight.  "If you say it's safe, then it's up to you."  She knew what she was getting into. 

    She watched as I carefully pre-flighted our G1000-equipped Skyhawk, and she had a few questions as we light the fires and taxied out to Runway 23 at KUGN.  She also took my request that she tell me know about traffic just a bit too seriously.  Soon we were off and climbing out to our final altitude of 2500 MSL. 

    It was fun to point out so many of the sights - Baha'i temple, Northwestern University, the mall near my home, the high school my kids will attend, the Hancock Building, Sears Tower, Navy Pier, University of Chicago, and of course the area once called Meigs field.  Unfortunately, the filthy windscreen made for lousy pictures. 

    We landed at Gary KGYY, and I shut down long enough to clean the windshield for our return flight.  We were off once again and looked at our sights again (along with some different ones).  As we entered the downwind for 23, I was looking for the Diamond in which I had done a lot of my training.  The winds were quite squirrley, so I was thinking that the instructor on board that plane was about to have some fun.  Not a bad landing overall. 

    So, mom enjoyed her first flight in a small plane and is looking forward to her next adventure. 

    Sunday, June 9, 2013

    First Trip with the Family

    Over Memorial Day Weekend, my family packed up the club's 172SP and headed for a little getaway to the Cincinnati area.  Mrs. Dr. Flying Shrink and I earned our doctoral degrees from the University of Cincinnati, and during our time there we made a number of friends that we have not seen in quite some time.  It was time to show why we fly... it's more than just buzzing around and eating pancakes (though that is fun, too).

    The first interesting change was my need to dictate strict requirements on what could be taken into the plane.  Usually it seems that we are packing for a mid-sized platoon, but this time we had to keep it reasonable.  There is only so much physical space back there, and then of course we had weight and balance issues.

    Speaking of weight and balance; I figured this based on the Skyhawk fueled to "tabs."  We were well under max gross and were good to go with a more aft than usual C.G., but comfortably within the envelope.  Despite the club rules about filling to tabs unless the next pilot specifically requests otherwise, someone filled the darn thing completely.  This put us about 10 pounds overweight, but by the time the long taxi and run-up were completed we should be fine.

    Trimmed for "take off," I start the roll... and the plane lifts off at about 45 knots.  Ummm... that's not supposed to happen.  There are certain words and phrases that are unwelcome when flying with one's family, but one of those slipped out.  Nose down elevator, fix the trim, accelerate in ground effect and then away we go.  3SP was now behaving herself, thank goodness.

    "Are we there yet?"  "How much longer?"  Yeah, I heard these two questions repeatedly from about 15 minutes from take off until 10 minutes before touchdown.  But, the flight down was absolutely beautiful in nice, smooth air until about 15 miles from Warren County Airport (I68).  Just got a bit bumpy as we made our descent.  We had some interesting winds - gusty and shifting direction, but my touchdown was smooth and on center line.

    We got tied down and I asked for fuel to those tabs.... sigh.  More on that in a minute.  Our time in Cincinnati was nice - visiting some old haunts and enjoying old friends.  Of course, we had to have Graeter's Ice Cream.  If you've not had it, you need to get to that area and get some.  We are able to get it in pints here in the Chicago area, but it's not the same as being dipped out at the store.

    Saturday had me periodically checking the weather because some nasty convective activity was forecast for our scheduled return time.  By 9 pm, I announced that we were leaving by 9 am so that we could make it home.  When the alarm went off, Ms. Shrink asked if we had to leave so early.  "Honey, we have two choices.  We can leave early, or we might not get home today.  Looking at Monday and Tuesday, we might not get back then either."  Since my mother was coming in for a visit with the grandchildren the following day, sitting in Cincinnati until Wednesday just did not see prudent. In fairness, this was merely token resistance.  Ms. Shrink has come to understand and appreciate PIC authority and responsibility. 

    Pre-flight.  Everything looks fine, except... full fuel.  I am 97% sure I asked for the tabs but it didn't really matter now.  I set the trim much more nose down for the takeoff roll, and the plane still popped up early.  But, at least it was rotate speed this time.  A little nose-down elevator until Vx and then away we went.

    Are we there yet?  No.

    I was watching as nasty things seem to be brewing to the west and somewhat south of our position.  Although I was talking to ATC, I also continually checked the weather observations (on the radios the old fashioned way) to make sure that the observations matched what I was seeing in my direction of flight.  As I dialed up Kankakee (KIKK; about 35 miles from my destination), I heard a few terms that I did not like - lightening strikes southeast of the field.  As I checked to Flight Watch for a more formal update, someone else was getting the same information and going to the same destination - and things looked good.

    Landed without incident or problematic weather.  Within several hours, the picture changed substantially.  Leaving early was a good call.

    Seems the family is starting to see the benefits of being able to fly places, which is great.  My children complain much more in the plane because there is far less entertainment available (e.g., DVD player not on board).