Capt Force Passes CAP Form 5 Ride and Thunderbird Groove Takes Shape!

This is a regular blog post. Looking for show notes or links to show audio? Please check out the other posts.

I took and passed the checkride to fly Civil Air Patrol aircraft yesterday. 1.4 hours in a C-172P with Michigan Wing check pilot Tim Kramer.

There’s a lot of prep that goes into this ride. It requires familiarity with CAPR 60-1, which is the CAP bible of flight operations. You have to take and pass an online exam on 60-1 and also prepare an aircraft questionnaire for the aircraft to be flown, in addition to all of the usual stuff that you might expect to have to pass for an FAA checkride. Here’s my flight bag on the way to Willow Run Airport (KYIP). Stuffed to overflowing with the paperwork, a POH for the aircraft, a FAR/AIM, my kneeboard, my headset, and, of course, the MP# recorder. I captured audio of the whole thing for use on a future episode.

I really enjoyed heading back to Willow Run. I trained a lot there, including launching my first solo from Runway 5L. It’s nice to be familiar with a place when you’re flying to standards and don’t otherwise know what to expect.

We launched northbound to stay away from the TFR for the University of Michigan game. Once at 5,5000 and in cruise configuration, Tim had me lower the hood and fly attitude at 55 KIAS while maintaining altitude and making turns to headings. A little difficulty with altitude and airspeed coordination, but I had never flown that aircraft before and I’m not sure that I’ve ever flown a 172P before (most of my 172 time is in 172Rs).

The unusual attitudes. Nailed the nose-high. Not so much the nose-low. I have a bad habit of looking at the attitude indicator instead of the airspeed indicator first. When I looked up the second time, the attitude indicator was covered and the airspeed indicator was well into the yellow. I made the mistake of pulling first instead of immediately reducing power. Teachable moment.

Some more maneuvering and then Tim failed my engine. I ran the memory items and started heading for a field. I had discussed my unfamiliarity with the Apollo GX55 GPS (I’m most familiar with the Bendix/King KLN94 and learning the Garmin 430) in the aircraft and had decided to fly the procedures as though I had no GPS. Tim gave me a quick lesson on how to work the NRST function and we glided over to Oakland Southwest (New Hudson) (Y47). Still plenty of altitude and I picked up a pretty worthwhile technique from Tim on setting up for a deadstick landing. Tim likes to fly a figure eight perpendicular to the runway with the center of the figure-eight just short of the numbers. That way, you’re never that far from the runway itself and you simply make the decision about whether to land as you come around each time. Some hard slipping, and we put her down on Runway 25.

A short field takeoff from New Hudson and then the usual battery of landings back at Willow Run. 1.4 hours and four takeoffs and landings.

The logbook page continues to grow. I’m happy about this entry because it gets a C-172 on the page (without which the page wouldn’t have any element of what I usually fly) and because it’s another demonstration of competence, particularly competence as measured by the standards of CAP, for which I have great respect. I get a certain respect at squadron meetings for being the asst. wing legal officer and for having flown the DC-3 and gotten the Thunderbirds ride, but it was very nice to have this opportunity to demonstrate that I’m more than just a stuffed shirt and can fly to standards.

At least the VFR standards. It was enough to fly an unfamiliar airplane for the first time and enough to fly a C-172 for the first time since February (not counting the time in the 172RG at Flight 101), so I’m only checked out for VFR. But that qualifies me to fly mission transport, so I’m actually somewhat useful. And I can go get Norm or someone else who’s also Form 5 current and go shoot approaches or fly cross-country for currency in CAP aircraft.

Next up will likely be the mighty G1000 C-182, which I’ll probably do both VFR and IFR. Ultimately, I’d like to be qualified VFR and IFR in both the 172 and 182 as the medium-term goal. Then maybe train for mission pilot.

In other news, I got an e-mail from ace New York City sound guy Scott Cannizzaro with a link to the initial mix of the Thunderbird Groove (the music bed for the Thunderbirds ride summary episode). I seem to remember in the liner notes to John Mayer’s Continuum album that John thanked an engineer, saying something to the effect of “and thanks to Bob, who knows how we really sound.” Scott is very much that guy for me. From a rather skinny basic collection of tracks, he has augmented them beautifully with keyboards, lead guitar, and other very cool stuff. He’s not done yet, but what I’m hearing so far is really great. I’m going to have to work really hard on the script for the episode if it’s going to be worthy of the music.

Working title for the episode: Sometimes Alternates Fly. It’s still gestating, but parts will probably become fixed in a tangible medium before the holiday weekend is out. Really excited about how it’s coming together.

Flight in the EAA Ford TriMotor – Audio Episode

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. It’s all free!

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen online right here by clicking:

I was all excited about Red Bull weekend here in southeast Michigan for a number of reasons, not the least of which was – well – Red Bull. But the EAA’s Ford TriMotor was also going to be at Detroit City Airport (KDET). I asked around and found that the only way to record intercom audio was to be in the right seat. That’s fine with me, because the right seat is only $100, as opposed to the EAA member rate of $40 for a ride in the back.

And being in the right seat might mean an opportunity to touch the controls. And log it!

Then, if what I’ve heard is true, management at Detroit City got completely squirrely and refused to accommodate the TriMotor. I’m by no means wired into the politics of the situation, but everything I’ve heard suggests that there was plenty of ramp area, sufficient facilities for loading and unloading, and everything else, but management flatly refused to accommodate the TriMotor. Who in Detroit refuses to accommodate the iconic Ford TriMotor. Ford! Detroit! Hey, I’ll put a retraction in the blog if it turns out that I’m wrong about the facts, but that qualifies in my book as a disgrace!

Can you tell that I was bummed? Anyway, the EAA refunded my $100 and I didn’t think about if for a few months.

Then I heard on the radio and read on the EAA website that the TriMotor was going to be at Jack Barstow Airport in Midland, about a 90-mile drive from my house. The wheels started turning and I ended up standing on the ramp at Midland with a right-seat ticket in my hand on a gorgeous August afternoon.

The Ford TriMotor (or “Tin Goose” if you like) debuted in 1926 and 199 were produced between then and 1933. It’s a boxy-looking high-wing taildragger that’s about 50 feet long, 77 feet wingtip to wingtip, carries up to eight passengers, weights about 7,800 pounds empty, and has a max gross of around 13,500.

It’ll do 150 mph max, it cruises at about 90 mph, and stalls at about 64 mph.

The EAA’s TriMotor, NC8407, a model 4-AT-E, rolled off the line in 1929 – the 146th TriMotor. It spent its early live in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It returned to the US in 1949, where it barnstormed for awhile before being converted to service as a crop duster in 1950. It has three Pratt and Whitney engines that replaced the original Wright Cyclones during the refit. It later gave service as a water bomber and smoke jumper in Idaho. After again flying enthusiasts from 1964 to 1973, the aircraft was severely damaged by high winds at the EAA fly-in. The EAA purchased the wreckage and, after a 12-year restoration, returned it to service flying enthusiasts like me on flights much like the one that’s featured in today’s episode.

The EAA volunteers were hot-loading it with passengers when I arrived a couple of flights early. I stood on the ramp and watched the aircraft taxi in and out and take off and land while taking pictures for the blog.

After a briefing about the history of the aircraft in the briefing area, we trooped out the plane. I was first in and immediately headed for the cockpit to hook up the audio recorder.

The pilot is Cody Welch. Cody runs Cody F. Welch & Associates and has spent 37 years providing aircraft sales and acquisition services to the general aviation and corporate owners market in Michigan. He lives at the Linden Price Airport and is co-developing Horizon Lakes Airpark as a live-with-your-airplane community. He’s also founder and president of Wings of Mercy East Michigan. He has lots of time in the TriMotor, as you’ll hear in the cockpit audio.

Shortly after I was situated and they settled in in back, we taxied out and prepared for takeoff. The TriMotor gets the ail off the ground within about 200 feet and it’s airborne in about 500 feet. We have a brief discussion about where he does or doesn’t want my feet, and then we’re on our way. It’s really noisy in the cockpit, so there isn’t a lot of discussion during the actual takeoff.

[TM 01]

I note that the TriMotor has three throttles right next to each other. All of the props are fixed-pitch, so operation is pretty standard. Cody sets the altimeter to zero on the ground and we shoot for a cruise altitude of 1,000 feet above that.

[TM 02]

Now the ride would be cool enough if all I got to do was sit there in the right seat. I had heard that the pilot sometimes gave the right-seater the controls on downwind and I was actually looking for any opportunity to touch the control wheel or otherwise do something loggable. I got my wish and then some at Cody gave me a couple of words of advice and then handed me the controls. How cool is that?

[TM 03]

It was a gorgeous day. Blue skies with just a few scattered clouds well above 10,000 feet. There was a little convection, but not an unmanageable amount.

Cody went around on the first landing that I saw when I arrived at the field. It turns out that I witnessed a fairly rare event.

[TM 05]

We headed north for awhile and then bent back toward the airport. Cody has me set it up for a downwind.

[TM 06]

Cody takes the plane just before we make the downwind turn. I ask if I can make the calls the rest of the way in so I have some audio to use on the show. He seems to get a kick out of it and there’s more conversation on the way in. I’ll just let the rest of the flight audio run for downwind, base, final, and the rollout.

[TM 06]

No go-around this time. We taxi to the gas pumps and Cody goes to fuel the aircraft. I take a few pictures and then head to the car, ready for a series of conference calls on the mobile phone. But an afternoon’s hooky well-executed by any measure.

(Photo courtesy of Roger Used with permission.)

I’m very grateful to the EAA, both nationally and Chapter 1093, and to Cody Welch for making the TriMotor available where I could get to it and for making this a really nice flight.

This is a probably the last great quest of this summer. And nearly the end of what has turned out to be a really singular logbook page. As you probably already know, it happened that the four flights in the DC-3 for the type rating made up the first four entries on the page. Then, very unexpectedly, I got the F-16 ride with the Thunderbirds. Finally, I wrap it up with 0.3 hours dual received in the Ford TriMotor. And the rest of the page is sprinkled with Citabria N157AC for additional tailwheel instruction and a lot of aerobatics.

I considered talking about how the page covers a long period of history or covers a really diverse mix of aircraft, but I guess it really comes down to this. The private certificate and the instrument rating have been long-term projects that essentially concentrate on one kind of thing each. And that’s okay. Each require a lot of focus and they’re really worthy in and of themselves.

But this has been the summer of branching out. Of learning some new skills in different kinds of aircraft and under different circumstances. So far in 2008, I’ve had an instrument proficiency check, gotten a multi-engine rating, added complex, high-performance, and tailwheel endorsements, gotten a SIC type rating in a vintage airliner, flown in a fighter jet, and flown my first aerobatics at the controls. If there’s a story in the logbook or otherwise for this summer, it’s branching out and getting idea of the breadth of experience that GA has to offer. And that’s a really cool phase in any pilot’s development.

Plans for the future? Lots more aerobatics in the Citabria. A possible glider episode to be recorded in Ionia. Airplane single-engine sea in a PA-12 up in Traverse City in the spring. Probably recurrent training in Georgia in the Herpa DC-3. And I’ve been invited to attend the C-47 ground school with the Yankee Air Museum in March or April.

Am I going to top the F-16 ride? Probably not. Unless Burt Rutan or Sir Richard Branson call. (Hear me, gentlemen? 248-470-7944!) But there’s more than enough to learn and experience in GA. And I’ll continue doing the best I can to bring it to you.

Stay tuned for the big Thunderbirds summary episode and some of the audio from my aerobatics training. And I’ve been shooting video in the Citabria, so don’t be surprised to see a video episode or two.

I’ve really only scratched the surface, folks. Let’s keep on exploring!

More information about the EAA TriMotor:

More information about Cody Welch:
Cody F. Welch & Associates, Inc.
15057 Lindbergh Ct
Linden, Michigan 48451
Office: 800-982-7207
Mobile: 586-946-5381

More information about Wings of Mercy East Michigan:

0.3 Dual Received in the EAA Ford Tri-Motor – The Logbook Page Gets Even Cooler!

This is a regular blog post. Show notes and links to audio appear in the other posts.

I finally rendezvoused with the EAA Ford Tri-Motor in Midland yesterday. It was scheduled to appear at Detroit City Airport du ring Red Bull weekend earlier this year, but the city refused to make even minimal accommodations for the appearance and EAA had to cancel.

But the Tri-Motor is in Midland (Jack Barstow Airport) and I played hooky yesterday to drive up and get a flight. Like last time, I had paid for the right seat ($100 as opposed to $40 or $50 to ride in the back) in order to record audio through the intercom. Same this time.

I recorded cockpit audio and also shot lots of pictures of the experience. I’ll be putting together an episode about the experience shortly. Most of the cockpit audio consisted of each chit-chat with pilot Cody Welch, but there’s a little about the aircraft and flying as well. Cody’s a very approachable guy and he’s extraordinarily easy to talk to. I think the flight was as enjoyable because of Cody as it was for the aircraft itself.

I asked around when I arrived to see if there was anything about the flight that might be loggable. I had e-mailed the EAA and asked before, but received no answer. Fair enough. They’re busy. But the lady running the manifest table said that it was common practice for Cody to sign your logbook. Too cool!

In fact, I got to fly a little bit of the cruise phase from about two minutes after reaching cruise altitude (about 1,000 AGL) to just before the turn to downwind. And Cody let me to the radio calls for base and final, so I have audio of myself saying “Midland traffic, the Ford Tri-Motor is turning left base for runway six, Midland.” Even more so than for the DC-3 pattern calls, it another Tri-Motor shows up in the pattern, I’ll revert to the tail number. Until then, I’m “the Tri-Motor.”

Cody signed my logbook with 0.3 dual received in the aircraft. That rounds out a logbook page that I don’t think I’ll ever better. DC-3, F-16D, and Tri-Motor with Citabria sprinkled in. That’s a really good logbook page and I’m really proud of it.

One shot from among those that I’ll post with the episode. This is the view out the front from the right seat of the Tri-Motor on takeoff on Runway 6. It’s pretty amazing how quickly the airplane gets up. The tail comes up within about 200 feet and it’s airborne in about 500. Not bad for an aircraft that turns 78 this week.

Stay tuned for the audio episode! I’ll try to produce and post it soon.

A Song Comes Unbidden

Just a regular blog post here. If you’ve ever written songs or otherwise tried to create art, you know that there’s the initial inspiration, then you sit down and suffer through the creation of the song (essay, book, painting, whatever) structure, and then you start to have fun again as you have a mostly-formed song and you get to play withthe fussy bits.

The really lucky and brilliant songwiters out there say that sometimes a song jus tcomes intotheir heads, fyully or mostly formed. Kind of like what happened to Adam Duritz with A Long December.

That happened to me on the drive back to Chicago the week before last. and now it’s sitting there brewing and getting better and better. I think I might try to record it sometime this week. It’s called ‘Til I Can Take Eleanor There. I think it’s going to be the first fully complete tune for Songs From the Sheffield. And I think it’ll make a great submission for the MacDowell residency.

This just doesn’t happen to me. I’m really excited about it. No pictues or other stuff with this post. I need to just go into the studio with a lot of Diet Coke and lock the door behind me.

But I wanted to tell you guys about it.

Oakland County International Airport (KPTK) Open House – Part 2

This is a regular blog post. Check out the other posts for links to show notes and show audio.

I was on duty all day with the Civil Air Patrol, mostly handing kids into and out of the CAP Cessna 182. It’s a new (303 hours) CAP aircraft with the G1000. I went to the ground school in January for the G1000, but haven’t flown the platform yet. Don’t know when I’m going to get some time to do it, but it would be really cool to fly a little more glass.

CAP members with at least a private certificate can train in this aircraft for $41/hour dry. That’s really outstanding, considering that you’d probably pay well in excess of $180/hour wet for something like this on the line at an FBO.

C/MSgt Penix manning the line. He was one of about 15 cadets that showed up at 10:00 on Saturday, trained all day, camped on the airport grounds Saturday night, and then worked the show all day on Sunday. The cadets are members of my squadron, the Oakland Composite Squadron (GLR-MI-238) ( I’m really proud of the job they did.

Note that C/MSgt Penix has taken off his cover. We wore covers most of the day on the ramp, but took ‘em off whenever we were marshalling aircraft. You don’t want to be the cadet whose name is written in the cover that they pull put of the F-16’s engine.

The Michigan ANG out of Selfridge ANGB sent Maj Matt Hopkins and his F-16 to the open house. Here, some kids get up close and personal with the fighter jet.

Maj Hopkins rotating for takeoff. Check out the exhaust stream behind the jet! The open house is a good opportunity to get really close to the aircraft, especially when they’re moving. The ropes are maybe 50 feet away from the edge of the taxiway and Runway 27L/9R is just a little past that. So you’re maybe 200 feet away from an F-16 on full afterburner.

Maj Hopkins did a couple of passes (one gear-down and one high-speed with a vertical pull) on departure. I got audio of that. We also had a fly-over by a pair of F-16s and an F-15 in trail and all three aircraft did a few low passes.

I hope the publicity for this is a lot better next year. I also hope that they pick some weekend other than the Woodward Dream Cruise weekend. It’s be nice to have more people out on the ramp coming to meet general aviation. I think that the airport community, and particularly the Civil Air Patrol, gave good account of itself and I hope we get bigger crowds next year.