Wringing out the RG – Commercial PIC Cross-Country Requirement Completed!

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

Yesterday started out as a CAP proficiency flight out of Ann Arbor. That is, until 1Lt Malek and I figured out that the aircraft was still in Lakeview getting its 100-hour inspection and that no one had mentioned this salient fact on the aircraft scheduling system. Bummage. Trip to Ann Arbor wasted, other than the fact that it’s always worthwhile to have breakfast with 1Lt Malek.

Not bitching about CAP by any means. This happens sometimes in any organization operated by humans. Just a little disappointing because I hadn’t flown since August and hadn’t flown approaches on round gages since April. The C-182T Nav III Form 5 qualifies me to fly the round-gage C-172s and 182s and I don’t actually have to demonstrate round-gage proficiency to a check airman if I don’t want to. But I’d be less than genuine about my commitment to safety and proficiency (and an idiot) if I failed to go out and fly approaches on round gages now and then to maintain proficiency.

Plus, I was only 1.6 hours away from completing my 50 hours PIC cross-country (greater than 50 miles) to qualify for my commercial certificate. I was hoping to get to Lansing for the approaches, which would have satisfied the distance requirement.

Crap. So I walked over to the ramp, where the CAP Great Lake Region’s Gippsland GA8 Airvan was preparing to take up some O-flight riders. I talked briefly with Maj Mario Accardo, the mission pilot, and then wandered to the approach end of Runway 24 to shoot a couple of photos of the Gippsland on final for the wing’s PAO library.

Fun, but – crap. I really wanted to fly some round-gage. I tweeted things to this effect. And, lo and behold, I get a tweet from Robert Ericson, ace KingAir pilot and CFII at Flight 101 at Pontiac, offering to go grab Flight 101’s C-172RG and head up for some instrument flight. How cool is that? It’s especially nice because Rob isn’t on the instructor schedule for the school but offered to go fly with me when I had the opportunity. He’s an Airspeed listener and had been really accommodating whenever I’ve been in to Flight 101.

So, a couple of hours later, we launched in N6274R, the school’s RG. I already had something like five hours in that aircraft, but wasn’t fully checked out in it. All of that was about to change.

Only failure on the prep was forgetting to set the transponder. And to get Rob his Scotch.

We filed IFR at 6,000 (to be assured of getting up into some of the cumulous clouds) and headed for Saginaw, a popular destination because of its multiplicity or approaches and its distance of a little more than 50 nm from Pontiac and other Detroit-area airports. Nice IMC on the way. Good clouds without a lot of convection or turbulence inside. Ragged tops at around 5,500 to 6,000 and bottoms between 3,800 and 4,000. Lovely in-and-out flying. The higher overcast kept everything mostly gray, but we got some nice sunlight on the tops at points.

I was really, really pleased about how my round-gage scan came back to me after more than five months. I’ll admit that I was too fixated on the attitude indicator in the early going, but I recognized that quickly. Several altitude excursions of around 100 feet, but generally pretty good.

See the track at http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N6274R/history/20090927/1730Z/KPTK/KPTK.

We shot the RNAV 32, then vectored around to the ILS 23. I landed beautifully. (Rob complained bitterly, but an elbow to the throat silenced him for the taxi to the FBO.)

We extended the time on the schedule for the airplane and then filed IFR back with an approach en route at Flint.

Same fun on the way back. http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N6274R/history/20090927/1900Z/KMBS/KPTK.%20. Wewere given V133 to POLAR and therefore flew that leg on the VOR with the GPS magenta line as backup. I made a perfect teardrop entry into the requested hold south on the Flint VOR, then did a full-procedure VOR 18 approach. For some reason, Flint Approach yelled at me about being below the vectoring altitude on the approach. The plate says I get 1,560 inside the applicable waypoint. I might have though that he was giving me grief because I was off the centerline for the approach, but I was only a dot off and correcting. Anyway, I climbed it up to 2,200 until the FAF and then hung out all of the junk (gear and flaps) and crowbarred down to the MDA of 1,300 before going missed and heading back to Pontiac.

Another spectacular landing at Pontiac on 27R. Full stall onto the mains six inches off the pavement and a gentle lowering of the nosewheel.

I couldn’t help but post this shot of a tire that’s sitting on the counter at Flight 101. Note the labeled “circle of shame” on the tire. I guess there’s been a rash of landings in the RG with one or more brakes engaged, this causing balding of tires. A good reminder to anyone, not just RG drivers. Keep your heels on the floor until you’re good and landed, folks. It’s an easy mistake to make and it’s a mistake that I’ve made myself. (No, I didn’t savage this tire . . .)

So, after that 2.6 hours (with 1.1 actual and 1.0 simulated IMC), I have a fresh IPC, I’ve completed the required PIC cross-country for the commercial, and I’m checked out to fly the RG (and, by extension, all of the C-172s and C-152s at Flight 101).

Many thanks to Rob for swooping in and saving what would otherwise have been a flightless day and a waste of good and very flyable IMC!

Lt Malek and I are going to head up later this week in the CAP C-182T Nav III to get him refreshed on the G1000 and keep me current. Should be a lot of fun!

Safety, currency, and proficiency. Good flying and good fellow aviators all the way around. One of those days when you’re particularly proud to be a pilot and when your training (and willingness to work to stay current and proficient) pays off.

I do so love this stuff!

Commercial Maneuvers and Cross-Country

This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio, please check out the other entries.

2.5 yesterday KPTK-KMBS-KPTK. I’m seriously considering the commercial certificate, but I have very little PIC cross-country time to places more than 50 nm away. Partly because I got my instrument rating under Part 141, which doesn’t require PIC cross-country time. So I started the day with 22.6 and ended with 25.1.

Even if I’m just going to go out and maneuver, I’m making a real effort to try to touch someplace more than 50 nm away every time. That usually means Saginaw (KMBS). The weather tends to come in longitudinal fronts so, if it’s clear at Pontiac, there’s a decent chance that it’s clear on the way to Saginaw. Or at least a better chance than there is that it’ll be clear somewhere to the west. (I have no problem with east as a cardinal heading, but east for me is Canada and the attendant administrative hassles.)

There was a huge 80 to 100-mile wide cloud deck centered on Saginaw, but it was at least 5,000 feet AGL, which allowed us to fly 4,500 MSL on the way up and 5,500 MSL on the way back. Shot the ILS Rwy 23 and did a pretty decent job of it.

This is also my third flight in the 172RG. I’ll have the 10 hours of retractable time required for the commercial done in the next flight or two, but I think I’ll probably fly this aircraft for the checkride (whenever that happens), so I have no problem getting a lot more time in it.

The other objective was to go see the commercial maneuvers and, in particular, chandelles, lazy eights, steep spirals, and eights on pylons. We haven’t has ceilings that would allow for these maneuvers on any of my prior scheduled flights this year in the RG, so I was really pleased to finally get to do them.

As many of you know, I’m not a natural pilot. I’ve had to really work hard to get the maneuvers right. The instrument rating was easier for me than the private, believe it or not. I just don’t have a good kinesthetic sense. Or at least not the kinesthetic sense of the 23-year-old CFIs with whom I so often fly. Punks! (Extraordinarily talented punks that I greatly admire, by the way.)

So I was really pleased by my performance yesterday. Yeah, I have some polishing to do on a lot of the maneuvers, but I actually flew them reasonably well! I think I love lazy eights. Everything changing in all three axes, but changing at rates and with relationships that you command. And Chandelles are just plain majestic on a cold day when you get really nose-up and climb with brute strength.

Maybe I got the kinesthetic sense after all in a weird way when attitude instrument flying finally clicked for me. I do attitude instrument flying very well and maybe the hood made me pay attention to what was going on empirically (according to the gages) so that I can nail stuff like that now VFR. Even with the distraction of a view out the window!

Anyway, I can see a lot of trips to Saginaw in my future, as well as training for the commercial maneuvers. I have a lot of time to build before I’m qualified to do the checkride, but hey – it’s flying. Please don’t throw me in that briar patch!

The obligatory CFI shot. Meet Dale. He’s a graduate of Western Michigan University’s aviation program and flew well on the commercial demonstrations.

This is the thi9rd different CFI I’ve had in three flights in the RG. Everyone’s a little different in terms of how he or she flies and teaches and that’s fine. But I need to come up with my own checklists and flows for this aircraft.

More than once I had an issue with the gear. Nothing huge. I don’t think that I would have landed gear up. But nearly-as-stupid things like wondering why climb performance sucked so badly after recovering from eights on pylons and heading for home. And then having Dale remind be that we could bring up the gear if we didn’t want to dangle them all the way home.

I do fear the gear-up landing. For myself, I know that mistakes like that are usually task overload. And the best thing for that is to have checklists that I understand and that I can run every time. I think I’ll clear up the gear thing and lots of other issues (prop, carb heat, clearing the engine, and other things that I missed at various times) when I can really sit down with all of the information I’ve received from those with whom I’ve flown the RG and put together my own checklists.

Dale had a particularly good flow. Red, blue, green. Red for the mix, blue for the prop, and then green for the gear-down light (and look out the window for a wheel). Probably easier to remember than GUMPS for that airplane. Anyway, I’ll integrate the best of the pest and go from there.

CAP Form 5 for round-gage instruments scheduled for Sunday at Ann Arbor (KARB). I’m going to go back to DCT Aviation and fly some sim on Saturday to prepare, but I think I have a pretty good chance of passing. We’re flying a C-172R, N992CP (CAPFLIGHT 2028) and CAP SM Scott Gilliland will also be doing his VFR Form 5 that day.

As you might recall, I got Form 5′ed VFR-only in August. They had a C-172P for the check with a panel that I’d never flown. I didn’t want to try to do a full-up instrument checkride on a strange panel, so I elected to go VFR only. Now that I have the chance to fly a C-172R (in which I have something like 80 hours in model and five hours in this particular aircraft), I feel good to go for the instrument ride. It has an Apollo GPS, which which I have only the most rudimentary VFR experience, but we’re not going to be flying any RNAV approaches. Still, I like having the instrument approach overlays for situational awareness and I need to get through the manual before Sunday to see if I can get that part down.

I did the weight and balance and, as long as we launch with 30 gallons of fuel or less, we can probably fit all three in the aircraft. Might be cool. I haven’t ridden in the back seat of a C-172 since I was a kid. Might be nice to see someone else fly for a change. Of course, that means a peanut gallery for my part of the ride, but Scott’s a good guy and will probably remember to reposition his mic before laughing out loud.

Administering the ride will be check airman Capt Alex Craig, who has solid aerobatic and other credentials and flies a Bonanza when he’s not serving with CAP.

As always, I enjoy objective tests of my pilot skills. And a CAP Form 5 check is always a worthy test.

Dave Allen Visits, Approaches, and I’m Good to Go at Flight 101

This is a regular blog post. Please check out the other posts if you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio.

David Allen from The Pilot’s Flight Podlog was in town on business on Tuesday, so we got together at Panera Bread for dinner and to shoot the bull. Ella joined us. Good time!

I flew with Andy Mawdsley of Flight 101 at KPTK to get checked out to fly the Cessnas there. Something line 2.2 in N9926Q hours getting familiar with the aircraft and the avionics. Most or all of the Flight 101 C-172s are equipped with Garmin 430s and the panels are a little different from what I’ve flown in the past, so I wanted to get familiar with the aircraft in addition to getting checked out to rent Flight 101’s aircraft. I had not flown an instrument approach in a C-172 since February 20 and had not flown any instrument approach at all since the multi rating on April 20 or so. I was really pleased that I ended up really flying them well. For the most part, needle departures of 1/2 deflection or less with most of the time being within two dots.

VOR-A Lapeer (D95) with the published miss and hold at MIXER, RNAV 18 KFNT, 2 x ILS 9 KFNT, VOR 9R KPTK, and ILS 9R KPTK. And that’s my six instrument approaches, intercepting and tracking courses, and holding, so I’m instrument current for the next six months!

Andy in the cockpit while being vectored outbound before the ILS 9R at KPTK. It was pretty dark and I didn’t use flash, so it’s a little blurry, but what the heck. Andy (Dr. Mawdsley!) is a pleasant guy with whom to fly. Rode me appropriately for the more prominent altitude or directional deviations and was really helpful in explaining the Garmin.

We had intermittent radio problems at KFNT and ended up switching to COM 2 after COM 1 failed during the final phases of the second the ILR 9. No biggie.

A shot of the sunset while being vectored outbound for the ILS 9R at KPTK. Not a bad shot for a guy under the hood and just holding the camera above the dash.

A shot of the flight line bracing the camera on the fence. Airports are so pretty at night! The parking lot light gives you just enough light to be able to see the aircraft and the lights from the other side of the airport are gorgeous. Nothing else looks like an airport at night.

First Flight for Checkout in the 172RG at Flight 101

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

“Yeah, maintenance? Somebody left a blue knob, a lever, and a couple of new gages in the dash on one of your 172s. And the tach is gone. Could you check that out?”

Started the checkout in the RG yesterday at Flight 101. Wind 240 at 14, gusting to 22. (Active runway 27L-R.) Peak gust 26 and bizjets reporting shear of plus and minus 15 on final. That’s not bed-head in the picture. The wind was even blowing back the gel.

But we got up. This is the first flight of the checkout in the Cessna 172RG (the Cutlass). Flight 101, the FBO to which I’m transitioning for my airplane rental needs, has 152s, 172s, a 172RG, and Diamond DA40s. Checking out in the RG qualifies me for all of the other Cessnas on the line, so it’s efficient to go up in the RG, even if I need five hours in which to check out. Plus, I’m scheduled to go for multi training with Traverse Air this weekend and having a little experience with a complex aircraft would be a good thing.

Plus, I needed to go land something – anything – a few times to get the muscle memory back. I’d flown only twice since the instrument checkride last October and even that flying involved only two takeoffs and two landings (although I got an IPC out of the February flight).

There’s a lot to learn. I’m really glad that I flew something complex before getting into Tom Brady’s Apache. I understand constant speed props better now and also have a better sense for how busy I’m going to be on takeoff and landing.

I goofed up the first takeoff for the simple reason that I hadn’t positioned my seat correctly. The dash is a little closer to the pilot in relation to the pedals in the Cutlass than it is in the late-model 172Rs to which I’ve become accustomed. I set up the seat to put the throttle about the right distance for my arm. Taxiing was okay, so I figured that the pedals would be fine.

So I gave her full power and immediately went left because I couldn’t get enough pedal travel with my right foot. Lesson learned. Make sure that you get full travel of all of the applicable controls before you get to the hold short line.

Here’s the cockpit. The blue knob is the prop control, the gear lever is to the left of the carb heat, and – yeah – there’s carb heat (after having flown fuel-injected aircraft since 2003). Procedures also call for using the electric fuel pump on takeoff and landing and that switch is at the far left. Plus, there are cowl flaps that you need to close to help avoid shock cooling of the engine. It’s nothing that thousands of pilots don’t deal with every day, but it’s new to me and I was as busy as a one-armed paper hanger in the pattern.

After a couple of steep turns, we headed over to Romeo to use Runway 18, where the wind was a little closer to the runway heading. It was a little too bumpy anywhere below about 5,000 feet to do slow flight productively, so we’ll do the rest of the high airwork later.

Four full-stop landings. Pretty happy with them except for the third one, in which I imposed a fair amount of side load with a nose-right touchdown.

The Cutlass cruises fast and beautifully. And it’s heavier, so it’s a little better behaved in the shear and turbulence. There’s a pronounced difference when the gear comes down. You can really feel the drag.

That’s Dr. (!) Andy Mawdsley in the right seat. Nice guy. Very good at letting you know his pet peeves and operational preferences, but doing it in a constructive way. Ever fly with a crusty instructor who seems to be pissed off that you don’t automatically know all of his (or her) foibles and doesn’t seem to care that you might have learned something differently and are performing to the letter of your training? Andy’s not that guy. He took the time to talk for a half hour or so before the flight, helped with the idiosynchrasies of the RG preflight, and gave me a clear expectation of what to expect on the flight.

Weather not looking good for the multi training this weekend, but I’ll call Tom today and see what he thinks.

A Beverage with Midway Six, Finding a New Place to Rent Airplanes, and a Visit from the Rodent

This is a regular blog post. Looking for show notes or audio? Check out the other entries.

Midway Six, fellow Civil Air Patrol captain, guest on Airspeed, and publisher of CAPblog was in town visiting family and we got together for an adult beverage and to talk flying, CAP, and flying. This just seems to be the couple of weeks for meeting folks from the podsphere and blogosphere in person. (Note visit to see Greg Summers of The Student Pilot Journal below.) It’s really gratifying to know that the folks whose content you really like turn out to be just as cool in person as you’d hope they’d be.

I spent some time Saturday afternoon at Flight 101/Pontiac Flight Service looking around. As a recent refugee from Tradewinds, I need to find another place to rend airplanes. Flight 101 has 152s, 172s, and a couple of DA-40s. I’ll probably get checked out in their 172s (and maybe the 152s for the heck of it) initially and then go for the DA-40 checkout later this summer.

Turns out that Robert Ericson, a CFI at Flight 101, is a listener! It was hardly a celebrity moment, but it’s really cool to run into someone who knows the show and recognizes your voice.

In other news, I scheduled my multi training with Tom Brady of Traverse Air for April 19-21. The more I ask around about the guy, the more good things I hear about him and his aircraft. Really looking forward to getting that done. Then it’s on to the the DC-3!

And what would an Easter post be without a photo of the visit from the Rodent du Jour? EB is making the rounds of the neighborhood and stopped at our house this afternoon. Kind of nice, considering that I made Cole and Ella hang around at Flight 101 well past their attention spans the day before.