Early-Season Training Continues – Team Tuskegee and CAP Form 5

Tupper Craig TG-7A

Time has been amazingly scarce these past few months.  But that doesn’t mean that I can let the rust build up on my wings.

Last weekend, I got up with Team Tuskegee for some three-ship formation deep in the Detroit Class B.  I needed some echelon takeoff and landing experience, so I flew 2 in a phantom 4 configuration, landing and taking off abreast of lead on 21L at Detroit Metro (KDTW).  John Harte ably flew Lead and Chris Felton flew a very competent 3 (or, as he likes to be called, “Element Lead”).  We also got in some tail chasing and other more general formation work with me flying 3 and Chris as 2.

I took along Alex Craig, one of CAP’s check airmen in the Michigan Wing, with whom I’ve flown several checkrides over the years.  Alex is an ATP with thousands of hours logged, but little time in gliders or in formation.  Alex sat left seat to observe the formation work.  And, as Tim Brutsche likes to say, flying an aircraft with an empty hole is a sin.  Aviation is always best when it’s shared.

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Then, this past weekend, Alex and I switched seats and aircraft and I flew a CAP annual Form 5 stan/eval ride.  I hadn’t flown the CAP glass C-182T in maybe six months.  Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of Saturday preparing for the Sunday-morning ride.

I approached this ride with more trepidation than usual, largely on account of the rust build-up.  But I suppose that I needn’t have worried.  I goofed up the throttle work a little (one of the few cross-contamination problems that I experience between the TG-7A and the C-182T) and I managed to forget which way the glideslope indicator was supposed to move and I got fairly high on the glideslope on the ILS 27 at KFNT.

But, generally speaking, the ride went far better than I expected.  I’ve always hated landing the C-182T.  I still do.  It’s so nose-heavy.  You run out of elevator pretty quickly in that aircraft if you’re CG-forward, as you almost always are when you’re flying with two guys and 60 gal. of fuel.  The usual way to deal with that, namely keeping a little power in on the flare and flying it all the way to the runway like an airliner, isn’t an option for practice engine-out work.  So it was all attitude and airspeed on many of the landings.

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I did use one technique that I recommend to anyone who has hot hands with a C-172 but has problems with the C-182.  Put 50 lbs of something in Cargo Area B.  It moves the CG back a little and makes the landing flare a lot more controllable.

We rocked out the high airwork, did most of the landings (engine-out, soft-field, etc.) at Lapeer (D95), shot the ILS 27 and the RNAV 36 (twice) at KFNT, then flew back to Pontiac (KPTK), where I think I did my best short-field landing ever in that aircraft, getting it down and stoppable before the 1,000-foot markers.

Work and other commitments are still keeping me out of the cockpit more than I’d like to be, but I think I’ve done as good a job of getting active and proficient early in the season this year as I ever have.


It’s About Aircrew

The low clouds and snow flurries retreated today and, as luck would have it, Capt Norm Malek and I had scheduled the G1000-equipped CAP C-182 all afternoon.  So we launched around 1:00 and wrung out the aircraft for a total of 3.3 Hobbs hours.

As of this morning, all of my approaches for instrument currency dated from October, which means that they’re going to expire next month.  So I clearly needed some approaches.  Capt Malek didn’t need as many, having recently flown some single-pilot actual as part of some aircraft repositioning work this week.

So I rocked out a hold on a DME fix about 18 miles sooutheast of Flint, then went in for the ILS 27, the RNAV 18, the ILS 27 again, and the VOR 18 before landing and switching pilots.  2.0 ASEL high-performance and 1.6 of it under the hood.  We had some VFR traffic around NUPUE, my intended IAF, and I volunteered to be vectored to JUBER instead, so there was some fast fingerwork on the G1000.  But no worries. [Read more...]

Video Episode – CAP Glider Sorties

Airspeed – VIDEO – CAP Glider Sorties from Steve Tupper on Vimeo.

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These are the show notes to a video episode. If you want to watch online, please use the direct link below. http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedCAPGlider.m4v.

Here’s the video from my first two glider sorties. I went up during the Oakland County International Airport (KPTK; “Pontiac”) Open House 16 August 2009 with Mark Grant.

These were CAP sorties with CAP equipment both towing and towed. And we were in some pretty busy Class D airspace, as you can hear. Great experience. I need to get out and get some stick time as well. Maybe a project for next summer.

BTW, I’m a CAP major and member of CAP’s Oakland Composite Squadron in southeast Michigan. That’s how I got access to these great rides. I also volunteered at the event, handing kids and adults into and out of the CAP aircraft.

I put this footage up in and Airspeed episode because it was a great experience and because I promote CAP to anyone who’ll listen. But you should know that CAP doesn’t endorse or promote Airspeed. Fair enough?

First Glider Flight

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

It was a pretty eventful open house at the Oakland County International Airport (KPTK) today. After the motor glider flight, I got up twice in a Schweizer SGS 2-32 glider.

The GSG 2-32 is a two- or three-place glider with all-metal semi-monocoque construction and cantilevered wings that span 57 feet. The wing aspect ratio is 18.05 and it boasts a max gross weight of 1,349 pounds and a max glide ratio of 33:1 at 52 mph.

This particular aircraft, N99859, was manufactured in 1966 and it’s among 65 registered in North America out of the 87 that were made. The model flew at the Air Force Academy as the TG-5. Civil Air Patrol now owns this glider and the Michigan Wing uses it to train both cadets and senior members.

We launched from the big runway at KPTK (27L) with all kinds of traffic on the parallel and in the airspace above us. CAPFLIGHT 2029 towed us up to around 3,500 feet and we then circled the airport for about ten minutes before landing back on 27L and running her off at taxiway R.

Here are some frame grabs from the video that I shot on the two rides. Watch for the video episode in the feed sometime soon.

Pushing the glider out onto 27L. Kind of weird to be standing out there on the approach end of the runway when I’m used to seeing it only from a cockpit.

Two of the Oakland Composite Squadron’s finest cadets helping to position the glider for the tow. I’m strapped in and taking stills until Mark gets in.

Loading in the rest of our two-man crew. Mark Grant up front. Mark was on the aero-tow from Owosso earlier in the week and flew both these glider sorties as well as the motor glider sortie an hour or so before.

Heading up on the tow. Now that’s formation! Enforced formation at that. A 200-foot tow rope connects the aircraft.

A great view of the open house ramp as we come in over the airport.

Westbound over newly-extended and painted 27L with the ramp on the left.

An idea of the wing shape from the back seat. The lens bends it a little, but you can clearly see the aspect ratio of the wing.

It’s really peaceful up there at 50-55 mph with the wind pretty quiet and the bubble canopy and commanding view. You’re really up there in the air and, during these steady moments just floating around at the minimum sink speed, it would be easy to feel like you were ruler of all you surveyed.

Mark briefs the approach as we head in from the north.

The turn from base to final.

This is one of my favorite shots. In this aircraft, you feel as though you could reach out and touch the runway. Visibility is excellent and Mark is the obvious master of the aircraft – landing it precisely, hitting the called taxiway, and bringing it in to the ramp to stop exactly where the cadets are waiting to take it back to the static display.

Look for the video episode soon. Additionally, you can bet that I’m going to be heading back for more glider training soon.

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.