Cross-Country to Saginaw and Commercial Training

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Finally got up yesterday after two cancellations. Not bad for Michigan in January, really.

I have three regular flying sources these days. CAP (currency and mission readiness in C-172s and, soon, the mighty C-182T with G1000), Sutton Aviation (tailwheel and aerobatics in American Champion aircraft), and Flight 101.

Flight 101 is an FBO/school with lots of C-172s, a couple of DA-40s, and a C-172RG. It’s my “rent a C-172 and go fly” place since Tradewinds closed its pilot center. I decided recently to start looking at the commercial certificate. I can do a lot of that with CAP, but having access to an RG and qualified instructors form another source allows me to train more often if I decide to do that. And it’s nice because the RG isn’t in very high demand. (After all it’s primarily for advanced training.)

So, after being weathered out a couple of times earlier this month, I went up to refresh myself on the RG and knock off the rust. Most of my complex time is multi-engine and my only single-engine complex time is in this aircraft (about 1.4 before yesterday).

We went VFR to Saginaw (KMBS) to build some cross-country time. It was something like 5F on the ground and accordingly colder at altitude. The heater was non-functional. That’s not normally a big deal, but I’m a polar bear and usually wear only a light jacket in the cockpit because the instructor usually likes to keep it warmer than I like. I keep cold weather gear in the back in case of a forced landing away from civilization (I’d be teased roundly if my CAP brethren found me frozen to death after landing the plane uneventfully).

It was probably the coldest I’ve ever been in an airplane. Not unbearable, but pretty numb toes and we definitely went full-stop at KMBS in order to let me but on my MA-1 flight jacket. Much better!

I got 1.2 hood time on the way back, much of it in slow flight at around 75 KIAS with the gear down on a VOR radial fron FNT. We shot the LOC B/C 27L back into KPTK with a sidestep to 27R.

Both landings were actually pretty good (as, for some reason, is my custom on the first flight back after not flying since October or November). I like to be very tender on retractables. I know that the RG is built to withstand abuse from students learning to fly their first retractable, but the gear still looks a little skinny to me. So I carry a little extra power into the flare and touch it down like mom is in the back seat. A little crosswind on 32 on the way in to KMBS, but it was right down the runway at 9 on the way back in to KPTK.

I’m flying with someone new, namely Niketta Wyrick, a CFII at Flight 101 at KPTK who started at age 14 and is a pretty talented GA driver. This is her at KMBS outside the FBO. I got a good and fair workout on the flight, appropriate to returning to the airport with some acknowledged rust on my skills.

We chandelled up through a sucker hole on the way there to get above the scattered layer at about 4,000 and went most of the way at 7,500. I probably would have run scud (albeit well above the minimum safe altitudes and at least 500 feet below the clouds) if it had been just me because my last instrument approaches were in October and I would not have wanted to be stuck on top and have to come back through single-pilot IFR with that much rust on my scan. But I felt comfortable with Niketta there to assist.

Depending on a couple of other flight opportunities, I’ll probably get up with Niketta to do some work on the commercial maneuvers soon.

In the meantime, I’m planning to go to some CAP currency flying on Monday out of Ann Arbor (KARB). Pretty excited about that. I haven’t flown out of KARB since 2001 and it ought to be fun. Thinking KARB-KBTL-KAZO-KARB at least. Maybe with a stop at KJXN on the way back.

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

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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.

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

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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.