Chicago Sortie and More Taildragger Training

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I attended my law firm’s partner meeting in Chicago this past weekend. On Sunday, I connected with Rod Rakic and James (jetstew on myTransponder) to have breakfast and hang out. We his Orange on Harrison for breakfast and then took a cab to the Museum of Science and Industry. Really cool to go to that museum with a couple of pilots and walk around talking aviation and aerospace. Wyen I go to a museum these days, it’s usually with the kids and I’m pointing stuff out and playing tour guide to make sure that the kids get the important stuff.

And, yeah, I admit that I’m often tempted to bring along Post-It Notes and stick little corrections on some of the exhibits, but that’s how I roll.

But I was the junior pilot here in many respects. James is an ATP (ATR 42/72- SIC and EMB 135/140/145 SIC) and Rod has about twice the hours that I have. Really nice to just shut up and listen more than I usually do.

Monday, I snuck out at the end of the day and got 1.8 hours in the Citabria. Started out with wingovers, loops, and rolls. Clearly, my aerobatic tolerance has gone away since the summer. I was done after about 25 minutes and feeling about 60/40 that I might hurl. Not beating myself up. It’s just that I have another data point about what kind of duration my aerobatic tolerance has. I’d really like to go up twice a week for a month and see where the tolerance goes. I’m pretty sure that I could get back over an hour again and actually put together series of maneuvers and fly a routine. (How cool would that be!)

But that’ll have to wait until after the first of the year. The usual end-of-year push at the office is in full swing and I need to bust out some work.

We went to Lapeer (D95) and did six or seven takeoffs and landings. Stiff 14-knot crosswind, but I managed to really nail the last few landings. I think I might have had a breakthrough in tailwheel technique. I’ve been stirring the coffee way too much. If I just get the airplane reasonably aligned by the time I’m 200 yards from the threshold and hold the stick pretty still laterally and control the touchdown with pull, I seem to get it nailed down. Proper position of stick on rollout is tucked right there next to the windward gonad.

It’s really kind of like my experience finally getting the landing as a primary student. One day, I couldn’t seem to get it and the next I was greasing them in. Yes, there are some empirical things I can point to, like stick position and relative amount of coffee-stirring, but it’s mostly kinesthetic. You experience success a few times and get a sense of it. I wish it were more empirical, but it isn’t. At least not for me.

I need to do an entry on cold-weather flying. If you can get the ceilings and the visibility, it’s really wonderful. The airplane climbs well and aerobatics seem even more fun.

Sutton Aviation has a new Super Decathlon on the ramp. Which might not be such a big deal except that you can actually rent it! I don’t know of anywhere else in southeast Michigan where you can rent a Super-D. Yeah, you have to get checked out in it, but that’s true of any rental. Yeah, the Super-D is a lot of airplane and it might take some more effort to get the checkout, but it’s a Super-D, after all.

If you’re interested, contact Barry Sutton at Sutton Aviation:

Sutton Aviation, Inc.
Oakland County International Airport
6230 North Service Drive
Waterford, Michigan 48327

Lunch and Techspeak with Rod Rakic in Chicago

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

I had client meetings in Chicago this week, so I naturally called up fellow CAP captain Rod Rakic of to head out to lunch.

I got a visiting office at my firm’s offices on LaSalle Street and met Rod. Some really good and authentic Mexican food, some really nasty Italian cigars, and some good conversation about how myTransponder is going to grow. I naturally gave my EUR 0.015 and I hope it was helpful.

It’s both odd and wonderful that most of my friends these days are those I rarely actually see in person and that I met through new media, particularly the podcasting community. That’s one of the benefits of the long tail. It connects you with folks who share passions that are parts of pieces of side tracks of the mainstream and who are really good at leveraging those things.

I’m back in Michigan now, putting together the Thunderbirds summary episode, extracting some music tracks for A Pilot’s Story, and getting ready to post the David Kneupper interview. Stay tuned!

AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 – Day 1 – Part 1

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First full day at OSH! Every kind of people and every kind of airplane! I keep forgetting how much I love this place. I gathered and submitted three pieces for EAA Radio. One was a Dan Gryder DC-3 student talking about his type rating trip from Griffin, Georgia to Oshkosh and back. Then I got LtCol Frank Alvarez, a KC-135 driver from the Wisconsin ANG. Lastly, although it took more then four hours to coordinate, I got Bob Cardin, the man behind the extraction of Glacier Girl from her icy home of 50 years.

Cole spent most of the day taking pictures of Koala, his stuffed koala bear buddy, in nearly every aircraft on the field. It made for some slow going around the field, but he’s very into his project and I think it’s cool that he’s taking it so seriously. Here he is under a Husky floatplane doing a self-portrait.

I found out that Canon will lend you these huge lenses to go shoot the airshow. And here I thought that this guy was just making up for something. Alas, I’m a Nikon guy, mainly because that’s what Costco was pushing the week that I decided that I needed more than just a point-and-shoot for the show. It seems that about one in 50 of my shots with the 200mm lens is usable. The auto-focus just doesn’t want to lock onto airplanes, so I’m focusing manually. And I still blur the overwhelming majority of them. Not going to stop me from taking pictures, though.

Here’s a nice one that did work out. Not sure, but the rumor is that Lucas sponsors him.

I love the Super Decathlon. It’s close to the Citabria that I fly these days and it’s just so cool to see guys up there wringing gorgeous aerobatics out of the limited energy that you get with the engines in these things. There’s nothing at all wrong with hyper-tweaked engines with composite airframes, but I really appreciate what goes into these performances by airplanes that you might actually be able to rent and fly at your own local airport. Sutton Aviation has a Super-D and I’m going to get up in that as soon as Barry thinks I’m ready. The thrill here is that this is something that I can do without hitting the lottery or getting sponsors or anything else ridiculous. (And so can you!)

I had Airspeed Aerobatic Team tee shirts made up a few months ago, mostly as a lark. I actually felt a little disingenuous making them up because I wasn’t really an aerobatic enthusiast at the time. But after the July 8 session in the Citabria, I really think I like aerobatics. It gets the goosebumps going again. At the very least, you should find a qualified instructor and certified airplane and go do some upset recovery and spin training. And get a loop or two in just for fun. You might find that you like it. You may even find it addictive.

I thought that all of that “I need my vitamin gee” stuff was bravado and hangar posing. But it’s not. Not most of it, anyway. It’s genuinely wonderful stuff. Is there no end to the wonder of flying? Are we not the luckiest generation in history?

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