Sunday, November 25, 2012

Long Island Perimeter / NYC Skyline

Hope everyone had a gr8 Thanksgiving... (I certainly did!)

I spent this Thanksgiving on Long Island and managed to squeeze in a couple of awesome flights.  

The first flight was a low altitude perimeter flight around Long Island. You can see the route from the cloud ahoy track below:

Despite the traffic and congestion on the ground, the island looked quite peaceful from 700 -1500 FT AGL just offshore.   You can see Block Island and the famous Montauk lighthouse below:

The next day, I took an even more amazing flight with my buddy Mike B from  We took off from Morristown, NJ, did a flyover of Newark airport, a 360 around the Statue of Liberty, up the Hudson River, across Central Park and down the East River!  All of this was done at low altitude (~ 1500 FT), which led to some incredible pix!!
Statue of Liberty (while we were doing an overhead 360)
Flew just ~ 300 FT below the top of the Freedom tower

After that, we continued southbound to see the post Sandy version of the NJ shoreline.  You can see the complete route in the Cloud Ahoy track below:

The damage along the NJ shoreline appeared even more intense than anything I saw on the news!  We took a bunch of video and I hope to post a YouTube video of it later this week.

So after a great holiday weekend, it's getting cold here and time to head back south to Florida...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Home Just In Time for Maintenance

After the return trip from Palm Springs, I realized I had reached home "just in time" for some critical maintenance. 

My final round trip journey was in excess of 4000 nm, as you can see below:
Before the trip I made sure all the maintenance was current and even had my mechanic go over the plane in detail.

Until the very last leg of the journey, everything was working flawlessly.  However, the last hour wasn't so pleasant.  For starters, the A/C stopped working.  I know... I know ... hardly a crisis ... But it was Florida and rather warm out.  No worries, I pressed on.  Then a funny engine indicator popped up on the R9.  The Turbo Inlet Temperature spiked to 2000 degrees!

Yikes... I had never seen this before!  But surprisingly, everything else was looking, sounding and feeling normal.  Since I was less than 100 miles from home, I reduced power to about 50% and stared at the engine indicators the rest of the way.  I suspected a minor sensor problem because the turbo temp was fluctuating ~ 500 degrees up and down in a matter of seconds.  But I wouldn't know for sure till I was on the ground and the cowling was off.

Later on the ground, my regular crew @ Leading Edge confirmed that the Turbo Inlet Temperate issue was indeed just a minor sensor issue.  However, with the cowling off, they found something else that was not apparent to me, yet quite serious:
There was not just a crack, but rather a serious separation in one of the exhaust pipes.  This could have been quite unpleasant for me at some point really soon. So I was glad that the sensor problem uncovered this!  I am even more pleased about how lucky I was that this didn't cause a more serious issue during my long journey.

Now after a week, everything is fixed and the plane is back in the air... Time to plan the next journey!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

AOPA Journey (Part 3- Arrived)

After an overnight in El Paso and a full regular day of work, it was time for the final leg of the journey.  El Paso turned out out to be a great place for an overnight stop.  Thanks to both NASA and the military there was no shortage of noteworthy aircraft on the ramp.  The coolest plane on the ramp had to be the NASA plane that the FBO staff refers to as " Shamu".  You can see why in the pic below:

The flight from KELP to KPSP was totally uneventful.

But the landing into Palm Springs was a bit exciting.  I was surprised to find that Palm Springs has no usable precision approaches. This is probably because it is in the desert and doesn't really need them.  They did have 3 RNAV RNP approaches, which I was not authorized to fly and a VOR GPS-B approach to runway 31L.  I had never seen a VOR GPS-B before.  So naturally, like any curious kid,  I asked ATC for it specifically.  For some reason, ATC didn't want to grant my repeated descent requests until I was rather close to the Thermal VOR.  This meant I had to descend @ ~ 1000-1200 FT/min all the way to the runway!

I used the Cloud Ahoy app again.  Unfortunately, I didn't remember to turn it on until I was climbing out of 12K ft. As such, only the partial flight recap  is available on their server :-(

I need to add it to my checklist for the trip home....

But for now, after the 2217 nautical mile trip, it's time to enjoy Palm Springs and the AOPA Summit (registration and the parade of planes starts tomorrow)!


Monday, October 8, 2012

AOPA Journey (Part 2)

I took a day off from flying to visit the Mayan ruins in Uxmal.  It was blazing hot; But still very much worth it.

I did manage to get quite a few cool pictures during me short stay, such as the one below:

The next morning, I tried to get an early start.  But I didn't realize the intensity of the departure process.

I arrived at the airport ~ 8:30 AM with my eAPIS already filed and all my paperwork in order.

But preparation alone is not enough to get a clearance out of Mexico.  You need a healthy dose of patience!

First, I was escorted to the flight planning office, which was in the base of the control tower.  I filled out the hand written Spanish flight plan form as best I could. Then I had to patiently wait as the head planner reviewed my flight plan to determine IF it was acceptable.  After getting his blessing, I went back to the FBO to settle my bill.

I was very excited that the whole process only took ~ 25 mins and I thought I was ready to go.  But things are not that simple in Mexico!  

Apparently, you are not allowed to leave until the commandante approves.  So   I waited ~ 45 mins while the commandante scrutinized my paperwork again! Ironically, it was the same commandante that examined the exact same paperwork when I arrived!?!

Eventually, ~ 9:45, the commandante came and approved my departure and I was finally ready for departure.  

The departure was routine. Other than one Aeromexico flight in front of me, there was no other traffic on the ground or in the air.

I flew a fairly direct route over the water.  Sadly, the radar/ radio coverage in the part of the gulf was even worse than the first leg.  Merida tower and later Merida center both gave me lost coms instructions, which I followed to the letter.  Aside from lack of ATC, this flight turned out to be quite a challenging leg.

After 2 hours over water, I encountered some light icing.  

Fortunately, the TKS handled it rather easily.  After escaping the icing, things continued to get more challenging.  

I reestablished radar contact with Houston center ~ 180 miles offshore southeast of Brownsville.  There  was some nasty weather between me ad Brownsville, which forced me to detour north almost as far as Chorpus Christi to get around it.  Then Valley Approach told me to expect the Localizer backcourse approach into runway 31L!  

Yikes!  .. I hadn't seen one these approaches since my instrument training years ago and even then I never actually flew one!

So I briefed the chart repeatedly  and turned on the video camera.  I was hoping it could help me determine if I did it correctly later on the ground and also thought it would make a good Youtube video.

With R9, it turned out to be easy... But I won't know for sure if I did everything right until I review the video.

After landing, I taxied directly to customs, which was downright simple!  Officer Gomez, checked my dox planeside and had me done in just a few minutes.  Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed.

To avoid a hot start,  I asked the FBO to send the fuel truck into the secure customs ramp and they happily complied.  After a top off and some lunch, it was off to El Paso.  

During this leg, I played with the Cloud Ahoy app and really liked it!  I shared my flight on their server at the following link Cloud Ahoy Flight Recap.  This app lets you see a 3-D recap of your flight (either from the outside or from the cockpit) using a clever google earth plugin and actual flight data. 

When I landed in El Paso, I got an amazing parking spot in front of an Embraer 190:

That was enough flying for one day and I was wiped out by the time I got to the hotel.
Here is where I am in the journey now:

Almost there! (Less than 600 miles to go)!!

== T.J.==

Saturday, October 6, 2012

AOPA Summit Journey (Part 1)

My trek to AOPA is now well underway!

The first leg of this trip was quite memorable. Since I was flying direct over the Gulf,  I squeezed as much fuel as I could into the tanks (92 gals). Other than the eAPIS filing, the departure was just like any routine IFR trip anywhere in the US.

However, things started getting interesting as I was enroute.  When I was ~ 200 miles off the coast of FL, Miami center told me that I would "probably lose radio and/or radar contact" soon and gave me lost comm instructions for Houston Center and Merida Center.  Not exactly what I wanted to hear over open water!  

For about almost an hour, I did lose radio and radar contact with everyone and the only thing I saw was blue sky, blue water and a couple of stray cargo ships. 

When I reached my reporting point, I still couldn't reach anyone @ ATC.  However, I was able to reach a United pilot (flight UA792), who was in the same vicinity and about 20K FT above me.  The friendly United pilot relayed a message for me to ATC and I felt like I was back in civilization!

This was also around my point of no return.  I had figured out the point at which I would need to make a hard decision about whether I would make it to Mexico or need to turn around and go back to Florida due to fuel concerns.  I think every pilot thinks about this (or should think about this) when flying over open water.

Luckily the weather was good, the headwinds were tame and the R9 was projecting more than enough fuel.  So now I was committed to landing on the Yucatan peninsula!

The arrival was a simple visual approach that was quite scenic and may make a good YouTube video soon. 

After landing, the beuracratic fun began.  I parked right next to a beautiful Phenom 100 and was greeted by an FBO Marshall, named Juan Manuel.

He was very friendly and helpful.  However about 20 feet behind Juan Manuel, were 2 very serious Mexican military officers, who seemed to take pride on how thoroughly they searched my plane ;-)  Here is one of them scrutinizing my passport with the Phenom in the background:

They didn't smile once during the entire process! But it was no problem... With my really bad Spanish, and a little translation help from Juan Manuel, I managed to escape the plane inspection in ~ 10 mins.

With passport and bags in hand, I walked about 200 FT to the customs building, where I found the traffic light that Guillaume had mentioned in the briefing pack. You can see the airport staff showing me below:

I crossed my fingers as I pressed the magic button below the traffic light.

Apparently, it is a random light that shows red or green when you press the button.  If it is green, they do NOT check your bags.  But if it is red, they do a thorough search of ALL of your bags.

As luck would have it, it was red for me:-( As a result, they opened and thoroughly inspected my backpack, my roll bag and my camera bag.  They were quite friendly and efficient and the whole search took less than 5 minutes.

Now I was getting excited... Almost done... Or so I thought...

Apparently, I had to meet the commandante,who is sort of the head honcho in charge.  He had to sign off on all the inspections done so far and "recheck" my airplane paperwork.  I waited for ~ 15 mins in total comfort in the FBO lobby, which was quite comparable to the US FBO lounges that Banyan/Signature/ or TAC Air would have.

Eventually, the commandante arrived and informed me that my paperwork "appears to be in order" and told me to sign the 4 copies of my Mexican entry permit.

Actually, all the paperwork was in Spanish... So who knows what I signed ;-)

Overall, it was rather quick and painless and now this makes country #6 that I have personally landed in! 

Time to take a break from flying and go see some Mayan ruins...

Stay tuned for the next leg of the journey.

== T.J.==

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Preparing to Cross the Next Border (Mexico!)

After my European excursion, I was looking forward to the next challenge, which will be crossing another border on the way to AOPA Summit in Palm Springs.

Once again, I enlisted the help of Thierry and Guillaume at Air Journey to help with the route planning and logistics.

Here is the routing, we came up with:

The first leg will be a 610 nm journey directly across the Gulf of Mexico to Merida, Mexico.  This will be my longest overwater leg to date!

In advance of this trip, I got everything prepared I could think of:

On the Plane: A fresh oil change and a quick trip to Lopresti in Sebastian for some long overdue adjustments on the Ice Skates made the plane ready... But to be sure I performed perhaps the most time consuming and thorough pre-flight ever! 

In the cockpit: I got my emergency gear ready, including PLB, life jacket.  If I can get one in time, I also hope to have a raft with me. In addition, the usual cadre of camera equipment and miscellaneous gadgets.

Paperwork: Thanks to Guillaume, I received an outstanding briefing pack with all the paperwork required by both US and Mexican governments. But more important than the bureaucratic paperwork, was Guillaume's detailed instructions, which included photos of what to expect as well as some unofficial commentary ;-)

Hopefully, the preparation will have been sufficient and I will be able to post a progress report on the trip sometime this weekend.

Stay Tuned...

== T.J.==

Monday, September 17, 2012

Spotting Castles and Crossing Borders

After a couple of weeks of preparation, I was totally ready for my flight in Germany.

While I had read up on the many nuances of flying here, I didn't really look carefully enough at the map.  I didn't realize how close Baden-Baden was to France.  In fact, my hotel was walking distance to the French border!

This also meant that it would be easily possible to squeeze in quick trip to France as part of the training flight.  My instructor (Trip) suggested a great little airport on the French side near the border that had an unusual point of interest that most americans seem to like ( more on that later).

With Trip in the right seat, pre-flight complete and the fuel tanks topped off, I was finally ready for takeoff for my first European flight!

The weather was beautiful.  But since we would be crossing a border, we had to file a VFR flight plan.  The ATC communications were quite simple (and in English).  So I handled all of the radios and awkwardly tried to remember to say "November" before my call sign each time.  But interestingly, when you are flying VFR, the ATC communications can also be in local language.  It was wild to hear radio chatter from other airplanes in German, French and English all on the same short flight!

I flew the ILS approach  into Colmar, France, which was tough because of the distracting scenery!  The castle below was just a few degrees right of the localizer:
After landing, I was instructed to park on a grass apron (another first for me)
Just a few minute walk from the airport, we saw the statue of liberty!  Apparently, the original designer of the statue was from Colmar.  So in his honor, the town built a scale replica that is 12 meters tall, and perhaps on better condition than the original!
After a quick visit, we were back in the air doing air work at low altitude flying northbound along the Rhine river.

It was an incredibly scenic ride and we seemed to "find" castles everywhere.  My favorite one was near Heidelberg, which you can see below.
After all the training/sightseeing, I got a little bit of excitement on the final landing.

As we were on mid-field right downwind to the 10,000 FT runway in Baden-Baden, there was a Ryan Air jet on 7 mile final and the tower asked me if I could do an "expedited landing".  I immediately said "affirmative".

At this point, Trip decided to throw one last surprise at me.  He pulled the power to idle and announced "I think we have an engine failure."  So I had to do a power off 180 to a full stop landing!  

I think he really just wanted to remind me that this was a training flight and not just sightseeing!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Things Falling Into Place

Sometimes things just have a way of falling into place...  

For me, this has recently been the case as I prepared for my annual recurrent training.

Usually, I accomplish my recurrent training by attending a CPPP.  But this year I decided to do it with a twist.  Instead of attending the course in Lakeland or Atlanta, I decided to attend the European version of the course in Germany.

This may sound a bit crazy... But since finishing the 50 states, I have been striving to become proficient at international flying and I could think of no better way than combining my usual training with some real world flying in Germany.

Since I started planning this adventure, I have been amazed at  how things have just fallen into place at every step! Here is what I mean:

1. I was concerned if I was would legally be allowed to fly in Germany with my FAA US pilot certificate. It turns out that US pilot credentials are honored worldwide IF you fly a US registered plane ( meaning tail # starting with "N").  That didn't seem so hard... So I started planning for flight training @ Baden-Baden Airpark (EDSB), which is just outside of Stuttgart.

2. With the help of a couple of friends from COPA, I located an "N" registered Cirrus in Germany.  As you can see in the pic below, I found one that is quite similar to my own . 
Obviously, I will be flying the little plane in the foreground !
3. The next step was insurance.  With a little help from my friendly US based CSIP, this was nothing more than shuffling a little paper.

4. Now I needed to find a way to get there.  Thanks to my day job, I had a ton of air miles waiting to be redeemed and surprisingly it was even available for the dates I wanted!

So now it looks like the trip is really going to happen and I need to study!  European flying definitely has a few nuances and complexities.  But overall, it seems totally doable!

For example, here is the airspace map that I need to learn.  

Stay tuned for the pirep to find out how it goes...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Angel Flight to Stuart

It has been a while since my last Angel Flight mission.  In fact, I don't remember exactly when the last one was.  So today after work, I decided to fix that by transporting a Moffitt patient (Mendis) and her daughter (Carmen) from Tampa to Stuart, which is on the east coast of FL.  

The weather in Tampa wasn't looking very cooperative and I was seriously thinking of scrubbing the mission.  You can see why in the picture below:
But mother nature smiled on us.  The weather cleared about 30 minutes prior to our scheduled departure time and we didn't even get wet as we boarded.

Approximately half of the flight was in rain and solid IMC.
But Carmen's preflight prayer really seemed to work.  Despite the rain, we had a totally smooth ride and listened to music the whole way.

As we got closer to Stuart we had some good news and some bad news.  

The good news- Stuart was dry so we would be able disembark in comfort.

The bad news-Stuart was surrounded by nasty weather, which made for a windy, bumpy approach.

We flew the RNAV 12 approach with a circle to land on runway 30.  I felt like I was wrestling  with the a 23 knot gusty winds the whole way down!

But as you can we were dry when we landed!
Mendis, Me and Carmen

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Recurrent Training and a rough trip home

This past weekend I went to Atlanta to visit an old friend (Bill) and to do some recurrent instrument training with one of my regular instructors (Trip) of Adventure Flight Training.

On the way up to Atlanta On Saturday, I had a pretty challenging flight dodging weather and landing into KRYY with a  900 FT ceiling.  
You can for yourself, in the video clip below:

But that seemed like just a warm up for the instrument work that Trip and I did the next day.  I was able to capture quite a bit of good video footage, which I hope to edit/ polish into some clean R9 instructional videos. 

But the real drama of the journey turned out to be the ride home.  First, there was a massive line of weather that was directly in my way.

This required a detour to the east over jacksonville.  Then I noticed the engine seemed to be riding a bit rougher and hotter than normal :-(

At first, I was not very concerned, and I just flew a little slower (65% power) to be safe. Then it started to sound worse and the #3 cylinder seemed dropped off of EGT gauge altogether! 

Now I was getting a little concerned.  Luckily, I was at 17500 FT, which meant I had plenty of time to figure out what to do.  I told the controller I was experiencing a rough riding engine but did not declare an emergency.  Instead, I slowed down even more (~45% power) and stayed as high as I could for as long as I could.   Finally, when I was about 80 miles from destination, I pulled the power to idle and began a steep descent. 

I landed using as little power as possible.  While it was not a true emergency, I definitely did breathe a huge sigh of relief as I taxied directly to the maintenance hanger!

Friday, July 20, 2012

M11 Scouting Trip

The  planning for the Cirrus Migration 11 is already in full swing!During the planning for M10, as a first time member of the organizing committee, I got a glimpse "behind the curtain" and was amazed how much effort goes into planning such an event.   Believe it or not, it takes a full year to plan the event due to all of the logistics that need to be sorted out!  Everything from location, lodging, speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, etc.

For M11 planning purposes,  this week I did a fun "scouting" trip to one of the potential sites (Mobile, AL).

Mobile is a beautiful and historic city right on the water on Mobile Bay along the gulf coast.

I flew up from Tampa on what was supposed to be a short, simple flight.  But due to the weather you see below, it started out as a grueling IFR takeoff in heavy rain. 
Thankfully, the Tampa approach ATC controllers were very helpful.  In fact, they seemed to offer me my deviations even before I asked for them! By the time I got out over the gulf, I was comfortably at 16000 FT, which turned out to be the "perfect" altitude, allowing me to skim along the cloud tops, which you can see below:
As I got closer to Mobile, the weather just kept improving and I had a visual clearance  into the Mobile Downtown airport that took me over the water of mobile bay and right over the shipping port.

When I arrived, Jerrry from the  Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau gave me a fantastic VIP tour of the city and several of the properties that we are considering.

I was surprised to learn some of the history of the area. For example, I never knew that the Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile are rather intense (and second only to New Orleans).  I also didn't realize what a "walkable" place the Mobile downtown was.  

After finishing the tour, the weather started to deteriorate, as you can see below:

Oh well, another rainy takeoff :-(

Other than the dreary takeoffs, the majority of both flights looked like this:

But most importantly, another M11 planning task completed!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My First Four Legged Passenger

Until today, all of my passengers were people.  But today was a long overdue flight... I loaded up my first four legged passenger (Tris) in preparation for takeoff.

The route was rather simple (Ft Lauderdale to Tampa).  However, there were a bunch of clouds surrounding Ft Lauderdale around departure time.

I filed a quick IFR flight plan with the full intention of canceling it as soon as I was above the clouds.

I was a little nervous about how Tris would react to the noise of the engine powering up on takeoff.  But he did totally fine.  In fact, shortly after takeoff, he and his little purple bunny were fascinated by the clouds:

Tris was a very helpful co-pilot and even pointed out a very photo worthy cloud formation that looked like a heart.
Heart shaped cloud formation
After all the excitement of the flight, both Tris and his purple bunny were exhausted and fell right asleep!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dodging Weather On the Way Home to Florida

After having an awesome time @ the Cirrus Migration, it was time to make the journey back to FL.  Since there were over 150 planes all planning to leave on Sunday morning, I tried to get an early start to avoid the rush.  I left the hotel ~ 06:30 and even then there were a about a dozen other pilots with the same thought.

Since the weather was beautiful, I departed Duluth VFR to simplify the departure procedure.  Soon after departure we turned to make one last pass over the downtown and canal park area. The aerial bridge looks just as cool from the air as on the ground:
The Duluth Aerial Bridge from the ground 
The Duluth Canal Park area from the air
But the weather didn't stay perfect :-(
I couldn't figure out how to "maintain VFR" as the ATC advised.  When I was just south of Chicago,  I gave up, called Flight Service on the radio, and filed an IFR flight plan while at 11,500 FT.  I activated the flight plan with Chicago Center ATC and dodged/weaved through the weather.  After clearing the weather and all of the military airspace, I promptly cancelled the IFR flight plan and resumed my VFR trek southbound.

The flightaware log of the flight shows the odd track I flew:
After clearing all of the weather, I made a fuel stop in a tiny airport in Jeffersonville, Indiana and was very impressed with the Honaker FBO.  The line guy seemed so happy to see us and the whole staff was very accommodating (especially Kellye)!  After the quick break for food and fuel, it was time for the longest leg of the journey, which was KJVY > KFXE.  This segment was 782NM, which is my personal longest flight!

In fact, the R9 had "low fuel" indicators for the last 30 minutes and upon landing the analog fuel gauges looked like this:
~ 20 Gals remaining @ FXE ... Maybe could have kept going to Key West ;-)
Now with M10 complete, I can hardly wait for M11!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Journey to Cirrus Migration 10

Every year, the annual Cirrus Migration Fly-In/Convention has become a tradition for me and each year I try do something unusual "on the way".

Last year, I made Alaska on the way to Cirrus Migration 9 in Colorado Springs.  This year migration 10 is being held in Duluth,MN, at birthplace of Cirrus and I decided to make Mackinac Island "on the way".

But first, I kicked off my journey by heading south to the Coldplay concert at the American Airlines Arena in Miami with a friend :-)

Then On Saturday morning, I started heading north at a very leisurely pace and stopped in Tampa for lunch and Atlanta for dinner.  As you can see, flight plans often revolve around meals ;-)

After a quick overnight in Atlanta, I headed straight to Mackinac Island.  This is a little island on the northern tip of Michigan in between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  It is like going back in time because there NO motorized vehicles allowed on the island and they use horse drawn carriages as taxis.  However, they did have a small airport so at least the motorized Cirrus was allowed ;-)

The arrival was rather scenic as you can see below:

After a couple of days of exploring the island (mostly on bicycle),  I was able to get a bunch of cool pix on the ground and in the air:
My fav pic from the air
My fav pic from the ground
Today, I finished the final leg of the journey to Duluth.

The total route of the whole journey to M10 is shown below:

Only 2 days till M10 officially starts!

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