Sunday, December 19, 2010

Skywriting Results

The weather was slightly better today.  But still not good enough for regular VFR flying.  The ATIS showed Winds 310 @ 8, Overcast layer @ 300 FT.  The only good news was that the fog and low clouds were expected to burn off later in the day.  We reviewed the plan and waited for some weather improvement. Our improvised flight plan was as follows:

We had every turn mapped out and by the time we were ready to go, the weather had improved to 500 Overcast.  Since that was still not that great, I filed IFR and we took off northbound.  After breaking out on top of the clouds between 5000 and 6000FT we canceled IFR and began to get in position, which was ~ 10 miles west of Crystal River @ 6500 FT on a heading of 090.
My copilot Joe did a great job of calling out headings and distances.  I was trying to focus on making steep coordinated turns with the R9 Vector mode.  My R9/STEC 's configuration tends to make roughly standard rate turns.  However, for this exercise, we needed much sharper turns.  So I made the turns by hand at ~ 45 degrees of bank and then used the R9 vector mode to hold my heading in order to get straight lines.  This was particular challenging due to the 23 knot winds from the west.

Soooo.... Here is the resulting GPS track:

View GPS Skywriting (First Attempt) in a larger map here:

As you can see, we made a couple of mistakes (the top of the "T" and the bottom of the "J").  In hindsight, we realized that these were errors in planning rather than errors in flying.  In addition, I am still learning how to import/embed Google Maps, which is is why the last period is shown in a different format on the map.  But overall, we were satisfied and it was time to head home. 

Unfortunately, mother nature would not give us a break.  The cloud deck below us was absolutely solid.  We had to get an IFR clearance and fly the GPS 23 Approach @ Tampa Executive Airport down to within 100 FT of minimums!  This was the first time Joe got to experience a real approach in IMC and he seemed quite relieved when we landed. 

So while it was not exactly as intended, we still declared "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"!

== T.J.==

PS- Now I am on the lookout for the next cool flight exercise/experience.  Send me any suggestions you have.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ugly Weather (Perfect Day to Fly!)

Today was expected to be a dreary weather day in the whole state of Florida due to a large "cold front" that was passing through.  Today was definitely NOT a skywriting day.  But what a great day for some recurrent flight training in actual IMC!

I had planned a training day with Jason Schappert of MzeroA and was seriously considering cancelling it yesterday and also this morning ~ 730 AM.  While there was absolutely NO sun to be found in the sunshine state, the ceilings weren't that low and winds were tame.  I felt confident I could make the IFR journey to Dunellon, FL to meet Jason.  Then with comfort and security of a CFII in the right seat, I thought I could get some real IMC experience/training.
So off I went to the airport.  As I watched the pouring rain from the car (and looming clouds in the distance), I was getting cold feet.  Here is what I saw out the car window:

I was trying to recall the dozen or so takeoffs/landings I have had in the rain and tried hard to convince myself of the merit's of getting more actual IMC time.  While I was on the ground @ Tampa Executive airport, the weather looked as ugly on the screen as it did out the window:
I checked the weather (again) and verified that I had the legal takeoff minimums.  Then I finally made the decision to GO.
As expected, the first leg of the journey was filled with clouds/rain and a whole lot of staring at screens.  But surprisingly, it was rather smooth.  There was hardly any turbulence!  After landing in Dunellon to pickup Jason, I checked my actual route on Flightaware and this is what it showed:
Jason and I did a bit of ground prep and planned to do the following:
1. Go IFR to Daytona Beach (doing instrument work and practice approaches on the way)
2. Continue IFR to Orlando-Sanford (some more approach work)
3. Continue IFR to Winter Haven (for a lunch stop and debrief)
4. Work our way back to Dunellon while doing a bunch of stick and rudder/commercial maneuvers.

Shortly after we launched, not only did we encounter lots of rain/clouds, but we also experienced some rather weak ATC performance.  This was very surprising to me.  I have the utmost respect for the ATC controllers in FL.  But today, they seemed "off their game".  In fact, the Daytona approach controllers, called us by the wrong tail # on 4 separate occasions.  In addition, we had multiple approach clearance changes along the way (with no apparent reason).  Eventually, they seemed bored with us and even broke off our approach before the final approach fix to GPS 16 @KDAB.  We managed to take it in stride and just moved on to Orlando.  Here too, the ATC controller wasn't very cooperative.  After several attempts, we eventually managed to "negotiate" a clearance to the RNAV/GPS 9L.  We did a "squeaky clean" touch and go and were off to Winter Haven.
The arrival into Winter Haven was quite cool!  The weather was near minimums and on the first attempt, we got down to 500 FT MSL with NO runway in sight.  This was the first time I truly "needed" to abort a landing!  Sooo.... It was flaps up, full power, heading 210, climb to 2000 FT and back to Tampa Approach.  We asked to try the same approach again and had better results the second time.  According to FlightAware, this was our actual track on this journey:
 After a quick lunch at Cafe 92, we are off again.  The weather had improved slightly.  We were able to take off VFR and begun all the stick and rudder work.  No more "luxury, laptop flying"... Now it was ALL by hand!  Jason did a great job teaching me some commercial maneuvers like chandelles, lazy 8s, 8s on Pylons, etc.  After dropping off Jason to his home base in Dunellon, I was able to fly home VFR in the improved weather conditions.  As I got close to home, I had one last encounter with weather as you can see below:

Luckily, I managed to land and put the plane in the hanger with ~ 15 mins to spare before that giant red cell arrived at the airport with a huge downpour!

Now with today's new found skill/confidence (and a total of ~ 5 hours on the hobbs), I think I am ready for skywriting tomorrow morning.  Stay Tuned...

== T.J.==

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Planing for a First Attempt at Skywriting

After reading several of Steve Dilullo's posts, I feel inspired to try something a bit different this weekend.  His post about ribbon cutting has quite cool.  But I fly a Cirrus and I can't "just open the window" to try ribbon cutting.  However, his post about skywriting really got me thinking.  I wanted to give skywriting a try and see just how hard it really was.

First, I had to figure out the equipment needed to log the GPS track.  This part should be EZ.  But there were several ways I could think of to do it:

Plan A was to use the basic features of the Avidyne R9 that allow you to download flight details (including GPS data) to a USB stick.  This data (in KML format) can then be pulled into Google Earth.
Plan B was to use the free "GPS Tracker" app on the iPhone.  I have never tried this before.  But it sounds promising.  Allegedly, this app monitors your GPS track, including altitude, at user defined intervals (10 seconds, 20 seconds, etc) and creates a regular interactive Google map of the track.
Plan C was to have my buddy Joe bring along an external hand held GPS tracker.  This would also result in a KML file that can be pulled into Google Earth.
I will probably try all three plans and check out the results.  However, Plan B seems the most appealing to me.  With an interactive Google map, you can easily embed that anywhere.  Unfortunately, Google Earth doesn't let you do that...  Or at least I don't know how ;-)

Next, on to planning the route itself.  Unlike the Merry Christmas track in Steve's post, for my first attempt, I wanted to try a much simpler version.  Instead of big words in cursive, I was planning to try just a couple of letters in capital, bubble letters.  The planning was harder than I thought.  I needed to find an airspace that was not crowded, had no Class B,C,Ds, or MOAs, of which there are many in FL.  I decided to go just north of the Tampa Class B, around Crystal River, FL. Since I didn't know how well the iPhone GPS would work at higher altitudes, I decided to stay relatively low 3500 FT, where the reception should be pretty good.
Here is what I came up with:
The picture shows straight lines and edges instead of bubble letters... Obviously, the real thing will be rounded edges on the actual GPS track and the result should be real bubble letters.    

As far as "how" to fly the route, I needed to get creative.  If I simply flew it by hand, I suspect the finished product would be a bit sloppy.  My Excel planning file, shows me just how precise I need to fly this to have a successful finished product.  So I decided to use the "Vector" Mode of the R9 combined with my STEC autopilot to help me out. 

As some of you know, Avidyne's new digital autopilot the DFC100 is now available and I am planning to have it installed next month (Can't wait).  The DFC100 would be even better for this exercise.  For kicks, I may try to repeat this exact exercise next month with the new autopilot and post a side by side comparison.  

But for this weekend, I will try it with the STEC first.  "Vector" Mode is the key (I think)... 

So that's the plan ... This weekend, I will try it for real and see how close I come to the plans.  Regardless of how it turns out (good, bad or ugly), I plan to post the resulting GPS track on Sunday night!

Stay tuned...
== T.J.==

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The next state (OK) - State # 33

The states are now getting further (and harder) .... But that's OK ... Today was a beautiful day to fly... My intended destination was Dallas.  But I was compelled to make a slight detour to land in a new state(Oklahoma).  The route is shown below:

The weather forecast showed a little bit of IFR along my route ... But nothing scary.

When I got to the airport, I found the DirecTV blimp was in town for the Bucs game today. When blimps visit, they park right next to my hanger.  Check it out:

Since I needed to do a bunch of Chart/GPS updates anyway, I set the updates running and went to chat with the blimp crew.  Unfortunately, I didn't plug the plane into external power and apparently I spent too much time gabbing.  By the time I returned, the battery had discharged enough that I couldn't start the plane normally!  I called the line crew for help and luckily Jose was able to give me a jump start.
After everything was sorted out, I was finally ready to go (total delay ~ 55 minutes).  The delay was not concerning ;  But the fast approaching showers were.  By the time I did my run-up and was really ready to depart, it was raining and the ceilings were dropping fast.  So I picked up my IFR clearance from the ground and took off in the rain.  Here is what the screen looked like right after takeoff:

After bumping along in the rain for a few minutes, I broke out on top of the clouds and it was smooth sailing from that point on direct to HEVVN (pronounced "Heaven")@ 16k feet. 

The HEVVN intersection is a common nav aid that I use over the Gulf of Mexico.  By using this fix, I can stay clear of the international warning areas over the gulf and at the same time stay close enough to land for safety reasons.  Besides it just sounds cool when ATC instructs you to "go direct Heaven"!

As I got closer to my fuel stop in Meridian, I heard a bunch of military traffic on the radio.  There is a lot of military training done around Meridian.  So you usually get to see some cool airplanes in this area.  In particular, today there were 2 T-38s flying formation very close to the traffic pattern.  After I got cleared to land on runway 1, the T-38s asked for permission to do a low pass alongside runway 1.  I was shocked to hear the controller say "approved as requested"!  Seconds after I touched down, the 2 T38s zoomed overhead @ ~ 30 feet AGL and ~100 feet left of centerline.  After passing the runway, they did a near vertical climb and circled around for a full stop on the same runway.

They parked right next to me and I even got to meet them!  I couldn't get a picture during their low pass, but here they are parked on the tarmac (the 2 gray ones): 
They even let me climb up to the cockpit!  See for yourself:
Doesn't look to hard... Does it??

Believe it or not, on the other side of where I parked was an F-18!

After a quick lunch, it was time to move on ... I still needed to land in Durant, OK and then get to Dallas.
Rest of the trip was rather uneventful, except for the 60-70 knot headwinds, which seemed like Mother Nature's way of tormenting me on both legs today!  See for yourself:

Despite true airspeeds in excess of 190 knots, I was frequently traveling at ground speeds a slow as  ~ 120-130 knots. 

The stop in Durant, OK was really quite interesting... The airport is right next door to the Choctaw Casino and the FBO is quite memorable... (But it is getting late now and I will have to save that story for another time.)

For now, I am HOPING to ride some huge tailwinds on the home!

== T.J.==

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Last Minute Angel Flight

Normally, my Angel Flights are scheduled well in advance.  Usually, I have to juggle a whole bunch of things (both work and personal).  But late yesterday I got a message from the "Angel Flight Mission Control" about a particularly compelling flight today (Wednesday b4 Thanksgiving) that was in jeopardy of being canceled.  The patient, who lives in Jacksonville, FL, was undergoing treatment in Houston for "Metastatic Adrenocortial Carcinoma to liver, lungs & kidney" ... Wow isn't that a mouthful!

I had to work today + it was last minute and on and on.  There were a dozen reasons to ignore the plea for pilots on this mission.  But something inside me said I should make the effort on this one.  The alternative for the patient was to fly commercial on the busiest travel day of the year right after enduring a grueling cancer treatment.  So late yesterday, I decided to sign up and do this!

Another pilot transported the patient from Houston to Destin, FL.  That's where I was supposed to pick him up and fly him home to Jacksonville. 

In order to do that and still make it to work, I had to get a little creative.  As many of you know, I work for IBM and have the privilege (and burden) of working entirely remote.  I don't normally go to an office.  Instead, I work from wherever my laptop and I happen to be.  So late last night I made a plan... I would get up as early as I could and fly from Tampa > Destin.  Then I would "go to work" from the pilot's lounge @ Miracle Strip Aviation in Destin.  Then late in the afternoon, I would meet up with the patient and take him to Jacksonville.  Finally, after dropping the patient off, I would do a night flight home to Tampa.  The flight plan was "almost" a lap of FL.  See for yourself:
When I woke up this morning @ zero dark 30, I was a bit grumpy but dragged myself out of bed anyway.  When I got the airport I had an uneventful pre-flight and takeoff.  I always enjoy taking off before the FBO opens.  (Makes me feel like I am ahead of the day!)

At that hour, the skies were empty and the ATC frequencies were totally silent.  I had a smooth, peaceful ride and really enjoyed the music enroute.  The "Pulse" station on the satellite radio seemed to read my mind about what song I would enjoy next.  During the whole flight, I don't even recall changing the channel once, which is quite a rarity for me.  

About the time I reached my cruise altitude of 16k, I noticed the engine was running a little hotter than normal on cylinder 4.  I monitored it VERY closely and made frequent mixture setting changes to keep it under control.  I took all sorts of notes and was planning to ask the "turbo gurus" on the COPA website about it after I landed.  

When I was about 100 miles out, I started to check the weather.  (This is a cool feature on the Avidyne R9 that allows you to "see" the Automated Weather on screen even before you are within radio range to hear it).  Unfortunately, I didn't like what it said! The visibility was 1/4 mile, rain and mulitiple cloud layers with the lowest one being @ 100 FT.  This was was below the published minimums for the airport.  But I was 100 miles away ... Hopefully, it would improve as I got closer (plus I had plenty of fuel/options if it didn't).
Despite what the automated weather said, I was also comforted by the unofficial "out the window" forecast, which looked great!  See for yourself:

By now I was checking engine temps and weather every couple of minutes.  Luckily the automated weather was improving rapidly.  (From 1/4 mile vis + rain, it eventually got to 3 miles mist and the lowest clouds were a scattered layer @ 100 FT.  Not great... But good enough for me to land!   

When I landed in Destin, the FBO crew @ Miracle Strip was very accommodating as always.  I got settled in to the lounge and "went to work".  Other than the few colleagues that follow this blog, most of my colleagues would never guess where I am when I take their calls/pings :-)

After an uneventful day of work, the patient (Mark) arrived in the late afternoon.  I chatted a bit with the connecting pilot, whose name was Sherif (pronounced "sha-reef" not "cher-iff").  He was an interesting guy!  He was a far more seasoned pilot than me and one of the few Cessna 177 pilots I know that does LONG X-Country trips with his plane.  In fact, during this mission, he is "sort of" working his way back to the east coast from California! 

Mark was so grateful for being spared the grueling journey home on Southwest.  The original plan was to take Mark to Craig Field, which is a small GA airport outside of Jacksonville.  But then he told me his car was at Jacksonville International Airport.  (He was concerned that a small plane couldn't take him directly there.)  But I reassured him and wanted to simplify his journey as much as possible.  So we flew to JAX!  I had never landed @ JAX before.  But since I had landed @ ATL, TPA, and MCO, I was pretty comfortable flying directly there and was even excited about the prospect of a new airport for my log.
The trip itself was "smooth as glass".  The weather was perfect and the engine temps were behaving normally again.  (Believe me I was watching it VERY closely).

When we landed @ JAX, the Sheltair crew immediately greeted our plane and were extremely helpful. Mark and I said our goodbyes and the crew took Mark and his luggage directly to his car on the other side of the airport.  I got a top off and was ready to go right around sunset:

The short "night" flight home was beautiful.  Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to take good pictures @ night.  Hopefully, one of my blog buddies will help me with that soon...

Now as I sit in my home office at the end of the day, I realize how lucky I am, what a great day I had, and most importantly how much I have to be thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving,
== T.J.==

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

East Coast Journey (Going Home)

Seven new states, and 5 IMC hours later, it was time to go home.  The journey home involved a stop in Frederick, MD (state #32).  Here is what the final route flown looked like:

Since I needed to stop in MD, it was only natural to stop @ FDK.  I was hoping to squeeze in visit to the AOPA headquarters and also meet a fellow pilot, whose blog I really enjoy.

But getting to FDK was NOT an ez task.  There was a pesky 40-50 knot headwind the whole way there!
Note the 43 knot headwind @ 10000 FT
 But it was a good excuse to use the the new GPS Z approach to runway 23.  I had read about GPS Z approaches, which are the latest/greatest precision WAAS approaches with LPV.  But I had not seen one in person.
Surprisingly, the missed approach goes into the DCADIZ
So that approach led to another soggy landing (and the 4th landing in the rain during this trip!) 

But the stop was definitely worth it!  I did get to meet up with a fellow pilot blogger, Toriaflys  If you haven't checked out her blog yet, I suggest you take a peek (it's really quite good).

While at Frederick, I also took a tour of the AOPA headquarters.  I already knew what a great organization AOPA was.  However, Silvana Cannon, one of the AOPA staffers, showed me some of the behind the scenes "machinery" that makes this organization tick.  Now I am even more impressed!

After FDK, the trip home should have been rather uneventful.  The weather forecast was very good and hopefully all that IMC was behind me.  I donned the cannula and was cleared up to 16k (where the really good views are)... See for yourself:

 The plan was a quick fuel stop @ Homerville, GA and a short final leg back to Tampa.  Unfortunately, the city of Homerville (and it's mayor) has truly ignored it's airport.  When I arrived it was an absolute ghost town.  There was not a single person or plane there and they didn't even have fuel!!  Apparently, the fuel pumps were out of order.  Even the runway was in shabby condition.  But being the eternal optimist that I am, I made "lemonade" out of this lemon stop.  Even though it was deserted and locked, their wireless worked from my Iphone on their front porch.  As a result, I was at least able to catch up on calls/emails in relative comfort.  Then I took a quick 20 mile flight to Valdosta, where I was able to satisfy both the plane's thirst and my hunger.  Then finally a quick VFR trip home to Tampa:
Mission accomplished! Just in time for dinner!!
Overall, the journey has really put my piloting skills to the test (both in the air and even on the ground).  Can't wait to start planning the next batch of states!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

East Coast Journey (Day 3)

Today was the most varied (and most intense) day of flying I have ever had!  The day began as a leisurely morning sightseeing flight with Avanni (and her Daddy).
Avanni and her parents (Ronak and Sapna)
As you can see, Ronak got the hang of aerial photography pretty quickly as we flew over Patriots stadium down to Rhode Island and back:

After dropping them back home in Norwood, the drama began.  The first leg was up to Sanford, ME, which was mostly in IMC and light rain.  This landing was state # 29, and involved a GPS approach down to within 300 FT of minimums.
After a quick stop at the cockpit cafe and another weather briefing, I realized I needed to change my route entirely.  Instead of Sanford > Lebanon > Rutland, I ended up going Sanford > Concord > Montpelier.  Weather really forces you to be flexible!  Enroute, was more light rain and total IMC.  This was the view most of the way:
The landing at Concord was another instrument approach to within ~ 300 FT of minimums.  I felt so proud of myself.  (Little did I know what was coming on the next leg!!)
After fuel and another weather briefing, it was time to go Concord > Montpelier.  This involved a flight, where I entered the clouds shortly after takeoff and didn't see the ground till I was on my final descent.  Aside from being the largest continuous segment of IMC I have done, it also involved an flying an LPV approach all the way down to the published min!  This is what it looked like when I finally broke out of the clouds:
I was sooo happy to see the runway!

Other than sunny FL training  days, I have NEVER before flown an approach like that.  (As I result, I know believe that there really is no substitute for "actual IMC")

The actual route flown so far is shown below:

Upto 31 states now!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

East Coast Journey (Day 2)

Day 2 was a rather simple day of flying... But it did include 3 new states, unusual ATC interactions, and best of all some awesome sites.

The day began in Raleigh, with another good weather forecast.  I filed IFR RDU > LVL > WWD (Wildwood, NJ) Very simple routing that avoided the Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area.  There were a few cool sites shortly after takeoff:
Some patchy fog in Raleigh during takeoff.
Between VA and MD
Webster Naval base
Then it was time for lunch in Wildwood, NJ (Woohoo state # 26!!!)  Now the ATC excitement begins, I filed an IFR flight plan with what should have been a "preferred" route.  But when I contacted Atlantic City Clearance Delivery, they gave a wild clearance with over 10 fixes and even merging into Victor airways.  The only good news was that the routing was over JFK, which led to some great views of Newark and New York City.
Statue of Liberty (through a bunch of low haze)
New York City from 7000 feet near JFK
Directly overflying JFK @ 7000 FT
So after navigating the crazy routing and airways, I tried to do something tricky with ATC.  I asked them if I could do a full stop landing in Westerly, RI, keep my squawk code and immediately take off to Norwood, MA.  While ATC was being very cooperative, they asked me "If I knew the Norwood airport was closed?"

I thought "Yikes" ... Better check into it on the ground before showing up.  So after I landed at Westerly, I called the FBO @ Norwood to find out what was going on.  Turns out that they were doing construction on one of the other runways and the airport would reopen with a single runway in operation @ 5PM.  Since I was 30 minutes flight away, I decided to get back in the air and do some sightseeing.  Found a couple of cool airports, which are shown below:
Elizabeth Field on Fishers Island, NY (looks like an aircraft carrier to me!)
Montauk Airport (the very end of Long Island)
After a few good pics (~ 430), I activated an IFR flight plan and headed direct to Norwood.  The timing worked out perfectly, I landed @ 5:03 PM at Norwood, right as they opened!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

East Coast Journey (Day 1)

Day 1 went off "almost" as planned.   I was so excited to begin my journey.  I arrived a couple of hours early to the airport so that I could do a thorough pre-flight and still have time to "correct" anything that may have needed attention.  Luckily everything checked out OK and after a whole bunch of work calls/emails, I was ready to go.
Can u tell the look of eager anticipation?
After taking off VFR, I contacted Tampa Approach to pick up my IFR flight plan.  Despite the "cleared as filed" clearance I received, ATC seemed to have other plans for me! After numerous "scenic" vectors, finally I was cleared to Taylor (TAY) > Waycross (AYS)>direct destination.  I didn't mind at all, because this new routing has even better (more direct) than what I originally filed and kept me clear of some pesky military airspace.
I got cleared to 16000 FT pretty quickly and eventually to 17000 FT.  At that altitude the ride was sooo smooth!
After playing with the sat radio and camera for a while, I decided to try my hand at taking a couple of in flight videos.  Haven't had time to edit them yet. But hopefully I can get them cleaned up on YouTube later this week.   

After a couple of quick hours, I landed in Duplin County Airport (KDPL), which is one my favorite fuel stops.  (Didn't really need to stop there... I could have easily kept going to RDU... But I needed a break and it was a good excuse to stop at Andy's Burgers, which is a little greasy spoon, with a cool 50s style atmosphere right next to the airport.

After a little break (and some calls/emails, etc) it was on to the final, short leg to RDU.

As the weather forecast had predicted, there was a lot of low level turbulence and gusty winds, which really made for tough landing.  But by that time, I was motivated to get down on the ground.

Karishma and Arjun (and of course their Dad) were there to greet me.

Here is Karishma posing on the plane:

Here is Arjun pulling back on the side stick (trying to takeoff):

Had a great evening in Raleigh!  No new states yet.. But I am recharged for Day 2 where I will hopefully land in 3 new ones!!
So far, here is the progress on the trip:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

East Coast Journey (Day 0)

So tomorrow is really day 1 of the journey.  But tonight, was time for the flight planning.  My general sequence is usually as follows:
1 Weather 2 Route Selection 3 Airport/FBO selection

Then if time permits 4 Lodging 5 Ground Transport.  But if time doesn't permit getting to 4 or 5, I am usually happy to figure that out on the spot upon arrival.

1 Weather: The weather looks great!  I used to check weather using the ADDS.  But recently I started using the new AOPA Weather site, which I find a little better... (only wish it was available via iPhone app)

The weather is good but looks like it will be bumpy as I near the destination.  I will probably file IFR.  But the weather is good enough that I don't need to tomorrow + going VFR usually gives me better pictures... I will do one more check before departure and make the final VFR/IFR call tomorrow.

2. Route:  Tomorrow's route will be a short, easy one that I have flown many times:
KVDF > OCF > V441 > SSI > KRDU

Assuming no surprises, I should get there in time for dinner with family...

In addition, I hope to try making some R9 avionics video clips along the way.  (It will be "take 1"... So who knows how good it will turn out.)

3. Airport/FBO: Raleigh has 2 major FBOs, which is rather common at bigger airports.  Both are full service FBOs with all the amenities.  I think I will use TAC Air.  (Not any particular reason... I just had a good experience at the TAC Air in Lexington, KY a few weeks ago... thought I would give this one a try.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Short Angel Flight tonight

It is rare that I sign up for midweek Angel flight.  But today was different.  The passenger today was a brave, young woman who was participating in a clinical trial at Moffitt Cancer Hospital.  If you haven't heard of Moffitt, it is one of the best cancer hospitals in the country.  In addition to standard treatments, they also do a lot of cutting edge research and clinical trials.  As a result, there are many Angel Flights that begin or end in Tampa.  This one was a short hop from my home base late in the day. So I was able to do it after work and best of all the patient got to avoid a 4 hour drive, which was her alternative.

As usual, I got my paperwork and planning in order before leaving the house.  Then while driving to the airport, I talked to a Lockheed briefer for one last check on weather, NOTAMs, TFRs, etc.  Everything looked good except for the Lake Placid MOA, which was active today.  This caused a slightly less than direct routing on the way there.  But no worries, it was a typical beautiful day in FL.  Here is the routing, I ended up getting:

On the way home, I flew basically the same route.  However, this time the weather was not as cooperative.  Palm Beach Approach cleared me to 7000 ft.  But that was just NOT the right altitude.

As you can see, that was right in the middle of the cloud deck.  After asking for altitude changes multiple times with no luck, I came to the conclusion that both Palm Beach Approach and Miami Center were just too busy today.

After 10 minutes of getting used to flying entirely on instruments, the clouds passed (or should I say were just lower than me) and it was beautiful once again.  See for yourself:
From then on, it just got clearer and clearer and then I had time to play with my new toy:
This little gorillapod tripod, is my latest gadget.

This is what it looks like in the cockpit

Watch out! ... I sense you will see a bunch of landing videos soon! 

== T.J.==