I have been
extremely busy. Nonetheless, I tried to keep flying on the
weekends. I had a visitor from Japan three weeks in a row, and I
took each of them to the sight-seeing flight. The weather was
not so good, and the scenery was obscured by the mist. But, for
some reason, I was able to land my airplane very well. I was
happy about that.
Two weeks before I took my first
visitor for a flight (so, it's already almost a month ago), I flew for
a foliage-watching flight. It's a sort of an annual event of me
and my wife. The sky was clear with very good visibility and
calm wind. It was the best condition for a flight.
I took off Allegheny County airport
and headed south. I found that it is very difficult to tell when
the foliage is at the peak. If I fly early fall, some trees are
still green, but if I fly late in the season, some trees already are
naked. This time, it was somewhat earlier side. Some trees
were red and yellow. They looked beautiful from the sky.
Then I headed north. I
usually only take off and land at the Allegheny County airport.
But, this time I requested class D transition and got clearance.
Actually, as far as I remembered, I had never flown over Allegheny
County airport at 3,000ft. So, it was my first view to see the
airport from this angle.
I circled over Fox Chapel area,
which is on the north of Pittsburgh, then came back. If was late
afternoon, and the shadow of my airplane cast on the runway approached
to my airplane on landing. Actually, the trees right under the
short final runway 10 were most nicely colored. Below is the
video from the foliage-watching flight. (Click to play)
October 4th, there was a small air show called "War Bird Weekend" at
Butler County Airport (KBTP). Butler County Airport is located
about an hour from my apartment by car. Many times, I flew over
KBTP, but I never landed there. In fact, if I drive down to
Allegheny County airport, it takes at least 20 minutes, and then it
would take 20 minutes to fly to KBTP plus time needed for pre-flight
check, so it doesn't make much sense to rent a Cessna to go to KBTP.
So, this time I just drove there.
In fact, this event was not
advertised much. I didn't know about the event until one of my
pilot friends told me about it. Many World War II war planes
including B-25, T-6, etc. flew in to KBTP, and some of them offered a
ride. (The B-25 there was the same B-25 "Panchito" that flew in
Dayton air show.)
One of the airplanes flew in to
KBTP was Stearman, which was used as a trainer during the World War
II. It was based at Beaver County airport, where
I had my instrument check ride. It was
offering a ride, and the price was just $80. It was cheap
compared to $350 for B-25. One of the pilot friend who was there
also pushed me to go for ride, so I decided to go. Actually, the
pilot who was giving a ride was an instructor, so he said he could
sign my logbook after the flight.
sitting in the front seat. (Photo taken by a pilot friend on
So, I strapped in. I'm used
to ride a small airplane. So, it was just comfortable.
However, although I've heard about it, I could see nothing in front.
Big engine and the instrument panel was totally hiding the forward
view. The instructor in the back seat easily started engine and
began taxing. I noticed there was no heading indicator on the
instrument panel. I pushed the intercom button and said to the
instructor "This guy doesn't have a heading indicator, does it?"
I was almost expecting to hear "no, it doesn't," and I got a reply
from the back as expected. I have also heard that this type of
airplane swings nose left and right during taxing because there's zero
forward view. And, it indeed was swinging the nose left and
right while taxing to the runway.
A Stearman is an old airplane, and
the main landing gears are attached front of the center of gravity,
and a small wheel is attached aft. Since it drags its tail on
the ground, this type of airplanes are called a "Tail Dragger."
In YSFLIGHT, it is not difficult to
take off in a tail dragger, but in an actual airplane, there are a lot
more things to pay attention. So, the instructor controlled the
airplane during take off, and I was taking a video.
Then we flew to north east a little
bit, and did some maneuvers. I did some Lazy Eights, and Stalls.
The airplane was very maneuverable compared to Cessna. I wanted
to do some aerobatics as well, but this time I didn't.
Nonetheless, I banked the airplane like 60 degrees to do Lazy Eights.
It was such a fun! One thing I noticed was during the level
flight, the instrument panel was still blocking some forward view.
If I lower nose to have a better forward view, the airplane descended.
Also, in Cessna 172, all I need to do for coordinating turn is apply
some pressure on the rudder pedal. But, in Stearman, I had to
positively push the rudder pedal to keep rudder and aileron
coordinated. So, I ended up with go up and down, and turns were
not quite coordinated. Nonetheless, it was my first time to fly
Stearman. I guess that was normal. I would do better if I
have next chance.
I handed the control back to the
instructor for landing. And, the landing in Stearman was again
very different from Cessna. He first aligned the airplane with
the runway. Then, slightly moved off to the right. Then he
pushed the right rudder, and applied left aileron, and put the
airplane into a forward slip. The forward slip I learned was to
fly the airplane parallel to the runway while the nose was pointing
left or right from the runway. But, Stearman's forward slip was
slightly different from what I learned. The airplane approached
the runway from the right. That big forward slip was something I
had never experienced before. It was really a good experience.
After landing, the instructor signed my log book and gave me 0.4 hours
of dual-instruction time in Stearman.
Log-book entry. Click to enlarge.
It was my first time to fly in a
tandem cockpit, bi-plane, tail dragger, and World War II trainer.
It was totally a new and exciting experience to me. $80 for this
opportunity seemed to me a very good deal. Below is the video I
took from the Stearman's cockpit.
I ate a piece of Hershey chocolate at National
Warplane Museum, but I was still hungry. I came back to FBO, and
chatted with the person at the counter, and said that I was hoping
there had been a cafe at the museum. Then she offered a courtesy
crew car so that I could drive to a nearby sandwich stand. But,
I declined the offer because it was almost the planned departure time.
But, there was a free coffee and free ice cream machine in the FBO, so
I had some to fill some of empty space of my stomach. Elmira FBO
was run by Atlantic Aviation, which is a big franchise in the north
eastern U.S. In fact, when I landed at Northeast Philadelphia,
the FBO was also Atlantic Aviation. I was very happy with the
service at Northeast Philadelphia and Elmira. I don't mind
giving five-star rating to their service.
I finished pre-flight inspection, started engine, and
contacted Elmira ground to obtain IFR clearance. According to
the memo, what I heard was:
"Cleared for Allegheny County, Elmira two departure,
then PSB, TSO, REC, MKP, then direct, maintain 4,000, expect 6,000 in
10 minutes, departure frequency 119.45, sqawk 1675."
Can I make an emergency landing on the open
space below in case of engine failure?
Where can I make an emergency landing over
Actually, I cannot write this long. What I
actually wrote down was "C AGC ELM 2, PSB TSO REC MKP AGC, M 4000
6->10min, D 119.45, S 1675." I read back accordingly, and the
ground controller said "Read back is correct." But, what's TSO?
I knew TON is Tyron VOR, which is near my route. But, I've never
heard TSO. I tried to type in the GPS to find out, but my GPS
told there's no such thing. I didn't see it on the chart either.
So, I called the ground again and asked "I thought the second waypoint
was TSO, but I don't see it. Can you verify the second waypoint
was really TSO?" It turned out it was TON. It was good to
ask back. I then knew the cleared route.
Then I took off Elmira, and Elmira tower handed me off
to Elmira approach. I thought Elmira approach told me to direct
Phillipsburg VOR (PSB). So, I started right turn to head to
Phillipsburg VOR. But, the approach controller called again and
told me to make a left turn. Apparently, I missed "left turn"
part when I first heard fro Elmira approach. So, I stopped right
turn, and made a left turn (almost 270 degree) and headed to
Phillipsburg. I don't claim I am an experienced IFR pilot.
I need to add a lot more experience. This time, the approach
controller corrected me and I followed the instruction.
The opening below seems to be a good
emergency landing strip, but are there power lines if I come
I guess it was West Mifflin High School.
Nice landmark to come back to Allegheny County airport from the
I wanted to fly straight from Elmira to Allegheny.
But, if I did so, I would have flown through the Duke MOA (Military
Operating Area). So, I chose to fly to Phillipsburg, then head
to Allegheny. This route will keep me off the Duke MOA.
But, this route is not very efficient. In fact, I wanted to turn
direct Allegheny as soon as I clear Duke MOA, but I had to fly
straight for 10 minutes or so after clearing the Duke MOA to reach
Phillipsburg, which turn into about $20 of rental fee. However,
as soon as I cleared the corner of Duke MOA, Cleveland Center told me
to fly direct Allegheny. I thank Cleveland Center ATC! He
saved my $20. The airplane I was flying, N96557, had an IFR
certified GPS. Since I had to give an equipment code when I
filed my IFR flight plan, the air traffic controller knew that my
airplane was capable of flying solely by GPS. So, the ATC
allowed me to fly direct Allegheny without relying on VOR.
Then I came over mountainous terrain. When I am
flying I always look for an open space that I can land in case of
total power loss. I saw no such potential emergency landing site
around my airplane. But, one of my friend who is flying a rescue
helicopter told me that almost all fatal accident happens when the
pilot does not realize the airplane was about to hit the terrain,
which is also called as a CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain.)
So, if I lost engine, I would have to slow down to just above the
stall speed, and try to hang my airplane on one of the trees. I
was thinking such a thing, and kept flying straight to Allegheny
Before long, I was handed off to Pittsburgh approach.
When I called Pittsburgh approach, I felt I was coming home.
That was the same feeling I had when I flew back from Northeast
Philadelphia airport in May. I realized that it was my second
time I approached to Allegheny from northeast. (Last time was
when I flew back from DuBois.) I saw my left, and there was a
nice building with bright blue roof. I took a photo, and saw a
football field beside the building. I guess it was a building of
West Mifflin high school (maybe.) It is a good landmark for
coming back to the airport under VFR.
When I came close to the airport, PFTC's airplane
N9417L was in the traffic pattern and doing touch & goes. I
landed and tried to make a right turn into a taxiway to give runway to
the approaching 17L, but the tower told me to go all the way to runway
31, then taxiway B1 to PFTC. So, I added power a little bit and
dashed into runway 31 to give way to 17L.
I finally finished one of the biggest requirements for
the commercial certificate, 250nm long cross country. This
flight gave me a little more confidence.
The shadow of the airplane cast on the
runway of Allegheny County airport.
Well, but I practiced IFR approaches today, but I
didn't do as good as I wanted to do. I could flew pretty close
to the airport, but I couldn't stay on the glide slope just before the
minimum. (In fact, ILS gets more and more sensitive as I close
to the airport, so it becomes more difficult to precisely on course
and on glide path as I come close to the touch down point.) I
need a lot more practice to be a good IFR pilot. So, I keep
Very nice golf course. A little before
arriving at Griffiss. (I forgot uploading it last time.)
Griffiss airport. After taking off from
I arrived at Rome at around 12:30. Planned
flight time was 1 hour 30 minutes, but it actually took 2 hours.
I actually had to wait for several minutes before take off at
Willaimsport. But, in addition to that, this airplane's rudder
was apparently not completely adjusted, and I had to apply left rudder
slightly to keep the airplane straight. But, keeping precise
pressure on left foot pedal for long period of time is really tiring.
So, I kept pushing and releasing left rudder pressure, and the
airplane did not quite follow the straight course. Maybe that's
another reason of the 30 minutes delay.
Anyway, I was pretty hungry when I arrived at Griffiss.
But, I was hoping there was a restaurant or a cafe at National
Warplane Museum located in the field of Elmira, and my plan was to eat
lunch there. So, I refueled the airplane and took off right
away. Griffiss ground told me to taxi runway 33 via Charlie,
Alpha, Charlie, meaning taxi to runway 33 via taxiway C, then taxiway
A, and then taxiway C. Taxiway C was connected to the middle of
the runway. Not exactly middle, but almost. If I taxied to
runway 33 via taxiway C, I would be able to use only half the length
of the runway. But, Griffiss had a nice long runway, and half
the length was more than triple the length that a Cessna 172 needs for
So, I took off from the middle of the runway with no
difficulty. Griffiss tower handed me off to Syracuse approach.
Then I headed to the first waypoint, Ithaca VOR. I once drove to
Ithaca from Pittsburgh several years ago to attend the International
Meshing Roundtable conference, when it was held at Cornell University.
That time, it took 6 or 7 hours. I had to drive north to Erie,
then drove East to go to Ithaca. I remembered I was very tired
when I arrived there.
Directly above Ithaca airport.
Cornell University Campus.
The flying altitude from Griffiss to Elmira was
6,000ft. Since scattered cloud were between something like 6,000
to 7,000ft, I expected I would fly through some of them again.
As I expected, I flew through a lot of clouds on the way. I
logged 0.3 hours of Actual IMC time from this leg. But, I was
planning to take a photo of Cornell University Campus. I was
hoping the sky was clear above Cornell University. I should have
checked Google map before leaving Pittsburgh to see how the Cornell
Campus looked like. But, I was too lazy to do that. I
relied only on my memory from several years ago.
Before long, the airplane came close to Ithaca VOR on
the GPS screen. Ithaca VOR is in the field of Ithaca airport.
I looked below and saw a nice runway. Ithaca was not a big city.
So, I was thinking I should be able to find the Cornell Campus by
looking for a group of large buildings. Then I saw some
relatively large buildings, football field, and a pond. I
remembered there was a pond next to the campus. That should be
it! I took some photos with my *ist DL digital camera. I
zoomed the picture on its LCD screen and confirmed the letters
"CORNELL" was written on the football field. One mission
accomplished! It is fun to fly to somewhere I have never been,
but it is also a fun to see a place that I have been to before from an
airplane flown by myself.
Then Syracuse approach handed me off to Elmira
approach. The airport was approaching. ATIS was saying
Runway 24 in use. So, I was expecting a clearance for visual
approach to runway 24. But, Elmira approach simply told me to
contact tower without clearing me for visual approach. Usually,
when I make a contact to tower in IFR, I say on what approach I am.
But, this time I didn't know on what approach I was. I wondered
what to say to the tower. So, I said to the Elmira tower,
"Elmira tower, Cessna 96557, inbound visual 24." Butm
apparently, the wind direction changed after I got ATIS and before I
called the tower. So, actually runway 6 was in use. Elmira
tower told me to enter the left traffic pattern for runway 24. I
flew accordingly, and landed without difficulty.
I could see three of the static-display airplanes from
the place I parked my Cessna. Last time I came here A-7 Corsair
was parked there. I asked FBO, Atlantic Aviation, to top off my
airplane, and walked to the National Warplane Museum. The A-7
Corsair I saw last time was now displayed at the entrance of the
parking lot. I believe A-7 Corsair was a well-designed airplane,
but it retired before A-6 Intruder. (Actually, I saw an A-6
Intruder in Williamsport airport.) I have never seen A-7 Corsair
flying. I hope an aviation museum restores it and fly it again
in an air show someday.
Static-display airplanes from
where I parked my Cessna.
National Warplane Museum hangar.
I had a good time at the museum. I will upload
photos from the museum in my
Airplane Photo Gallery. But, the National Warplane Museum
didn't have a cafe or a restaurant. So, I could not eat lunch
there. (Continued to the 4th leg Elmira -> Allegheny)
I re-fueled the airplane at
Williamsport, started engine, and took off to the next destination.
It was around 10:30am. The next destination was Rome!
Well, not Rome Italy, but Rome NY. The destination airport,
Rome/Griffiss, used to be an air force base, where B-52s were
stationed. But, the base was closed, and now it is used as a
general-aviation airport. Since the airport was designed for
B-52s, it had a big wide runway, 200ft wide, 11850ft long. My
home base, Allegheny County airport's main runway is 150ft wide,
6,500ft long, and a Cessna can take off and land within one third of
the main runway. At Griffiss, I may be able to do three touch
and goes within the length of the runway.
A plastic bag of some cookies was blown up
due to the low air pressure at 7,000ft.
A river. Is it connected to
I took off Williamsport airport, flew over
Williamsport VOR, climbed to 7,000ft, and headed to the next waypoint,
A little before reaching Georgetown VOR, I saw
scattered clouds in front of me. The cloud was between 6,500 to
7,000ft. I expected to fly through some of them. Since I
am not allowed to fly through a cloud when I am flying under Visual
Flight Rule, flying through a cloud is a privilege of an
instrument-rated pilot. In fact, I can log Actual IMC
(Instrumental Meteorological Condition) time in my log book if I fly
through a cloud. When I go for an instrument flight training, I
wear a foggle to hide the outside view to simulate IMC. But, I
have to log simulated instrument flying time and actual IMC flying
time separately. Basically, a Cessna cannot fly in a severe
weather, so I have little chance to log actual IMC time. So, it
was a rare opportunity for me to log some actual IMC time.
Looks like a drag-racing field. It's a
good emergency landing site.
Clouds were near.
Then my airplane came close to a cloud that was almost
as tall as my flying altitude. I thought I was going into that
cloud, when my digital camera ran out of battery and stopped
recording. I took spare battery out of my flight bag and
replaced it in time before hitting the cloud. I turned on pitot
heat and Carburetor heat. Even when outside temperature is above
freezing, due to the evaporation, the temperature inside the
carburetor may be cooled to below freezing. If ice blocks the
carburetor, the engine will stop. So, to be safe, I have to turn
on carburetor heat before entering the cloud. I am not sure how
likely to get pitot ice when the outside temperature is above
freezing, but I was told to turn on pitot heat in cloud during my
instrument training. So, I did as I was trained.
A white wall approached, and I was sucked into the
wall. The airplane was shaken a little bit. In most cases,
there are some turbulence in cloud, so I was expecting it. We
say being inside a cloud as "in the soup." In a cloud, it feels
just like swimming in a creamy soup. Everything outside is
white. It was a small cloud, and the airplane popped out of the
cloud before long. Probably, I was in that cloud for 10 to 20
seconds. Then I flew in and out of a cloud before reaching
Then Syracuse approach handed me off to Griffiss
approach. It was about 20 miles away from Griffiss airport.
But, I was able to easily identify the airport. The runway was
indeed wide and long. After touching down the Griffiss runway
33, I had to taxi considerably long on the runway until turning into
Griffiss airport apparently was a very busy air force
base. In the FBO building, I saw some photos of those B-52s,
KC-135, and also some photos from passed air shows. But, now the
airport was pretty much empty. I saw several B-747s.
Ground crews were loading something to one of the B-747s, so it was at
least was not a static display.
B-747 of Evergreen
International. Ground crews were loading something.
Griffiss FBO building.
I finally landed at an airport 266 nautical miles away
from the home base. It satisfied one of the requirements of the
commercial long-cross country, landing at an airport more than 250
nautical miles away from the originating airport. (Continued to
the third leg: Rome/Griffiss to Elmira/Corning)
In the morning of 8/31, the sky was clear, visibility
was virtually unlimited. I was expecting some fog in early
morning. So, I was prepared for the actual IFR departure, and
ILS approach to Williamsport, but the weather briefer told that there
was no fog. The first leg seemed to be entirely VMC (Visual
Meteorological Condition.) Since I had already filed IFR flight
plans last night, the briefing was short. Then I headed to
Allegheny County airport.
I arrived at the airport at around 7:45am.
Pittsburgh Flight Training Center opens at 8am, so nobody was there
when I arrived. The airplane I reserved was N96557. I did
pre-flight inspection while waiting for someone to open PFTC.
The fuel was topped off. I didn't have to wait for the fuel
truck this morning.
At around 8am, PFTC opened, and I received the
ignition key. I checked the tach time to make sure the airplane
had enough hours before the next 100 hour inspection. I picked
up one bottle of engine oil, just in case. Planned take-off time
was 8:30 (as filed in my flight plan), but the flight plan usually
pops up on the screen of the control tower at least 15 minutes before
the planned departure time. So, I started the engine at 8:15am.
In a large airport, an IFR clearance is given by a
controller called Clearance Delivery. However, Allegheny County
airport is not that large, although it has two nice runways. In
such an airport, I pick up clearance from a ground controller. I
contacted Allegheny ground:
YS: Allegheny Ground, Cessna 96557, IFR, Ready to
Allegheny Ground: Cessna 96557, Allegheny Ground,
Cleared for Williamsport, Allegheny Five Departure, then as filed,
Maintain 3000, Squawk 7450
YS: Cleared for Williamsport, Allegheny Five
Departure, then as filed, Maintain 3000, Squawk 7450
Allegheny Ground: Cessna 96557, Read back is correct.
This way, I picked up the clearance. Ground
controller told that I can take off from runway 31. I taxied to
runway 31, performed engine run up. I took a deep breath, and
called control tower.
YS: Allegheny Tower, Cessna 96557, Ready to take off
Allegheny Tower: Cessna 96557, Turn right heading 080,
Cleared for Take Off.
I took off for my 250nm long cross country! As
the briefer told, the visibility was very good. Little fog was
remaining over Monongahela river, but that was it. Referring to
the GPS, I headed to Tyron VOR. N96557 is equipped with an IFR
certified GPS. So, I was allowed to use it as a primary mean of
navigation. Actually, I also put my own portable GPS as well for
Waterfront Mall. We often
go there for grocery.
Monroeville Mall. We don't
go there as often as we used to do.
I climbed up to 7,000ft. I don't usually climb
up to this high, but this time I had to fly over Appalachian
mountains. I took some safety margin. (I used 7,000ft when
I flew to Northeast Philadelphia, too.)
I turned toward Williamsport airport after passing
Tyron VOR. About an hour and 15 minutes or so after take off,
Cleveland Center told me to descend to 5,000ft and report when I see
the airport. GPS indicated that the airport was almost straight
ahead. But, I couldn't see the airport. Then Cleveland
Center told me to descend to 4,000ft. I descended accordingly.
There was no fog or mist covering the ground. No weather was
blocking the airport, but I couldn't see the airport.
Some fog was remaining over a basin.
It turned out, the mountain was blocking the airport.
Now I understood that why the airport directory was indicating right
traffic pattern for runway 27. If I flew left downwind for
runway 27, I would flying into the mountain. I reported airport
insight, and then Cleveland Center cleared me for visual approach to
runway 27 and told to contact the Williamsport control tower.
I called Williamsport tower as "Williamsport tower,
Cessna 96557, inbound visual 27." But, maybe due to the
mountain, my airplane apparently was not on the radar screen of the
control tower. A few times, the tower asked me where I was.
In fact I was very high. Since I was maintaining 4,000ft until I
actually saw the airport, I started descend very late. Maybe
that's why the tower didn't find me soon.
Welcome to Williamsport
Williamsport FBO, DeGoL Jet
Williamsport tower told me to enter right downwind 27.
I entered right downwind from the above. While I was approaching
the downwind, another Cessna took off runway 27. Initially I
thought it was not a factor, but it turned toward me. So, I
stopped descending for a while, then descended. I ended up with
making a steep descent to enter the downwind leg. Soon the tower
cleared me to land. I landed runway 27 with no difficulty.
The flying time for this leg was 1.7 hours. (Will continue to
the second leg, Williamsport to Rome/Griffiss)
Below is the video from the first leg, AGC => IPT.
Click to play.
I'm planning to start training
toward my commercial airman certificate early next year. To get
a commercial certificate, I need to go through some training, as well
as gaining certain experience requirements. One of such
requirements is to fly a long cross country flight, in which I fly to
an airport at least 250nm straight-line distance away from the
originating airport. The total length of the flight needs to be
more than 300nm. It means that I can terminate the flight at a
different airport from the originating airport. But, usually I
fly out of Allegheny County and back to Allegheny County. So, if
I fly to an airport 250nm away from Allegheny County and come back, I
satisfy the distance requirement. Also, I need to make landings
at three different airports. This flight needs to be solo.
Even no passenger is allowed.
I have reserved a Cessna 172, N96557 for a whole day
tomorrow. I considered several candidate destinations including,
Essex County Airprot (KCDW) nearby New York city, Lexington Kentucky,
and Rome/Griffiss airfield New York. After careful
consideration, I decided to fly to Rome/Griffiss. I'll land at
Williamsport (KIPT), Rome/Griffiss (KRME), and Elmira/Corning (KELM).
You can see the route by clicking the picture below.
The reason why I don't fly straight from Elmira to
Allegheny is to avoid Duke MOA. MOA stands for Military
Operation Area. Actually, I'm allowed to fly through an MOA.
However, I'm responsible for avoiding military training activities. I
don't think I'm skilled enough to avoid Anti-Air Artillery in Cessna,
so I decided not to fly though it this time.
If the weather cooperates, and the condition of my
airplane is good, I'll take off 8:30am tomorrow morning.
I had been busy for several weeks and could
not update the web site. But, I tried to keep up my flight
training, and I flew for four times in May. In the first one, I
took a student of my lab. He wanted to see how the flying in
Cessna is like. I flew to Grove City (29D), did one touch & go,
and came back. The following video is from this flight.
The second one was night landing practice. I initially was
thinking to do only some stop & goes, but the weather was too good to
stay in pattern. I flew to the north for ten minutes to see the
night view of Pittsburgh. I then came back and did two stop &
goes, three tough & goes, and landed. I did three full-stop
landings in total. So, I can take a passenger at night for
another three months.
The third one was supposed to be my once-a-month IFR training.
However, the Cessna I was supposed to fly, N430U, got a fuel indicator
of left fuel tank malfunctioned. Federal Aviation Regulation
requires an airplane to have a fuel indicator to fly. So, I gave
up IFR training. Instead, I did some touch & goes in Diamond
Eclipse. Cessna is very competitive and difficult to reserve,
but this Eclipse is nearly always available. So, I wanted to get
used to this airplane. First three landings were somewhat iffy,
but the rest four went well. Probably I'll be ready to take it
solo after flying with an instructor a few more times. Actually,
I was thinking I was not doing landing practices for a while, but I
realized I was doing it pretty often.
I presented the last flight of the month to a family doctor who
helped us a lot. He is a Japanese and will return to Japan soon.
So, to give him our appreciation, I took him to Meadville for a
hot-dog run. I hear that many student pilots stop flying as soon
as he/she gets a private certificate because it is difficult to find a
next goal. (I say go for instrument rating!) But, I feel
it is one of the privilege of a private pilot to present a flight to
show someone an appreciation. So, if you are a student pilot and
finishing your private certificate soon, keep your currency up, and
don't lose your privilege! And, it is only possible
in the United States. I would need to be super rich to do this in Japan.
I'm just a research associate working for a university, but I still
can afford flying. I always thank this country for giving me
I parked N430U at
A large corporate jet, probably for 10 to 20 passengers, was parked
outside the Atlantic Aviation building. I walked inside the
building. The lobby was very nice. I told the receptionist
that I parked my Cessna outside, and asked her to re-fuel it. My
friend who flew with me was from Philadelphia. So, he called his
brother to pick us up. Original plan was to visit some museums
of Philadelphia. However, due to 3-hour delay, we didn't have
time to do that. At least, I met with his family, and had lunch
If no severe weather had not been forecasted, I
could have stayed there longer. However, the forecast was
calling a late-night thunderstorm. If I fly into a thunderstorm
in a Cessna, probably wings are ripped from the fuselage, and I will
fall like a rock. I had to make sure we come back to Allegheny
County airport before the thunderstorm reaches the area. We came
back to the airport around 4pm.
I made payment for the fuel at the Atlantic
Aviation, and called flight service station to receive a new weather
briefing. Allegheny County airport weather was clear sky with
good visibility. However, the thunderstorm forecast was still
there. But, we were supposed to be there way before the storm
struck. I filed an IFR flight plan, finished pre-flight
inspection, and started engine. I called Northeast Philadelphia
ground "Northeast Philadelphia Ground, Cessna 430U, IFR, ready to
The route on my flight plan was Pottstown VOR (PTW)
-> Lancaster VOR (LRP) -> Harrisburg VOR (HAR) -> Johnstown VOR (JST)
-> Allegheny County. However, I was expecting that the ATC may
give me Modena VOR (MXE) -> V474 airway -> St. Thomas VORTAC (THS) ->
Indian Head VOR (IHD) -> NESTO intersection -> Allegheny County.
This route was assigned by ATC to other airplanes that flew Northeast
Philadelphia to Allegheny County, according to
But, the ground controller gave me neither.
What he said was "Cleared for Allegheny County, fly runway heading,
then vector to Pottstown VOR, V12, then direct Allegheny County, climb
maintain 2,000, expect 6,000 in 10 minutes, departuer 123.8, Squawk
1160." So, it was something I was not expecting. I pulled
out my chart, and found V12. I figured that after Pottstown, I
had to fly to BOYER intersection -> Harrisburg VOR -> Johnstown VOR ->
NESTO intersection -> Allegheny County. So, it turned out
similar to what I filed on my flight plan. I wrote down the
check points, and re-programmed GPS.
When I was ready to take off, many airplanes (I
guess airplanes of a local flight school) came back, and I had to wait
for maybe five minutes or so. Then I was cleared for take off.
I took off, and climbed to 2,000ft maintaining runway heading.
Then I received a vector to Pottstown VOR, and was given 5,000ft then
6,000ft. I saw Wings Field, the original destination on my left.
I wished the weather was like that in the morning.
After passing Pottstown VOR, toward Lancaster, I
flew into an opening between high- and low- cloud layers. The
visibility was good. So, it was not an actual IMC.
Nonetheless, if I assume that the cloud was spreading horizontally, it
can give a false feeling of the airplane orientation. So, I
mainly relied on the instruments and continued on.
Between high- and low- cloud layers.
Sea of cloud like a view from a jet.
But, actually I was in Cessna at 6,000ft
I then flew in and out of the cloud. I
passed Lancaster, and Harrisburg. The stationary front looked
really stationary. The condition over Harrisburg was just like
the condition I saw in the morning.
I flew in and out of clouds.
I guess the gap of the clouds was
where the frontal surface was.
When I came close to Johnstown VOR, the sky was
clear again, and I could clearly see the ground. I passed
Johnstown VOR, and then the ATC called "N430U, contact Pittsburgh
Approach 119.35" The ATC finally handed me off to Pittsburgh
approach. That was a home feeling. I came back home!
Actually, the visibility was good, and the sky was clear. I
could have cancelled IFR then, and flew back to Allegheny County on my
own. But, I decided to continue on my IFR flight plan. I
finally was cleared for visual approach to runway 10.
Cleared for Visual 10 approach to AGC!
My longest cross country that I flew by myself
was my solo cross country during my private training. I flew
from Chandler Municipal (KCHD) to Blyth (KBLH), which was 147 nautical
miles. This time, I flew 226 nautical miles. Almost 80
miles longer than my previous record. For the first time I flew
in an actual IMC without an instructor, and made a VOR approach to
Lancaster. My confidence level was clearly higher than before
the flight. I parked my airplane at PFTC, and I felt a
comfortable fatigue on my left hand, which had been holding the
control yoke for over two hours. By the way, the forecasted
thunderstorm struck Pittsburgh area around 11pm, exactly as
forecasted. I could have stayed in Philadelphia another one or
two hours. But, it was better to be home way before the storm,
than flying right into the storm.
After landing at Lancaster, we taxied to the
local FBO called Air Ways and
had my airplane topped off. There was a nice pilot shop there.
I wanted to look around if I had more time. Maybe next time I
will come to Lancaster airport as my final destination instead of just
stopping for re-fueling.
I had to decide if we should continue on to Philadelphia or head
back to Pittsburgh. The weather seemed to be recovering from the
west. But the recovery was much slower than forecasted
yesterday. The cold front, with thunderstorm, that passed
Pittsburgh the day before apparently became a stationary front and was
reluctant to move away. Lancaster was covered by overcast
clouds. It didn't look possible to make a visual approach to
Wings Field, which was farther east of Lancaster.
Only approaches available at Wings Field were GPS approaches.
However, N430U didn't have an approach-capable GPS unit. It is
possible to shoot a GPS approach with my portable GPS unit, but it is
against the federal aviation regulation. I would do it if it is
absolutely necessary in the event of emergency, but it was not an
emergency. Just a bad weather. About 12 miles east of
Wings Field, there was an airport called Northeast Philadelphia
airport (PNE), which had ILS and GPS approaches. The original
plan was to try Wings Field, and if we could not make Wings Field, we
were going to head to Northeast Philadelphia as an alternate.
However, in this weather condition, heading to Northeast Philadelphia
airport as a primary airport seemed to be a better destination than
I called Flight Service Station to get a newest weather report.
As expected, Wings Field was in an actual IMC. The ceiling was
high, but probably it was impossible to descend through the cloud
without using a GPS approach. I decided to change the
destination to Northeast Philadelphia. I chose Lancaster as an
alternate. The weather was recovering. I was able to shoot
VOR-8 approach. I must be able to do it again in the event that
I cannot land at Northeast Philadelphia airport. Actually,
because I had my airplane topped off, it is even possible to fly all
the way back to Allegheny County if I miss Northeast Philadelphia.
I had more than enough fuel to fly back to Altoona.
We hoped we could immediately take off after re-fueling, but, we
lost roughly an hour at Lancaster after all. Although the route
I chose was Lancaster -> Pottstown VOR -> Northeast Philadelphia, the
ATC gave me the route Lancaster -> BUNTS intersection -> Northeast
Philadelphia. I quickly modified the course I entered in my GPS
and took off at around 11:30am. The initially-assigned altitude
was 3,000ft. Before reaching 3,000ft, the airplane flew into the
cloud layer. Again, I was in an actual IMC.
Taking off from Lancaster.
Approaching the cloud layer
In the cloud. I saw upper-layer clouds
Outside the window was all white. We call it "in the soup".
I was relying solely on the instruments as I was trained. I was
soon given 5,000ft. I climbed up, but could not come above the
cloud layer. Sometimes I could see through the lower-layer
cloud. The cloud layer was not very thick apparently.
Nonetheless, I could not see Wings Field. So, my decision to
change destination to Northeast Philadelphia was apparenly a good
Soon I could hear Northeast Philadelphia ATIS. The ATIS was
calling 2,000ft ceiling. If it was true, visual approach was
even possible! However, it was also saying Localizer Back Course
6 was in use. Localizer Back Course approach uses a Localizer
signal from an ILS for the opposite runway. ILS is similar to
VOR, but ILS emits radio signal for one direction. If I tune a
VOR receiver to a VOR station, and I turn OBS to the designated
course, the needle on the VOR indicator will tell me which way to
turn. By chasing the needle, I eventually will intercept and
track the designated course. However, if a VOR receiver is tuned
to an ILS, turning OBS will not affect the indication.
Therefore, if I fly 180 degree from the designated Localizer course,
the needle will show reverse indication. I need to fly away from
the needle, as opposed to toward the needle. It's called a
reverse sensing. In addition, I practiced a back-course approach
only once during my instrument training.
HSI saved my day.
So, what I thought when I heard that Localizer Back Course 6 was in
use was: "Oh, no! Why back course. I may screw up, so I
should really prepare myself for missed approach. If I miss it,
I would just request VOR-6 approach, and will be all right.....
Wait a sec, N430U has an HSI. It saves my day!"
HSI is an istrument that combines gyro compass and VOR indicator.
Because VOR indicator itself rotates with the gyro compass, by setting
the OBS to the originally intended Localizezr course (in this case 240
degree) the OBS will be pointing backward when I turn to the final
approach course of 060 degree heading. So, it's like flipping
the VOR indicator by 180 degree, and there is no reverse sensing.
Suddenly I got confident. It's no different from a localizer
approach, which I practiced over and over again.
Soon I was told to descend to 2,000ft. Suddenly, the cloud
broke out of the cloud, and I saw Philadelphia downtown below!
On my left, I saw the runway of Northeast Philadelphia airport!
The visibility below the cloud was good.
ATC gave me "Cleared for Localizer Back Course 6 approach" and this
time I was handed off to the Northeast Philadelphia tower. I
maintained visual contact of the runway through the approach. I
once flew through a small cloud, but that was it. I didn't think
I could count it as an approach in an actual IMC. I was looking
at HSI until I intercept the course, but after that, I relied on
Finally, we arrived at Philadelphia, with three-hour delay.
One thing I wanted to do after getting my
Instrument Rating was a long cross-country flight. Basically,
unless I go to super-rural area, I can expect radar flight following
service. Also, usually clearances to fly through air spaces are
given on take off. So, I don't have to worry about busting class
B during the flight. And, I need to fly a cross-country flight
to an airport more than 250nm away once to get a commercial
certificate. So, I wanted to practice longer flight gradually.
For the first step, I reserved N430U for April 27 all day and planned
a flight to Philadelphia Wings Field (LOM), which is 210nm away.
It is short of the commercial cross-country requirement, but one of my
friends is from Philadelphia, so I took him to the trip.
N430U is one of the Cessnas of PFTC, and is equipped with a GPS
unit. However, the GPS unit is not IFR certified, means I can
use it for supplemental information. But, it cannot be the
primary mean of navigation. N430U's GPS unit is so old, and it
does not even show a moving map. The indication is just like a
VOR. Also due to bad maintenance, its plasma display was hardly
readable. In fact, two Cessnas of PFTC did not have a GPS unit
at all. Students like to use a Cessna with a GPS unit with
moving map. So, those Cessnas with a nice GPS receiver are
usually taken first. The other Cessnas are relatively easy to
reserve, but I cannot take advantage of GPS. Then, why not
invest some money to buy my own portable aviation GPS? So, I
purchased Garmin 96c. It comes with a yoke mount. But, it turned out that N430U's
yoke had a chart clip, which obstructed the yoke mount. So, I
manufactured my own mount by wooden bars and cable ties.
Yoke with a chart clip.
Original Garmin 96c mount.
Garmin 96c works pretty well. I can use it with two AA
batteries or NiMh rechargeable batteries. As
I wrote before, if the GPS unit requires a special rechargeable
battery, or if the rechargeable battery cannot be replaced, you may
need to throw away your GPS unit when the life of the battery ends.
In fact, the life of a rechargeable battery tends to be much shorter
than other parts of the GPS unit. But, because Garmin 96c works
with AA or NiMh batteries, I can use it to the end of the life of the
unit. In fact, I suppose Li-Ion battery manufacturers are
sending big money to the politicians so that nobody standardizes
Li-Ion battery and people need to expend Li-Ion batteries one after
another. Just say no to Li-Ion batteries! (When you have a
choice. I have no choice for my laptop battery.)
I was also worried about the GPS reception because it would sit way
inside the cockpit if I mount it on the yoke. But, it turned out
nothing to be worried about. It receives easily more than enough
satellites when I mount it on the yoke. It didn't even need a
Nine days before the planned cross-country flight. I
practiced some approaches with my instructor. It went well.
Although I wanted to fly in a nice clear weather with IFR flight plan,
I readied myself for a potential bad weather. Two days before
the planned date, the three-day forecast predicted bad weather at the
destination. Since three-day forecast tends to be accurate, I
once decided to postpone the flight. However, the forecast
changed later in the day. So, I rather postponed the decision to
the next day. One day before the planned date, the forecast
looked a lot better. It still indicated that I would need to fly
through the cloud en-route, but terminal weather seemed to be good
enough for visual approach. I decided to go for flight.
I studied the route to the details and reviewed available
approaches at the destination. Since the actual weather could be
worse than the forecast, I decided to make a stop at Lancaster (LNS)
for re-fueling. A Cessna can fly for about 4 hours and 30
minutes. If I fly straight to Philadelphia, it would take 2
hours. The weather seemed to be worse to the east. If I
could not make Philadelphia, I will need to come back to the west.
If I flew to Philadelphia, and shoot one or two approaches, I would
have only 2 hours of fuel left to escape out of the bad weather.
Instead, if I made a stop at Lancaster and topped off, I would have
plenty of fuel to come back in the event that I could not make
Philadelphia. It would allow me to shoot three or four approach
Then, the day had come. I woke at 6am, called a flight
service station to get a weather briefing. Unfortunately, the
weather recovery seemed to be slower than forecasted. Lancaster
was still calling low cloud cover. However, the forecast was
still saying the weather would recover by 10am. I filed two
flight plans, one for AGC to LNS, and the other for LNS to LOM, and
headed to the airport. At the airport, I called the flight
service station at around 8:30am, but the cloud was still hanging low
over Lancaster. Nonetheless, the forecast was predicting that
the weather was getting better. So, I took off at 9:15am, about
1 hour later than the initial plan.
taking off from AGC.
On the way to Lancaster, I flew over Johnstown and Altoona
airports. Sky above the two airports was clear, and I could
clearly see the runway from 7,000ft. If I could not make
Lancaster, there was a safe heaven at Altoona.
Wind mills between Johnstown and Altoona.
Altoona airport (and the landing gear)
Menacing cloud ahead.
Before long after
passing Altoona, the ground was totally covered by the cloud. I
was flying in between high-layer and low-layer clouds.
Occasionally I flew in and out of clouds. When I came close to
Harrisburg, I tuned to Harrisburg ATIS, which was reporting ceiling
800ft overcast. It was too low. Unfortunately, ILS
approach at Lancaster was not authorized unless the airplane was
equipped with an approach-certified GPS or a DME according to the FDC
NOTAM. N430U had none of these. Only approach available to
me was VOR-8 approach, which required at least 1,000ft ceiling.
I continued on, and I was able to get Lancaster ATIS, which was
reporting 1,400ft overcast! That's good. That's high
enough for VOR-8 approach. I requested VOR-8 approach to
Harrisburg approach controller.
Soon Harrisburg approach asked me if I wanted to do the approach
from the Lancaster VOR (means I fly all by myself), or radar vector to
the final approach course. I requested radar vector. Then,
the ATC directed me to the final approach course, and called "Left
heading 050, intercept final approach course, cleared for VOR-8
approach!" It had started! For the first time, I was
flying an approach in an actual instrument meteorological condition
with no instructor onboard! Then I intercepted the course and
began descend to the minimum altitude. If the weather was as
reported, I should see the runway way before I hit the minimum
altitude. And, then the runway came out of the cloud!
(What actually came out of the cloud was my airplane though).
Runway insight! I only need to get landing clearance and land.
However, Harrisburg approach didn't hand me off to the tower at
that moment. I called Harrisburg approach twice and asked if I
should contact Lancaster tower, but I didn't get response. Did I
miss the hand-off instruction from ATC? Was I too low to reach
Harrisburg approach controller? Or, if I cannot reach
Harrisburgh approach, how can they tell me to contact tower? I'm
not supposed to change the radio frequency unless I was told by an ATC.
But, I apparently lost contact with Harrisburg approach.
There were two options. One was to execute missed approach
and climb back into the cloud. The other was to contact tower
and get landing clearance and land. I am instrument rated.
I should have been able to go back up into the cloud and shoot another
approach. If I go up again, I should have been able to contact
Harrisburg approach again. However, landing on the runway
straight ahead was clearly easier than shooting another approach.
It I consider the difficulty, landing should be a lot safer. I
didn't see any other traffic. I saw no danger in landing.
The weather could have got worse while shooting another approach.
I would reach the runway within a minute. I had to make a split
second decision. If I had simply missed the hand-off
instruction, the Lancaster tower must know that I was inbound.
I made a decision. I switched to the tower frequency and
called "N430U inbound VOR-8." But, apparently Lancaster tower
didn't get it. Curse my Japanese accent! I called again,
and Lancaster tower said "N430U report 3 mile final," when I was
already about 1.5 miles to the runway. Wasn't he looking at the
radar? Oh! Come on! I ended up with shouting "I'm on short
final. Please give me clearance!" over the radio.
Lancaster tower finally cleared me for landing.
I believe my decision was right. Best of all, I landed
safely. I made my first VOR approach without an instructor
onboard in an actual IMC!
I changed the background from light blue to
white. I wanted to use a color something similar to the color of
the blue sky. White background may be too plain, but it is more
I'm planning to fly to Wings Field (KLOM), 210nm east of Allegheny
County Airport. It will be my second try to fly under IFR flight
plan without an instructor onboard. To really get ready for the
flight, I flew an IFR training flight today.
I took off Allegheny County Airport, did two ILS approaches, and
then two GPS approaches to runway 28. I'm practicing IFR only
once a month after finishing my instrument rating. So, I was
expecting that first one or two approaches may be crappy. But,
in fact, I did all right. The below videos are from my first ILS
approach of this flight.
I used ATC2K to capture video of the instruments. The
instrument on the top-right corner of the video is VOR indicator,
which also show a localizer (lateral guidance) and a glide slope
(vertical guidance.) Basically, if I maintain the two needles
centered, I will come very close to the runway safely.
Forward-looking video may give you an impression that the airplane
approaches to the runway with some angle, and indeed localizer of
runway 28 of Allegheny County Airport is, for some reason, not
perfectly parallel to the runway. But, in the end, the airplane
comes close to the runway end, so practically there is no problem.
When landing an airplane, the pilot performs
maneuvers called round out and flare. For example, a Cessna 172
glides toward the runway at 65kt. On the final leg, I look at
the aiming point, which is usually a runway number, and airspeed
When the airplane comes to roughly 30ft above ground, I start round
out. The purpose of the round out is a transition from descend
to level flight slightly off the ground. To level off slightly
off the ground, I stop looking at the airspeed indicator and rely only
on the outside view. During the round out, if I am certain that
the airplane reaches the runway, I reduce the throttle to idle.
When the airplane levels off slightly off the ground, I start
flare. Actually, there is no clear boundary between round out
and flare. It is a smooth transition. Now I have to keep
the airplane in the air as long as possible, and let the airplane
settle on the ground by itself.
To let the airplane settle on the ground by itself, I need to stall
the airplane while flying level slightly off the ground.
Cessna's stall speed with flaps full down is 45kt. So, ideally,
the airplane should be at 45kt when it touches the ground.
I learned this during my private training. However, since I
don't look at the instrument during the flare, I never knew if the
airplane was actually touching down at 45kt. Now I have my small
video camera taking video of my instruments, and I am able to check
whether I was landing an airplane right.
The videos below are from the flight on last Sunday. The
airplane settles on the ground at 1 minutes and 36 seconds from the
beginning of the video. The airplane was, in fact, landing at
45kt. Now I can tell for sure this landing was a nice landing.
I often feel that the airplane stays afloat pretty long during the
flare. Although I cannot tell exactly from the video, it looked
to me taking roughly 7 seconds after the start of round out before the
airplane touches the ground. Theoretically, I can reduce speed
even slower, like 50kt, as long as it is faster than the stall speed
before round out. With slower approach speed, the airplane
should settle on the ground with shorter time, and the airplane should
be able to stop within shorter distance. In fact, I maintain
60kt during the short-field landing, 5kt slower than normal approach.
But, I never decelerate to 50kt on final.
If I slow down too much, the airplane may stall when headwind
decreases suddenly. Or, if I misjudge the altitude from the
ground and start round out too early, the airplane may stall too early
and ends up slamming on the runway. If I approach at 65kt, i.e.,
with 20kt safety margin, I will be safe even if I misjudge the
altitude a little bit, of if headwind suddenly decreases.
Then, how about approaching at even faster speed, like 75kt?
In fact, an instructor told me to use partial flap and approach at
slightly faster speed if I have a significant cross wind. This
partial-flap landing technique makes cross-wind landing very easy.
In return, I use longer runway. So, approaching at unnecessarily
fast air speed also risks the safety. I suppose whoever designed
Cessna came up with this 65kt approach speed based on the safety
consideration. It is a balance of landing distance and margin of
I used to be too busy on final to think about such things. In
these days, I am a lot more relaxed and in control than before.
When I am on final, I appreciate the 20kt of safety and try to keep
I haven't practiced touch & goes for a
while. I usually practice at least one touch & go when I come
back from a cross-country, but it has been a while since I dedicated
one flight to touch & goes last time. So, I spent one hour just
to practice touch & goes. I practiced 12 landings in total, and
the rental fee was $119. $10 per landing. Not too
The visibility and the ceiling was good, but the wind was gusting a
bit. The needle of the airspeed indicator was jumping up and
down by 7 or 8 kt. In such a condition, the airplane is blown by
the wind just before touch down, and it is not very easy to make a
smooth landing. In fact, I made some not-so-smooth landings, and
bounced on touch down several times. I thought I could deal with
a gusty wind better. I was a bit frustrated by some of the
not-so-smooth landings. So, this time I uploaded a video from
one of the unsatisfactory landings. At around 1 minute 40
second, my airplane bounces once, and lands again in a few seconds
from the bounce. The bounce is not so clear in the video, but I
felt "Oh, wait a sec!" when I felt the airplane sank just a moment
before the bounce.
In a gusty condition, the airplane is lifted when the head wind
component increases. So, if I release back pressure on the yoke,
and if the head wind component decreases again, the airplane tends to
sink and makes a hard landing or a bounce on landing. At least I
was able to react to the gusty wind sufficiently to keep the landing
gear from breaking, but I'd like to be able to land smoother even when
the airplane was blown by the gusty wind. There's always a room
The weather in Pittsburgh has been poor for
several days. But, the blue sky came back on the Easter Sunday.
I had reserved N172RQ for 4 hours for this day, and I took to a
cross-country flight. Actually, the forecast was predicting a
not-so-good weather, so I initially was planning to fly to Latrobe or
somewhere near Allegheny County airport. The weather turned out
a lot better than the forecast. So, I decided to fly to New
Philadelphia. This airport is called New Philadelphia Clever
airport. And, the airport identifier is KPHD. Clever and
Ph.D? Someone (presumably an FAA employee) who gave the airport
identifier to this airport had a sense of humor.
I am planning to fly to Philadelphia, which is about 200 nautical
miles away) with a friend end of April, and I wanted to practice
a cross-country on IFR flight plan. Even when the weather is VMC
(Visual Meteorological Condition), flying on IFR flight plan is good
because of several reasons. First of all, unless I go to very
rural area, I can expect radar service from the ground. I can
also get radar service by asking VFR Flight Following, but VFR Flight
Following may be cancelled by the ATC when the ATC gets busy.
Also, unless I fly through a busy airspace, I receive clearance to the
destination on departure. So, I don't need to worry about
airspace violation. Needless to say, it's a good practice to
stay IFR current.
I was always flying with my instructor when I flew on IFR flight
plan until this flight. This time, for the first time I filed an
IFR flight plan, and flew by myself.
I filed a flight plan as flying toward Wheeling VOR (HLG) and then
head straight to New Philadelphia. But, I didn't have to fly to
HLG because Pittsburgh approach cleared me direct New Philadelphia
before I reached HLG. The visibility was good, and the sky was
almost clear. But, the air was a bit bumpy. It was bumpy
enough to remind me of days when I was training for my private
certificate in Arizona.
Bumpy air makes it difficult to take elevator trim. I have a
feeling that there is no single elevator trim that makes the airplane
fly level in such a condition. The air under a puffy cloud is
typically turbulent, and the turbulence is associated with an updraft.
Therefore, the airplane comes under a puffy cloud, it tends to go up.
If I trim to counter the climbing tendency, the airplane wants to go
down when the airplane leaves under the cloud and out of the updraft.
I need to re-trim to counter the descending tendency. When I
looked outside for a few seconds, the altitude easily changed by
100ft. I need to be able to react quicker. That was one of
the things that I need to improve.
I came to within 10 miles (according to GPS) of the destination,
but I could not find the airport. Instead, I saw a big river.
I was curious if such a big river was supposed to be there. It
turned out to be a flood. I was seeing news talking about
flooding everywhere. But, I didn't know that it was flooding
Flooding river near the
I flew by GPS toward the airport, and finally I found it. I
cancelled IFR and landed. It's important to cancel IFR (if
possible) before landing an non-towered airport. If I forget
cancelling IFR, and forget calling a Flight Service Station to close
my IFR flight plan, a search and rescue operation will start within 30
minutes, and I end up with paying big fine for that. Below
videos are from the landing to Runway 32 of New Philadelphia.
It was a small airport, and I could easily find a parking spot.
An airport management building
(I suppose) There was nobody at the airport.
airnav.com, the restaurant on the field sells a good pie.
So, I was planning to buy one. But, ....
Perfect Landing Restaurant on
I should have checked the
The restaurant was closed at 1pm. By the way, I arrived there
at around 5pm.
Because there is no control tower, I got an IFR clearance for
return flight in the air. When I was handed off to Pittsburgh
approach, I missed some portion of what the ATC said, but other than
that, the flight was eventless. On the way back, I flew above
Wheeling VOR (the ATC didn't give me clearance to fly direct AGC
before arriving at HLG VOR). I practiced one touch and go at
Allegheny County airport and landed. The sun was almost directly
in front of me, and it was tough to keep my eyes open on final.
I finally received my permanent airman
certificate. Below is the close up of the back face of the
certificate. Yes! I am instrument rated! Well, I was
allowed to fly even IFR with my temporary certificate. So,
receiving a permanent certificate makes little change.
Nonetheless, it feels good to have a permanent certificate :-)
I flew a instrument training with my
instructor. In the last instrument training, I practiced holding
over AGC VOR, and then a VOR-A approach, and two ILS approaches.
This time, I planned to practice holding, then two GPS approaches and
an ILS approach.
However, after two rounds of holding over Allegheny VOR, the
airplane started making strange metallic noise. The noise was
apparently from engine, and that was a sort of sound that I don't want
to hear in flight. I suspected engine failure was imminent.
But, oil pressure and oil temperature were both in green arc, and
engine RPM was stable. So, I continued hold.
But, the noise became louder and louder. I discussed with my
instructor and decided to go back to the airport with VOR-A approach.
Below videos are from that approach. This time I used a new
camera mount that gives a better visibility. I used ATC2K to
take video of the instrument panel.
The right-most instruments are two VOR indicators. I was
supposed to keep the needle center, but I ended up with flying right
of the course. So, the needle was staying left.
It's just an excuse, but at 3000ft, I was receiving strong wind
from the east. So, I had to take about 10 degree wind-correction
angle to the right. Apparently, the wind was considerably weaker
at lower altitude. Sometimes the surface wind and the wind at
just a few hundred feet above ground are considerably different nearby
Allegheny County airport. Maybe it is because hilly terrain
nearby the airport. In addition, I usually scan major 6
instruments plus VOR and GPS. But, this time I was also looking
at oil temperature and oil pressure. So, I had some more things
to pay attention. When I become an experienced IFR pilot, I
should be able to deal with this situation better.
So, I landed and checked the airplane. The noise turned out
not from the engine, but from the left wing. A rubber sealing
material between the wing and the fuselage was torn and loose.
The wind vibrated the loose rubber sealing, and it was hitting the
surface of the wing. I didn't hear noise at the beginning maybe
because the sealing was not loose at that time. You can see from
the video that the noise was considerably louder on final. On
final, the airplane takes a large angle of attack. A large angle
of attack should have vibrated the rubber piece more violently and
made the noise louder.
So, I couldn't practice GPS approach this time. Next time
(sometime next month) I will do some GPS approaches.
I flew to Franklin Venango Regional airport with
two friends for dinner. I reserved N430U, which was a relatively
new airplane of PFTC. I used to fly N430U often, but this
particular Cessna doesn't have an IFR-certified GPS, and I haven't
used it as often as I did before while I was working on my Instrument
Rating. Actually, N430U has a GPS unit, but the GPS display of
this airplane is falling apart. I could barely read the distance
to the selected waypoint or an airport.
I took off Allegheny County Airport at 6:30pm.
I did one touch & go and then headed north. It was more than one
hour before the sunset, but due to thin cloud, the environment was
gradually getting darker. The visibility was also getting lower
as we flew north. However, this airplane was a lot more
trustworthy than 39J. Two VOR and ADF
receivers were working perfectly. Although GPS was not giving as
much information as it could calculate, I could read the distance to a
waypoint. So, I could substitute it as a DME. I flew to
the destination with confidence.
This time, I took video of the instrument panel
with my ATC2K with a laser designator. I also was taking video
with CoolPix P50. You can play the videos side-by-side to see
how the instruments moves during the landing.
After having dinner at Franklin, the return
flight was totally a night flight. The weather briefing I heard
before leaving Allegheny was predicting that the sky was clearing up.
But, to be safe, I received a new briefing at Franklin. The
briefer told that the sky was clear, and the forecasted wind at
Allegheny was 220 at 10kt, but he also said that the actual wind was
dying down quicker than forecasted. So, he suggested that the
wind should be weak by the time I reach Allegheny.
I took off at 8:40pm. The environment was
dark. But, the air was smooth, and the airplane flew stably.
I asked VFR Flight Following to Youngstown Approach, then Pittsburgh
Approach, and headed to Allegheny.
As I approached Allegheny County Airport, the
airplane was shaken more than I expected. Because it was a night
flight, I decided to do two stop & goes before landing so that my
night currency will be good for another three months. So, I did
my first stop & go. On downwind leg, the airplane was shaken
again. I called tower to give me current wind. I didn't
write down, but I believe the tower said 230 at 15 or something like
that. 230 at 15 isn't too bad. Something like 12kt
cross-wind component. I can handle that. So, I did second
stop & go.
On the downwind leg after the second stop & go,
the tower called "Wind 220 at 18"! It gives just about 15kt
cross wind. There's no written cross-wind limitation for Cessna
172. However, the operation manual presents what's called
"demonstrated cross-wind," which is the maximum cross-wind component
tested by a test pilot of Cessna. Actually, it is exactly 15kt.
But, it was not my first time to handle 15kt cross wind. I
experienced one landing in a similar condition during my IFR training.
It was a good practice. Below is the video from the approach
with 15kt cross wind.
Unfortunately, ATC2K was not sensitive enough to
capture the motion of the instruments. As can be seen in the
video, I didn't miss the centerline. I did good. Actually,
I realized that this was my first night cross-country that I flew
without an instructor. There were a lot of new experience in
I have used ATC2K three times, and I was
impressed by its compactness. I can place ATC2K in anywhere in
the cockpit without obstructing the outside view as long as I can fix
it. So, I'm thinking to try to capture movement of the
instruments during the flight. But, one problem of ATC2K is that
I cannot tell where exactly the camera is aiming until I come home and
play the video with my PC. To solve this problem, I attached a
laser pointer underneath the camera. So, now my ATC2K is
equipped with a laser designator.
The pointer is not parallel to the axis of the camera. It's
pointing a little bit upward. To calibrate, I tested it in my
car. Below is the video from the experiment.
I shot the laser at the beginning of the video to see where in the
camera's field of view the laser pointer was pointing. I suppose
if I adjust the camera direction so that the laser hits the bottom
edge of the attitude indicator, I should be able to get a good view of
the six main instruments (attitude indicator, heading indicator,
airspeed indicator, turn coordinator, altimeter, and vertical speed
indicator.) I'm going to try it in the next flight. It
would be nice to play the videos of instruments and outside view side
by side. The next flight is planned on Sunday. The weather
forecast does not appear promising, but I hope I can go flying.
Allegheny County Airport, where I am based,
has two nice runways. The main runway 10-28 is 150ft wide,
6500ft long. The sub runway 13-31 is 100ft wide, 3825ft long.
Both are more than enough for a small airplane. In fact, a DC-9
often comes to Allegheny County airport, and when FedEx donated its
retiring B727 to Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, it flew to
Allegheny County Airport by its own.
However, regular airports for a small airplane in general has
narrower and shorter runways. I believe 75ft-wide runway is most
common. But, appearance of such a narrow runway gives an
illusion, and I feel I am too far on downwind, and too high on final,
when I am at exactly where I should be. As a result, I may
overshoot the runway when I turn to final, or may descend too steeply
on final. Only training can help overcome such illusions.
There is an appropriate airport for such a training just 10nm south
east of Allegheny County Airport, called Rostraver airport (KFWQ).
Today I flew to Rostraver and did some touch & goes to get used to a
narrower runway. Indeed Rostraver was very close to Allegheny
County Airport. Within 10 minutes from take off, I made a first
touch & go at Rostraver. You can see it in the video below.
(By the way, the video was taken by Suction-mounted ATC2K.)
Just 10 minutes from Allegheny
County to Rostraver
I did four touch & goes, and then made a full stop. I taxied
to Runway 8 and took off again. When I took off after a
full-stop landing, I saw a white thing approaching from my 11 o'clock.
An airplane? I thought, but it was a big bird. Its belly
was white, so I suppose it was a Red Tail Hawk, which I commonly see
around Pittsburgh. I suppose the hawk thought he was attacked
from his 6 o'clock by surprise, so it made a steep left turn and
evaded. I don't know if it attempted to take my back after that.
The below picture shows a shadow of the hawk taken by ATC2K.
I have used Action Cam
ATC2K in the last two flights. The first night-flight was too
dark for ATC2K, and in the second flight, the propeller blade was too
visible in the video due to the slow shutter speed. The shutter
speed of ATC2K seems to be too low for a camera that is supposed to be
designed for capturing actions.
I can reduce propeller effect by mounting the
camera outside the airplane, like underneath the wing. However,
if the camera breaks loose in flight and causes some damage to the
ground, I'll be in trouble. If I really do it, I need to talk to
the mechanic and ask him to install a secure mount, which will be too
Or, another solution is to take side-window
video. Or, if I mount the camera at higher position, the time
that a propeller blade passes in front of the camera will be shorter,
and the propeller effect should be less visible. To mount the
camera on the side window or high position on the wind shield, I made
a suction mount shown below.
I attached a helmet-mounting socket on a
disposable chopstick, and attached the chopstick to a suction hook
that I purchased from Walmart at less than $2. Today I put it on
the windshield of my car and tested it. It stayed there.
Didn't drop. But, it turned out that the camera vibrated too
much. I underestimated the weight of the camera. So, I
made a second version shown below.
I used a harder wood, and I attached the camera
closer to the hinge of the hook. It is a lot more stable than
the first version. In the next flight, I'm planning to fly to a
nearby airport called Rostraver to practice touch & goes on a narrower
runway. I will try to put it at a higher position on the
windshield, but if I fail to do so, I'll put it on the side window.
I flew with an instructor for an IFR
training for the first time in a month. Although I have passed
my IFR check ride, I'm far from an experienced instrument-rated pilot.
I make small mistakes especially when many things happens all at once.
So, to be able to fly IFR confidently, I plan to fly an IFR training
with an instructor at least once a month.
Even when I fly for practice, I can file an IFR flight plan and fly
under the air-traffic-control system. Actually, it is better for
practicing radio communication. However, only instrument-rated
pilot can file an IFR flight plan. I had been filing an IFR
flight plan with my instructor's name (which is allowed for training
purposes.) But, this time, for the first time, I filed an IFR
flight plan with my name. It essentially changes nothing, but I
just felt good.
This time I flew N596CS. I took off, and practiced holding
over Allegheny VOR. Holding is a procedure to fly around a
specific holding fix until the destination airport or an air way
becomes available. But, I am not supposed to fly randomly around
a holding fix. I should fly a specific pattern given by the ATC
or published in a chart. Most common holding pattern is flying
to a holding fix with the specific heading, then turn 180 degree to
the right, and fly straight for one minute. This one minute
straight course is called an outbound leg. Then make another 180
degree right turn and head back to the holding fix. If there is
no wind, the airplane will come back to the holding fix exactly one
minutes after rolling out from the turn. The straight course is
called an inbound leg. If there is a wind, I need to adjust the
heading and time of the outbound leg so that inbound leg matches the
specified course heading and becomes one minute. So, one of the
things I need to do to fly a nice holding pattern is to estimate a
wind accurately. However, in this flight, I couldn't make a good
guess of the wind and ended up with making slightly distorted holding
pattern. Not too bad though.
Then I shot VOR-A approach to Allegheny County airport. In
VOR-A approach, I need to descend to 1740ft after passing Allegheny
VOR, and then join a traffic pattern for the active runway to land.
It used to be called VOR-5 approach when runway 5-23 existed.
But, it has changed to VOR-A because runway 5-23 of Allegheny County
airport was closed permanently. It should have been easy if I
had a good wind estimation. I had a feeling that I had a wind
from the right when inbound to Allegheny VOR. So, I took 5
degree wind correction to the right. It looked ok until I passed
the VOR, but as soon as I passed the VOR, the airplane started
drifting to the right. So, I took 5 degree to the other side,
and it worked ok. Actually, the forecasted wind was from the
left. I don't know which was accurate.
After VOR-A approach, I shot two ILS 28 approaches and landed.
I was confident in ILS approach because I practiced it many times
during my instrument-rating training. Basically I need to chase
the needles, called localizer and glide slope, on the VOR indicator.
I did these two ILS approaches all right.
Overall, I did ok. But, I misunderstood ATC calls three times
and my instructor covered me then. That's something I need to
continue practice. Eventually I will be able to fly IFR with
In this flight, for the first time I took a cockpit video during
the training. I have never done that in a training because the
camera blocks the view of the instructor. But, this time I
mounted ATC2K on my headset, so it didn't block the view of the
instructor. In the last flight, my headset was unstable due to
the weight of ATC2K. To make it more stable, I lowered the
mounting position. From Mechanical Engineering point-of-view,
lowering the center of gravity makes things more stable in general.
This time my headset was not so unstable.
ILS 28 Approach to Allegheny County
You can see my finger a little before the landing. That is
when I raised my foggle. Until then I was flying without looking
outside. And, I see to the right twice. Those were the
timings when I lowered flaps 10 degree at a time.
But, the propeller blade in the video was a bit bothering.
During ILS approach, I reduced the power to 1500 to 1700RPM. I
see two blades in the video in that condition. It looks like
ATC2K uses slow shutter speed even when the environment is bright.
If I assume the propeller was rotating at 1500RPM, since two blades
are attached, a blade passes in front of the camera 3000 times per
minute, or 50 times per second. To capture two blade in one
frame, the shutter speed needs to be slower than 1/25 second.
Probably it is 1/30 second. The lens of ATC2K is so tiny, so
1/30 second may be the fastest it can use. But, ATC2K is
supposed to be for "action", and I wanted it to be able to use 1/125
second or so.
This web site is hosted by @Nifty, which is
one of the biggest internet providers of Japan. @Nifty recently
offered a user-review program of Action Cam (ATC2K). I believe
Oregon Scientific will soon make ATC2K available in Japan, and they
are trying to promote the camera. I applied the program, and
luckily was selected as one of the reviewers. I received the
camera yesterday. I'm supposed to use it for four months and
write reviews here.
ATC2K is a nice small video camera. It captures the video into
SD card (not SDHC compatible, unfortunately). So, I can directly
copy the video to the PC by a SD card reader or by connecting the camera
to the PC by a USB cable. Another good thing about ATC2K is that
it uses two AA batteries. Not a specially designed Lithium-Ion
battery. As I wrote before, Lithium-Ion
battery will rot sooner or later. When the battery becomes
unusable, and the camera manufacturer is no longer manufacturing the
battery, the camera itself becomes an industrial waste, no matter how
good care you have been taking. So, the most environment-friendly
way of using a digital camera is to use a digital camera that can accept
AA batteries with Ni-MH rechargeable batteries. Lithium-Ion
battery is bad for environment. Also, ATC2K can take 320x240 or
640x480-size video with 15fps or 30fps frame ratio. So, with 2GB
SD memory card, it can capture quite a long video.
I plan to use it for taking cockpit videos from my flights.
Although I recently purchased a new digital camera
for that purpose, ATC2K has some advantages over my new Nikon P50 for
I used to take my cockpit video only when I was flying by myself.
When I fly with an instructor, I don't put my digital camera in the
cockpit because it blocks his view. But, ATC2K can be attached to
the headset and does not block the instructor's view. So, I can
take cockpit video with ATC2K even when I'm flying with my instructor.
Last year, I regretted I could not take videos from my instrument
training. But, with ATC2K, I can take videos of flying through
cloud or rain.
Attached to my headset
Close-up of the attachment. I could
easily attach it to my headset by two cable ties.
ATC2K arrived just in time for my night landing practice today.
This time, I used both Nikon P50 and ATC2K to compare them.
Actually, it was not quite a fair comparison. I chose P50
specifically to take night flight video. Its maximum sensitivity
is ISO 2000 (in video mode ISO 1000). ATC2K's maximum
sensitivity was unknown. So, I did not know its performance in
the dark environment. I gave a tough test to ATC2K :-)
I arrived at the airport around 7pm. The temperature was
below freezing. Nonetheless, the sky was clearing up. The
weather had been just frustrating for two weeks. I tried to fly
twice, but the weather didn't cooperate. In fact, it was cloudy
until 6pm or so, but the weather forecast was calling for clear sky
after 6pm. So, I called PFTC and reserved an airplane from 7pm.
In fact, the cloud finally gave way as forecasted, and it became a
nice flying condition. I had moderate cross-wind from the right.
In fact, the ATC asked me if I wanted to use runway 31, but I just
replied either one (runway 13-31 or 10-28) was fine with me. So
the ATC gave runway 28, which gave me a good cross-wind night landing
practice. It was so nice to fly after two weeks of no flying.
I did 3 stop & goes, 1 short-approach touch & go, and then landed.
It was a short flight (0.7 hours). My plan for this year is to
make shorter flight more often. It was a nice night-landing
practice. You can see the videos by clicking below (Need Flash
Video taken by ATC2K
Video Taken by Nikon P50
Overall, ATC2K did a good job in a difficult environment. It
was able to capture runway lights on take-off and on final. It
also captured lights of Century III mall. Sometimes white bright
square appears when I look to the right. That was the screen of
Nikon P50. Another interesting thing of the ATC2K video was
because it was attached to the headset, I could tell where I was
looking at in various stages of the flight. The environment was
unfortunately too dark to capture instruments this time. But, if
I use it during the day, it should capture instruments as well.
However, I also found some problems with it. The biggest
problem is its buttons. The manual says do not push the rubber
button by nail. However, unless I push the power button with my
finger nail, it was so difficult to turn the power on. The
shutter button was very easy to press. They could do a better
job for power and menu buttons. Also the sensitivity of the CCD
seems to be lower than Nikon P50. Probably ATC2K's sensitivity
must be, I suppose, somewhere around ISO 400. So, it is not
ideal for night flight. And, the it was heavier than I expected.
So, my headset tended to come down when I moved my head.
Nonetheless, I expect that ATC2K would take interesting videos from
the cockpit. I'll use it for coming flights and upload videos
here. (Otherwise, I need to return it. :-)
As I've been writing since last year, I
spent considerable amount of my flying-time for training toward my
instrument rating. During the last portion of the training, I
had to learn to use all available navigation equipments, VOR, DME, and
GPS to have better situation awareness. The training was
concluded with my successful instrument check ride, as I have written
Last Sunday, I took my wife's friend's husband to the air. My
wife's friend wanted to present her husband a flight over their house
for his birthday present. I am always happy to have an excuse to
go flying. So, I happily offered a ride. Their home was in
Monroeville, about 30 minutes drive to the east from Pittsburgh.
According to the aeronautical sectional chart and a road map, their
home was located south of Monroeville airport (4G0). Monroeville
airport is a small tiny airport, and in fact she did not know there
was ever an airport in Monroeville. With a GPS unit, I can
easily fly to Monroeville airport, and then turn south to go to above
The weather was very good when
we took off.
Monroeville airport. Very
short and incredibly narrow runway.
The forecast didn't expect this
low visibility. I had to give up flying near the downtown.
However, when I came to PFTC,
the airplane I reserved was down for maintenance. Only available
airplane was N4739J, which was the oldest airplane of PFTC. I
usually avoid 39J, but this time, the weather was too good to cancel
the flight. The weather in Pittsburgh had been cloudy and rainy
through the week, and the weather on that day seemed to be a small but
golden opportunity for the flight. Ceiling was high, and
visibility was good. So, I decided to go with 39J. 39J was
just old. Not dangerous or like that. But, it didn't have
GPS. And, its navigation equipments were somewhat iffy.
Well, but in this good weather, I expected I was able to fly just by
the ground reference. In case I lose VOR, I should be able to
track the road, I-376 to reach Monroeville. In the worst of the
worst cases, if I got lost, I had a last option to call Pittsburgh
approach and request practice ILS approach to Allegheny County airport
to get back. I am now instrument rated. I can do that.
In fact, according to what I heard, technically a non-instrument rated
pilot is allowed to request practice instrument approach to an air
traffic controller as long as the airplane flies under VFR. But,
unless a pilot is adequately trained, it will be very difficult to do
an instrument approach. But, I felt it was ironic that I had to
fly an airplane without sophisticated avionics after a year of IFR
training. Anyways, that was an only available airplane to me.
First, I tried to track 055 radial of Allegheny VOR to reach
Monroeville airport. I tuned VOR 1 to Allegheny VOR on the
ground. The VOR was supposed to be able to receive signal even
on the ground. However, it didn't. I heard VOR identifier
tone, but the needle on the instrument didn't move. So, I tried
VOR 2. It worked. I found 39J also had DME (Distance
Measuring Equipment) which can tell the distance from a VOR/DME
station. So, I tried to tune it to Allegheny VOR, but the
indication flickered and was unreadable. So, only navigation
equipment I could use seemed to be VOR 2. That was fine.
N19015, a Cessna 150 in which I was trained for my private
certificate, had only one VOR, and I survived it. I could fly
with one VOR + ground reference.
So, I took off, and tracked 055 radial of Allegheny VOR. In
fact, as I gained the altitude, VOR 1 came alive. So, I could
use two VOR receivers. Also, the DME indication became stable.
Somehow it didn't flicker any more. So, I had much better
Soon I saw I-79. Monroeville airport is supposed to be before
I-79. If I was tracking 055 radial of Allegheny VOR, I should be
almost directly above the airport. So, I made 360 to search the
airport, and soon I was able to locate it! Actually, the needles
of the VORs were oscillating a little bit, and I was unable to tell if
I was exactly on course. But, I was tracking the course all
right, apparently. So, I turned south. I could identify
some buildings, and exit 14A of I-376. Then I followed the road.
The impression from the ground and from the air was different.
So, I could only make a guess on where his house was. My guess
turned out to be pretty good. Soon we identified his house from
the air. I circled around his house several times at 2700ft.
I might have been able to go down to 2200ft. But, the sectional
chart was indicating that there was a tower, about 1700ft tall, was in
the vicinity. I was supposed to stay at least 1000ft above the
tallest structure within 2000ft radius from the airplane. So, to
be safe, I stayed 2700ft. But, we clearly identified his house.
The first mission accomplished!
Then, I tried to fly to Butler County Airport, then call Pittsburgh
approach at 5nm west of the airport to request flight following to
Allegheny County. By doing so, Pittsburgh approach controller
usually gives a clearance for Pittsburgh class B airspace, and allow
to fly straight to Allegheny County airport. That course brings
me pretty close to downtown.
First I headed to Ellwood City VOR. I was hoping I could
intercept 189 radial of Franklin VOR, and then fly north for a few
miles to find Butler County airport. However, the VOR got iffy
again. In other airplanes of PFTC, I could receive Franklin VOR
almost soon after passing the Allegheny river. But, 39J's VOR
didn't. Also, the DME was initially showing distance to Ellwood
City VOR. But, the indication disappeared when I came to 15 to
18 nm from the VOR. At that time, all I knew was I was on 140
radial of Ellwood City VOR. I could have continued on if the
visibility was good. However, as I flew north, the visibility
decreased. It was probably still more than 5 miles, but I lost
sight of Pittsburgh downtown, and Cathedral of Learning of the
University of Pittsburgh, which usually are good references to find my
location. The visibility was getting low, two of three
navigation equipments were gone, a GPS unit was not there from the
beginning. I decided to turn back.
But, if I turn south to head directly to Allegheny County airport,
there was a possibility of busting class B airspace. So, I
decided to track 140 radial of Ellwood City VOR until I intercept 055
radial of Allegheny VOR, then head to Allegheny VOR. Allegheny
County airport is on 056 radial of Allegheny VOR. So, by
tracking 055 radial, I can come back straight to the airport. I
was not panicked. I still had an option to request practice ILS
approach to Allegheny County airport. Having a backup plan is
always good. But, I even didn't have to fly to intercept 055
radial of Allegheny VOR. After flying a few minutes I could see, although obscured, some
buildings of downtown and the Cathedral of Learning. I could
also see Allegheny river. I recognized precisely where we were.
So, I flew along the Allegheny river a little bit, and then turned
south, and came back to Allegheny County airport.
I believe I did not panic when the visibility was getting low, and
the navigation equipment got iffy, because of a year of my instrument
training. First of all, I knew I had an option to fly a practice
ILS approach. Also, the low visibility was not as menacing to me
as it used to be. Actually, this flight gave me some more
confidence. My passenger, my wife's friend's husband, said he
enjoyed the flight. It was a nice and fun flight.
January 23, 2008, my instrument check ride was scheduled. The
weather forecast from the day before was not very promising. I
talked with the examiner the day before, and I was supposed to do only
oral part if the weather was not good, and schedule a flying exam for
another day. However, when I woke up, the sky was almost clear.
I first checked the weather report and forecast by
It said the sky would be almost clear all day, and the wind would die
down toward the afternoon. The weather was good.
At around 10am, I called Flight Service Station to get weather
briefing. The briefer on the phone was the least efficient
briefer I have ever talked with. Maybe he was exhausted. I
don't know. But he spoke as if he were asleep. And, he
apparently mixed up Pittsburgh International airport and Beaver County
airport. At that time, my main concern was the runway condition.
The examiner told the day before that the runway of Beaver County
airport was covered by ice. I wanted to make sure the ice was
removed, and the braking action was fair. So, I asked him about
the runway condition, and he started giving information of runway
13-31, 10R-28L, and other runways. Beaver County airport has
only one runway, 10-28. I said to him I didn't think there was
runway 13-31 there, and finally he pulled information for Beaver
County. But, there was no NOTAM of Beaver County airport
regarding runway condition. To be safe, I also called Prospect
Aviation, which is located at Beaver County airport and asked about
the runway condition. The person on the phone told that she saw
an airplane departing the airport, so she believed that the snow and
ice on the runway was removed. OK. Fair enough. The
condition was set for my check ride!
On the way to
Beaver. Carnegie Mellon campus and Cathedral of Learning of
the University of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh class B. A flat land on the top of the picture is
Pittsburgh International airport. It was my first time to
fly VFR this close to Pittsburgh International.
At 11am, I took encouragement from my wife, and headed to Allegheny
County airport. This was the debut flight for the pilot bag
which my wife purchased for my birthday present. Also, I used my new Nikon P50 for the first
time to take a cockpit video from Allegheny to Beaver. So, it
was also the debut flight for my Nikon P50. The airplane I
reserved was N172RQ. It was the same airplane that I flew out of
Allegheny county without instructor for the first time. I was
supposed to get this airplane at noon. The airplane came back
about 5 minutes late. I asked re-fuel, did pre-flight check, and
added one quart of oil to be safe. The outside temperature was
-8C. I would have needed to use an external pre-heater if the
engine had been cold. But, since the airplane had just come
back, I could start the engine with no difficulty. I asked VFR
flight following to Beaver, and took off.
Landing to Beaver County airport. I
turned to base a little too early. As you can see, some snow
was still on the runway. It looked just a snow-covered field
until I came to 3 miles away.
It is just one hour drive from here to Beaver. If I could fly
straight, it should be 30 minutes or so. However, the straight
course from Allegheny to Beaver cuts through Pittsburgh class B
airspace. In fact, it passes almost right above Pittsburgh
International airport. Usually Pittsburgh approach controller
does not give a class-B clearance until I come to the point where
straight course does not come too close to the airport. This
time, I was told to fly 360 for a while, then I was cleared for
class-B airspace to head straight to Beaver.
However, I couldn't recognize the airport when GPS indicated 5
miles to the airport. I was on course according to the GPS.
So, I started descend while searching the airport. At 3 miles to
the airport, I finally saw it. As you can see from the video on
the left, some snow was still covering the runway, and to me it looked
just like a snow-covered field. I was glad I had GPS. I
was supposed to meet the examiner in the airport terminal. I was
curious if I could easily find the terminal, but it was really easy.
I saw a big sign "TERMINAL" on a building beside the runway. I
taxied there. Marking on the main ramp was almost completely
covered by snow. So, I parked my airplane beside another
airplane. The examiner was waiting in the terminal. The
flying time from Allegheny to Beaver was 0.7 hours.
We first walked in to the building beside the terminal, and did some
registration using IACRA. He said he often experiences some
trouble doing it, but my process went flawlessly. Then we went
to the second floor and did oral exam. He didn't ask me anything
difficult. One question I remember was what if I would do when I
could hear what ATC said but could not transmit. That was an
exact situation that I experienced recently. So, I answered I
can use transponder. I meant I could set transponder code to
7600 to let ATC know I had a radio problem. But, he explained
that by using the transponder code, I could send some easy signal to
Return flight. Downtown (?) of Beaver
Pittsburgh. The closer bridge is 62nd
bridge, and the farther one is Highland Park bridge.
Allegheny County airport from left downwind
Following the oral exam, we headed to the airplane, and started the
practical test. I was thinking I was required to file a flight
plan for the exam because I was practicing that way. But, he
said I didn't have to. According to his explanation, if I file a
flight plan, and if I missed the assigned altitude more than 350ft,
his examiner certificate would be revoked. He told me to request
practice ILS approach to the ground controller of Beaver instead of
filing a flight plan. I listened to ATIS and called the ground
controller: "Beaver ground, Cessna 172RQ, main ramp, ready to taxi for
take off, we have information Foxtrot. Request practice ILS 8
approach to Butler County airport." Beaver ground told me to
taxi runway 28 and soon gave me squawk code 5161 and departure
frequency 124.75. The practical test had begun!
I taxied to the end of runway 28, pulled to the engine-run-up area,
and did engine run up. If I were on an IFR flight plan, I was
supposed to say to the tower "Beaver tower, Cessna 172RQ, ready to
take off 28, IFR." But, I was not on an IFR flight plan.
He told me to just say "ready to take off 28." So, I did it.
The tower called "Cessna 172RQ, cleared for take off 28, left heading
140." I called back "Left 140, cleared for take off 28, Cessna
172RQ," and then took off. Soon I was handed off to the
Pittsburgh approach (124.75) and Pittsburgh approach told me heading
120 and 3000ft. I turned to 120 heading, and climed to 3000ft.
The first approach was ILS 8 to Butler (KBTP). Soon I was
cleared for ILS 8 approach. The air was not too stable.
There was some light chop. But, it was not too bad. I had
experienced same level of turbulence and I didn't have any difficulty
in maintaining altitude in such condition. However, I lost
altitude a bit and warned by the examiner a few times. I usually
do better in a real situation than a practice. But, this time I
might have been a little bit nervous. Nonetheless, I was
tracking the localizer well and soon came to the outer marker where I
intercepted the glide slope. I descended to the decision height
(1496ft) and raised the foggle. I saw the runway right in front
of me. First one done! The approach controller told, when
he cleared me for the ILS approach, to go missed approach as
published. However, this particular ILS approach had two missed
approach procedures. To be clear, I called "Pittsburgh approach,
Cessna 172RQ on missed approach, turning left to Ellwood city VOR,
2000 climbing for 3000." Pittsburgh approach then assigned
heading 280 to go for the next approach.
The second approach was LOC 8 (Localizer 8) to Butler. A
localize approach is similar to an ILS approach. However, in a
localizer approach, as soon as I come to a point called final approach
fix (FAF), I rapidly descend to the minimum descend altitude (MDA.)
In this particular approach, FAF was the outer marker, and MDA was
1600ft. I did this approach partial panel (attitude indicator
hidden.) I was still going up and down a bit, but I was doing
everything all right. Pittsburgh approach gave me heading 220,
then 110, and cleared me for LOC 8 approach. I came to above the
outer marker, started timer to measure time for missed approach, and
began descend. 3 minutes and 24 second to reach missed approach
point at 90kt. After about two minutes, I reached the MDA and
leveled off. With a help of GPS, I could easily maintain the
course. Slightly after 3 minutes, the examiner told me to take
foggle off. Again, I saw the runway straight ahead. Second
one done! And I went missed approach.
The last one was VOR 28 approach to Beaver. In this approach,
I needed to pass Ellwood City VOR with heading 256, and then descend
to 2020ft. At 5 nautical miles from the VOR, I could descend to
1680ft. Actually, because I knew I needed to do this approach at
least once, I had set DME frequency to the Ellwood City VOR when I
left Allegheny county airport. It's not a cheating. I was
told to expect what to come, and configure airplane well ahead of time
in an IFR flight. So, I expected and prepared the DME frequency
ahead of time as I was taught. Although I was blown a
little by light turbulence, I believed I did a satisfactory approach
for the third time. The last landing was a little rough due to
the gust, but the exam was over.
After landing, the examiner told that I passed it. He also
said I maintained course all right, radio communication was good, I
practiced things well. So, essentially everything other than
maintaining altitude was good. He said I should brush up
altitude maintenance. That was a fair observation. He
printed out and gave me a temporary airman certificate, and suggested
to head to Allegheny county airport right away before a snow storm hit
the area. I wanted to get some fuel for safety, but I knew I had
fuel for almost two-hours. So, I headed back to Allegheny county
immediately. The return flight was purely a fun. Actually,
Pittsburgh approach cleared me for class B airspace early. The
straight course from there was supposed to bring me very close to the
downtown. I expected a magnificent view, but the approach
controller gave me another heading before I came close to the
downtown. I ended up with taking usual course to Allegheny
county airport. At Allegheny county airport, I did one touch and
go, to practice one more landing, and landed. The return flight
was 0.7 hours including the touch and go.
After almost one year of training, I go for
my instrument check ride this Wednesday. If the weather is not
good, backup date will be Friday or next Monday.
I wished I could fly a check ride out of my home airport, Allegheny
County Airport. However, I need to do it out of Beaver County
Airport, where the examiner is based. So, I fly to Beaver County
Airport by myself and meet with the examiner there. I will have
oral exam, and practical test, and if things go well, I'll be
In fact, I'm not just unfamiliar with Beaver County Airport, it
will be my first time to fly there. I have never practiced
approach to Beaver County Airport, either. So, it will be quite
a challenge for me. I'll study approach charts and familiarize
myself as much as possible, but I never know what's going to happen.
Let's see how it goes. I'll post the result here when I get it.
I have been to New York to renew my
passport. I can renew my passport at the Consulate General of
Japan in New York city. I stayed there for two nights. I
also visited B&H Photo Video
shop located in Manhattan. B&H is a popular online camera shop,
and it sells stuffs at reasonable price. I often buy stuffs from
them. It also have a retail store in Manhattan, and the price is
(looks like) same as the online price. By buying at the store,
you can save shipping cost.
Actually I was looking for a new compact digital camera for taking
cockpit video during a night flight. I have been using Pentax
Optio S55, and it was adequate during the day, but not for night
flying because of the low maximum sensitivity, ISO 400. However,
none of the available models satisfied all of my requirements
completely. I didn't want to invest $200 to $300 for something
that does not satisfy all of my requirements, so I was thinking to
wait until next models come out. I was planning to just look at
the current models at B&H. However, I realized that Nikon
Coolpix P50 was sold at $159. I didn't think it was that cheap.
I ended up with purchasing it.
To take video from the cockpit, the camera should be small enough
not to block the view. Most of the dedicated video camera don't
satisfy this criterion. Some video cameras are sufficiently
small, but those cameras can take a video shorter than one hour.
Many compact digital cameras can take a longer video. I don't
want to worry about video camera while flying. So, I want the
camera to be able to take a video for at least two hours continuously.
Well, I can push buttons during level flight, but I don't want to if I
don't have to.
For taking a two-hour video, Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery is
inappropriate. Probably, while the battery is fresh, it should
last more than two hours. But, a rechargeable battery soon
degrades. When the battery capacity becomes half, it is still ok
for taking still images. A fresh battery should be good for
hundreds of pictures. A half-capacity battery should still be
able to take one hundred pictures or so. However, a
half-capacity battery can probably take a video for less than one
hour. When the battery capacity is reduced to less than half,
the camera becomes just an industrial waste if the camera manufacturer
no longer supplies a compatible battery, even if the camera itself is
in perfect shape. If the camera can be used with standard AA or
Ni-MH batteries, I can continue using the camera by replacing the
battery. When the capacity of Ni-MH batteries is reduced and
becomes inadequate for in-flight video, the batteries are still good
for a wireless mouse, keyboard, or TV remove control. On the
other hand, a rechargeable battery specially designed for a specific
digital camera cannot be used for anything other than the digital
camera. If you were thinking that a digital camera that uses a
Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery is environmentally friendly, you need
to re-think about it. Such a camera is not environmentally
friendly at all. Using a camera that can take AA battery with
Ni-MH rechargeable battery is the best for the environment., and you
can use your camera long
The video format is also important. The camera needs to be
able to take 320x240 15fps movie, or even a 2GB SD card is not enough
for a two-hour video. Also, when I know that the flight will be
short, I'd like to take higher-resolution, like 640x480 15fps video as
well. To take night view, the maximum sensitivity needs to be
high like ISO 1600. It is better to have an optical shake
The best matching digital camera for these criteria was Canon Power
Shot A570 IS. However, this digital camera has a bizarre
60-minute limitation of movie taking. From the programming
point-of-view, the duration of the movie can be limited by only three
factors: (1) battery life, (2) available memory, and (3) data format.
Therefore, for some reason, someone who wrote a controlling program of
Power Shot deliberately added an unnecessary time restriction.
Therefore, Power Shot lost the candidacy.
Second best matching digital cameras were Panasonic DMC-LZ7 and
DMC-LS75. These models can take a movie of longer than two
hours. However, the maximum ISO sensitivity was 1250. So,
I could not decide to go for it.
The third candidate was Nikon Coolpix P50. It satisfies all
criteria but optical shake reduction. While taking an in-flight
video, I fix the camera on the dashboard of the airplane. So,
lacking optical shake reduction was not so critical for in-flight
movie taking. But, I was thinking to use my next digital camera
also as a primary camera for short trips (not for an air show).
So, I wanted it to have an optical shake reduction, and I was holding
from buying it.
What I never expected was a Coolpix P50 was far less than $200.
I can just give a try for $159. So, I purchased it. I
don't have planned night flight this month, but I'll try this camera
when I go for my solo night flying. (* When I'm flying with an
instructor, I don't put my camera on the dashboard because it blocks
the view of the instructor.) Pictures below are screenshots from
the videos I took with my new Coolpix P50 and Optio S55. One
thing that disappointed me was the maximum sensitivity of Coolpix P50
for movie mode turned out to be ISO 1000. Nonetheless, P50 is
better than S55 for night in-flight video.
Taken by Coolpix P50. Distant street lights are clearly
visible. Lights reflected on the wet road are also visible.
Taken by Optio S55. Distant street lights are dimm, and
lights relected on the wet road are not visible.
Taken by Coolpix P50. Due to high
sensitivity, the picture is a bit grainy, but good for enough for
night in-flight video.
FAA has a program called
Pilot Proficiency Award Program, also known as the Wings program.
The purpose of the program, as far as I understand, is to encourage a
pilot to go for a basic flight training regularly. Until last
year, I could receive a certificate and a wing pin by attending an
air-safety seminar and flying three hours of flight training including
one hour of take offs and landings, one hour of maneuvers, and one
hour of instrument flying. It was not just for certificates and
pin badges, but it also lowered insurance rate, and it could be
substituted as a biennial flight review, which I need to go once every
two years to fly without an instructor. I can do one wing per
year, and I could receive phase 2, 3, 4.... wings after the first
wing. The contents of the trainings were the same, but it looked
ok for the purpose of encouraging regular flight training.
I received my first wing
last March and was working toward
the phase-2 wing. However, the program has changed this year,
and unless I finished all the trainings before the end of December, I
had to start over again. I managed to do the last flight
training toward the phase-2 wing on December 26th and sent the
application, hoping it was processed in time. Fortunately, my
application was processed, and I have received the phase-2 wing.
The pin badge on the right is the one I received last year, and the
left is the new one. The phase-2 wing has a star on top.
New wings program is proficiency based. If the instructor
confirms that I am proficient in certain area of flying I do not need
to fly for an hour to get qualified. I think the older system
was better for encouraging pilots to do regular flight training.
But, I'll go for new wings anyway.
By the way, I'm getting ready for the practical test toward my
instrument rating. In the past, I had to fill a form called ACRA
(Airman Certification and/or Rating Application) and get a signature
of my primary flight instructor and take it to the examiner. If
I pass the test, the examiner signs the form and send it to FAA, and
then a new certificate was sent. Now, those forms are all
online. I have to create an account on the FAA web site and fill
the form online. My primary flight instructor digitally signs
the form, and it is sent to the examiner electronically. Funny
thing is its naming. It is called IACRA, standing for Integrated
ACRA. Sounds like Viagra. In fact, when I heard IACRA for
the first time, I was curious why we needed to discuss about Viagra
there. I suppose someone in FAA intentionally made it sound like
Viagra because most natural naming should be something like EACRA, or
Electronic ACRA. Nice humor though :-)
My first flight of 2008 was a night flight
to see a light-up event called Celebration of Light from the air.
The event was held in Hartwood, which is about 10 miles north of
Allegheny County Airport. I drove through the event last year,
and it was really an impressive light-up show. However, it was
not so impressive from the sky. It took five or ten minutes to
find the place. The city lights of Pittsburgh was more
impressive from the air. Unfortunately, the maximum sensitivity
of my digital camera used for taking flying video was ISO400, and it
could not capture city lights well. The below video is from the
landings when I came back to the Allegheny County airport.