Captain YS's Flight Log Book

Previous Articles [2006 and before] [2007] [2008] [2009] [2010]


I have reached 400th flying hour on December 24.  This time, the cloud height was 2300ft above ground (roughly 3500ft MSL).  To leave 500ft below cloud, I had to stay 3000ft or lower.  But, the forecast was predicting rapidly-clearing sky.  So, I took off.

Actual cloud over Beaver County airport was lower than reported.  When I climbed to 2500ft, the cloud was getting closer.  I leveled off at 2500ft and continued to Allegheny County.  The cloud was clearing as we approached Pittsburgh.

I did one touch & go and headed for Latrobe.  I did another touch & go at Latrobe.  This touch & go qualified this flight as a cross country.

On the way back, I did another touch & go at Rock (9G1).  Rock airport has a nice runway.  However, there is no building in the field.  Rock airport consists of a runway and two ramp areas.  Actually, there is no parallel runway either.  I have never landed this airport before.  So, I took this opportunity to add 9G1 in my logbook.

Then, I circled over one of my friends' new house to take aerial photos.  At that time, Hobbs meter told the flying hour of the day was 1.3 hours.  I needed 1.6 to reach 400 hours.  I circled around the area until it became 1.5 hours then headed back for Beaver.

Contrary to early forecast, the forecasted cloud over Beaver was getting even lower.  Automated weather was reporting cloud at 1600ft above ground.  I wanted to keep 3000ft until I came close to the airport.  But, if I accidentally fly into a cloud in this season, ice builds up around the airplane, which will become just a piece of ice falling from the air.  I had to avoid that.  I made a straight in approach to runway 28 so that I can gradually lower altitude.  The cloud above the field appeared higher than the report.  Anyway, I landed.  The flying hour of the day was 1.7 hours.  I crossed 400 flying hours.

I wanted to fly once or twice before the end of year.  But, weather kept grounding me, and I didn't have luck.

My detailed flying hours is as follows.

Total  400.1  PIC 331.6  Solo 76.4  PIC/Solo Cross Country 106.3  PIC/Solo night 24.3
Dual Instruction 214.4  Dual Cross Country 30.5  Dual Night 15.2
Landings 1082  Night Landings 96  Night Takeoffs 87  Hooded 66.9   Actual Instrument Condition 4.6
IFR Approaches 134 times,  IFR holdings 26 times.

Flying hour of 2011 was 36.5 hours.  I wanted to fly at least 50 hours per year, but I missed that goal by almost 14 hours.  I should fly more often in 2012.  But, I made 1000th landing in January, and 400 flying hours late December.  I made some progress this year.


Experienced engine roughness at 8500ft, but was able to recover by recalling what I studied for the private pilot knowledge test.

It's already December.  I flew 49.8 hours in 2009, 47.9 hours in 2010.  But, I have flown only 32.2 hours this year so far.  It's getting difficult to reach 40 hours per year mark.  If I fly 4.2 hours, I reach 400 total flying hour.  I hope at least I can get there before the end of the year.

I flew with my teaching assistant a few weeks ago.  Once I climbed up to 8,500ft, but the EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature) gauge was behaving strange.  The EGT was supposed to come up as I lean mixture.  I am supposed to keep EGT at some level.  There has been decades-long controversy where exactly this EGT needle should be kept to get the best engine efficiency, but at least I can say it must not be at lower end or higher end.  But, on that day, the needle stayed at the bottom.  I thought because I was climbing up to 8,500ft.  So, I kept leaning mixture.  But, it stayed at the bottom.  I got suspicious about the EGT gauge, and looked at the RPM instead of EGT to adjust mixture.  So, I climbed up to 8,500ft.  I like to be high.  That was a nice view.

When I tried to descend, it happened.  I reduced throttle to lower altitude.  But, as soon as I pulled the throttle, the engine started coughing.  Since it happened when I pulled the throttle, I pushed it back with instinct, and the coughing stopped.  However, I needed to make a very shallow descend.  I tried to pull the throttle again, and the engine started coughing again.

I scanned through my memory.  My search returned two results.

  1. Turn carburetor heat on, and keep it on.

  2. Enrich mixture.

I did so and pulled the throttle again.  This time, engine kept running smoothly.  Phew!

Maybe I was pulling mixture too much because I was initially looking at the EGT which was not moving.  If it was the case, enriching the mixture solved the problem.

Or, I was at 8,500ft.  Outside air temperature should have been pretty cold.  Due to evaporation, the temperature inside the carburetor gets even colder than the outside air temperature.  Maybe ice was forming in the carburetor.  If that was the case, carburetor heat solved the problem.

For the short time, I seriously thought about making an emergency landing to Butler County airport.  It was nice to remember what was in the private pilot knowledge test.  I thought my camera would have captured the rough engine noise, but it was not distinctive with my camera's sound quality anyway.

From 8,500ft near Lake Arthur

Last Friday, I flew from PFTC for instrument practice.  I used N9417L.  I want PFTC to do a little better maintenance.  This airplane wanted to go to the right unless I kept left pressure on the yoke.  Every airplane has some tendency, but this one really wanted to make a right turn by itself.  It was very difficult to fly straight.  In fact, if I am able to fly a PFTC airplane well, I have absolutely zero difficulty in flying an airplane from Moore aviation.  I feel that way.  Maybe it's good for training after all.

Anyway, there's one thing I have been wanting to solve, which I call 'first-time-jinx.'  It can be an IFR approach, or the first landing, or anything.  But, my first approach or landing of the flight often gets less than satisfactory.  The reason is obvious.  Since I fly only twice a month, the first approach or the first landing of the flight is the first one I make after about two weeks of no flying.

It's nothing dangerous.  My passenger doesn't notice what was not satisfactory.  It's more about my personal satisfaction.

On the first approach, Localizer 27 to Washington County (KAFJ), I had approach plate ready, set up all the COM and NAV frequencies, everything was set!  I thought.  Ended up with hitting the localizer at 110kt.  I was supposed to decelerate to 90kt before hitting the localizer.  But, I was able to decelerate to 90kt quickly, and the approach itself was ok.

Then I shot VOR-21 to Wheeling (KHLG), and came back to Allegheny to shoot ILS28.

The first and last landing of the day almost went perfect if I didn't slightly balloon before touch down.  I tried to make it a very soft landing, but became somewhat normal landing.  The wind was 15kt, and I am sure it was somewhat gusting.  I landed exactly on the centerline with nice nose-up attitude.  Maybe I am demanding too much to myself.

So, I try to fly at least 4.2 hours in December to reach 400 hours.


Approaching through the cloud!

I was trying to to practice IFR approaches at least once a month since I received my instrument rating.  In reality, however, I haven't been able to practice as often as I wanted.  This time I haven't practiced approaches for four months since May.  I finally had chance to fly from PFTC for practice approaches last Monday morning.

I reserved N430U.  When I tried to open the cockpit door, it was locked from inside.  The door-lock lever was not supposed to drop when the door was closed from outside.  But, the spring that holds the door-lock lever was broken, and when someone closed the door for the last time, the lever dropped and locked the door from inside.  I crawled in from the baggage door to open the cockpit door.  Also this airplane wanted to turn left even at the level-flight attitude.  I had to keep right-rudder pressure all the time, or the heading drifted to the left.  I wanted PFTC to do better job in maintenance.

The forecast was predicting high cloud by the time I was going to take off.  But, when I took off, the cloud layer was still hanging around the cruising altitude of 3,000ft.  I took off on IFR flight plan.  So, I just flew through the cloud.  I logged 0.6 hours of actual IMC time.  I didn't have chances of practicing the privilege of instrument rating as often as I wanted since I received my instrument rating.  Last year I had zero actual IMC time.  Before that was on March 8th 2009.  This year, I logged some actual IMC time on July 3 when I flew to Cleveland, then on August 12 when I flew to Niagara Falls.  And then this practice approaches.  Flying through clouds is a privilege of instrument rated pilot.  I like the sensation of going into cloud.  I also like the sensation of coming out of the cloud, too.  Below is the video from the approach practice.  I was able to make the last landing so soft that the video camera didn't capture the noise of the landing gear touching the ground.

YouTube Video

Saturday the same week, my wife's friend's friend wanted to go for a flight.  I reserved an airplane from Moore aviation and planned to go to Port Meadville for a Hog-Dog run.  The forecast was SCT 040 (scattered cloud at 4,000ft above ground.)  I filed an IFR flight plan and requested altitude 7,000ft.  I was expecting to go through the cloud layer while climbing up to the requested altitude.  However, when we arrived at the airport, the sky was clear.  I was a little disappointed.  So, I took off and climbed up to 7,000.  But, soon the ATC told me to come down to 4,000ft.  Actually it was exactly the altitude of the scattered cloud layer.  (4,000ft MSL there was 2,500ft AGL.  It was lower than forecasted.)  I thought as if ATC knew I wanted to fly through clouds.  But, my wife later said that probably the ATC wanted to keep me in actual IMC then no VFR traffic was going to come close to me.  That might have been correct.  If the ATC puts me in the cloud, they don't have to be worried too much about a VFR traffic coming close to me.

When we arrived at Port Meadville, the hot-dog stand was closed for the season.  That was disappointing.  We came back to the airplane and quickly started the engine to fly to Franklin Venango Regional instead.  There is a restaurant in the airport terminal of Venango Regional.  That was not so a special restaurant, but it was ok.  The wind at Venango Regional was almost parallel to runway 12.  I have never landed runway 12-30 of Venango regional.  But, everyone seemed to be using runway 12.  I followed other traffics.  Runway 12-30 of Venango Regional used to be badly maintained with cracks and weeds.  They seemed have re-surfaced it.  It was a nice runway.  I was shaken by the wind just before touch down, but I didn't miss the centerline.  Now I am recording video of my flights.  It was nice to be able to review the landings after coming home.

When I came back to Beaver, I saw a sad news.  There was a piece of paper on the counter of Moore aviation.  This was a copy of an article telling that FAA designated examiner, Mr. Thomas Bobeck had died of stroke (link to the article).  In my instrument check ride, I ended up slightly high on final after the last VOR-28 approach to Beaver.  He said, he liked a steeper approach because he didn't have to worry about engine failure.  If I am high enough, I can easily glide down to the runway.  Well, it is as long as I am not too high.  When I called him to postpone my commercial check ride because I thought I needed (turned out I didn't have to though) some more night solo time, he said that the world would be a better place if there were more honest people like me.  After the commercial check ride, he applauded my flying and said I was flying methodically and it was nice.  He also said I was going to be a good instructor.  I was thinking to ask him to give me instructor check ride.  It was a too sudden departure.  He said that I would be a good instructor.  I will some day make it real.


So, how much altitude do I lose during power-off, 30-degree bank, 360 degree turn in a Cessna 172?

In the past, there were a lot of airplane accidents due to engine failure.  But, nowadays, it is rare.  Rather planning-related accidents, especially due to flying into a bad weather, seems to be getting more common.

Nonetheless, a student pilot spends a lot of time for practicing emergency off-airport landings.  The student pilot mocks engine failure by pulling the throttle to idle and then glides down to an appropriate emergency landing spot.  No matter how unlikely the actual engine failure is, if the pilot is prepared for such a situation, the probability of losing a life due to an accident decreases.  This world is pretty much all about probability.  Even outside an airplane, if you drive a car and make a shortcut that makes you go through a road with bad visibility and no traffic light, you are increasing the probability of an accident.  If you drive a little longer and takes a road with good visibility and traffic lights, you have less chance of accidents.  There is no way of making the probability of accidents absolute zero.  All we can do is minimize it.  For this reason, I never take an I-376 eastbound entrance located within 5 minutes drive from my apartment.  When I need to take I-376 eastbound, I drive to a farther entrance, and even drive past the entrance and make a U-turn to enter the freeway.  From my research, this gives the longest acceleration lane.  The entrance 5 minutes away from my apartment has a stop sign, and zero acceleration lane, and I need to shift two lanes in a short distance before entering Squirrel Hill tunnel.  That is the most horrible entrance I have ever seen.  For the obvious reason, there are a lot of accidents there.  I believe that entrance should be closed.

But, I was not so confident in such mock engine failure practices.  Always I ended up with too high too fast.  Unless you are flying over the desert, you will not have a luxury of wide open flat area.  You need to come down to the emergency-landing target at right altitude and airspeed.  If you go over the target, you will end up hitting something on the ground.  That's not good.

In a similar context, we practice a kind of landing called a short approach.  In a short approach, the pilot pulls the throttle idle on downwind leg when the runway number is seen 90 degree to the right or left of the airplane (this place is called a beam,) and then makes a 180 degree power-off turn, and land at the runway.  If I am proficient in a short approach, I can bring an airplane to the 90 degree off from an emergency-landing target at 1000ft above ground, then make a 180-degree turn to slide into the target in an actual engine failure, therefore I can increase the probability of survival.  Or, sometimes the control tower asks me if I can make a short approach when there are a lot of incoming traffic and the tower wants me to land quickly.  So, I need to be prepared for it.

But, I was not good at short approaches, either.  I again always ended up with too high too fast.  According to some instructors, I am supposed to start turn as soon as I pull the throttle to idle, and I should stay close to the runway so that I don't run out of altitude before reaching the runway.  If I do it as I am told to do, I never rolled out at the right altitude.  I was rolling out always too high.  That was not a serious problem because the runway I regularly fly from had almost three times the length needed for Cessna to land.  But, I was not feeling good about that, and wanted to be proficient in short approaches.

Another case that the pilots always talks about is an engine failure during take-off climb.  In many cases, trying to fly back to the runway behind is considered suicidal.  It is also known as an "Impossible Turn."  To fly back to the runway behind, the airplane needs to make more than 180 degree turn to come back to the centerline, and make another turn to the other direction to align with the runway centerline.  Roughly 270 degree turn is necessary (225 degrees to fly back to the centerline, and 45 degree to align with the centerline.)  Of course, if the airplane has enough altitude at the time of engine failure, it is possible to fly back to the runway behind.  In Cessna 172, it is said that 500ft above ground is marginal, and 800ft is very safe altitude to make an "Impossible Turn" (so it is a Possible Turn.)  I have never even tried to practice a mock Impossible Turn due to many reasons.  In fact, some pilots lost life to practice an Impossible Turn.  I have no intention of joining them.

In such situations, to know how I can slide into the selected emergency landing target at right altitude and right airspeed, how much altitude is needed to make an Impossible Turn possible, why I always rolls out too high too fast on short approaches, I needed to know how much altitude I lose during a power-off gliding turn per 360 degrees.  This is one of the things I wanted to do when I have an equipment to record a video of the instrument panel.

So, I did some experiments over NARDO airport late June.  I cut the throttle to idle at 3000ft (about 1800ft AGL), and decelerated to 65kt.  Them I continued 30-degree bank turn until I reached 1700ft (about 500ft AGL).  AGL stands for Above Ground Level, by the way.  The videos below are recorded during these experiments.

Flaps full up

Flaps 10 degrees

Flaps 20 degrees

Flaps 30 degrees (full down)

From the instrument reading, I was able to calculate how much altitude I lost while turning 360 degrees.

Flaps full up -> 470ft

Flaps 10 degrees -> 580ft

Flaps 20 degrees -> 600ft

Flaps 30 degrees -> 650ft

Of course, the result will change depending on the weight of the airplane and air temperature.  Nonetheless, these results give useful information.

Based on these results, I lose 352ft if I need to make 270-degree turn in total in the event of engine failure during take-off climb.  If the engine quits below 352ft AGL, I have zero chance of coming back to the airport, and therefore I should look for other places to make an off-airport landing.  If I have 500ft AGL, I will have 148ft to glide down to the runway after completing 270-degree turn.  It might be marginal.  But, if I have 650ft, I will have almost 300ft to glide down to the runway, which seems to be a safe enough altitude.  Maybe I make my threshold as 650ft AGL.  If the engine quits below this altitude, I'll look for a good landing site forward, or I'll try to turn back otherwise.

These results also explained why I always rolled out too high too fast on short approaches.  Even if I lower the flaps to 30 degrees (full down) immediately after I pull the throttle to idle, I can lose only 325ft during 180-degree turn.  Typical traffic-pattern altitude (TPA) is 1,000ft AGL.  If I start turn immediately, I will still have 675ft at the end of runway.  There was no way of rolling out at the right altitude.

This short approach never works!

To make a better short approach, I should rather wait until reaching losing about 350ft from the TPA before starting a turn.  Then I'll lose another 325ft during a 180-degree turn.  When I roll out, I'll have about 325ft to glide down to the runway, which should be the right altitude.

This should work better.

Based on this calculation, I have practiced short approaches at Beaver County airport.  The wind was 170 at 7, almost straight cross wind.  It was also a good opportunity for me to practice cross-wind landings.  The wind seemed to be stronger at the traffic pattern altitude.  You can clearly see that the airplane was flying sideway in the video.  There might have been a weak wind sheer at around 1500 to 1700ft.  I felt slight shaking at that altitude.

On downwind, slightly before hitting the beam, I pulled the throttle back.  I lowered the flap to 10 degrees immediately.  As soon as the airspeed came down to the white arc, I lowered the flaps to full-down position and kept the airplane at 65kt.  I had to lower the nose quite a lot to keep 65kt with full flaps.  It was like skiing on a black-diamond slope for experienced skiers.  I waited until reaching 1,850ft and then started 30-degree bank turn.  The trees appeared to be very close!  But, I kept the turn and rolled out when I saw the runway straight ahead, and it was.... A SUCCESS!!!  I was slightly higher than the normal glide path, which is ok because I was gliding down with power idle.  In a normal approach, I keep like 1,300 RPM, which makes the glide path shallower.  My experiment was very successful.  I post some videos from my short approaches.

In the 3rd touch & go, when I rolled out, a flock of birds flew into my way.  It should have kept flying so that I could glide down behind the flock.  But, for some reason, they started circling right in front of me.  GO AROUND!  I thought and pushed the throttle a little bit, when the flock broke to the left and right and made a hole that I could fly through.  I reduced the throttle to idle again and completed a touch & go.

3rd touch & go (Birds!)

In the 6th touch & go, I was not keeping the airspeed quite constant during 180-degree turn.  That was something I needed to improve.

6th touch & go

In the 8th touch & go, I lost altitude at the beginning too much.  So, I retracted flaps once to gain gliding distance.  When I retracted flaps, I gained airspeed by like 5 to 10kt, but that was supposed to happen.  In fact, in a real engine failure, I need to control the glide path by extending and retracting flaps.  It was a good practice.

8th touch & go

And, I made the 12th landing full stop.  The last one came out pretty well.

12th landing (full stop)

I couldn't believe I could do short approaches this good.  Flying based on an actually-measured data works very well.

To use these data for an actual engine failure during the cruise, I need to know the altitude AGL within 100ft accuracy.  I can make a rough estimation if I am flying around Pittsburgh because the terrain elevation is typically around 1100 to 1200 MSL.  MSL stands for Mean Sea Level by the way.  But, I should be able to judge the altitude AGL by visual reference to prepare for an emergency in a random place.  Maybe I will go to practice area and practice emergency landings from different altitudes and situations to become more proficient.

And, in commercial-pilot training, I had to practice a maneuver called steep spiral.  In this maneuver, I climbed up to like 6,000ft and pulled the throttle to idle.  Then I kept 45-degree bank descending turn.  I had to make three rounds before coming to 1,000ft AGL.  That was not a difficult maneuver to do.  But, I may want to see how much altitude I lose with 45-degree bank descending turn with various flap settings.  I wouldn't use 45-degree bank during a short approach, but I may be able to use such a steep bank turn to come down from my cruising altitude to lower altitude.  By knowing how much altitude I lose with different flap settings, I may be able to coordinate better for final power-off gliding approach to the emergency-landing site.  That's another thing I want to experiment next.


Flying to Niagara Falls (through Canadian air space!)

One of my friends recently got his private airman certificate.  He intends to go for instrument rating next, but he needs to build 50 hours of cross country time as pilot in command.  In my time, I made a lot of round trips from Allegheny County airport (KAGC) to Franklin Venango Regional airport (KFKL).  But, visiting many other airports is much more fun compared to flying to the same airport over and over again just for building cross-country time.

If I share a flight with him, say I fly to the destination and he flies the return flight, or vise-versa, we can visit more places for half the rental cost.  We made a trip to Cleveland Burke Lakefront airport (KBKL) last month.  I took that opportunity to practice IFR.  I shot an ILS approach to Burke Lakefront airport.  The wind changed before arrival and I was told to make a circle-to-land runway 26L.  I made a wrong judgment of the width of the traffic pattern and overshot the runway when I turned to final, but it was a wide long runway.  I landed farther into the runway so that I had enough time to correct the overshoot.  Circle-to-land is just like flying a traffic pattern at half the normal altitude.  If I see the runway at the same look-down angle from the downwind, I am flying half width traffic pattern.  I knew I had to be careful about the traffic-pattern width on circle-to-land, but still I ended up with making a big overshoot.  That's something I need to practice and improve.  I will practice and improve my skill.

This time, we planned a trip to Niagara Falls.  There is an airport called Niagara Falls airport (KIAG) near the falls.  I have visited this airport for an air show twice before.  The plan was I was going to fly Beaver County airport (KBVI) to KIAG and he was going to fly back to KBVI.  Since we had an airplane, we also planned to fly a sight-seeing flight over the falls.  There is a special rule for sight-seeing flight over the falls in Federal Aviation Regulation Section 93.71.  In summary,

  • Minimum altitude is 3,500ft.

  • Fly clockwise pattern over the falls.

  • Stay south of Rainbow bridge.

  • Broadcast the intention before entering the pattern at 122.05MHz, and monitor this frequency while in the pattern.

There are additional clauses including maximum speed, but Cessna doesn't fly that fast anyway, so I didn't have to care about them.  There were two problems.  One was the proximity of the falls from KIAG.  We planned to land at KIAG first, get fuel, and then fly a sight-seeing from KIAG.  But, the falls was about 4 nautical miles west of KIAG.  The elevation of KIAG is about 550ft.  To climb up to 3,500ft, I need to climb up about 3,000ft.  There is no way for a Cessna to climb 3,000ft in 4nm.  Another issue was border crossing.  According to an article of AOPA, I don't need to talk with an immigration or custom control officer if I just fly through the Canadian airspace and don't land outside the U.S.  However, I need to be on a flight plan (VFR or IFR) to cross the border.  Clearly, I will not be on a flight plan while flying a sight-seeing flight.  If I interpret the rule strictly, I need to stay in the U.S. airspace all the time.  Based on these consideration, I came up with a flight path as follows.

(My initial planned flight path for sight-seeing over the Niagara Falls)

First, (1) I was going to fly to the opposite direction from the falls to gain altitude after taking off, and (2) turn toward the river and ask flight following to Buffalo approach, and (3) fly along the shoreline, and finally (4) make a right turn over the falls and then fly to the east.  It actually turned out that I didn't have to be this conservative.

The weather briefer told that the sky should be clear.  There was a chance to have few to scattered cloud near Buffalo.  But, no forecast of precipitation.  I was supposed to meet him at KBVI at 2pm and take off as soon as we pre-flight.  But, the airplane we were supposed to use didn't come back by 2pm.  We ended up with taking off a little after 2:30pm.  I flew to KIAG on an IFR flight plan.  Since I was on an IFR flight plan, I could fly over lake Erie and fly over Canadian air space.  But, I chose to avoid Canadian air space anyway.  This would make sure I was not going to fly over lake Erie and we wouldn't need to carry life vest.  Federal Aviation Regulation tells that if I fly beyond the gliding distance from the shore line, I need to carry a life vest.

(Taking off KBVI)

We took off Beaver County and headed for Buffalo VOR.  Initially I was cleared for climbing up to 3,000ft.  Soon Pittsburgh approach told me to go up to 5,000ft and then 7,000ft within a few minutes.  Sky over Beaver County was clear as forecasted, but we saw scattered cloud when we came closer to Buffalo.  I like to fly into cloud.  I was hoping to go in to some of them.  But, the cloud seemed to be above the horizon.  It implied that they were higher than us.  I was tempted to request 9,000ft.  But, my friend on the right suggested the cloud should be at the same altitude.  So, I kept on going, and he was right.  The clouds came closer, and....

(Approaching clouds)

I flew through the cloud!  There is no much benefit of having actual IMC (Instrumental Meteorological Condition) time for my pilot career.  But, flying into a cloud gives a sensation like Harry Potter going into the platform 9 and 3/4 of King's Cross station.  I also like the sensation of coming out of cloud.  I logged 0.3 hours of actual IMC time in total.  By the way, I didn't forget turning on pitot heat.

Before entering Buffalo class C airspace, the ATC told me to turn heading 010 and fly directly to KIAG.  This course was going to bring us over lake Erie, and through Canadian airspace.  Since we were on an IFR flight plan, Canadian airspace was not an issue.  But, I was a little bit concerned about flying over lake Erie.  But, the lake was already narrow and we were at 7,000ft.  I could even stop the engine when I hit the shore line, and I could glide to the other side.  So, I flew as directed.  For the first time, I flew over Canadian airspace!  It was a strange feeling to cross the border without showing my passport and green card.  When I came close to the falls, mist created by the falls was visible from more than 10 miles away.

(Entering Canadian airspace)

Niagara ATIS was calling wind 060 at 9.  KIAG has three runways, 6-24, 10R-28L, and 10L-18R.  6-24 was closed for construction work.  10L-28R was wide and long and for large airplanes.  10R-28L was narrower and shorter and for small airplanes.  This wind direction would be perfect for runway 6-24, but it was not available unfortunately.  I expected runway 10R.  But, Buffalo approach gave me "Cleared for visual 28L."  I was curious if they meant to say 10R.  But, I copied as is.  When I was told to contact Niagara tower, I called "Niagara Tower, Cessna 984WU, inbound visual 28L" but Niagara tower gave me "Right base 10R, report base."  It made more sense.  It looked like the wind direction was changing minute to minute basis when we arrived.  Maybe Buffalo approach gave me 28L based on the last known wind direction, which was favorable for runway 28.

But, we saw a somewhat heavy precipitation to the right of the airport.  If we arrived earlier, I might have had to shoot a hard instrument approach.  It was good to be delayed after all.  I wanted to capture my first landing at Niagara Falls airport with my forward-looking cockpit camera, but it ran out of battery before then :-P  All I could get was this:

(YouTube video)

(YouTube video: This type of cloud is common on the frontal surface.)

We topped off the fuel tanks at the FBO.  I asked a person if my planned flight path for the sight-seeing flight was going to work.  Then they gave me a piece of paper that describes the sight-seeing flight path.  This indeed was showing clockwise pattern, but the pattern was going into the Canadian airspace.  I asked twice if it was ok to cross the border, and they said ok.  It was going to give us much better view compared to my planned flight path.

(Niagara Falls runway 10R final)

(Niagara tower and passenger terminal)

My friend was at control on the sight-seeing and return flight, and I was talking on the radio.  I tried to ask flight following to Niagara Ground.  Niagara Ground just gave me the common frequency and the altitude.  But, when I requested, they gave me a squawk code.  This squawk code would distinguish our airplane from random unknown VFR aircraft.  We taxied to runway 28R, ran up and, then called tower like "Niagara tower, Cessna 984WU, ready to take off 28R, sight-seeing flight over the falls."  Tower gave us "Cessna 984WU, cleared for take off, left turn for climb."  We took off, and made a left turn.  Then the tower told us to make climbing turn over a I-190 bridge.  When we reached 3,500ft, the tower told us to contact 122.05MHz and enter the pattern.  We ended up with flying the following flight path.

(Climbing left turn over I-190 bridge)

(Niagara Falls airport)

(Entering clockwise pattern)

What a spectacular view!  We could come to Niagara Falls with 1.5 hours flying, instead of 5 hours driving.  And, we saw an unbelievable view of the falls!

(What a spectacular view!)

(First round in the pattern.  A little rainbow is visible on the picture)

(Second round in the pattern)

I was preoccupied by the radio communication and totally forgot about turning on the forward looking video.  So, I missed the video in the pattern.  Well, but the falls were on our right.  Forward-looking video wouldn't have captured anything exciting.  (I wanted to believe so :-P)

(Coming back to KBVI)

Then we asked Buffalo approach for flight following to Beaver County airport at 4,500ft.  The return flight was smooth.  We had virtually zero turbulence, which made me sleepy a little bit.  But, it was a fun flight.  I will fly there again.


Power-Off Stall

I have uploaded a video of a power-off stall from one of the flights of the last month.  I practiced this maneuver over and around Lake Arthur.

The purpose of the maneuver is to be able to recover from a stall during the landing approach.  Probably, the real purpose is not to stall during the landing approach by becoming aware of signs of stall.

You can hear stall horn (stall warning sound) about 23 seconds into the video.  In Cessna 172, if the engine is idle, you can hear a wind noise associated with a high angle-of-attack before the stall horn goes off.

To recover, lower nose, max power, flaps 20 degree.  Then retract flaps 10 degrees at a time when the vertical speed indicator shows positive climb.  If you just want to recover from a stall, you can lower nose more than this video.  But, if you are on final for landing, you don't want to lose altitude too much.  So, apparently, just lower nose to the level attitude is good enough.

Next I'm thinking to upload a video of Power-On Stall, which is to prepare for stall during take-off climb.

YouTube video


Steep Turn

I have uploaded a video of a steep turn from the last flight.  Steep turn in a private-pilot check ride is 45 degree bank turn, and in commercial-pilot check ride 50 degree bank.  You need to turn 360 degree with maintaining that much bank angle.  Passing standard is, as far as I remember, need to roll out at plus-minus 5 degree heading from the initial heading and keep the altitude within plus-minus 100ft from the initial altitude.  Just making a 360 with 45 degree bank is not a big deal.  But, maintaining altitude is not so simple.

YouTube video

Among all maneuvers for commercial check ride, steep turn was my favorite.  I thought I could take a good video in one attempt.  But, I haven't practiced it since my commercial check ride, which was more than a year ago, and my skill was rusty a little bit.  I ended up with trying seven or eight times to make a satisfactory steep turn.

In a normal operation, we rarely need to make a steep turn.  Nonetheless, it is a good practice for precision flight.  Also, in case of an engine failure on take off, if I have 800ft or more and decide to fly back to the original airport, 45 degree turn gives a better chance of survival than 30 degree turn.  I suppose I should practice it more often.


Due to numerous reasons, I couldn't fly for three weeks.  I tried, but the weather or something else was grounding me this month.  I finally had an opportunity to fly last Sunday.  I flew from Beaver.

The forecast was predicting a nice weather.  The weather briefer told that the visibility may not be great, but the wind was going to be light south wind on the ground, and light and variable at 3,000ft.

Since I made my instrument camera, I wanted to fly some maneuvers and see how the instruments move.  I decided to do it this time.  I could go to north practice area where Moore Aviation regularly use.  But, that practice area may be crowded because many airplanes from Moore aviation and ACES aviation could use the same area for practice.  I decided to go to Lake Arthur instead to do some maneuvers.

When I arrived at the airport, the cloud was low.  I think the ATIS was reporting Scattered 2300, which is converted to 3500ft MSL (mean sea level) .  We do maneuvers at 3000ft.  That gives me marginal cloud clearance for VFR flight, if I go directly under the cloud.  But, it was just scattered.  I could choose to avoid directly underneath the cloud.  I also took out IFR approach chart just in case.  If I had been trapped above cloud, I could had asked Pittsburgh Approach to give me IFR clearance back to Beaver.  That didn't happen, but I was ready to do so if necessary.  In fact, I wanted to go to actual IMC.  I haven't flown actual IMC for more than a year.

I took off flew north, then turned west to go to Lake Arthur.  I took this course to avoid some clouds.  I learned to use Century I wing leveler on this airplane.  It was a nice easy ride.  In fact, this wing leveler is useful for recovering from spatial disorientation.  If I realize I was disoriented, I can just turn Century I on, turn controller knob neutral, and then I can concentrate on pitch, which is not a big deal.  The most dangerous killer in spatial disorientation is called 'graveyard spiral' in which the pilot loses lateral situation awareness and end up with increasing the bank and trying to pull the nose out from the dive.  The result is mid-air disintegration due to excessive G or crashing into the ground.  If I don't have to worry about the lateral control, it's a lot easier to get out of the spatial disorientation.

I made clearing turn to the left and then to the right, reduced power to 2200 RPM, and decelerated to the maneuvering speed of 110MPH.  Steep turn was my favorite in my commercial-pilot training.  I started with a steep turn.  In Cessna 182RG, I had to keep the dot of the attitude indicator slightly above horizon.  I tried to do the same.  Then, my Cessna 172M climbed up nicely with 45 degree bank.  I increased the bank and lower pitch to come back down to 3,000ft, but it was too late.  I busted 3,100ft.  Not good enough to pass even a private check ride.  That was disappointing.  But, Cessna 172M is much lighter than 182RG.  Maybe I didn't have to keep the nose that high.

I tried again with lower pitch.  That was better, but I was going up and down more than 50ft.  When I was training for my commercial certificate, I could keep the altitude within plus-minus 50ft.  I was not satisfied.  I ended up with doing steep turns for seven or eight times.  Last a few steep turns were satisfactory.  But, I guess I should practice maneuvers more often.

Then I tried a slow flight followed by a power-off stall.  To start slow flight, I need to slow down with low power, and when the airplane is slow enough, I put the power back in and keep the low speed.  But, when I put the power back in, I need to apply right rudder, or the airplane will start turning to the left.  It is called left-turning tendency.  There are two sources of this left-turning tendency.  One is the difference of the angle-of attack of the propeller blades on the left and right.  The right-hand side propeller blade goes down and left-side goes up because the propeller is rotating clockwise from the pilot point of view.  And, if you draw a diagram and think about the angle-of-attack of these two propeller blades, you can see that the propeller blade on the right makes a bigger angle-of-attack, and therefore makes greater lift, in this case the lift of the blade pulls the airplane forward, so it is called thrust.  So, because the airplane is pulled harder on the right and less hard on the left, the airplane tends to turn to the left.  The second factor is called P-factor, and it is related to the spiral air flow around the fuselage created by the propeller.  It also tends to turn the airplane to the left.  It is highly aerodynamic thing, and not so easy to draw a picture.

Anyway, I need to push right rudder to counter the left-turning tendency.  When I push the power in to make a stable slow flight, I need to gradually increase the right rudder pressure as I push the throttle in.  And, I couldn't coordinate my right rudder and throttle in this airplane well for some reason.  I once swung the nose 10 degree to the left, and then put the nose back to the original direction, which was not so good.  I recovered, and decided to do some just power-off stalls without slow flight first.

I pulled the power to idle, decelerated, flaps gradually increased to 30 degree, and stalled the airplane.  The recovery was nose down, max power, carb heat off, and 20 degree flaps.  The recovery went well, almost.  For some reason, my right rudder was lagged.  I should have pushed the rudder quicker.  Anyway, I tried a few times, and was able to make good stall recovery.

Then I did power-on stall.  Again, I had to push right rudder when I add power after decelerating.  I realized the rudder was somewhat heavy.  I had to kick the rudder pedal harder.  I thought I was not pushing the rudder quick enough, but it might have been just I was not pushing enough.  I did power-on stall a few times, and was able to make good ones.

I haven't encoded the video during the maneuvers.  I'll upload here as soon as I encode them.

Then I came back to Beaver and did some landing practice.  ATIS was reporting wind 180 at 6.  Almost direct cross wind.  But, 6kt cross wind is not a big deal.  I should be able to handle this cross wind with no difficulty.  That's what I thought, but I thought the actual wind was much stronger than 6kt.  I felt strong push from the right.  I ended up with not so satisfactory landing for the first touch & go.

In the second touch & go.  I was pushed from the right again and made a big overshoot when I turned base to final.  That was definitely not a 6kt cross wind.  When the airplane overshoots, the pilot needs to be patient.  Never make more-than-20 degree bank on final.  That's what I was told.  Larger bank makes the airplane stall at faster speed, and stalling at that low altitude is fatal.  If 20 degree bank is not sufficient, go around.  But, this time, I was able to come back to the (extension of )runway centerline with 20 degree bank turn.  I didn't have to go around.

Oh, by the way, I wrote that once that this airplane took only 6 seconds into flare to settle on the ground, but I figured why.  The airspeed indicator was in Miles-Per-Hour, not Knot.  The instructor must have explained it to me when I was checked out, but I was forgetting about it.  In fact, I got curious and checked the air-speed indicator.  I then saw "KNOT" on the side of the needle.  So I thought the airspeed indicator was showing speed in knots.  But, this "KNOT" was just indicating that airspeed in knots was shown inside circle, and the numbers on the outer circle was indeed Miles-Per-Hour.

I thought "KNOT" on the side of the needle meant that the airspeed indicator was showing knots....

I was thinking to be at 67kt when I was approaching at 67MPH.  67MPH is about 58kt.  So, I was approaching at less than 60kt on final.  When for the short time the airplane decelerated below 60, I was at 52kt.  But, its normal approach speed was 69MPH, which is about 60kt.  So, the normal approach speed is 5kt below Cessna 172R model.  So, it was not too dangerous though.

Rather, my hair was raised when the airplane stalled and settled on the ground almost immediately after rounding out.  If it was due to the wind, it is ok.  It is nothing wrong.  If the airplane wanted to settle on the ground, let it land.  The flare can be 2 seconds or 12 seconds, doesn't matter.  But, if I was doing something wrong, I wanted to know what I did wrong and wanted to correct for the future flights.  That was the main motivation of making the instrument camera.

I was not expecting to experience something similar soon.  But, it happened again!  When I flared for the second touch & go, almost immediately after I leveled off, the airplane sank suddenly.  I tried to arrest the sink by adding back pressure on the yoke, but I couldn't stop it, and the airplane settled on the ground.  It was as if a string that was hanging the airplane was suddenly cut.  Last time, I couldn't see what went wrong, but this time I had my instrument camera.  I could see how the airspeed was changing.  It should tell if it was due to wind or if I was distracted and was not really maintaining the speed on final.

The below is the video from the second touch & go.  The airplane settles on the ground at 2 minutes.

YouTube video

You can hear wind noise fraction of second before the airplane touched the runway surface.  The wind noise was from higher angle-of-attack as a result of my elevator input.  Yes, I did react and tried to arrest the sink rate.  Due to this elevator input, the airplane touched the runway at sufficiently nose-up attitude.

But, the airspeed indicator was showing around 60MPH when the airplane sank.  I was supposed to decelerate to 40MPH ideally.

From the observation, this seems to be what happened.  First, the airspeed was 70MPH when I started leveling off, which was the right airspeed.  But, if you look at the airspeed indicator shortly before that, the needle was going up and down by 5MPH or so.  There were some change of the wind speed.  And, as I leveled off, I felt sudden sinking, which should have caused by the loss of head wind.  I did react.  But my reaction was not enough to keep the airplane afloat, and the airplane settled.

In fact, over-control is worse.  Probably my reaction was not too bad after all.  When put the airplane on the ground, we are told not to force the airplane to the ground.  Let the airplane float as long as it wants to stay in the air.  In this landing, the airplane didn't want to stay in the air longer.  So, maybe it was ok to let it land.

By the way, didn't the forecast tell there was little wind today?  It reminded me of one flight from Venango county to Allegheny county.  The briefer suggested that the wind should die down by the time I arrived, and I ended up with dealing with 15kt cross wind that time.

Anyway, I understood the cross wind was strong.  So, I took 20 degree wind correction on downwind, and used partial flaps (20 degree flaps) for the rest of the touch & goes except the last one.  While I was flying in the pattern, the wind died down.  When the tower cleared me to land, the tower reported that the wind was something like 240 (could have been 210 or 220, I didn't write down the number) at 4.  4kt cross wind is really not a big deal.  In the last full-stop landing, I chose 30 degree flaps.  The last landing turned out my best landing of the day.  I wish I could make equally good landings in a windy condition.  I suppose only continued practice can make myself proficient in landings in a windy condition.

YouTube video

05/20/2011 Home-Made Flight Data Recorder

I once had tried to record video of the instrument panel of a Cessna in flight when I had an opportunity to test a sports camera called ATC2K.  That was in 2008.  It worked.  But, it was hell difficult to push buttons of that video camera.  To protect the camera from water, every button was made of rubber.  I had to push it hard to start recording.  I had to attach the camera on the left window so that it didn't bother flight control and visibility.  The location made it even harder to push buttons.  I finally gave up with ATC2K.

I have been using Nikon Coolpix P50 to take video of outside view from the cockpit.  This camera is like a miracle.  This camera is old.  It was introduced late 2007.  What's miracle about this camera is that this camera can take up to 4GB of AVI (motion JPEG) movie continuously, and can record 640x480 15fps video, and is powered by two AA (regular or NiMH rechargeable) batteries.  4GB of 640x480 15fps motion JPEG is converted to 2 hours of non-stop recording.  I can push the record button when I start the engine and don't have to touch until I land and come back to the ramp.  Since it can be powered by NiMH rechargeable batteries, you don't have to throw it away when the battery comes to its life.  Furthermore, my portable GPS, Garmin 96c, is powered by two AA batteries.  In case of electrical failure, and if I forgot charging NiMH batteries for Garmin 96c, I can take batteries out of the camera and put them in my Garmin 96c and can come back to the airport easily.  If the camera is powered by a proprietary battery, the battery can only power the camera.  Nothing else.  A proprietary battery doesn't contribute to the safety of the flight.

By the way, almost all current models of portable GPSs use a proprietary battery.  It is a tragedy.  A portable GPS is supposed to be a life saver in case of electrical failure especially in actual IMC or at night.  If it can only be powered by a proprietary battery, the GPS will become a useless mass as soon as it runs out of the battery.  I am not opposing the idea of Lithium-Ion battery.  But, it needs to be standardized.  Without standardization, Lithium-Ion batteries are weapons of mass environmental destruction.  Currently, every different cell phone model uses a different battery.  When the battery comes to its life, you throw away your cell phone together.  Cell-phone manufacturers make sure to stop production of cell phone batteries before your battery reaches its life.  You will not be able to buy a replacement battery, and your cell phone and the battery become industrial waste together.  Shame on those engineers who are making proprietary batteries.  Lithium-Ion batteries are supposed to be a solution to a big environmental problem.  Now Lithium-Ion batteries are the environmental problem.  I guess who invented the Lithium-Ion battery is weeping in despair.

Instrument camera mount.

I blame proprietary Lithium-Ion batteries time to time, but it's not the main topic here.  Anyways, most of the digital cameras in the market come with a strange limitation.  Like, Canon digital cameras cannot take a movie longer than 1 hour.  It stops recording as soon as it record a movie for 1 hour no matter how much space is remaining in the memory card.  Another common limitation is 2GB file-size limit.  Sometimes it is 4GB, but those cameras don't let you choose 640x480 15fps.  If I want to record longer movie, I am forced to choose 320x240 resolution.  My experiment indicated that six main instruments, attitude indicator, heading indicator, airspeed indicator, turn and slip coordinator, altimeter, and vertical speed indicator, needs to take up almost 320x240, or they become hard to read.  Since I need to place my camera in a difficult location, I can hardly control zoom.  So, it seems to be better to take wider area with a higher resolution and then crop out main instruments.

So, considering above points, Coolpix P50 is the best digital camera.  I am using one for taking cockpit view.  I decided to buy one more for instruments.  I ordered one from ElectroBrands through  The next day, I had a phone call from the shop.  They said that the one originally they posted on had a cracked LCD panel, and they were going to send me the one that was kept for store display.  They wanted to make sure I am ok with it.  To me, used camera and store-demo camera didn't make much difference.  Store demo camera might be even better since it was not carried around in heat or cold.  I said ok to them.

Three days later.  I received a package.  Inside the package was Coolpix P60, not the one I ordered.  I was ok with getting Coolpix P50 no matter if it was used or kept for store demo.  But, P60 was useless since Nikon put a 2GB file-size limitation.  P60 may be a better camera for taking still pictures than P50.  But, P60 could only take up to 48 minutes video.  I decided to return it.  They said their P50 had a cracked LCD panel, so I didn't think I could get one from them.

Almost as soon as I contacted ElectroBrands by E-Mail, I got a reply.  They said they sent me P60 by mistake and they had a P50 in good condition in stock.  They agreed to exchange the P60 with P50 and also agreed to reimburse for the return shipping.  So, I sent my P60 the next day, and after waiting about a week, I received a Coolpix P50.  When you shop online, it is inevitable to experience some kind of a mistake from time to time.  One of the qualities of the online shop can be measured by how they deal with such a mistake.  For this occasion, ElectroBrands gave me a quick and courteous customer support, and I was happy with it.  Also, the camera was in good condition.

The camera has arrived just in time for my instrument training scheduled for Friday evening.  I made a suction mount for the instrument with two suction cups.  When I mounted, I realized that if both two suction mounts fail when the door was open, the camera will drop to the asphalt.  I need something like a string that prevents the camera from dropping all the way to the ground.  I will make that modification before the next flight.  The video came out very well.  I have uploaded my last ILS28 approach to Allegheny County on YouTube.  The instrument on the top right corner of the eight instruments shown on the video is the ILS.  Basically, I need to keep two lines (horizontal and vertical) at the center.  If I keep them at the center, I can descend to very close to the runway without looking outside.

Next time, I'll try to do some maneuvers like stalls and steep turns with the instrument camera.

05/05/2011 Ups and Downs of Landings

I made a really nice cross-wind landing when I flew for flower-watching flight, which made me feel good.  But, in the next flight, I ended up with making two not-so-good landings.

First, the following video is from one of my best cross-wind landings taken when I came back from flower-watching flight.  You can see that the right main landing gear touched the surface followed by the left gear with roughly one second separation.  In this video, you can see that the right main landing gear touched the surface roughly 14 seconds after I leveled off.  I used partial flaps (20-degree flaps) setting and kept 10kt faster than usual approach speed.  When I approach in normal configuration (30-degree flaps and 65-70kt), it takes about 12 seconds from my past video analysis.

Video from 04/21 one of my best cross-wind landings

That landing made me feel good.  But, my self-esteem was fractured in the next flight in which I made two not-so-good landings.  In the first touch & go, everything seemed normal until roughly six seconds into flare.  I leveled off, and kept the airplane just off the ground, and was expecting to be in the air a few more seconds, when the airplane suddenly dropped and settled on the ground.  I didn't hear the stall horn.  You can see it from the following video.  Of course, although I say "dropped" it dropped from maybe 1 or 2 ft off the ground on the main landing gear.  There was no damage to the airplane and it didn't hurt anyone.  Just, I felt something was not right.  But, it was not too strange.  It could have happened because the wind changed slightly when the airplane was almost settling on the ground.  So, I completed the touch & go and airborne again.

Video from 04/30 first touch & go

But, the first touch & go was far more normal compared to the next full-stop landing.  At least I didn't feel any danger in the first touch & go.  After the first touch & go, I made a traffic pattern, and then approached the runway.  As usual, I closed the throttle about the runway threshold.  Within a fraction of second, the stall horn went off.  And, within two seconds, the airplane dropped on the runway surface, made a small bounce, and finally settled on the runway.  I couldn't do much in this short time, but at least I was able to keep nose-high attitude so that I didn't slam the nose gear on the runway.  At least, my wife didn't notice it was too abnormal.

Video from 04/30 full-stop landing

This could happen in a very gusty windy condition.  That's why we keep slightly faster-than-normal airspeed in a gusty condition.  But, on that day, the wind was about 5kt.  No gust was reported.  The airplane dropped on the runway surface 10 seconds shorter than usual.  If I lapsed, I should have lapsed at least 10 seconds.  I can swear I didn't.  I am positive that I looked at the airspeed indicator one second before leveling off, and it was at 65kt.

The airplane could stall at faster-than-normal speed when ice builds up on the wings, but the sky was clear, and the air was warm.  There was zero possibility of icing.  It also could be the result of the center of gravity to the aft of the airplane, but it is also unlikely.  If it was the case, I should have sensed the instability long before the landing.  So, I have no idea why the airplane behaved strange.

Now I pushed my project of the second video camera that captures instruments of the airplane.  I couldn't tell why it happened because I couldn't tell how the instrument was behaving after leveling off.  I am not supposed to watch the instrument once I start rounding out.  Therefore, I don't know if there was an unreported gusty wind there.  So, from next time on, I should be able to analyze better if the airplane behave strange.  Well, I hope the airplane doesn't behave strange again though.

By the way, I flew for instrument training for the first time this year.  Despite over four months of no-practice, I was able to shoot four nice ILS approaches.  I hope my self-esteem won't be shuttered in the next practice :-P


Watching Cherry Trees from the Air

When I flew for aerial photography over the cherry-tree planting ceremony, I didn't see any blossoms.  It was a little too early.  I thought I should fly again later this month to see cherry blossoms from the air.  However, the day after the ceremony, it was warm like a summer in Pittsburgh.  Almost all of the cherry trees around Carnegie Mellon blossomed then.  I thought cherry trees in the North Park may open their buds in a few days.  I decided to fly again on Thursday of the same week.

Cherry trees were in full bloom near CMU.

The extended forecast was predicting chilly temperature for Monday and Tuesday, but warm temperature and clear sky for Wednesday and Thursday.  I expected that the cherry trees would blossom on Wednesday, and we should be able to see full bloom from the air on Thursday.  Extended forecast is good for predicting general trend of the weather transition.  But, the weather may change quicker or slower.  It was not so warm and cloudy most of Wednesday.  The temperature finally came up after 4pm.

On Thursday, there were patchy fog, but otherwise the sky was clear with little wind.  It was the best day for a sightseeing flight.  One concern was whether cherry blossoms were ready or not.  I took off Beaver County airport and headed for North Park.  As expected, there was virtually zero turbulence on the way.  But, it was still too early.  We didn't see any flowers at all.

The first attempt was too early for cherry blossoms. (Photo by my wife)

By the way, we saw two C-130s in a trail formation about 1000ft above us. I think they are based at Youngstown. (Photo by my wife)

So, I wanted to try again in the next week.  But, my schedule was filled with meeting after meeting.  And, the extended forecast was predicting a flyable condition only for Thursday.  I thought I didn't have chance this year.  But, lucky to me, I was released from the Thursday meeting.  I reserved an airplane for Thursday morning.  The forecast was predicting a windy condition.  When I checked the forecast in Wednesday night, terminal aerodrome forecast (TAF) was predicting 31012G22.  Wind was going to blow from heading 310 (north west), and the wind speed was going to be 12kt gusting 22kt.  The runway heading of Beaver County airport is 280.  I was going to have a wind 30 degree off from the right.  Cross-wind component was going to be 22 times sin(30degree) equals 11kt.  I am now confident in dealing with up to the demonstrated cross-wind of Cessna 172, which is 15kt.  I can manage 11kt cross wind.

Unlike a week ago, the sky was not so clear.  The weather report was saying cloud base was 3000ft.  But, from my apartment window, it seemed lower than that.  I thought it was like 1500ft.  But, as we drove closer to Beaver, the cloud got higher.  I even saw patches of blue sky.  The weather systems around here move mostly from north west to south east.  When the weather is recovering, Beaver gets a better weather before Pittsburgh.  Nonetheless, it was somewhat windy.

I took off Beaver and headed for North Park.  AIRMET-T (turbulence) was in effect.  I expected a bumpy shaky ride, but we were not shaken as much as my expectation.  Within 20 minutes, we reached over North Park.  Cherry trees seemed to be in full bloom.  We were able to see flowers on the cherry trees.  Mission accomplished.  Those cherry trees were young and not very big yet.  They were spotty this year but will grow, and we will see a pink carpet of cherry trees in a few years.

Cherry blossoms from 1100ft above. (Photo by my wife)

Then I did one touch and go at Allegheny County airport.  ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information System) told there was a gusty wind, which was expected.  In such a gusty condition, when the head wind could suddenly get lower a moment before touch down, which makes a landing rough, or, the head wind could suddenly increase and it brings the airplane up, in which case I need to react to the wind and keep the airplane from balooning.  I should be prepared for such sudden change of wind speed.  Allegheny tower initially told me to land runway 28.  Soon I was given an amendment and directed to runway 31.  I flew downwind, base, and then turned final.  The airplane appeared obviously slower than it should be, indicating that the head wind was strong.  I was fully prepared for the wind change and pulled the nose up slightly above the runway surface.  The cockpit video showed the airplane touched the ground 14 seconds later.  It was nearly a perfect touch down.  Years of training worked!  It's a self satisfaction that only pilots can understand.

Then I headed back to Beaver.  On the way, I flew over the intersection of Forbes avenue and Murray avenue in Squirrel Hill.  If my calculation was right, I would be able to take a good picture of Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh, and downtown lined up in one picture, and my calculation was right.  The weather didn't cooperate, so it was not a spectacular picture, but I can try again when the weather is good.

CMU, University of Pittsburgh, and downtown lined up.

When I approached Beaver, the Beaver ATIS was reporting wind 32009G14.  Actually, I don't remember exactly if the lower side of the wind speed was 9kt.  But, I think it was gusting 15kt and the direction was 320.  It means that the wind direction was actually 40 degrees off the runway, not 30 degrees as forecasted.  Nonetheless, the wind gust was 15kt, which was less than forecasted.  The cross-wind component wasn't too different from the forecast.

In cross-wind landing, I should put the upwind-side landing gear first, then the downwind-side gear next.  If I do it correctly, I hear two separate noises of the gears touching the runway surface.  In many cases, downwind-side gear touches the runway almost immediately after the upwind-side gear, and I don't hear distinctive two noises.  It's not too bad as long as I put my upwind-side gear first.  Slightly worse cross-wind landing gives one not-so-distinctive noise, and then the airplane is swung left or right depending on from which direction the wind was blowing.  Even worse cross-wind landing makes a single noise mixed with an uncomfortable metallic noise indicating that all three landing gears touched the ground simultaneously.  I don't make a that bad landing nowadays.  But, sometimes I see a student pilot making such a landing.  According to an instructor (not my primary instructor) Cessna is made sturdy enough to take such a bad landing.  At the same time, I also know a student pilot who cracked a nose-mounted landing light of a Cessna 150 by a rough landing :-P

Beaver tower told me to make a straight-in landing to runway 28.  When I was trying to align with the runway centerline, the airplane was reluctant to move to the right.  There certainly was a considerable cross wind.  Although I was confident in dealing with this level of cross wind, I hadn't flown in such a windy condition for a few months.  To prepare for the cross wind, I used partial flap.  Usually I lower flaps 30 degrees on final, but I chose 20 degrees for this landing.  After I learned this trick, I feel much more comfortable to land with a cross wind.  Because I didn't lower flaps all the way to 30 degrees, I kept the airspeed slightly faster.  I kept 75kt on final.  Due to the gust, the needle on the airspeed indicator was jumping up and down between 70kt and 80kt though.

As the runway approached, I leveled off, pulled up, and I kept something like 3 degree right bank.  After several seconds, I heard two distinctive noises of my upwind-side gear touched the ground followed by the downwind-side gear.  According to the cockpit video, the right main gear touched the ground 14 seconds after I leveled off, and the left main gear 15 seconds.  Second good landing of the day  :-)

I drove to North Park to see cherry blossoms from the ground as well on Saturday, two days after the flight.  The flowers were already falling and the trees were growing green leaves.  I confirmed that Thursday was the best time to see cherry blossoms from the air.

Cherry blossoms were already falling by Saturday.  Roughly 60% of the flowers were remaining.

I flew four flights over North Park this month.  But, I couldn't fly for instrument training at all for the past a few months.  I scheduled many times, but I had to cancel all of them due to weather.  I hope the weather becomes more stable soon so that I can practice instrument approaches again.


Aerial Photography of Cherry Trees

There is a NPO called Pittsburgh Sakura Project, which has been planting cherry trees in North Park of Pittsburgh.  I have been volunteering for aerial-photography flights of the planting ceremonies.  They had a spring planting ceremony on April 9th this year, and I flew for taking aerial photography of the event.  For this mission, I flew a practice flight without my wife (photographer) once, then I flew once with my wife on the back seat, and prepared for the real run.

First practice flight

Second practice flight (Photo taken by my wife)

Actually, the first attempt of the second practice flight was a close call.  The forecast was predicting a light rain on that day.  The cloud was supposed to be high, and visibility was supposed to be like infinity.  Cessna can fly into a light rain.  But, I didn't want ground staffs to be wet.  So, I called the flight.  Later in the day, almost exactly when I would have landed, Pittsburgh area was struck by a heavy thunderstorm with hail.  There was no forecast of the thunderstorm.  I didn't see no convective SIGMET or outlook.  There was no other reason to cancel the flight than just I didn't want the staffs to get wet.  Absolutely no other reason.  If we were not planning to have ground staffs to be there, I could have decided to fly and flown into the thunderstorm.  Of course, if I should have turned around if I saw the lightning, but it was really a close call to me.  I postponed the second practice flight by four days and was able to fly with no danger.

Pictures from the hail storm

I suppose I have written before, but the elevation of the North Park is roughly 1100ft.  But, the hill side of the park (north of the park) is about 1200ft.  I may be allowed to go down to 500ft above ground if the area is not designated as a congested area.  However, the Federal Aviation Regulation does NOT give a definition of the congested area, and historically Federal Aviation Administration has been abusing the interpretation of the congested area.  They once interpreted that presence of a few hikers makes a congested area, and surprisingly, the judge took that interpretation.  To be absolutely safe, I should consider the park as a congested area, and that makes the minimum altitude 1000ft from the tallest building within 2000ft horizontal radius.  Let's say there is a 50ft poll or something in the park.  Then, the minimum altitude over the park is 1100ft+50ft+1000ft+2150ft, and as I come closer to the hill, I should be at or above 2250ft.  I round it up to 2200ft and 2300ft.  To be absolutely safe, I decided to stay 100ft plus those minimums.  My minimum was 2300ft over the park, and 2400ft over the hill side.

The weather was perfect for the two practice flights.  However, on the day of the ceremony, low cloud was hanging around the area.  TAF (terminal aerodrome forecast) of Beaver county, Allegheny county, and Pittsburgh International was forecasting OVC 015 at 11am and OVC 035 at 3pm, means that the overcast cloud at 1500ft above ground at 11am and 3500ft above ground at 3pm.  The plan was to overfly the North Park at 12:15pm.  I needed to fly over residential area to get to North Park.  I needed to stay at least 1000ft above ground.  The Federal Aviation Regulation requires an airplane to be at least 500ft blow cloud.  If the cloud was at 1500ft above ground, I needed to fly exactly at 1000ft above ground.  I was thinking to call the flight if the cloud was really at 1500ft.  But, the cloud was supposed to improve by 3pm.  I was hoping the cloud to improve rapidly and could take off at the planned timing.  I would take off if the cloud was as high as 2000ft.  I left the apartment and headed for Beaver County airport.

I arrived at Beaver at 11:20am.  I did pre-flight inspection and put my portable GPS, PCAS, intercom, and cockpit camera.  It took about 10 minutes or so.  I used to have a problem with my portable GPS when I used in an airplane from Moore aviation.  For some reason, my GPS often lost satellite if I mounted the GPS on the yoke.  I had to put my GPS on the dash to keep it from losing satellite.  I tried to fabricate a dash-board mount, but dash of some Cessnas were made of foam and too soft to clip-on the dash mount.  This time I purchased an external GPS antenna for my portable GPS.  This allowed me to put my GPS on the yoke, and put the antenna on the dash.  With this, I could easily monitor my portable GPS constantly without being worried about satellite loss.

My Garmin 96c with external antenna

By the way, the model of the antenna is the following.

At that time, the weather report from the control tower was SCT 013 OVC 020.  Scattered cloud at 1300ft above ground, and overcast cloud at 2000ft above ground.  I hesitated a bit due to some scattered cloud at 1300ft.  But, there were a lot of airplanes coming in and out of the airport.  There apparently was an open-house event at the airport.  So, I came back to the flight-school counter and asked if someone just come back could give a fresh cloud report.  I was told that the cloud was at 2500ft and improving.  That's not bad.  I should be able to stay at 3000ft enroute.  I decided to go.  Just before take off, the weather report from the tower changed to OVC 022 with no low scattered cloud.  2200ft was good enough.

Just in case, I pulled my instrument approach chart handy, and I was prepared to get IFR clearance from Pittsburgh approach if I was surrounded by low cloud, and took off.  If the cloud was really at 2200ft, I should have been able to go up to 1700ft above ground, which is around 2800ft on the altimeter.  I climbed up and up and when I came to around 2300ft, the cloud was too close.  I thought I was going to go into the cloud, and stopped the climb there.  I was then able to go up to 2500ft or so, but occasionally I had to come down to 2300ft to stay low enough from the cloud.  Did anyone say OVC 022?  I arrived over the Warrendale Interchange about 5 miles from North Park at 12pm.  I made three circles to burn time, and then headed for the park.  I arrived at the scene almost exactly at 12:15pm.  I could communicate with the ground staff with a transceiver I purchased from Target.  So, I could tell the ground that I was coming.  We succeeded in coordinating the aerial photography!

As I planned, I lowered the altitude to 2300ft.  In fact, I was already at 2500ft, so I needed to descend only 200ft.  I made climbing turn toward the hill side, and then made descending turn toward the park.  I made five photo passes, and in the sixth, I rocked the wings and headed back to Beaver.  I thought about getting an IFR clearance from Pittsburgh approach, but I could see miles away under the cloud, and I could stay between 2300 to 2500ft all the way.  I flew back VFR.

Planting Ceremony (Photo taken by my wife)

I was glad I was able to fly.  According to my wife, "it was a rare chance for me to fly and do something useful."


I flew twice this month.  The first of the two was on 15th Tuesday.  I took the morning off, and flew from Beaver County Airport.  The weather was clear with little wind.  I talked to some friends if they were interested in flying, but none was able to make it.  (Or, was my flying skill not trusted?)

So, I flew solo.  I was expecting to see snow-covered landscape, but the unseasonal warm temperature for the past few days melted all the snow on the ground.  Although I couldn't see patches of white carpet, the air was super clear.  I thought to fly to a vantage point where I can see Carnegie Mellon campus, University of Pittsburgh, and downtown Pittsburgh lined up and take a nice picture from there.  To reach there, I had to fly north after taking off (or doing a touch & go at) Allegheny County airport.  The airplane I rented had a horizontal auto pilot, so as long as I trim the airplane right, the airplane should fly by itself and make it easy for me to take an aerial picture.

I took off Beaver County airport receiving VFR flight-following.  Pittsburgh approach almost immediately cleared me for class-B airspace and told to keep heading 130.  I arrived at Allegheny County airport in about 30 minutes, did one touch & go, and then headed north to get to my vantage point....  But, I flew too close to the CMU campus, and CMU campus was chopped off from the picture.  It was too good a day to give up a photo opportunity.  I turned south, went around the Allegheny class-D airspace east side, then got permission for class-D transition to the north.  It is even easier because I can stabilize my airplane at 3000ft, and set the auto pilot to head straight to the vantage point....  However, this time I flew too far and CMU campus appeared too small in the picture.  I made two attempts and missed a good shot twice  :-(  I took a very good view of Allegheny County airport though.

Two trains near Beaver.

Downtown Pittsburgh.

South Oakland and Downtown Pittsburgh

Allegheny County airport from 3,200ft.

Then I headed for my friend's home.  It was supposed to be a little south of NARDO airport (77PA).  The plan was to take some aerial pictures of their house.  But, for some reason, I couldn't spot the house.  After circling around the area a few times, I gave up and flew back to Beaver.

I did two touch & goes at Beaver before making a full stop.  In the last flight, I tried to glide at exactly at 65kt, and for a fraction of second my airspeed dropped to 59kt.  I talked to a friend who is doing a helicopter instructor about it, and his reply was "If you are supposed to glide between 65 and 70kt, why don't you go for in the middle?"

He was perfectly right.  Why was I going for exactly 65kt?  I think it was when once I was flying in a super smooth air before sunset.  I was able to glide at exactly 65kt on final and was able to maintain my airspeed within plus-minus 1kt.  I made a perfect round out and flare, and the airplane touched the ground so softly like a magic.  Since then I started going for exactly 65kt.  But, in a normal condition, I should go for 67kt.  It makes more sense.

This time I tried to keep my airspeed at 67kt as he suggested.  For a fraction of second, I had 71kt or 63kt momentarily.  No matter how smooth the air is, the wind has some non-uniformity.  The wind changes depending on over mud, water, grass, or asphalt, because all those surfaces have different heat absorption or radiation characteristics and have different temperature.  The difference becomes significant when the hot summer sun is baking the ground, and I sometimes feel the difference even at the traffic pattern altitude, which is 1,000ft above ground.  When I was going for exactly 65kt, such non-uniformity of the wind slowed my airplane down by 5+kt almost instantaneously, but now I was maintaining my airplane at 67kt, and I never decelerated below 62kt.  By the way, on short-field landing in Cessna 172, I'm supposed to slow down to 61kt, same configuration as normal landing.  So, as long as I don't decelerate below 61kt, I'm not worried.  It was just 2kt difference.  But, it made me feel so much safer.  I did two touch & goes and landed.

I was very happy with my landings, but I was not happy with missed photo opportunities.  I was not able to fly to the vantage point, and I couldn't spot my friend's house.  One of the reasons why I missed the vantage point was I vaguely remembered that I should fly north after taking off Allegheny County airport to reach there.  But, it could have been heading 360, 005 or 010.  Depending on the temperature, the airplane takes longer or shorter to climb up to 1,700ft at which I start turn.  It easily make a quarter mile difference.  The solution is to record exact point on my portable GPS and fly exactly toward that point.  I came home and downloaded the GPS track of this flight, and figured that the vantage point should be almost exactly above Forbes avenue + Murray avenue.  I drove up there with my Garmin 96c and marked the point.  Also, I marked my friend's house when I visited them next time.

There was one more problem.  For some reason, my Garmin 96c loses satellites unless I keep it on the dashboard.  If I mount on the yoke mount, it often goes belly up, and takes 30 seconds or so to re-gain satellite connection.  I had to keep it on the dashboard, and had to take it with my right hand when I wanted to see the screen.  It made it very difficult for me to exactly head for the marked point on the GPS.  I was doing like this:  I take my GPS and look at the monitor to figure out to which direction I should make heading correction.  Then I make a guess, like 5 degree to the right or left.  I put GPS back on the dash and make correction.  Then I take my GPS again and see if I made a right correction, and if not I make another guess.  I put my GPS back on the dash and make correction.....  It was so inefficient.  I eventually get to the correct heading.  However, if I want to fly to a certain point precisely, I have to have a way to mount my GPS on the dashboard so that I can continuously monitor my GPS.  So, I fabricated a new dash-board mount.

My new dash-board mount.

With my Garmin 96c

This should allow me to monitor the GPS continuously, and I should be able to fly exactly to the point by looking at the GPS screen.

By the way, Garmin 96c is a perfect portable aviation GPS.  It takes two AA batteries of AA Ni-MH rechargeable batteries.  And, with my two ENELOOPs, Garmin 96c lasts over several hours.  I say 8 hours or more.  Let's say I forgot charging Ni-MH batteries for my Garmin 96c and experienced a total electrical failure.  Not to worry.  I can take batteries from one of the flash lights I always carry for night flying.  I can also take two AA Ni-MH batteries from my digital camera that I use for taking cockpit video.  Garmin 96c makes a perfect backup navigation equipment in case of electrical failure (although I never experienced.)  And, because I am using ENELOOP rechargeable batteries, I am not throwing away batteries every flight.

The problem of other recent models of portable GPSs is those models use a non-standardized Li-Ion battery.  If I forget charging the battery before take off and if I experience a total electrical failure, I'm done.  There would be no power source that can drive my portable GPS.  They can also take power from 12V outlet, but it supplies no power in case of total electrical failure.  Those newer portable GPSs are convenient.  But, just convenient.  I cannot count on such GPSs as a critical backup navigation equipment in case of total electrical failure.  I hope Garmin continues production of 96c, or sells a new portable GPS model that can be powered by AA batteries.  But, I can count on Garmin 96c.  It is independent.  It works in case of total electrical failure.

Don't get me wrong.  Li-Ion battery is a good technology and potentially reduces industrial waste substantially.  But, now every different cell-phone manufacturer, digital-camera manufacturer, whatever electronic-device manufacturers use their own Li-Ion battery.  Even within the same brand uses multiple different types of batteries.  They want us to waste.  If your device dies, you throw away your battery together.  If your battery dies, you throw away your device together.  Recycling?  With so many different types of batteries, recycling can never ever be efficient.  My guess is tons of batteries are simply piling up outside the recycling plant.  Someone should start making a standard for Li-Ion batteries.  Until we have a standardized Li-Ion battery that can power multiple devices across brands, Li-Ion batteries are environmentally destructive despite their potential to be an environmentally friendly power source.

The second flight of the month was supposed to be a night-IFR practice.  I came to Pittsburgh Flight Training Center on Thursday same week only to find that the airplane I was supposed to fly, N596CS, had its landing light burnt out.  I tried to switch to N9417L, which had panel light burnt out.  For the sake of their image, I tell you that I have never experienced life-threatening maintenance problem from an airplane I rented from PFTC.  I got my instrument rating and commercial from PFTC.  I thank them for those.  But, their maintenance level is way way way lower than Moore Aviation.  I wish PFTC does something to address their maintenance problem.  I drove all the way to the airport and couldn't fly an IFR training due to their crappy maintenance.  I missed a chance to use my new pair of zero-power glasses I made for night IFR practice.

My primary instructor was out of town for the rest of the month.  I decided fly VFR from Moore to keep up twice-a-month frequency of flying.  This time I invited my Karate instructor on my right seat.

Unlike the previous flight, the south western Pennsylvania was hit by a severe snow storm two days before the flight.  I believe it didn't break the record, but it should be near the record.  In fact, most of the ramp area was still covered by snow when I reached the airport, and a plow truck was clearing the snow.

A plow truck was clearing the snow.

My new GPS mount just fitted the dash board.  But, I made it so that the GPS lean slightly backward, and that angle made the GPS touch the wind shield, which I corrected after coming home.  I was strapped in and was about to start the engine, and realized my head set was broken.  A plastic part that was attaching the head set to the metal wire frame of the head set was cracked, and the speaker for my right ear was dangling.  I couldn't securely wear the headset.  Poor my headset.  I walked back to the flight-school office and borrowed a head set for this flight.

Now, it was time for revenge.  But, the weather was not as clear as the last time, and in fact it was worse than the forecast.  The sky around Beaver was almost clear.  Just thin high clouds.  But, as I came close to Pittsburgh, the ceiling came down, and the visibility was not so good.  This time I was able to spot my friend's house and took some pictures.  I will send the pictures to them.  But, I didn't fly to Allegheny County airport.  I tuned to the Allegheny ATIS, which was reporting 2100 overcast.  Elevation of Allegheny County airport was 1252ft.  So the overcast layer was at 3352ft MSL.  If I flew at 3000ft, I would have had only 300ft below cloud, which was a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulation.  I need to stay 500ft below cloud.  I could have chosen to come down to 2500ft, but I didn't take a chance and turned back to Beaver.

NARDO airport (77PA)

I did two touch & goes.  I again kept 67kt instead of 65kt on final this time.  I reduced throttle to 1500 RPM, but the airplane didn't descend as much as I wanted, and I ended up with making a steeper approach.  I guess because the air was cold, the propeller was making more thrust.  For the third and full-stop landing, I reduced it to 1300 RPM, and gave me a normal angle of approach on final.  I should have sensed the altitude better on base leg and should have reduced power further before turning final.  There always is a room for improvement.

After coming home, I thought about how to repair my head set, and made a metal frame that is attached to the original frame of the broken headset from a steel rod that I used to use for my radio-controlled glider.  I stopped flying it when I started flying an actual airplane.  I inserted the rod to the hole of the remaining part of the plastic part and bent the end so that the speaker doesn't fall off.  The rod is tied to the original metal frame with cable ties, and seems to be firm and stable.  I think the repair was successful.  I have flown with this head set for many times by now.  I didn't like to throw it away especially because the functionality of the microphone and speakers was intact.  I might buy a new head set eventually.  Then this head set will serve as a head set for my passenger until it really breaks.

My repaired head set.  A plastic part that was securing the speaker on the left on the picture was cracked.  Now it is supported by my new frame.

01/23/2011 A pair of clear glasses for night IFR training

I think I have written somewhere before about a view-limiting device called a foggle.  A foggle hides part of the view so that the pilot can only look at the instruments during instrument flight training.  An ordinary foggle is bulky so that you can wear it on top of sunglasses.

(An ordinary foggle.  Click to enlarge.)

But, an ordinary foggle gave me a headache.  Real headache.  Not psychological.  It hurt me during my IFR training.  The problem was my headset was pushing the rods against my head, and after flying 30 minutes or so, I always started feeling a pain.  So I purchased a clip-on foggle from Sporty's.  A clip-on foggle can be attached to sunglasses, and you can flip up and down easily.  This worked.  I didn't have to suffer from headache during IFR training again.

(Clip-on foggle attached to my sunglass.  Foggle down)

(Foggle up)

Problem solved!  Was it really?  Actually not.  I couldn't use it for night IFR training.  Miraculously, I didn't lose my eyesight after years of programming.  I still don't have a pair of glasses that I wear all the time.  My sunglasses are just dark glasses with no power.  Obviously, I couldn't wear my sunglasses for night IFR, so I didn't have anything on which I could attach my clip-on foggle.  What I needed was sunglasses with clear glasses.  That's strange.  Honestly, I didn't know what to say to an optician.  After living in the U.S. for 12 years, I am comfortable with daily conversations, talking about my work, research.  I know my English is not so correct, but I can communicate.  But in this case I didn't know how to explain my needs to an optician.  That must be something unusual.  Who asks an optician to put just clear glasses on a sunglass frame?  An optician may mistake that I need reading glasses. 

So, I haven't been able to make a pair of clear glasses for night IFR training, and what I was doing was I removed glasses from one of my sunglass frames and was attaching my clip-on foggle on the frame directly.  It was more like hanging rather than attaching.  It was not very stable and was difficult to adjust position.

But, I knew what to say to an optician in Japanese.  I was thinking to buy one pair of glasses with zero power when I visit Japan next time, and I did when I visited Japan end of last year.  I purchased a cheap pair of glasses with zero power, and carried it all the way back to Pittsburgh.  However, what a tragedy!  Its frame was too thick for the clip of my clip-on foggle.  My clip-on foggle has a tiny clip.  So, the glass frame needs to be thin like a metal frame.  I couldn't use the one I bought in Japan.

I made up my mind to show my clip-on foggle to an optician and explain the situation so that he understands my strange demand.  I visited an optician near my apartment.  First, I tried without showing my foggle.  I just took out my AO (American Optics) glass frame and,

CaptainYS: Is it possible for you to put clear glasses on this sunglass frame?  No lens, no sunglass, just clear glasses.

Optitian:  Sure.  I can put clear plastic.  $19.  By tomorrow, ok?

I guess I should have done this from the very beginning.

Now I have my pair of clear glasses for night IFR training.  I tried to attach my clip-on foggle to it, and it worked all right.  I should be able to fly night IFR training flights more comfortably from now on.  I'm looking forward to my next night IFR training.

(Pair of clear glasses.)

(Clip-on foggle sits stabley on my clear glasses.)

By the way, I've been using Randolph Aviator sunglasses for many years.  American Optics also makes a similar sunglasses, but I chose Randolph.  I wondered why, and I guess only reason was because when I saw Sean D. Tucker's aerobatic flight for the first time at NAF Atsugi Air Show (I suppose it was back in 1992 or 1993), Randolph Engineering was sponsoring him.  He always includes sponsor's name or something related in the name of his airplane, and that time his airplane was called "Randolph Challenger."  After hearing "Randolph" in the air-show narration over and over again, the name Randolph Sunglasses was imprinted in my mind.  For the same reason, I was eating Red Baron Pizza often when the company was sponsoring Red Baron aerobatic team (not any more because they disbanded the team), and I almost switched to GEICO insurance which sponsors GEICO Skytypers.  I'm still on a different car-insurance company, but I would choose GEICO if I need to switch a company.

Sponsoring an aerobatic team pays off.  So, if you own a company, why don't you become a sponsor of an aerobatic team?

(My Randolph Aviator)

01/17/2011 First flight of the year, logging 1000th landing.

I wanted to fly before visiting Japan in December, but bad weather prevented me from doing that.  In fact, bad weather continued and I was not able to fly even after coming back from Japan.  This area is affected by the lake effect.  Snow clouds are generated over Lake Erie and then blown to the south east.  Pittsburgh is continuously bombarded by such snow clouds.  Although we don't have too much accumulation, snow clouds are often low enough to prevent VFR flights.

Finally today, the weather pattern gave a break.  I left CMU in the afternoon and headed for Beaver.  The forecast was predicting overcast 040.  Not too high ceiling.  If it gets worse then forecasted, it would be difficult to fly a cross country.  Nonetheless, it was good enough for pattern work (touch & goes).

I called the weather briefer at around 1:15pm.  And the briefer told "Beaver tower is closed from 02Z."  I thought the tower was going to close at 9pm local time.  But, it turned out the tower was closed yesterday and would not open until tomorrow.  I realized it when I came close to Beaver County airport.  I listened to the ATIS, which was talking about tower closure.  The tower was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. day.  I like to fly to and from a towered airport.  I usually don't practice touch & goes at a non-towered airport.  But, the weather was good.  It was a precious flyable weather condition in winter.  Anyway I need to practice flying at a non-towered airport.  I decided to go.

In fact, I saw many airplanes flying at Beaver County airport.  I suppose they wanted to take advantage of the break of the winter weather.

I took off at 3pm.  The ground was covered by snow.  I regretted that I didn't carry my digital SLR.  I could have shot some nice pictures.

At maximum, four airplanes including myself were in the traffic pattern of Beaver County airport.  I think I was able to deal with the radio communication nicely.  Also, I had to watch for incoming (incoming from outside the traffic pattern) airplanes, and also I had to keep visual contact with the airplane flying ahead of myself.  It was a good practice.

And, I was able to make very smooth landings, which made me feel good.  One issue was, I tried to keep exactly at 65kt on final, but maybe due to the wind, once the airspeed briefly dropped below 60kt.  I should have reacted quicker to prevent the airspeed from dropping that much.  Maybe keeping 65kt is not so a good idea.  Maybe I should shoot for 70kt on final for the next time.

I flew 1.1 hours today.  Including this flight, my current flying time is as follows.

Total 364.7 hours
PIC 296.2 hours
Solo 67.5 hours
PIC/Solo Cross Country 93.5 hours
PIC/Solo Night 24.3 hours
Dual Instruction 207.8 hours
Dual Cross Country 30.5 hours
Dual Night 15.2 hours
Number of Landings 1010
Night Landings 96
Night Take Offs 87
Instrument (Hood) 60.6 hours
Instrument (Actual) 3.3 hours
Instrument Approaches 116
Holdings 23

The total number of landings is not super accurate, however, I logged 1000th landings in this flight!

[Click here for posts from 2010]

Previous Articles [2006 and before] [2007] [2008] [2009] [2010]
Comments are welcome.  Send E-Mail to: 

Back to