I flew for the last time of the year on 12/23. I just took off
Beaver County airport, flew to Allegheny County airport, then made a
few circles over Oakland area taking pictures of Carnegie Mellon,
Pittsburgh downtown, and came back.
This time I took my new digital SLR, Olympus E-5 with me.
Olympus E-5 is unfortunately the last line of Olympus digitla SLR.
Due to a scandal followed by a financial break down, Olympus lost
power to develop a new digital SLR camera. Which means, sooner
or later, I will not be able to upgrade my camera body. But, I
often walk into pollen floating area to take pictures of birds, that
requires the best anti-dust capability. I was sick and tired of
dusts sticking on the image sensor. No other SLR cameras have
the same level of anti-dust capability like Olympus digital SLRs.
Hopefully I don't have to be worried about a new camera for another
five years, but I hope by then other camera manufacturers get more
serious about anti-dust performance. Right now, they are not
interested at all. When your camera gets dirty, you need to send
your camera back to the service center for cleaning, unless you are
brave enough to clean the sensor by yourself, or you are lucky enough
to be living in Tokyo and can walk in to one of the service centers.
Then, the whatever carrier will shake, throw, tumble, crush, heat,
freeze, kick, and punch to make sure your camera is destroyed.
The camera manufacturers happily offer you a new camera at $1,000+
price tag. If you want to avoid this ridicule, Olympus is the
only option to go.
But, if you are thinking about buying a mirror-less camera,
mirror-less cameras of Olympus are supposed to be using the same
anti-dust technology. Also, I heard that Panasonic is licensed
the technology for their mirror-less cameras. I definitely
recommend Olympus and Panasonic.
Anyway, I have Olympus E-5. I purchased with $200 off for the
black Monday sale. It was a good deal. So, I took it with
me for testing out.
The ground was partially snow covered. I always think it is a
privilege to be a pilot to see four seasons from the air. I
thanked the Cessna I was riding.
Patchy snow covers
Beaver County Airport
As soon as I was handed off from Beaver County tower to Pittsburgh
departure, the air traffic controller cleared me for Pittsburgh
class-B airspace, and I was able to fly direct to Allegheny County,
which allowed me to pass west side of downtown.
When I was about to pass downtown, suddenly came to mind was, "Wait,
is the Steelers' game TFR not in effect now?" There is a
ridiculous regulation that prohibits general-aviation aircrafts from
flying within 3 nautical miles below 3,000ft above ground from a
stadium of a major sporting event. National Football League game
certainly qualifies to be a major sporting event. The TFR starts
one hour before the event and ends one hour after the event. I
checked that the game was going to start at 1pm, and it was like
10:30am or so. The question was, does the TFR start one hour
before the game starts? Or one hour before the gates open?
If it is gate-open time, then what time would the gate open? I
didn't know! That's why that's why the rule is ridiculous.
In fact, I don't know exactly when the TFR starts. Another
problem, is flight-service stations, where I get pre-flight briefing
don't keep track of the sporting-event TFRs.
This rule was imposed by the Bush administration only in order to
decimate the general aviation. Do you know one more reason why
this rule is ridiculous? Terrorists used huge airliners.
The government bans small aircrafts like Cessna. Where is the
logic? OK. You may have heard a lot of potential attack
that a small airplanes can do. For some reason, some group of
people want to decimate general aviation, who talks about all
fictitious threats of a small airplane. But, THEY ARE ALL
BOGUS! Cessna cannot even take off with an explosive device
that can cause a measurable damage. There have been at least two
incidents that a pilot gone crazy and crashed an airplane
intentionally into a building. One destroyed one room. The
other destroyed an entrance hall. No more destructive than a
pick-up truck. If Cessnas are not allowed, pick-up trucks should
also be banned. The rule is broken and should be gone. I
wish Obama administration to get rid of this rule, but he seems to be
too busy for other stuffs.
So, there was no way for me to know exactly when the TFR was going to
start. But, local Air Traffic Controllers are supposed to know
about the TFRs because they need to direct all IFR general-aviation
aircrafts away from this infamous TFR, and I was talking with
Pittsburgh approach controller (Pittsburgh departure and Pittsburgh
approach are the same ATC), who gave me class-B clearance. So, I
assumed I was ok. Looks like I was ok. No police aircraft
called me from behind to stop for ticket and I was not shot down by a
fighter jet :-P
I did two touch and goes at Allegheny County airport then headed back.
I circled a few times over Oakland area and took bunch of pictures.
My E-5 captured wonderful shots of Pittsburgh. Yes, it is the
camera I wanted.
From the bottom, Carnegie Mellon Campus, University
of Pittsburgh, Downtown, and Pittsburgh International Airport on far
Carnegie Mellon Campus and Cathedral of Learning of
University of Pittsburgh
After landing, I thanked Moore Aviation for letting me fly. I
also thanked Cessnas for giving me wings before leaving the airport.
On the way home, I stopped at Radio Shack to buy a surprise Christmas
gift for my wife. This time I bought a Sony active
noise-canceling head phone. For the past, I never failed to
surprise her, and this time I succeeded in hiding it for 36 hours, and
made sure she found it when she woke up :-)
My flying time in 2012 was 44 hours, which made my total flying time
444.1 hours. I didn't reach my goal, which was to fly 50 hours
per year, but it was a good year.
The day is getting shorter and shorter. I used to leave my
office early and flew an hour or so. But, if I do it now, it is
well likely that the last landing becomes a night landing.
I wanted to be ready for night flying. Although I was confident,
I haven't done it for more than two years. I asked an instructor
to fly with me, and flew three night instrument approaches and two
stop & go landings. Two stop & go plus last full-stop landing
give me three night landings to the full stop, which the Federal
Aviation Regulation requires to practice preceding 90 days if I want
to take a passenger for a night flight.
In fact the regulation says, if I take a passenger for a night flight,
I need to do within the preceding 90 days (1) 3 night take offs, and
(2) 3 night full-stop landings, and log them. If I take off
before it is qualified to be a night take off, and then do two stop &
goes and land, I will have two night take offs and three night
landings. My question is, let's say I have two night take offs
and night landings within preceding 90 days. And, let's say I
take a passenger at night. As soon as I leave the ground, I have
the third night take off. I can write on my log book like "1
night take off as soon as I leave the ground." This way, as soon
as I leave the ground, I'm supposed to satisfy the night-currency
requirement. I'm curious if it is legal or not. Of course,
I don't push the envelope that much. I made sure I took off
later than 1 hour after the sunset this time.
Below is the video from the night-landing practice.
And, yesterday, the sky was clear and wind was mild. I took my
wife with me for a cross-country flight. In these days, I fly on
IFR flight plan most time when I fly a cross country. If I fly
VFR, I am supposed to fly X thousand plus 5,00ft, like 4,500ft or
5,500ft. But, when I fly IFR, I fly X thousand feet. So, I
am used to fly at X thousand ft on a cross-country. This time, I
called Beaver ground as:
"Beaver ground, Cessna 986AV, main ramp, ready to taxi for take off
with H. Request flight following. We fly to IDI, N35, and
DUJ, at 5,000ft"
The Beaver ground controller asked me back about the altitude. I
replied 5,000ft. Then I realized that I was going to fly VFR.
Oops. :-P Later Pittsburgh approach assigned 4,500ft for me.
I did one touch & go at Indiana County (KIDI), then Punxsutawney
(N35), then landed at DuBois (KDUJ). Actually, the runway of
Punxsutawney was the narrowest runway I have ever landed. It was
50ft wide. I wanted to practice landing on a narrow runway, and
the wind was almost nothing. I took this opportunity.
I knew I could do it. I never miss the centerline even with 15kt
cross wind nowadays. But, anyway I haven't landed 50ft-wide
runway before. The narrow runway not only requires better
directional control, but also gives illusion of the distance. I
may misjudge the altitude because the runway appears to be too far,
means I may feel I am higher than actual. So, I wanted to
practice, and did it this time.
After having late lunch at DuBois, we headed back to Beaver. It
was hazy. The sun was already getting low. I was pretty
much blinded by the sun and it was like flying IFR.
When I come back to Beaver, I practiced simulated engine failure.
Beaver tower gave me straight in runway 28. I pulled the
throttle to idle about 4 miles out, and glided down. I was
adjusting descend rate by flaps. That worked out well.
When I rounded out, the airplane sank unexpectedly. If you look
at the video, you can see that the airspeed dropped from 60kt to 50kt
within a second. Maybe due to wind? I reduced the back
pressure and gained control again. The rest was just normal.
It was nice to have a video recording of the instruments.
My Garmin 96c came back in one week. I never flew without my
portable GPS. Nonetheless, when I flew last month, I tried to
come back to Beaver primarily relying on VOR with my cheat sheet.
Beaver is still a relatively difficult airport to spot. But, I
was able to come back with VOR. Well, I'm supposed to be able
to. I'm instrument rated. In case of GPS failure, I should
be able to shoot VOR-28 approach to Beaver. Next time, maybe
I'll try to come back from North by tracking Montour VOR.
There is a big bridge called New River Gorge in West Virginia.
It's far south from Pittsburgh. I don't know how long it takes
to get there if I drive. This bridge is, according to
Wikipedia, is the third largest steel arch bridge in the world.
My understanding is that it excludes cable-supported bridges.
Golden Gate Bridge is obviously bigger, but that one is in a different
category for this competition. This bridge is famous for annual
bungee jump event from the bridge. Also, an aerobatic airplane
has flown underneath the bridge in the past.
I was thinking that it would be nice to see it from the above. I
was talking with my friend who got his private pilot certificate last
year to fly there once. However, every time we planned, the
weather was bad in here in Pittsburgh of in there, or both. We
had to cancel all the time. The bridge was becoming "a bridge
too far" for us.
We saw some snow from last week's Hurricane Sandy.
But, finally, we had chance to fly there. The forecast was
predicting overcast cloud at 2,500ft above ground. We typically
fly at 3,000ft mean sea level, which is about 1,800ft above ground.
If the cloud was 2,500ft above ground, we had 700ft clearance.
If it were in summer, I would have just filed an instrument flight
plan and flew through clouds, but it is getting colder, and we had to
be worried about icing. Unlike airliners, Cessna 172 does not
have an anti-ice equipment by default. I suppose it can be added
as an option, but it is very expensive to maintain. The
temperature gets colder by 2 degree C every 1,000ft. At 1,800ft
above ground, the temperature is roughly 4 degree C lower than the
ground. The ground temperature was about 3 degree C. If we
had cloud at the altitude we were supposed to fly, Cessna 172 gets a
By the way, why I describe cloud base in above-ground level, and
flight altitude in mean-sea level, why I don't use a consistent
measurement, is just an aviation tradition. For some reason, the
forecast tells us cloud base above-ground, and we use mean-sea level
for flight altitude. Most of new pilots get confused. But,
it's the way things are set up.
The destination, Beckley airport, is on a high terrain. The
elevation there is over 2,500ft. The cloud ceiling gets
relatively lower than low terrain. We didn't know for sure that
we were going to be able to land there. So, we decided to land
at Parkersburg, check the weather at the destination, and then decide
what to do. If the weather at Beckley was going to be too bad to
land, we had enough fuel for flying to the bridge and come back to
Parkersburg without refueling.
Sectional Chart indicated that to the east of the bridge was
mountainous terrain. That' where I don't want to fly when the
visibility is low. The elevation around the bridge was roughly
2,200ft. I didn't see any populated area near the area.
So, I suppose it was a non-congested area where I was allowed to fly
as low as 500ft AGL. If the visibility was good, I should be able to
clear the terrain at 3,000ft. There are a few airports nearby.
Two of them are privately owned airport. But, in case of
emergency, we had a place to land.
I flew from Beaver to Parkersburg, and my friend flew the rest.
I only flew about a quarter. I wanted to save money, and he
needed to rack up his cross-country time for his instrument rating.
At Beaver, I asked some pilots who just landed about the weather.
They were saying the ceiling was about 2,700ft or so. It gave
good enough clearance for us. We took off and flew an eventless
flight to Parkersburg. We got topped off, and then took off to
the New River Gorge bridge.
At first, we saw a lot of patches of open field underneath. It
was easy to make an emergency landing spot in case of total engine
failure. But, gradually it became mountainous. Finally we
didn't see any open field underneath. Should we experience total
power loss, only place we could go was tree top.
Soon the terrain started rising. We were supposed to have more
than enough clearance, but the ground clearance seemed to be smaller
than the chart told. He suggested to go up higher. We
tried 5,500ft first, but the cloud was almost at 5,500ft. We
couldn't go in because we were flying VFR, and even if we had been
flying IFR, we wanted to stay clear of icing. We came down to
4,000ft and continued on.
Then, we saw the big bridge! Well, I was expecting it to be
bigger since it was said to be the third biggest steel arch bridge in
the world. But, it was pretty big. Maybe I was biased by
the Golden Gate Bridge that I saw in San Francisco last month.
The river under the bridge was making a good view. But, I
wouldn't fly under the bridge unless I were flying a very maneuverable
aerobatic airplane. I wouldn't fly into the valley with a
not-so-maneuverable Cessna 172.
New River Gorge Bridge
The sectional chart suggested that there was a privately-owned airport
nearby the bridge. In fact, it was right next to the bridge.
If I land there, I would be able to walk to the bridge. But, the
runway width of that airport was just 24ft. 1/4 of the runway
width of Beaver County airport. Also the runway length was
2,950ft. 50ft short of what's required by the rental agreement.
Actually, although I don't miss the centerline now a days, I would be
a bit intimidated if I had to land at 24ft-wide runway. How can
I become confident in landing at such a narrow runway? Maybe I
should ask an instructor to fly with me to go to an airport with a
The weather over the bridge was almost clear. Maybe we could
land at Beckly. But, we decided not to take a chance and flew
back to Parkersburg. We had late lunch at Parkersburg. He
flew the last leg back to Beaver. It was all nice flight.
My GPS stopped working all of a sudden yesterday, and I almost gave up
on it. But, I sent an E-Mail to Garmin tech support anyway to
ask for repair quote. I got an answer quickly, and they say it's
going to be a fixed-rate repair at $175. I almost made up my
mind to invest another $700 for a new unit. I'm happy to pay
In my past experience, when an electronic device broke, almost always
a tech support replied that the repair will cost more than buying a
new unit. In fact, because of those memories, I was surprised
that my 2008 Macbook Pro was repaired at just $300. But, maybe
it's a trend now. I'm so happy to get it fixed at $175.
(Or, was I too unlucky in the past?)
But, I realized that I was so reliant on GPS now a days. I need
to be able to fly without GPS. Especially I need to be able to
locate my home base, Beaver County airport without relying on GPS.
My previous home base, Allegheny County airport, is an easy airport to
spot. I can look at Pittsburgh downtown skyscrapers and
Cathedral of Learning of the University of Pittsburgh as reference
points. From those landmarks, I can easily spot Allegheny County
airport from more than 20 miles away (if the visibility is good of
course). But, Beaver County airport doesn't have such an easy
landmark. It is north of Shippingport Nuclear power plant, but
it's not as easy to spot Beaver County airport from that power plant
than Allegheny County airport from the downtown and the cathedral.
I was primarily relying on my GPS to get close enough to Beaver County
To prepare for the GPS failure, at least .I remembered one route,
115.8 256, which means 256 degree radial from Ellwood City VOR
(115.8). But, it works only when I am coming back from north or
east. From the other directions, I had to go around a long way.
It doesn't work in case I'm running short of fuel. Whole point
of preventing an accident is cutting the chain of events. GPS
failure and not knowing a route to come back from the other direction
would connects two dots. In case I didn't have enough fuel to go
all the way around, I may crash land. By preparing other route
will cut one chain leading to the accident.
Still in the worst case, I can call Pittsburgh approach for help.
But, in one occasion, my push-to-talk button stopped working.
That time, I couldn't speak to an air traffic controller until I found
a hand-held microphone. Some Cessnas don't have hand-held
microphone. If the push-to-talk button fails, I'll lose a way to
ask for help from an air traffic controller.
So, I made a survival chart. When I am coming back from west,
probably I first should use Wheeling VOR and then track Ellwood City
VOR 76 TO. Or, from north, I can use Montour VOR to find I-376
and then follow the road, or track 161 TO Montur VOR. I can use
Ellwood City VOR to identify the distance to the airport. I made
up my survival chart so that I can easily find all those information.
Until I receive my GPSMAP 96c back from the service, I can use this
chart. When my GPS is back, I will keep it in my flight bag for
my back up plan.
I had been using portable aviation GPS, Garmin GPSMAP 96c
since April 2008. Although the
unit was old, it had adequate functionality. It even shows the
flight path for IFR approaches. It helped me
shoot VOR-8 to Lancaster, in which I
shot an approach in actual IMC without an instructor.
But, today, when I turned on my unit, the unit could not acquire
satellites. It only found GPS #46, but later it didn't lock on
to any satellite at all. I used it for 4.5 years. I
invested something like $600. I burnt about $133 per year.
I wished it to work a bit longer. Now I am asking Garmin for the
quote for repair, but I am also looking into a new GPS unit.
Once you become a pilot, the quest for the perfect
landing begins. After practicing enough time, you will be able
to land with a nicely nose-up attitude on the main landing gears.
That is good enough to keep the airplane from damage. However,
it probably is not just me who is working hard to be able to land a
super-smooth landing with zero shock of touch down.
I haven't done intensive landing practices for a
while. So, I decided to do it. On 7/22, I flew 1.5 hours
just doing touch & goes. I made 18 landings. Flying high
and going to somewhere I have never been to is one of the fun of
flying. But, landing is also one thing I never get bored of.
Actually, I have succeeded in super-smooth landings a
few times before. In such landings, I start hearing the noise of
main landing gear rolling before hearing a noise of the tire hitting
the runway surface. Those ones were just by luck. I was
not able to intentionally make those. And, I have been wondering
how I can make such super-smooth landings. A while ago, I
received an E-Mail from a flight instructor who has been reading this
page (thank you!) for a hint. His suggestion was as follows.
In private-pilot training, a student pilot is told to
level off and hold the airplane slightly off the ground until it
stalls and touches down on the runway during the landing flare.
But, it will come with a slight shock of the touch down. For a
smoother landing, you once arrest the descend ratio, then try very
slow descend instead of holding the airplane slightly off the ground
It brings the landing flare to a whole new ball game.
As a student pilot, just keeping the airplane slightly off the ground
was difficult enough. Controlling the airplane into the slow
descend during the landing flare was beyond impossible. That was
then. I can do better now. Now a days, on landing flare,
after arresting the descend ratio, I am trying to descend very slowly.
It requires very sensitive control of the control yoke. With
this technique, I am able to make softer landings. However, I
haven't been able to make a perfect super-smooth landing with this
In the next flight of my intensive landing trainings,
I was landing at Beaver County airport. As usual, I leveled off
then started a slow descend. I heard a noise of the right main
wheel rolling before hearing the noise of touch down.
"Wow! It's a perfect landing that I've been
That's what I thought. The problem was the left
landing gear was still in the air. I shouldn't have reduced the
pressure on the yoke, but I did.
I heard a regular touch-down noise from the left
landing gear :-P It was close. It was almost a
perfect landing that I've been looking for. Well, but I'm
getting there. I want to be able to do it all the time.
Hopefully I'll get there some day.
YouTube Video from this landing
By the way, in this flight, while I was flying from
Beaver to Meadville, I saw a Bold Eagle at 3,200ft. Two birds
were circling at the same altitude and coming close to my airplane.
I was watching them not to collide. When one of them came to the
closest point, I was able to see clearly the white head and dark body,
which is the signature of Bold Eagles. I should have carried my
tele-photo camera with me. (Although there was no chance of
capturing it. I'm no sniper.)
I had to cancel Reading flight last month.
Instead, I flew with my pilot friend to Reading just to visit the
Air Museum. Maybe flying there once can be a good
preparation for the next year anyway. This time, I flew from
Beaver to Reading, and my friend flew the return flight.
The name of the airport "Reading" is pronounced like "redding",
like color red + ing. I was expecting like "r-e-e-ding", like
reading a book. But, when I flew
to North East Philadelphia, I was told by Harrisburg approach to
"contact redding". It took a few seconds to realize it was
actually Reading approach.
According to the weather briefing, the main runway,
13-31, was closed. The sub runway 18-36 was open. The
forecast was predicting weak wind. It was going to be ok.
Although the sky was clear, I try to fly IFR when I go
for a cross country. I filed an IFR flight plan, did pre-flight,
and strapped in, and realized that there was a sticker on the attitude
"Attitude Indicator INOP. VFR only."
I guess I need to add one item in my pre-flight check
list, which is checking all the instruments. An attitude
indicator is a required instrument for an IFR flight. I had to
fly VFR. So, I requested VFR flight following and took off.
The attitude indicator was working ok for about the first hour into
the flight. Then it indicated -20 degree dive and stuck.
It was ok. I knew it was not working and was not relying on it.
Soon after taking off, I was cleared for Pittsburgh
Class-B airspace and climbed up to 7,500ft. The surface
temperature was 33 degrees Celsius, which was 91 degree F, and humid.
As we climbed up, the temperature got down and it was very comfortable
at 7,500ft without an air conditioner.
The flight to Reading was eventless and very smooth.
It was one of the smoothest air I have flown in. I trimmed and
set the horizontal auto pilot (this Cessna was not equipped with the
vertical auto pilot) then I flew mostly hands off. Almost I fell
asleep. Of course I didn't.
But the drawback of the super smooth air is a poor
visibility. I was able to see verr far, I say the visibility was
greater than 20 miles, but things were obscured by the haze.
Only once an airplane came very close to us over Tyron VOR (TON), but
we were on the flight following and the air traffic controller gave us
heads up. We were able to spot the airplane and were able to
keep safe visual separation. By the way, Tyron VOR turned out to
be out of service. We were flying VFR watching GPS, so the VOR
outage was not an issue. But we didn't hear the VOR
identification tone. The briefer didn't tell me about that in
the morning. We didn't confirm the outage until my friend called
a briefer for the return flight.
A warm hazy day.
The flight to the reading was fast with the help of
25kt tail wind. It took only 1.9 hours. We parked at the
museum ramp as
directed by the museum. Our airplane was parked among the
other outdoor static-display aircrafts. Our Cessna looked as if
it were a temporary display there. I should have taken that
picture, but I forgot.
We wanted to get something to eat before the return
flight. The person at the museum told that there was a
restaurant in the passenger terminal located the other side of the
museum. We anyway needed to taxi to somewhere we could get fuel.
We taxied to the Millennium Aviation
ramp located next to the passenger terminal. Reading ground gave
us progressive taxi and made it easy for us to get there.
So, we thought to walk to the terminal to get lunch
there while the line person was fueling the airplane, but we were told
that the restaurant was closed. Instead, Millennium Aviation let
us use a complimentary crew vehicle to drive to a nearby Subway.
It was a very good service. I'm going to give a good review in
My friend flew the return flight. The air was
less smooth than in the morning. And, to avoid 25kt head wind,
we stayed at 4,500ft. The air at 4,500ft was not as comfortable
as 7,500ft and still gave us 10kt head wind. It took 2.2 hours
When we got back to Beaver, there was an accident.
No, not an airplane accident. My friend lost his cell phone.
We called Millennium Aviation and asked them to look for it. We
triple checked inside the airplane. Also we looked for it in the
Moore Aviation building. But, it was lost. He has a bad
luck with his cell phone when he flies. Last time he dropped his
cell phone in the sink. He was able to salvage his phone before
the water destroyed his phone. But, this time, his phone was
So, it appeared to be a bad ending of a nice flight
until Millennium Aviation found his cell phone on the ramp. He
was able to arrange shipping, and it should be back in his hand by
I woke up at 6am and looked outside the window to see beautiful blue
sky. It was a perfect flying condition in Pittsburgh at the
moment. But, the low-pressure system that was staying over
Canada chose to pass through Pennsylvania today.
As of 7am, a line of storm was observed over the shoreline of lake
Erie and was moving south with the low-pressure system. Of
course, the storm gets dissipated while moving over the dry ground,
but I never know how much weaker it gets. A line of storm could
make a wall between Reading and Pittsburgh, and if I fly to Reading, I
may get stuck there for a day. If it was going to be just
cloudy, I would be happy to fly IFR. But, this time showery rain
is forecasted, which may get worse to become a thunderstorm that could
tear the wings of a Cessna 172 mid air.
I tried to fly-in to Reading air show last year, and had to ditch the
flight. I didn't have chance this time again. I can try
again next year. I really wanted to see B-29 "FiFi" flying, but
this time I chose to be on the ground wishing to be in the air.
Update: I have regretted the decision of no-go many times in
the past because the weather didn't turn out as forecasted. But,
this time, Pittsburgh area was struck by a thunderstorm around 5pm.
At 6pm, when I would have taken off Reading, Reading airport was under
heavy thunderstorm. If I decided to delay the take off by an
hour, I would have taken off Reading at 7pm and would have been over
State College around 8pm, when I would have flown into another
thunderstorm. This time, the decision of no-go was right.
After flip-flopping several times, the forecast for tomorrow in
Reading seems to be a good weather for an air show. But, Beaver
Falls weather doesn't look promising. As of 2:24pm,
predicting isolated to scattered thunderstorms through the day, all
the way to 9pm.
Accuweather.com is predicting showers at 3pm and 9pm.
Aviation Weather has not
yet published the forecast for that far future.
The predicted wind for the return flight is headwind 20 to 25kt.
If I am able to take off at 6pm, I will arrive at Beaver 8:30pm.
The sunset time at Beaver will be 8:48pm. However, the cloud
cover may make it dark even before the sunset. Although my
favorite approach is an ILS approach, Beaver County airport doesn't
have ILS approach. I will need to shoot a VOR approach if the
cloud is low.
I am confident in night flying. I have shot VOR approach in rain
once. So, I should be able to handle each one of these.
But, shooting a VOR approach in rain at night will be a challenge.
If the wind gets stronger as the shower passes the area, I may have to
land on a wet runway with cross wind, which I believe I can handle.
But, I'm not so thrilled to do so.
What doesn't make sense to me is the prediction of thunderstorms.
The center of the low pressure system is in Canada, and the cold front
associated with that has already passed the area yesterday. It
is almost over the east coast. The temperature is not too hot.
I doubt it is hot enough to cause strong convection. How come
scattered thunderstorms can grow in this condition? Well, the
forecast is predicting that the storm will be away later at night.
I may delay the departure from Reading to be back when the weather is
If it appears to be difficult to come back tomorrow, I will cancel.
It is always said "It is better to be on the ground wishing to be in
the air than to be zin the air wishing to be on the ground."
Although I am not (yet) an aircraft owner, I bout two
pairs of chocks. I am planning to fly in to Reading air show
next week. I need to bring my own tie down. I will bring
some vinyl ropes, but I don't know if there is a hook to tie my rope.
If not, I am going to use my new chocks. Reading is about 2
hours from Beaver by Cessna 172. But, I wouldn't fly unless the
forecast is flyable all day. I don't want to get stuck there.
So, I don't know if I can really go there yet.
Some day, I own my own airplane resting on these
chocks. It's not an unachievable dream!
I flew from Beaver (KBVI) to Clarion (KAXQ) today. Man! It
was hazy. I could see the airport 6 or 7 miles away, so the
visibility was more than twice the minimum VFR. But, despite the
forecast that was predicting sky clear, scattered to broken cloud
layer prevented me from going up above 3500ft. Maybe I should
have filed a pirep. I always want to do it, but I have been lazy
to study how to do it.
After doing one touch & go at AXQ, I wanted to do a low approach at
NARDO. But, as I flew toward Rock (9G1), which is right next to
NARDO, the cloud was getting thicker and visibility lower. In
that visibility, I didn't think low approach was safe. I gave up
and flew back to Beaver. The forecast wind at Beaver was
variable at 5kt. It was supposed to be a weak to no wind.
I ended up dealing with straight 10kt cross wind gusting 14. My
personal limit now a days is cross wind 15kt. It was a good
practice condition for me. I did three touch and go and landed.
Other airplane landed before me was missing taxiway C, which was
connected at the middle of the runway, and turning at taxiway D.
I tried to make taxiway C. Well, I missed that, too. Maybe
there was some tail wind. I felt the airplane faster than usual
when i rounded out. Also I felt a good up draft a little before
runway 28 threshold. I have video recording. I am going to
review it later.
I flew a short cross country with a friend. He
has a private pilot certificate and is preparing to get an instrument
rating. To do so, he needs some cross country time. If he
flies alone, he would end up flying a lot of short cross countries.
But, if I fly one leg, and he flies the other, we can fly long cross
country flights for the same price. That has been a plan.
But, this time, the forecast was predicting rain to the later
afternoon, and we decided to make it a short cross country to be sure
to come back before the rain starts.
Nonetheless, the flight from Beaver to Latrobe had to
be IFR because there was an overcast layer at around 3,000ft. I
requested 3,000ft in the flight plan, but I was assiened 4,000ft.
If I flew at 3,000ft, I would have been mostly in cloud. The
cloud layer was thin, and as I climbed, I quickly flew through the
layer and came above it. It was just 4,000ft, but the view
underneath was as though I were in an airliner. I always like
the feeling of flying above the cloud.
Another thing of this flight was that I shot an ILS
approach without an instructor on board through an overcast layer for
the first time. I have done that before with an instructor on
board. And, I have once shot an ILS approach through scattered
clouds, but it was almost VFR. This time was truly my first ILS
approach in actual IMC without help of an instructor. Recently I
was becoming more and more confident in ILS approach. It was a
good chance to test if I can do the same by myself.
Despite my confidence, I once was carried away to the left at around
1:42. I think that time I added power to come back to the glide
slope. I was adding power little by little, but the airplane
didn't really come back to the glide slope. So, I added more than
a little that time. Probably due to less-than-enough counter input
to the P-factor, my heading was drifted to the left. Nonetheless,
I was able to recover before the airplane went too much off course.
I think it was ok.
After I broke out of the cloud, I put on my foggle and
descended to the minimum altitude and landed.
ATIS was reporting cross wind from the left, but what
I felt was a slight cross wind from the right. In fact I was
taking an wing-low attitude to the right, and my right main landing
gear touched the surface first.
We were not planning to stay there long. So, I
just wanted to park our airplane in a general parking ramp rather than
at the FBO, but a follow-me car from FBO came and guided us to the
spot. I felt guilty for not buying fuel from them. So, I
topped off. Anyway, the weather condition was still IMC.
If we needed to fly IFR back to Beaver, I definitely wanted to have
But, the sky got cleared in an hour. The rain
didn't start till the evening. I guess I could fly a long cross
country. Though, I also didn't want to come back just before the
rain started. It is said it is better to be on the ground
wishing to be in the air than to be in the air wishing to be on the
ground. I was able to shoot an ILS by myself. It was all
I have been volunteering aerial photography of cherry
blossoms of Pittsburgh North Park. There is a non-profit
Sakura Project, which has been planting cherry trees over the
years there. I thought it would be nice to take aerial photos of
the cherry blossoms of the North Park every year so that the growing
number of cherry trees is recorded. According to my wife, it is
my rare opportunity of doing something useful by flying an airplane,
and for me, it is a perfect excuse to go flying. Last year, the
cherry blossoms were in full bloom on
April 21. Though, the trees were still young and small.
I was expecting more spectacular view this year.
However, we had record warm winter here in north
eastern U.S. Not just warm winter, but we also had summer-like
hot days mid March. I thought that the cherry blossoms will open
early April rather than later.
Actually, the cherry trees reacted to the warm
temperature way faster than my expectation. I heard the news
that the cherry blossoms in North Park was in full bloom on March 25.
How come it be this early! Cherry blossoms goes away quickly.
So, I reserved an airplane early Tuesday morning (3/27) to fly a
photography flight. What was disappointing was that the airplane
that I reserved was down for maintenance. Not for a mechanical
issue. It was for re-painting. Tuesday morning was a
perfect flying condition. Clear blue sky with absolutely zero
cloud and calm wind. What an irony. I had to postpone to
the evening of Thursday.
The next day, a rain with moderate wind struck
Pittsburgh area. Probably, the cherry blossoms are gone with the
wind. I was almost giving up.
In such a hopeless mood, I took off Beaver County
airport at 6pm on Thursday. I also heard that there were some
flower buds as well on Sunday. There still may be some cherry
blossoms that opened later. As I usually do, I circled over the
North Park Lake at 2200 to 2300ft several times and took pictures.
I could see some pink fluffs. There were some
left over cherry blossoms (Photo taken by my wife in the back seat)
Cherry trees in this picture were the oldest ones
that were planted there. It should have been spectacular on
Sunday (Photo taken by my wife in the back seat)
Although it was not in full bloom, I could see some
small fluffs of cherry blossoms. I'll keep closer look at the
cherry trees in the North Park next year.
I am working in Pittsburgh for Carnegie Mellon
University. Of course I am getting paid in U.S. dollars.
Now, Japanese Yen is super expensive against U.S. dollars due to a
strange currency market dynamics. Japanese economy is no better
than U.S. economy now. There is absolutely zero reason for
Japanese Yen to get this expensive. But, this crazy Yen-Dollar
rate makes it very expensive for me to visit my friends and families
in Japan. So, this time my parents came to Hawaii, and we also
went there to spend a few days together, instead of us going all the
way back to Japan.
The day before departure, we had good amount of snow
in Pittsburgh. Within half a day, we were in Hawaii.
Airplanes are great!
American Airlines S-80 (MD-83?) N589AA. We
took this airplane from PIT to DFW.
The biggest attraction in Honolulu is F-22 Raptor
based at Hickam Air Base, which is sharing runways with Honolulu
International. There is no question about that. (Is there
any?) Due to reduced production, it is very rare to see F-22 in
an air show. I was looking forward to seeing some of them while
I was there. But, I could see F-15 taking off twice, but didn't
have chance to see F-22 this time unfortunately.
As a bird watcher, tropical birds in Hawaii are also
nice photo targets. I wanted to take a crisp close-up photo of
Red Crested Cardinal. I took my Olympus E-30, 50-200mm F2.8-3.5
telephoto lens, and 2x tele-converter. I got some successful
shots. I'm going to upload them in "Birds
(and animals) around Carnegie Mellon." In fact, I am
thinking to change the title of that page to "Birds (and animals)
around Carnegie Mellon (and wherever I visited.)"
Due to jet lag, I woke up at 5am. I was able
to take this sunrise from my hotel room.
As a general aviation pilot, one thing I cannot miss
is a flying over Hawaiian islands. There is a flight school
called Washin-Air at Honolulu
International. This flight school is owned by a Japanese, and
mainly doing business with Japanese tourists. I have flown from
this flight school a few times before. I reserved an airplane
from this flight school again this time. If you are an airplane
fan, you should try discovery flight over Oahu island once. The
scenery from the cockpit of an airplane is totally different from a
scenery you can see from a small tiny window of an airliner cabin.
No photo or video can fully express the magnificent view over
Honolulu. In fact, this year, Kaneohe Marine Corps base will
hold an air show on September 29-30. You can visit this air
show, watch Blue Angels and stay one or two extra days to fly a
discovery flight from Washin-Air.
I have uploaded some pictures and videos from the last time
I have flown round-the-Oahu-island flight a few times
before. This time I asked to fly across the ocean to go to
Molokai island. We don't fly differently over the ocean, but I
just wanted to see how it feels like to be over the ocean. Since
I was already confident in ATC communication as long as I am flying
around Pittsburgh, I thought I could deal with at least a little bit
of radio communications here. But, the difference is, in
Pittsburgh, I fly out of class D airport and fly through or below
class B airspace, but in this time, I fly out of class B airport.
Last time, I felt that Honolulu ATC spoke like twice as fast as
Pittsburgh ATCs. Also there are some local rules like position
reporting with island CTAF (yes, island CTAF, not an airport CTAF),
maybe because of numerous sight-seeing flights. I certainly
couldn't study and familiarize with all of these rules unless I
practice there. I relied on an instructor for those things.
Hanauma bay. (Click to enlarge)
According to my memo from 2006, I needed to contact
Clearance Delivery first to get class B clearance before taxiing even
though I was going to fly VFR. My memo suggested to say:
"Honolulu Clearance, (Aircraft Callsign) at Air
Service, Request Freeway 4 departure, with (ATIS code).")
But, I didn't remember what to expect from Honolulu
Clearance. I guessed it to be similar to IFR clearance. I
just prepared to get CMEDS (Cleared for, Maintain (altitude), Expect
clearance, Departure frequency, and Squawk code). I called
"Honolulu clearance, Cess.... Archer 4338V at Air Service, Request
Freeway 4 departure with Hotel." Honolulu clearance said:
"Archer 4338V, Cleared for (couldn't hear),
....ain 1500, departure frequency 124.8, Squawk 0262."
Oh man! Fast! I thought the ATC said
either "cleared for class B" or "cleared for freeway 4 departure".
I believed I heard "...free...", so I guessed it must have been
"cleared for freeway 4 departure." And, next must be "maintain
1500". I read back:
Cess.... Archer 4338V, Cleared for Freeway 4
departure, maintain 1500, departure frequency 124.8, Squawk 0262."
The ATC replied "read back is correct." So, my
guess was right. I almost said "Cessna 4338V." I guess I
flew Cessna 172 too much! Then I needed to contact ground.
I wondered if I should say something extra in addition to what we say
regularly. I asked the instructor, but he said no. Also he
said I should have said "Washin Air" instead of "Air Service." I
"Honolulu ground, Cess.... Archer 4338V at Washin Air,
ready to taxi with Hotel."
The ATC instructed us to taxi to 4L via taxiway A and
F. I was almost saying Cessna. I also almost said
"Pittsburgh Approach" but I didn't make this mistake.
While taxiing, Honolulu ground apparently gave me take
off clearance after Bombardiar Q400 on final 4R. I was caught by
surprise. Getting a take-off clearance before requesting never
happened to me. So, I totally missed it. The instructor on
my right covered it. Honolulu International is a busy airport.
While taxiing, I noticed my forward looking video
stopped recording. I charged my battery before leaving
Pittsburgh. Maybe my battery came to its life. I wanted to
change my batteries, but we were already cleared for take off. I
gave up taking take-off video, and took off. Then flew along the
Soon I was told to contact departure. Then I
wondered what to say. If I were flying IFR, I would say
"Honolulu departure, Archer 4338V, (current altitude) climbing to
(assigned altitude.)" But, I was under VFR. Under VFR but
was flying Freeway 4 departure. I had to consult with the
instructor again. He told me to say "Archer 4338V Freeway 4
departure." So, I said accordingly to Honolulu departure.
Then Honolulu departure said something, but again it was too fast for
me to catch. Man! It's fast here. The instructor
said the departure was asking current altitude. Maybe I should
have said "Honolulu Departure, Archer 4338V, Freeway 4 departure, 700
to 1500." Next time, I'll try that.
I leveled off at 1500. Underneath was a
magnificent view of emerald green of the ocean around Oahu island.
I would never get bored of flying this place. If I want to see
this large body of water near Pittsburgh, the best thing I can get is
lake Erie :-P
Right in front is Koko head. There is a VOF on
I handed airplane to the instructor for a little bit
and replaced the battery of my forward-looking camera. But, all
I could do was taking two batteries from the other camera, which was
not fully charged. To take touch & goes over Molokai airport, I
didn't record the video all the way.
Couple of times, the instructor pointed that the
engine RPM was exceeding the red line. That was my bad habit.
In Cessna, I remembered the tone of the engine noise. What I was
doing was when the engine noise reaches some level, I pulled the
throttle a little bit. But, this Piper Archer II seemed to be
quieter than Cessna, and I forgot looking at the RPM. Getting
used to an airplane is a good thing, but it also develops some bad
habits. In fact I wouldn't have noticed this habit unless I flew
in Archer II. So, it was nice to fly here. I got one new
year's resolution: Watch RPM regardless of the engine noise.
Another habit was whenever I wanted to adjust the
elevator trim, I tried to reach the trim wheel on the front instrument
panel, but in Archer II, it is located side of the seat. I think
I had a same issue when I was flying Piper Warrior from Butler county.
Flying to Molokai island across the ocean.
Molokai airport was a class D airport. I should
be able to deal with it. But, still something new to me was
position reporting on the island CTAF. This time I had to say to
"Molokai tower, Archer 4338V, abeam ILIO, inbound for
touch and go with Uniform." (Uniform was the squawk code then)
The tower replied:
"Archer 4338V, left traffic runway 5, report short
Sure, I could deal with it. But, "short base"
was an expression that I heard for the first time. I understood
what he meant, but just I never heard around Pittsburgh, they just say
"report base." in this case.
There was one traffic before us. Wind was weak,
almost parallel to the runway and almost zero cross wind. I
maintained 72kt all the way on final, and leveled off nicely, at least
that's what I thought. Suddenly, the instructor told "Too high!
"What?" It's a split second that I couldn't
react very well. In my mind, I flared nicely. I was
waiting for the airplane to sink a little bit to land. To me,
lowering nose at this time would land on the nose gear, which was not
good. But, the instructor is an expert of this airplane. I
took in the middle. I reduced the back pressure just a little.
Soon the airplane sank a little and landed. I thought it was not
bad, but according to the instructor, it was just a little too high.
Piper Archer's cockpit was lower than Cessna 172. In this type
of small airplanes, 5 inch makes a difference, although it will not
damage the airplane.
First touch & go. Did I flare too high?
So, for the second touch & go, I tried to level off a
little bit lower. The result: Super smooth touch down. The
instructor praised it. In fact you can hear the difference.
You clearly hear the noise of the main gear touching down in the first
video, but it is almost inaudible in the second video.
Second touch & go. Nice and soft touch down!
Then we headed back to Honolulu International.
Northshore of Molokai island.
This time, I needed fly back into class B airspace.
And, according to the instructor, I was going to fly freeway 2
arrival. When we made a first call, Honolulu approach apparently
couldn't see us on the radar. We were told to continue inbound.
As we got closer, I heared:
"Cleared for class B, freeway 2 arrival, (couldn't
hear) Left traffic 4R (that's what I thought.)"
I read back as:
"Cleard for class B, freeway 2 arrival, expect left
Turned out "left traffic 4L" the ATC soon
corrected me. Man! They speak fast.
Coming back to Honolulu International.
As we got closer, we were given "Direct right base
4R". There was a seaplane passing underneath our flight path.
I wanted to keep the altitude a little high, but the instructor wanted
to go down faster. .... Maybe they take smaller separation
in a busy airport.
I imagined a course like the following.
The course I thought to fly. I thought to make
a little bit of base leg.
But, the instructor guided me almost straight to the
end of 4R like:
The actual flight path. There was no base leg.
I thought we were not going to make it, but the
instructor said that there was more than enough runway length.
He was right. We stopped with I guess more than half the length
of the runway. I really wanted to record the landing. But,
the battery didn't last.
It is always nice to fly in an unfamiliar airspace.
There are many different local rules, and I learn a lot from those.
I want to come back again, and next time I want to stay a little
longer and fly several times to get used to the rule more.
Eventually, I want to be able to keep up with Honolulu ATC and fly
solo from Honolulu International some day. It was a good start
of my flying in 2012.