I have flown night approach and landing practice from Beaver County Airport.
Since a cross-country flight to Niagara Falls turned into just a local IFR training, I am seriously considering to join Beaver Valley Flying Club. To join, I have requested FAA to send me a copy of my pilot record.
Airline industry now a days seems to be paying enough salary and benefit to the pilots. I can see substantial increase of the student pilots who are training to be an airline pilot. To train to be a pilot takes a career risk. If you invest your youth and end up getting a health problem in the middle, you would have to re-build your new career from the scratch. That's a big risk to take. However, the airlines were not paying salary that matches the risk, and forcing pilot to work way too much overtime.
But, due to this massive pilot shortage, airlines apparently realized they need to be nice to the pilots. So that motivated a lot of new student pilots. It used to be not too difficult to reserve a Cessna from Moore Aviation for a cross-country flight during a weekday. Now it is impossible. Only one G1000 glass cockpit Cessna, N567ND, was more available than other steam gauge Cessnas since it was mainly used for commercial and instrument trainings. But, now it is also getting difficult to reserve N567ND for a cross country.
So, it makes a good sense for me to fly from a flying club.
This night flying practice I was originally thinking to fly from Pittsburgh Flight Training Center. I called up and asked if anyone was available, and they said no. I have a feeling that PFTC instructors don't like to fly. So I reserved a Cessna from Moore Aviation and asked a pilot friend from the flying club to fly with me as a safety pilot. This was my opportunity to demonstrate my flying skill, at the same time I could give a bad impression if I mess up. I was feeling a little pressure.
I typically mess up the first holding. Why? To stay instrument current, I need t shoot 6 approaches, 1 holding, and 1 course tracking in the preceding 6 months. The frequency of practice holding is much less than approaches. Especially it is very easy to mess up holding entry. Once enter it is not too difficult to stay in the holding pattern. Well, I am also less confident in non-precision approaches than precision approaches. I personally feel that precision approaches are the ones that could really save your life if you end up flying into a low IFR meteorological condition. So, I like to practice ILS and VNAV GPS approaches (precision approaches) than VOR approaches (non-precision approaches).
Nonetheless this time with help of virtually zero wind, I entered the holding pattern over EWC VOR, made two rounds nearly perfectly, and shot VOR 28 to Beaver County. I have also shot two ILS 28L to Pittsburgh International. The tower gave me "Cleared for the Option." So, I also did touch & go there.
By the way, I gave up idea of vacuum sealing at 9,000ft, and bought a $80 vacuum sealer. I thought I should be able to save this $80 if I could vacuum seal at 9,000ft, but it didn't work. (By the way 1 hour of airplane rental costs $150. Do you think I was just looking for a reason to fly? Yes, I was. :-P)
I was supposed to fly to Niagara Falls with a visiting scholar who is coming back to Japan soon, and my wife's friend and her son this weekend. Low cloud was forcasted over Beaver County airport. But, now I am confident to shoot a GPS VNAV approach with 500ft ceiling with G1000. I at first felt G1000 was difficult, but once I got used to it, it became unbelievably easy to shoot instrument approaches. Recently so many student pilots signs up at Moore Aviation, and most of the steam gauge Cessna 172s are difficult to reserve. Very often N567ND, the only one G1000 Cessna 172 at Moore Aviation, is the only one airplane I could take. I realized that I haven't flown steam gauge Cessnas quite a while.
Weather over Niagara Falls was forcasted to be clear with light wind. No problem landing there.
The airports which I could divert in case of emergency were Youngstown, Erie, Dunkirk, and Buffalo. Dunkirk and Buffalo were reporting sky clear. No problem. Erie International was reporting overast 200. I wouldn't even attempt to shoot an approach there, but the ceiling was supposed to be up by the time of departure, and if I couldn't make Erie, Dunkirk was close enough. Other airports were reporting 800+ ceiling and all were clearing up. I was more than confident in shooting a GPS approach.
Just in case we spent too much time at Niagara Falls, I logged three night take offs and three night full-stop landings on Wednesday to prepare for arrival after sunset as required by the regulation.
Since I was for sure flying into clouds, icing was a concern if the outside air temperature go below freezing. But, the freezing level was reported to be 9,000ft. Also it was supposed to be clear above the thin low cloud layer. It was confirmed by a PIREP near KGKJ. No risk of icing.
In summary, the weather around Beaver County airport was the lowest, but nothing I couldn't handle.
I calculated weight and balance with 10lb safety margin for each person onboard.
I was 100% confident that there was no risk in this flight and left home around 11am.
But! I was told by Moore Aviation that the condition was too low and could not authorize the flight. I didn't know that they had a weather minimum for rental. I was thinking their minimum were for student pilots. Actually the dispatcher often asks the chief instructor if it is ok to give an airplane to me, and he always gave me a go.
But, for this time for some reason, he said no go.
Why? I wanted to discuss with him. I called but he didn't take a phone. I texted but no reply. After waiting about an hour, he finally called Moore Aviation, but his answer was the same. He didn' authorize the flight because the weather was below minimum.
The minimum for cross country was 3,000ft ceiling and 7 miles visibility and for IFR flight 1,000ft ceiling and 2 miles visibility. The chief instructor could override the minimum. Actually he gave me a go below minimum several times in the past, although I was not aware that it was below Moore minimum. But this time he chose not to. Instead, he gave me a go for a local flight.
Well, the condition was minimum only around Beaver County airport. I didn't see any reason that I couldn't make it to Niagara Falls and come back safely. But, it's their airplane and their call.
I just took my passengers a ride for a local flight. I flew a holding pattern over Ellwood City VOR, and then shot a VOR-28 and two GPS-28 approaches in actual IMC and landed. This flight extended my instrument currency to the end of September. I hope they enjoyed the ride.
I was trained, licenced, and prepared. But this time I was not allowed to take my passengers to Niagara Falls.
<- Video from the flight.
Actually I flew for this mission last December.
If you are visiting the top page of YSFLIGHT.COM, you should know that I am preserving historic Fujitsu 8-bit retro computers in working condition. I kept some floppy disks and cassette tapes that I used back in 1980s, and salvaged what's left in my parents place whenever I come home. Also since it got very easy to bit on Yahoo! auction I often bid and win those floppy disks and cassette tapes.
If I just want to play them, we see some re-created version for Windows, or it is not difficult to find a disk image or a tape image online that works with an emulator. But, I noticed that the one I can download is often corrupted. If not corrupted, the emulator is not emulating the copy protection, but the copy-protection code has been cracked on those images. I personally think those copy-protection techniques are also a part of computing history, and if possible I want to preserve those historic titles including the original copy-protection. Ideally I want to find a museum or a library that can permanently store and preserve those historic hardware and software. In Japan, Game Preservation Organization is actively protecting those Japanese software legacy. But, it is better if those software titles are stored in distributed locations. If some are preserved in the U.S., that would be very nice.
For this effort, I wrote a code to read as much information as possible from floppy disks using a working FM77AV computer. Whenever I get a new disk, I use this program to transfer as much information (more information than a disk image can store) to my Windows PC, and then keep back up copies in four different hard drives. But, what about preservation of media? Floppy disk media is very often damaged by mold. If it is light I can use Q-tips and 100% Isopropyl Alcohol to wipe them off. But, if it grows into the magnetized media, the information is permanently lost. To prevent mold from growing, I want to keep them in zip loc bags with as much air as possible sucked out.
But, how can I do it? I don't have access to low-pressure chamber, where I push zip loc hard enough which then will be squeezed tight thin when I walk out. There is one nearby, but I don't think they let me use for the purpose of preserving historic floppy disks. How can I access low-pressure chamber?
I FOUND ONE!
Cessna 172 is not pressurized. How about climb up to 9,000ft and seal floppy disks in ziploc bags?
A bag of potato chip expands like a balloon at 9,000ft. If I push the air out and seal a ziploc bag at 9,000ft, it should be tight thin when I come back to the ground.
So, I took some of my collections and ziploc bags when I flew a cross country to Lancaster. I took off on an IFR flight plan heading east. At 9,000ft about Laurel Highland, I put my floppy disks in separate ziploc bags, pushed air out as much as possible, and sealed.
By the way, below is the famous Three-Mils Island Nuclear Power Plant.
It should be tight thin like no air when I land, but....
It was not so.
I was expecting the bag to be tight fit like vacuum wrapped, but it was not. It is hard to see from the picture though. Looks like 9,000ft was not enough. Cessna 172 can go up to 12,000ft or so. I'll try again above 10,000ft next time.
I know. I know. It should be cheaper to invest for a vacuum sealing machine. I just want to try.
Japanese community in Pittsburgh has been working with Pittsburgh Park Services and planting cherry trees in North Park. 2019 is the 10th anniversary of the planting. I'm not directly involved, but I have flown over the park for aerial photography from time to time. It is one of the best privilege of pilots to see four seasons changing from the air.
Cherry blossoms were clearly visible from 2,600ft (about 1,400ft AGL). Let's compare it with 10 years ago.
My wife took this photo while I was orbiting around the park. It was during the planting ceremony. Cherry trees planted in this time grew large. Clearly visible in the 2019 photos.
This is from 2011. Tree planted on the slope is struggling to grow. Maybe the soil doesn't match.
It is from 2012.
I also flew in 2015, but I completely missed the timing. No flower was visible.
Japanese community in Pittsburgh will continue coordinating cherry-tree planting with the park services. I'll follow up with aerial photography.
I flew a night-solo for the first time since November of 2013.
Original plan was to take my wife with me, but she got a cold. I thought about cancelling it, but her condition improved, but not good enough to go flying with me. So I flew solo.
You are allowed to fly night yourself as soon as you are a certified private pilot. Though, I really was confident in night flying not until I was instrument rated. Night flying is pretty much an instrument flight. You lose a lot of visual cues, particularly the horizon. Now I am confident in flying night with primarily relying on the instruments.
I wanted to make it a night cross country. I planned to take off KBVI, touch and go at KLBE, then KAGC, and then come back. The flight service warned during the weather briefing about TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) over Westmoreland County, north of my planned route for gas-well explosion. But, I didn't see anything from my window. I wondered if it was really necessary to issue a TFR. Maybe they did it just for precaution.
I thought to take time for pre-flight inspection and then take off like 30 minutes before sunset. But, if you make something routine, you end up acting your routine. I finished pre-flight inspection as quickly as usual, and took off like about an hour before sunset. The sun was well above horizon when I did a touch & go at Latrobe, the sun was coming close to the horizon at KAGC, but it was way too early to enjoy downtown night lights.
I wanted to renew my night currency by doing three full-stop landings and take-offs after the sunset plus 1 hour, but I was coming back to Beaver way too early. I requested Pittsburgh Approach for the vector for practice GPS 28 approaches at Beaver. I shot three GPS 28 approaches. But, I was solo, and no one was onboard. Therefore I did not wear a foggle. Although I shot three GPS 28 approaches, I didn't count them toward my instrument currency.
After shooting 3 approaches, the environment finally became dark. Still I had 45 minutes or so before I was able to log night take-offs and landings. I was circling around Cranberry to burn time. It was such a great view of city lights. Yes, this was what I wanted to see.
Then I flew back to Beaver. It was pretty easy to find the airport when I approached Beaver at night last time. But, this time, I couldn't find. I knew I was flying to the airport based on the GPS. I was supposed to see White and Green rotating beacon, but I couldn't. "Is the beacon working?" I wondered. There were a few Cessnas and Pipers in the traffic pattern practicing night take offs and landings. I could see anti-collision and nav lights of those airplanes. I was descending to the traffic-pattern altitude following those airplanes. But, still I couldn't see the beacon nor runway lights.
At 2 to 3 miles to the airport, I finally found it. Fully prepared myself to go-around, I decelerated, extended full flaps, and made a steep final approach. In the end, I was able to come back to the glide slope nicely. The first landing was somewhat flat, but the rest were very smooth and soft landings. I realized that turning on both landing light and taxi light helped getting an accurate height perception.
The rotating beacon was blending with the lights of the nearby shopping center. Last time I landed after 9pm. Most of the shops of the shopping center must have been closed by then. This time it was 7pm. People were still there. Shopping center must be a lot more active. Maybe that's why I couldn't find the rotating beacon.
I guess next time I'll ask practice GPS or VOR approach. Which will make it much easier to find the runway.
I had to cancel flight so many times due to bad weather. I hope we have more flyable days this year.
I flew a local flight from Beaver. I haven't practiced maneuvers for a while, so I thought to practice some this time. After flying steep turns a few times, I noticed another airplane came into the proximity and started practicing maneuvers. I think he was doing Power-On Stalls. I picked a large gap of the clouds and climbed through it.
Since I am mainly flying Cessna 172, I am almost always flying below cloud. It is a nice feeling to go above the cloud layer.
Rainbow circle around the shadow of my airplane.
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