Information Echo

Welcome to Information Echo...formerly "Pilots Licence 101".

This blog chronicles my experiences beginning in the summer of 2004 as a student pilot, aiming to achieve my lifelong goal of obtaining my pilots licence.

Now, having completed my training and achieved my dream, I will continue to share my experiences henceforth.

Join me, won't you?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Information Echo Has Moved - PLEASE UPDATE!

NOTICE: Please update your blogrolls/links/bookmarks - Information Echo has now officially moved to www.oshawapilot.ca


No further posts will be made here at blogger.com.
Please visit the new site to comment, and catch more up to date news!

Thanks for all my faithfull readers. I look forward to seeing you at my new home.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO OSHAWAPILOT.CA NOW!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

$100 French Fries

NOTICE: Please update your blogrolls/links/bookmarks - Information Echo has now officially moved to www.oshawapilot.ca

I am only echoing the occasional post here now - the majority of my blogging now takes place at my new site.


Please visit the new site to comment, and catch more up to date posts!

Contrary to my lack of posting recently, I have been flying. I’ve spent so many frustrating hours dealing with my aforementioned webhosting disaster that blogging has fallen by the wayside unfortunately.

I’m Finally starting to get the cross-country numbers a little healthier in the logbook. Not overly long cross countries by any stretch, but far enough and full-stop so they can be logged as xcountry time.

Although I had originally planned to do this flight on Sunday morning, and go to CNF4 (Lindsay) for breakfast, a schedule conflict with my passenger caused a reschedule for 4PM.

It actually worked out great - we ended up having the last reservation of the day for our aircraft, so it ended being a nice leisurely flight, with an hour to spent at the airport restaurant before turning around and heading home.

All of the pireps upon our arrival at the airport suggested that it was really bumpy, and we should expect constant moderate chop. Thankfully my passenger didn’t take issue with this, so we decided to head out regardless.

The cloud base earlier in the day had been at 3000 feet, and although it was now very close to CAVOK, the bumpyness had apparently persisted through the change in the weather.

My passenger is not new to little aircraft, but he says it’s been about 20 years…and the last “little” plane he says he was in, he jumped out of. (Parachuting). So it wasn’t a commercial jet, but it wasn’t a 152, either. This is definately the first 2-seater aircraft he’s been in, no question. He’s surprised at the size I think - the 152 is definately close quarters.

Our departure is non eventfull, but it seems rather smooth once we climb above 1000. My passenger lets out a healthy “Woo Hoo!” as we hit about 200′ AGL. It’s nice to know that the passenger is enjoying themselves, and the flight has barely begun.

At our cruise altitude of 3500, it’s actually quite smooth - nearly hands off flying on the way to Lindsay airport, our destination for todays flight. Apparently the turbulence is history. I’m not really upset about that.

There’s a nasty headwind on the way north - I’m showing about 95Kts indicated, but the GPS is showing a groundspeed hovering around 70kts. It’s smooth, but strong, and creating a noticable yaw into the wind, which even my passenger picks up on.

But, the slow speed makes for some great sightseeing, which we do plenty of on the way there. We amuse ourselves listening to a C130 Hercules fumbling through a radio call to London FSS..and fumbling some more…and more. Aren’t these air force guys supposed to know their stuff?

As I call up Lindsay unicom and get an answer. Short and sweet - a wind check, and runway 31 is the preferred, at pilots discretion.

Traffic is light - just one other plane doing a touch and go. He announces that he’s joining to the right base, which is kind of curious since 31 is a left hand pattern. Regardless, he’s turning final just as we join the left downwind, and we are shortly on final. My landing is satisfactory, but once again I fail to impress myself. My pax seems impressed, regardless.

Once we are down I call CFA to confirm that nobody has reserved behind us. The answer is exactly what I wanted to hear - nobody has reserved, so the aircraft is ours for the rest of the daylight hours.

We stop at the FBO for a few minutes to chat with the nice lady who provides the Unicom service at CNF4. She jokes that it’s been a slow day, and she has been looking out the window “rating” everyones landings. I ask her where her scorecards are, and how we rated. She says she missed our landing….that’s probably a good thing - Mid 4’s at best, I would guess. :-)

Off to the restaurant we go for an order of $100 French Fries. No $100 hamburgers today, dinner is actually going to be waiting when I get home..but the fries were too tempting to resist.

It seems that the restaurant here is a popular hangout for some of Lindsay’s senior citizen population, as clearly absolutely none of the people eating dinner there tonight are pilots. We seem rather out of place, almost like eating in a retirement residence.

It’s all rather odd, but the food is good. Trying to control myself, I resist trying out the home made butter tarts which by all accounts are to die for, and are frequently mentioned when other pilots talk about the restraurant here at Lindsay.

Anyhow, snack done, we decide to head out. Trusty 'ol FOOU.

Thankfully nobody has bothered our plane. The ramp here is surprisingly open - anyone could park their car and pretty much walk up to the aircraft without anyone else batting an eye. I left FOOU with all of our gear (including my GPS) in place - and of course, being rental-aircraft, the door locks don’t work..so it was effectively wide open.

Once again, I brought my GPS along for the ride. There’s absolutely no need whatsoever to have it along for this trip, the nav could not possibly get any easier, but since I’ve gotten my ticket and have actually been allowed to use it (and am flying for periods of time long enough to actually have time to play with it) I’m hooking it up regardless so that I can get accustomed to using it in flight.

My overall impression on using a PDA for a GPS is mixed. The features are unparalleled for the cost, but I still find the screen somewhat difficult to read in varying light conditions. This is more of a fault with my Palm, as opposed to the rest of the hardware, so I can’t really blame it. The jury is still out on whether or not I’ll buy a “proper” Aviation GPS..although all of the flight planning/aviation specific software I can load onto the palm, as well as the fact that Co-Pilot and FlightMaster are *awesome* (and free) GPS utils will make it tough to switch.

Anyhow, we load back in and are shortly on our way. The sun is beginning to set, and the air is now just like glass - now this is nice - I trim out at 3000 feet and the plane flies perfectly on it’s own for about 10 minutes. While keeping an eye out for traffic, I actually get some sightseeing in myself, with the plane now taking care of itself.

Over Scugog island things get interesting. One of the other CFA aircraft (GRPQ) makes a position report and advises that they are heading to the same general location as us, and then back to YOO as well. I reply to give him a heads up, but I can’t see him anywhere.

Some time passes, and neither of us are able to spot RPQ yet. We are conversing to try to spot each other, but we still can’t see him. A third plane chimes in as being northbound, and we spot each other, but I still can’t see my primary concern, RPQ.

I make a 360, still unsure where he is, and feeling paranoid that we are a little too close for comfort. I grab the ATIS at the same time, and then track south again.

We both call into the tower behind each other, and now ATC guy seems equally concerned about our spacing. He asks me to Squawk Ident, but I have to kinly refuse…as FOOU is not transponder equipped. :-)

RPQ reports over a common VFR reporting point - the triple power lines. This doesn’t make me feel any better - we are only 1 mile or so from the lines ourself, and still neither of us can spot him. Grrr.

I ask the tower if they would like me to do a 360 for spacing, but they advise that they have us both in sight, and there is no conflict. Okay then! Whew.

As we join the downwind, we *finally* spot RPQ - just turing base. We follow him in, and I make a perfect full-stall greaser of a landing - barely felt the wheels come down on that one. Whew - I can still do those!

The sun is now touching the horizon, and the winds are dead calm. It’s comfortably warm, and it’s tantalizingly summer-like. Spring is definately (and finally!) in the air.

I help the pilot of RPQ push back into the tiedown, and then my passenger helps me do the same.

When we’re back in dispatch finishing up the paperwork my former instructor is there. He checks out my GPS and has fun with it outside for 5 or 10 minutes, seeming quite impressed with it’s capabilities and versatility. Hmm…perhaps I will keep the Palm based GPS setup afterall - it really is a ton of power for not alot of cost - I’ve under $250 invested in the whole setup.\

So, that’s about it. Another great flight with another enthusiastic passenger.

Hard to say where I’m going from here, at least for the next few weeks. We just finalized the move of our mortgage today (5 year anniversary, yaay!) and the costs to move from our bank to a new mortgage company set us back a good chunk of cash. Add that to the fact that I’m probably going to be laid off from work next week courtesy of a GM truck plant shutdown, and there may not be much spare cash floating around for a while.

…then again, the tax return cash will be due soon. Maybe a week off would be nice afterall.

And last but not least, my new favourite “flying” picture, taken by my pax from this flight. It’s one of the few pictures of myself that I can look at and not publicly exclaim “Crap, I look horrible”..so I guess it’s not that bad. :)

Scary 'Ol Oshawapilot.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Why Do I Fly?

NOTICE: Please update your blogrolls/links/bookmarks - Information Echo has now officially moved to www.oshawapilot.ca!

I will continue to echo posts here for a few weeks to allow my readership time to make the move along with me.... Thanks!

Please visit the new site to comment, and catch more up to date posts!

I was reading a post that Clumpinglitter made yesterday where she was musing about exactly why she became a pilot.

Her outcome from having thought about it was that she flies because it’s “Fun”.

A very valid reason.

It made me sit back and think about exactly why I decided to get my own licence.

I decided my reasons were two fold;

First, like C, without a doubt I think it’s fun. My father was a pilot, and I’ve always enjoyed flying. It was only within the last few years that it became financially realistic for me to become a pilot, so I took the dive.

But the’s another half - I enjoy the technical aspects behind flying.

I remember when I was still a student, and an increasing about of the workload of flying was being introduced. It started with radio calls, and progressed to simple things like flap deployment, etc etc. Of course, the workload spiraled upwards from there - but I loved every minute of it.

Everytime a new aspect of a flight became my responsibility instead of my instructors, I just ate it up.

Basically, flying itself is fun, but my favourite parts are departure and arrival. I love being busy on the radio, making adjustments to the aircraft to make it do what I need it to do, and putting all of the aspects of my training together to make the flight successfull.

I remember when I first got my solo clearance to run circuits at Oshawa airport. I was in my glory - it was one takeoff and landing right after another - the things I enjoyed most.

Yes, the novelty quickly wore off simply because I was anxious to proceed to learning another new technical aspect…and running circuit after circuit did start to get a little boring after a while.

But, overall, I’m looking back on circuits now rather fondly again. Actually, it’s about time that I run a few of them again in order to get some extra practice with…you guessed it…the technical aspects of flying.

So, perhaps my flight this weekend may end up with an “Inbound for circuits” radio call instead of a “Inbound for landing, full stop” radio call when returning to CYOO.

It might be time to get back to the technical bits of flying - a single takeoff and single landing on every flight isn’t going to do me any justice when it comes to staying proficient.

And of course, staying proficient is closely related to staying safe….

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Warming Up.

NOTICE: Please update your blogrolls/links/bookmarks - Information Echo has now officially moved to www.oshawapilot.ca!

I will continue to echo posts here for a few weeks to allow my readership time to make the move along with me.... Thanks!

As I was sitting on the apron last Saturday with my passenger, I had to explain to him why we were sitting there doing absolutely nothing for 4 or 5 minutes.

I had already gone through as much of the checklist as I could, I had gotten the ATIS, and we were all situated and ready to depart.

Why were we sitting? I was waiting for the engine to warmup before doing the runup.

Even though the plane was in the hangar overnight, it had been outside for a while before we had gotten there, and it was also rather nippy out, at -10c.

So, in order to go “By the books”, I took the time to properly warm the engine before pushing it beyond idle.

My passenger asked me why this is necessary.

We proceeded to talk about the necessities of warmup in order to minimize engine wear, and avoid nasty things like cracked cylinder heads. I also explained to him the extra precautions that may need to be observed in the winter months when it comes to power-off decents, or other maneuvers which may shock cool the engine.

Regardless, the topic came back to the warmup..and I’ve been thinking about it since.

Yes, I do take the time to do a proper warmup on days where I’m the first pilot to fly the aircraft, or where the aircraft has been sitting for a period of time since the last flight.

Do I enjoy killing the time to accomplish this? No. Do I enjoy paying $1.83 per minute for the process? Hardly.

But, I do it regardless - even though Sundays warmup cost me almost $8 before I even called for a taxi clearnance, I did it right, and paid for it.

Is $8 really that much in the overall perspective of things? Some may say no, but I look at the cumulative effect rather then the per-flight effect. I’ve probably paid over $100 in hobbs time now simply sitting on the apron waiting for that little black needle to bump into the green arc.

It’s frustrating, but I do it.

However, I do see others that don’t follow the rules. I’ve seen pilots jump into a stone cold aircraft, fire it up, and do a full runup shortly thereafter.

Why do they do this? Well, I strongly suspect it’s because they’re not overly excited about paying for the warmup time.

When I was a student at CFA, when the temperature hit a certain point, many lessons would have .1 deducted from the hobbs time in respect of the fact that exceptionally long warmup times were sometimes required. This was fair - I had no problem doing a proper warmup when I was getting an appropriate credit for the time.

However, over the last winter when I was still flying as a solo student, and also since I’ve completed my training and have been renting, I’ve approached dispatch on a few occasions and inquired about receiving a warmup hobbs credit after a fkight.

Of course, I’m legitimate about it, only asking on days where I’ve had to do long warmups as the temperature clearly dictated one.

My requests have been fairly consistently denied. I think I was granted a .1 credit once when the temperature was nearly -18c one day.

The alternatives? Well, others have apparently tried lying about their hobbs times. I don’t agree with this, and apparently those in question were eventually caught.

Option 2 is to simply skip the warmp, and do the runup no matter what the temperature guage says. Again, I don’t agree with this practice - I don’t really want to damage the engine that I’m about to trust to keep me in the sky for the next hour or two.

Option three is to grin and bear it, which is what I’ve been doing.
And I’ll continue to do it simply because it’s the “right thing to do”…but I must wonder if it wouldn’t be cheaper for the FBO’s to be somewhat more liberal with Hobbs credits in order to avoid those who simply don’t follow the rules.

Cracked cylinder heads surely cost money in both labor, parts, and downtime. Wear and tear from an engine runup completed before the oil becomes sufficiently viscous is surely going to shorten the lifespan of the engine as a whole.

There’s so many reason why a proper warmup is essential, yet so many reasons why I’m sure alot of people don’t bother…

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Half moved...and a rant.

I've made the "unofficial" move of the blog to my new www.oshawapilot.ca domain.

I'll continue for the meantime to duplicated my flying related entries here at my trusty old Blogger account (As well as at the new site), but I'll keep my non-aviation related chatter focused over there now, since I can keep it categorized a little better.

My first rant over at the new blog had to do with my new web host, whom after only a week of service had a near complete failure that I tried to inform them of over a three day period, but they didn't take seriously and act upon untill their giant corporate customers started screaming at them come Monday morning.

I was having the issues Saturday, but did they listen to little 'ol me? Noooooo!

Anyhow, I won't rant about it here. Check the details (and this blogs soon to be new permanent home) out at the new Oshawapilot blog location.

For those that link to this blog on their own websites or blogs, I'd appreciate it if you could update your link locations to point to the new site....and thanks for the traffic! :-)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

2 Flights, One Day

(Post duplicated on my still-under-developement Wordpress blog...Check it out HERE for those interested....feedback appreciated...)

Wow, what an aviation-filled day - it just doesn’t get any better then this! A local flight this morning, and then this afternoon an adventure filled cross country from Muskoka.Over the Cowl

My morning flight with my enthusiastic passenger Blair went off near perfect. We arrived at the airport shortly after 7AM, and were underway shortly afterwards.

All of my fretting about the W&B was rather moot, as it was fueled perfectly to where I needed it.

The preflight was, as usual, miserable given the cold weather. But, it paid off with an excellent flight in great conditions. We departed southwest initially and circled Blairs workplace so he could take some pictures, and then headed east. Then north. We caught a few of the sights on the way up over Scugog, tracked up towards Lindsay, and then headed west.

Blair has flown gliders before, so he was not new to the world of aviation, although this was his first time in a little (powered) aircraft, so there was some new situations for him. He took the controls for a short while and did quite well, making a 360 orbit within +/- 100 feet - evidence indeed of flying skills. He comments that he’s not able to guage his airspeed by sound alone, as the engine drowns out most of the noise, but he does great.

I took the opportunity to ask Blair if he was interested in doing a little airwork while we were up, since he wasn’t afraid of that sort of thing. He readilly accepted, so I did a HASEL, made an advisory radio call, and got underway. Nothing too big, just a few steep turns and a power off stall.

The steep turns went well - I lost 100′ on my first one (a bit of rust showing) and missed my wake, but rolled out perfectly on my heading. The second one was perfect, and I smacked firmly into my wake on the exit.

The stall was about as gentle as a stall could be, given the wind conditions and the inherent gentle stall characteristics of the ‘52. Blair seemed surprised at exactly how uneventfull the stall really was, so I gather that gliders are a little less forgiving? I’ll probably never know, as I don’t see myself getting into a glider anytime soon. Perhaps next time I’ll do a power on climbing stall, which tend to be a little more eventfull.

Anyhow, we finish up from that, and head home. It was nice to get the opportunity to do some refresher airwork, as staying fresh on the basics is important. Obviously, with a regular passenger, I don’t get the opportunity to do things like steep turns and stalls, so I look forward to flying with Blair more often!
I make a crappy landing thanks to some unexpected wind over the threshhold of 30. Safe landing, yes…gracefull landing, not so much.

Anyhow, that flight complete, I met Richard at the airport at around 10AM, and we piled into our van for the ride up to Muskoka airport.

The weather continues to be amazing, although the winds have picked up a little.

The drive up is uneventfull, and we do alot of chatting enroute. Richard trained at CFA himself, and it was interesting to hear about how similar our training was in some regards, yet different in others. The drive seemed to go incredibly fast - good conversation can make even a boring drive seem like a much shorter event.

The Lake LA40When we arrive at the airport, Richards Lake is outside, plugged in, and all ready to go. There’s nobody around at Lake Central (the Lake dealer at the airport) so we get underway.

My wife bids us adieu and advises she will wait around in town for a bit for us to confirm that we are “good to go” before she heads back herself. I’ll text message her to confirm.

The Lake is an interesting creature indeed! This was the first opportunity I had to really get up close and personal with one, so I familiarized myself a little as Richard did the preflight and such. There’s lots of “little things” that are different versus a non-amphibious aircraft - fuel sumps are above the waterline, the door sills are very high..and of course, with the overhead mounted engine, there are no rear windows. The heating system is also unique, involving a 100LL burning combusion-style heater unit which is mounted (externally) to the roof of the cabin, and controlled by a number of switches from inside. Anyone who remembers the old Volkswagen Beetle heater systems can probably draw some associations, but the difference ends there - the one in the Lake actually works, versus the one in the old Beetles, which frequently did not.

The cockpit is interesting as well - some controls are overhead versus the more common placement locations, and the trims are all hydraulically operated, versus old fashioned cable setups.

The trim tabs on the Lake are huge I discover while looking around the exterior. With the engine mounting location, a large amount of trim authority is needed, and there’s no doubt that those monsterous trim tabs provide lots of it.

There is lots of other differences as well, obviously, but I could go on for hours. It’s just a neat aircraft!

Richards wife is unavailable when he calls to file our flight itinerary, so I offer to have my wife provide the service instead. I call her up on the cellphone and relay the necessary information. I provide an ETA for our departure and an ETA for our arrival back at Oshawa, and we pile in.

Unfortunately we then experienced some technical difficulties, and a major screwup on my behalf.

The plane has been sitting for some time, and is less then excited about starting. Despite our best efforts, it just doesn’t want to go.

At one point, we egress the plane to deal with the situation, and I get my foot caught in my headset cable on the way out. I promptly manage to not only faceplant (Surprisingly, gracefully enough that I didn’t get hurt) but I also managed to pull the wires out of the headset - both plugs.

Now I feel like a complete ass - not only have I took a spill, but I screwed up Richards headset which he was so nice as to offer me for the flight.

Anyhow, the long and the short of it is that I owe Richard a new headset. I’ll get the broken one repaired (probably not a huge deal, but repair necessary regardless) and keep it as my own, and supply Richard with a brand new replacement.

I joke that I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy myself a headset sooner then later regardless, and apparently fate is telling me that it’s now time. Unfortunately, this leaves me without a headset for the flight at hand. Oh well, my own fault.
Anyhow, with the problem out of the way and the Lake now up and running, we head down to the opposite end of Muskoka’s seemingly endless 6000 foot runway for the runup. The runway is a mess - probably 95% ice covered at the north end, with better, but still not good, conditions at the south end.

The Lake has no nosewheel steering mechanism, using only differential braking for directional control on the ground - it requires some finesse in order to accomplish this in a gracefull fashion, and it’s obvious that Richard has the “Been there, done that” T-Shirt, as he deftly gets us down the skating rink of a runway and into position for our runup.
The runup produces a miss on one cylinder on the right mag. Uh oh! Nothing in the usual repertoire of plug-clearing methods manages to solve the situation, so wisely we taxi back to the hangar to investigate. I text message my wife to hang around a little longer, just in case…and to let her know that our ETA’s will be changing.

With the helpfull assistance of the “Lake Guy” (I forget his name) we quickly sort out the problem as just an extremely fouled plug. Removed, cleaned, tested, and reinstalled, the engine purrs away quite happilly now.

Underway again! The second runup produces perfect results, and we are set for departure. I text message my wife to let her know we are indeed underway now. They text back that they are shopping. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but they are apparently having a blast I learn afterwards.

The signifigant horsepower of this plane is immediately evident to me on the takeoff roll, and it quickly pops into the sky and we are away.

The first thing I notice is that the nose-up attitude of the climb seems really low compared to the 152’s. A 1000FPM climb still produces a great view over the nose, and with the wings placed far back on the fueselage (Again, a characteristic of the overhead rear-mounted engine) the view downwards from the cockpit windows is also excellent.

It’s not long, and we are at cruise altitide. I’ve brought along my Palm based GPS system and this flight is giving me the first shot at using it for real-life cross country navigation. It performs excellent.

Richard offers me the controls. Even asking me the question is a little more challenging considering I’m headset-less..no intercom, no radios. Surprisingly, cockpit noise isnt that bad at all, regardless of the fact, but talking still requires a good loud voice.

I accept the opportunity to fly, and actually end up flying a good majority of the cruise. The Lake seems responsive, but heavier on the controls versus what I’m used to…that’s to be expected. The trim controls are between the seats, and are hydraulically operated instead of the wheel style that is more common to me. It’s straightforward, though, and the plane trims into a nice stable cruise.

Richard works the radios as I enjoy the view and fly the course. My GPS shows a groundspeed nearing 130knots at times, so the strong wind from the north is indeed pushing us along at a good clip. Other then for curiosities sake, the GPS is rather redundant - there’s so many easy to pick out landmarks that with todays visibility, VFR nav couldn’t get much easier.

With the tailwind, we make spectacular time, and before it seems like it started, we are on approach to Oshawa.

The different flying characteristics of this plane remain right down the approach, but Richard makes it look easy. I do understand exactly why Lake owners all go through signifigant type rating training, however - these planes are indeed unique machines, and short of straight-and-level, they don’t fly like your average aircraft.

We push back into the parking spot, and tie down. I text message my wife to confirm that we are down, and that she no longer needs to worry about our flight itinerary. They message back, blown away by the time that we made on the return trip.

So, that’s it. I’m now incredibly hyped to make this same trip myself, so I’ll be keeping a close eye out for anyone willing to go halfsies on the cost of a Muskoka cross country.

Any takers? :-)

And last but not least, a big thanks to Richard for graciously offering the opportunity for this experience - I know for a fact that there’s lots of other people that would love to get some time in this sort of plane, and I seem to have jumped the queue. It was fun!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Aaaahh!

Doing a preliminary W&B for tommorow mornings flight I came to the sudden realization that the plane I was given is a 152 with long range tanks.

I had asked for my plane to be fueled to half tanks for weight consideration, but when I suddenly realised that I was going to be flying a 152 with the long range tanks, that added a sudden moment of concern.

Will it be fueled to "Half long range", or "Half standard"?

If it's fueled to half long range, that means there would be an extra 6 gallons of fuel that I needed to acount for.

That amount of fuel weighs 36 Pounds more....which would put us about 30 Pounds over gross - a no fly situation.

A quick call to CFA revealed that it will be fueled to "Half standard", meaning 12 gallons. Whew!

I will be carefully dipping in the morning to make sure that this is indeed where it is fueled, and that I'll be legally within gross weights, but I don't anticipate any issues.

On the flipside, this change will put me flying one of the 152's that I havn't flown in quite a while, so it will be a refreshing change.

And as of now, the Muskoka flight is sheduled tommorow as well. Richard is meeting me at YOO at 10AM, and my wife is providing the drive north to YQA.

I chatted with Richard a little on the phone this evening and learned a little more about his Aircraft, a Lake LA40. (There a pic posted a few blog entries back). It seems like an extremely interesting aircraft given it's amphibious overhead-pusher configuration.

Anyhow, tommorows blog entry will be a whopper, I'm sure.

Off to bed...6AM comes early, and my reservation is for 7.

The Best Laid Plans...

...somehow often seem to be blown apart.

At work this afternoon, around 4PM, I suddenly see a bunch of emails arrive on my PDA.

"Reservation Cancelled" ...and shortly after that, another... "Reservation Cancelled".

The emails are coming from the online aircraft reservation system that my FBO uses. They're telling me that both of my reservations (Saturday, and Sunday) have been erased for some reason.

An immediate call to the airport ensues.

Seems one of the 152's has unexpectedly gone down for maintenance, so the schedule is being bandaged based on a "priority" schedule.

Understandably, renters (As opposed to dual student/instructor) flights are pretty low on the priority list, so my flights were cut. Totally understandable yes, but still slightly frustrating, indeed.

Anyhow, it's not their fault, but it does throw all of my plans for the weekend into disarray.

The best I could do to scrape together any remnant of my original plans was to take a 7AM to 9AM booking for Sunday. My intended Sunday passenger passed on getting up that early, but my original Saturday passenger jumped at the opportunity.

There was a 10AM to 12PM slot tommorow that I had originally booked, but I had to pass on it after realising it conflicted with other commitments.

Anyhow, Sunday it shall be.

And shortly after I'm down from that flight, the Muskoka trip (Barring any last minute weather oddities) will be a go.

So, instead of flying three times, I'll be flying twice. No big deal I guess afterall, and I've got a guarenteed passenger for next weekend.

So..I'll stop whining now. :-)

Anyhow, after much frustration, I finally got my blog imported to Wordpress. It was an unbelieveable disaster that should (According to Wordpress) have been a simple process.

The blogger.com import function steadfastly refused to work when executed from my web host... Others (on different web hosts) report the same. It's just...broken.

I was able to import about 50 posts this way, but then it kept hanging. Repeated attempts to restart it would accomplish the import of a few additional posts, but then was also causing duplicates.

It just sucked.

So, as a last ditch effort, I had a thought this evening - I fired up SQL, reinstalled Wordpress on my server box, and tried the import locally using the local copy of Wordpress.

And blammo, it worked perfectly on the first try, and sucked all of my blogger.com posts into the Wordpress database.

So, now what to do... Ideally I'd just copy the SQL database file from my own server to my web host, except they dont allow that without presumably calling into tech support and having some uber-tech do it manually.

Not worth my time, although (based on the one time I actually called, for something minor) my hosts tech support seems excellent. I just picture them all sitting aroung giggling later in the evening after a long day of dealing with "Real" companies and corporate websites, only to be interrupted by little ol' me wanting to fix my blog.

Anyhow, I ended up exporting my local Wordpress installation to a RSS feed. I then took that XML file and went direct for the Import feature again on my "real" Wordpress installation.

It's supposed to take RSS files directly for the import..

Again, easy, right?

Bzzzzt again.

Wordpress continually barfs on the file when I select and upload it.

Multiple attempts, no difference.

Something is telling me that this is a browser problem, so I once again stoop to loading up Internet Explorer, and try it again.

Sure enough, it imports perfectly on the first try.

Mission accomplished!

But why does Wordpress seemingly hate Firefox?

Oh well, at least it's finally done.

As a side-effect, it seems that all of the "republish" attempts (probably about 50 of them) on my blogger account as a result of this import fiasco has resulting in it being flagged as a Splog! (A Spam-Blog).

So, I had to jump through some hoops to request that someone at Blogger manually review it and remove some restrictions now put upon it. Ugh.

So, that aside, my wife is now taking issue with me typing away on the PC at 12:20 in the morning, so it's off to slumberland..

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Frustrating.

Working a little more with my newly registered domain, I've decided to play more seriously with moving the blog from the rather limiting blogger service (Here) to my own Wordpress software.

Wordpress will certainly allow me to do alot more with the blog, and finally leave some of the frustrating aspects of Blogger.com behind.

But, I don't want to loose all of my posts and comments from my 1.5 years here at Blogger. There's simply too much history here to simply brush it off, and start anew.

No problem, right? Wordpress has an import function! Hey - We're all set!

Simply "click click" and all of your Blogger.com posts are supposed to magically import into Wordpress!

Bzzzt! Not so fast.

Turns out the Wordpress import function completely sucks. It doesn't work for the majority of people it seems, based on the plethora of posts on the subject on the Wordpress support forums.

So, now I don't know what to do. It's working...sort of - If you count the successfull import of 1 or 2 posts at a time before it craps out as "Working".

Anyone else out there who has been down this road before have any suggestions?

At 1 or 2 posts per import attempt (Each of which takes about 3 to 5 minutes due to the process that Wordpress goes through) it could take me a long (frustrating) while to successfully complete the process.

I will accomplish it one way or another, but I figure there has to be some sort of easier method.

Doh.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

It Arrived

My official Transport Canada licence arrived yesterday. Asothers have mentioned when they received theirs, it really is a rather nondescript and rather unimpressive piece of paper.

Echoing others, It would be nice if it was some sort of fancy plastic card with a photo - at least it could be used as (rather impressive) personal ID whenever needed. :-)

Oh well, it's the point behind it that counts more so then the presentation, I guess.

The Muskoka flight has not yet happened - Friday is looking like a strong prospect, however.

It's looking as if I might actually end up flying three days in a row - Friday for the Muskoka to Oshawa flight, Saturday with a friend, and Sunday with another friend who wants to give her husband an interesting birthday present.

(To clarify from my original poorly worded version of the above, that's "His wife is paying for his half" of the cost.... Yes, I'm staying within the rules of not being a commercial pilot... :-)

Works for me!

Speaking of Birthdays, mine is tommorow. Flying three days in a row is a good present, no? :-)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Another weekend down the tubes.

Yesterday was scratched due to the poor weather. That was expected.

The weather this morning is absolutely perfect for flying, although it's -15 Celsius. Preflight would be chilly, but that's fine. Otherwise, it's crystal clear blue skies, and light winds - the best flying we have seen in some time.

Let's go flying, right? Not so fast.

A call to the airport this morning to check on the runway conditions results in a less then stellar response - 80% ice patches. To add insult to injury, based on the winds today, I would assume that 04 is the active...and 04/22 usually gets the lesser of the runway maintenance versus the more important (for the big iron) 12/30.

The guy on the desk job today says to check back in later, as they will be looking for an updated runway condition report.

At 11:15 I called, and informed that nobody is flying today - the CRFI (The Canadian Runway Friction Index) is below .3, which is where the rental policy dictates that nobody shall fly the little planes today.

What exactly is the Canadian Runway Friction Index?

For simplicities sake, I'll provide a brief explanation.

The CRFI is a method that is used to determine of the runway surface conditions are suitable for use by departing or landing aircraft. It's based on a fairly simple set of calculations.

We start by finding the "recommended minimum" CRFI index, which is calculated as part of the crosswind calculation chart.

The crosswind calculation chart is fairly straightforward - every pilot out there has done one of these at some point, as depicted by the picture to the left.

The crosswind component of a runway is very easy to calculate with this chart. You start by simply taking the difference of the wind direction off the runway heading. So, if the runway heading is 300 degrees, and winds are coming from 280 degrees, you have a 20 degree difference.

Then, you take the wind strength. Say, 10 knots, for example.

Taking those two numbers, you plug it into the chart at the left. The 20 degree wind direction difference is applied to the arc. Once you have found the related arc, you follow it down to where it matches the actual wind component, which is marked on the left side of the scale.

Where the two match, you draw a line straight down to the "Crosswind Component" portion of the chart. My example numbers provides an answer of an approximate 3 knot crosswind.

Where do these numbers come into play? General Aviation aircraft have a "Demonstrated crosswind maximim" for which they are certified to fly in. For the Cessna 152, it's demonstrated crosswind is 12 knots. Other planes may be higher, or lower. This is seperate to the friction index, but important regardless to ensure aircraft control can be maintained.

That doesn't mean that you can't takeoff or land with a stronger crosswind, but it's what the POH (Pilots Operating Handbook) states as the recommended safe area. So, basically, you do so at your own peril.

Now, back to the CRFI.

If you extend that line from the above chart a little lower, it will run into the CRFI index below the crosswind component listing. This will provide a "Recommended minimum" CRFI index to allow for a safe takeoff or landing, based on the crosswind conditions you calculated.

My theoretical calculation above shows a recommended mimimum CRFI of approximately 0.22 - so theoretically, if I so choosed, I could takeoff or land with a CRFI reading this low. However, 0.22 is extremly low, bordering on light to no traction whatsoever...more about this shortly.

Again...theoretically, if the wind was absolutely straight down the runway, you could use said runway with a CRFI this low, but it would be a decision which could have great safety consequences. On takeoff or landing, the slightest change in wind direction could result in a loss of aircraft control due to lack of friction with the runway surface.

For our rental policy, a CRFI reading below .3 dictates that nobody shall fly.

How do all these numbers work together? What do the mean?

Wind conditions aside, the actual runway CRFI index is measured using an actual piece of hardware, which takes the runway conditions into effect. It's little more then a decelerometer mounted to a vehicle, which is then run up and down the runway. When the brakes on the vehicle are applied at various points in the run, it provides a deceleration reading. If the vehicles tires have good traction when the brakes are applied, it provides the decelerometer with a high friction reading, as the vehicle stops quicker.

If the tires slip or skid on brake application, then the resulting stop is longer and more gentle - thereby indicating less friction, and less stopping power....basically, a low friction reading.

The readings are averaged over all the provided tests on a particular runway, and then are interpreted into a CRFI number.

The numbers range from zero (A theoretical situation of absolutely zero friction) to a high of one, which is considered maximum.

The AIP (which has since been replaced by the AIM) indicates that a CRFI of 0.8 and up is equivalent to bare and dry pavement. So, you want this number to be high.

Todays runway conditions were reported as icy and snow patches, and the temperature is (or at least was) below -10. Using the CRFI chart above, you can see that this calculates out to a CRFI of somewhere between .1, and .2.

Not only are these numbers below my FBO's minimums, but they are also below the "acceptable recommended" CRFI index based on todays real life winds and crosswind calcuations, as per the first chart.

So, it all comes down to safety.

Unfortunately, as runway conditions deteriorate, the CRFI drops. Once it reaches the point where safety is effected, planes don't fly.

So, instead of just firing up the engine right about now, I sit at home blogging about it instead.

But, I guess the old adage applies - better safe then sorry.

But it sure is tough none the less looking outside at the bright blue sky, knowing that I can't go enjoy it.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Weekend Update

Quick update.

1/ I've got a reservation to fly tommorow. Since we're under a snowfall warning, and it's not supposed to taper off untill the afternoon (at which point the runways will likely be a mess) I doubt it will happen.

2/ Backup reservation is made for Sunday!

3/ I tweaked the Blog template a little more. I'm still not sure I like it. I'm playing with Wordpress as I speak (I finally got PHP/SQL to play nice on my home server) and I'm debating the possibilities of moving the blog over to it, on my new domain. The jury is still out on this. I still need reliable (non home based) server space to host it on, and I'm not sure I really want to pay for that. :-)

Anyhow, blue skies, everyone.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Electricity..

It's something we've all become accustomed to. Our lives revolve around it, even though few of us stop to think about what life would be without it in todays modern times.

I was walking through my favourite guy-store today and came across the line of power Inverters. For those not in the know, a power inverter takes 12 Volts DC and converts it to 120 Volts AC - basically, household current.

The advantages? Places where there is no access to AC current (camping, cottage, in your car) you can now have the luxury of such.

Why was I thinking about this? Well, the upcoming trip to Oshkosh will be pretty much devoid of electricity at our campsite, as I understand it.

Is this a big issue in the broad scheme of things? Not really - I'm used to camping without power, and not being able to bring along all the "Creature comforts" of home isn't a huge deal for the duration of the Oshkosh trip. Besides, getting away from all of the technology of everyday life is what camping is about, no?

As long as I can keep my PDA/Cellphone charged, and have a few sets of extra batteries on hand for my digital camera, it's all good. For me, and for the nature of this trip, those two items are necessities.

But, I'm considering getting a new inverter (or a generator) for use outside of camping.

Inverters are pretty common now, with small inverters being available for the $20 to $30 range. I own a 300 Watt version myself, which is compact enough to not be overly bulky, yet powerfull enough to run some light equipment. It will not, however, power larger household items such as appliances - it simply does not output enough power.

It also requires a 12 Volt power source - be it a car, or a battery bank.

I have another "backup power" device in my garage - a Motomaster Powerbox, which is an 'all-in-one' power solution. It too, however, is too small to power large appliances, although it is convenient for camping and travelling. I suspect this little unit will come along for the trip to Oshkosh to at least provide a few days of (albeit limited) 120 Volt power for us to keep our digital cameras and phones charged up.

During the blackout in 2003 that plunged the entire eastern seaboard of the USA and Canada into darkness for a full day (up to 2 or 3 in some areas), our small inverter came to the rescue, powering some essential equipment at my workplace for many hours, and then running flat-out again in the evening here at home to provide us with at least minimal power. While everyone else was sitting in their pitch black houses trying to make their way from room to room, we had our living room lights on, the TV and satellite box up and running to stay on top of the news, and believe it or not, we were surfing the internet for a short while.

Then, we turned it all off, and went outside to mingle with all of the neighbours who were out socializing in the pitch black dark.

It was really a unique situation, as anyone who experienced it could attest to. The sense of community was amazing as everyone mingled out into their backyards, and up and down the street socializing. I met people on my street that I had never met before. And of course, it was amazing to be able to actually see the night sky in all it's glory in the usually light-polluted city.

Anyhow.. back on topic. The inverter did come in extremely usefull regardless of the fact that for the limited number of hours we were in the dark, we could have done without it.

However, when it came to plugging in our fridge or chest freezer, we were out of luck - 300 watts was simply not enough.

Thankfully it was rather moot - our electricity came back on at about the 17 hour point, so we didn't loose anything in either or fridge or freezer. Others were not so lucky.

So, todays trip through the guy-store had me thinking about the luxury that we have all come to appreciate - electricity. I was thinking that perhaps it was time to invest in a larger inverter, or perhaps a small generator.

If the power goes out again, it's less of a problem - plug the inverter into one of the cars in the driveway, run an extension cord to required electical item, and plug it in. For a few hours of outage, it's not worth bothering with backup power, but for a day or more, the losses start to mount, so a backup power source would quickly pay for itself.

Is something as serious as the 2003 blackout likely to happen again? It's difficult to say - the blackout back then was due to the "perfect storm" of failure througout the grid which resulted in a massive failure and shutdown of generating stations everywhere. I was in Pickering Ontario at the exact moment of the failure here in Ontario. Pickering is home to the Pickering A and Pickering B Nuculear generating station - 8 reactors - a massive facility. I was within sight of it when things went dark.

Shortly after the lights went out, the next thing I heard was massive roars from the nuclear facility as they vented steam to the atmosphere. The clouds were amazing to see, although a little concerning - It was the first minutes of what was clearly a major blackout, and then seeing a sight like that from the nuclear facility was a little disconcerting.

The reactors were Scraming due to the completely uncontrolled nature of the grid collapse. It was a real mess, but at least it was safe.

The following days were an adventure as the grid slowly came back online. A nuclear reactor takes up to 48 hours to restart after shutdown, and with the majority of Ontario relying on these nukes, it meant several days of power shortages.

Anyhow, the long and the short of it was that although we had power, we didn't have much of it. Those who didn't conserve (AKA leaving the air conditioners off) threatened to throw the rest of us who *did* back into darkness.

Additionally - with the way that the government of Ontario has bungled our energy policy and failed to think ahead, it's entirely possible that temporary blackouts may become more common. Anyhow who lives here has become accustomed to hearing frequent "Energy Appeals" during the summer months as the grid strains under the load of humming A/C units. At several points last summer Ontario Hydro warned us that we were bordering on system failure due to the loads, and they resorted to voltage reductions (Brownouts, basically) to keep the system up and running.

Sad...and somewhat scary. Our hydro system here in Ontario is extremely fragile right now, and due to the rapid pace of expansion versus the foot-dragging on the energy policy by our government, a crisis is very near.

Having some sort of standby or backup power beyond my tiny little inverter would be nice.

I've noticed a signifigant increase in people with generators or large inverters in their garage since the blackout. "Be prepared" is the story. Most of us still remember the blackout, and it was a wakeup call for everyone, making us all realize that even something as 'routine' as electricity can dissapear.

I didn't jump on the "Buy a generator" bandwagon then, but I'm thinking about it now.

If the power went out this time of year, we would be in serious trouble within a matter of hours - the house would be getting increasingly cold, we'd have no method of cooking or heating, and the pipes would start freezing solid within 24 hours or so, depending on the outside temperature.

In the summer, the lack of A/C is not a huge deal, but loosing hundreds of dollars worth of food in our Fridge/Freezers is a big deal. Shivering in the cold in the winter is a big deal as well.

So, backup power has a year-round appeal.

And it would also lend itself to trips like Oshkosh (or camping) where power isn't immediately available, but would still be handy.

So, I'm looking very seriously at the possibilities...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Slow weekend..

Although I had hoped to grab a quick flight this weekend, it wasn't to be.

I had a passenger and a plane booked, but a quick review of the bank balance suggested that I refrain. Instead, I went out for an hour this afternoon for coffee with a friend.

A much less expensive, if not quite as exciting, option.

I emailed Richard earlier to see if the ferry flight of his Lake LA40 from Muskoka back home to Oshawa may be on, but have not yet heard back. The weather is looking decent, so if he decides it's a go, and gets ahold of me in time, tommorow may be the day.

I'm still greatly looking forward to this.

That aside, I spent some time this weekend playing computer-nerd. I found a good deal on .ca domain registrations on Saturday, so I registered oshawapilot.ca

After redirecting the domain to a free DNS server (Thanks zoneedit.com!) to avoid the hassle of running one myself, and then waiting for that all to propogate, my domain works, now pointing to my desktop PC at home.

Yipedy Doo!

So, what to do with it now?

I doubt I'll move the blog there, as my home PC (And ISP) is hardly an ideal web hosting solution. It's reliable and always on, but I doubt my ISP would really like me that much if I went with that plan.

Additionally, I was reminded of my lack of savvness with PHP/SQL today while I was playing around with Wordpress. Without either of those (Working properly and securely, that is) the home server ideal isn't good for much except what I'm using it for - a video/image server.

Yes, I could shell out the few dollars per month and get some real server space. Is it worth it though? I don't use my webserver for a great deal, so I'm not sure. I'm currently hosting the videos I posted a few days ago on it, and that's been working just fine, but otherwise I'm not sure it's worth my effort based on my current needs.

So, basically, the new domain is just for "Decorative Purposes Only" at this point. It points to my Apache server, displays a picture, and then just redirects here.

The picture was taken at the CN Tower Restaurant last summer, for anyone interested. That's CYTZ (Toronto City Center Airport) in the background.

And no, I didn't eat all of that by myself.

And yes, what I did eat of it was extremely good.

And the whole CN Tower restaurant routine was very expensive...but great. :-)

So, yes - that was my weekend. Completely devoid of anything flying related except to pop into the terminal to check on my new vending machine there.

Oh well, there's always next weekend.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Oshkosh, here we come!

(Dances little jig) :-)

I made an entry here a few days ago musing about the possibility of getting a few local pilots (or aviation enthusiasts) together to share the cost of driving to Oshkosh for the annual EAA Airventure...or "Oshkosh" as it's best known.

I've got a van, I enjoy camping (Which is about all that's left accomodation-wise now, without booking 2 years in advance) and it seemed like my best bet to finally get myself to this iconic aviation expo.

My wife was good with the plan, and I thought I'd start the ball rolling with my post. I've since unpublished said post...why?

Shortly after I published it I received a comment to my post from Paul Tomblin who asked me if I'd be interested in flying there with him.

My immediate response was "Wow, I'd love to, but I just can't afford it".

Yes, I had always dreamed of making the trip to Oshkosh "The way it should be done" - on a set of wings. However, my licence doesn't allow me to fly as PIC in the USA, nor is my experience anywhere close to the level that I would feel comfortable setting out on such a trip myself, even if my ticket allowed me to do so.

And of course, there's the money. With the planes I fly on a rental basis, there's so much to take into consideration that makes it unrealistic - Actual hobbs hours (And alot of them, at 90 Knots), minimum rental hours (3 per day minimum every "full day" the plane is gone, regardless of it it moves or not), and then of course fuel, etc etc etc.

That, and the fact that my FBO wouldn't rent me a plane for this trip even if I had bottomless pockets and the best laid plans.

Again, back to experience.

Driving was the only feasable way I figured I was going to get to Oshkosh, so it's the immediate avenue I steered towards.

However, I exchanged a few emails with Paul over the next hour or two, and it became evident that the chance for me to fly into Oshkosh as his flying companion, instead of driving, was now obtainable.

I was almost speechless - it's a good thing I was typing, otherwise I may have found myself short for words. That never happens to me - anyone who reads my blog or has chatted with me on the phone can attest to the fact that I'm quite verbal.

But.....Wow!

I can't express how excited I am about this. Oshkosh itself is an event I've always wanted to visit. Ironically, as part of my job, I've been to the city of Oshkosh before, but never during AirVenture, so I've always longingly looked at the city in my mirrors as I passed through, hoping to one day be able to actually come during the big show.

Of course, as Paul mentioned in another followup email yesterday, the weather could play havok with our goal, especially when one is flying this sort of distance...but hey, that's OK.. I'll take it as it comes, and my schedule will be wide open for the entire week.

Yes, the actual show was originally my intended centerpiece of the trip - the drive there in a car was simply a stepping stone to make that happen.

However, flying there versus driving opens up an entirely new (and amazing) experience in itself. I'm now looking forward to the trip there and back as much as the destination. What more could one ask for?

The plane that Paul has booked for the trip? A stunning Piper Dakota.

I was checking out the Rochester Flying Club's website tonight to checkout N8323Y, which is the plane that Paul advises he has reserved for the trip. It looks like it's a great aircraft. He mentioned it's due for a new panel mount GPS installation, as well as a new engine over the next few months.

With a 76 Gallon fuel capacity and useful load of 1200 Pounds, weight should not be an issue, even considering all of the gear that will be hitchiking along with us. This will be a refreshing change from the usual W&B challenges I have been having recently flying the 152's around, aside from the fact that it's just exponentially a much nicer aircraft versus anything I've flow in to date.

So, only one problem now.

5 Months, 1 Week, and 2 Days. The time untill the gates swing open in Oshkosh. :-)

BTW, I'm looking for a right-seat passenger for this Sunday at 9AM after a potential passenger (Co-worker) bailed out on me today. Anyone local interested in an hour of sightseeing? If the weather holds, I'm thinking about breakfast in Peterborough? Email me!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Twice in a week!

Wow, it's been a long while since I've been up flying twice within a few days.

Today marked my second passenger, and one who was fittingly appropriate - my cousin Steve, who was along for the familiarization flight the very day I got officially hooked on flying in the summer of 2004.

Shortly after this flight, I officially became a student....and here we are!

There's video - click the pic to check it out..

(There's also a video of my approach and landing at the bottom of this entry)



Getting a plane arranged was a bit of an adventure. Thanks to "b" at Canadian Flight Academy for handling my multiple phone calls and requests.

We showed up early to triple-confirm that it was fueled according to what I needed in order to be legal for W&B. The plane was just leaving for another flight when we got there, and I was told it would return with the fuel probably in the range of what we required..

I've came to the conclusion that I really need to get checked out on the 172 - the anemic weight carrying capacity of the 152's meant that todays flight could almost not happen, as we were dancing right on the edges of staying legal.

I had to put the 5# flightbag on the back wall where the W&B Arm was 94 in order to push ourselves back into the envelope. Gross was another concern, hence my obsession with the fuel in the tanks.

But, it all worked. Barely. :-)

We went out and killed some time at Future Shop (Think Best Buy, for my American readers) and returned just as FOOU was cresting the numbers on 04 on it's return. Great timing.

Runway 04 is the active, and I picture ourselves getting stuck in a lineup of planes waiting for the bactrack from Bravo taxiway, but surprisingly when I call the tower when ready to depart, I get a backtrack and takeoff clearance immediately - there's two other planes in the circuit, but they're not in our way.

A cautious backtrack ensues, as the end of 04 is snow covered and slippery. Turned around, it's full power, and we're off.

The conditions were OK, but once again attention to the VFR minima were required. On departure I had filed for 2500 feet, but at 2000 I realized we were about as high as we were going while still maintaining minimums. Visibility was about 15 miles I would guess, depending on what direction you were looking, so that wasn't so much an issue as the clouds were.

I advise the tower of our revised altitude and they check remarks, and clear me enroute at the same time.

I don't really like flying this low - I feel like I'd be pressed to find a forced landing location in the unlikely chance one was necessary. I know that that's probably unwarranted, as the area we are flying over is full of nice open fields, but I still feel like I should be higher regardless. My comfort level begins at around 2500, and I feel better yet in the 3000 range.

As we trekked east the skies opened up and I climbed briefly up to 3000 for a better view. Steve snaps pictures as we pass over his old house, and continue along eastwards.

We turn north, and the clouds are low again ahead of us, so I decend back to around 2300.

I get some good exercise in pilotage as he requests we fly over to a location that we both spent alot of time at as kids. (Long story)

I know where it is, so I plot out our current location using references on the map, and point us in the general direction of where I believe we should head - and blammo - there it appears, right off the right side of the nose.

Funny how that works! :-)

We circle for a few minutes and Steve snaps pictures. Although it's certainly not the first time I've flown over it, it is the first time I've picked it out from the air and actually spent some time sightseeing over it from aloft, so it's kind of cool.

However, I'm discovering that there is one downside to being PIC, versus just being "Along for the ride" - it's that you can't just spend time gawking out the window at the sights - one must actually concentrate on flying the plane.

My training comes back to me, as I'm mentally reminded that spiral dives most often begin with the "Hey, look down there at that!" circling turn routine. The pilot spends too much time looking out a side window, and before long the nose drops and airspeed is heading through the roof.

Don't get me wrong, I look down and catch some views, but I keep my main concentration on flying. I can always look at the pictures later.

We head up over the lake and checkout all the ice huts and snowmobile tracks. For having been such a mild winter, I'm surprised there's as much happening on the ice as there appears to be...especially considering on Wednesday a good portion of the lake on the eastern end was wide open.

This is the same parts of the lake that I used to snowmobile on as a kid in the 70's and 80's. Caution was needed as it never really froze more then a foot or so thick near our cottage area, but to see it wide open for a mile or so in the beginning of February attests to the mild winter we have had.

All the more reason I question the ice huts, although they are quite a ways west on the lake, and presumably the ice is a great deal thicker there. Hmm.

Perhaps a little early, I figure we'll head back. Over Port Perry we call the tower.

The active has changed from 04 to 12 - I'm not exactly dissapointed about this.

Tower reports another 152 climbing out to our exact altitude. I don't see it, nor does Steve, and when I tell them this they ask me to stay on the West side of Simcoe street, and the other plane on the east side. Eventually he reports clear of the zone behind us, although we never did spot him.

The only other traffic is a single 152 just turning base - easy to pick out.

Unlike my last flight, I make a gracefull approach followed by another landing which I'm quite proud of (See video below - my passenger filmed it with his digital camera, and it came out great!)

Landings like this me realize exactly how far I've come since the last time I took video of my landings, which were quite alot.. *ahem*....firmer, back then. :-)


I exit at Charlie and do the post landing checks. Tower passes me off to ground, and I get a clearance to the north apron.

As short as it was, it felt like the (almost) perfect flight - if only it wasn't for those pesky clouds.

And another logbook entry ensues.

Gotta love it.