Oshkosh Control Tower

Flying low and slow across the country

Lots of Planning

Planning Route to OshkoshLast month, after lots of planning, starting in March, I flew my 2 seat Cessna 150 from Long Beach, California, ‘low and slow’, about 85 – 95 knots across the country to Oshkosh! It was awesome! Thirteen legs over four days getting there, twelve legs and three days, returning. I planned fuel stops roughly every 2 hours or about 200 miles, being conservative. I attended the world’s largest aviation gathering, or celebration if you prefer to call it that. Oshkosh is aviation ‘mecca’ for one week each year, normally the last week in July.

Almost 10,000 airplanes flew into Oshkosh for AirVenture

This year attendance was estimated at 650,000, with people traveling in from all over the world! But in spite of the large crowd, it is very well managed, and people are well behaved and respectful. The grounds are almost free of litter. Almost 10,000 airplanes flew into Oshkosh and were parked on the grounds at AirVenture. There really is nothing else like it.

After some unexpected delays, I was finally able to leave SoCal, early Wednesday morning, July 20. The weather cooperated, for the most part. There was one small ‘airmass’ thunderstorm, just east of Flagstaff, that was stationary, so I was able to safely deviate around it after takeoff. The density altitude was over 9,000’,  and there was a headwind, and I was under gross weight. It took a longer takeoff roll to get airborne, but I was able to climb out, just slower than normal.

I spent Wednesday evening in Santa Fe, NM, at a Doubletree Hotel. The next day, Thursday, I had made it across ‘the heartland of America’, flying northeast across OK/KS/NE and landed in Lincoln, NE for the night. The nice folks at Duncan Aviation were able to arrange a room for me at a Marriott Courtyard Hotel downtown. The third day, Friday, I made it to Clinton, IA for the Cessna 150 fly-in and lunch there, and then tookoff in mid-afternoon and flew 1+20 northeast to Dodge County, WI for the night.

Planning is Key

The next day, Saturday, the ‘mass arrival’ was planned, during the early afternoon, with just over 100 Cessna’s flying in formation, 35 ‘flights’ of three aircraft each, stretching out several miles. All coordinated with Oshkosh ATC, of course. See the image with ‘Xs’ for airplanes, at right, that illustrate this. It’s a very highly organized, well-planned, ‘arrival’. What a blast!! It took about 50 minutes for this flight…

And then the weather moved in. A typical Wisconsin summer afternoon thunderstorm moved in on us at around 5 pm, with a torrential downpour and wind gusts up to 50 mph! It lasted over an hour. Some tents were blown down. It was a bad start to the week for some campers. Fortunately, I was staying in the dorms. For the rest of the week, the weather was excellent!

It was a very busy week in Oshkosh, each day packed with activities and things to see and do. And you simply cannot see it all, because so much is going on simultaneously all around you. And there are lots of friends and colleagues to connect with, as well, some of whom I only see once a year while there. I am also actively involved as a volunteer for two organizations, and this adds to it for me. This included breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with various organizations.

So after a crazy busy week, I had arranged to leave on Saturday morning, July 30, and Row of small planesflew 90 minutes south and east to north suburban Chicago, to the same airport where I had learned to fly in 1977, after college. It’s still there, but now ‘rebranded’, like so many other things. The former ‘Pal-Waukee’ Airport is now renamed Chicago Executive Airport, because of the large presence of corporate jets that are now based there. It is a really nice facility.

Weather, Good and Bad

After a fun weekend visit with family, who wanted to hear all about my adventures so far, I delayed my departure on Monday morning because of early morning thunderstorms and the lingering adverse weather conditions that followed it. And one of my brothers drove my mother and I to the airport on Monday morning. So, they finally got to see my airplane! That was nice.

Then after hugs and goodbyes, I flew north for about 30 miles, staying low enough to avoid Chicago O’Hare’s Class ‘Bravo’ Airspace, though I did get ‘flight following’ from Chicago Approach (radar facility at KORD) which was very helpful, and then turned west to my first stop, Dubuque, IA, where the weather was much better! After getting fuel and lunch, I took off and continued southwest towards Des Moines, IA, for fuel, and then finally, Lincoln, NE, where I stopped for the night.

The next morning, I left Lincoln, taking off by 7:30am, and flew southwest to Salina, KS, then Dodge County, KS, Dalhart, TX and finally due west to Santa Fe, NM, for the night. And the airport restaurant in Dalhart, TX had closed before I arrived! Darn, no lunch! So, I continued to Santa Fe, about a 2 ½ hour flight, dealing with headwinds, turbulence and dodging some rain showers along the way. All of that is typical of this area. They were not threatening in any way. And Santa Fe was very nice!

Finally, my 3rd day, I left Santa Fe early, then flew west to the small city of Gallup, NM. There a new fuel vendor was just starting in business, and there were a few things that weren’t ready. Like the credit card kiosk. After my credit card was declined several times, I went to their office and told them about this. They quickly took care of me, and I was able to get fuel and leave.

Next stop Winslow, AZ where the 100LL was $1.26 a gallon cheaper than at Flagstaff! So, I topped off in Winslow and headed for Lake Havasu City, over the mountainous terrain in northern Arizona. Just over 2 hours en route, I stopped there for fuel and lunch in the 105° heat. Ugh. I am no fan of the heat. But they have a nice on airport restaurant, Hangar 24, with indoor dining and of course it’s air conditioned!

After lunch, I took off and because of the hot sun shining through the ‘skylight’ windows overhead on my airplane (only a few Cessna 150’s have them), both my iPad and iPhone soon overheated! Ugh. I turned both off and moved them out of the sun. I knew what heading to fly and headed south and west across the rugged, mountainous, southern California desert. It’s a harsh landscape! Especially in the summer heat! I’d hate to have a forced landing there because of engine problems.

Finally, about 2 ½ hours later, again after fighting headwinds and turbulence, I arrived back in Long Beach! It was good to be back home, after two weeks traveling with my tiny Cessna 150. But it was quite an adventure!! No regrets.

There were lessons learned, and more….much to share, as well. Too much to write about, here, in more detail. I’m working on all of that, now. If you have questions or comments about any of this, please reply using the comments box…

Considering a long cross-country flight?

I am available for training, in your airplane, should you be in need of any FAA Wings Training for Credit. Also, if you are considering a longer cross-country flight, and have not done this before, please get in touch and I can provide some help with the planning and other considerations. There are many, depending on what you fly.

Especially concerning the weather. Many pilots are not comfortable with their understanding of weather, or lack thereof. I can help with this. Weather has long been an area of interest for me. I got ‘official’ weather briefings daily along my route. I’d call ‘Flight Service’, or ‘Leidos’ as they are now called, in the evening for an ‘outlook’ the next day, and then I’d call again in the morning before taking off to get a ‘standard’ weather briefing, and along the way I’d call and get an ’update’. The briefers did an excellent job. In addition, a friend had recently sold me his Garmin GDL-52 Sirius XM Aviation Weather receiver, that connects via Bluetooth to my ForeFlight iPad app, so I had real-time inflight weather info.

Also, I will be creating some quick reference materials that will be available in PDF format, containing some tips and lessons learned from this, that you will be able to download for a nominal fee.

Fly safely,

John

Closeup of TRF-LA

No Fly Zones

Because of the World Economic Forum Annual Gathering that was held in Los Angeles, June 6 – 10, 2022, the FAA implemented several TFR’s, (temporary flight restrictions), effectively creating ‘no fly zones’ for those of us flying smaller aircraft.

TFR’s, (temporary flight restrictions), effectively creates ‘no fly zones’

The screenshot shows the many TFR’s,(temporary flight restrictions), ‘no fly zones’ in red circles.

The President, VP, along with many dignitaries and world leaders were attending the Forum. It was a security nightmare, I am sure. Anytime there is an event like this, the DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security) collaborates with the Secret Service and the FAA to create and implement TFR’s, as needed. TFR’s can be implemented for any number of reasons, such as: when there are large forest fires, to keep transient aircraft out of an area to keep it clear for firefighting aircraft dropping water or retardant, also for major sporting events at stadiums, and to provide the required protection for Air Force 1 (AF1) and Air Force 2 (AF2), as a matter of national security. So, both AF1 and AF2, were out here, both at different airports, having brought both the President and the Vice President out here. Coincidently, VP Harris also has a home out here, in Brentwood, CA. She’s a regular visitor to SoCal.

So how does this affect us, as pilots? The inner rings are ‘no fly zones’ unless you are on an IFR flight plan, like the airlines. The outer rings allow some additional operations. The screenshot above from my ForeFlight iPad app, shows the many TFR’s, in red circles, and when you touch the screen on a particular TFR, it will then show the times and dates that each is in effect, along with other pertinent data. In this case, they are centered on LAX. The inner and outer ‘rings’ are circles of different diameters, typically 10, 20 or 30NM (nautical miles), and they may go up to 17,999’, or lower, depending on circumstances. Many smaller general aviation airports in the LA basin are also affected this week. This is the first time I have seen so many TFR’s that overlap like this.

Airline, corporate and military aircraft are not affected. They are on an IFR (instrument) flight plan, and ATC knows what they are doing, where they are going. When a TFR in created, the FAA issues a NOTAM (Notice to Airman), informing ALL pilots.

It’s the typical ‘private pilot’ who is most affected by‘no fly zones’, who doesn’t need to file a flight plan to fly from one airport to the next, in good weather. We are typically flying smaller propeller-driven aircraft. We cannot fly in the outer rings of the TFR unless we are transponder equipped and are in communication with ATC. Additional restrictions may apply.

We have restrictions placed on when and where we can or cannot fly, anyway, staying well clear of busy airline hubs like LAX, and keeping the ‘airspace’ clear, secure, or ‘sterile’ and allowing for arriving and departing jet traffic. As for myself, I am not flying my Cessna 150 this week with all of the TFR’s that are in effect. I’m not taking any chances!

And normally, 99.9% of the time, those of us flying ‘smaller’ general aviation aircraft, are compliant, we follow the rules and stay clear of these areas. We do not want to cause a problem. However, occasionally there is a problem, for whatever reason(s). Things happen. Usually, it’s accidental. When this happens, there are consequences.

Violators can be safely intercepted by the military or law enforcement, in flight, following well established protocols and procedures, and are directed to land. After landing, offending pilots are then apprehended by law enforcement, interrogated, and usually face violations, sometimes fines and possibly suspensions of their certificates, by the FAA, depending on the circumstances. This is serious stuff!

And, when warranted, the FAA arranges for remedial training, so the offending pilots do not make the same mistake, again. I know, because in years past, as a CFI working with the FAA in a volunteer capacity, I was one of the instructors who were selected to occasionally provide this remedial training to offending pilots. I was of course paid for my time. Most offending pilots were grateful for the opportunity to get additional the training and did not make the same mistake again.

So, avoid TFR’s, check NOTAMs before flight, and fly safely!

John

Emergency Landing, Aviation Event 1

Two significant aviation events…

This month, May 2022, there have been two very different but significant aviation events. One aviation event that started out badly ended up with a good outcome, and the other aviation event that started out as a fun event quickly took a turn for the worse, with one fatality.

ATC controller steps up during aviation event!

First, the good news. On Wednesday, May 11, a single engine turboprop, a Cessna 208 Caravan was successfully landed at Palm Beach Int’l Airport in Florida, KPBI, after the pilot became incapacitated. The Caravan was off-shore Florida, returning from a trip to the Bahamas, when the pilot suddenly became incapacitated. A passenger who was in the right seat, keyed the Push-To-Talk button on the yoke/control wheel, and told ATC,  “I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane, but I am maintaining (at) 9,100 (feet),” the passenger told Fort Pierce air traffic control around 11:21 a.m.

When asked where he was, he replied that he had no idea. Controllers carefully explained to him how to turn and fly North, and then they were able to eventually determine his position on radar. The ATC controllers at the facility also realized that one of their controllers was also a flight instructor. They quickly found him and he immediately jumped into action, explaining to the passenger what to do, miraculously guiding the Cessna to a safe landing on the runway at Palm Beach International, at about 12:37pm. That was just incredible, to be able to land the airplane on the runway like that, for a non-pilot. Kudos to the pilot and instructor who is also an ATC controller! Well done!

High Surface Winds

Then on May 20, another aviation event started out with good intentions, but quickly took a turn for the worst. There was a gathering of pilots at the Wayne Muni./Stan Morris Field, KLCG, in Wayne, Nebraska, a small airport in the northeast Nebraska. Pilots were there for a friendly STOL (short takeoff and landing) competition. It was planned to be a four-day event, complete with sponsors.

However, the weather did not cooperate, as there were high surface winds, and some contests were improvised as a result. During the fourth heat of one contest, one pilots’ Cessna 140 got low and slow while maneuvering on final approach following another airplane and suddenly rolled inverted (stall/spin?) at about 300’, leaving no room to recover. It was suddenly pointed straight down, quickly striking the ground and killing the pilot on impact! OMG!

This was a quite a shock to all who were there. Immediately after this, the STOL event was canceled, and the participants responded appropriately, offering what support and condolences they could to the family of the deceased. They then departed. My condolences, thoughts, and prayers as well, to the family of the deceased pilot, Tom Dafoe. He owned the Cessna 140 he was flying. An investigation into this accident will be taking place.

What a contrast. Sometimes things go this way. Aviation can be terribly unforgiving at times, even to experienced pilots. It happens. There are always lessons to be learned.

What about you? How’s your flying? If you’d like to review anything, any maneuvers, or review any subject matter, please let me know. We can arrange a time and place or do it virtually via Zoom. I’m flexible.

Fly safely,

John

Flabob Cafe

Flabob Airport, a step back in time

Fun Flying my 92-year-old pilot friend to Flabob Airport, a step back in time

John and GeneIn early April, I had the opportunity to give an airplane ride to a pilot friend of mine to Flabob Airport, who is now 92! What a treat! At 92, he is still sharp as a tack but is hard of hearing. Of course. But he was able to get up and around. Gene career was in engineering. He has been both a pilot and aircraft owner for many years, but no longer flies. But I recently learned that he would very much like to go up again, and ‘slip the surly bonds’, as the poem goes, so we did. A friend and I took care of the arrangements.

Gene and JohnWe met at the airport, and took pictures before getting in. Then I helped him to climb into the front right seat, which is a BIG step up in a Cessna 180. Then I carefully closed his door and got in on my side. We took off from Long Beach Airport and went on a short, 25-minute flight, at about 2,500’ east over the LA basin, to Flabob Airport in Riverside, CA. To my surprise, Gene had not flown into Flabob before. Flabob Airport is like a step back in time. A single runway, non-tower airport, home to many Vintage aircraft, including the DC-3 that I was able to fly in September 2021.

We taxied in and parked in front of the Flabob Airport Café, then went in and had lunch. The Flabob Café is a family run restaurant, decorated with airplane memorabilia from a bygone era. Both the food and service are good. Following lunch, we made our way back to the airplane and took off again for Long Beach. Gene thoroughly enjoyed the flight! It was my pleasure to be able to take him on a flight. Once a pilot, always a pilot! It was also fun to fly my Cessna 180 again, because I don’t fly it as much as I used to.

How about you? What kind of fun flying have you done, lately? I hope you are doing some FUN flying, to FUN places!

IF you’d like to review anything, maneuvers, or book work, please let me know. We can arrange a time and place, or do it virtually via Zoom. I’m flexible.

Fly safely,

John

Mechanic2

Aircraft mechanics – we need ‘em!

The March/April 2022 issue of the FAA’s Safety Briefing magazine is ALL about ‘Meet the Maintainers’, referring of course to what we informally refer to as ‘A&Ps’, aka Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics. Or more formally known as an AMT, aviation maintenance technician. Regardless, we need ‘em to maintain our airplanes. Aircraft mechanics ARE vital to our having aircraft that are safe and airworthy to fly.

MechanicIF an airplane is not properly maintained, various components are prone to suffer from neglect and exposure to the elements, like the sun and moisture, heating, and cooling. Corrosion forms. Tires go flat. Hoses grow old and brittle and begin to crack. Once tight fittings become lose. You get the idea. No doubt, some are flown anyway, by pilots who have their own ideas about this kind of thing. We tend to read about those who do this stuff.

Way too many pilots do not know nearly enough about the airplanes they fly, and what’s required to keep ‘em flying. Seriously. I was one of them, myself, many years, no, make that decades ago when I was just starting out, learning to fly. I’ve learned quite a bit now being an airplane owner myself, but there is always more to learn.

I come from a (family) background that was not necessarily mechanically oriented. What did I know? Not nearly enough, looking back. And now, because of our ‘throw away’ modern culture, where many things are not repaired but instead are replaced, not many bothers to learn about machines of any kind, nor what it takes to keep them running anymore.

So, this month the FAA recognizes and celebrates the ‘maintainers’ as they refer to them. It’s no small responsibility. And, you may be surprised to know, AMT’s have their own FAA requirements that they have to meet, which of course includes ongoing education, just like pilots. They also have an award, like pilots, recognizing those who have 50 years’ experience as AMT’s, which is the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award.

Way back when, Charles Taylor was the mechanic whom the Wright Brothers hired to fix bicycles in their bicycle repair shop, in Dayton, OH, but he ended up also designing and building the 4-cylinder engine used in their historic Wright Flyer, their first powered airplane, with which they made their historic flight back in December 1903.

So, my hat is off to all of those who keep us flying, in our many different aircraft. Our flying machines; many different shapes and sizes for a wide variety of ‘missions’. Thank you for ALL that you do to keep us flying. And my Cessna 150 is scheduled for its ‘annual’ inspection next month, April. I will be helping out my mechanic, without getting in the way, as he systematically goes through inspecting all that needs inspecting. So, I learn more about my airplane in the process. It’s all part of ownership, as I see it.

And, if you want to work on improving your flying knowledge, skills, and proficiency, get in touch with me. Let’s schedule some time to work on whatever is needed.

Fly safely,

John

Flying the Stearman Biplane

I recently had the opportunity to fly a Stearman biplane again! Flying the Stearman is fun!

My friend Mike Hanson owns a beautifully restored 1943 Stearman biplane, based at nearby Compton, Airport, KCPM, in Compton, CA. We had a deal; he flew with me in my 1970 Cessna 150 for some required proficiency training to maintain his pilot qualifications, and in return he offered me a chance get a ride in his Stearman and fly it!

Well, flying the Stearman is SO MUCH fun!! I last flew a Stearman about 35 years ago, at a small airport in Harvard, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. It was a beautiful day here in Southern California. And, despite the Stearman’s larger size, and because of the drag of the large struts and the large frontal area of the Continental R-670-5 radial engine, it is really not that fast, either. But flying ‘open cockpit’ is fun!

To my surprise, it is light on the controls, and is easy to fly! But the view from the cockpit for maneuvering on the ground and for takeoff and landings is a challenge. Because we sit behind the engine, we can only look to either side. I sat in front, and Mike was in the rear, on the controls. We wore leather flying jackets and headsets and had an intercom so we could communicate. I was a passenger as he taxied out and did the takeoff and the landing. Once in flight, he let me fly. What fun!

Our route of flight was “straight-outta-Compton” 1000′ agl, Alondra Park, then southwest to King Harbor then wing-up southbound along the shoreline to Palos Verdes Peninsula, L.A. / Long Beach Harbors, Queen Mary, North 710 LGB transition for the overhead approach returning to Compton.

Along the way, over the Breakwater at the edge of the LA harbor, we did some ‘turns about a point’, or ‘ground reference maneuvers’, as they are called, when you maneuver down low, between 600’ and 1,000’, and try to maintain a prescribed course over the ground while correcting for the wind. That’s how student pilots learn to correct for the wind. And, when we were up higher, at about 3,000’, I did a few medium and steep banked turns (60°), and then a power off (at idle) stall or two. It was fun to practice this basic maneuvers. It was fun flying around in a big yellow biplane on a sunny afternoon! IF you are interested in getting a ride in this Stearman, their website is www.biplanefun.com

Flying the Stearman is wonderful for practicing basic ‘stick ‘n rudder’ skills! Remember, the Stearman was used for primary pilot training by the US Army Air Corp (before it became the US Air Force) back in early WWII and taught 1000’s of army pilots basic flying skills. Hence the designation, PT-17, Primary Trainer.

Have you, the reader, if you are a pilot, practiced basic stick ‘n rudder skills lately? If not, get in touch with me and we can do this in the airplane you are flying. It’s so important to keep your basic flying skills sharp! Too many pilots are letting their piloting skills atrophy with more and more automation in the cockpit, as I mentioned in a recent blog.

Fly safely,

John