Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Coolest Feeling in the World!!

Ouch!!  I just realized it's been 8 weeks since my last post.  I am happy to say that I have done my fair share of flying in that time, which means I have compiled plenty of footage.  The only problem with that is finding the time to edit all the video, get it uploaded and then blog about it.  Uggh!

I have to admit, I brought some of it on myself.  Since my last post, I have upgraded to a pro video production software package and I have also added in-flight audio.  This all adds up to lots of new pieces added to the puzzle, as well as plenty to learn - especially with the software.

I'm going to leapfrog several trips to our most recent adventure from this past Sunday.  My wife and I were scheduled to take a flight up to Beaver Island to see one of our favorite bands perform on Friday night.  Unfortunately, the weather was pretty bad and we had to cancel that trip.  As I was reviewing the weather for the Friday flight, I noticed that Sunday was forecast to be really nice.  I started thinking where we might want to fly to and started checking destination forecasts.  It just so happened that the weather was looking equally as nice down in Lexington, where much of our family lives.  Our work schedules have kept us both pretty busy, so we hadn't been down to visit since January.

I decided that, even though we could only go for the day, we would fly down and surprise everyone after church.  I also decided that I would surprise my wife. Hehe! She had no idea and was elated when she saw me program KLEX into the Garmin 430's.  What a great day it turned out to be.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  You see, the weather didn't turn out to be anywhere near what was forecast; this held true for both our home base and our destination.

We awoke at sunrise to beautiful clear blue sky.  I made a quick check of the METARs and found the weather to be 10SM and SKC (10 Statue Miles Visibility and Clear Skies) over most of our route of flight.  The forecasts showed some slightly reduced visibilities for haze, but nothing that warranted any concern.

About 30 minutes before we were set to leave for the airport, fog and an overcast layer rolled in.  Luckily, the ceilings weren't real low, so this simply meant we would have to pickup our clearance on the ground before departing.  8D4 is a non-towered airport.  As well, there is no RCO to communicate with Grand Rapids or Chicago Center to pickup a clearance.  This means that we have to call KGRR via phone to receive our departure clearance.  I've actually never had to do that outside of my training, but luckily, my Bose A20 has Bluetooth, which made calling up Grand Rapids right from the run-up area a snap.

As you'll see in the video, we departed 8D4 and made our turn to the south.  Shortly after our turn, we entered the clouds.  The climb through the clouds was a little bumpy, as is to be expected and I hadn't had any actual IFR in the last few weeks, so I was alert and prepared to go on the gauges.

We continued our climb and I began to grow eager for what I was certain was to come next.  Most definitely one of the most incredible things a human being can experience is to climb through an overcast layer into the bright blue sky with unlimited visibilities.  It is completely exhilarating to go from the overcast gloom on the ground and the thick grey soup in the clouds to the indescribable contrast of the deep blue sky and the bright white cotton-textured clouds.  The feeling of utter awe continues as you climb higher above the clouds and look down onto a blanket of white beneath you - the clouds with their ever-changing textures and shapes.  If it sounds prophetic, it's because it IS!!  Don't believe me, well, as my blog says, "Come Fly with Me" and experience it for yourself.

So, as I've eluded to, the footage I have for you this time is of our flight through the clouds and into the clear blue sky.  Oh, our trip to Lexington was great!  Though the weather really went downhill just prior to our arrival and we had to fly an ILS into KLEX.  We were solid IFR from Cincinnati until we broke out at 400ft above minimums.  And when I say broke out, I mean broke out of the cloud layer into a haze layer that wasn't much better.  It was a workout, but as always, extremely rewarding!

More from the air soon...

IFR Departure - Coolest Feeling in the World!!! from Short Final on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First IFR Flight with the iPad2

I apologize in advance for the limited video footage from this trip.  I experienced a couple of technical issues with both the camera and mount, which limited the amount of video I was able to capture and caused excessive shaking during the footage I did manage to acquire.  Besides that, the weather was MVFR (Marginal Visual Flight Rules) with lots of haze, so there wasn't a ton to see anyway.  Nonetheless, it was a fun trip.

So, we begin at my home base of 8D4 (Sparta, Michigan) where I was fortunate enough to have a close friend come along for the trip down to Indianapolis (KUMP).  The weather was great at both our departure and destination, however, it was LIFR (Low Instrument Flight Rules) at most locations in between.  For those that are not pilots, this means that the weather at most other airports along our route of flight had very limited visibilities.  In the case of an emergency, these airports may not be available for landing.  With that and since we weren't in any real hurry, I elected to push back our departure to let the fog burn off a bit along our route.

We departed about 90 minutes later than originally planned in clear blue skies, but we soon began overflying a broken fog layer just south of Grand Rapids.  This slowly dissipated as we flew through northern Indiana.  We did get to see an interesting phenomena related to the fog.  Around Kalamazoo, we noticed a black cloud protruding above the white fog.  As we flew closer to it, we could see that it was smoke or pollution sitting on top of the fog.  The contrast really made for an interesting sight.

Smoke on Top of the Fog
The remainder of our flight to Indy was pretty uneventful, though there was quite a bit of traffic as we entered the pattern, especially considering the limited visibility at our destination.  That made for a busy time looking for traffic through some pretty thick haze.  We eventually made a nice landing and taxied to the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) to get our rental car.

After taking care of our business and grabbing some lunch, we were headed back to Sparta ahead of some weather associated with a front cutting through central Indiana.  Aside from a couple of pockets of turbulence, the flight was more of the same - hazy, overcast and smooth.  The fog had burned off though, so at least my passenger and I had more to look at during our return.

That brings me to the title of this blog post (finally).....this was my first full IFR trip with the iPad2.  I have been trying different mounts to use in the DA40 aircraft.  Anyone familiar with this aircraft knows that lap/kneeboard space is limited.  I tried a kneeboard "clip" device on a previous VFR flight.  It worked okay, but I just wasn't comfortable with the clearance between the stick and the clips on the mount.  For this trip, I had a Ram Mount cradle.  This device has a heavy duty suction cup on one end and a cradle for the iPad2 on the other.  As it turns out, it works perfectly in the DA40.  The iPad2 was very easy to see and actually close enough that I was still able to use my right had to tap the screen.  This means my left hand never has to leave the controls.

I have the 64GB Verizon 3G version of the iPad2.  This allows me to actually pull down weather and other information via the various flying apps that I have installed.  My core apps consist of ForeFlight, Jeppesen Mobile TC, Garmin Pilot-My-Cast and the Sporty's E6B Flight Computer.  All of these apps performed at least as well as expected.  I maintained 3G coverage for most all of the flight and I never noticed the GPS go out of service at all.  In fact, I do not recall the reported accuracy going above 10 meters; staying on 5 meters most of the time.  Of course, as pilots, we all know that the information on the iPad is for situational awareness only.  What a great tool it is for that!

The video footage I have included below is really just to show you the iPad2 mount as I had it configured in the DA40 on this trip.  As previosuly mentioned, the video is very shaky, so I've limited it to a minute or so.  While the lighting doesn't allow you to see the actual data on the screen very well (if at all), you can see how it is mounted and you can even see me interact with the device (tapping) on a couple of occasions.

Well, I guess that pretty much does it for this time.  I will do my best to get some more footage here in the next week or so.  Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about the iPad2, the apps, the mount or any general flying questions, please do not hesitate to comment.

More from the air soon...


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Flying to 48D, Clare Municipal Airport, for a Little Dinner

So, I guess I have to start somewhere.  I have quite a bit of footage and photos from our many trips and I have always wanted to setup a website or blog to share it all, but I just haven't had the time.  Of course, nothing much has changed there, but if I don't just sit down and do it....I would never have this blog - LOL!

So, my first official trip report is from yesterday, for an after work dinner hop to my old stomping grounds - Clare, Michigan.  "The Gateway to the North" as the slogan goes.  We've made this trip on several other occasions.  They have a decent courtesy car and with the lower volume of (air) traffic, we can usually get it without having a reservation.

Unfortunately, the plane wasn't fueled when we arrived at the hangar (in Sparta), so we were almost 30 mins late leaving.  That kind of chewed up a good chunk of the time we had planned for dinner, but we made the most of it.  Anyway, so we took off from Sparta on runway 7.  One of the neatest things we got to see on this trip was the snow line from the storm that came across MI last week.  This has been clearly visible in the satellite photos as of late.  We climbed to 5,500 feet and we could easily see the same snow line - no snow in Sparta, but plenty beginning around Lakeview.  I haven't rendered all the video footage yet for you to see it from the cockpit, but here's a photo of what I'm talking about:

It was pretty cool to see such a distinct line such as this from the air.  The remainder of the flight to Clare was pretty uneventful, though it was odd to go from almost spring at the house, to almost the dead of winter in less than 30 minutes.

Given our later than anticipated arrival, we had to settle for the drive-thru in Clare.  It's not exactly what we had planned, but those kinds of things just seem to make it even more fun sometimes; like eating our food in an airport terminal we had all to ourselves.  Good times!

Okay, so on to the fun stuff.  Here's the video of us landing on runway 4 in Clare.  The video begins on the downwind leg of our approach.  For any of you familiar with the Clare area, after we turn onto our base leg (the first turn to the left in the video), you will notice Shamrock Lake off the left nose and downtown Clare off the right nose.  We basically flew right over Pettit Park/Buccilli's Pizza.  At the end of the video, as we turn to back taxi to the hangar, you will see me pointing - there was a yard of deer in the field.  A yard means 50+ deer!!!!  Not exactly something we get excited about given their proximity to the runway.  You can't really make out the deer in the video due to the wide-angle lens.  When we departed, I actually had to taxi down the runway to "encourage" the deer to move a bit further away, before back taxiing once again and departing.  Enjoy the video and please feel free to comment or ask questions.

More from the air soon...