Sunday, December 2, 2012

Challenger Take-off Video

Recently I few over to Airlane Airport (1H1) near Clay, NY. Airlane on
It is privately owned, but open to the public.

In the past I had eyed this airport and made a few passes, however the field looked a little soft so I never landed in my Cessna 150. It has been a relatively dry fall so I decided to check it out in the Challenger.

Circling I could see that the northern 2/3 of Rwy 01/19 looked a little wet so I decided to use 01 and hopefully stop short of the soft sections.


Crossing the road and slipping over the power lines I was well into the flair as the ground dropped away faster than my Challenger descended. As the runway leveled out I was able to touch down and and get on the brakes stopping with about 100 feet of good dry grass remaining. While 100 feet may not seem like much, a Challenger approaching at 45 mph and touching down in the low 30's with a 200' ground roll, 100 feet is a 50% margin. 

The owner Ray Florczyk II came out to greet me. A very friendly and chatty guy, he is happy to share his peaceful airport with visiting pilots. He cautioned me to overfly the runway after a period of rain before landing. As with a lot of these small airports we need to use some common sense and accept responsibility for our decisions and the risks.

My Challenger II at Airlane

I thanked Ray and said I would be back in the spring to take him for a ride in the Challenger and also get some pictures of him flying his Aeronca Champ.

That evening I received an email from him with a link to a video of my take-off. I edited it in iMovie and this morning posted it to YouTube

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Afternoon Flight to Williamson-Sodus

Election day. After a cup of tea and visit to the polling station, I head over to Marcellus Airport for some flying. At first I wasn't sure where I wanted to go but decided on Williamson-Sodus. It would be after 3:00 by the time I was in the air and last weekend we set the clocks back. Dark comes surprisingly early now.

Williamson-Sodus was only 36 miles to the NW and there should be plenty of time for this flight.

Climbing out I started to level at 4,500', but by the time I had fine tuned the trim and throttle I had drifted up to 5,000' in this eager to climb ship. Cruising along at 5,000 rpm and low 60's mph, it quite cool in the plane and I was really happy I didn't give in to my desire to take the doors off for photography. While not bad in the afternoon sun and calm winds on the ground at 40 degrees, at altitude it was likely in the low 20's!

The atmosphere was quite hazy below me, but the air was very smooth. I relaxed and simply enjoyed the view along the way.

West of Weedsport, NY the sun reflects off the Barge Canal

Ten minutes out for Williamson-Sodus I began my descent. This worked out great as just ahead there was an increasing cover of clouds at about 4,000'.

Descending through cloud height

Sodus Bay on Lake Ontario

I wanted to do some photography along the shoreline but decided to wait until after a short stop. I would stay lower after departure and fly east along the lakeshore. Besides, I had my descent roughly timed to put me at the 500' pattern altitude that seems to work best in slow aircraft like this.

Turning final for rwy 10

It was about 4:00 when I landed. As you can see from the shadows a few moments earlier while on final, the sun was already quite low. A quick visit to the office and a shot of my plane which is already taking on the flattering, but in this case uncomfortable glow of sunset, I am back in the air.

After a circle of the airport for a photo it is obvious there isn't going to be time to fly along the lake. As I turn on course with an indicated airspeed of 62 mph (55kts) see my ground speed is only 48 kts! Yes, that's only a 7 kt headwind but seeing such a slow speed is unsettling. Normally I'm quite happy to sit and watch the Earth slowly move below. One of my favorite sayings is "The sky is where I want to be and when I arrive at my destination the fun is over".

The sun is now quite low in the sky. My Garmin Pilot app indicates about 45 minutes to Marcellus. That would be after 5:00. When does it get dark? Yesterday it was about 5:20 and it was dark, but it was cloudy too.

I up the rpm to 5,500 and get near 70 (mph) There is always an opportunity to land at Weedsport. That is only about 9 minutes from my destination so if I make it that far then only if it is almost pitch black would it make sense to stop there.

I watch shadows grow, valleys fade into shadow and finally the glacial drumlin hills are no longer in the sunlight. 

Cross Lake and the Belt of Venus rising in the sky.

Final glide into the pattern at Marcellus. Car lights along Rt 5 and the city of Syracuse in the distance

I can now see I will make my destination. There won't be much time to spare but there will be plenty of light to see. I turn on my strobes and lower the nose.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Flight to Lake Placid, NY

For the past couple weeks I've been waiting for a opportunity to visit with a Canadian soaring clubs' Wave Camp in Lake Placid. Jeff in VA, Phil in Hamilton, NY and I were all trying to coordinate trips so we could spend some time together there.

After a dry and hot summer, this fall has been cool and moist. As weekends approached weather would move in late in the week making it difficult for Jeff to fly up and also giving doubt to the soaring conditions during the weekend.

This weekend with showers Friday morning and forecast again by late Saturday, Phil asked if I would be interested in riding up with him. Phil has a beautiful and meticulously maintained Cessna 140 with 100 hp. It climbs about 2-1/2 times as fast as my '65 Cessna 150 and cruises much faster than my Challenger II, and well suited to flight in the High Peaks.

I could drive over to Hamilton. It is about 1:10 from my home in Camillus. Or I could fly fly over. Driving to the airport, getting the plane ready and the flight over at ~65 would only take an hour and thirty total. So flying is the obvious choice!

Leaving work the night before early with a couple hours of vacation allowed me to get about 5 hours sleep and wake at 8:30. However, half asleep as I climbed into bed I set my alarm for 8:30 PM rather than AM. Luckily, I woke just before 9, grabbed my stuff and headed out. I discovered that Saturday morning at 9:10 is not the time to want coffee from Duncan Dounuts. Passing it, there was a double line of cars backed up to the road. Fortunately, just across the street there is a MickeyD. I really need my caffeine fix in the morning. Trying to call Phil I realized his cell number wasn't in my phone.

The Challenger was checked and readied the day before so within a short time I was climbing in the 30 degree air heading southeast to round the Syracuse airspace before turning east.

Looking SW across Otisco and Skaneateles Lakes

Skies were blue and the air crystal clear with visibility at least 100 miles. Winds aloft were out of the south and I needed a noticeable correction with my 62 mph cruising speed at 3,500'.

At 37 miles this was going to be my longest flight yet in my new Challenger. Previous flights had all been within about 10 miles as I sorted through a few minor issues with this 'new to me' plane. In level flight through smooth air I was finally able to relax and simply enjoy the great view out the challengers' huge clear doors.

So many interesting things to see along the way!

Approaching Hamilton (VGC) I kept my eyes scanning the sky. Not only was it the weekend and a beautiful day but it was also "Homecoming" weekend at Colgate University and that means jets and turboprops at an otherwise quiet airport. The only aircraft other than a couple Cessnas in the pattern was a Aircoupe that overtook and passed me a few miles out like I was standing still.

At Hamilton, Phil had offered me use of his hangar to keep the Challenger safe while we were gone. After some help squeezing its big, fat and not too high wings over his car, we loaded up and headed northeast over Utica towards the hills.

Once you leave the Mohawk Valley the land rises up and becomes almost solid forest and lakes for the next 90 miles. There are very few options for landing, unless you have floats. For this reason I decided that if I were to fly the Challenger to Placid, and I will someday, the best route would be a longer route around the Adirondack Park. From Syracuse I would fly north to Watertown, then turn northeast to Gouverneur and Potsdam before turning southeast at high altitude. Something like that would add about 50 minutes to the flight but would keep me over mostly farmland for all but 40 miles.

Blue Mountain with the High Peaks ahead on the left.

Blue Mountain is a nice day hike. It does get a little steep towards the top but the reward is a fire tower on the summit that gives a great view for many miles around. It isn't a long hike and can easily be done in an afternoon. Blue Mountain trail map

Looking northeast along the route towards the High Peaks. Whiteface Mountain is in the distance center left. 

From a distance it appeared that the peaks had cap clouds. As we approached we could see it was snow! Only four weeks before I was camping and hiking here in pleasant Fall weather.

Algonquin is about a quarter of the way in from the left. Giant in the center back. Marcy, the highest point in NY on the extreme right side.

Crossing the mountains and descending into Lake Placid with Whiteface in the background.

Olympic ski jumps from final

On final. Note the displaced threshold. This is needed as the approach to runway 32 is right over  significantly higher terrain. After what seemed like skimming the treetops on base leg, we looked high on final. However Phil was right on the money, touching down shortly after the threshold.

Once on the ground Phil topped off the tanks and after a quick visit to the FBO office we walked along the taxiway, then next to the runway to the approach end of the runway where the glider operation was based.

We visited with our neighbors to the north for a while and shared a few stories. 

Cessna Bird Dog towplane

Duo Discus on take off roll

After watching a few landings and departures it was time to head back to the 140 for the flight home.

We did find some lift approaching the hills...

 Phil, one of the best pilots around.

Early in the day it seemed there was so much time. As we departed there was already cirrus moving in from the west ahead of an approaching warm front. Thickening as we headed southwest into alto-cumulus the cloudcover made for a beautiful sky and also softened the sun in our eyes.

Back in the lowlands. Griffiss Airport, the Barge Canal and Oneida Lake. We thought the reduced visibility below the clouds in the distance was haze. As I discovered returning to Marcellus, it was drizzle.

Phil's Cessna 140 and my Challenger II

Flying home I ran into a some drizzle. Not enough to wash the plane, but enough to realize that rain comes in the hinge on the windshield. Some gap seal tape should take care of that.

Back home and tucked away in the hangar. 
Ready for the warm sunny weather forecast later in the week.

Thanks Phil for inviting me along to share this with you!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Returning to a Challenger II

For much of the last 12 years I had been flying gliders with Iroquois Soaring Association. First with their ships, then purchasing my own Pilatus B4 PC11, followed by Glasflugel Libelle 201B. Great aircraft, both of them. Decent glide, low sink rate and easy to fly. I averaged 3 hours per flight from a 25 dollar tow!

A few years back I had the opportunity to purchase a Cessna 150 with my friend Kate. I saw this as an opportunity to fly without the need to assemble/disassemble or to be dependent on tow pilots or soaring weather. Now I could cruise places.

At the time, fuel was about $4.00/gal so with a plan to throttle back to less than 5 gph I could keep flying costs low.

Almost immediately I found that our little Cessna's engine didn't like lugging around at 2200 rpm. Plugs were fouling, and at run-up we were seeing excessive rpm drops. On advice from our mechanic I kept the rpms up. This solved the problem with plugs but brought fuel burn up to over 6 gph. Over the  past couple years fuel prices have risen to over $6.00/gal.

At this rate flying wasn't unaffordable, but I wasn't feeling like I could just go up for no reason other than 'it was a nice day'.

About 6 weeks ago there was a note on my hangar door with a phone number. One of the local pilots had bought a Challenger and wanted me to ride along with him until he was feeling comfortable. I instructed in a Challenger back in the 90s but hadn't flown in one since 2000. They aren't at all difficult to fly, but they do fly a little different from regular aircraft and it takes some getting used to.

We took a few flights together and he did just fine. However for personal reasons he decided he would take a break from flying and wanted to know if I was interested in buying the plane. At first I said no, but after a couple flights alone I knew buying the plane would be a good decision for me.

I immediately felt at home in this plane. Though quite a bit heavier than the Challenger I built, it still had the familiar feel of the plane I had spent 600 hours in.

With the doors off, my camera has an unrestricted view to the lakes and farmland of Central New York. Fuel burn appears to be extremely low and I think hourly cost for fuel and oil might be between $10-15/hr cruising at 70+ and under $10/hr when lazily floating along at 45-50 mph. My last flight a few days ago was for 1 hour with 2 takeoffs and a climb to about 3,000'. During this flight 1.7 gallons of auto fuel was drawn from the tank. Not bad at all!

Looking south over the village of Skaneateles and Skaneateles Lake beyond

My home base, Marcellus Airport

Can't help smiling when flying a Challenger!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday flight to Alexandria Bay

Our flying season is underway! Last week Dansville, NY for a fly-in breakfast, this week north to Alexandria Bay. It took a while to start flying more regularly because of other commitments but finally we are getting into the air!

When talking about places to fly during last weeks' adventure, Kate said she always wanted to see the 1000 Islands from the air. This part of the St Lawrence River is a favorite destination of mine. It it's not that far from my home, only about 2 hours by car and under an hour in our 150. For a few years, back in the 60's, my parents rented a cabin on Wellesley Island's Lake of the Isles.

As a kid I spent hours exploring along the lichen covered rocky shoreline of the area from a little rowboat with a 10 HP engine. Everything was interesting to me and so different from my home in Central New York less than a hundred miles to the south. Pine trees growing from granite rock that rose steeply from the water. Small bays filled with cattails and bass. Leaving lake of the Isles through one of two channels brings you out into the current of the St Lawrence where the water swirled around the many islands or submerged rocky shoals. Always the feel of adventure.

Forty years later I paddled those waters again in my kayak and they are even more exciting than they were back then.

From the air this area is breathtaking. So many islands, small outcrops of rock and many shoals so easily visible from above but frequently invisible to boats navigating the river resulting in the many ships lining the bottom of this river.

(click any image for large size)
Flying north from Watertown we joined the St Lawrence at Clayton as the Algosteel makes the sharp turn to stay in the channel. A few years back I was in Fineview watching a ship approaching from the west, and was able to see this turn being made in the distance. One moment the ship was at an angle to me, next time I looked it was almost straight on.

A moment before, the ship had just made the turn and its wake shows just how tight a turn it is.

Finveview, NY. A pavilion along the waterfront is great place to watch the passing ships. At the other end of the park to the left is a hotel that posts the schedule of passing ships. To the right across the street from that is an ice cream shoppe with many interesting and unique flavors.

The Thousand Island bridge. There is a walkway along the western side of the bridge and if you've never walked on a suspension bridge before it is quite an experience. The bridge moves and bounces with passing trucks. When a truck weighs down one side, the other goes up then down as the truck passes. With my fear of heights it was to say the least, exciting, and a little scary. I've been across it 3 times. Just like fire towers which scare the heck out of me, I force myself to do these things at every opportunity.

Alexandria Bay. The Mearsk Illinois about to pass Boldt Castle.

We landed for a short stop at Maxon Field located a mile or so south of the town of Alex Bay. The airport is abandoned and falling into disrepair. It is amazing that a tourist town with so much money doesn't value having an airport located within walking distance. Flying across the south it is a different story. They realize the value that an airfield brings to an area. In the south airports are well maintained with spacious and beautiful pilots lounges.

On the way back we flew along the shore of Lake Ontario, another favorite destination of mine. Last weekend I camped at Southwick Beach State Park. It was the last weekend before Memorial Day when things really pick up. I got a prime camping spot along the waterfront and had the place mostly to myself. I was in the spot opposite the tree in the water and right next to the walkway across the barrier dunes.

There I experienced one of the most beautiful and colorful sunsets ever...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Flight from Winter Haven, FL to Huntingburg, IN

Lambada at sunrise.

Loaded up for the flight to IN. There isn't much spare room in a Lambada and the area behind the seats was filled with a few parts flying with the plane to its new home. Jeff took my sleeping bag with him to VA so I was able to fit the rest of my stuff in the passenger seat. I've got to work on this minimalist thing...

Departing Winter Haven I make one climbing circle for a view of the airfield and surrounding area that was my home for a few nights.

Flying north over central Florida there are long stretches of little more than forest and swamp. There were fields within the Lambada's gliding range however it would still be a long, long walk out. It was a balance between moderate headwinds higher and enough altitude to safely cross these remote areas.

Cruising on course. Low clouds in the distance had me checking AWOS further along the route and hoping that the forecast clearing would occur as expected. Northern FL and southern GA was still IFR with low clouds and visibility.

Cruising on top. Beautiful, but looks worse than it really is. In the distance there were openings to let back down through and I knew daytime heating would shortly break up this low layer. The tanks were mostly full giving me many hours if needed. Approaching Gainesville, FL I diverted over to Keystone, FL (42J) for a quick stop. Eating a breakfast bar on the ramp I could see the sky had changed. The air had warmed, and once back in the air these clouds were gone.

I topped off the tanks at Waycross, GA (AYS). For the duration of Sun-n-Fun the airport offers free barbecue sandwiches or hot dogs, chips and a drink to transitioning aircraft.

Navigating with the Garmin 496 makes cross-country flight so easy. It provides airspace and airport information along the route and almost eliminates the need for paper maps. It is always a good idea to follow along with a map too. Here, my course passes over power lines that can be seen running NW-SE in the background of this image.

Above or below? Down low there was less headwind, but it was warm, hazy and a little bumpy. Above, smooth and cool but a 10 kt headwind. I chose above for most of the flight. This kept me over airspace and traffic and the smooth clear air made the fight much more comfortable.

Originally, I had planned on leaving Florida on Saturday. An extra day at Sun-n-Fun was nice and there was a low pressure system, the back edge of which is seen here, had showers and thunderstorms all along the route. Sunday, much better!

A couple times the cumulus cloud tops were higher than my 8,500 foot cruise and 10,500 might not have been enough either so I dipped below. The same up and down that is an annoyance to power pilots is what gives life to sailplanes enabling them to stay up all afternoon and cover hundreds of miles. I circled as this ASK-21 was towed aloft behind a Pawnee out of Monroe Ga (D73)

Watching the scenery pass is something that I will never grow tired of. Lake Sidney Lanier NE of Atlanta with its blue waters and fractal shoreline busy with boaters on a Sunday afternoon.

Just before a brief stop at Mark Anton (2A0), Chickamauga Lake near Chattanooga, TN reflects the afternoon sun.

An hour later I cross the Ohio River just 20 miles south of my destination. Several barges are visible moving up and down the river.

Descending towards Huntingburg, IN the late afternoon sun, clouds and haze create one of those memorable moments at the end of my flight.

Huntingburg, IN (HNB)

Mission accomplished! Joe Kulbeth the Lambada dealer for the US ready to put 871LP into the hanger. From here this plane will head to the west coast to be sold.

Thank you Jeff for suggesting that I could ferry this plane, Larry Stahl for the flight down to FL, Both Joe Kulbeth and Laren Pitcairn (the owner) for trusting me with this beautiful bird, and Bob Bennett for time off from work with zero notice. (Actually it was more like -3 hours notice. "Anyone seen George tonight?")
Laren, good luck with your new Stemme!