2012 Oregon International Air Show

2012 Oregon Air ShowEver since I finished flight school, I’ve been more interested in airshows and fly-ins. Sadly, I attended the air show solo this year since the Fuss Nugget was just too fussy to stick around. Between the bright sun and uncomfortable shoes she didn’t have much of a chance. Speaking of sun, it was a hot one this year! Temperatures rose to about 104 deg Fahrenheit with only a small breeze keeping the event on the edge of bearable. The organizers of the show failed miserably on the availability of water, with only a few stations scattered in inconvenient locations, all ahead of long lines. A few vendors sold ice cold water at $3.00 per bottle, a price I was more than willing to pay. Another annoyance was the fact that many of the food vendors were located in the VIP area of the air show, requiring ticket upgrades. The air show nazis held the checkpoint steadfastly, refusing to allow anyone in for a temporary visit to the “restricted” food vendors. The combined lameness of these two annoyances, along with a lack of interesting exhibits will probably drive me to watch the show from across the airport with an air band radio next year. I’m sure that listening to the CTAF/tower frequency will be far more interesting than listening to the announcers. [Read more…]

Father Daughter Flight for Father’s Day

I spent a very special Father’s Day with Siena when I took her flying with me for the first time. She had been asking about “flying with Daddy” for some time now, but I was waiting until she was old enough to thoroughly enjoy the entire experience. A few weeks ago we tried to schedule the airplane for a few hours but our plan was shot down when we learned that the airplane had been grounded for weeks due to an FAA paperwork issue. Still, we went to the airport anyway and used the opportunity to check the fit of her car seat and bask in the excited glow of a three-year-old surrounded by airplanes taking off and landing.

Preflight done [Read more…]

Fuss Nugget is my Co-Pilot

Pilot and co-pilotI haven’t yet taken my daughter flying with me and she keeps bugging me about it. My typical response is “when you’re older” which satisfies her for about 5 minutes. I recently thought about it and I’ve come to the conclusion that she is ready go to flying with her daddy. The Memorial Day weekend was a perfect opportunity to fly and the weather could not have been better. However, when I called the airport to schedule the Cessna, I learned that my airplane had been grounded due to a registration error. No flying today! Instead I used this as an opportunity to test my kid and she if she is ready for an airplane ride. The test consisted of the following checklist: [Read more…]

Halloween 2010: Ducks, Airplanes and Baseball

My parents have been visiting for the past week from California, planning to head home in a few days. After our flight to Madras and other plans were derailed by weather, we tried to make the most of this sunny Sunday. We began by taking Siena to a local lake and letting her feed ducks and play in the fallen leaves. She had so much fun here that when it was time to leave she tried every stalling tactic in her book.

It was here that I realized that I could still take my parents flying, so we headed to the airport and spent the next hour viewing the valley from the air. The fall colors were incredibly vibrant and the angled sunlight made them pop like a perfectly exposed postcard. I took my Dad up over Lost Lake at the base of Mt. Hood and later took my Mom around the valley for a quick 20-minute loop. They both had a great time while Siena was safe on the ground walking the flight line and pointing out air traffic. After I landed the second time, I stepped down out of the airplane and Siena came running toward me shouting “Daddy flies airplanes!”.

After dropping my parents off at a local restaurant and bar (so they could watch the World Series), LRH and I took Siena trick-or-treating. She was dressed up as a little dragon this year and she spent the 15-minute entrance wait perfecting her roar. Our little nugget made off with plenty of candy for her second run! Later, we returned to the restaurant and joined my parents just in time to watch the SF Giants completely dismantle the Rangers… again. My Dad is (and always was) a die hard Giants fan and that rubbed off on me. I still cheer for them, which brings to light an interesting contradiction. This is the only time I will cheer for San Francisco against George Bush and Texas! LOL.

Scenic Flight to the Bonneville Dam

Earlier today I took the Cessna up for a solo scenic flight to Cascade Locks and the Bonneville Dam. I departed the airport and almost immediately encountered heavy crosswinds and thermals. The ride was bumpy until I reached my cruising altitude of 6500 feet. After that, it was smooth sailing on a beautiful day with perfect visibility. The sun was low (2 hours from sunset) so all of the valleys and terrain features were nicely lit with deep shadows. Cruising above the timberline while listening to Sabaton and taking in an amazing vista: life is good.

I snapped a few iPhone photos along the way:

Flying to the Bonneville Dam

Hawk in Winter Earned His Wings

It’s official, I’m a private pilot. Exactly one year from the day of my first flight, I took and passed my checkride. I arrived at the airfield at 8AM and proceeded to endure a seven hour test that I can only describe as brutal. The checkride consisted of an oral exam on the ground covering all areas of aviation knowledge and concluded with a few hours in the air including navigation and demonstrating maneuvers. After the ordeal I was exhausted, but pleased that I completed my goal.

My first passenger was my beautiful wife. For her birthday, we took a scenic flight around the local valleys and she captured some of it on her cell phone camera:

Here are some shots from my solo cross country flight to Madras, one of the requirements I had to complete to earn my private pilot certificate:

Flying is always exciting, especially when a huge forest fire has the next valley over ablaze and a TFR (temporary flight restriction) is placed directly above your home airport.

Air-to-Air Photoshoot, UFOs and Stomach Flu

Formation Flying and Photos of N34SRThis last weekend was interesting, to say the least. I originally planned a two hour solo flight for Saturday – a quick trip to Goldendale for some practice landings on their narrow strip and maybe some VOR tracking en route. However, upon arriving at the airport, they asked me to grab my camera and instead photograph the new addition to the FBO’s flight school, a beautiful Cessna 182: N34SR. I returned home in a hurry, ignoring Siena’s enthusiastic “Daddy!!!” as I walked in the door and grabbed my Nikon D700 with portrait lens and my Canon Digital Rebel with a 300mm zoom. Batteries? Check. Memory Cards? Check. Memory Cards and Batteries installed in camera? Check! After that it was back to the airport.

We departed as a flight of two and flew formation across the Cascades, passing Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Adams for a total of one hour. I sat in the left seat of the lead plane (a Cessna 172) and shot N34SR while my flight instructor had the controls. The windows of the Cessna open to the outside and when released will swing all the way open and stay there due to the force of the slipstream, making this particular airplane ideal for aerial photography. With one hand on the shutter button and one on the comm I verbally guided N34SR in the frame of my camera and shot away. The FBO needed photos of their new airplane to promote their scenic flights and flight school – I’m hoping they’ll be happily impressed with these:

After returning from the air-to-air shoot, I took the Cessna up for a solo flight around Mt. Hood. Pleasant, calm and uneventful described my one hour flight, that is, until I decided to land. I was at 3000 feet MSL, inbound for a 45 degree entry to the left downwind leg of the pattern for runway 25 when I noticed a shiny metallic object in an ascending trajectory directly in front of me. At first I thought it was a helicopter that had just departed from the airport, but I didn’t hear any radio calls announcing the departure prior to seeing this thing. As I approached it, I couldn’t see wings or rotors so it definitely wasn’t a manned craft. The sun was glinting off its metallic surface, which further obscured it from view. I immediately rolled to the left and the object passed by me. Whatever it was, it was fast, circular and almost hit me. I have a feeling that it was a large balloon of some kind – definitely not a party balloon. Either way, I couldn’t identify this flying object, so I can safely say that I’ve seen my first UFO.

While I was flying, one of my coworkers was entertaining guests at her housewarming party. They have a beautiful custom home right next to the runway, so I landed in front of my entire company, their spouses and significants others, and a bunch of people I didn’t know. Of course my landing was graded, as everyone knew I was the pilot of the Cessna that just touched down. I made the mistake of grabbing a beer before telling people about the UFO I spotted above the valley. After one glance at my drink, the conversation quickly transitioned into, “So, you fly drunk, huh?” or “How many beers is this for you tonight?”. Hey, at least I wasn’t trying to convince them it was a spaceship!

While my Saturday was fun, my Sunday was miserable, for myself, my wife and nugget. We all came down with the stomach flu, putting an abrupt end to our plans for post processing the pictures from the air-to-air shoot. I had forgotten what stomach flu was like, having last experienced it in Venice ten years ago. It was intense but fortunately short lived. I am finally starting to feel better and can’t wait to get up there again, maybe with a tin foil hat this time.

Flying Over Portland at Night

Night flight over Portland

What a crazy summer its been. LRH and I have been so busy we haven’t had time to blog in months. We need to change that :(

With the completion of my night flights, I’m almost done with flight training. I had to log one cross country flight at night and Aurora made a great destination. After taking off, I just flew in circles to gain enough altitude to see the Portland lights. The local airfield is set in a valley, making it somewhat dangerous on a moonless night since the ridges are cloaked in darkness. As we ascended to our cruising altitude, my flight instructor asked me if I had ever done a stall-spin at night. I replied with, “No let’s do one! In fact, why don’t we descend to 3000’AGL so there is no room for error.” Fortunately we were both joking!

Night flight over PortlandAfter we reached 7500’MSL, we tuned Seattle Center and requested VFR flight following (asking for radar tracking). Soon after, we were handed off to Portland approach at PDX and headed west across the Cascades toward the city. En route, we listened to radio conversations between the PDX tower and 737 captains inbound for landing. The best of these conversations featured a Quantas captain complete with an Australian accent :)

It was an amazingly calm and clear night. I could see the tail lights of other air traffic as clearly as the sea of stars above us and the blanket of electric lights below us. As we approached Aurora, we descended and tuned the local CTAF in preparation for landing. There were three other airplanes in the pattern, including an experimental home-built RV. Landing at night was just as tricky as taking off at night. It’s difficult to judge distance and depth with the ground dimly illuminated by electric lights.

Night flight over PortlandThe return trip took us north to the gorge and we followed the Columbia River back home. As we we flew just east of the class C airspace surrounding PDX, a 737 passed under us during its descent to landing – a bit too close for [my] comfort :-)

This flight easily ranks as one of the top-ten most incredible things I’ve experienced. I can’t wait to take my wife on a night flight!

Flight to Lost Lake and First Solo

Lost LakeLast Tuesday’s flight lesson started out no different than all the previous lessons. I did a preflight check of the Cessna, my flight instructor joined me and we taxied out to the runway. It was a calm morning so the departure and flight were smooth. I flew to Lost Lake and Bull Run Lake, both located near Mt. Hood, taking pictures along the way. My flight instructor had just visited the lake with his wife and pointed out the available activities (boating, camping, etc.) as we performed a steep turn over the lake on our way back to the airfield. It was a perfectly windless, scenic, half-hour morning flight. Upon returning to the airport, I did a few more practice landings concluding with my flight instructor endorsing my pilot logbook and asking me to complete three patterns solo (takeoff, circle around the airfield and land). My response was simply “Oh @#$@ are you serious?” as he stepped out of the airplane.

Hood River ValleyThe first solo flight is an important milestone in flight training and I reached it without a problem. After my first solo landing, my flight instructor congratulated me over the radio with “good job flyboy!” Two patterns later and I was on the ground again having my shirt cut off my back. This tradition dates back to the early days of aviation when student pilots flew in tandem trainers where the instructor would sit behind them. Without radios the flight instructor had to tug on the students shirttail to get his attention before yelling into his ear. Cutting the shirttail off is a symbolic gesture indicating that the instructor has enough confidence in his student to allow him to fly solo, thus the shirttail is no longer needed.

Flying in Tevas

In fact, the removed piece of cloth is a trophy for the instructor who proudly displays it on the wall of the flight school (or FBO in my case). My instructor wrote down the date of my solo, July 28, 2009, our names, and my first words upon landing after the third pattern, “I survived!”.

Since soloing, I’ve moved into a more advanced phase of training. Earlier today I was maneuvering over the Columbia River at 5000 ft performing power on stalls. Essentially, a power on stall is a maneuver where the airplane pitches up to lose enough airspeed to stop flying and instead start falling like a rock. Fortunately, the fall lasts for only a few seconds since the maneuver concludes by recovering from the stall. Still, thats a terrifying few seconds!

Thanks GA News!

General Aviation News recognized my wife’s incredible support and posted about it on their blog. They also linked her recent post about flying with me last week. Check out the blog entry here.

GA News

General Aviation News’ Main Website is here.