Droning Around With Ken Heron

Drone

SeymourFlying Drone Debut

This is not my typical airplane related post.  This is a Drone related post!  I have been wanting to get a drone for a while and had my eye set on DJI as the brad of choice.  I have been following their new drone releases for a while and decided to get a Mavic, I almost bought a Mavic Pro but then heard they were releasing a smaller version with very similar specs.  Since I want to pack my drone and travel or hike with it size was a premium feature. Long story short…

I bought a Mavic Air!

I watched the introduction (above) during it’s release and heard the new specs on the video and image quality, the  3-axis gimbal and its size and I was sold!

 

I offered a popular and relatively local YouTuber a chance to film and/or fly my new drone and he said YES!  So, we set up the date and rendezvoused at a local greenway.

This was a good location with a large clear area and lots of scenic backgrounds.  We didn’t really have a plan but I had charged 3 batteries so we had plenty of flying that we could do.  The Mavic Air was going to be the star of the show, I was hoping I wouldn’t look like a total dweeb on camera.

There was lots of setup, got the drones out, Ken set up his slew of cameras.  One main camera looking at the table-o-drones, one GoPro sitting on the table for close ups (didn’t end up using it) and a roaming camera on a gimbal for the action drone shots.  It was a blast to see Ken live in action and all the behind the scenes.  I’ve watched hours maybe days worth of his previous videos so this gave me some huge respect for the work that goes on behind the scenes.

You’ll have to watch the video to see what awesome fun we had!  We ended the time with lunch, Ken entertained us well!

Where Ken Heron can be found?
YouTube Channel
Commercial Drone Flying
Instagram

A little of my personal background on Ken Heron…

Ken was on a local Birmingham radio station that I listened to in my youth, 107.7 “The X” So when I started following a few YouTube drone related channels I found a guy by the same name, he sounded an awful lot like someone I should know but I couldn’t place him.  So I watched a few or maybe 10 videos more and then it hit me.  He was Ken from the Beaner and Ken Show on 107.7 the X and then eventually went on to 95.1 “The Rocket” in Huntsville which I listened to as well!

Broken SD Card

I attempted to mail Ken his SD card that we forgot in my drone…  Sorry about the Card Ken!  USPS destroyed it in the mail.

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A Unique Queen of the Skies Test Aircraft

Airplanes

On a recent trip to Tucson AZ. I spotted an interesting airplane and my favorite airliner, a unique 747-200 while leaving the rental car lot.

What is the significance?

This is an engine test bed for Rolls Royce, more specifically it’s currently configured for the Trent 1000 TEN. See more details here.

I took a few pictures from a different angle as well, you can see the onboard engine, number 2 slot, is significantly larger that the other 3 engines. It has the capability to make 70,000 lbs of thrust. It will power the new version of the Boeing 787-10. It has been flying for a while, actually Boeing made an 18 hour long test flight with a new 787-10 and drew a huge outline of the 787 across the US.

What else are you gonna do with 18 hours and nowhere to go, start drawing I guess…

How much larger is the Trent 1000?

Look at the difference in gap to the ground, the Inboard engines are normally lower but that one is about 36″ off the ground. They also had to Engineer a new mount specifically for this 747 test aircraft that places the engine higher on the wing to give more clearance. (There is a man sitting in the engine cowling if you look close enough)

Presidential Aircraft Visit

Flying

Within a few days both the President and the Vice President visited Huntsville.  When I heard of the planned visit I immediately wanted to go see the airplane that he would take to Huntsville. So I made a plan to catch the plane just after landing.  I started following the published Whitehouse plans for the visit and studied the NOTAMs (Notice to All Airmen) that was published for the visit as well.  There were a few restricted zones for various times one was centered on the Huntsville International Airport and the other was centered around the Von Braun Civic Center.

Presidential Visit:

Excerpt from the actual published Presidential TFR NOTAM:
AL..AIRSPACE HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA..TEMPORARY FLIGHT REGULATIONS, AIRCRAFT FLIGHT OPERATIONS ARE PROHIBITED WITHIN AN AREA DEFINED AS 31NM RADIUS OF 344224N0864016W (RQZ197005.7) SFC-17999FT MSL EFFECTIVE 1709222300 UTC (1800 LOCAL 09/22/17) UNTIL 1709230215 UTC (2115 LOCAL 09/22/17). WITHIN AN AREA DEFINED AS 10NM RADIUS OF 343829N0864624W (DCU094008.2) SFC-17999FT MSL EFFECTIVE 1709222300 UTC (1800 LOCAL 09/22/17) UNTIL 1709230015 UTC (1915 LOCAL 09/22/17). WITHIN AN AREA DEFINED AS 10NM RADIUS OF 344330N0863436W (RQZ145005.2) SFC-17999FT MSL EFFECTIVE 1709222330 UTC (1830 LOCAL 09/22/17) UNTIL 1709230145 UTC (2045 LOCAL 09/22/17). WITHIN AN AREA DEFINED AS 10NM RADIUS OF 343829N0864624W (DCU094008.2) SFC-17999FT MSL EFFECTIVE 1709230100 UTC (2000 LOCAL 09/22/17

This basically says, from 6:00pm to 9:15pm on Sept 22nd to from the surface (ground) to 18,000 ft altitude with a 31nm (nautical mile) radius all airplanes are restricted.  Then it lists a few other areas with a 10nm radius with similar times.  This tells pilots of small airplanes to stay away, stay FAR away.  Most light aircraft don’t fly higher that 18,000 ft and at that altitude it requires an instrument flight plan.  So these TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) NOTAMs are the legal notices required by the FAA that all pilots WILL follow.  If they do not obey they will be met in the air by an F-16 to escort you out of the area, then you will probably have to answer a few questions for some guys wearing black suits…

This Video shows that process and how often fighters are scrambled to protect these TFRs!

I was on a mission to see Air Force One (AF1) so I loaded the kids up and went on a search to get a picture of the plane.  The Secret Service, police, airport security, SWAT, etc. were all there making a pretty good keep out zone around the airport.  I was able to get to the perimeter fence of the airport on the Cargo (East Side) near Wall Trianna highway in the parking lot of the old Navistar building.  It was about a half mile away from the plane but it was there and you could see it faintly resting underneath a nice Alabama sunset!  I snapped a few pictures but none were that great because of the low lighting and distance which were really testing out my iPhone’s camera and paltry 2X zoom…

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Grainy picture of Air Force One at HSV

So it was not the Air Force One that everybody thinks about, it was Air Force Two.  It’s a highly customized version of a commercial Boeing 757-200 with military designation of C-32, check out the Fact Sheet curtesy of the USAF.  The Air Force One is typically associated with the highly customized version of the Boeing 747-200 with the military designation of VC-25, check out the USAF Fact Sheet.

Typically, when a sitting US president is on an aircraft it uses the callsign Air Force One.  A minor detail, it actually goes by the force that is operating the aircraft i.e. Marine One, Navy One, Army One etc.  There has been a relatively recent case when George W. Bush flew on a S-3 Viking to the USS Abraham Lincoln and used the call sign of Navy One while he was on board.  The C-32 is usually used as the Vice President or First Lady’s airplane.  The president does use this aircraft from time to time.

I am not sure why the C-32 was used on this visit…  The Huntsville International Airport can handle heavy 747s, actually just prior to the President landing an Atlas Air Cargo 747-8 landed loaded with cargo which would have likely been heavier than the presidential 747-200.  So I’m puzzled as to why he would have used one of the 4 C-32s rather than one of the 2 VC-25s? Maybe explained in this article, The President’s Secret Air Force.

Vice Presidential Visit:

After the sitting president visited the Rocket City, now we had to get the VP convinced to visit.  I’m not sure how that all worked out as it was an on/off/on again type thing.  But none the less the VP planned a visit to the Redstone Arsenal to visit NASA Marshall Space flight Center (MSFC) and the US ArmyAviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) and then he had another planed stop in Birmingham for a political rally.  So again, since I saw the non-standard Air Force One, I must see the typical Air Force Two…  So i followed my previous plan and checked the NOTAM on the TFR.  This time it was a bit smaller TFR.

Excerpt from the actual published VP TFR NOTAM:
AL..AIRSPACE HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA..TEMPORARY FLIGHT REGULATIONS, AIRCRAFT FLIGHT OPERATIONS, TO INCLUDE REMOTE CONTROLLED AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS ARE PROHIBITED: WITHIN AN AREA DEFINED AS 3NM RADIUS OF 344048N0864100W (RQZ197007.4) SFC-2999FT AGL EFFECTIVE 1709252030 UTC (1530 LOCAL 09/25/17) UNTIL 1709252345 UTC (1845 LOCAL 09/25/17).

This was a relatively small TFR with a 3nm radius around the HUA airport. So I hatched a plan, albeit a last minute plan.  I was headed home form a meeting at Research Park and I remembered that he was planning to leave around 6:45 pm that Monday.  I looked at the clock and it it was about 6:15 so I switched lanes and made a dash for the Redstone Army Airfield hoping I could get there before they locked it down with Secret Service.  I get to the turn off for the airfield and I hit a road block, literally I was the first car stopped at the roadblock.  I was too late!

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But I did get a really good shot at the motorcade as they were returning to the Airfield.  I knew I had to find a better location to view the plane.  So I went on the search for a good spot.  I drove all around the north side of the arsenal hoping to get a glimpse of the airplane.  then it hit me I could catch it take off!

I changed plans, and headed for the horse stables at the north end of the airfield in hopes that it wouldn’t be blocked by security.  I was right!  I slipped in there and parked at the back of the stables.  I waited for a while maybe 5 min or so then I heard the engines spool up, I was excited and I got out my iPhone and switched into video mode…

My video I captured of Air Force Two as it is climbing out of Huntsville.

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Air Force Two, C-32 climbing out during a beautiful sunset!

So I finally got what I was after and it all happened during a really pretty sunset.  I couldn’t have been happier that I got a chance to view both an Air Force One and an Air Force Two with in days of each other and all in my local area!  I still hope to capture a real 747 Air Force One one day… Soon!

Adventure with a Fly Guy

Flying

In my previous blog post I eluded to a special coincidence…  This is the rest of the story!

Rewind the clock back to May 3rd of this year when I got a link to a post that contained the pictures from my flight with a shooter.  The same day I got a note from a former coworker who helped motivate me to get my pilot’s license.  After a conversation about flying he sent me a link and told me that any wannabe pilot has to be a member of the AOPA. I had never heard of them but thought I was definetly a wannabe pilot so I had to be a member, Right!  He was totally right and I was hooked on weekly doses of AOPA LIVE THIS WEEK. I have also used many of AOPA’s content including information to get my own medical, flight planning resources and their airport directory.

I digress, this is not about AOPA, this is about my “Fly Guy” friend and his incredible timing of sending me a note.  So back to the note.  I had just received the link from Andrew that had pictures of our flight from the previous year and then a few hours later I got the note from John, the Fly Guy.  He let me know that his company (my former employer) was sending him to Huntsville to scout out his new home if he chose to accept the relocation they had offered him.  He wanted to link up and potentially go flying!  This was awesome news as I hadn’t seen John in about 3 or 4 years.  These two things were not connected in anyway except for exciting my passion for flying.  I think everyone that knows me knows that I am obsessed with planes, flying, talking about flying, etc.  There was only one problem I hadn’t been flying in over a year and I needed to get my annual flight review done so I would be able to take the Fly Guy flying.

Why No Flying?

In the nearly year and a half my family had sold our house and we purchased a house and some land in a more scenic setting but still in Huntsville.  The house had been neglected for a few years even though the owners were still living in it.  I think they knew they were going to be relocating and didn’t bother with the house very much.  It would basically entail the following:

  • Ripping all the flooring out
  • Removing the popcorn ceiling
  • Replacing the back stucco wall
  • Cleaning out trash from the garage
  • Installing new hardwood flooring and all new trim
  • Fixing a sagging floor in two rooms
  • Re-doing some exterior plumbing
  • Epoxy Sealing of the garage floor
  • Repairing sheetrock in some areas of the house
  • Installing new fireplace rock
  • Fabricating and Installing a new Mantle
  • Replacing a pool pump
  • Tiling two bathrooms
  • Removing a door and replacing with window
  • Removing an interior doorway
  • Re-doing a half bathroom
  • And many odd & end jobs

All of this work has taken much of my flying time and budget.   I also had an accident with a table saw which left me with a broken hand and lacerated finger and was out of commission for 6 weeks.  We hired a contractor to complete the remaining flooring who ended up just doing half the work before we had enough and fired him.  By then my hand had healed and me and my wonderful wife installed the rest of the flooring, the contractor didn’t actually install a single piece of flooring…  So I was busy during my year and a half of not flying but was missing it nonetheless.

So the timing of both getting pictures from my Test Passenger and notice that the Fly Guy was coming to Alabama all the way from California!  I gladly scrambled to get on my instructors schedule, she amazingly had an opening and was cheering me on to get back in the air.  I brushed up on my flying knowledge which had been kept intact from me watching a ton of YouTube videos on flying.

Speaking of those videos, I will make a future post on some awesome flying resources that is all free and available via podcasts and YouTube videos.

Fly Guy Flight:

It took a lot of planning to arrange the flight including reserving the plane from the Redstone Flying club, watching the weather forecasts and predictions for the day.  I wanted to go to an airport that had an onsite cafe or restaurant.  I asked my instructor if she had any recommendations, she mentioned the Cullman Regional Airport KCDM which has The Prop Diner on the 2nd floor of the main terminal building right in the middle and facing the runway.  It has some great views of the parachute drop airplanes that operate on the weekends and planes coming and going.

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Flightpath to KCMD

With the plan in place, I picked up John from his hotel and we headed to the airport.  Since he is a pilot we were geeking out on all the specifics of flying out of Redstone and the different planes and helicopters that are around the airfield.  I filed the flight plan and we went out to the plane to do the pre-flight inspection of our ride for the day. N52057.pngAfter the preflight we got in the plane and prepared it for takeoff, I taxied to the runway, performed our run-up of the engine and the final controls check and then we departed to the north on runway 35 then stayed in the pattern until we turned to the east to navigate around the Redstone closed areas (outlined in orange on the flightpath) then flew down and followed the parkway down to the bridge at the Tennessee river.  Once we were over the bridge we could turn in the direction to KCMD.  We climbed up to our planned altitude and followed the GPS track for the next 17 miles to Cullman.  Once we got to the airport pattern at Cullman we had to enter the pattern to avoid interfering with a plane doing practice landings.  We landed and taxied to the parking area beside the main airport building where lunch at The Prop Diner was waiting.  We went inside and ordered some really good food.  We had a lot of catching up to do since it had been a few years since we had talked.  John had recently started the process to get his medical under the new FAA BasicMed regulations that allow a private pilot to get a medical from their primary care physician v/s going to an AME (Aviation Medical Examiner).  This allows people that have had medical issues which has kept them from flying.  Under the new BasicMed private pilots can obtain a medical under the care of a general practice or family doctor that knows the history of that individuals health issues.  I had many questions for him about that process as I will likely go that route when I need to renew my medical due to the fact that their are fewer hoops to jump through and you don’t have to go over your full medical history since your doctor already knows this info.  I had a very enjoyable time, I think John did as well.  After we ate and talked for a while we headed back to the plane to fly back to Huntsville.  We had a very non eventful flight on the way back the air was smooth and the clouds were no where in sight.

John the Fly Guy, has been a huge inspiration for me.  Since the day I mentioned that I wanted to get my license he helped me out in pointing me in the right direction.  He also has provided me inspiration as a great example of perseverance and drive to get his own license a few years prior to me.  He was not able to get a traditional medical due to past medical events but he found a way to fly using Sport and Recreational flying.  I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and flight with John.  He was even generous enough to take my whole family to dinner to meet my wife and kids.  We all had a great time and could not have enjoyed talking about flying and visiting during those 2 days in May.

 

Taking Up a Shooter

Flying

I will start this out by saying that this post was a long time in the making and I have delayed and procrastinated way too long, probably much longer than I should have…

It all started a few months after I got my ticket punched, see previous blog post about that…  I wanted to share my love for aviation and give the gift of flight to friends and family that trusted their precious lives in my hands.  So I started asking friends if they wanted to go for a short airplane hop around Huntsville to see the local sites from the air.

Test Passenger:

There were a few people that were cheering me on at work through my the process to get my license and one of those was also a pretty good photographer and aviation fan, Actually he is an excellent photographer! Andrew Gonzales gladly volunteered to be my test passenger.  The only requirement from him was that he wanted to take pictures of the whole flight.  Obviously, I had no problem with that!

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 10.54.10 PM

The Flight:

The day was June 4th, 2015.  It was a hot, humid Alabama day with clear skies, great for flying if you can take the heat from the tarmac during the preflight and passenger brief.  I decided and planned for a short flight up to Fayetteville Municipal Airport, FYM.  It’s only about 25 miles north and a short 15 minute flight.  The route north from Redstone Army Airfield goes right past the US Space and Rocket Center  which has a pretty spectacular and famous Saturn V that is very visible when flying out of Redstone.  Andrew was sure to get pictures of the Rocket Center.

Sights and Sounds:

My favorite part of the flight was hearing the reaction from Andrew the moment the plane released its grip from the runway.  Not long after that reaction I saw him glued to the window with his camera taking lots of pics.

 

Usually the windscreen has lots of bugs and smears on it from the flight training that is completed in the planes.  I try to clean the windscreen before flight, but still I didn’t know how the pictures would turn out.  I was insanely shocked when I saw the pictures, they were all so clear and vivid it was like I was back on the flight when I saw the pictures.

Check Out Andrew’s Post with a gallery of all the Awesome pictures that he captured during our flight!

After the flight I told Andrew that I wanted to see the pictures whenever he had time to edit and post them to his photography site.  We were both busy with life, work, and other things that I kind of forgot about the pictures.  Fast forward about a year to this spring and I get a link from Andrew to the pictures from the flight.  I was so excited with how they turned out that I was beside myself.  I should have posted this blog post at that moment but I was distracted a few moments later when another friend messaged me about taking a flight. There will be more to come with this story but I will say that it motivated me to get back in the air and start flying again.  After selling our old house and purchasing our new property and house flying had to take a back seat to a full home renovation that ensued for the next year.  The home renovation is still wrapping up so I’m not able to fly as often as I would like but at least I have made a few flights this year and hopefully a few more to come!

AOPA Tullahoma Fly-in

Flying

  I attended the regional AOPA Fly-in at Tullahoma Regional Airport (THA) in Tullahoma TN. a while back, Oct 9-11. I was able to bring my Dad along for the ride and we camped there for the weekend. I had a great time, meet some really nice folks and made a ton of great memories!

I started the trip by loading my gear into the plane at the flying club. I completed the preflight inspection and towed the plane to the gas pump to top it off, I had plenty of fuel but since I was about to go on a fairly long flight/s why not get all the fuel I might need. I loaded my gear in the back seat and departed Redstone AAF at about 11:00 am.

It was a pretty smooth flight to Fayette AL. took about 45 min. to get there. I arrived at the airport and saw Dad sitting on the covered porch at the FBO. He brought me some lunch and I was starving! So I joined him in the shade of the porch and ate my lunch while we discussed the flight. I told him the rough layout of the flight and what the fly-in procedure was to get into the airport. We loaded up his camping gear in the back seat of the plane. I had done a lot of weight and balance calculations so that I knew we would be within the safe flight envelope for weight and this would be my heaviest flight to date. After we were loaded up I programed in the Garmin 430W GPS, this took some time because I had never entered a full route (only did direct nav before). I figured out the flight plan entry and activated it and activated my flight plan with the FAA via my iPad Garmin Pilot app.

I performed the run-up procedures and continued to the runway, we planned for a departure on runway 18. I knew the plane was going to need more room than normal so I allowed the speed to build and slowly rotated at 55 kts, then stayed in ground effects until 75-80 kts and started climbing out. I could tell the plane was a more tail heavy than normal (still safe but more than I’m used too). We then started tracking to the GPS course and talking to the ATC Centers so we had flight following throughout this leg of the trip.

This flight was fairly normal until we got near Huntsville and started hearing more traffic that was heading towards THA for the fly-in, we must have heard 10 or so planes that were being handed off to Memphis center from Huntsville’s airspace. Not long after we were handed off to them as well and told to have a great time at the fly-in, the Huntsville controllers are all really nice and courteous!

AOPA Arrival Procedure

Once we got close to our entry into the approach path for the fly-in we started really watching the weather on my iPad and Memphis center was also advising of approaching storms in Nashville and had grounded flights there, we were still a bit south and it was still sunny where we were. Our path was still clear for the first entry point at 3000′ AGL above Ellington Airport (LUG) so we stayed on course but planned for landing there if the weather went south. I was handed over to the air boss for the fly-in and to my amazement we were cleared for a right downwind for runway 06 at Tullahoma while continuing on the inbound track to THA.  I repeated the instructions back with a caveat that I was over LUG, I thought they were confused to where I was since I had not passed over SYI yet.  They confirmed I was the only plane on the inbound course!  There was a bit of rain that we flew through just after we passed over SYI but that was the only weather we had to deal with.

By far the best thing we saw during this flight was an old antique airplane a DC-3 departing the SYI airport 3000’ directly below us!  We watched him take-off, it was great.  Just after we landed we saw him taxi into the aircraft display area.  See this article for pics and info on this plane.

Once we landed, we were directed to taxi to the Camping are, this included taxing down a gravel road across a field. This was by far the most off pavement taxing I had done, maybe about ¼ mile off-roading in the Cessna 172!  We arrived at our parking/camping spot just before the rain got there, we had about 30 min to get the plane staked/tied down and the tent set up.  All of which we got done before the rain hit, although we should have left the sleeping bags in the plane.  We headed over to the hanger and watched the rain come in and wait for dinner to be served.  The dinner was great, it was catered by a local BBQ place and had a whole smoked hog dressed up with aviator goggles on!  Dinner was great and it was followed by a great group of musicians from Nashville and included a massive amount of talent from the Nashville recording studios.  Just as the music wrapped up the rain slacked off so we walked back to the tent.  We found the tent was full of water, at least an inch of water in the bottom.  Luckily we had our sleeping bags on pads so they were mostly dry.  We had to unload everything from the tent and put it in the plane so we could bail all the water out of the plane. Yes! that’s right Dad bailed the water out of the tent with a cup!  We moved the tent mostly under the wing, which worked fairly well as I woke up with only slightly we feet…

  

Once I dried Saturday morning I found the volunteer check-in, I had previously volunteered with the air crew to help direct the planes that were taxing off the runway to the parking area.  I did that for about an hour while Dad wandered around exploring the AOPA exhibits and the Beechcraft Heritage Museum.  I met a really nice guy, John, from Atlanta.  He had flown in Friday just before I did, so we compared flying stories in between directing planes down the taxiway.  He flew in a really nice Cherokee Six that he co-owed with his father.  This was just one of the really nice folks I met while camping at the fly-in.  Another really interesting guy was the record holder of the fastest non-stop flight from Hawaii to Salt Lake City in a Beechcraft Bonanza (single engine airplane) I think he said it took him a little over 19 hours!  He flew in with his wife in their Beechcraft B35 Bonanza (not the one the record was set in) but his “new” plane was really nice!  He was really interesting to talk to and had many different flying adventures that he told us about, flying the northern coast of Canada for 2 weeks and many trips across the oceans as he has landed on most continents not including Antarctica.

  

Saturday literally flew by we saw many many interesting things! One of the odd things we saw was a BD4 that tried taxing through the mud and broke the nose wheel off and had a propeller strike in the mud, resulted in a gash in the mud about a foot deep!

Sunday we woke up early to start packing up and preparing for the flight back.  As I opened the tent I found a really thick layer of fog was covering the entire airport, thick enough that you could only see maybe 50 yards or so.  We leisurely pack up while waiting for the fog to burn off.  As we were packing up I walked away from the plane and turned around to find a really beautiful sight with the plane sitting in the field appearing out of the fog with the sun rising up over the trees surrounding the field we parked in.  I took out my phone and snagged a picture of the plane, this has to be one of the best pictures I’ve taken.

We finally were able to depart THA at around 11:30 to fly back to Fayette to take Dad back home. Then I hopped back in the plane (about 30-45 min after I landed) and headed back to Redstone.

  
This is by far the most flying I’ve done in a few day span, I logged 6.0 hours all of it cross-country which will help in fulfilling the 50 hour requirement for my instrument rating.  Most of all I had a great weekend and spent tons of quality time with my Dad and was able to take him along with me.  He was a great co-pilot and helped me out managing the complex approach into the fly-in.  This was a weekend that I will always remember!

National Aviation Day!

Flying

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I wanted to make a quick post a great way to celebrate National Aviation Day.  I believe the best way to celebrate this historic day which is shared with the birthday of Orville Wright is to take a flight with a pilot friend or as a pilot to take a friend along and share the secret aviation.  Aviation should not be kept as a secret, but should be shared and celebrated.  We have the most freedom as a country to fly even though it is highly regulated we do have the most access to aviation from a global perspective.  Often times private or general aviation is viewed as an activity for the wealthy.  There are costs associated with flying and they are significant but compared the costs of other hobbies it may not be that expensive after all.  Just take a look at a great analysis of how to fly for cheap by a professional pilot I have been following for a few years, Brent Owens.  Or there is another great resource, the Frugal Flyer series of articles from AOPA the Aviation Owners and Pilots Association.

Happy National Aviation Day!

Flight Over My Hometown

Flying

With a population of about 1000, everyone really does know everybody. So when I decided on a whim to do a fly-over my Uncle jokingly told my Dad that I was probably piloting the plane that was buzzing them. Without knowing it he was right!

Double Springs Alabama

I scheduled the flight and reserved a Cessna 172, N984SP, a week before. The weather looked like it might be clear which is a bit out of the norm for spring in the south. As the day approached I kept checking the weather forecast and it stayed remarkably perfect for flying. This would be my first solo flight in the 172, I received my sign off a few weeks before (Cessna 172 Upgrade!).

I received some unexpected news on Monday morning, the day before my scheduled flight. My grandmother “Granny” had passed peacefully in her sleep at the age of 85. Her health had recently started declining fairly quickly so she was definitely in a much better place now. I thought about canceling the flight but wasn’t sure…

Not really thinking about my upcoming flight I was trying to figure out where I might fly or if I was going to fly. If I went I wanted to go about 50 mi so there are many airports in that range, most of them I had been to before. On the day of my scheduled flight a thought popped in my head, what if I flew to Double Springs and flew around where I grew up. It was a great thought and fit my 50 mi. range perfectly, 49 mi to be exact. So that was the plan, I plotted up the trip in my Garmin Pilot app on my iPad, it would only take me around 1.25 hours which was about as long as I wanted to fly. I submitted the flight plan and headed for the airport.

Shortly after taking off from Redstone Army Airfield I started talking to Huntsville Departure to get clearance thought the airspace, since I had to cross in front of HSV on the way out of Huntsville. I entered 3M2 (Double Springs-Winston County Airport) into the GPS. After I passed Decatur airport I was cleared onto my course, I found an aimpoint that looked to be a forest fire. I turned out to be just accross Smith Lake from the Double Springs Airport. (see pic below)

IMG_1627

Prescribed Burn of the forest across the river from Double Springs airport.


About 30 min later I was over the airport and turned toward the city to do a little bit of sightseeing. Posted below are a few pictures of my family’s land; Aunt, Uncle, Cousin and Grandmother. When I was a kid I ran all around that lake and had many good times on the “Hill” across from the ball fields.

The “Hill” just between the ball fields and the lake.

The lake, spent many times fishing and being chased by the geese…

Another view of the “Hll”, taken from about 1800′ AGL.

My flight path was recorded by ATC (Huntsville tower and Memphis Center).

FlightAware Flight Details

FlightAware Flight Details

Cessna 172 Upgrade!

Flight Training

1999 Cessna 172S

To get the 172 sign-off I had to take about 5-8 hours in instruction with my flight instructor which resulted in about 4 lessons including 1 night cross country flight! The extra instruction was to demonstrate I have the knowledge to safely operate the airplane. It had more complex systems and has a bit different setup. So what does the 172 have to offer over the 152? The largest difference are the 2 extra seats along with more than double the payload capacity. A few of the flying clubs 172s have autopilot’s which is nice for longer trips. All of the 172s in the flying club have full color map GPS navigation systems as well. The best part about the Cessna 172 is that it is the safest general aviation aircraft on record.

HUA to LUG Night X-Country C172

My cross country night flight was the highlight of my 172 training! The flight was planned from Redstone to Lewisburg, TN and back to Huntsville International then a final landing back at Redstone. See flight to Lewisburg, TN (Ellington Field) detailed here. We departed about an hour after sunset into a spectacularly clear sky at dusk, you could see literally for miles, probably 40 miles visibility at 5500′ altitude. The air was clear and smooth as silk which made for a very short flight.

On the return flight to HSV I was able to try out the auto-pilot, this was always something I wanted to do and it was pretty cool to activate it and watch it track the GPS course with very high precision. I’m not sure what I expected it to do but but it put a smile on my face as it took the controls out of my hands.

I now have 5 more airplanes to add to my list of planes to fly at Redstone, so aircraft availability shouldn’t keep me from flying. Now I have to work on getting some better weather, February was an awful weather month and delayed my 172 training. Hopefully spring is here to stay and good flying weather will be more abundant. 

My Cessna 172 training flights used all 5 redstone 172s, they are a mix of 172N, 172S and 172R models ranging from 1978 to 2002 model years. It took a total of 6.3 Dual Training hours (with flight instructor) on 5 flights. 

Custom iPad Mini Kneeboard Review

Flying

Like many fellow Pilots and aviators I grew very fond of my old tri-fold kneeboard which I discovered from my flight instructor and used it throughout my PPL (private pilot training). However, I liked the idea of carrying an iPad with me during my flight to use as an EFB (Electronic Flight Bag). I did not use the iPad during my training because I wanted to learn the old-fashioned method of flight planning and navigation without using the iPad as a crutch, but all through my training I had the iPad in the back of my mind and thought it could provide a great backup and simplify flight planning as well.

So like any engineer I created a list of requirements for my new EFB kneeboard. A few of the requirements were; must have a clipboard to attach a notebook, sturdy build quality, will accept an iPad Mini and offer some minimal protection, and also be mountable to the Yolk, Windscreen etc.