Steve Rossiter is an ATP/CFII in both helicopters and fixed wing; flying two tours in Vietnam and two tours as an Army Instructor Pilot (one in helicopters and one in airplanes). He has been a CFI and professional pilot for over 50 years.
There is the old saw about getting your Private Pilot certificate, that it “is a ticket to learn,” meaning that you’ve just gotten the little slip of paper that lets you learn to be a better pilot. I totally buy that. I didn’t count on forgetting some of the things I learned, though. To get […]
Derby Day. Check-ride Anniversary. And most importantly the simply joy of flying!
May is always memorable. I got my Private Pilot Certificate. Three years later I got my Instrument rating.
“I hope we will be done by 3:00 pm, ” said Wanda, “I wan’t to watch the Kentucky Derby”
“I hope so too,” thought I. “With positive results.” For it was the day of my private pilot check-ride and I wanted to get home without a pink slip!
It was also Derby Day. And getting home to watch the race would be good too…
I did make it home in time to catch the race that day. That was 16 years ago!
As it happens, Derby day is tomorrow this year (5/6/2017).
Always Dreaming or Fast and Accurate?
Take your pick!
Five years ago…. although this happened many years before!
Soaring on top of the World
When Les asked me if I wanted to go flying that weekend, of course I jumped at the chance. Having never been in the air, I was excited and exhilarated at the prospect of being airborne. After all, wasn’t this my dream? To fly, to soar, and reach for the stars? Little did I think of thermals, lift and drag.
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Everyone knows that crosswind landings are usually challenging for student pilots. But beyond landings (and money!), there’s a lot about learning to fly that can be pretty tough. Here’s what you should be ready for. The 7 Hardest Parts About Becoming A Private Pilot By Swayne Martin Everyone knows that crosswind landings are usually challenging […]
Where is Goat Island?
For the last few years, I have been hoping to pull off a trip to Niagara Falls, NY to fly the awe-inspiring racetrack over the falls. The plan was multi-function: beat the summer crowds, enjoy fall colors, catch the fireworks and most important of all, catch a glimpse of the falls from a few thousand feet above the surface. Each October, I tried diligently to make the plans, got a few people excited, and unrelentingly, each year, brought gloom and disappointment. The weather refused to cooperate. Sometimes it was the weather in the Mid-Atlantic, other times, it was in Niagara Falls. Either way, plans canceled we flew close to home to Tangier Island, attended refresher classes or just stayed home to catch up on other activities.
Photograph: Courtesy Gert
This year, I was adamant I would try to make it in August when the weather would hopefully cooperate. Although, I got a few people excited as the day approached plans fizzled out with most people dropping off. I almost thought I would miss the opportunity this year too. But as luck would have it, my co-pilot could free up his Saturday and we decided to pull off a day trip!
The weekend weather was terrific: in the Mid Atlantic as well as at Niagara Falls and along the way. The shortest direct route would take us there in under 3 hours. Gert and I departed a few minutes past 8:00 am and bee lined north planning the most direct route. Flying in a C172 as usual, we decided to stop over at Akron airport (9G3) NE of Buffalo, for a quick stretch and cheap fuel before heading out to fly the falls racetrack.
Photograph: Courtesy Gert
There are special flight rules over the falls and it is best to review several documents that are available to pilots intending to fly over the falls. The area around the falls can be fairly congested with high speed military traffic, helicopters flying scenic flights, and other GA aircraft circling the falls. The minimum requirements to fly over the Falls are:
- Fly at or above 3,500 ft
- Use Niagara Falls (KIAG) altimeter setting
- Squawk 122.05, making traffic calls of location, and altitude and intentions. Monitor traffic and listen on this frequency
- Do not proceed north of Rainbow bridge
- Fly a clockwise pattern
- Do not exceed 130 knots
While the reference content contains some images of where to join the loop and how to fly the race track and how to exit the loop, and it looks good on paper, if you are new to the area, it can all becoming very confusing, very quickly. Even though, I have visited Niagara Falls several times via a road trip, it still made it difficult to identify land marks. There is no indication of how long the racetrack is or how to enter or exit it if flying from the US.
Flying from Akron is a direct flight. Contact Buffalo Aprroach on departure and obtain a squawk code and clearance through their Class C Airspace. About 20nm due west, flying a heading of 280 degrees, places you right over the Navy Island.
One entry point to join the race track is to fly a heading of 281. After flying over Navy Island, following over the Welland River all the way to the pointed nose tip will put one on the race track. Turning in bound on a heading of 051 degrees and flying all the way to the rainbow bridge which lies just north of the US observation deck that extends three quarters of the way over the Niagara River and turning around until a heading of 231 degrees in the out bound leg.
If flying to and from Niagara Falls Airport (KIAG), follow the direction of ATC. Departing 24, straight out will get you over the Niagara River quickly and you need to climb to 3,500ft quickly. Likewise, landing at KIAG after flying over the falls means you have to descend rapidly 🙂
After flying three loops, trying to perfect our racetrack and admiring the falls, wondering where the heck was Goat Island (:-)) we proceeded to land at KIAG, slipping hard and losing altitude and quite gracefully touch down and tied down for a few hours at the Falls. Tie down at CalSpan includes a landing and parking fee of $10. A cab to the falls can be any where from $20-$30 one way.
There are several restaurants within walking distance from the airport for that $100 hamburger. Or get to the falls for more choices. I suggest you stay away from the Niagara Falls Cafe at the Visitor Center if you can. Gert and I spent the next 2-3 hours exploring the views from the various lookout points before heading back to the airport and reversing our path back to the Mid Atlantic. It was a quiet evening, we even managed to get a clearance through Class Bravo airspace direct to HEF. All in all, a fantabulous day of flying!
Niagara, Check! Although I am sure I will be back 🙂
Note: Thanks to my co-pilot for the fabulous pictures. BTW, the right seat is the best location if you want to take the pictures your self 🙂
… hmm.. i.e. in a Simulator!
Even though the full motion controller was turned off (and I didn’t actually fly :-)), it was still neat to be in the right seat, and watch the aircraft fly an approach into Denver International Airport with precision. An RNP Approach, at that, which I will never be able to fly in the C172 🙂
A Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedure is an advanced Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedure that uses Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation with additional on board monitoring and alerting. To fly one of these procedures it is necessary for both the aircraft and aircrew to be certified to fly. RNP approaches enable precise 3-D paths in congested or noise sensitive airspace, and through difficult terrain. In addition, they provide stabilized and fuel efficient approaches, for aircraft and aircrew certified to fly.
The RNP approach to runway 34L into KDEN provides minimums based on the capability of the aircraft and aircrew from 0.1 to 0.3nm. Starting at HIMOM at 11,000ft, the B757 programmed to fly the RNAV (RNP) Z RWY 34L approach smoothly maneuvered to MCMUL before easily navigating the radius-to-fix (RF) leg to TUGGL at 7,700 and the final approach fix at WINTR and landing smoothly on the centerline on 34L.
One word. Awesome!
Believe it or not…. I survived the first year of the PhD program. Almost.
If I make it through this week.
True I might not have a life. I have ignored family and friends. But what an extraordinary adventure.
I have been adjusting my adventures, to include more fun flying, hiking with coworkers, and interaction with friends.Sneaking away for a two week adventure down under, one of those weeks spent exploring New Zealand with my sister.
And one revisiting old stomping grounds in my favorite city: Sydney!
It’s all good. Soon I will be out in Daytona for Residency II.
One day I will have a life.
In case you wondered…
It is 16 days away…. and I unfortunately can’t make it. Not this year and definitely not next year, but after that, anything is possible!
I’ve lost track of how many times I have visited Airventure since I got my private license. You can read all about it here (at least all the times I blogged about it):
There is absolutely nothing like it!
“You have to have full throttle as you go up the hill,” said Susan.
“Can a C172 handle it?” I asked, wondering at the sanity of it all.
“Of course, ” responded Dave.
“You depart downhill. You actually can’t see the runway over the edge, but it is there. AFD says 7% grade but I think it varies.” said Susan.
“Even if you land downhill, if you can’t stop before the end of the runway, just add power and you will be off the ground. You really can take off and land in 200 ft.” Dave added.
It seemed incredible. When I had decided we would collect stamps near Blue Ridge Airport, I identified 4 other airports that were within reach and along our path home. I knew the runways were narrow and small, but I didn’t think beyond that.
It seems we had caught ourselves an adventure. And adventure it was.
It is misleading viewing the runway from the air. There is a slight “S” curve feel to the runway, and the slope is not evident until one descends low, a few hundred feet from the ground. Initially we planned to land 10, but as we circled the airport Gert decided he would prefer 28. Which was good, since the AFD actually recommends landing runway 28 and taking off runway 10.
As we trailed past the midway mark, I wondered whoa! Normally right now, I will be planning a go around. But I needn’t have worried. Touching down, puffing slowly at the 172 pace we came to a halt within seconds. Not that we could determine how much runway was left.
And did I mention downhill? Well hang on to your brakes as you taxi downhill to the transient parking area.
And about that take-off? It’s a breeze. You might not see the runway as it abruptly drops downhill, but with full power you are off the ground in a matter of seconds!
I definitely need to go back, just so I can do this take-off and landing again 🙂
Enjoy a recording of our landing and departure from Falwell.
BTW, we did snag a stamp while we were there.
Video courtesy Gert.