Ah Bahamas!


February brings fond memories of Bahamas…

Has it really been 5 years?

If wishes were horses, I would, I should, I might, or I already would be in the Bahamas!

Five years ago today…


Last year when we planned the Bahamas trip, we set off with a hotel reservation in Fort Pierce, FL, which by the way, we had to change since we departed one day later than planned. Of course, we did need to prepare ahead of the time: radio licenses for the aircraft as well as the pilots, decal for the aircraft, and eAPIS accounts to submit passenger manifests. That was the extent of our planning. I roughly planned what stops we would make on the outbound, so we could have a rough estimate of flight times to expect and where we would stop for fuel, food and customs. But that was it.

Continue to read the full article here

See Also:

The Bahamas Adventure
Flying to the Bahamas in the C172

Name the Airport Game #12: Where am I?


Drag Racing in a VA Airport?

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2014 Year in Review


Can’t believe it is already end of December,  2014 sped by too quickly.

If 2013 was incredible, 2014 was even better.

I love to sneak in a flight on New Year’s Day when I can, which was rather easy to do back in California, but not always possible out east.

2014 is the exception during the last five years. Weather was gorgeous and Just like that I hopped on a plane and flew. January was also the time to prepare for the upcoming Bahamas flight and I got both, IFR and night current.

cat2February was all about the Bahamas. None had any misgivings about leaving behind the arctic chill and spending a few days in a Tropical Paradise! This year 9 airplanes and 22 people made it there, not without some misadventures with IMC conditions and bingo daylight operations. Only VFR operations are allowed at almost all the Bahamas airports. This year, I landed at 8 airports on 8 different islands.

exumas2March means Spring and Springing forward to longer days and warmer weather.  The weather last winter was confused and lost. First it was cold and then it was warm unable to decide what it wanted to be. Four days before the official arrival of Spring, it snowed. The arctic chill continued through most of March, delaying the Cherry Blossoms.

But bloom they did eventually!

cb4April is the time to put winter behind. Days are finally lengthening, Green is everywhere as the Earth rejuvenates and springs to life. This year, I made it to my first Sun ‘n Fun event. Almost lost control of the aircraft, flying low and very slow behind an even slower tailwheel. Fortunately all ended well. I also got the opportunity to visit DCA Tower. While I have attended several Class D airport towers, this was my first Class B airport tower visit. We even got to witness two honor flights from the catwalk!

dca2I was preoccupied with Loss of Control (LOC) in flight, i.e. since Sun and Fun, and coincidentally in May NTSB hosted a day of several seminars on the topic. Incidentally NTSB, FAA, AOPA, SAFE, and Aviation Safety have chosen LOC as the primary focus area for GA Safety. Currently LOC remains the chief reason for most GA accidents. May was also the month, we revisited the birthplace of Aviation: Kitty Hawk.

ffa12In June I decided to rejuvenate my love for tail wheel flying and started flying the Citabria at Potomac Airfield. The  Citabria is a fun aircraft to fly and Potomac Airfield, a neat little field tucked inside a residential neighborhood and inside the FRZ.  Flying tailwheel again and learning aerobatics is something I have thought about since I obtained my PPL.

goneflying1End of July and early August is always about Airventure and Oshkosh. It was fun to fly-in again spend more time at Oshkosh this year. This years fun ride was a  helicopter ride out of  Pioneer airport.

Womenventure2014It was in August, that several of us decided to get serious about the Virginia Ambassador Program with an aim to fly and land at most VA airports.September continued with more fun flying the Citabria, doing aerobatics and some really Grass landings!

homecoming1October, the weather messed us up again. I didn’t fly at all. We almost thought we would make it to Niagara, but failed, yet again. I volunteered for my first AOPA event. While we didn’t get a chance to fly, we drove and picked up four more stamps: 2 airports and 2 museums.

IMG_0643November was terrific! I flew both the tailwheel and with the group for more VA stamps. And finally took the plunge to start writing my first novel. I challenged myself to 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo and didn’t quite succeed, but still had a blast and hope to continue writing at my own pace till I finish, sometime in 2015.

panorama2We  have been having ups and downs with weather. December continued the roller coaster ride.  I made the trek to KSC for another rocket launch. I finally got my tailwheel sign-off, more stamps and finalized new goals for 2015 (not all flying)  and beyond!

Have a very Happy New Year and all the Best Wishes for 2015!

More Loops, Rolls and Hammerheads


Monday Musings

“Pull the stick all the way back and keep the turn going,” said my instructor from the back seat.

We were upside down, and I could feel the pull of gravity and the allure of the earth tugging me. And just for a brief moment, all thought ceased as I gazed downwards mesmerized: by the green earth still lush with myriads of color ranging from green to browns and even some yellow and vibrant oranges; the azure of the skies, clear from any clouds; and the turquoise blue waters of the Potomac.  I was almost expecting us to be crashing straight down towards earth any moment!

goneflying1There is something fascinating about staring straight down, upside down at 3,000ft above the ground. The feeling in the pit of my stomach was akin to the emotions of going fast on a roller coaster, just when it dips down hill or sweeps round a curve at breakneck speed.

It was a beautiful, but slightly chilly Saturday morning. I was expecting to be wearing warm winter gear that morning. Despite the weather forecast, the temperatures were mild and in the 40s. The sun was shinning brightly and with clear blue skies, there was unlimited visibility. A light sweatshirt was all that was needed.

After departing Potomac, we headed straight for the training area, which  is a mere 10nm south east of the airfield outside the FZ, and right along the Potomac river, to practice some aerobatic maneuvers.

I pushed the nose down and let the speed increase to 130knots, before pulling up and applying full left rudder and left aileron, this time transitioning us into a roll. “You need more aileron. Push it all the way to the left,” instructed Marianne, helping me put us into a roll to the left all the way around, before we returned to straight and level flight.

fly1 It has been almost two months since I flew the Citabria and more than four months since  I tried aerobatics. I was glad to see that I hadn’t forgotten all that I learned.  I am definitely getting more comfortable flying the Citabria.

After practicing some rolls, loops and hammerheads we headed over to Maryland airport for some practice landings  before heading back home.

goneflying4My flying plans have not been successful the last few weeks hindered by weather, winds or aircraft availability or some other reasons. Winter is almost here, and chances of opportunities to fly, like this past weekend, are going to be few and far in between. It was good to be back in the air. And good to practice some aerobatics again.

The Citabria is a fun aircraft to fly any day!

See also:

Aerobatics 1: Spins, Loops and Hammerheads
Gone Flying Part 2: Joy of Tailwheel Flying
Gone Flying Part 1

This and That


Winter is not yet here, but my flying attempts have been floundering lately. I planned, re-planned and hoped to succeed in organizing a Niagara Flyout this year, but failed yet again. Good thing we had a backup plan in place. We got to drive to several museums and core airports to collect stamps instead  in October.  Our plan to do more stamp collecting failed, yet again, in late October. Forecast called for high winds, and we decided to cancel. Although, several attended Chili Night at the airport for some hanger flying and firming up of plans for the upcoming Bahama Flyout.

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The Citabria, has been down for maintenance most of October, so I didn’t get to fly it much. It is finally online again, and I hope to get in some flying, before winter closes in. Travel, winds, weather and more, fingers crossed on this one!

goneflying1November and in fact the winter months seem to be a perfect time to strengthen my writing skills and work on my novel. There is much research work needed and much  work in  sharpening my writing skills, to achieve a reasonable work of fiction worth publishing. This is exciting, since I have thought about this often, but never taken action.

HeroesI didn’t fly in October although,  it is the one month, I typically plan some exotic flying destination.  My life revolves around Aviation. I literally think flying 16 hours of the day. Not all about my flying 🙂

I’ve been busy, and that is always excellent news.

We have another stamp collecting flight planned in November weather permitting. The days have gotten shorter and the weather unpredictable. Lately the weather (or forecast weather) has been off a lot, making it difficult to plan, and ultimately to execute our plans.

Have a good one!

Gone Flying Part 2: Joy of Tailwheel Flying


I’ll run my hand gently over the wing of a small airplane and say to him, “This plane can teach you more things and give you more gifts than I ever could.  It won’t get you a better job, a faster car, or a bigger house.  But if you treat it with respect and keep your eyes open, it may remind you of some things you used to know — that life is in the moment, joy matters more than money, the world is a beautiful place, and that dreams really, truly are possible.”  And then, because airplanes speak a language beyond words, I’ll take him up in the evening summer sky and let the airplane show him what I mean.

–Lane Wallace, ‘Eyes of A Child’ – Flying Magazine

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Potomac Airfield is nestled amid a sprawling residential neighborhood. When you first come upon it, it feels surreal. The neighborhood ceases to exists in your mind. All that remains is a simple and idyllic airfield. Your mind may leap back to recapture that era of bygone days when barnstorming was the norm… flying was simple and easy, without rules or a care in the world.

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Pre-flight complete, we set off down south towards the training area, south of the FRZ, and over the Potomac river.  It was a grey day: overcast, with chance of showers. Still, it did not look or feel gloomy. Visibility was great, but because of ceilings we were limited to stay below 3,000ft. The air was calm and the airplane almost flew itself and needed very minimal corrections. The last time I flew the Citabria was back in 2005. I had forgotten how much fun it is to fly! I had forgotten how much fun it is to fly with a stick 🙂

Lately my mind has been focused on Loss of Control in flight, especially during landings. I have attended several seminars both online and in person over the last few months. Spin training is never given in a C172, although I have done a spin awareness training in a C172 a few years back. The Citabria is perfect aircraft to review and refresh stall and spin recovery maneuvers.

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There are minimal avionics in the Citabria. No attitude indicator. My instructor, Marianne, suggested looking outside to determine if the wings were level. No heading indicator. “I just use the compass,” she added. That’s all that was needed. After some steep turns (mostly… remember no attitude indicator :-)), slow flight, stalls, we moved to spins. Limited by altitude, we stayed with one loop only. Spinning the Citabria is fairly easy, and recovery is easy too, if you can keep you mind focused and not be lured by the ground that seems to be beckoning.

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After some fun spin training, we headed over to Maryland Airport for some landing practice. No pattern work is permitted for the airports within the FRZ.

No flaps for the Citabria. It really is a very simple, and fun aircraft to fly. Power back enough, and let it glide down to the center line and the landing almost felt easy. Landings are the toughest in a tailwheel. Maybe the calm wind, conspired to help me that day.

What a fun day of flying… and Marianne is an excellent teacher and I can’t wait to go back for more tail wheel training and aerobatics!

goneflying1

Links:
Gone Flying: Part 1
Joy Of Tail Wheel Flying
Oceano Airport: A Slice of Paradise in the Central Coast
 Loss of Control in Flight
Preventing Aerodynamic Stalls and Loss of Control in Flight
Marianne Buckley

Gone Flying: Part 1


Flying in the FRZ

goneflying1“Arriving at destination, on your left.” chimed in my Google maps navigator app.  All I saw, was huge houses on either side. As I drove further, the road dipped steeply down into rolling hills and more mansions on both sides of the road. It can’t be right, I thought. How can I miss a runway, even a small, narrow one? All I had seen was a “Learn to Fly” sign, in what looked like  a residential neighborhood flanked by houses.

I turned around, and let the map app recalculate, which it did and I looped around the block and got back on to Glen Way again. Soon, I arrived back at the same “Learn to Fly” sign on a lamp post in front of a huge house, with a road before it, going downhill. It was almost time for my lesson, and I wondered if I have to call my instructor for directions!

Only by chance, I looked to the left as I arrived at the sign, and lo and behold spied some parked airplanes, parked cars, a runway and a small FBO building. “Wow! How did we get away with an airport, in the midst of a residential neighborhood?” I wondered.

goneflying2The Washington DC SFRA spans a 30nm radius surrounding the DCA VOR. An irregular region around DCA is called the Freeze (FRZ) or the VFR No Fly zone.  Each airport or group of airports has its own rules and restrictions in the SFRA. Manassas (KHEF) is towered, and other than the requirement to file flight plans and stay below Class Bravo airspace, operations remain very similar to operations at other GA airports.

Leesburg airport is non towered and being a fringe airport, has its own rules and restrictions. While you no longer need to file a flight plan for egress or ingress, you do need to squawk a discrete code.

There are only three airports in the FRZ: College Park, Washington and Potomac. These three airports, require special background check by TSA and procurement of a special pin. Operations within this zone require unique transponder codes, that are obtained prior to flight, only by people who have the special pin.

Potomac Airfield in Friendly, MD, is nestled in a small valley, amidst a sprawling residential neighborhood. It almost feels like an Airpark. Houses line the surrounding roads.  A road extends along the runway with houses on either side and almost feels like an extended  runway.

“Are there no complaints,” I asked my instructor as we pulled up to the self-service fuel stop on the field. “There recently was one. But it was struck out,” she responded. “We were here before them, and they all signed a disclaimer before moving in.”

This is my fourth airport, flying in the SFRA and the first in the FRZ. I can safely say, this is my most favorite airport!

Links:

FAA Flight Safety Course
Flying in the DC 3 Airports
Oops! I think am headed for Dulles Airport

New Year’s Day Flight… Just like that!


Waking up this morning, I saw that it was going to be a gorgeous New Year’s Day: sunny and in the 50’s. How could I let it pass?

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I always feel a sense of inner peace, whenever I fly solo. But considering the cost of flying, I rarely do it anymore. I am glad, I made the exception today and made the trek out to the airport for a short, scenic flight over the Virginia skies.. Just like that!

photo 2The air was calm, and the airways almost silent. I took off in my favorite aircraft and headed west. It was sunny and clear. Being winter, there were dashes of green here and there, amidst the bare trees. The Shenandoah hills off to the west, looked bare with not a speck of white: for we haven’t had any visible accumulation this year so far.

photo 1It was a glorious winter’s day to be up in the air with no aim, no destination in mind, but just the sheer joy of flying!

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Looks like 2014 is off to a good start….

Inspired by Best Presidential Biographies I even got started on my very first Presidential biography  – Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life. Don’t forget to have some Hoppin’ Johns for good luck in the New Year.

Have a Very Happy New Year!

Logging Memories IV: Just Like That!


There was a time when it was easy.

Occasionally, I loved to hop on over to the airport, either really early in the morning or later in the evening while the sun was still shinning, making it’s way down the horizon slowly, during long midsummer days, when there was plenty of sunshine in the evening.

My logbook is scattered with many Just like that’s especially when I was a brand new pilot, when I lived barely a mile away from the airport and the weather was usually good.

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Those were fun times, when I hopped on an airplane with no purpose or destination in mind. Just a random flight up and down the coast: maybe to catch a glimpse of a beautiful sunset, or the beauty of the earth, or practice some landings, or make the short hop across to a nearby airport for a touch and go, or just because I could and wanted to enjoy the simple joy of flight.

CSC_0132

Then there were the sight-seeing flights: taking family members or friends up for a ride. Over the pristine central coast of California, over the San Francisco Bay, on a cross country flight  across California, or over the battlefields of Virginia up to Harpers Ferry or across the Chesapeake Bay to Bay Bridge Airport or Tangier Island or down south to Willimansburg, or maybe even up through the Hudson river past New York city skyline.

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It’s been a while since I have done that. When driving to an airport takes a whole hour during the weekend and maybe up to three hours on a weekday (see Planes Trains and Automobiles), it is hard to sneak away for a flight just like that.

Circling the Lady

One of these days maybe I might still try that: Just like that!

See also:
Logging Memories I
Logging Memories II
Logging Memories III