Five Years Ago: Grass!

Robinson airport (MD14) is a small private, grass airport along the Patuxent River, but  inside the SFRA. There are two grass runways : R9/R27 and R18/R36. They are difficult to identify if you are not familiar with the airspace. Huge smokestacks to the left of them along the river give an indication of where to look. R9/R27 almost looks like a grass field and not really a runway. If you didn’t know it existed, you likely wouldn’t have thought it was one!


R9/R27 is the larger runway at 2,600ftx70ft, bumpy and running a little uphill, when landing on R9; while trees line the end of R27, requiring a higher than normal approach, and a more precise landing.

Continue to read here.

Top Ten Popular Posts and New Year Resolutions

My adventures flying to the Bahamas in a C172 continued to be the most popular post for a second year in a row.  It seems there are a lot of people interested in or at least dreaming about doing this trip. To all of them, just do it!

To some who might wonder, I have a cooking blog too… Flyncook

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TOP 10 Popular Posts of 2014:

Flying to the Bahamas in a C172
$500 Vegeburger
DCA From the Catwalk
The Bahamas
Blacksburg, VA
Flying Lessons
Book Review: Fifty Classic Destinations for Pilots
Flying Buddy
How to Speak like a Pilot

As for New Year Resolutions? I am resolving to Just Wing It! How about you?


Stay Safe and Have a Happy New Year and I hope to see you back here next year!

See Also:

Flyncook: 2014 Year in Review

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


Robinson Airport

Robinson airport (MD14) is a small private, grass airport along the Patuxent River, but  inside the SFRA. There are two grass runways : R9/R27 and R18/R36. They are difficult to identify if you are not familiar with the airspace. Huge smokestacks to the left of them along the river give an indication of where to look. R9/R27 almost looks like a grass field and not really a runway. If you didn’t know it existed, you likely wouldn’t have thought it was one!

grass2R9/R27 is the larger runway at 2,600ftx70ft, bumpy and running a little uphill, when landing on R9; while trees line the end of R27, requiring a higher than normal approach, and a more precise landing.

R18/R36 is the smaller runway at 2100ftx60ft. The runway is better marked out, making it easier to recognize from the air. Trees on the end of R36, necessitate an oblique approach and last minute correction to align with the runway. Both runways require precision airspeed control for a good landing!

Grass4Although, I have taken rides in airplanes such as Taylorcraft and flew with the owner from a grass strip, so far I have never logged a grass landing. A couple of years ago, I had signed up for the annual Kentmore flyout, my flight school organized but had to cancel due to personal reasons. None of my flight schools, permitted grass landings. When I mentioned this to my instructor, she immediately said, “We have to go to Robinson then and do some practice landings!”

Low clouds and visibility prevented us from heading out to Robinson immediately we departed Potomac Airfield. So we proceeded to our usual haunting ground, Maryland airport for some three-point landing practice. As the coastline started to clear, we headed out to Robinson.


Enormous smoke stacks, identify the general area where Robinson airport lies geographically. Once arriving there, we were almost downwind for R9. We followed over the river, turning base and final, following the pier, for  a landing. Feels a little weird since the runway looked like a field, with bumps and uphill climbs ending at the line of trees!

Before I knew it, at full throttle we were out of ground effect, and climbing at 60 knots, to clear the trees, before turning around and returning for a landing! This was way too much fun! The setting was picturesque too… the river, the green trees with the barest hint of yellow starting to creep in, the enormous smokestacks and blue skies, all rendered a beautiful setting.

grass3With no one around, we could take-off and land any which way. Sometimes on R9, sometimes on R27 and finally we switched around and tried some landings on R36.

I am finally getting more comfortable with the three-point landings in a Citabria. It was a perfect end of summer weekend: 6 VA airport stamps and grass landings 🙂

 See Also:

Gone Flying Part 1

Gone Flying Part 2: Joy of Tailwheel Flying

Aerobatics 1: Spins, Hammerheads and Rolls


Aerobatics 1: Spins, Loops and Hammerheads

I’ve always wanted to try some aerobatics flying. There was a time after I got my private pilot rating that I actively pursued it, to obtain my tailwheel rating the first time and during my first ever aerobatics flight. and tried to schedule a training flight at the Tucker School of Aerobatics in King City, CA. While that didn’t quite work out…

I finally, had my first session recently, officially with backup parachutes and all 🙂

And. It was awesome!

Hee Haw…Great Balls of Fire!


Slow down to 1400 rpm, pull back on the stick to stall. Hard rudder, left or right, depending on which direction you want to spin. Pull back on the stick for one complete turn, before applying opposite rudder to get out of the spin!


From 2300 rpm, push the stick down till 140 knots, then pull back. Full throttle, loop all the way around. First the sky… then the ground, or the river or maybe the ocean. Reduce power. Apply rudder as needed and level off once the loop is complete. Hurrah!


From 2300 rpm, push the stick down till 140 knots, then pull back until 60 knots. Aileron and full opposite rudder to rotate about the yaw axis. Recover with opposite rudder.

goneflying4Aerobatics! It can be addictive!

Stay tuned for my next lesson… this is just the beginning!

See Also:
Gone Flying Part 1
Gone Flying Part 2
Joy of Tailwheel Flying
Oceano Airport: A Slice of Paradise in the California Central Coast

Aerobatic Maneuvers


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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