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20121122 Departing KJYO - briefly

It was a beautiful flying day. Temperatures were cool giving the plane good performance. The skies were CAVU, winds were calm, and there were very few planes vying for the controller's attention on this Thanksgiving holiday morning. I had just been given a shortcut routing direct to my planned re-fueling stop in Greensboro, NC (KGSO) some 200nm away.

Then a flashing alarm indicator on the engine monitor caught my attention: "BAT". I confirmed with the analog ammeter below it. Yep. Discharging. (Meaning "all electrical power will be lost in about an hour when the battery dies.")

I turned off all unnecessary electrical components, but it barely helped. I weighed my options:

1) I could cancel IFR and continue the flight NORDO VFR. While my final destination for the flight was to a non-towered field (meaning no radio required), I was planning to refuel at a Class C airport and I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of a no-transponder, primary only radar target approaching for a light gun signal.

2) I could divert to another airport. It was a major holiday and my chances of finding a general aviation mechanic on the field were somwhere between "extremely unlikely" and "you've got to be kidding."

3) I could return to KJYO. It was still close (I had departed barely 10 minutes earlier and was due west of KIAD) and, if it came to having to abandon the airplane, my car was there.

This video picks up just as I was cleared to KGSO. You'll hear some chatter with my passengers, recognition that the alternator failed, and interaction with Potomac Consolidate TRACON (PCT) as I return to Leesburg. Conserving as much battery as possible, I elected a no-flaps landing so the landing approach is lower and faster than normal.

The issue turned out to be a broken lug for the field wire connected to the alternator. I was able to effect a temporary repair, file a new flight plan, and depart ~2 hours behind original schedule (blissfully event free).

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20120417 Shuttle Discovery

I was able to take some time away from the office to stake out a spot at Udvar-Hazy to see the arrival of the space shuttle Discovery. This definitely qualifies as a "once in a lifetime" event. These are just a few of the pictures I took:


 More in the PhotoBucket album.

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20120318 Departing KJYO

This is my departure from Leesburg, VA for a couple hours of IFR proficiency. It had been a few months since I'd been able to line up schedule, weather, and plan availability to go flying, so I felt a little rusty.

This video captures clearance delivery and climbout through a cloud layer to VMC on top.

20110822 Landing KSMQ

This video captures my landing in Somverville, NJ (Somerset Airport, KSMQ). This was a bit more challenging than the video reveals. An interior view would have captured the dancing controls to deal with the wind swirling over the nearby trees.

Weather: 33010G22KT 10SM CLR 24/09 A2986

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20110730 Departing KACY

This video captures clearance delivery, taxi, and departure from Atlantic City, NJ (KACY). Most of it is routine, but there is a "what would you do" moment in the run-up area. When I switched to the tower frequency I heard the end of the previous transmission, but not enough of it to determine who was on the frequency. I checked in and was given the instruction "hold short".

Given that information, would you have taxiied up to the hold short line of the active runway? Or would you have stayed in the run-up area?

I taxiied up. Shortly after that, the tower informed me that I jumped the line and was #2 for takeoff.

The situation was quickly sorted out, but it did make me wonder as I usually hear something like "you're #2 for takeoff" if I'm not the first one up when checking in with the tower.

Weather: 35010G14KT 10SM FEW105 34/17 A2995

20110729 ILS 13 KACY

This is my approach into Atlantic City, NJ (KACY). The controller gave me a "slam dunk" which put me in an interesting position. One of my passengers was experiencing her first flight in a small plane and I wanted to take care in the descent, but I was vectored onto the localizer past the glideslope intercept point and I didn't want to set up a descent much greater than 750-1000fpm. Even at 1000fpm, though, I was staying above the slope.

In the end, it turned out well enough. Having 2 miles of runway gives you options and I simply landed long to allow a steady descent and smooth landing.

Weather: 18006KT 10SM FEW080 26/23 A2997

...but that was obviously incorrect.

"Liberty Belle" Destroyed

One of barely a couple handfuls of flying B-17s remaining in the world burned after an off-airport landing. I was able to tour this plane back in 2005. Sadly, a piece of flying aviation history has been lost forever.

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Last Launch of Shuttle Discovery

I had the distinction of being airborne over central Florida a few miles north of the Kennedy Space Center when NASA launched Discovery on its last scheduled flight. These are the photos I snapped using a borrowed iPhone while at 33,000 feet (10,058m) on United flight UAL304. The pilot was very helpful and lifted the right wing to track the shuttle on its ascent.

Shuttle Discovery 1

Shuttle Discovery 2

Shuttle Discovery 3

Shuttle Discovery 4

Shuttle Discovery 5

Shuttle Discovery 6 - Solid Booster Cutoff
This one was taken right after solid booster cutoff.

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Funny Approach Fixes

OK, here's a good one. Check out the RNAV (GPS) RWY 01 approach into Pensacola, FL. Don't forget to check the hold waypoint.  :)
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20101104 GPS 17 KJYO

This the second proficiency approach (this one to landing) of the day. Again, ceilings weren't too low, but I was still able to get some training in actual conditions.

Weather: 32007KT 10SM OVC025 10/08 A2953

20101104 ILS 32 KOKV

This is a proficiency approach into Winchester, VA. I had to cancel a planned flight to Blacksburg, VA due to the icing forecast, but I was at least able to get up locally where there wasn't any ice. Ceilings weren't very low, but there's still no substitute for training in real conditions.

Weather: 33006KT 10SM -DZ SCT025 OVC040 09/08 A2956

20101019 Cloudy Headwinds

This is a compressed continuous video segment captured while flying between 8000ft (2438m) and 10,000ft (3048m) over the Appalachian Mountains in southwest Virginia.

This highlights a decision analysis scenario: Mountains in the area average about 4500ft (1372m), but will reach 6000ft (1829m) and higher just a little further along the route of flight. Cloud bases are between 6500-7000ft (1981-2134m). Tops are above 11,000ft (3253m). Headwinds at 8000ft are around 35kts. They are less below 6000ft, but turbulence is likely worse and the minimum vectoring altitude later is going to put you back up above 7000, anyway. The turbulence at 8000ft is light-to-moderate. Climbing will likely get you out of the clouds and turbulence, but will also put you in higher headwinds delaying your arrival time). C182 non-turbo with no oxygen and no passengers in the plane with you.

What do you do?

I elected to stick it out at 8000ft. The weather dispersed south of Roanoke, VA (KROA) and the rest of the flight to Bristol/Tri-Cities (KTRI) was clear and smooth.

The music for the video was provided by DJ Storm X.

20101019 Departing KTRI

Departing Bristol/Tri-Cities (KTRI). Captures clearance delivery, request and use of progressive taxi (again, as simple as it was).

A couple notes on this departure...

First, I'm not accustomed to flying out of commercial airports - especially at night - and I ended up lining up on the touchdown zone lights rather than the centerline lights. This is really noticeable after I gain a few feet in altitude. No big deal as the runway is 150ft (45m) wide, but still a lesson worth noting.

Second, this was a situation where I should have asked the controller to give me the full route clearance rather than "as filed." Why? I've heard of this happening, but it was the first time it's happened to me. What I filed is not what was submitted. For example, the first waypoint in my filed flight plan was HOBOS, but the first one in the plan submitted via AOPA Online Flight Planner was HMV (Holston Mountain) VOR. This caused just a little confusion after handoff to the departure controller when he cleared me to "Holston Mountain" and it wasn't on my copies of the flight plan. That's why you hear me ask him for the identifier. I had the chart open to the correct page and the GPS was functioning well, so I could have found it quickly enough if ATC was too busy. Nonetheless, this scenario does highlight the risk of "As Filed".

Weather: 00000KT 10SM BKN080 BKN110 17/09 A2990


20101019 Landing KTRI

Approach and landing to Bristol/Tri-Cities (KTRI). This video highlights the request and use of progressive taxi instructions (as simple as they were).

Weather: 22008KT 10SM SCT095 SCT150 23/06 A2991

20101019 Departing KJYO

This is my IFR departure from Leesburg, VA (KJYO) enroute to Bristol/Tri-Cities (KTRI). Typically smooth clearance delivery and departure.

Weather: 00000KT 10SM OVC018 13/10 A2995

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