Sunday, December 13, 2015

Continuing the Dream (A Ferry Story)

The last two months have been a teenage dream come true. I recently started a small business providing pilot services all over North America. This involves delivering airplanes to their new owner and flying for various corporations that own airplanes.

Our first customer was a ferry flight from Easton, MD to Racine, WI. The airplane is a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub. A radio control model of the same airplane is what got me interested in airplanes and led me to begin learning to fly and ultimately the creation of Kingdom Aviation, LLC. The Piper Cub was designed and built in the 1930's and production continue until the mid 1940's. It has taught, and continues to teach, a multitude of pilots how to fly. This particular Cub would be continuing it's legacy in a Milwaukee, WI suburb by serving as a classroom for pilots to learn to fly in.

The delivery flight took fifteen flying hours and four days due to a six hour weather delay. It was an amazing journey watching the beautiful landscape SLOWLY scroll by just five hundred feet below my seat. The Cub and I became best friends battling gusty crosswinds, endless turbulence, and not-so-perfect landings. It is amazing how an airplane of such age still has so much to offer. It has a very pleasant way of reminding you to slow down and enjoy life instead of hurrying off to wherever it is you are going. Too often I get tied up in flying shiny airplanes that can cover hundreds of miles in an hour while flying miles above the earth, often out of sight of all the things that make this world beautiful and inspiring.

Some memorable events along the way included crossing the bay northeast of Baltimore, overflying an outdoor wedding ceremony, passing horse-drawn carriages of the Amish communities, the in-flight meal (leftover dinner roll from Texas Roadhouse), and flying the Lake Michigan shoreline of Chicago.

It was an exhausting trip and there were times I promised myself I would never do it again, but the memories made, people met, and amazing views have me counting down the days until the next time I can hand prop a cold Continental, crawl in the back seat, and takeoff on a journey to cross my beautiful homeland at just 65mph. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Full Time Flying

In November of 2014 I received my single engine commercial pilot certificate. A few months later I was able to get a contract job delivering airplanes all over the North America. I found out about this opportunity through a flight instructor that I had done some flying with and he recommended me to the chief pilot. It was a lot of fun and I got to do a lot of traveling each week flying mostly new Cessna's. I went on two international trips and one involved ferrying an airplane from Canada to Texas. One of the most memorable trips was a turbo Cessna 182T that the dealer had purchased from the Boston area. It was an extended trip due to terrible winter weather in New England. When I arrived to get the airplane there were over three feet of snow on the ground with more coming. It was an eventful trip to say the least. The ferry business is still a lot of fun and I try to do as much of it as I can on the side. The variety of airplanes you get to fly while doing this is amazing.

One of my goals for 2015 was to add the multi-engine rating to my commercial certificate. Not long into the year I dove in and knocked out the training at Fort Worth Flight Center in a Beechcraft B55 Baron. The airplane was an absolute blast to fly and the staff there is great! The instructor I had was great to be around and I learned a great deal from him. Towards the end of my training he asked if I would be interested in a flying position that would be coming open for a company that he flew for when he wasn't instructing. He told me a little bit about the position and it sounded like an amazing opportunity. I again expressed my interest and he put in a reference for me. A few weeks later I was interviewing for the position and it was offered to me a few days afterwards. I am currently flying the Beechcraft Bonanza A36 here and it has been great.

Being a career pilot was something I had considered, but didn't think I would actually make it to that point. My career path has taken a few hard turns in the past, but I am now having a blast doing what I love! I can't wait to see where things go from here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Commercial Pilot Privileges Added

     It was somewhat of a bittersweet day with the replacement of my private pilot certificate with a commercial pilot certificate. Over the course of the six years I have been flying under the private certificate and everything has been under the umbrella of the privileges and limitations of that certificate. Things added along the way included a high performance endorsement, complex endorsement, and even the instrument rating. None of these change the fact that the certificate is still a private category. The passing of today's check-ride signaled things were a little different now however.

The training for this check-ride has been a drawn out process that really started late in the Summer of 2014. Brandon at Ayers Aviation finished up the training I needed and helped prepare me for the oral exam portion of the exam.
I have only been flying the Bonanza for a year and have gotten somewhat familiar with getting acceptable performance out of it, especially when compared to prior aircraft that I had flown. The transition training I took to meet the insurance requirements wasn't aimed at becoming an expert in the airplane, but rather to be safe and familiar with the systems. Most of my experience flying this beautiful Beechcraft product since then has been on long cross-country flights where you rarely see the edges of the performance envelope. It was great to get to use this airplane for the training required for the commercial certificate.

I learned so much about getting the absolute most out of the airplane. I was in the airplane multiple times every week and we grew close as I learned the little nuances it had. It would remind me of times I was feeding it too much fuel as we had climbed thousands of feet doing chandelles or that I had left the cowl flaps open while spiraling back down with the engine at idle. It treated me well and was patient with me. It is a sweetheart of a machine and will open its pipes and scream when the throttle gets thrown forward.

It was an adventure worth remembering in an airplane I enjoy flying each time out.

Thanks Bo

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

IFR with the Best Friend

N149G Instrument Panel En-Route
Today was a great day to get out and get some actual instrument! Just after lunch Glyn and I found a destination that had current and forecast weather that was within our personal minimums. He got the briefing and filed the flight plan as I made the drive to the airport. Glyn would be flying the first leg from the Denton Airport (KDTO) to the McAlester Airport (KMLC) from the left seat. I would then fly the return leg back to Denton. Upon arrival at the hangar we loaded the plane in the rain started our journey for the day. During both legs of the flight we would be working as a team to reduce workload and provide for a much safer flight in instrument conditions. It was nice to be one of only two aircraft at the airport that were flying. On a normal day the pattern is full of 152s, 172s doing practice approaches, Senecas, and at least two helicopters doing either instrument approaches or in their pattern.

While Glyn taxied out I worked the radios and requested IFR clearance to the McAlester Airport. I received the clearance and it was just as he had filed. "N149G cleared to the McAlester Airport via radar vectors Texoma Three departure-McAlester Transition, direct. On departure turn left heading three four zero, climb and maintain two thousand, expect five thousand one zero minutes after departure, departure frequency one-one-eight point one, squawk five two one five". With everything loaded up in the navigator, off we went. Just after passing the departure end of the runway we found the broken layer and broke out of it briefly before entering the overcast layer. Nearing McAlester we requested to fly direct to AHAMU, for the RNAV (GPS) RWY 2 approach at McAlester. Not long after we were cleared for the approach. Glyn did an excellent job hand-flying the approach and soon we were on the ground and taxiing to the terminal.
N149G on the Ramp at KMLC



We relaxed in the terminal long enough to file our return flight plan and relieve internal pressures. We loaded back up and taxied out to depart on runway two for the return flight to Denton. Exercising some CRM, Glyn contacted McAlester FSS via the RCO (Remote Communications Outlet) while I taxied and got our clearance with a void time of ten minutes. We were cleared "via Mcalester-Sasie Four arrival" with no restrictions to our cruise altitude of six thousand feet. RCO frequencies can be found in the Airport/Facility Directory for the airport you are at. It was nice to have the RCO there and prevented us from having to obtain the clearance via other methods. Glyn loaded everything in the navigator and briefed me on the clearance he had received from the FSS, making sure to note important items. A few miles north of the airport we returned to instrument conditions and would see much of the same for the rest of the flight.

Upon arrival back to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area were advised by ATC to expect the RNAV (GPS) RWY 36 approach at Denton. We loaded the approach into the GTN750 and were soon assigned radar vectors to put us on the final approach course. After the initial heading assignment and descent the autopilot was disengaged and hand flown. One of the challenges as instrument pilots is maintain our proficiency. It can often be tempting to utilize automation at all times, but our skills suffer when this happens. The best way is to get out in real-world conditions and hand fly the aircraft. This was the main objective of today's flying and we had a blast doing just that!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ercoupe Ferry Flight

     I have read several trip reports of general aviation pilots ferrying small airplanes all over the United States and dreamed of the day when I could do the same. Ferrying is a common job that commercial rated pilots do on the side to help get an aircraft to its new owner and make some extra cash. I wasn't being paid for my flying and I don't have the experience of many other pilots that have the chance to deliver airplanes. This would be the longest flight in my logbook and there were new things to learn on such a venture. When flying a trip that takes many hours, weather was my biggest concern and I watched the patterns following up to the day that I departed. This trip had me delivering a 1946 Ercoupe 415-C to a buyer in Lexington, SC. I arranged to deliver the airplane for only the cost of fuel and one night of lodging. I quickly found out that this is unheard of, but to get to fly was worth more than anyone's wallet could afford.

Ercoupe at Pauls Valley Airport
     My first planned fuel stop was Hot Springs, AR. About one hour into the flight I decided to press on to Pine Bluff, AR. A low pressure front and associated thunderstorms had passed through Oklahoma over the weekend and another was rapidly coming in. Parts of Oklahoma later received two to three days of near continuous rain and my return flight was delayed due to weather. Neither myself or the old gal were equipped to handle anything other than blue skies. My goal for the first day of flying was to get to the Mississippi River where I didn't expect the storm could catch up while I slept for the night.

Approaching Grider Field (KPBF)
     The 260nm leg to Grider Field (KPBF) in Pine Bluff, AR was un-evenful and I quickly topped off the airplane with fifteen gallons of 100LL. Another goal of the first leg was to get an accurate fuel consumption number that I could use to plan the rest of the trip. I calculated almost exactly five gallons per hour on the first fill-up. Up to this point I had no idea where I would be spending the night and it was now around 1830L. Using ForeFlight I searched for some FBOs in the Memphis area that would be able to accommodate me and the airplane after 2000L. The first call turned up an answering machine as the FBO was already closed for the day. It was somewhat expected as the airport was in a rural area further away from Memphis. The second call turned up a hotel and a shuttle service that would pick me up around 2045L. With plans in place for the night I departed to Olive Branch, MS (KOLV) to stay the night. The flight would put me arriving a bit after dark, but the airplane had been running great and all the lighting was in place for night flying. As the sunset over my shoulder I flipped the nav lights on and quickly found out that all of the instrument lights were operational too! It was a beautiful flight passing the mighty Mississippi River and over the Memphis area lights.

Sunset over Eastern Arkansas Enroute to Olive Branch, MS
     I got checked-in to the hotel and walked across the street to get something for dinner. The last time I had eaten was a few hours before I departed Oklahoma and I was no longer being fueled by the beautiful sights from above. Once back at the hotel I began looking over route options for the next day that would keep me clear of busy terminal areas. Avoiding the Huntsville class charlie airspace wasn't going to be possible with my plan to make one stop between Olive Branch and the Lexington, SC area. I would be able to fly just north of the Atlanta class bravo without any problems however. After a decent plan was in mind I quickly fell off to sleep while images of the day ran through my head.

Memphis Area Class Bravo
     I was up at 0430L and started looking over weather for the day. The rest of the trip would be under upper level scattered clouds and on to clearer skies as reported by the area forecasts. The shuttle picked me up at 0530L and I woke the girl up around 0545L. The little Continental wasn't quite done sleeping for the night and took a few squirts of her favorite juice and a pull on the starter to get up and going. On the entire trip I had been using the Garmin Aera 560 GPS that was installed in the airplane for navigation and using ForeFlight for planning and airport information. The equipment in the cockpit for this trip was far from what was common back in the early days. It was so nice to be able to download all the charts and A/FD information for every state the night before I left Oklahoma. For the departure out of the Memphis area I zoomed in on the Foreflight map so I could avoid the areas where a clearance is required. Departing Olive Branch airport at 0600L I immediately made the turn east and watched closely on the iPad so as to avoid the airspace. Once out of the area I decided to fly through the Huntsville airspace after stopping at Northwest Alabama Regional Airport (KMSL) in Muscle Shoals, AL for fuel. It was a short leg as I didn't take on any fuel on my overnight stay due to operating both after and before normal hours. Before departing Alabama I phoned the buyer to advise him I would be landing there in about four hours.

     Right off of KMSL I climbed to 3,500' for thirty minutes or so. I was only seeing around ninety knots ground speed and wanted a bit more. To get flight following through the Huntsville class charlie I was asked for my type designator by the approach controller and had to admit that I did not know it and told the approach controller what I thought it may be. A few minutes later he came back with the answer after having looked it up (ERCO). After passing the Huntsville area I climbed to 5,500' to see about winds there. It was the best thing I had done so far. I was getting anywhere from 130-140 knots groundspeed and turned the nearly four hour flight to a three hour one. The scenery kept rolling on hour after hour and soon it was time to come down.

     As I was nearing Whiteplains Airpark I was having a hard time finding the runway as it is nestled in the tall trees and isn't as large as most city airports. Once I spotted it I made a straight in approach and was welcomed by the new owners voice over the radio. I slowed the coupe down and dropped it in over some tall pine trees, taxied to his hangar, and let the carburetor bowl run dry. I had completed a wonderful journey that will be remembered forever and said goodbye to a wonderful airplane that will definitely be the delight of its new owner. Thanks "Ercoupe three niner zero" for the wonderful memories and teaching me so many things about the skies. I know how much you love to fly and I hope you don't rust away in a barn like so many others.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fall Flying in Oklahoma

   I finally got my second flight review done and managed a five day weekend from work so I did what any pilot would do. I reserved an airplane from the flight school for the entire day and set out on a tour of eastern Oklahoma. The main purpose of the trip was to meet up with a college buddy (Glyn) that moved back home to the DFW area, but it quickly outgrew that small plan. We were looking forward to catching up on life and stuffing our bellies with some good BBQ. He happens to be working on his instrument rating and passed his knowledge exam the day before so that gave us something to celebrate. Other reasons for the trip included trying out an NDB hold, voting in the election, visiting a few new airports, and enjoying some good ol' aviating.

Seminole NDB Holding Pattern
     First destination on the trip was to the Seminole NDB (SRE) to make a couple circuits around the hold. My flight review consisted mostly of simulated instrument time as 99% of my flying is of the cross country type and I am trying to close in on the instrument rating. I also fly a lot at night and unintentional VFR into IMC is more likely at night with no clear view of the sky condition. Once arriving at the NDB I made my way around the hold to see what holding at this type of fix was like. It didn't come without a couple of issues however. About five miles from the NDB I realized there was a missing link between the receiver and the indicator. I had only used the old ADF receiver in this particular airplane once and there was a selector knob that I didn't quite understand. I finally resolved that issue and began tracking the signal a little better. Overall it went okay, but there were a couple things I wasn't positive on so I made note of those to bring up next time the instructor has me by the billfold. Two times around and I was off to McCaslin Field (Oscar44) to cast my ballot.
Cessna 172P at McCaslin Field (Oscar44)


I made arrangements with my Dad to pick me up at the airport and we would go vote together and visit for a bit. I really enjoy McCaslin Field for a couple of reasons. As a child my parents would drive by the field when we would take the long way to church and I can remember begging my parents to drive by so I could see the hangars, the underground house, the runway edge cones, and the big red balls on the power lines. I wasn't really interested in aviation at the time and knowing enough to know what happens at an airport was enough that it drew my attention. As a kid I never once saw an airplane there, but my imagination took care of the rest on all of those Sundays. Years later I was driving down the highway one day during my senior year of high school and saw a little yellow airplane circling low. I decided to follow it to see where it would land. At some point I realized he was landing at McCaslin Field! I pulled off the road into the ditch and quickly jumped out and stood in awe as my imagination stood still and my eyes took over. After the airplane turned off it's engine and the pilot got out I abandoned my car in the ditch and began to walk across the grass field to learn more. I soon met the pilot and was full of questions. This meeting was what introduced me to Steve Ruse, his Pietenpol Aircamper, and the DFWpilots online forum. Each time I enter the traffic pattern at McCaslin I make a low pass to check the field and to grab the attention of any of those kids who might be passing by and are just like I was over a decade ago. Occasionally cars will slow down and every now and then one will pull off the road in the same ditch. This day there were only a couple slow passers so I made one low pass and put the Skyhawk down with full flaps just beyond the fence at the threshold of the north end. Dad was already parked next to the windsock awaiting my arrival and had his window rolled down. Its always neat to get to taxi right up to where he picks me up on each visit. An hour or so later we were back and it was time to head to Ardmore, OK for lunch.

Arbuckle Mountains
Ardmore Downtown Executive Airport
     My initial plan was to meet up with Glyn at Ardmore Downtown (1F0) and drive to Blue Pig BBQ for lunch. I had been to Blue Pig a couple times as a student pilot at the Ardmore Municipal Airport (KADM) location. That was a little over four years ago and they had since moved closer to town. Their website has an Ardmore address listed so I figured they were still in town. Upon arrival to the downtown airport I tied the airplane down and met up with Glyn. He had beat me to the airport by about 15 minutes as we chatted via an air-to-air frequency. This was my first visit to the airport and I really liked the layout and the amenities. The "FBO", KMA Aviation, we used was an unmanned self service setup that actually worked well. They built a little metal building that is about 10'x20' that has the crew car log, restrooms, shower, recliner, and an honor system oil cabinet. This would be a wonderful airport to get stranded at if you were in the area. I love seeing operations like this as I learned to fly at a flight school that has a coffee can in the fridge as a cash box for flight time and sodas. As an aircraft renter I try to depart Tulsa with no more than my personal minimum amount of fuel on board so I can help small operations like KMA stay afloat. With a good impression of the place I decided I would top off with fuel and take advantage of the $4.79/gal price upon returning from lunch. Fuel in Tulsa is nearly $6.00/gal right now and it helps the self serve pump owner if I do this. Soon after getting on our way to eat lunch we learned that Blue Pig BBQ was no longer in business at their Ardmore location they had listed and the phone had been disconnected. We happened to stumble across a street advertisement sign that pointed the way to a BBQ joint a couple blocks away so we tried that. We ended up at Smokin' Joes and it was AWESOME! The parking lot was packed and we soon understood why. The hospitality is southern and the owner made his way around to each table to greet the guests and personally thanked us for our business. Not something you see much anymore and it really solidified my opinion of the place. I WILL be back and it WILL be soon. We tried to empty our plates like good boys do, but we couldn't. I loaded up on more sweet tea and back to the airport we went in the crew car. After topping the airplane off with thirty gallons of 100LL we were off in very loose formation to Lake Texoma State Park Airport in Kingston, OK.

Lake Murray just south of 1F0

Lake Texoma State Park Airport

     Lake Texoma Airport (F31) is a state owned airport that was more than likely built to handle fishermen that seek out the abundant striped bass, golfers for the Pointe Vista golf course located across highway 70, or recreational outdoorists who use aviation to travel. I had drove by the airport during a drive from Longview, TX to Sulphur, OK to visit my parents while I was attending school a couple years ago. I thought it was neat so it was added to my route during the early days of planning this trip. I made a quick stop to log a landing there and slowly back taxied to depart on runway three-six out over the golf course. I snapped a few shots of the highway bridge and the golf course on climb out and headed toward my next destination, Atoka Municipal Airport in Atoka, OK.

OK HWY 70 Lake Texoma Bridge
Vista Pointe Golf Course on Texoma

Atoka Municipal Airport

Cessna 172P at Atoka Municipal Airport

Atoka Muni. Airport (KAQR) was a recent discovery during a drive from Tulsa to Ft. Worth to tour Ft. Worth ARTCC. The airport is a small town airport that sits just feet from the highway. I have an interest in small airports and something we are seeing today is more and more of these being closed down. Sometimes airport closings can be attributed to political officials and other times for the harvesting of the land for larger money makers among other things. My hope was to get to experience a new airport in my home state and maybe someone would see that the airport indeed does get used. A lot of the time the benefits these airports have to the community go un-noticed. I made a landing and taxied to the small ramp and shut down next to a M20C Mooney. As I was pulling in I noticed a backhoe was beginning the construction of a new hangar. A great sign for an airport! I parked as close to the street as I could to help promote this little airport to those who drive by. No banners, no speeches, no important passengers, and no motorcade. I soon found a little building that indicated a restroom was inside and walked in to find what looked like a shed inside with a restroom and a folding chair. I finally found the light switch and proceeded to empty the bladder and get a drink of cold water from the sink with my hands. After enjoying the nice weather for a bit and walking around some I noticed some men walking from across the street towards me. Before I could say a word one of them unlocked the Mooney and arranged it for the two passengers. I had a chat with the pilot that is based in Ada, OK and he was flying two doctors in to work at the nearby tribal hospital. A good sign this airport is being used to serve the immediate community. Before long they were gone and I started back up to finish my day of flying with a 100nm leg to Tulsa.

     A short climb to 5,500 in the cool air and things were looking great! Cruise flight is the least demanding workload and it really allows you to relax and enjoy the views. The sun was just touching the horizon as I passed west of the McAlester VOR and the ride was perfect. With a moderate north wind the GPS was showing a ground speed varying from 85 to 95kts at times. I was truly on Tulsa time and this just meant more time to enjoy the changing colors of fall.

Enough memories till next time...


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

HP Endorsement

Sometimes the things you accomplish are not really in your sights. A few days ago a friend sent a message asking if I would be available to act as safety pilot so he could get his instrument currency up to date before he ran out of time. He also happens to be an instructor and I knew that he was currently flying a T206H. I told him if a HP endorsement was included beforehand I would love to help out. I would be able to get the endorsement and a bit more PIC time to help at some point down the road. He agreed to do the training for my endorsement in trade for a safety pilot. Friday morning he flew over and we sat on the ground for a few hours and went over the systems of the airplane and high performance aircraft operations. Two and a half hours later we were wheels up and headed to Cushing (CUH) to do some landings and our planned air work en-route. After we went through maneuvers for my current certificate and a few landings we aimed the nose to Ponca City for lunch and his signature in the logbook. After lunch we got in a few approaches as the winds were howling and turbulence below six thousand was rough. He sweated out his approaches and I got to enjoy a new bird from the right seat while handling the busy traffic at Ponca City.

The turbocharged 206 is a great airplane and in my opinion a great airplane for the endorsement. I had a blast learning about turbocharging and my first experiences with the blue knob.