Glory Be

As Nell and I crossed the country (my thirty-third flight across in a little plane) we were very lucky with weather and spent almost no time ducking around thunderstorms, which was supremely fortunate for a summer flight.

On our evening descent into Cedar Rapids there were a few moisture-laden clouds still hanging around. With ADS-B and ATC watching me on radar, and with the evening hour dropping the little plane number to just us as far as I could see, we were a little relaxed about the cloud regulations. I will fly through something gauzy in that instance. Continue reading

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Southbound

 

This was a flight that would have been considerably more difficult in the single engine DA40. In part because as I was departing Friday Harbor (FHR) I was climbing into the clouds at the same time as I was crossing water. The forecast along my route of flight said that there would be four thousand foot ceilings a lot of the way, so technically I could have just flown VFR at 3,500 feet from Friday Harbor, past Seattle, down to the west of Portland, over Eugene, on to Roseburg and then cut through the hills to Medford. Then it was meant to clear up. Continue reading

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Why am I still flying?

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N972RD want to be in that sky

As Nell and I return to the east coast after escaping the single-digit temperature for a month, she flew on a large jet and I crossed in the little plane. Again. And when I was talking to her from Kansas City, where I had stopped for the night, she said, “Aren’t you lonely in the plane? What do you do?” I was momentarily stumped. What am I doing up there? JetBlue can get my butt to Boston a lot faster, I’ll have WiFi the whole time and if the goal is to be in Cambridge a little ahead of Nell, then it’s smarter to be in the big jet. There must be something else going on. Still going on, after a dozen years.

Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: What more could you ask of life?

– Charles Lindbergh

For a lot of the time, I am busy. Certainly within an hour of landing and for an hour after taking off, I am planning, talking, gathering information to increase my situational awareness (weather, runway lengths, FBO location, where are the airliners coming in from), and changing our course and altitude. So on a four hour leg I’ve got two hours to myself, interrupted with some regularity to talk to Air Traffic Control (I am always on frequency with someone, and they are watching me on the their radar screen) or to collect the usual information (has weather changed up ahead, how are the engines doing, what does the fuel range look like?). Continue reading

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Passing the Torch

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Ilya and his 9 and 7 year olds

If you are here to learn about flying your DA40 Diamondstar (or similarly-sized and equipped airplane) across the country, you might be a little disappointed since we switched planes. But my friend Ilya has done it, and documented his experience, and I have a feeling that if you keep an eye on his blog you will be learning more about those adventures.

Continue reading

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Late Start

virga

I love virga

Due to some maintenance issues, the plane was stuck in Long Beach while Nell needed to be in Stowe, Vermont to give a talk. I stayed in California to wait for the work to be completed. We really needed the plane on Thursday for Nell’s appearance out on Martha’s Vineyard, the other ways of getting out there seemed arduous. So I stayed while she headed across on the redeye. The part we were waiting on was meant to arrive on Friday, then it was pushed until Monday. On Monday after lunch I went down to Long Beach and just kicked dust around in the hangar until the work was complete. The idea was that if it was early enough in the afternoon I’d make one push and clip some flying hours off the fifteen or so necessary to make it across the country. Continue reading

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Stop flying!

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There is a tricky moment when you are flying, or rather when you want to stop flying. I’ve mentioned it before with the best description I have heard: there is a moment when the airplane goes from being a truck to being a bird, and then when you are landing it goes from being a bird back into being a truck.

That moment is tense in both directions. I wrote about becoming a bird in The Three Scariest Flights, but this is about the other moment. Continue reading

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Didn’t Start the Engines, Almost Died

Bob Hoover in front of his twin

In case the link disappears from the web, that’s a story about the legendary airshow pilot Bob Hoover. He is, arguably, the best stick-and-rudder pilot to have ever flown an airplane. He could do things with a plane that no one else could and none have done since. He only died recently and I got to met him. A friend made a nice documentary about him. If you want to know about a great pilot, watch the film.

The important parts of the story are this: Bob climbed in his twin engine plane in San Diego after his usual pre-flight checks. He took off and at 300 feet both engines stopped turning. Being Bob Hoover, he glided to a spot that allowed him to put the plane back on solid ground. Like I said, he was an amazing pilot. He went back and smelled the gas in the tanks and realized that they had put JetA fuel in a plane that burns 110LL. The reason the story is famous is that Bob went back to the kid who had fueled the plane and said, “Mistakes happen. I’m pretty sure you’ll never make that particular mistake again. I want you to be the one fueling my plane tomorrow.” He was a nice guy, even through all the fame and adulation.

I’m not Bob Hoover. Continue reading

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