Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reflection 2012: Ups and Downs

As in previous years, here are some of my favorite images, flying memories, and a bit of self reflection from the previous twelve months.

Well...2012; a dichotomous year.

Beneath the wing of Warrior 481
("The Flying Bear Visits Sleeping Bear: Outbound (Day 1)")

Since buying my airplane in 2004, I have targeted a total of 100 flight hours per year.  In 2012, I just barely squeaked past that benchmark: 100.2 hours for a lifetime total of 1109.1.  There are a number of reasons for this year's lower number; they will become clear later in this post.

Downtown Rochester, NY
("A Fall Afternoon with The Bear")
If last year was the "year of the cross country", 2012 was the year of the short hop.  Flights in Warrior 481 did not go beyond New York, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. The number of landings per flight hour in 2012 reflect this: 2.0 versus 1.2 in 2011 (i.e., I spent much less time in the air between landings in 2012).  I flew 45.7 hours of cross country, about 57% of what was flown in 2011.

However, I had a number of terrific aviation experiences in 2012.  As I see it, the highlights are:

Glider at Mile High Gliding, Boulder, CO
("Mile High Gliding: A Not-So-Eerie Silence")

Highlight #1:  I took 1.0 hour of dual instruction in a glider!  I have been wanting to explore this mode of flight for years.  This was way cool, even if I need to learn how to not over control the glider.  On my second tow aloft, I did not do so badly!

Lake Charlevoix, Charlevoix, MI
("The Flying Bear Visits Sleeping Bear: Mackinac (Day 3)")

Highlight #2:  We took a very satisfying family vacation by airplane to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Mackinac Island in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula.  Not only were the destinations wonderful to visit, but the en route photos we obtained of the Lake Michigan and Huron shorelines were absolutely beautiful.  It was the kind of trip that can only be made by light aircraft and, more than any other time in 2012, I truly appreciated having the good fortune to possess such a capability.

The Bear
("Puddle Jumping")

The Bear takes the controls of Warrior 481 for the first time
("That First Time Grin")

Highlight #3:  The Bear accumulated 33.9 hours in 2012 and took the controls of the airplane for the first time.  I had been biding my time, waiting for her to grow tall enough to actually see out the window and observe the impact of her control inputs.  The wait was worth it.  That grin still gives me goosebumps.

American and Bridal Veil Falls, Niagara, NY
("The Flying Bear Visits Sleeping Bear: Outbound (Day 1)")

Highlight #4:  I began working on my instrument rating.  I'm about halfway there - a total of 24.5 hours under the hood with an instructor or safety pilot and 0.3 hours of actual IFR.  I have a few (15) approaches under my belt, including ILS, VOR, and GPS approaches. I have learned most of what I need to know and now I need to tighten up everything (which should be much easier now that the VOR antennae in Warrior 481 are properly grounded). Unfortunately, a number of factors contributed to my inability to complete the rating in 2012.

Catskill Mountains in the haze
("...There's Ire (Part II)")
This, of course, brings me to the disappointments of 2012.

Lowlight #1:  I did not finish the instrument rating.  Real life, weather, and aircraft availability (see below) all impacted my ability to finish the rating.  I will make a focused effort to finish up in the first half of 2013.  The good news?  I know I can do it, I just need to hone the skills, build the time, and get it finished.  Plus, my CFII, Tom, is awesome.

Ludington, MI
("The Flying Bear Visits Sleeping Bear: Outbound (Day 1)")

Lowlight #2:  The fire.  The good news is, I believe the mechanical issues that fostered the fire in the first place have been fixed and, over time, my confidence in the airplane has been repaired as well.

South Manitou Island, MI
("The Flying Bear Visits Sleeping Bear: Mackinac (Day 3)")

Lowlight #3:  Dealing with a remote maintenance shop after the fire.  If anything almost made me lose faith in the entire general aviation enterprise, this was it.  I am happy to report that the massive amount of help and support that I received from my fellow Le Roy pilots and my regular maintenance facility restored that faith in spades.

Lowlight #4:  I was actually grounded early in 2012 for medical reasons.  I am now flying on a special issuance medical (I feel so special).  My AME was able to resolve the issue with a phone call to the FAA in Oklahoma City such that my grounding was brief (if emotionally distressing).  Once I go through the renewal process in early 2013 and am certain that I understand the nuts and bolts of the whole matter, I may post more about it.

Enough negatives! Other noteworthy events of 2012 included:

Corsair taxiing for departure, Geneseo, NY
("The Greatest Show on Turf, 2012")

I made another visit to the always-fun airshow in Geneseo, NY.

Sunset over N21481 at Le Roy, NY
("After the Rain")
2012 was the first year in which I maintained my night currency all year, even through the long days of summer.

Beech 18, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Denver, CO
("Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum")

I visited two new aircraft museums in 2012: The Empire State Aerosciences Museum near Schenectady, NY and the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver, CO.  The former was a terrific day trip in the airplane, my first flight out of the local area "solo" with The Bear.  The latter was simply one heck of a nice museum and, with Harrison Ford as its spokesman, it should be!

Mackinac Bridge, MI
("The Flying Bear Visits Sleeping Bear: Mackinac (Day 3)")

2012 was the ten year anniversary of my passing the private pilot check ride (September 23, 2002).  It is difficult for me to believe that I have been flying as a certificated pilot for an entire decade.
Welland Canal, Ontario, Canada
("The Flying Bear Visits Sleeping Bear: Returning Home (Day 4)")

I took more dual instruction in 2012 than I have received in years.  I flew with Tom for my instrument training, Bill to complete a WINGS phase, and Elliot in the glider.  For me, it was very gratifying for my flying to undergo such a significant amount of scrutiny from CFIs.  I learned many new things from each them that I can apply to my flying, yet none of them noted any significant bad habits or deficiencies that have developed over the past decade.  I end 2012 a safer and more confident pilot than I began and that is always a wonderful thing.

Upstate New York somewhere southeast of Rochester
(""...There's Ire (Part II)")
I even got to ride as a passenger in several GA aircraft, something I do not do often.  Whether it was riding back seat during Darrell's IFR lessons, flying home with Ed V. in his Arrow, or hitching a ride with Ed B. in his Tri-Champ to retrieve my airplane from the other side of the state, sometimes it's nice to just ride along.  It's been years since I've done that regularly.

Blue Water Bridge, Port Huron, MI
("The Flying Bear Visits Sleeping Bear: Outbound (Day 1)")

Looking forward to 2013, in addition to finishing the instrument rating, I hope to introduce more people to general aviation.  I have flown a lot of rides over the years, but slacked off in 2012.  Part of this was a belief that, if I were to go flying, I should be making progress on the instrument rating.  I think that, more than anything else, this attitude limited my hours rather than facilitating any progress on the rating.  I need to get back to sharing the general aviation experience with others in 2013.

I am also looking forward to flying farther away from home in the airplane and exploring new places.  Kristy and I are already brainstorming destinations for a 2013 flying vacation!

("Winter's Veil Recedes")
2012 was a decidedly mixed year for me.  But, in the end, I finished 2012 more knowledgeable and experienced than I began it.  No stagnation here!

Bring on 2013!


  1. I always enjoy your posts and amazing pictures. I share some of the same "lowlight" points as you. I think you did very well and blogs like yours help me keep motivated when I find my low points.

    Overall I think you had a great year. Good luck on finishing your IR. Have a Happy New Year and I look forward to your 2013 as well!

    1. Thanks for the support, Geoff! It's always appreciated. It's not that 2012 was a "bad" year, but I am hoping that 2013 is at least a more consistent year!

      Happy New Year to you, too! I look forward to reading about your adventures, too!

  2. It sounds like a very productive year!

    I have no doubt you will knock out the instrument rating early in 2013, then get back to more “fun” flights. I believe we all want to increase our safety awareness and maintain proficiency and not just keep current, it’s what safe pilots do. I admit, I really dropped the ball and haven’t maintained night currency in ages, I need to change that in the new year.

    I’m looking forward to your 2013 awesome photo’s, entertaining write up’s and destinations.

    1. Thanks, Gary! One of these days, we need to pick a common destination in the northeast. Happy New Year to you!

  3. Chris, thanks for your photos and writing. Due to life, it took me 5 years to finish my private, and after my check ride I had 62 hours exactly. The whole time and more I have been reading your blog and it kept the embers hot. I can just imagine what it was like for you to have your first conversation with the bear in the plane while flying, or when she first took control of the plane. Not to mention the trials and tribulations you have endured. Please keep up the writing and I for one will keep up the reading!

    If you are ever looking for an international destination (Till next August I am in Guelph,ON) or someplace else in MI to visit, let me know as I am frequently in MI to visit/help family and friends. When I do fly it is out of ARB.

  4. Thanks for your kind comments, Troy. Five years to finish the private - that sounds like a true sign of determination! I think if I'd spread my training over five years, it would have taken me more than 62 hours to be check ride ready.

    I have not taken the plunge into international flying (actual international, as opposed to just flying over), even though I'm obviously well positioned geographically to do so. I would love to fly into the warbird museum in Hamilton or to the island airport in Toronto. I do have ARB in my logbook, however. It was one trip about six years ago. Nice place! I imagine that, to fly out of there, one needs to very aware of the football schedule!

  5. Chris - great year and great recap as always. I love taking aerial shots (as anyone who visits the blog knows) but I think you have the best set of "flying around as a GA pilot" photos available anywhere!

    Good luck finishing up the IR as well. I need to start/finish mine so perhaps we can get on each other if we see the other slacking off. And, as always, if you ever make it down here a Cub flight's on me!

    1. Thanks, Steve. You have a great photographic eye, so I take this as high praise, indeed.

      Yes, some butt-kicking would not go amiss if any slacking occurs! As for a Cub ride, I would be more than all over that. We'll see what 2013 holds for trips out of the area. I really need to visit the Air Force Museum, too!

    2. We offer lodging, food, beer, and rides to the USAF museum! :)

      Seriously, I can never visit that place too many times. Visitors are often the perfect excuse (as if I need one) for another visit.