Monday, April 29, 2013

Between Fire and Ice: An IFR Training Update

Catch Up

I had a goal last year of earning my instrument rating. I did not quite make it.

Though I suffered from the usual excuse of "life getting in the way", another setback came in October when I had an induction system fire on the ground in eastern NY.  My airplane was out of my control for some time, then needed a fix to the navigation radios and some additional work before I was comfortable trusting her again.

This brought me into mid November with end of the year chaos, holidays, and a trip to Europe.  Family responsibilities and icy clouds more or less kept me out of the IFR environment for the first part of 2013.  I used this time to study for the FAA IFR written exam, which I passed on February 27 with a 92%.  Because I aspired to truly ace the test, I took little joy in this achievement, but at least I had a milestone that could be struck from the "to do" list.

I also bought the King CD-ROM course on the Garmin 430, which has been worth its weight in gold as I now have a much better understanding of how to make the previously inscrutable box do my bidding.

Finally, near the end of April, my wife's schedule opened up enough that I could start training again.  In a span of eight days, I did eight approaches and logged 7.5 hours of simulated instrument flight and 1.0 hours of actual.

Here's how it all went.

The Deep End of the Pool Was Filled with Ice

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
21 Apr 2013 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - local 1.5 1137.7

What is the shelf life on proficiency? How long are skills retained when they were only developed to the not-quite-proficient level before a training hiatus?

After a fallow period of six months, I decided that my first airborne foray under the hood should be with my instructor Tom at my side.  Tom was only too happy to indulge my request.  There was no coddling after so much lost time, though.  Tom happily chucked me directly into the deep end of the pool on that first day.

As Warrior 481 was swallowed up in the vast, ivory underbelly of a cloud, my instrument scan fell apart. The instruments became errant cats, deviating from their intended readings whenever momentarily freed from my gaze. This, despite the fact that I had flown to the cloud base with controlled, if rusty, precision while wearing the hood.

This told me something very important: I may not have been conscious of it, but my hood was allowing some peripheral visual cues to influence the control I had over the airplane.  It was time to buy a different hood (already on its way).

Still in actual IMC, I performed a course reversal over the Geneseo VOR and established myself on the inbound coarse for the VOR-A approach into Le Roy.  We broke back out of the clouds and I did a fair job of flying the approach (though I forgot to start my beloved timer at the final approach fix).

Minutes later, back at altitude and engulfed in white vapor, we were holding in a racetrack pattern over the Geneseo VOR. When Rochester provided vectors for the ILS runway 22 approach, I dutifully followed their guidance.  Descending to 3000', we broke out of the clouds and Tom told me to look outside.

The leading edges of both wings and the lower portion of the windscreen were encrusted with rime ice.

"All that accumulated in the few minutes we were in that hold," Tom added unnecessarily.


In hindsight, I should have turned on the pitot heating, though I never lost airspeed information. It was yet another lesson learned for the day.

We were approximately over my house, the visible ice had vanished, and I began to relax a bit.  Rochester was gradually turning me toward the outer marker for the ILS when Tom asked, "what would you say if the vacuum pump died right now?"  He covered the heading and attitude indicators with Post-It notes.

"I'd say that the vacuum pump was a dick," I answered.  Tom gave an evil chuckle.  We cruised along that way for a few moments and then, reconsidering, Tom peeled them back off.

"On second thought, that's not really fair on your first day back at it.  I'll give these back to you."

I successfully intercepted localizer and glideslope, though I struggled to hold onto the latter.  And I forgot to start the timer again.  Two hundred feet above the threshold, I peeked outside at the huge "22" painted on the pavement below, then dropped my gaze back to the instruments to initiate the missed approach.

We passed back into IMC, my control of the airplane significantly improved over that first excursion into clouds that morning.  Rochester vectored us to the final approach fix for the RNAV-28 approach back into Le Roy and the lesson was over.

In the end, I had one hour of actual IMC, a brush with icing, and high marks from Tom on successfully stumbling my way through three approaches after a six month hiatus.

I slept well that night.


Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
22 Apr 2013 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - local 1.9 1139.6

The very next day, I went aloft with Ed as my safety pilot.  My objectives were to regain comfort flying under the hood and shoot a new (to me) approach.  We tracked to the Geneseo VOR, then south toward Hornell (HTF) to do the RNAV-18 approach there.

Ed was good-natured and happy to be along for the flight, but I felt as though my flying was sloppy.  Nothing felt crisp to me and my mind was fuzzy as I studied the approach plate for Hornell.  Though I achieved some simulated IFR flight time that served to build my comfort level, the approaches and holds were -at the risk of overusing the word - sloppy.  Part of the slop was due to springtime thermals, pushing the Warrior further skyward every time we flew over one of the many unplanted fields below.  Most of the slop was due to a rusty pilot.

In the days that followed, after The Bear was asleep, I "chair flew" random approaches from the New York/New Jersey TERPS (TERminal ProcedureS) book, incessantly asking myself questions.  Which frequencies will go into which radios?  How will I set up for the approach?  What are the headings?  What is the minimum altitude for each leg of the approach?  What do I do at each fix?

And the most important question of them all: what's next?

Windy Workout

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
28 Apr 2013 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - local 2.1 1142.2

With Darrell riding along as safety pilot, a new weather variable entered the mix.  Surface winds were out of the south or southeast, blowing at 10 knots, gusting to 20.  Thermals popped below, buffeting the airplane every which way. Despite the added challenges, I nailed the VOR-A approach into Le Roy and even remembered to start the timer, which meant that the chair flying clearly paid-off.

I flew a full holding pattern during the missed approach, then turned northwest on the initial leg of the ILS-28 at Genesee County.  Despite the buffeting and significant crosswind from the left, I made my approach to minimums with a level of precision on both the localizer and glideslope that would have more than satisfied a check ride.  It was one little victory.  Make that two little victories: I remembered the timer, too.

I successfully flew the missed approach procedure, which requires intercepting and tracking the localizer outbound from the airport (remembering that lateral course guidance provided by the instrumentation will be backwards) and holding at a fix defined by the intersection of the localizer and a radial off of the Rochester VOR.  The hold was a little loose, but not bad considering the wind.

While in the hold, Rochester queried me about my next trick and I made the mistake of requesting direct to ZORPI, an intermediate fix for the RNAV-10 approach at Le Roy.  I should have asked for vectors to ZORPI and Rochester would have taken me past the waypoint and turned me around to the correct heading for the approach.  I was confused; they were confused.  With a little coaching from Darrell, who realized the point of confusion, I was able to work things out with Rochester to get what I needed.  Soon enough, the LP indicator lit up on the Garmin 430W and we began tracking in to home base, this time with a right, gusty crosswind of 60 to 90°.

All was going well until we switched frequencies and discovered Dan nearing our position in the pattern at Le Roy.  Darrell's head was on a swivel trying to find him and, though I did not look outside, I became absorbed into the see-and-avoid situation by making all the transmissions to Dan while Darrell searched for him.  Within a mile of the runway threshold, I became so distracted from flying the final approach course that the wind pushed us off-track. Always, always fly the airplane.

Once Dan was finally located, I decided to bag the approach.  I pulled off the hood and entered the pattern behind Dan.  When I turned final, the windsock was swinging wildly.  We made it down to the runway environment, but the approach felt too unstable and I elected to go around. On the second attempt, I planted the upwind main wheel, flew the downwind wheel to the runway, then the nose gear, and brought the airplane to a stop.

I was sore, sweaty, and exhausted, but absolutely ecstatic.  Despite the distraction in the final moments of the approach to Le Roy and the mix-up with Rochester on the radio, I had just delivered my best performance on instruments to date, an achievement made all the sweeter by the challenging weather conditions.  Even Darrell was excited.  For the first time, I actually felt like the endgame was within reach.

All I need is more; more chair flying, more time with a safety pilot, and more approaches.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Bluebear of Spring

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
27 Apr 2013 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - IPT (Williamsport, NY) - 5G0 2.8 1140.1

With spring finally, resolutely, in the air, The Bear and I flew southward. We were bound for the birthplace of Warrior 481's engine: Williamsport in lovely Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.  Kristy and I visited Williamsport back in 2007 to eat at the Skyview restaurant on the second floor of the commercial terminal there.  It was mediocre and I did not contemplate returning until reading another blogger's recent glowing review on Cloud 9, the restaurant that replaced Skyview.

It was time for another $100 hamburger run!

Sure, she can devour books like nobody's business, but dressing herself is still a bit of a challenge.

(Ok...full disclosure...I did not even notice the improperly buttoned sweater until my wife pointed it out in the picture.  Honestly, the sweater was short lived as the day grew warmer.)

"Daddy!  Look at my glasses!  I'm an old person!"  I wondered if that was a dig at me.

Having just started back into instrument training (more on that in a later post), I decided to fly airways to Williamsport, hopping from the Geneseo VOR to the Elmira VOR to the Williamsport VOR.  This was also my first long flight with the iPad and a Stratus running Foreflight (after several shorter hops in the local area to get comfortable with them).  Before using the iPad, I was very worried about it overheating and shutting down.  Most of the comments on the Interwebs read something to the effect of "keep it off the glareshield and all will be peachy."

We turned southwest toward our destination airport from the Williamsport VOR, which put direct sunlight on the iPad where it was strapped to my right leg.  Five minutes later, it went into over-temperature protection mode and shut itself down.  So much for that taxiway diagram I had been planning to use on the ground at Williamsport.

Similarly, I have also worried about temperature issues on the Stratus, but it has reliably sat in the middle of my backseat on every flight with good satellite lock, good ADS-B signal, and no hint of overheating.

I was slightly closer to the airport than a Piedmont Airlines twin turboprop carrying passengers.  I had the airport and the turboprop in sight, the tower only had the turboprop.  After initially instructing us to plan runway 27, the tower controller rescinded those directions and asked us to enter downwind for runway 12, then cleared the Piedmont to land on 27.  I was surprised when the tower controller thanked me for my help and flexibility; he was doing a fine job managing the traffic.  We touched down on runway 12, right in front of the Piedmont holding short on a taxiway.  It was a flawless landing; rare when witnesses are present, practically endangered when the pros are watching.

From the front door, it was obvious that Cloud 9 was a different sort of establishment than the preceding restaurant.  The atmosphere of Cloud 9 is much more in line with fine dining than what you might see on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives".

One thing that did not change from the prior establishment was the great view of the ramp.  By the time we were seated, the Piedmont aircraft was boarding passengers.  While The Bear has some commercial flying experience, she was genuinely puzzled by the hybrid jet/propeller-driven aircraft sitting outside our window.

The food was outstanding.  Cloud 9 does not have a children's menu, but they were happy to provide kid-sized portions.  The Bear was flummoxed by the bed of lettuce upon which her chicken was served.  I assured her that consuming the lettuce was optional; it was not a conspiracy to feed her salad.  The nicest touch with her meal was a side of excellent chunky applesauce that reminded The Bear of the applesauce she and her classmates made for her school's Thanksgiving celebration last fall.  For my part, my hamburger was yummy - a real hamburger (all irregularly shaped - no prefab patties here) with fresh, sauteed mushrooms on top.

Good stuff.

And the view was terrific.

Our bill was presented with this "boarding pass" postcard, where the back of the detachable stub contained a scratch-off coupon (buy one breakfast, get one 50% off, in our case).  It was a neat touch.

On the way out of the restaurant, we encountered a pair that had just landed in an Archer.  "Let me guess," said one fellow to The Bear, "your Daddy flew you here in a blue and white Warrior."  Sadly, though we observed a nice mix of traffic coming and going from Williamsport, the restaurant itself was not terribly busy and the other pilot's inference was not much of a intellectual leap because ours was the only other airplane parked on the ramp.

Back on the ramp and ready to go!

I was not quite sure whether The Bear was more excited about the airplane or the terrain, but either way, we were having a good day.

The flight home was against a ten knot headwind and fraught with turbulence.  I pulled the power back to keep the airspeed in check and asked The Bear how she was handling the bumps.

In a matter-of-fact tone, without bothering to look up from the book she was reading, The Bear responded "I love the bumps."  I think she likes the bumps more than I do.  By the time we returned home, I was tired from working to keep the airplane's nose pointed in the correct direction.

Back in Finger Lakes country, it was nice to see some significant green spreading across the landscape.  In the distance, we spotted a visible manifestation of the clear air turbulence we were experiencing.

We passed a pair of stacked lenticular clouds while maneuvering around the unmanned rocket launch activities taking place at the Geneseo airport.  On approach into Le Roy, the iPad overheated again and shut down.

Back on the ground, we realized that this flight had pushed The Bear over the 200 hour mark!

As we cleaned the bugs off the airplane, I had two significant take-aways from our $100 hamburger run that morning.  The first was that I need to keep Williamsport on my list of good places to visit.  The second is that I need to figure out how to manage the iPad overheating issue.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two Heads Are Not Always Better Than One

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
17 Apr 2013 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - GVQ (Batavia, NY) - DSV (Dansville, NY) - 5G0 1.3 1136.2

Smooth was the operative word for the day as Warrior 481 conveyed me home from dinner, illuminated obliquely by an evening sun.

A week earlier, the Warrior was down for annual inspection, a critical time of examination and renewal of that which is worn.  After all, she's 34 years old.

I spent two days in the shop assisting: opening and closing inspection panels, removing portions of the interior, cleaning up the propeller, and degreasing the belly.  The usual stuff.  Plans for 2013 involved replacement of the piano hinges on the cowling, investigating evidence of an exhaust leak near the #1 cylinder, and complying with the recently enacted FAA Airworthiness Directive AD2013-02-13 on the stabilator control system.  This involved opening the conduit running along the center line of the airplane from front to back.  Removing the 2003 upholstery revealed the original factory carpeting from 1979 underneath,  still glued over the access panels.  Removing that nasty stuff was like picking at a three decade old scab (and nearly as fun).

While examining the cowling, it was obvious that the silicone baffle seal material was not sealing as tightly as it should.  We replaced these with larger pieces and subsequent test flights showed a healthy 20°F decrease in cylinder head temperatures across the board!

The exhaust leak, which I initially attributed to a bad gasket, actually resulted from a cracked exhaust pipe.  Jim ordered a replacement and welded it into the existing manifold.

I also replaced the oil return lines on cylinders #1 and #3 that were old and brittle.  In the process, I discovered that the primer line to cylinder #2 was broken.  I always learn something new during these inspections; I did not realize that a primer line ran to #2 - it is completely hidden by engine baffling.

A junior mechanic witnessing my discovery commented, "wow, I've never found anything that Jim missed."

"That's because Jim doesn't miss much," I told him with a heartfelt smile.

Because my engine is mid-time (almost 1000 hours exactly), I wanted to do a borescope analysis to check the condition of the cylinders, the valves, and their seats.  It was my first time using a borescope and Jim did a great job of orienting me to the landscape inside my engine.  I was a little surprised at how clean everything was, the gleaming interior only broken up by a small amount of carbon residue on the faces of the exhaust valves and pistons.  The valves and seats showed no evidence of thermal stress or damage.

"That's what a healthy engine looks like," noted Jim as we finished.  The extra peace of mind is great to have.

While I was otherwise occupied, Jim started draining the oil and I took a sample for metal analysis.  Sometime later, Jim noted that the engine was ready for fresh oil.  As I started pouring the second quart of oil, Jim walked by and said, "you DID close the oil drain before you started that, right?"

I looked and saw that the scrap oil bucket was fuller than it had been previously.  Rats.  When I change my own oil at home, I always close the valve and deal with the used oil before even pulling out the new - so it did not occur to me to check the valve, even though I should have.

Different people, different procedures (I still should have checked).

I retrieved the Warrior on the following Saturday, April 13.  She sported new piano hinges on a repainted cowling and Jim had even managed to remove a nasty oil stain from the passenger side carpet, which was a nice touch.  I gave the airplane a thorough preflight in the maintenance hangar before pushing out into the elements.  When I departed on runway 28, the AWOS was calling wind out of 260° at 17 knots gusting to 30.  It was a bumpy ride home.  On final approach to Le Roy, the wind was 12 knots gusting to 30, leading me to account for a hefty gust factor while landing.

Squeak (upwind wheel), squeak (downwind wheel)...just as nice as anyone could ask for.

When I turned the airplane broadside to the wind and shut down, my propeller stopped in a different position than usual, but I have seen this happen before in strong winds and did not give it much thought.

The next time I flew, on a lovely calm day, I discovered significant vibration at mid-range RPM and, upon shutdown, the propeller stopped in the same unusual position. I called Jim and suggested that my prop was not properly indexed.  Considering that he had done a dynamic balance on the powerplant two years before, it seemed a shame to undo all that work.

On the next nice flying day, they worked me into their schedule to make it right.  With the strong vibration at approach RPM, I had a wonderful excuse to do a power-off 180° landing from the pattern. At pattern altitude over Genesee County, the incredibly clear air yielded a vision of the Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Toronto skylines beyond my windscreen plexiglass. The latter city was over 70 nautical miles away.

My diagnosis was correct; although spinner and propeller were indexed to the bulkhead, the bulkhead was not properly indexed to the crankshaft. We scratched our heads over how this happened.  When Jim and I reinstalled the propeller, the bulkhead was already placed onto the crank by another mechanic that had been assisting Jim.  He had not oriented the bulkhead to the crankshaft.  Jim and I did not check to see if the bulkhead was properly indexed before aligning everything to it.  A round of apologies were offered, but no real harm was done.

Cruising over Upstate NY on the way to Dansville for a bite to eat, I realized that the propeller indexing issue was exactly like me adding oil to the engine while the drain was still open.  It was a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.  In both cases, people worked according to their usual practices without accounting for the way others do things.  Either issue could have been prevented with a rigorous "trust, but verify" approach.

The lesson here (or, perhaps, reminder) is that two heads (or more) are not necessarily better than one!

The same applies to two pilots flying together in the same airplane - if responsibilities are not carefully delineated, it is too easy for each to make dangerous assumptions about what the other guy may or may not be doing.

As for me, I'm happy to have my airplane back in tip-top condition and running cool and smooth.

And, having received my invoice, I am also happy that the annual inspection just happens to be scheduled right after my bonus payout each year!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Life with the FxA

"So, what the FAA will want to see is..."

I was giving a presentation, transitioning from one slide to another, when I realized that I had just played a wrong note.  Briefly scanning faces in my audience, I saw several confused expressions.  With a mental rewind, my error was obvious.  I was speaking to a group of pharmaceutical scientists, not pilots.  On top of that, the vast majority of them were Europeans because I was speaking in Vienna, Austria.  None of my listeners were likely to be familiar with, or particularly interested in, the FAA (except, perhaps, the other two US citizens in the room who were as keen to get home at the end of the week as I was).

What I had meant to say, and what would have fit the context of my presentation better, was "FDA".

I have been a pharmaceutical scientist for fifteen years.  For the majority of my career, I have specialized in chemical detective work.  To non-scientists, my expertise is most easily likened to the forensic chemistry depicted on CSI, only without the dead bodies (which is fortunate because I do not do well with blood).  It is an engaging and challenging career that, hopefully, has had positive impact on people's lives.  I am sort of like BASF in that I don't actually make anything, but I try to make things better.

April 13, 2003: Where my career got its start in Kalamazoo, MI

Following that slip of the tongue, I was struck by the blurring between my personal and professional lives.  In that moment, standing on the podium, it all made perfect sense.  Superficially, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are similar in that they are both large, government run bureaucracies.  But as I contemplated beyond the obvious, I was surprised by the depth of similarity between them.

Fundamentally, both Agencies are charged with protecting public health and safety.  They evolved from pre-existing early 20th century organizations, but did not develop into the Agencies we know today until tragedy struck.  In the case of the FAA, the most cited tipping point was the mid-air collision of a TransWorld Airlines Super Constellation with a United Airlines DC-7 over the Grand Canyon in 1956.  Reactive legislation created the FAA and endowed it with the authority to regulate our national airspace with an aim of preventing future mid-air collisions.

July 25, 2004:  Another angle on where I started my career.

Most high school graduates know about Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" that inspired events culminating in the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.  Regulation of pharmaceuticals did not catch up to food regulations until the infamous Elixer Sulfanilamide disaster of 1937 when over 100 people died from ingesting a liquid sulfa drug formulation primarily intended for children.  The formulation contained diethylene glycol as a solvent, which is both sweet tasting and extremely toxic.  Incredibly, the manufacturer broke no laws by using diethylene glycol in their formulation; toxicological testing of new drugs was not a requirement of the time.  Justifiable public outcry from this incident (and others) drove legislation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.  This law gave FDA the authority to closely regulate pharmaceuticals and specified a registration and approval process for new drugs that included safety testing prior to dosing in humans.

Naturally, creation of regulatory agencies sets the stage for conflict with those being regulated.  In my business, being audited by the FDA is met with the same level of enthusiasm as a private pilot subject to an FAA ramp check (that is, if a ramp check lasted for several days).  Even if all "i"s are properly dotted and "t"s crossed, there is always fear of an unscrupulous regulator with an axe to grind.  Whether such fears are warranted or not, there must be a reason that those "FAA: we're not happy until you're not happy" t-shirts are so popular.  Likewise, though it may be fashionable for the media to claim that the FDA is "in the pocket of big pharma", I have seen zero evidence of that in my fifteen years.  I still vividly recall my first visit to the FDA.  I entered that building in Rockville, MD naively expecting an open scientific dialog and left with a rather cynical world view.  At their most casual, these discussions are reminiscent of my doctoral defense.  This is with good reason; it is the role of pharmaceutical scientists to present the data supporting their conclusions and it is up to the FDA to decide if they agree.

October 10, 2002: The Three Rivers - Dr. Haines Municipal Airport (HAI) where I learned to fly.

Despite the inevitable clashes between regulators and those they regulate, most of the individuals with whom I've interacted from the FAA and the FDA have been professional, bright, energetic, and steadfastly passionate about their responsibility to protect public health and safety.  Passion is essential.  These jobs are often not easy and both Agencies are regularly caught in the trap of being considered too stringent by some and too lenient by others; the Kobayashi Maru of the regulator.

One challenge common to both Agencies is that, in the well-intentioned pursuit of safety, they have placed so many hurdles in the aircraft certification and new drug approval processes that innovation is hampered.  In other words, it is easier for the aviation or pharmaceutical industries to go with the tried and true (like magnetos) that the FxA is already familiar with, than to invest in development and regulatory approval for the unconventional.  For aircraft, the experimental (home-built) category provides an outlet for affordable, expedient innovation.  This is one place where the Agencies clearly differ as there is no equivalent for pharmaceuticals.  This strikes me as entirely appropriate.  After all, if a home-built aircraft emblazoned with "EXPERIMENTAL" makes people nervous, just imagine how they would react to such a placard on their prescriptions!

To their credit, both Agencies recognize that excessive regulation does not always add inherent value.  For example, FDA has been promoting  "risk based" and Quality by Design pharmaceutical development strategies intended to focus on what is most important for the particular drug under development.  This is a big change from the previous mode of "check-box" development activities that incur costs without necessarily enhancing quality or safety (and may actually ignore something critical for a given drug).  For its part, the FAA has vowed to take a closer look at its requirements around aircraft certification with an eye toward streamlining the process.  These are good things for everyone.

Airplanes and pharmaceuticals; are there any two industries more regulated than these?  There are days when I wonder why I willingly subjugated both my personal and professional lives under such regulation.  At the heart of the matter is risk/reward.  When I completed my doctorate in chemistry, I had multiple opportunities.  I recall standing in a polymer formulation lab of a very well-known and respected company that was courting me.  My guide showed me the translucent teal case of an iMac (remember those?), explaining that it (the snazzy plastic case) had been developed there.  Though Dustin Hoffman's graduate may have been steered toward plastics, I was more interested in having a meaningful positive impact on people's lives.  This drew me toward the pharmaceutical industry.  As for flying, one need look no further than this blog to see the immense pleasure I derive from aviation.

But I do know this: though both Agencies may be imperfect, their functions are absolutely essential.  During the flurry of recent news about sequestration and air traffic control tower closures, I read some commentary to the effect that ADS-B will render ATC obsolete because pilots will be able to separate themselves.  I do not agree with this.  When airports get busy, I think there is value in having a non-participating third party directing traffic with a goal of doing what is best for everyone.  And for  pharmaceuticals?  Same deal, without question.

Standing on the podium in that Viennese hotel, I corrected my slip of the tongue (without alluding to its cause) and continued on with my presentation with the new found understanding that flying and the practice of pharmaceutical chemistry are more congruent than I previously realized.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Turning the Corner

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
6 Apr 2013 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - FZY (Fulton, NY) - 5G0 3.1 1133.6

With weather finally turning the corner toward spring, it was a good day to venture skyward, get back to my roots (i.e., look out the window and take some pictures), and exercise Warrior 481 before she goes down for annual next week.

I flew through Rochester's airspace under the watchful radar eye of what sounded like a trainee approach controller.  I crossed over the top of Marketplace Mall, the former site of Hylan Field.

I had lunch at Puddle Jumpers at the Oswego County Airport (FZY).  My lunch (a mushroom Swiss burger) was quite good and the homemade, complimentary dessert was much appreciated.  It is great to see someone making an honest effort to keep the airport restaurant going - I am certain that it is not easy.

In addition to the bumpy ride, the wind was variable and traffic was frequently switching back and forth between runways 6 and 33.  But at least everyone was paying attention to what the wind was doing.


Back in the air, I turned a corner of a different sort; the southeast corner of Lake Ontario.  With the nose pointed toward Canada, I continued northward.

Flying slightly offshore brought some relief from the thermal-induced bumps.

I reached the St Lawrence River near Clayton, NY.  Although the dead landscape of New York in April is rarely appealing, the waterways are always interesting to see from the air.

Blind Bay, located on the south bank of the St Lawrence.

The Rock Island Lighthouse stands vigil in the river just outside Blind Bay.

This part of the world is known as the Thousand Islands for obvious reasons.

See that land over there?  That's Canada.  At this point, I noticed a significant amount of French being spoken on 123.00.

Alexandria Bay, the destination for one of my favorite past day trips.

Farther east is Dark Island, home to Singer Castle.  I think this would be a fun destination for a family trip one of these days.

A freighter makes its way westward through the seaway on a journey that could extend to the westernmost reaches of the Great Lakes.

Of course, my proximity to Canada could mean only one thing.

Labatts?  No, not while flying.  Ice.  Lots of ice.

Fortunately, it was breaking up rapidly under the warm springtime sun.

On the return trip, the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Plant made for a perfect ground reference.  Not that I really needed a ground reference; it was my fourth flight with Foreflight/Stratus on my iPad.  As other reviewers have already noted, Stratus "just works".  It's stupid-simple to set up, starts working right away, and the box pulls in ADS-B and GPS signals just fine from the middle of the backseat where I put it to prevent overheating on the glareshield.  Nice.

But today was really all about looking out the window.

The City of Oswego and the Oswego River.

The Oswego breakwater viewed from 8500'.

Closer to home, I worked with another trainee approach controller before making landfall.

Sometimes, there does not need to be a particular destination or mission.  Sometimes, just exercising an airman's privileges and looking out the window are deeply satisfying.  Days like this are why I'm glad I own (outright, finally) an airplane.