Monday, January 03, 2011


The CriCri is the worlds smallest twin-engine airplane. It's a single-seater with an empty weight of about 185 pounds. The two engines? 15 horsepower each. Thats no typo; 15 horses each, for a total of 30.

We may have had to drive to Michigan this weekend, but this video is more or less what was going on in my head while we drove.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Night Flight

Cross-posted at Airways to Airways.

Night Flight is a small but integral part of flight training. To get a private pilot's license, one must fly 3 hours at night, including one cross-country of 50 or more miles. I did my night cross-country from Winter Haven to Melbourne and back, and since then I've made an effort to stay night current as it is handy.

Flying at night is different from daytime flying. Obviously, one's visibility is much lower, but if there are no clouds and a good moon you can get a surprisingly nice view of the world. The streets are lit up, the airwaves are quiet, and it's just you and the engine up there looking down on the grids of lights.

The view inside the cockpit of my rented C-152 at night.

Our most recent night flight was from Albert Whitted field back to Winter Haven. We had departed Winter Haven in the sunny late afternoon and flown over the suburbs southeast of Tampa, crossing the bay to St. Pete and making a somewhat bouncy respectable landing on the southerly runway. A nice walk past the marina, a cup of coffee, and then some time walking a rock jetty on the water and before we knew it it was dark out.

Facing east as the sun sets over St. Pete's marina. Control tower is visible.

A small high-wing plane landing at Albert Whitted.

The late-afternoon sunlight in St. Pete.

We headed back to the FBO at Albert Whitted and checked out our plane. Last time we had flown at night the landing light had been broken, which was inconvenient, but this time all the lights shone true and we were cleared for a departure East over the water by the tower.

Flying over water at night can be especially dangerous. There is not a clear visual horizon, so one can easily be confused and end up in an "Unusual Attitude" if not careful. Over Tampa Bay, there are the lights from various bridges and the suburbs on the east side of the bay, which is nice; but I found myself focusing heavily on the attitude indicator and the heading indicator.

While overflying the bay, we tried to contact Tampa Approach. The first controller bounced us to a different frequency, who bounced us to a third, who ignored us altogether. Technically ATC does not have to talk to VFR traffic (which is what we are) but usually they at least have the courtesy to tell you to go away. However, this time I simply monitored the appropriate frequency and flew on my way, saying hello to the controller at Lakeland as we flew over on our way home to Winter Haven.

At Winter Haven, we flew into the traffic pattern and completed a semicircle around the field to land. The landing was long as I had come in high, but I'd rather be a little too high than a little too low.

Looks like the next time I'll be able to fly will be January 9, almost 3 weeks out of the cockpit. I'll go solo and stay in the pattern at the airport to get my wings back, but maybe I'll have a fun story to tell you then.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Fun to Fly!

Today I took Melissa for her third flight in a small airplane. Her first flight (chronicled here) was awhile ago, and I took her up again for a trip to Florida's west coast a couple of weeks ago. But today was a first for both of us: my first flight to another airport since getting my pilot's certificate, and her first flight to another airport ever.

We flew from Winter Haven airport to Albert Whitted, in St. Petersburg. Whitted is a small general aviation field in St. Pete that's right on the waterfront, and I had flown there before with a friend of mine who owns an airplane. There are a lot of places to get coffee or food, and the airport is a five-minute walk from several nice parks and a marina.

Airport Information at

We took off from Winter Haven around four o'clock and flew West, into the afternoon sun. We climbed to 3,000 feet and flew over the Lakeland airport before turning South and calling up Tampa Approach. Melissa made a great co-pilot, looking for other air traffic as we flew along.

About a half hour after leaving Winter Haven, we turned across the bay and were handed off to the controller at Whitted. We landed smoothly on runway 25, and as we looked out the window, Melissa couldn't believe how close the runway was to the ocean. "It's practically in the water...looks like dolphins are going to jump over the runway!"

View Larger Map

I taxied into the FBO and shut the airplane down, pushing it back into a parking spot and tying it down. We left the FBO and walked down the road to a pilot shop where Mel did some secret Christmas shopping, and then we took a leisurely stroll through downtown St. Pete before stopping for a late-afternoon coffee and a snack at a Starbucks.

We got back to the airport just after the sun went down and signed out, heading out to the ramp and giving the airplane a quick preflight. Much to my dismay, the landing light--the light on the front of the plane that acts like a headlight on the ground--was inoperative. Luckily my beacon light and nav lights worked, and after a quick runup and a weather check we called the tower and were on our way over the bay.

Tampa Approach cleared us to 3,000 feet and we cruised East, looking down at the city lights and the roadways and up at the stars and satellites. It was a perfect, clear night with no clouds...great for flying. Mel asked questions about the instrumentation on the airplane and on the things that the controller and I said to one another, and I gave her a lesson on airplane instruments and communications.

Back at Winter Haven...

View Larger Map

...we landed successfully despite our inoperative landing light. Taxiing was a bit tricky as seeing where we were going required peeking out the side window and moving very slowly, but I made it to the ramp and we tied down the airplane.

Going home, Mel and I talked about the day...we flew to an awesome airport, had a nice leisurely afternoon, and then flew home. No traffic, no stop signs, no aggravation, just us and the air-traffic controllers. Flying in a general-aviation airplane, you get a new perspective on the world, seeing the lakes and the neighborhoods and the people from the sky. You get the unique combination of intense focus on what you're doing and the ability to explore whole new perspectives.

We flew from Winter Haven to Whitted in half an hour, a drive that would take at least an hour and twenty minutes even without much traffic. It was a fantastic day. Soon we'll go back to Whitted to eat at the airport diner, and we have many other flights planned out to take soon. Someday we might even get to own our own airplane.

Melissa and I in a Cessna 152, over the Western beaches of Florida.

It's fun to fly!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer in Florida

The summer in Florida's never been my favorite season, as it tends towards scorchingly hot with minimal relief in our third-floor apartment. These last several days have felt especially cruel, and Accuweather confirms: tomorrow is forecast to be 92 with a "feels like" of 114. NOAA and Accuweather both predict similar weather for the rest of the week...this is a little warmer than my taste runs.

I'm just glad, really glad, that my job has A/C. And that we fixed the A/C in the car. And that our house has A/C, even if it's a little less icy than I'd like. And lucky for me, I get to go flying all day Wednesday on my long cross-country. If we cruise at 3000 feet or so, that'll make the flight a lot cooler...there's often a tangible "break" when you're climbing where you suddenly feel the temperature drop to a more tolerable level.

Until, food, and work.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Long time, no post. I've been busy, what with my flying lessons coming to a close and working to pay for the forementioned flying lessons. It's been a busy few weeks...

...tonight, Mel and I made some home-made whoopie pies! We were going to make the traditional chocolate-bun whoopie pies but then the molasses bun variation sounded delicious. They just came out of the oven a while ago, and Mel frosted them not ten minutes ago...behold:

I've yet to try one, but I believe that they will be delicious. Our homemade lasagna just came out of the oven, and so for now it's off to eat and enjoy. I'll make an effort to post some more updates on our life soon.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Five Seven Victor liftoff, originally uploaded by hubristicexpat.

After hours and hours of landing practice, tough-and-go's, and work learning how the airplane works, I managed to solo on June 8th. Last week my instructor and I went for a flight to Zephyrhills, and tomorrow as a reward for my four-day straight stretch at work, I get to go flying again!

To make matters even better, I might get to go solo again. The first solo was simply a few touch-and-go's at the airport, but if I get to solo again tomorrow, I should be able to zip out to the practice area and practice some maneuvers...steep turns, turns around a point, S-turns, maybe stalls, maybe slow flight.

Flying solo is an odd sensation after so much flying with an instructor. The plane feels empty without another 200 pounds of humanity crammed into the tiny cabin of the Cessna 150. The plane climbs noticeably better, seems a little more zippy. And also, if you screw're on your own.

It sounds scary, and it is, but it is also a powerful incentive to do things right.

The solo flights mark the transition of flight training from the mechanics of flight and learning to safely get airborne and land to the more exciting aspects of cross-country navigation and airport operations.

The next few flights after tomorrow should be cross-countries. My instructor and I will fly from Winter Haven to Ocala and back, and then a week later I'll do the same flight solo, with a stop at Lakeland's airport on the way home to satisfy the three-legged requirement of the solo cross-country flight.

Yessir, this flying thing is working out pretty well so far. Solo flight tomorrow and then beginning the cross-countries. If everything goes well, I'll have my pilot's license by the end of the summer, and then...I can go flying whenever I want to.

Exciting things are afoot. I'm quite pleased.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Long time no write

It's been a long time since I wrote on this thing. The biggest news around here: I got to solo!

I have been trying to fly the airplane solo for a long time now, but things have conspired against me. I had to take a couple weeks off for financial reasons, and then I was overtired and not flying as well as I know I can. Another time I was going to solo, but the flight school has just changed their policy so that students must have renters insurance to fly I had to be waylaid again while I obtained renters coverage.

But today was the day! The weather was mild, with a very slight crosswind and mostly clear skies. It was hot to be sure, but the density altitude at the airport wasn't bad enough to severely affect the operation of the airplane. Bryan and I took off and stayed in the pattern, planning for a few touch-and-go's.

The first trip around the pattern was pretty solid. The problem came at the end, when I was distracted and let the airplane get very slow. After that, I was more careful of my airspeed, and the next few landings went well. After six landings with Bryan, we taxied to the ramp and he got out, leaving me in the airplane alone.

I was nervous, but I found that talking to myself helped. Even though nobody else was around I read the checklists aloud to myself, carefully completing each item on the list and verbally briefing myself about what to do next. I watched and listened for other traffic, and finding that things were in order, I made my first solo takeoff and flew up into the traffic pattern all alone.

I made four trips through the pattern by myself. I had planned to stop at three, but my third landing was not the best and I wanted to redeem myself by ending with a good landing. There was a very slight crosswind from the front right of the plane, so I "crabbed" the approach and then used right aileron and left rudder to swing the plane around just before touchdown. It wasn't a perfect 10, but it was much better than my third landing, and I was in a very good mood as I taxied back to the flight school's ramp.

Bryan and myself in front of Cessna N5307Q, the primary trainer I've been using.

A handshake.

Now that I've soloed, the rest of flight training should be a little more interesting. We'll start to do some cross-country, and I need three hours each of simulated instrument flying and actual night-flying. Hopefully before the summer ends I can have my private pilot's license in hand!