Monthly Archives: September 2012

High School Reunion

No IFR training this weekend. Instead, Abby and I flew down to Long Island for my 10 year High School reunion. I grew up in Port Jefferson which is on the north shore of Long Island. The trip home is pretty lengthy: It’s a four hour trip including a ferry trip that costs $70 each way for a car with driver and passenger. So this sort of trip is perfect for replacing with a flight. With no winds the flight is just a bit over an hour and this is is around $60 in avgas each way. Since my mom and her husband could meet us at the airport in Islip, NY it was perfect.

I was initially worried about the weather but updated my mom on Friday indicating we would likely be flying. The forecast was for some weather overnight on Friday night, clearing on Saturday, and a cold front moving through Saturday night leaving perfect weather for the return on Sunday. With the weather predicted to be ideal for a return on Sunday and high forecaster confidence on that transition most of my weather anxiety was alleviated. I planned an early departure around 11:30 from Nashua to avoid any signs of the approaching cold front.

However, once we woke up on Saturday morning the Friday night weather was lingering with a low stratus layer leaving IFR ceilings across most of New England. The forecaster discussions pointed to a high confidence on eventual clearing with the stratus layer lingering longer than originally anticipated. The cold front was predicted to hold off until much later in the evening so it would be no worry. Abby and I headed up to Nashua but entered a “holding pattern” at Bagel Alley to kill some time.

When we left Bagel Alley the skies were still a solid overcast. The satellite weather data showed completely clear skies just a bit to the west and even from the appearance you could tell the stratus layer was very thin. I called my mother to report that we might be delayed a bit but not to be concerned. We still had several hours before we had to make a solid call and drive instead. We headed up to the airport.

By the time we got to the airport the sky was completely clear! Nashua’s ATIS still reported 1200 overcast but the layer had broken up completely to “few” within a span of around ten or fifteen minutes. Satellite showed clear skies and KISP reported good VFR weather with scattered clouds predicted to improve. We headed straight for the ramp so I could preflight and get some fuel from Infinity aviation. I requested five gallons per side to give me a safe margin and still leave some room for a sizable top off at Islip. I’d inquired about staying overnight at the Hawthorne FBO at Islips and they reported no fees for the Cardinal if I took on fuel. Especially since their price was reasonable I decided to leave some room for fuel and support their business.

The flight down was smooth and mostly free of clouds beneath me. There were a few low clouds and I was well above them cruising at 6500. Abby fell asleep on the journey down which I suppose I should take as a compliment! My routing to Islip is to fly from Nashua to the Bridgeport VOR then turn direct towards Islip. This shortens the over water distance crossing the Long Island Sound to be within gliding range of shore at my typical altitudes.

About 20 miles from the Bridgeport VOR I found the scattered cloud deck beneath me was turning to broken/overcast. I decided to turn direct to Islip at this point. This left me passing over New Haven and still within gliding range over the sound. I began my descent planning to go through the cloud deck around Rocky Point, NY then once over the island turn direct Islip. This required a steeper descent than usual (around 1100 feet per minute versus a typical 250 to 500 feet per minute) and I warned Abby but she was fine. Ears reliably popped we were beneath the cloud deck level at around 1500 feet and I was instructed to make an extended left base for runway 15 Right. This might actually have been my first time landing on a “Right/Left” runway although I have taken off on them before! The last time I came into Islip I landed on runway 24.

After calling the tower I was told I would receive my landing clearance shortly and continued my left base for 15 right. Winds were to the right of the runway with reasonably strong gusts. I called the tower announcing I was a three mile left base and they cleared me to land. Flaps and gear out, slowing down, I made a slow turn to final. I could have made it crisper but it was fine. Concentrating on the crosswind I made a nice smooth landing just a bit to the left of the centerline.

The Hawthorne FBO is at the approach end of runway 15R so my taxi instructions were to exit to the right and follow the parallel taxiway Bravo back to the ramp. Upon arriving I was met by a nice lineman who marshaled us in to a spot right in front of the hangar. I was very pleased with the service! Mom and Richard came out on the ramp to help us with the small amount of luggage we had and admired the Cardinal.

The reunion itself was a lot of fun. Facebook has changed the nature of High School reunions for sure and many people immediately asked me about flying since they have seen all of my photos and status updates. Still, it was great to catch up with folks. I had a blast.

Thanks to the late night and hard partying our departure was later in the afternoon. We got back to the airport around four with our luggage and a nicely wrapped slice of pie. The FBO had all of the fueling paperwork all set when I arrived at the airport and I all had to do was sign the slip while the line guy pulled the chocks and cones marking the wings off. Have I mentioned that this was an excellent and very reasonably priced FBO? I will be back!

With the cold front rolling through overnight the winds had shifted from the south to the northwest and this meant takeoff on runway 33 Left, the opposite direction from my landing. Mom and Richard had ducked back instead due to the windy chilly weather but as I took off looking out the left window I saw that they had come outside to watch my takeoff! This FBO also offers a good view of departures from runway 33L!

After departure I was instructed to turn 30 degrees right (likely for a departing regional airline turboprop behind me) and then proceed on course. I advised New York approach of my intention to proceed to the Bridgeport VOR then direct to Nashua. My cruising altitude was 7500 which kept us a safe distance above the occasional clouds.

Unlike Saturday’s journey the air was clear and visibility was excellent with no haze. After departure we could see all the way to New York City’s skyline almost 70 miles away. Eventually we could see Boston and Providence too from quite a distance. Over southern CT we were called out as traffic to a JetBlue flight into Bradley airport and eventually we could see the JetBlue aircraft pass behind us and turn to the right, a very cool sight!

The clouds were widely scattered and I had no trouble descending straight on course to avoid them. I moved left of the direct course slightly to avoid the Pepperell airport where skydiving activity is ongoing and reported Nashua in sight, ended flight following, and contacted Nashua Tower. Some traffic was pointed out and a helicopter in the pattern was assigned to follow us. After a left pattern I made a nice landing. ATIS indicated winds a bit gusty but mostly down the runway and I didn’t think it was too bad. The landing was quite smooth.

The loggable time ended up being 1.5 on the way down and 1.4 on the way back (a nontrivial part of that is taxi and run-up). There was definitely more of a headwind on the way down although the cold front’s passage meant that there was a headwind in both directions. Next weekend I will be back to the Instrument training but for this weekend I am proud of 2.9 logged doing practical (and maybe even cost effective) aviation transport!

Holding Pattern

On Saturday I completed another instrument lesson. This time the subject was holding patterns. Having done my reading I understood all the theory but we started with a short ground lesson on the various details of how to enter and fly a holding pattern.

Holding patterns are an important part of IFR flight. In practice their use is rare but when delays happen you cannot just pull over in the air so proficiency is a must. The skills you practice in learning the holding pattern are also useful for flying approaches. In visual conditions you can simply choose a reference point on the ground and circle if an airport experiences a delay. However, in instrument conditions you need to be able to remain oriented without any visibility.

After the ground discussion we moved to the Frasca simulator. This is a non motion simulator which is good for practicing the mechanics of entry into the hold because we can practice it from several different directions. Unfortunately the Frasca is also quite touchy and due to some uncommanded pitch excursions (presumably a dirty potentiometer in there somewhere). So after an hour of sweating in the sim we decided it was time to go out and practice a hold in the Cardinal.

After starting up I called Nashua ground and requested a squawk code from Boston Approach for practicing holds on the VOR or GPS-A approach into Nashua (if the link expires, you can retrieve it from AirNav). For our purposes we performed this approach with the VOR. The approach itself is based on the Manchester VOR which is actually located south of Manchester Airport in Londonderry, NH.

After takeoff I put on the foggles, began a right turn, and then planned my entry into the hold at the Manchester VOR. Since my course direct towards the VOR would take me over the VOR then outside the hold I planned a parallel hold entry. The meant that immediately after passing over the VOR I would turn to a 066 heading to fly outbound parallel to the inbound holding course on the non-holding side. Then I would turn left around 210 degrees to re-intercept the inbound holding course on a 246 heading. At this point the VOR is providing course guidance so using that I know I am flying on the correct radial towards the VOR. When the VOR indicator flips from “To” to “From” the holds continues with a 180 degree turn to the outbound course. After rolling out on the outbound heading I start a timer for one minute and hold the course. Once a minute has elapsed another 180 degree right turn is started. If all is well as the turn completes I will re-intercept the inbound course, start my timer again, and the timer will have elapsed one minute by the next time the VOR indicator flips. Phew! Now do it again! The result is a nice racetrack.

The hold depicted on the Nashua VOR-A approach plate. Right hand turns, one minute legs, inbound course 246 degrees on the 066 Radial of the MHT VOR.

Winds were pretty strong, around 27-30 knots at altitude and a direct crosswind to the hold. In order to avoid being blown off course the headings were modified to point into the wind – towards the northwest. Since it was a direct crosswind the leg timings worked out to around one minute in each direction so the timing did not need to be adjusted. But each time we came back around in the hold the VOR again provides course guidance on the inbound course. This gives a reference point to how well our wind correction angles were working. It was hard work. Each time around the hold the wind correction angles were adjusted a bit more. The air was bumpy too.

After many, many holds in the turn without losing situational awareness and without losing track of the VOR Doug suggested I fly the VOR-A approach back to Nashua. Perfect! My first approach in the Cardinal. We advised the controller who cleared us to descend in the hold down to 2000 feet. Now I had to keep flying the hold while descending. Once reaching 2000 feet we were cleared for the VOR-A approach which continues by following the 246 inbound course on the MHT-066 radial but this time I did not turn right to continue the hold and instead continued following the course outbound from the VOR.

As we exited the controller said “nice work in the hold.” Doug pointed out that the controller has seen lots of people fly this hold for practice today and we weren’t doing so bad given the fierce cross winds! If you don’t correct for the winds properly your hold ends up looking like spaghetti on the controller’s scope so this was good praise. I felt overwhelmed but Doug said I was doing an excellent job in the hold.

After passing the MHT VOR on the approach inbound to Nashua a descent to 900 feet is authorized. This is a “non-precision” approach which means it does not feature vertical guidance. So as soon as you pass the “Final Approach Fix” (the MHT VOR) you are authorized to descend down to 900 feet and continue forward at that altitude until you make visual contact with the airport. Passing the FAF inbound I put out flaps 10 degrees and put down the landing gear and adjusted pitch and power for a 1000 foot per minute descent. A bit over a minute later I leveled at 900 feet and held it there. The VOR needle remained nicely centered – I was nailing the approach so far! At the 90 knot approach speed it is around five and a half minutes of flying from FAF to the Missed Approach Point which is directly above Nashua airport.

The VOR-A does not take you in aligned with any particular runway (that’s why it is the VOR “Alpha” and not “VOR Runway 32″ which is a different approach at Nashua using the Lawrence VOR). This is called a circling approach and means that after reaching the airport you are expected to circle around and land on whichever runway makes the most sense. At the Missed Approach Point Doug told me to take my Blockalls off and for the first time in over an hour I looked outside. I was pleasantly surprised to see we were directly over Nashua airport! I held the altitude at 900 (somewhat below a normal visual pattern altitude) and flew a left circle to land around for runway 32. The approach was very well executed.

I wish I could say I made a perfect landing but instead the combination of gusty crosswinds and the sun directly in my eyes (especially after an hour of close focused blockalls!) led me to bounce it and I decided to shove the throttle forward for a Go-Around. I made my decision without much thought and announced it matter of factly. The Go-Around was well executed and I pulled up flaps and gear and made a right pattern at the request of the Tower controller. This time things looked much nicer. I made an excellent landing on 32, right on the center. Doug pointed out that often it takes some adjustment from the close focused instrument work with outside visual work required for a landing, and I agree. I’ll get better with practice! This is just the first of many instrument approaches to come in the Cardinal.

IFR Training and Partial Panel

Thanks to wrapping up a software release on Friday I got a free extra day off from work on Tuesday. My CFII was available too so this was a perfect opportunity to get back to my IFR training. I’ve been neglecting it lately since I’ve been quite busy and I’ve been keen on doing VFR flying during the spare time I have had. The weather looked ideal for Tuesday and I scheduled two blocks of lesson before and after lunch time.

We started with a quick ground lesson upstairs. After reviewing the standard instrument flying configurations I determined on Sunday we talked about partial panel operations. Out of the standard set of instruments the attitude indicator and directional gyro are powered by vacuum. The turn coordinator is a gyroscopic instrument which is powered by the aircraft’s electrical system. Because of this it is important to practice instrument flying with the attitude indicator and directional gyro “failed” by covering them up. This is called partial panel.

The standard “6 pack” of instruments: Airspeed, attitude, altimeter, turn coordinator, directional gyro, and vertical speed indicator.

There are two ways to master turns in instrument conditions with a partial panel. The easier method is to use the turn coordinator to establish a standard rate turn which is 360 degrees of turn in 2 minutes. To roll out on a particular heading you use the clock (a panel mounted clock is required equipment for IFR flight). For example, to turn 90 degrees left you roll into a left standard rate turn and stop the turn after 30 seconds.

If the clock has also failed the magnetic compass can be used. The magnetic compass has a number of errors which affect it during a turn itself and during accelerated flight. Because the wings are banked during the turn the compass does not read correctly on turns to north or south headings. The Wikipedia article on compass turns includes details of this effect. In normal operations the compass is only used to set and periodically verify the current directional gyro setting but partial panel is all about dealing with failures.

To start the flying portion of the lesson I did an instrument takeoff. In reality it is unlikely that a zero visibility takeoff would be attempted but in this case I donned the hood after lining up at the beginning of runway 32 at Nashua. With my Blockalls instrument training goggles on I increased power and used solely the directional gyro to remain centered down the runway as airspeed increased towards takeoff. From this point on I was under the foggles.

After raising the gear and flaps while in simulator instrument conditions I continued a climb towards the west and Doug (my CFII) gave several different headings to fly and altitudes to climb and descend to. The purpose here was to practice general instrument flight and to verify the pitch and power settings I obtained on Sunday. Generally things went very well. A few times Doug distracted me during a climb or descent and I busted an altitude by a hundred feet or so. But he said I am doing very well for this stage of my training. It was pretty bumpy too!

Next we tuned in the Manchester VOR radio beacon and practiced intercepting and tracking the VOR signal. This went well. I have learned to be more aggressive about my intercept angle and how not to chase the needle. The trick is to use the heading bug on the directional gyro to keep track of what heading I should be flying. Finally with noon approaching I suggested it was a good time to break for lunch and I headed towards Fitchburg and took the finally took foggles off.

The pattern at Fitchburg was busy with another plane which took us a while to spot. Finally we spotted them way ahead of us on short final and continued the downwind. I made a tolerable landing on runway 32 at Fitchburg and we went inside for home made Mac&Cheese and garlic toast lunch at the Fitchburg airport diner.

After lunch it was time for partial panel. This time I did not do an instrument takeoff from Fitchburg but we did look up the standard departure procedure for Fitchburg: “climb via heading 324° to 2600 before proceeding on course.” I did the takeoff without the Blockalls so I could see what the visual view looked like up to 2600 then went back into simulator instrument conditions.

After climbing to 4000 feet and leveling off on a west heading the vacuum instruments were covered with round post-its and we started with timed turns. It turns out that the point I was using as a standard rate turn was actually a bit shallow. Adjusting for my seating position the right indication of a standard rate turn is the miniature airplane on the bottom edge of the hash mark on the turn coordinator. This was confirmed with several standard rate turns to cardinal headings. In each case I managed to keep it together and did a reasonable roll out within 5 or 10 degrees despite not looking at the compass or DG.

Next the clock “failed” and was covered up! Now it was just the mag compass. We did several turns to East, West, North and South headings and sure enough the predicted lead or lag turned out to be quite real and after rolling winds level the compass read the intended heading.

Finally we did a partial panel descent and level off. With no attitude indicator I used the standard power settings and a 500 foot per minute descent on the VSI. Airspeed provided a good check and the turn coordinator was used to keep the wings level. It wasn’t too bad! I was stressed about the partial panel but I handled it well.

Finally, at 3500 feet we did steep turns under the hood. We started with a steep turn in each direction without the foggles then I put them back on and did 45 degree bank steep turns under the hood. Doug said my altitude tolerances were within commercial pilot standards and I managed to keep it together during the steep turns. After one in each direction we headed back to Nashua and I took off the foggles for a visual approach left pattern to runway 32.

The landing was great, very smooth and right on the centerline. I’m obviously getting used to the new runway at Nashua. I have two more simulator instrument hours in the logbook and a lot more confidence. Next lesson will be holding patterns and procedure turns, and maybe an approach or two!

Pitch and Power and Springfield, VT

On Sunday I went for a flight with the primary goal of obtaining some information about various flight configurations for my IFR training. The idea is to have the power setting and pitch attitude available for each configuration so that they can be easily recalled when workload is high during instrument flight. The various configurations are climb, cruise, cruise descent, approach (slow level flight), approach descent (500 fpm for an ILS), and non-precision approach descent (1000 fpm for step down descents on an approach without vertical guidance).

Winds on the surface were calm when I departed Nashua but there were some bumps in the practice area with cold air advection aloft and over the ridges to the west. Starting with the climb configuration I went through each and filled out my chart. For each configuration I recorded the manifold pressure (throttle setting), propeller RPM setting, pitch attitude, airspeed, vertical speed. Most configurations have the flaps and gear up but the precision and non-precision approach descents were done with flaps at 10 degrees and the gear down.

I went between 4500 and 2500 feet a few times as I tested the various configurations then I climbed back up to 4500 and went direct towards KVSF in Springfield, VT. I hadn’t been to this airport yet and I figured that it would be a good experience to land at a new airport. The bumps increased as I made my way over increasing hills in western NH and soon the Connecticut River was visible with the airport beyond.

There was some glider activity at the airport with a yellow sailplane above and a Piper Pawnee tow plane that was returning to the airport. Most aircraft including a Skyhawk that had arrived just before me were using runway 29 with gusting winds at 300 degrees. I made a left base pattern entry for runway 29 with my eyes peeled for traffic and almost immediately spotted the Piper Pawnee tow plane which announced they were flying a pattern for the longer runway 23 “to land in the grass” and would hold short of 29 for me. This sounded a bit odd to me but it was also clear that I would be on the ground and past 29 before they were on their final approach so I continued my turn to final and made a somewhat rough but safe landing. On a shorter runway it is good to plant it firmly in any case.

I turned off at the taxiway about 2/3 of the way down the runway and found myself following the Skyhawk back to the runway for departure. They had to hold short for the yellow sailplane which landed on the grass next to runway 29 then I waited for them to back taxi and depart before doing the same. As I taxied back to 29 the Piper Pawnee raced past me on the grass with a quick radio call, on their way to hook up the next tow load.

After departure I turned to the left direct back to Nashua at 3500 feet. Almost immediately I spotted the Skyhawk ahead of me at the same altitude and they appeared to be flying the same heading. I kept them in sight since I was traveling somewhat faster (I was cruising around 135 knots and the Skyhawk was probably at 105-110 knots) and overtaking them. They were many miles ahead of me but eventually I overtook them on the right over the hills of western NH. This was a pretty cool sight! Presumably they spotted me as soon as I was in front of them.

When I called Nashua tower around 10 miles out after getting the ATIS the pilot in the Skyhawk called about a minute later. Now they were following me in a right downwind pattern entry. My landing was good – closest to the center line in a while and a real greaser! Naturally, my best landings seem to be when there is no passenger to see them!

Maneuvers after work

Today we wrapped up a big release at work. This meant that I wasn’t staying late and could actually bug out a bit early and head up to the airport! I was a bit concerned with thunderstorms in the forecast and some building cumulus as I left work but it turns out these were all well to the south of Nashua and staying that way. The weather was hot and hazy, but the air was smooth and no clouds at Nashua.

Since it has been a while since I’ve practiced maneuvers I decided that was what I would do. I found my way to runway 14 through the new taxiway from the run up area and was cleared to take off following a departing Cessna who was staying in the pattern. I turned right and headed west off to the old “practice area” (not charted, but an ideal spot for maneuvers west of the airport). Once clear of Nashua’s airspace over Brookline, NH I did a clearing turn to the left then started with some steep turns.

I kept the speed around maneuvering speed (around 105 knots) and rolled into several steep turns to the left and right. They were OK, but I need to practice some more. Today was not as good a day as I’d hoped mostly due to the waning daylight combined with the haze and visibility. It made the horizon not quite as clear as it could be and this made the steep turns a bit tougher. I will do some more practice soon.

Next I slowed it down further with flaps and gear and maintained level flight for a short while, made some turns left and right, and finally lined up on the setting sun. The glowing ball of sunlight was a perfect reference to keep the nose centered and wings level in power off stalls. Bringing the power all the way out I maintained altitude as the speed bled off and waited… and waited… The Cardinal does take a while to reach a fully developed stall! Finally the nose dropped and I recovered, bringing the speed back to 80 knots before reducing the power again for another power off stall. Both were nicely coordinated and the nose barely moved off of the reference point.

I turned back to the east and headed back to Nashua. With runway 14 in use returning from the practice area usually puts you on a right base approach. In this case the controller asked me to bring it around for a long straight in final to follow some traffic. I had already slowed it up with flaps 10 and gear by the time I spotted the traffic turning final in front of me and I was cleared to land behind them. Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture, Prop, Seatbelts… Check. I added flaps 20 after getting my landing clearance and descended for the runway. The first landing was very smooth and I rolled out to what is currently the only midfield taxiway (due to the remaining construction) without any braking.

I decided to taxi back and do two more landings in the pattern. The first features a slightly late clearance to land as the controller was busy with a takeoff, but when I rolled out on final I was bang on aligned with the runway. Not everything was perfect however and the flare was a bit high with a bumpier touchdown. No bounce though, and I was soon back in the air for another lap around the pattern.

The final landing was a bit sloppier on the alignment in the roll out but my pattern was tighter and the descent was perfect. I slowed the flare down a bit and the landing was smooth on the mains with the nose gear held up by the Cardinal’s powerful stabilator for a nice smooth touchdown and excellent aerodynamic braking to the taxiway.

I only flew 0.8 but it was all good practice and three landings. It is always nice to practice with the setting sun providing a nice view. As I was practicing landings you could see the waning sunset behind and occasional flashes way to the southeast from the thunderstorms slowly moving over Boston! A very cool sight.

Starting the Lycoming IO-360

Starting an airplane engine is not like starting a modern car. The engine in the Cardinal is a fuel injected Lycoming IO-360. Unlike automotive engines fuel injected aircraft engines are actually often harder to start than their carbureted cousins – especially when the engine is already warm.

The cooling airflow on an aircraft engine flows into the cowling above the engine, down past cooling fins, and out the bottom. This means that during flight the coolest part of the cowling is above the engine. Of course, once parked with a hot engine the top of the cowling is the hottest part because heat rises. Since it is more important to avoid any issues with vapor lock in flight than on the ground the fuel injector lines are positioned above the engine. This eliminates any issues with vaporize fuel in the lines in flight.

On the ground with the engine warm this is an impediment. As heat rises off of the engine first the fuel expands and some of it that remains in the lines dribbles out of the injectors into the intake manifold. This leaves the mixture in the manifold too rich to start. And of course this also leaves vapor in the lines. So there is a different procedure to follow in the Cardinal for warm and cold starts after confirming that the fuel selector is on both and the cowl flaps are open.

For a cold start: Move the mixture handle and throttle full forward (mixture rich, throttle full open). Turn on the master switch then operate the electric boost pump for several seconds. I choose a time varying between 3 and 5 seconds depending on the outdoor temperature. Then move the mixture to idle cut-off and the throttle to approximately a quarter of an inch. With hand on the throttle crank until the engine starts then slowly advance the mixture after adjusting the throttle as needed.

For a warm start: No priming! The intake manifold already has a rich mixture in it. Instead, move the mixture to idle cut off and throttle a quarter of an inch. Start cranking for a few seconds. If the engine has not started start slowly advancing the throttle to search for the mixture point where it will light off. Once it starts, pull the throttle back to 1200 RPM and advance the mixture forward. It will take several more blades (rotations of the prop) for the engine to start but that is normal for a warm start.

After starting pull the mixture back to lean for all ground operations to prevent any issues with plug fouling. This can be done quite aggressively and many advocate a lean point where even advancing the throttle for take off will cause the engine to stumble and quit. This also eliminates the chance that you will accidentally take off with a mixture that is too lean.

As you can see starting a fuel injected aircraft engine takes three hands! You’ll learn the techniques that work best for your particular aircraft. But most Lycoming fuel injected engines start similar to this. It isn’t anything to be afraid of and after a few starts you will be an expert. Make sure you don’t over prime, especially when warm!

Pioneer Valley Sightseeing

My original plan for labor day was to go flying with my dad (for the first time) on Sunday then fly again on Labor Day Monday. As it turns out I had a pretty serious cold and congestion on Sunday which is a bad combination with flying due to the pressure changes. I postponed my plans to meet up with Dad and rested up. Thankfully by Monday I was feeling well enough to fly, especially since with the runway construction finally completed at Nashua I also needed to ferry the airplane back there from Fitchburg.

A grand plan was hatched: Since my dad was staying in Deerfield, MA Abby and I would fly west from Fitchburg and meet him at the small airport in Turner’s Falls (0B5). From there we could fly around for a bit in the Pioneer Valley. After dropping my dad back at Turner’s Falls Abby and I could fly back to Fitchburg and leave her to drive to Nashua and meet me there to complete the ferry trip.

With plenty of time to spare Abby and I got lunch at the airport restaurant in Fitchburg. I’m very appreciative of the fact that the airport in Fitchburg provided free tie downs for the month to displaced Nashua aircraft and eating at the airport diner is one of several ways I’ve paid that back in kind. Thanks again.

Just after starting up at Fitchburg something didn’t sound right. Abby spotted some foreign object on the ramp and I shut down the engine to check it out. It turns out some plastic packing material had blown across the ramp and some of it caught on the tip of the prop. As soon as the prop stopped it fell to the ground. I took some time to carefully inspect the prop, intake, and peeked in the cowling for any remnants before convincing myself I had all of the material. After restarting the engine everything ran smoothly.

The trip to Turner’s Falls was not very far. I carefully skirted north of Orange airport and tuned in their CTAF to confirm that there was no skydiving activity. Much to my surprise on such a beautiful clear day there didn’t seem to be any. Soon I spotted Turner’s Falls and entered the downwind for runway 16. Winds were from the west at a near direct crosswind but relatively light. My landing was a bit left of centerline but otherwise fine and my worst mistake was forgetting that the parallel taxiway doesn’t go all the way down at Turner’s. A sheepish back taxi later and I was chocked in the deserted parking area and waiting for dad to arrive.

Abby and me at Turner’s Falls (picture by John Noé)

Soon dad arrived and I gave the usual passenger briefing before starting up and taxiing out to do a run-up and depart runway 16 at Turner’s Falls. The straight out departure goes towards some higher terrain and while I would have cleared it without issue I turned to the right after takeoff to follow the lower terrain towards the river. We circled for a bit after reaching Sunderland to orient ourselves with the river, Mt. Toby (with a prominent fire tower), and Mt. Sugarloaf to spot the approximate location of my sister’s house.

Starting a fuel injected airplane always involves a juggle of both hands – especially when it is hot! (picture by John Noé)

My dad had been nervous about turbulence and bumpy conditions (and came already equipped with wrist bands and ginger gum!). But despite the occasional thermal turbulence due to solar heating he had no issues. He was certainly having fun spotting things from the air, including the hotel he stayed in the previous night (“the red roof in really does have a red roof!”). I think the Cardinal’s good visibility outside helps passengers feel comfortable in the bumps.

Soon we were over Northampton and I suggested we head for Westfield-Barnes to get the experience of landing at a bigger airport (and to grab some relatively cheap fuel). Of course Barnes isn’t a super big airport but it does give passengers a perspective compared to an untowered small airport like Turner’s Falls. I already had Barnes in sight and called up the ATIS. Runway 20 was in use which put me a few miles to the left of a long 10 mile final. As expected the Tower controller instructed me to make a straight in approach and call 3 mile final.

Landing gear finishing its transit in the mirror. (picture by John Noé)

During my month off while the landing gear was repair I clearly got sloppy about being right on the centerline because once again I was lining up to the left of center. I didn’t land side loading and the landing was otherwise reasonably smooth but definitely left of center. Looking at the photos my dad took is a good reminder that I can be better about getting on the centerline early! Always fly the airplane, be assertive, don’t be a passenger!

The runway at Westfield-Barnes is long and wide. Beyond the thousand foot markers you can see an arresting wire rig. The sombrero shaped thingy is a VOR transmitter. (picture by John Noé)

As I taxied towards the Airflyte FBO there was a big business jet leaving. It is always fun to take the parking spot of a Dassault Falcon 50 three engine jet! My dad was previously around when I refueled self serve at Northampton so he was surprised to realize that they drive the truck right up to the airplane to refuel. We wandered inside the FBO and “terminal building”. The normally busy airport restaurant was closed presumably due to the labor day holiday.

Next to me on the ramp: A Beechcraft King Air 200. Clearly the Cardinal is bringing down the neighborhood values! (picture by John Noé)

Soon the airplane was fully fueled and I did my usual post fueling preflight ritual of sumping the tanks and gascolator into the GATS jar and then dumping the jar into the tanks, checking the level and caps along the way. It’s always important to be careful before takeoff.

Our departure from was from Runway 20 intersection Alpha which leaves more than the length of Turner’s Falls runway remaining. With a Cirrus departing straight out behind me I turned right on departure as instructed to head north out of Westfield Tower’s airspace and back up the Connecticut River valley. My dad was keen to spot an oxbow lake formed in the river near Holyoke which you can see from I-91 and he soon did.

Oxbow Lake. (picture by John Noé)

I followed the highway (Interstate 91) out my left window with the river out the right window at 3500 feet towards Brattleboro, VT. The air was a bit bumpier now and I checked in a few times but dad was fine with the motion. Brattleboro was reached in a short while and after finding the spot where a smaller river reaches the CT I turned around and we headed back for Turner’s Falls.

Foreflight does take away some of the fun of paper charts, like having a passenger find where we are. Cruising slower plus some headwind makes for better sightseeing. (picture by John Noé)

I navigated back to Turner’s Falls with river following pilotage and entered a downwind for runway 16. This time the approach was pretty nice. I did fly more of a dogleg than I like but the slow roll out onto final put me onto the runway centerline and the landing had good crosswind correction and good speeds with the stall horn beeping at the end and a smooth touchdown. This time I remembered I shouldn’t taxi down to the far end and taxied back just past the taxiway.

Rolling out on final. At this point on the left side of the runway extended center line but I am still slowly rolling out the turn. (picture by John Noé)

After saying goodbye to dad all that remained was to fly back to Fitchburg then Nashua! After takeoff I turned to the left, cleaned up and trimmed the airplane, confirmed that we were good to clear all terrain, and asked Abby if she wanted to fly. She took the airplane for a bit and flew towards Fitchburg including the descent and only handed it back to me when it was clear there were other aircraft in the pattern at Fitchburg.

My approach to runway 14 was high when I rolled out onto final and after going to full flaps with power out Abby asked if I was going to go around. I told her I would try a slip first and demonstrated the slip to add drag. This steepens the approach angle without adding airspeed and while I did use more runway I still landed within the first third. I should practice more slips as this is an excellent trick to have in the bag.

The engine was only shut down for about two minutes before I started back up again and headed off to Nashua with Abby racing me in the car. Unsurprisingly she lost that race. Total time to Nashua was 23 minutes, engine start to stop. And I spend some time waiting to take off.

The new runway at Nashua is wide, black, smooth and long. With the winds today I landed on 14. It was nice to hear a familiar controller’s voice and I managed to avoid being confused by the changed taxiway layout too much. Fortunately enough other airplanes have been moved back already that I did not have any trouble finding my row of tie downs either! It’s good to be back. Total time ended up being 2.8 which was an excellent day’s flying.