Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cute Copilot

Hanna and I went for a short ride this afternoon and she got to ride in the front.

This is the route using the new link from Garmin Mapsource to Google Earth, cool huh?

We stopped at Birchwood to see if I could still land on pavement. She volunteered; "It's squeaky and bumpy when you land. You should take lessons so you can land soft and smooth and not, bump, bump, bump." In my defense, it wasn't great, but there was no bouncing - just the normal (for me anyway) big-tire pavement landing...

Hanna took most of these photos.

Heading into Anchorage...

We stopped at Hood to see if my Uncle or any of his friends were around, but didn't see anyone we knew.

Coming back, the copilot neglected her duties somewhat...

But she couldn't reach the pedals anyway...

And I think had pretty much THIS view forward... lol

It looked great up the Knik with some rain near Hatcher Pass.

I really like landing on 09 because you get to fly over the town...

Hanna slept through the squeaking and bumps... ultimate smiley

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Inauspicious start

My first lesson dedicated to my Instrument Airplane rating got a little derailed today. I arrived a half hour early and got all the new student paperwork out of the way so it wouldn't interfere with training time.

The counter person and another CFI told me that my new instructor was on site with another student but to be prepared to wait because "he's always late" and to "get used to it".

At scheduled plus :10 I told the counter "This is pretty funny especially after the lecture he gave me about being on time because I pay for the scheduled time if I'm late".

At scheduled plus :15 the Chief Flight Instructor showed up: "I've talked to F, and he'll be right down".

5 minutes after that he hadn't shown up or even touched base to say he'd be a while so I left.

You know what... my time is valuable too. I have a family, a job, responsibilities and commitments. Believe it or not, I have to prioritize and schedule my day.

It doesn't sound like much, but making me wait 20 minutes to get started on a 2 hour lesson not only wastes my time but it cuts my available time to more like 1:30 - for pre/post ground and flying. You're lucky to get an hour air time in a 2 hour time commitment because usually the lessons run around 1:50 so you can stop in time for the instructor to take a break and prep for the next student.

So I'm down to 1:30 with likely 50 minutes max in the air, including taxi, takeoff and landing (which I am already pretty experienced in, thank you anyway), unless you're planning to make the next student wait 20 minutes, too? And then what? By the afternoon I'm waiting an hour? It's not like the guy has irreplaceable surgical skills I'm in dire need of.

I don't want to start each lesson pissed off because I've waited 20 or 15 or even 10 minutes for him. And, if he's late every day, I will be pissed off.

So... it set me back a few days but I've got a different instructor lined up.

Of course... I'll probably be REALLY late... :-)

4/29 update: Email from a friend.

Sorry to hear that your first instrument 'lesson' didn't go well. I'm not sure what's wrong with these flight instructors and making people wait. I think I told you about that guy that made me wait 20 minutes and when he finally did show up told me he was going to be another hour or so, but he would give me some things to start studying and I could wait for him. Ha! I haven't been back there since.

Guess what? Turns out to be the SAME GUY! Looks like I made a good decision...

Monday, April 13, 2009


My last trip to Italy for a while.

I went to the very cool little walled town of Lucca about 30 minutes on the train out of Florence. I considered going to Sienna, a more tourist popular walled city about the same distance... but the train doesn't stop by the walled portion of Sienna so I'd have had to take a bus also. Plus, the less-travelled route appealed to me.

Lucca is pretty small, but still large enough that I could have easily spent a couple days just inside the wall (I have no idea what is OUTSIDE the wall other than the train station, lol). Looking through a guidebook later I see several very cool piazzas I didn't come across while wandering around.

This is the main entrance... and by "main" I mean the one I used... :-)

The church of San Michele. An awesome edifice. Apparently the money ran out before the church could be built up to the level of the façade... but I couldn't tell it wasn't intentional. The bell tower was started in the 12th century but not finished until the 19th.

All these columns are carved differently - can you tell? I've seen this sort of thing before - for example on the 'trim' of the Florence Duomo there are multiple patterns - cherubs, vines, etc. I wonder if each column has some meaning, the designer just wanted to mix it up or maybe they assigned the columns to different craftsmen and just let them run with it?

The church of San Christoforo. I like these old ones... this one's 12th century.

It was really quiet when I got there. I think they observe the mid-day break more here than in Florence. Lots of people were coming back through the wall in the early afternoon and the stores were opening up.

Walking around the wall. There were a lot of people walking, riding their bikes and walking dogs - it was real nice. I could see living in Lucca and strolling the wall every evening...

There were some passageways under the wall that were still in use.

Some of it was pretty wet (water dripping from the ceiling) and cave like...

Typical - lots of curved streets.

This is a Roman amphitheater, but it's been built over. No sign of the amphitheater other than the round piazza.

The Basilica of San Frediano has an incredible Mosaic façade.

Palazzo Pfanner Garden. Closed for renovations but very pretty.

View of the wall (the moat used to be filled with water). The city was saved from a flood in 1812 when they were able to "hermetically seal" up the gates.

I would LOVE to sit on this terrazzo with a little Chianti and watch the walkers in the evening... Take a lap, take a break, take a lap... it would be awesome on a warm Spring evening.

More of the wall, which I couldn't get enough of :-)

I think we're going to try to stay in Lucca when my entire family visits. It's an easy train ride to Florence, Rome, Pisa and even Cinque Terre while having a much more laid-back feel than Florence.

I just saw a TV show about some lady that bought an apartment in Lucca - they were going for around $400/sq ft (and needed work) so I guess I'll be living in Palmer for the foreseeable future... lol

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thanks, Hermann

Hermann Reuss died last month.
He was an Alaskan fixture and touched a lot of pilots' lives.

Hermann signed off on my private checkride in 1985. I had bought this Champ in 1984 and learned to fly over the summer of '85 with an 'unemployed by choice' Technical Writer cum Flight Instructor. I knew how to fly, had my own plane and wasn't particularly motivated to finish up until I realized I had about 100 hours, so I took the written and scheduled a ride with Hermann out of Merrill Field.

He said I had to have a NAV radio so I rented a 172. Hermann met me at the aiport and we did the ground examination:

"What if you were following this road by Kenai and ended up at treetop level under overcast?"

"I'd ask for a DF Steer to Kenai" (I'd done that in training and it sounded like a good plan to me...)

"You're going to fly your no-electric Champ to Kenai, without an instrument rating, in the clouds, on needle, ball and airspeed?"

"...Uh.... Yes?"

"You go messing around in the clouds in that thing and you're going to die. Why not just land on the road?"


Then he asked me a bunch of questions about the charts. Most of which I couldn't answer. I did know a little.. but he didn't ask me anything I knew. Hey, a topo was more appropriate for the type of flying I'd been doing than a sectional. I thought I was doing pretty good stalling while I looked up the answers in the margins until Hermann got tired of it and said;

"Let's go fly" and stormed out of the room.

"Wait, let me get the charts."

"Why? You've already proven you don't know how to read them."

So, I followed along (with the f-ing maps) and we went for the ride. At this point I figured we're just going through the motions and I'll be doing this all over... with someone else preferably.

He threw me under the hood right after lift off, told me the Big Lake VOR frequency and to take him there. Which I was doing surprisingly well, when he told me to take the hood off and make 2 360's. One turn, bump, two turns, bump... perfect.

I'm sure we did some other maneuvers but that's all I really remember. He said "Take me back" so soon that I was sure I'd blown it somehow.

For some reason we end up on a straight-in to 33 at Merrill and, since I didn't fly the pattern and am in a new plane, I'm high and hot. Well.... I KNOW how to handle this. I'd been flying my Champ every day all summer... so I crank in full flaps and slip like a runaway elevator for the runway. It's going just fine, everything is under control and proceeding just like I envision, but when we get near the ground (and slowed up) Hermann grabs the yoke.

I snap at him; "I've got it"... Because I DID have it :-)

He just looked at me for a second and then let go.

I pulled in and shutdown and Hermann didn't say anything for a little bit.

Then he began yelling.

"NEVER, NEVER, NEVER slip a Cessna with flaps. Did you read the manual? Do you even know where the POH is?..." And more along that that vein....

So, I figure I'm completely screwed and am walking away when Hermann yells, "HEY" and hands me my already signed certificate. "Have fun and be careful".

Hermann, rest well and thanks for sending me off on my aviation adventure. I promise to never fly into the clouds if I can land. And sorry for scaring you, but I still slip Cessnas with flaps :-)