Lake-City

At the weekends I used to fly from the early morning, but this Saturday I decided to sleep some more: it is not a good idea to fly if you’re tired.

Today the weather was good, so it was possible to fly to Lake-City. So, why that place? First of all, the weather is much better for northbound routes, and that airport has the ATC – it’s always good to practice. The weather in Florida is the most critical factor in summer: for example, today it is not a good idea to fly more than 100 miles from the airport, because after about 4 hours there is some possibility of thunderstorms here.

As I said, the weather was good, but not perfect. The cloud ceiling was at about 2500-2700 feet, and I had to maintain about 1500 feet for about 20 minutes from the home base. I had to avoid large cumulus clouds too: they are dangerous, and it’s better to change a course a little than fly directly under them.

I suppose that almost everyone who flew in Florida heard about KCDK. It is a small airport at the shoreline with a concrete 1500-feet runway. Our school policy prohibits to fly there (as many others do), but the weather there is usually good even in summer, so at the very worst case it still can serve as an alternate. But it’s better not to count on that. 1500 feet is not so bad, but psychologically can be surprising after all of wide luxury concrete runways in Florida. Most of them are usually at least 4000-feet long.

After about 30 min of flight the cloud base became higher, and the clouds almost disappeared.

The route itself is very easy: it’s enough to follow the road.

While on weekdays the airport is controlled, on the weekends there is no ATC there, so I should act like at uncontrolled airport. I landed and vacated the runway. There were some Airbus on a taxiway, but I did not see a single person in the cockpit or around.

On the way back the weather became even better, and I was able to fly directly to the airport without avoiding clouds. A very nice day.

IFR Gainesville

I failed to fly IFR with the school’s black N4642J due to oil temperature problem, but the weather was still OK to fly, and one more airplane became available. At 2:30 pm it was still possible to fly to Gainesville and back. The weather forecast was FM1900Z VCTS и BKN40CB, which means that there would be some thunderstorm activity, but not necessarily. Usually thunderstorms sit at the same places day-to-day at approximately the same time. Moreover, it is very easy to see them from the very long distance.

The radar showed a very good picture too, so I decided to fly to Gainesville. I filed and IFR plan, again, just to practice these skills. The weather conditions were visual.

I saw some distant thunderstorms on the way to Gainesville, and even a small cell on my course, so I requested a deviation due to weather. After avoiding this cell I got a direct route to the airport, and landed on a longer runway.

I decided to depart immediately since thunderstorm clouds were far from the airport at that moment, but that could quickly change. I requested and got my clearance, took off and flew back to the Crystal River. At 3000 feet I had some cumulus clouds above, but after about 20 miles from Gainesville the sky became clear. I was happy that I had decided to fly today 🙂

The Thunderstorm

Thunderstorms and shower rain started today from the early morning. I took my time and slept: sometimes our body requires some rest.

The weather in Florida is very varied though: after 2 pm the rain stopped, and from about 4 pm the clouds started to dissipate, and the weather finally became flyable.

I found some new puddles at the airport which looked more like lakes, but the runway and taxiways were clean, and the wind reduced to zero. The only problem was that I had to step in a large puddle while untying the airplane.

Calm winds and no turbulence is perfect for practicing different kind of landings: normal landing, short field, engine out, sideslips.

Now I know that Cessna 150 is definitely able to take-off or land from/to a 1000-feet runway. I used runway threshold and aiming points to determine the distance. Our runway is suitable for instrument non-precision approach, which means that it has threshold and aiming point markings. The distance between a runway edge and aiming point is exactly 1000 feet. Something like that:

I suppose that with Cessna 172 takeoff and landing roll distances will be larger, and it will be useful to practice in that kind of weather to better know the airplane capabilities.

The Weather

The weather is a critical factor for any pilot. For today we were planning ILS and VOR approaches in a controlled airspace.

The forecast was pretty good and even improving: almost no wind, ceiling 4300, visibility 10 miles or more. After all preparations and a preflight check the wind became 190, 4 kt, but we planned runway 36 (the only one with ILS in that airport). It meant that we would have a tailwind, and more likely that all other traffic would use 18, and ILS would not be an option.

So, the only option for a precision approach (the one with a glideslope) could be a GPS approach with LPV, but the airplane we took does not have WAAS. It meant that we just cannot fly any precision approach.

Fortunately the airplane with WAAS was still available, and we decided to prepare a GPS approach. Instrument-wise there is almost no difference between ILS and GPS with a glideslope.

Meanwhile, the weather decided against us again, and the ceiling became 800. Definitely these were not proper conditions for a training flight, especially for the first precision approach ever for me. So we are waiting for appropriate conditions. Sometimes it just happens, and a proper decision is a part of good ADM.

Bad Weather

Today it is not possible to fly. The weather radar shows dense clouds, and for me it means that I should wait for a better weather.

Basically the weather radar shows water droplets concentration. Red areas mean very high amount of water, which usually means that there is a thunderstorm in that area. Then from higher to lower is yellow, green, blue and violet.

Today we can see something like this:

I hope that it will be better by tomorrow morning.

Strong Winds

I supposed to fly early in the morning, but it did not happen: the airplane did not have enough fuel, and the fuel service is usually available only in the afternoon. Anyway I needed some more sleep.

I took off in the afternoon. During the flight I noticed that the ground speed is way less that the airspeed. It means that I had a strong headwind, which means that I would fly faster on my way back. Today I chose a direct route from one point to another.

I found one more abandoned aerodrome on my way and made some photos.

The wind was strong, but there were not so much crosswind and no gusts as well, so the landing was smooth.

Today was really hot. I suppose that it was up to 40 degrees celsius in a sunny areas, so I experienced a longer takeoff run and a slower climb: hot air really affects the airplane performance.

On the way back I landed on some airfield where I owed a landing fee previous time, and finally paid it today. I felt some gusts, so it was safer to approach with a higher speed: the airplane was more stable.

When I returned to the home base the wind became almost calm, and the landing was very easy and smooth. Very nice flight!

I’m A Little Black Rain Cloud, of course

I’m just a little white rain cloud
Hovering under the honey tree
I’m only a little black rain cloud
Pay no attention to me…

Sometimes the weather does not want to cooperate at all. Today one of these rain clouds just did not allow me to not pay attention.

The clouds are gorgeous, but they can be scary. Particularly this one looks not so dangerous, but in reality it is huge and very turbulent. I was thinking about circumnavigating it, but it would require flying almost half of the country, so I decided to go back. Anyway now I am flying just for sightseeing and meeting necessary flight time minimums, so it does not matter a lot where to fly.

Today I had a chance to overfly a very beautiful landscape. Sometimes flights over that area are restricted, but today it was not a case, and I made some beautiful photos.

The clouds were forming very beautiful patterns. There were mainly cumulus clouds because of high thermal activity – usually cumulus are the most beautiful but the most dangerous clouds.

According to the weather forecast for today something huge, scary and dangerous was expected from the west in the afternoon, so I decided to return to the home base before it would come there.

In the sky the power of nature can be felt much better. It is something really powerful, real and beautiful, and sometimes you feel like a child facing these primeval, savage forces. And they are still charming and marvelous.

Lakes and Mountains

I always wanted to see the mountains and lakes near the Austrian border. It really worths to see them, they are incredible. The problem is that you should climb pretty high, up to 6000 feet, but today’s weather allowed to do it.

I bet that glider pilots would be jealous about my flight today. There were very wide and strong thermal flows, that weather is ideal for gliders. Even in Cessna I could turn a little bit and get +200 feet without any power change. I wonder whether it is possible to stay in that flow in Cessna, probably it is, but of course I did not check it 🙂

One more impression for me today. In the pattern at České Budějovice I was the second after a small jet. Actually it’s the first time when I see a jet flying out of a large international airport.

I saw incredible landscapes today. I cannot find proper words to describe them, so I am just attaching some photos. Sorry for my camera, some day I will replace it.

Turbulence

After about 2-months break I continue my practice. The school allowed me to fly only with a safety pilot. We made a normal take-off, standard pattern, and on a base leg we caught very strong downdraft. I started preparing to a go-around procedure, but on final everything was OK, and I made a normal full stop landing. Safety pilot did not want to take off again today, and so did I. It’s safer to wait for a better weather.

EASA PPL Checkride

Finally I did it! To be honest, I was worrying that I would have to return to Moscow before finishing my PPL, because I did not have any possibility to stay here after the 1st of July. It is much easier to take an exam right after finishing the course because of fresh skills, and I highly desired to do it before leaving.

I got an unexpected route via Prague CTR, and I had never flown it before. During my training I was flying through another CTR in Karlovy Vary, and it happened only two times. Besides, today I had an airplane that I had flown only once on my long cross-country.

On practice everything was not so scary as it sounds. I flew as usual, I contacted a controller, and he approved my request for flying my route. After leaving a CTR I contacted an ATC one more time and reported leaving a controlled area.

I think that the most difficult part was the weather. Thermal activity was pretty strong causing a bumpy ride. I saw hanggliders on some aerodrome, and they were climbed very fast. In those conditions the approach was a little tricky: for example, I experienced altitude changing from about -5 to +5 and vise versa just in some seconds without any power adjustment. At least it was not boring 🙂

I am very happy that I made emergency landings without any stress, I was just calculating a new path and turning at a proper point. During engine-out procedures there is no more feeling that I fall like a rock.

Thus, now I have almost 60 hours and an EASA PPL. I am accepting congratulations 🙂