Bartow

Today I succeed in my efforts of trying to wake up early in the weekend. Actually it is a good reason to do it: much more chances to fly cross-country wherever you want before thunderstorm activity. Today I am going to Bartow. It is an airport on the South-East, about 70 miles. Close enough to have a breakfast and go back before significant weather activity. Today it is a typical Florida summer day near the Gulf of Mexico: after about 11 am South is closed by some thunderstorms lines or at least isolated thunderstorms. So, I am going to Bartow. Controlled airport, class D. I can practice my communications. I checked tower working hours, and everything seems OK. With that weather and my working hours I fly to the South-East not very frequently.

I decided to ask for a flight following: good practice for IFR flight communications (of course, not exactly, but close enough). And it is a good idea to get a traffic information in that area. Climbing to 5500. The air is calm and cool. Perfect in summer. No clouds, so nothing prevents me to climb to that altitude.

15 miles to the destination. ASOS. Weather, runway in use. “The restaurant is closed”. Oh, it seems that I have no breakfast today.

Landing, vacating the runway. I am asking taxiing to the FBO. Taxiing to something that I supposed to be the FBO, but… “N7692U, FBO is in another direction!”. “Request progressive taxi…” How can I know that the FBO is the small building with a 4-plane parking? I thought that it is a group of hangars and 100-plane parking nearby… No signs in the airport, no marks on the airport diagram. BTW, thank you very much for understanding!

The airport is a cozy place. Interesting small museum, free coffee. Friendly tower controller 😉

So, it’s time to go back. The weather still looks good, the coffee is done.

On the way back I decided to ask for a flight following again: there are some clouds on the way, and it is a good idea to have traffic advisories. I fly non-IFR airplane, and possibly I even cannot go direct. In that case flight following can be a good advantage.

I requested 4500, but the controller asked me for 3500. OK, why not. After some time I have been seeing clouds straight ahead. OK, asking 4500. Clouds are still somewhere in front of me and getting closer. 6500. No way, still below the tops somewhere in front of me. Damn, I supposed that tops should be at about 4000-5000! I have absolutely no wish to try to go through that labyrinth. So, I should either try to go higher, or descend and proceed below them. OK, descending back to the summer hot. I cannot continue direct, I don’t want to go back, so making 360. 6000, 5000, 4000, 3000. Still a little bit above the cloud base. 2000. OK, at least here I am well below. I can proceed to my destination, and it is easy to find a labyrinth path when you are below it.

After about 10 miles the clouds become scattered to few. Oh, every day in that place I can see almost the same. Two more hours, and there will be thunderstorms here. But now it is still good.

What a nice weekend! =)

Night flight

During my previous visit here I completed almost all commercial requirements related to night hours except one 2-hour cross-country. I wanted to fly it, but some circumstances prevented that flight.

This time it seems to be as planned. I checked the airplane in advance, ensured that we have full tanks and enough oil. Ensured that nobody will fly the airplane since that check.

The airplane is just from maintenance. We fly with my instructor.

So, here we go. Checking everything one more time, reading checklists. Everything is OK. Taxiing to the runway. Accelerating. Airspeed raises, but extremely slow. It is more than 500 ft, but we still have 45. 45, 47… The runway is long, but not endless. Aborting take-off… We are OK and stopped well before runway threshold, but I think that the real speed was more than 70 when decision was made.

Some system malfunction is not a pleasant case. I was slightly scared. And I have to react quickly.

Taxiing back, shutdown. But I still want to fly! The weather is good. Another airplane is OK, fuel is OK, oil is OK. We still can fly!

The flight was good. I thought that it’s hard to see clouds at night, but actually it is not. We can fly well below them.

We flew to KVNC, and requested flight following. For the some reason the controller diverted us along the shoreline, around class B airspace.

Return flight is also around class B airspace, but on the East side. Firstly because of weather avoidance, and secondly because it’s fun to fly a different route.

I like night flying 🙂

Jacksonville

One more cross-country flight to jacksonville Executive. Our route crosses a restricted area: when it is active, I cannot fly there in specified altitude range. That area can be activated in specified hours, or by NOTAM. If it is active, I should avoid it or choose an altitude out of the area range.

Briefing. The area is inactive. The weather is good. Let’s fly!

It is the first flight when I asked for flight following: ATC sees me on the radar and potentially warns about close traffic and bad weather. It is very similar to IFR flight, but now I can look around =)

At about 10 miles before entering restricted area I ask the controller about area status, just in case. Everything is OK. And the controller gives me some more information about adjacent areas.

Flight following is a very useful thing. I like it. Especially because I don’t have neither TCAS nor ADS-B equipment, and traffic information can be useful in busy areas.

I also plan some flights with IFR flight plan in a good weather to maintain my communication skills and shoot some approaches. I have to be proficient in it before entering real IMC.

Aircraft Maintenance

As you know, now I am flying for meeting flight time minimums (and for fun, of course). That means that it does not matter a lot where to fly, so today I have a really useful task: I should fly the airplane to the mechanics for a scheduled maintenance.

While reading my preflight checklist I figured out that the flaps do not deploy. OK, let’s think: take-off is not a problem at all (long concrete runway), but what about landing? We have an 1.2 km runway at the destination. Aircraft weight is OK: I am alone, I don’t have any bags and I still didn’t have breakfast. So landing should be totally OK, I will even have some safety margin, and technicians will have more chances to find the problem. I called the flight school boss and explained the situation. He agreed that it is not a big deal, so I could fly.

It’s so cool to takeoff from some gloomy place and then enter a sunny area!

Flaps magically got back to normal upon arrival, so it was just normal landing. Technicians could not find anything wrong with them as well. Just in case I made 3 additional circuits, and everything was OK.

I flew to another school base (LKRO), and then back to the home base. Flaps worked as they should.

Today I gained my first 100 flight hours!

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!

Circle Around Prague

Every pilot should have some minimum flight time before taking an exam. For the modular commercial pilot program in Europe it should be 200 hours (total time). Now I am continuing gaining these flight hours.

Today I decided to go to the North-West where I found a nice aerodrome with a concrete runway. I already mentioned that I like them some more than grass runways.

It was supposed to be a sort of circle: to the West of Prague on the way forward and to the East on the way back. It’s more interesting, and the route distance is almost the same.

I am still a little nervous about controlled airspaces and talking with ATC, so it’s better to avoid crowded CTRs for now and practice somewhere else, for example, in Karlovy Vary.

In summer there are usually some thunderstorms around. I found one cell to the west of my route, but not so close to be dangerous, so I just took some photos.

Czech is really beautiful for sightseeing, especially from the air. I photographed a nice golf-club and an old windmill on the route.

I used to empty aerodromes. Small aerodromes in Czech are usually uncontrolled, and nobody is there, especially after 6 pm. Today it was different, and somebody answered on the radio. I was some unexpected communications practice 🙂

On the way back some clouds started to form. Not the turbulent ones, but it is still not so good if they are low. Of course I checked the weather before departure, and nothing seemed wrong, but it’s always better to check one more time if needed. I asked the controller, and he confirmed that nothing special is expected enroute, which was really good, because I am not allowed to fly at night yet. If the weather becomes bad, I could get stuck until morning.

I landed about an hour before twilight. One more outstanding day!

Sorry for the rubbish on the windshield 🙂

The Clouds

Today I planned a long flight across the country. I literally wanted to fly almost half of Czech Republic. The weather was not so bad, and I headed to the East.

The significant part of the route laid in controlled airspace, therefore my workload was higher than usual. I’m still not used to talking to ATC so much.

At some moment the cloulds moved lower, and it became really dangerous to fly below them because of the terrain, the margin was not so high. There were still some VMC corridors to climb, and I asked the ATC to climb to 5000 above the cloud layer. The weather about 20 nm to the East seemed much better, so I just needed to overfly that layer. Neither the online wx radar nor ATC observed any thunderstorms, so it should be pretty much safe. After overflying the hills I finally found a VMC corridor to descend below a cloud layer: it was more than 3000 AGL there. The rest of the flight was pretty calm.

Vysoke Myto has three runways, one of them is paved (asphalt). The aerodrome also has runway and taxiway lights and some hangars nearby. However, there was nobody there. I didn’t see a single person. Neither on the frequency, nor at the hangars. Complete silence.

On the way back I came across one more abandoned military aerodrome with a perfect wide concrete runway. It looked like a precise copy of my home base (LKLN), even the hangar looked the same. I saw a stage and some temporary buildings, probably it was some openair. Of course I did not land, I just overflew the runway.

It’s always better to practice more, so I made 7 landings on different aerodromes on the way back 🙂

Clouds and Chicken

The morning weather was not cooperating, and I supposed that my flight would not happen. At about 10 am the clouds started to dissipate though, and the weather briefing did not show any thunderstorm in a reasonable time, so it seemed that we could takeoff!

Today our route was to the South-East. There is a very interesting aerodrome with a grass runway, Stankovice, and haven’t flown there yet.

On the direct route I saw some low clouds. I am still not instrument-rated, so the only option I had was to find another route with sufficient visibility. I tried to go to the South, and it worked. Visibility was perfect there, and after some miles I found a very comfortable wide corridor to the East.

I used to empty small aerodromes with a little traffic. Usually nobody answers from the ground at such aerodromes, but in Stankovice I had an answer, moreover, it was in English! It’s luck, it’s always good to practice my communication.

The airport had a grass runway with a white centerline (actually it was the first time I had ever seen a centerline on a grass runway).

It was lunch time! Let’s have one more 100$ hamburger! The city was beautiful with a nice castle and river. The food was inexpensive and delicious. I like my timebuilding!

On the way back I found a long concrete runway and decided to fly over to look at it more closely (there was no airport in that place on the charts). It was a really long runway with great taxiways. No runway markings, no tower. Probably it was an old military airfield… I found two roads crossing the runway, and some bikers on the runway itself. It’s a pity that that perfect airfield is not used for airplanes nowadays…

Finally I made some tonch-n-goes on some airfields around my home base and landed. Just in a few miles before landing I caught a small rain. The runway became wet, but the visibility was OK. That rain did not stop till the evening.

100$ Hamburger Flight

Today it was a great day. I flew a lot, and I am excited about that.

I started with touch-n-goes in the home aerodrome, then a short flight to LKPLES with a 1640-feet-long and 15-metres-width runway. That airfield is pretty close to LKLN. I made a standard pattern, and on a base leg found out that I don’t have flaps. It is not very good idea to land without flaps on that short runway, and I decided to return. Our runway is very long for Cessna C150, therefore landing even without flaps is not a big deal – just a little higher speed and longer flare.

After landing our technician fixed the airplane in a short time, and I was able to fly once more. And this is a great flight for it is my first 100$-hamburger-flight! Not literally, I ordered pork and french fries, but it does not matter. One more grass runway, a little sloped. Czech Republic is a great place for initial training 🙂

Here are some photos from our home base:

The weather is great now. The sky is great, and I can see breathtaking landscapes from an airplane. I could see the scenes of terrific beauty. After about 2 pm the wind became stronger, and landings were some more difficult, but it allowed to make a progress.

I can say that the clouds look differend from an airplane than from the ground. They are almost flat at the bottom, while from the ground they look like pieces of wadding. There were some weak thunderstorms far away, and they also look very interesting.

On my way back I found a small house (actually a former windmill) where I was living some days in May. It looks even more cosy from the airplane. Actually there are a lot of beautiful places to fly here, including small villages and old castles.

From some moment I found out that I have more time on the pattern than earlier. I make all necessary actions faster, and they require less thinking. I suppose that it is a good sign 🙂

High Altitude

I continue flying my cross-countries. Today I explored incredible mountains near the Czech border with Poland. I climbed to 5500 feet, so I am getting closer to airliners 🙂

I enjoy cross country flights. I can see beautiful forests, castles, fields, mountains, houses, cars and people below my plane, and incredible blue sky above. The clouds look great. I am already pretty good in controlling the airplane, and I have plenty of time to enjoy sightseeing.

After some days of practice here I can fly in the vicinity of the aerodrome even without a paper map, but for longer flights it is still vital. The airplane also has a GPS, but I try not to use it.

There are some interesting places around: the Skoda automotive factory, a paper factory (I can see a lot of lumber there), beautiful rivers, an abandoned military aerodrome, mountain villages.

Today I had a different airplane again; it is also a Cessna C-152, but I like it much more. I think it is more stable, and its performance is better. I will try to book this plane next time.

The traffic is so hard to see! The airplanes seem really tiny from distance! Even more, once I saw a radio-controlled airplane near the airfield, and initially I thought it was a regular plane.

Today I did not like my landings. I flared too high. I will work some more on it in the next few days.

Surprisingly I was not tired today. Probably probably because the weather was easier to control the airplane, or I am just getting used to flying.