“Family Fliers” Greg’s November, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg recommends, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , on September 24, 2015 by Greg Brown

Revisiting heartland skies

GregBrownFT1115_1084e1Smw1200Departing the four lakes of Madison, Wisconsin, Jean and I steered the Flying Carpet southeastward toward others embedded in our past: Lakes Koshkonong, Delavan, and Geneva.

Beneath our wings flowed a verdant carpet of crops and trees teeming with lakes and rivers. This seemed a watery paradise compared to the stark stone beauty of our adopted Southwest, where the few natural lakes contain only seasonal water and even then might qualify as ponds anywhere else.

Equally refreshing, today’s cobalt heartland skies brimmed with music to our aviators’ ears. In contrast to largely silent radio frequencies near our remote Northern Arizona home, our headsets crackled with radio chatter from airports around the Midwest.

Jean grew up just across the Illinois line from Lake Geneva, and for years we landed at rural Galt Airport (10C) to visit her family. Back then Galt was a narrow, tree-obstructed, rough-around-the-edges strip. But after teetering on the edge of bankruptcy several years ago, the airport turned itself around and blossomed into a thriving aviation community. Seems like every month Galt boasts a hayride, a barbecue, or a flour-sack bombing contest. I knew of this vitality only through the airport newsletter, having last landed there in 2003. Now I was eager to visit the revitalized airport in person. (See “Flying Carpet: Renaissance Field,” November 2013 Flight Training).

Soon Wonder Lake appeared on the horizon, and next to it, Galt Airport. Jean and I recognized the field’s location, but not it’s appearance. The pencil-thin runway we once frequented has long been replaced by a grander one. The hangar that impinged on the west end of the runway is gone; the formerly weedy tiedowns are now paved, and there’s a spit-and-polish about the place visible even from the air.

GregBrownFT1115_1093e1Smw1200“There’s Jo!” said Jean as we taxied in. Her twin sister lives just beyond Galt’s traffic pattern on Wonder Lake; we’d phoned ahead just before departing Madison.

One thing that hadn’t changed beyond fresh paint, was Galt’s nostalgic “country control tower” airport office. Now this felt like old times! While Jean and Jo chatted on the ramp-side bench, I ventured inside.

There to welcome me were Facebook friends I’d never before met in person: pilot Greg Kaiser, and his instrument instructor, Mike Nowakowski. Galt’s cheerful ground instructor, Ed Brown, piled us into a golf cart to tour the field…


Top Photo: “Jean and Jo at Galt Airport’s “country control tower” office, Wonder Lake, Illinois.”

Lower photo: “Ed Brown, Mike Nowakowski, Greg Kaiser, and Brian Spiro at Galt Airport’s maintenance hangar.” 


(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)


©2015 Gregory N.Brown

“Aviator’s Birthplace” Greg’s October, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2015 by Greg Brown

Visiting memories in “Mad City”

DowntownMadisonWI-aloft_3151-EditeSmw1200Even after takeoff from Centerville, Iowa, I waffled about whether to land at Madison, Wisconsin’s Dane County Regional Airport-Truax Field where I learned to fly, or nearby Middleton-Morey Airport outside the Class C.

“Middleton will be quieter and simpler,” said Jean, settling the matter. We crossed Iowa’s Cedar River and the broad Mississippi, then the northwest corner of Illinois. Ninety minutes after takeoff, Madison’s signature four lakes appeared on the horizon. This would be stop two on our zigzag birthday-and-reunion journey from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Chicago.

“Madison Approach, can you approve aerial photography over downtown?” I radioed, with a lump in my throat. For 35 years I’d waited to revisit “Mad City,” my aviation birthplace.

“Approved,” came the reply. “Watch for a Cherokee also on the ‘city tour,’ and remain west of the Capitol building.”

Downtown Madison, including the state capitol and University of Wisconsin campus, floats magically on a 1/2-mile-wide isthmus between Lakes Monona and Mendota. Handing Jean the camera with far more instructions than she needed, I circled offshore over Lake Mendota–Is there a prettier city, anywhere?

Upon landing, I learned from the Middleton Airport attendant that Frickelton Aviation’s building at Truax Field where I trained had long been torn down, erasing any regret at not touching tires there. Moments later, our host Brett Kelly arrived. Brett and his wife Kathy are longtime friends.

6-GregBrownFT1015_3241eSmw1200“I know you’re eager to revisit UW, Greg,” offered Brett. “Let’s stop there before going home.” Ghosts of classmates past soon joined us wandering campus, and sipping beer on the Wisconsin Union terrace overlooking Lake Mendota, where I once rented sailboats. Between classes, I drove my old ’39 Chevy across town to Truax Field – there to soar over these very lakes on flying lessons with the UW Flying Club (See “Flying Carpet: Forty Years Aloft,” November 2012 Flight Training).

My Badger stint occurred at the height of the turbulent Viet Nam antiwar movement. My friends and I were no activists, but demonstrations sometimes intercepted us on our way to class. Once, protesters deflated city-bus tires to block State Street; another time police shot tear gas into our dorm, forcing everyone into the street. (My buddy Fred, an army veteran, showed us how to soak handkerchiefs for tear-gas protection.) Every day I walked by the empty shell of Sterling Hall, blown up by antiwar activists a year earlier (See “Flying Carpet: Flying the Mists of Time,” March 2013 Flight Training).

There were more benign protests, too, as when feminists stormed the men-only swimming pool in the UW Armory. Guys swam nude there, so the intruders stripped their clothes and jumped in too. (No, I wasn’t there.)…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, Aviator’s Birthplace.”**

Top Photo: “Downtown Madison, with Wisconsin State Capitol at left, and the University of Wisconsin campus at lower right.”

Lower photo: “UW Wisconsin Union and Terrace from the air.” 


(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)


©2015 Gregory N.Brown

“Flagstaff Rain,” Greg’s latest Fine Art Metal Print

Posted in Greg's photographs, life & love with tags , , , , on August 27, 2015 by Greg Brown


Until recently, the photography I’ve offered for sale has largely been from my Views from the Flying Carpet aerial series. To my delight, however, there’s also been a good deal of action on my recently introduced Terrestrial Photographs.

Here’s Flagstaff Rain, my latest terrestrial Fine Art Metal Print, featuring historic downtown Flagstaff on a rainy July Art Walk night. It’s amazing the effect of water in “punching” nighttime colors and lights.

MattTantau-FlagstaffRain-20x30metalprint_2066eSmw1200Matt invested in this 20″x30″ Fine Art Metal Print as a gift for a couple who first met in Flagstaff and are shortly moving away.

Turns out Matt’s friends originally met in Charly’s Pub at the far end of the pictured Weatherford Hotel, and he thought this would be a great goodbye present for remembering their friends and the origin of their relationship here. What a cool gift!

See all my currently available Fine Art Terrestrial Photographs.


©2015 Greg Brown

Why do VFR aviation weather minima vary by airspace?

Posted in Greg's piloting tips, Greg’s flight instructor tips with tags , , on August 25, 2015 by Greg Brown

This is one of the better US aviation airspace depictions I’ve seen… I like the way it relates airspace definitions to what we see on the Sectional chart.AirspaceCardYou may wonder why all those magenta airspace areas exist on aviation Sectional charts, and why we must learn different VFR weather minima for them. Well here’s the practical answer:

Where Class E drops to 700 feet AGL (magenta shading) or to the surface (magenta dashed line), instrument approach procedures are authorized, which is why the VFR weather mins are higher there, and why we must be extra vigilant when flying VFR into airports falling within magenta areas.

Now look at your Sectional chart again, and for the first time all that magenta makes sense: those are airports with instrument approaches. Better keep your eyes open when flying there!

©2015 Greg Brown

(graphic from ravepad.com / gliderbooks.com )

“Grandpa’s Hat”

Posted in about Greg, Greg's photographs, life & love on July 29, 2015 by Greg Brown


Jean and I were walking Kachina Wetlands near sunset a few weeks ago, when up rode this kid, stunting on his bike like you’ve never seen from 5-year-old.

Turns out his beloved grandfather recently passed away, and the only thing he wanted of his grandpa’s belongings was his hat.

The young man told us he wants to be a cowboy, just like his grandpa. Is there any doubt that he’ll make it?!

And yes, he’s wearing “Grandpa’s Hat.”


(Thanks, “Mom,” for letting me share your son’s pic and story!)

©2015 Greg Brown

“Barn Dance!” Greg’s September, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2015 by Greg Brown

Flying airways through time

GregBrownFT915_3034-EeSmw1200Motorcycles, airplanes, and steel guitars were the topics, as we lounged under sparkling skies with Larry and Karen Howard on their vacation-home deck overlooking Lake Thunderhead, Missouri.

What a weather contrast after yesterday’s challenging flight from Arizona! Unable to land at nearby Unionville Airport due to low ceilings, we’d diverted to Centerville, Iowa. (See last month’s column, Three Time Zones.)

Larry and I were University of Illinois architecture classmates after I transferred from Wisconsin junior year. A quiet, low-key farm kid with just a hint of a smile, Larry would have been at home in the movie, Animal House. Many a Saturday night we rocketed down Green Street on our Suzukis — Jean and me on my X-6, and Larry balancing his 350 on one wheel. Larry was such a whiz at “wheelies,” that except when parked, his motorcycle’s front tire rarely touched the ground. Our usual destination was the Rose Bowl Tavern, where even the glare of regulars at longhaired college kids couldn’t dull our appreciation of the house country band.

SteveAlLarryGregBahamas376_7VS5eDetSmw1200One spring break, Larry and I teamed up with my roommate to fly from Champaign, Illinois to the Bahamas in the Flying Illini Cessna 172.

Larry’s friend Steve met us in Florida and we “flew the Atlantic” to Grand Bahama and Abaco Islands under my command. It was an epic journey for a 190-hour, non-instrument-rated pilot. (See “Spring Break,” FT May, 2005.)

10-GregBrownFT915_0909eSm1200The following year Larry joined me in the club Cessna 182 to visit Steve in Houston. He and Karen had since moved to Waterloo, Iowa, so he drove to Champaign the night before departure.

This was the 1970s gasoline-shortage era, and late that night Larry phoned from Bloomington, Illinois where he’d run out of gas because no service stations were open. By the time we rendezvoused, siphoned gas from my car into his, and drove back, it was past midnight


Top photo: “Larry and Karen Howard wave from the ramp, Centerville Municipal Airport, Iowa.”

Middle photo: Larry (with “‘fro”), Steve (far left), with Greg’s roommate, Al, and Greg, Abaco Island, Bahamas, 1976. 

Lower photo: “Karen & Larry at Centerville Municipal Airport, Iowa.”

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)


©2015 Gregory N.Brown

“Three Time Zones,” Greg’s August, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2015 by Greg Brown

Journey to the past

4-GregBrownFT815_3001eSmw1200“Be prepared to turn around,” I cautioned Jean as we launched under dark clouds. Keeping options open would be key to safely completing this long journey east.

We were bound from Arizona to Illinois for my mother’s 90th birthday and a high school newspaper reunion. Unable to justify flying ourselves 9-10 hours each way for a long weekend, we’d originally planned to go by airline.

But then we learned my mother would be gone over reunion weekend, stretching our stay to a week. That changed everything. By Flying Carpet we could use the free time to visit long-missed friends, relatives, and locations.

Yes, it’s a long flight to Chicago. But from there, many Midwestern destinations are only an hour or two away. Newly excited, we compiled a wish list encompassing three time zones and six destinations in four states. It was an ambitious itinerary, given the vagaries of spring weather.

Indeed, the forecasts were alarming as departure day approached. The Great Plains suffered near-daily tornados, showers were predicted throughout our Midwest stay, and two storm systems threatened Arizona. Rain hammered our roof the night before departure.

11-GregBrownFT815_0885eSmw1200We awoke to dark, racing clouds, but for the moment Flagstaff boasted a flyable 1,400-foot ceiling. From nearby Winslow east, Arizona featured fair weather.

Northern New Mexico reported marginal visual flying conditions, with possible mountain obscuration. That might require staying over in Gallup, but we’d cross that bridge when the time came.

For now the objective was to beat the storm out of Flagstaff. Snowflakes pelted our windshield as we drove to the airport…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, THREE TIME ZONES.”** (Allow a moment for the article to load.)

Top photo: “The clouds break up near Santa Fe, New Mexico.” Lower photo: “Braving a bitter wind at Centerville Municipal Airport, Iowa.” SEE MORE PHOTOS!

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)


©2015 Gregory N.Brown


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 145 other followers

%d bloggers like this: