Archive for the Greg's piloting tips Category

“Routine Flight,” Greg’s November, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2018 by Greg Brown

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“For once,” said Jean, “a routine flight.” We cruised homeward through cool, calm skies thanks to a high overcast filtering New Mexico’s high-desert summertime sun.

Driving from Flagstaff to Alamogordo takes eight hours each way. Going commercially requires two airline legs plus ninety minutes’ drive from El Paso. So general aviation truly offers the fastest way to get there, circumstances permitting, and this weekend was proving to be such an occasion.

But what is a routine flight, anyway? Piloting light airplanes turns out to be more about anomaly than routine. However often we travel a given route, every flight is different. Most aviators learn to appreciate that variety as adventure, but anyone expecting uneventful aerial “auto trips” is doomed to disappointment…

**Read Greg’s entire column, ROUTINE FLIGHT**

Photo: Thunderstorms threaten Alamogordo White Sands Regional Airport, New Mexico (KALM) from the Sacramento Mountains.

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“Powerless,” Greg’s July, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips, Greg’s flight instructor tips with tags , , , , on May 29, 2018 by Greg Brown

“Hey Greg! I’ve just experienced my first two engine failures—in one trip!”

8-17_JimPitman_Ercoupe-delivery_152549eSm1200Flight instructor Jim Pitman had just ferried a 1946 Ercoupe from Wisconsin to Arizona, and wanted to brainstorm what might have caused the power losses.

The seller had kept the annual current and run the engine regularly, but hadn’t flown the plane in a few years. Following a thorough preflight inspection and engine runup, I departed Rice Lake Regional Airport (KRPD) for Storm Lake, Iowa (KSLB), where I stayed in a neat lakeside hotel.”

After waiting for fog to lift the next morning, Jim launched toward Phoenix with refueling stops at Smith Center, Kansas (K82), Dalhart, Texas (KDHT), and Belen, New Mexico (E80).

Following a slight diversion for thunderstorms, he crossed the Mazatzal mountain range east of Phoenix in darkness, “which was fine because I am very familiar with the area,” and overnighted at his home field, Phoenix Deer Valley Airport (KDVT). After 15.3 flight hours from Rice Lake, all that remained the next morning was 60 minutes to Salome Arizona. Deer Valley Tower issued Jim an intersection departure from Runway 7R.

“When I lifted off, the engine lost power and the plane settled back on the main gear. As the nose came down, the engine regained power just as I pulled the throttle to abort the takeoff.” Back at the ramp, Jim thoroughly tested the engine. Everything worked fine and having so much time in the airplane, he figured the culprit was a one-time bit of water in the fuel. Still, as a precaution he requested full runway length for his next departure…

**Read Greg’s entire column, POWERLESS“**

Photo: Jim Pitman, with the 1946 Ercoupe. See COCKPIT VIDEO of Jim’s engine failures!

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“Sworn to Secrecy,” Greg’s June, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips with tags , , , , , on April 24, 2018 by Greg Brown

“Shed-hunting”—I first heard the expression when an acquaintance briefed me on a favorite pastime.

Collecting shed elk and deer antlers sends him hiking the great outdoors; it’s good exercise, and can even generate a few bucks from people seeking home and garden decor. Knowing my passion for flight, he asked about scouting his favorite shed-hunting area from the air.

“Of course you’d have to keep the location secret,” he added. Whether gathering blueberries, mushrooms, or antlers, nobody wants to reveal their private motherlode.

My first reaction was, “Sure!” Like most pilots, I thrill to exploring Earth from above. Jean and I often note back roads to drive, and countless of our passengers have scouted sites pertaining to their own favorite diversions—mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and wilderness camping.

Obviously, identifying even the largest antlers from the air would be impossible, so I asked for details. It turned out my friend’s interest was not in spotting antlers per se, nor even animals. Rather he sought the lay of the land: identifying established back roads, hiking-access points, and wildlife trails and water sources where shedding animals might congregate. All these could be assessed with binoculars from a prudent altitude.

This fellow knew as little about aviation as I do about antlers, so he asked the legalities of aerial spotting. Obviously, FAA regulations define minimum flight altitudes in given environments, and we’d need to avoid charted conservation areas.

Upon investigating wildlife conservation rules, however, I learned that my friend’s seemingly benign mission was more complicated than it sounded…

**Read Greg’s entire column, SWORN TO SECRECY“**

Photo: Bull elk, near Flagstaff, Arizona.

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“‘Gotcha’ Switch,” Greg’s May, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips with tags , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2018 by Greg Brown

Every pilot experiences a bit of pucker factor when descending through clouds on an instrument approach. Am I really where I think I am, safely separated from the ground?

I was reminded of the stakes when my friend Mark phoned after landing at Colorado Springs with his wife and another couple.

“After clear weather through the mountains, we encountered an inversion east of the Rockies,” he said. “Colorado Springs was reporting 1000 broken, 1500 overcast, so I requested the ILS Runway 17L approach. The vectoring and intercept seemed fine, but we broke out of the clouds just above the trees while still several miles from the runway. It was quite a scare, and I want to determine the cause so it never happens again.”

For you VFR pilots: an instrument landing system (ILS) consists of two intersecting perpendicular radio signals projected from the ground. By centering the associated vertical (localizer) and horizontal (glideslope) needles, pilots are guided to the runway.

Mark wondered if the problem was with glideslope signal or receiver, or if he’d made some serious error in executing the approach. The approach plate showed terrain 1,000 feet above field elevation north of the airport, so I suggested he might feel low breaking out there. That didn’t satisfy Mark, however…

**Read Greg’s entire column, ‘GOTCHA’ SWITCH“**

Photo: Mark, with his Bonanza.

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

My 45th year as a Pilot!

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips on November 22, 2017 by Greg Brown

Today I celebrate 45 years as a licensed pilot. (My checkride was also the day before Thanksgiving that year.)

Rather than reminisce anew, here’s my column from five years ago, “Forty years aloft,” about how different and yet similar piloting was back then. (Be sure to click “read entire column” near bottom of post.)

What an adventure this has been! Here’s wishing another 40 years of fun for all of us aviators!

Greg

PS: If anyone’s interested in some stories over all those years, check out my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and ebook.

Photo: Greg & Jean at Lebanon-Warren County Airport, Ohio, on a 1977 day trip to Kings Island Amusement Park. See more photos here.

©2012, 2017 Gregory N.Brown

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

“Sea of Gold,” Greg’s November, 2017 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips with tags , , , , , , on October 4, 2017 by Greg Brown

We’d cleared a nasty line of thunderstorms departing Flagstaff, surmounted a vivid rainbow, and now cruised cumulus-flecked skies toward Montrose, Colorado.

Although datalink weather suggested clear sailing the rest of the way, I’d previously learned the hard way that an empty weather screen doesn’t necessarily equal “no thunderstorms.” After an unknown-to-anyone squall line turned us around halfway to Montrose last year, I’d discovered the large weather-radar gap spanning the Four Corners area due to lack of antennae.

We’d been so traumatized by last year’s “U-Turn” and Jean’s subsequent 16-hour round-trip drive, that she’d investigated flying airlines this year instead. But between such remote locations, general aviation can indeed save money. Yes, Flying Carpet fuel would cost $4-500 to drop and retrieve Jean and her mother, but far less convenient Phoenix-to-Grand Junction airline tickets priced out at $750 apiece.

FC-RainReflections_KFLG_5135eSmw1200Fortunately, I’d learned from last year’s misadventure. This time I previewed online weather-radar coverage maps, and ADS-B ground-station coverage from which we’d receive weather and traffic data. (Sure enough, there’s an ADS-B gap, too.) I loaded lots of fuel for the remote route, allowing hundreds of miles’ diversion in case of unforecast weather.

Given minimal radar coverage, I monitored satellite imagery for telltale cloud buildups. And along with gathering weather for the few airports within 100 miles of our route, I scanned non-aviation station reports for the tiny Native American communities passing under our wings. Even “sunny,” “cloudy,” and “thunderstorm,” reports are better than nothing.

Even then, every distant shadow raised the specter of last year’s lurking weather…

**Read Greg’s entire column, SEA OF GOLD“**

Top Photo: “‘Flaming’ autumn aspens carpet Colorado’s Uncampaghre Plateau.” (See my “Flaming Autumn Aspens” Fine Art Metal Print) Lower Photo: “Greeted by a downpour upon returning home.” SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

Greg

©2017 Gregory N. Brown

“Good omen?” Greg’s October, 2017 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's piloting tips with tags , , , , , on September 1, 2017 by Greg Brown

“Oh no! Not again!” said Jean when we arrived at the hangar. “This trip seems jinxed!”

A gargantuan steel-grey cloud wall spat lightning across the eastern sky, having sprouted in the hour since I last checked weather.

“Not a good omen so early in the morning,” I muttered to Jean’s chagrin. This was my second attempt to deliver her and her mother to visit relatives in Montrose, Colorado. Last year an unforecast and unreported 100-mile squall line turned us back mid-route, forcing my passengers to drive eight hours instead. It turns out that blank cockpit-weather displays don’t necessarily mean storm-free skies—a huge weather radar gap spans the Four Corners region and not even Flight Service knows what’s there. At least this year I knew weather avoidance would be strictly out the windshield for part of the trip, valuable planning knowledge where usable airports are hundreds of miles apart.

That assumed we could depart in the first place. Despite forecast clear skies, the north-south line of thunderstorms entirely blocked our northeasterly route, and daytime heating threatened further development. Could we safely circumvent the fast-growing line before it engulfed our airport? And if we could, what hazards might lurk in the weather-radar gap beyond?…

**Read the entire column, GOOD OMEN?“**

Photo: “Earth-bound rainbow south of Flagstaff, Arizona.” (Available as my “Earthbound Rainbow” Fine Art Metal Print.)

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

Greg

©2017 Gregory N. Brown

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