“Star Power” Greg’s August, 2017 Flying Carpet column

For pilots to be interested in space and science fiction is only “logical,” but few of us personally experience the interface.

I met Chris Barton when he was executive director of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.

He was intrigued by piloting, so we launched on local flying adventures. Even while savoring the controls, my friend was captivated by Meteor Crater and the unearthly volcanic landscape where Apollo astronauts trained for moon missions.

Our friendship and Chris’s flying were interrupted when he joined Florida’s Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra as executive director. So when he phoned recently about returning to Flagstaff for a concert, I offered to retrieve him from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport by Flying Carpet.

Navigating a Class B airport requires planning, but it’s always a kick. Phoenix controllers welcome light aircraft, and Cutter Aviation offers complimentary airline shuttles.

My first minutes with Chris were consumed by departure and taxi clearances. He oohed and ahhed as we swooped over futuristic clusters of docked jetliners on early turnout. Only after escaping congested airspace could I ask, “What’s new?”

“Actually, you won’t believe it!” exclaimed Chris…

**READ THE ENTIRE COLUMN, STAR POWER“**

Top photo: Chris Barton (L) with Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander William Riker in Star Trek, The Next Generation.

Lower Photo: Star Trek: The Next Generation stars Michael Dorn (“Worf”) and Jonathan Frakes with Chris and Angela Barton and family.

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

Greg

©2017 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

“Low and Slow” Greg’s July, 2017 Flying Carpet column

Ever wonder if you’re the only one apprehensive about launching on your first long light-plane journey?

A pilot buddy recently launched on a 1,000-mile cross-country.

Like most of us, he greeted his first extended light-plane journey with both excitement and trepidation.

He studied route and airspace, calculated fuel and weight-and-balance, took two written tests, and checked out in a Diamond DA-40. Although initially apprehensive, he phoned me exhilarated following solo landing practice.

“That was so much fun I can’t believe it!” he said, detailing each successive landing like a newly soloed pilot. “Now I’m stoked to fly that cross-country!”

My friend and his family live in southern New Mexico, 10 hours’ drive from relatives. When he mentioned that private flying would be perfect for such trips, his wife encouraged him to join the local aero club. This first mission would be to collect her and the kids from visiting her folks in Dallas…

**READ THE ENTIRE COLUMN, LOW AND SLOW**

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

Greg

©2017 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

“Planning Someday” Greg’s June, 2017 Flying Carpet column

Crossing the continent by Flying Carpet

Jean and I recently flew North America from Arizona to Illinois, Michigan, Quebec, Massachusetts, and back.

Following such journeys, aviator friends always ask, “How do you pull off these long trips? Someday I want to do that!”

Along with budget and time constraints, that nebulous “someday” often arises from fear of the unknown. Any competent private pilot has the technical skills to execute such flights.

Here’s how we tackle cross-the-continent flights from the human side.

**READ MY JUNE COLUMN, PLANNING SOMEDAY** (MOBILE DEVICE VERSION HERE.) 

Photo: “Tying down at dusk at Aurora, Illinois (KARR) following the long fight from Arizona.”

Don’t miss these PHOTOS FROM ACROSS THE CONTINENT!

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

Greg

©2017 Gregory N. Brown


If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

“Land on a Cloud” Greg’s May, 2017 Flying Carpet column

There’s nothing like flying to escape the beaten path. Returning from Massachusetts to Arizona, Jean and I steered for Warren and Melissa Smith’s private Atlanta, Illinois farm strip. Landing on grass is like alighting on a cloud, but you must always scout it first. Warren, an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector, shared details.

“It rained the other night, so I drove the strip in my car,” he said. “It’s in great shape, plus I confirmed the 2300-foot usable length with a wheel. Ideally, land from the south because there’s a 300-foot overrun at the north end–touch down upon clearing the corn. From the north, land past the metal “Hoblit Farms” building. In case of concerns, of course, divert to nearby Logan County Airport.”

We’d hoped to make Illinois nonstop, but headwinds dictated refueling at Logansport, Indiana. Despite bargain prices, I resisted topping tanks; it’s best to operate light on turf.

During our final one-hour leg, I reviewed soft-field procedures and runway requirements. Although 2300 feet is plenty for a Skylane, grass demands proper technique and lengthens takeoff roll…

**READ THE ENTIRE COLUMN, LAND ON A CLOUD**

Top photo: “The Flying Carpet at Hoblit Farms’s private grass strip, Atlanta, Illinois.” [Larry Collins photo.]

Lower photo: “Larry Collins, Warren and Melissa Smith, and ‘Ace,’ greet us at the Hoblit Farms strip.”

SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

And check out the following video of the Flying Carpet in Illinois Farmland, by Larry Collins.

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

Greg

©2017 Gregory N. Brown


If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

“Full Circle,” Greg’s February, 2017 Flying Carpet column

Bienvenue au Québec!

lisejeanmarcel-duvalpatio_stlawrencerivership_champlainquebec_4677-editesmw1200You’d expect a flying carpet to deliver you to enchanted destinations. Well, 2,000 miles and fifteen flight hours from home over French Canada, Jean and I truly felt our steed’s magic. After clearing customs at Windsor, Ontario, we gazed down upon Toronto, Ottawa, and then, Montreal. Each resurrected memories of a long-ago youthful journey.

In 1971, I drove this route on a post-graduation road trip with two Chicago high-school buddies in my 1939 Chevy. After setting up camp in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, we picked up a hitchhiker named Marcel while cruising town. Lacking a common language, we couldn’t determine his destination, so he gestured us to a nearby tavern.

“If you’ll break camp and drive me 15 miles to Champlain,” Marcel offered via the bilingual bartender, “you can stay in the guest cottage behind my parents’ house.” We accepted, and while the others slept, Marcel and I “talked” late into the night via sketch pad and French-English dictionary. The next morning, I was startled awake by the horn blast of an oceangoing freighter. Having arrived in darkness, I never guessed the St. Lawrence Seaway was steps away.

I was recounting this story to Jean for the umpteenth time when Toronto Center issued a frequency change. Bienvenue au Québec! Air traffic control is bilingual in Quebec, so Montreal Center controllers swap seamlessly between French with Québécois pilots, and English with Anglophones like me. The mighty St. Lawrence River materialized off our right wing, and thirty minutes later converged with our course at our destination. Inbound to land at the uncontrolled airport, we heard the following transmission.

“Trafic Trois-Rivières, Cessna Un-Sept-Deux Golf Alpha Bravo Charlie, présentement sur Alpha, je m’aligne Piste Deux Trois pour un décollage immédiat.” Jean and I looked to each another, eyebrows raised. The pilot was obviously in the local traffic pattern, but where? I requested his position in English, but he answered in French. Eventually he managed the word, “takeoff,” but we never spotted the airplane. Clearly, great care would be required to safely operate here.

I was securing the Flying Carpet when two figures rushed from the terminal, arms outstretched. It was Marcel Duval, the very hitchhiker I picked up in 1971, and his captivating wife, Lise Marquis. Who’d have imagined that our chance friendship would endure for decades…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, FULL CIRCLE**

Photo: “Toasting friendship with Marcel Duval and Lise Marquis at their home overlooking the St. Lawrence River in Champlain, Quebec.” See more photos here!

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown


If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

“O, Canada,” Greg’s January, 2017 Flying Carpet column

gregbrownft117_5433-1smw1200Crossing Borders

When a family wedding beckoned from Chicago, our first thought was to book airline tickets because it’s too far to fly for a weekend. But then Jean and I got to talking.

Think of all the sights to see and friends to visit within flying range of Chicago. And soon, Where shall we go this time? In short order, a weekend wedding trip blossomed into a full-fledged flying vacation to three states and Canada.

Canada! Consider your feelings when flying into a new-to-you state. Now make that destination Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean and you’ve got one memorable trip.

This would be our first foreign border crossing by private aircraft since 9/11, and security procedures would accordingly be more complicated and stringent than before. I might have waited too long to start planning, if not for chatting a month before the trip with pilot Mark Harris who routinely flies into Mexico.

“Don’t linger ordering your customs decal, and enrolling in the eAPIS program you’ll need when crossing the border,” he counseled. “Those can take time.” Immediately, I tapped into AOPA’s excellent “Flying to Canada” web and video resources, and began submitting the requisite applications.

Every aircraft crossing US borders must have a current Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CPB) decal. These annual stickers cost only $27.50, but can take several weeks to receive. In addition, pilots must pre-file crew, passenger, aircraft, and itinerary information for each crossing via CPB’s “Electronic Advance Passenger Information System” (eAPIS) web site. While individual trip manifests can be filed as little as an hour before takeoff, the required pre-registration can take up to a week for email confirmation.

I’d also need a restricted radiotelephone operators permit for international travel, and a radio station license for the Flying Carpet. Canadian charts and GPS navigator database are of course required, and aircraft insurance certificate. Non-aviation planning included current passports, international cellphone and data service, informing our credit card issuers, and medical insurance coverage…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, O, Canada**

Photo: “Downtown Toronto, Canada, and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (CYTZ, commonly known as the Toronto Island Airport)”

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown


If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

“Tight Quarters,” Greg’s December, 2016 Flying Carpet column

gregbrownft1216_5091-1smw1200Pirate pool party

Attending a kid’s 4th birthday party might sound unimportant, but Jean and I felt high emotional stakes in flying to Alamogordo, New Mexico for the occasion.

Our son and daughter-in-law Austin and Desi and their children had recently moved there from overseas. That would make our grandson’s “pirate pool party” our first family celebration together in six years.

Alamogordo is nine hours’ drive from Flagstaff, but less than three hours by Flying Carpet. Perusing the charts, I was pleased to find manageable terrain en route. However, a 140-mile thicket of restricted airspace encompasses nearby White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base, blocking general aviation access from the west. High mountains and additional military airspace also limit access from the east.

That leaves two flying routes from Arizona, neither direct. Shortest is to fly east beyond Socorro to JUPTR intersection, then steer 90 miles south between military airspace and the Sacramento Mountains. The longer alternative is to fly southeast to El Paso over high and remote terrain, then thread an exceedingly narrow 60-mile corridor northward between restricted areas. Both routes are comfortably flyable in good weather, but given such tight quarters each can be blocked over many miles by a single thunderstorm…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, TIGHT QUARTERS**

Photo: “Massive thunderheads crown the Sacramento Mountains northeast of Alamogordo, NM. (Note malpais volcanic lava fields in foreground.)” SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown


If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

Greg on “Flying High and Hot”

Check out my density-altitude and mountain flying tips on this week’s AOPA Live aviation news broadcast!

Greg

“Ode to Night Currency,” Greg’s November, 2016 Flying Carpet column

Tough, beautiful, and a little scary

gregbrownft1116_1139-2smw1200I taxi my noisy little capsule toward the runway, arm out the window, in a cocoon of flashing red beacon light.

I’m practicing landings tonight, and it’s a dark one. Although nervous, I’ve done my homework and the facts say I’ll be fine. So I grit my teeth and go. We learn valuable things about ourselves through piloting.

I scan the flight controls with my flashlight, and perform an extra-thorough engine run up. Then I squelch the butterflies, and take the runway.

Sure, our little city will appear on downwind to base, but every other direction will be black, black, black. Instrument flying skills will be required, and takeoffs anemic at Flagstaff’s 7,000-foot elevation.

First circuit: When possible, I time night flights when moonlight offers a glimpse of terrain, but this month’s opportunity was fogged out. So I launch into utter darkness. It’s warm this evening, and at nearly 9,000-foot density altitude the airplane is sluggish.

Slowly I skitter aloft, accelerating in ground effect to climb speed. Hardly off the ground, I punch blackness beyond the runway. There are invisible pines and foothills down there, and nearby lurks 1,000-foot-high Woody Ridge…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, ODE TO NIGHT CURRENCY** (Mobile-device version HERE.)

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown


If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

“Car Shuttle,” Greg’s October, 2016 Flying Carpet column

“Big bumps and smoke”

GregBrownFT1016_4917-1Smw1200Smoky air filled my cockpit as I navigated the final miles home. Thankfully the odor emanated from outside the airplane, but it was stressful and unpleasant all the same. Still, today had been a delightful and practical Flying Carpet mission.

Our son Austin has worked overseas the last few years, necessitating storing his car in California. While visiting Flagstaff for a few days, he’d asked that we retrieve it for his family’s pending return to the States. The pickup location was just a mile from San Diego’s Gillespie Airport (KSEE), and we’d enjoy some family piloting in the process.

After shuffling our planned schedule due to weather, we launched for Gillespie on the one good flying day during Austin’s brief visit. Jean joined us to share driving duties back to Flagstaff.

Even the nicest flying days offer surprises. Thirty minutes after takeoff, Phoenix Approach vectored us around Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University traffic holding at Drake VOR near Prescott. Then Albuquerque Center radioed asking about a possible wildfire off our right wing as we crossed the Colorado River…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, CAR SHUTTLE** (mobile optimized version here)

Photo: “Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (KFLG) materializes behind a wall of forest-fire smoke.”

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

Greg

©2016 Gregory N.Brown


If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!