“Sightseeing Michigan,” Greg’s December, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Visiting friends far from home

TedHeckman-1941MeyersOTW_AlleganMI-35D_1202-EditeSmw1200“For some great sightseeing, cruise low along the Lake Michigan shoreline on your way from Chicago,” my friend Jason Blair had advised before takeoff. However lake-effect showers streamed southward over northern Indiana, dulling the view. For the moment we navigated haze under grey 2,200-foot ceilings.

“We’re a mile below Flagstaff’s airport elevation!” Jean exclaimed, noting the altimeter. That seemed queasily unnatural compared to our normal 8-11,000-foot flight altitudes back home in Northern Arizona’s mountains.

Gradually, however, we found ourselves descending under lowering clouds and virga. I checked weather. While 60 miles away our destination of Allegan, Michigan remained clear, nearby lakeshore stations had suddenly fallen below 1,500 overcast, with Michigan City reporting 900 broken. We deviated eastward toward better weather away from the lake.

Why are we doing this? I thought, eyeing cobalt skies through broken clouds overhead. There were other airplanes down here, and tall radio towers. Rather than steer farther off course to escape the muck, I requested a “pop-up” instrument clearance, which South Bend Approach promptly granted.

In no time we surfed blue skies over snowy clouds, at 5,000 feet. Between them could be glimpsed vivid farm fields and sparkling Lake Michigan beaches. Funny how visibility can sometimes be restricted near the ground, and yet appear crystal-clear from above.

GregBrownFT1215_3768eSmw1200Jean and I now shared excitement about visiting our friend Tyler Allen, a sophomore at Kalamazoo College.

You may remember Tyler from previous columns–he began flight training as a high school student on the Navajo Nation, and we shared many Arizona flying adventures together. Here, finally, was our opportunity to visit him at college…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, SIGHTSEEING MICHIGAN.”**

Top Photo: Ted Heckman’s 1941 Meyers OTW biplane, at Padgham Field, Allegan, Michigan.

Lower photo: Tyler and Jean at Kalamazoo College, Michigan.

SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

Greg

©2015 Gregory N.Brown

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

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…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, FAMILY FLIERS.”**

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.” 

SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

Greg

©2015 Gregory N.Brown

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

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.” 

SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

Greg

©2015 Gregory N.Brown

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

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

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, BARN DANCE.”**

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.)

Greg

©2015 Gregory N.Brown

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

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.)

Greg

©2015 Gregory N.Brown

Greg’s affordable new “Sunset Rains” Metal Print!

20x30-SunsetRains-MetalPrint_2960-EditeSmw1200I’m pleased to announce the first of my trendy and affordable new “Views from the Flying Carpet” Metal Prints.

Order my new Sunset Rains 20″ x 30″ Metal Print for just $295* through the month of March!

20x30-SunsetRains-MetalPrint_2957eSmw1200I am genuinely thrilled with the quality and fidelity of this series, and believe you will be too.

The success of my ongoing museum-quality “Views from the Flying Carpet” Fine Art C-prints crafted by Master Printer Richard Jackson has been incredibly rewarding, with pieces exhibited in numerous museum shows and placed in private and corporate collections as far away as Australia. New Fine Art Print images are in the works.

20x30-SunsetRains-MetalPrint_2959-EditeSmw1200Plenty of folks, however, have expressed eagerness to own a Flying Carpet print while foregoing the cachet of museum quality and collector documentation to fit tighter budgets. Therefore my specific objective with these new metal prints is to offer superb image quality at affordable prices.

Each metal print delivers ready-to-hang on a frameless back mount that floats it 1/2″ off the wall. (See right and below.) This approximates the museum-mount appearance I prefer on my Fine Art Prints, while helping to keep them affordable. Each open edition print incorporates my signature mark. (Unlike my Fine Art Prints, these come without certificates of authenticity.)

20x30-SunsetRains-MetalPrint_2962eSmw1200I selected generous 20″ x 30″ dimensions to deliver the largest possible size while optimizig value and minimizing shipping costs. I predict you’ll be thrilled as I am with these impactful and gorgeous prints.

My museum-quality Fine Art collector series C-prints custom-crafted by Master Printer Richard Jackson will of course continue to be available.

Thank you!!
Greg

PS: In order to personally proof each new image in my metal print series, I’m extending Flagstaff-area customers the $295 price for the first-time metal-print order of any specific Flying Carpet image allowing me to receive, proof, and locally deliver. So if you have your eye on a print other than Sunset Rains, now’s the time to order! (See available images. Contact me directly to order.)

* Plus shipping and/or sales tax. (Just $20.50 shipping to the continental US. Contact me for shipping costs to other destinations.)

“Charity Aloft,” Greg’s February, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Surfing sunbeams

10-GregBrownFT215_2277eSmw1200-4Last summer my friend Chris Barton asked me to take aerial photos of his church to help raise money for its associated school. The charitable mission sounded both worthwhile and fun, so I readily accepted. The opportunity presented itself one sparkling morning, as I returned the Flying Carpet from nearby Prescott.

I’d yet to visit the church on the ground, but knew it overlooked a prominent intersection just outside Flagstaff Pulliam Airport’s traffic pattern. So on a whim I coordinated with the control tower and went for a look. The complex was easily spotted on open, elevated property, backed by magnificent views of the San Francisco Peaks. Armed with a telephoto lens and flawless visibility, it took only a few passes to capture the requisite views. That was easy and fun, I thought. So when referred a few months later for another charitable shoot, I eagerly volunteered.

Camp Colton is a revered institution located on the west flank of Humphreys Peak. Every local 6th grader is offered a week there to learn teamwork, natural sciences, and love for the outdoors; most Flagstaff natives under age 50 once attended.

DannyGiovaleTracyAnderson-FC_FLG_2007eSmw1200Friends of Camp Colton director Tracy Anderson sought aerial photos of the camp’s stunning mountainside location for fundraising purposes, including promoting the upcoming Kahtoola Agassiz Uphill trail race benefit sponsored by board member Danny Giovale’s company.

Gorgeous autumn weather prevailed when the three of us connected. With golden aspen trees blanketing the mountain, we agreed to shoot the very next day. Given the camp’s western-slope location, I chose late afternoon sun to illuminate Colton’s idyllic setting amid brilliant fall colors.

8-GregBrownFT215_2065eSmw1200Camp Colton resides in wooded wilderness, so I was concerned about finding it. I also worried from a safety standpoint about its proximity to the 12,633-foot mountain and surrounding foothills.

Danny eagerly consented to help with spotting and shooting. But Tracy hesitated, having once been traumatized by a poor-weather Alaska air-taxi flight. I explained that we’d fly only in perfect weather, remain within minutes of the airport, and land at her request anytime during the flight. After considering it overnight, she agreed to join us.

At the airport I engaged Tracy and Danny in the preflight and pre-takeoff checklists to ease any concerns. Then we launched into late-afternoon sun…

READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE FLYING CARPET COLUMN, CHARITY ALOFT.” (Allow a moment for the article to load.)

Top photo: Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks, with Camp Colton’s snowy driveway visible at lower right. Middle photo: Camp Colton’s Danny Giovale and Tracy Anderson await takeoff for the San Francisco Peaks visible behind them. Lower photo: “Flaming” autumn aspen trees ignite the flank of Humphreys Peak. SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

©2014 Gregory N.Brown

“Tennis Time Again,” Greg’s January, 2015 Flying Carpet column

The power of wishful thinking

GregBrownFT115_1743-EditeSmw1200Every aviator knows the pain of stressing about weather before important aerial journeys. It’s become tradition for me to fly Jean to tennis regionals when her team wins their conference.

Fortunately, the playoffs occur in late spring and early fall when good flying weather generally dominates the Southwest.

Jean’s team was particularly strong this year, so with each successive win she’d more enthusiastically ask, “You will fly us to Albuquerque if we qualify, right?” Each time I assured her that nothing in my universe could possibly be more important. Accordingly she solicited fellow players to join us, collected their weights, briefed them on baggage limits, and arranged for driving teammates to accommodate overflow gear. When Jean’s team indeed made the cut, we began casually watching the weather.

GregBrownFT115_1525eDetSmw1200You may be surprised to learn that hurricanes, or at least their remnants, occasionally visit sunny Arizona.

In the past month two of them, Marie and Norbert, had arrived from Mexico’s Pacific coast, dropping extensive precipitation including the largest daily rainfall ever recorded in normally bone-dry Phoenix. Following two such rare occurrences in one season, I never imagined we’d see more.

But a week before Jean’s regionals, Hurricane Odile steered our way from Baja California. Jean and I watched in disbelief as local meteorologist Lee Born projected the storm’s track northeastward through Arizona and New Mexico.

“This could be another major precipitation event,” he said, “with a high likelihood we’ll benefit by more rain.” Jean and I, however, saw only a disrupted tennis trip in the colorful weather blob projected to engulf the two states…

READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE FLYING CARPET COLUMN, TENNIS TIME AGAIN.” (Allow a moment for the article to load.)

Top photo: Tennis teammates Jean, Jana, and Jenny at Albuquerque’s Double Eagle II Airport. Lower photo: “Old Acoma Pueblo ‘Sky City,’ near Grants, New Mexico. SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

©2014 Gregory N.Brown

“Aviators’ Paradise,” Greg’s December, 2014 Flying Carpet column

New and different circumstances

MogollonAirparkAZ82aloft_1300eSmw1200Among both the joys and challenges of piloting, is that however long we fly we’re continually encountering new and different circumstances. Recently Jean and I attended an FAA Safety Seminar at Mogollon Airpark (AZ82), a private fly-in residential community high on the Mogollon Rim 100 miles northeast of Phoenix.

FAAsafetySeminar_MogollonAirparkAZ82_4166eSmw1200Although Jean had lately observed that, “we don’t do enough together, anymore,” I was stunned when she cancelled Saturday-morning tennis to join me for the highly esoteric topic of “ADS-B surveillance, traffic, and weather delivery technology.” Later it came out that she was “also a little sore from too much tennis.”

Our destination likely impacted her decision, too. Picture your favorite childhood piney-woods summer camp, set at 6,700 feet elevation for nice, cool summers. Now add a paved runway and homes with attached hangars on spacious wooded lots, and you’ll appreciate why we enjoy visiting this aviators’ paradise.

Jean_FAAsafetySeminar_MogollonAirparkAZ82_1297eSmw1200Flying into private airports generally requires prior planning and permission, so you can’t wait until departure morning to figure things out. Such airports needn’t meet public-use airport standards and rarely appear in official publications such as the FAA Airport/Facility Directory. Fortunately, Mogollon’s web site specifies rules and recommends safety procedures. As with many private strips, visiting pilots are required to pre-submit aircraft insurance documentation and a hold-harmless form. The website also designates Runway 21 as calm-wind runway, specifies right traffic for Runway 3, and prohibits night landings.

The high-elevation strip is only 3,436 feet long, shorter than I remembered, and is surrounded by tall pines. That raised density-altitude concerns. Looking more closely however, I noted that narrow centerline taxiways at each end of the runway effectively add another 2600 feet for takeoff, well within Flying Carpet capabilities.

MogollonAirparkAZ82aloft_1280eSmw1200Particularly thought-provoking is that Mogollon’s runway slopes downhill from the midpoint in both directions. As a result, departing pilots cannot see aircraft at the opposite end of the runway — in fact they are so thoroughly blocked by the midpoint rise that they may not hear each other’s radio transmissions. Accordingly I studied and printed the airpark’s 7-point “Safety Warning” anti-collision departure procedures list.

Finally, I pre-calculated my course since you can’t just dial it in after takeoff. Private airports rarely appear in panel-mounted GPS navigator databases, so getting to Mogollon requires manually entering its coordinates as a user waypoint, or applying old-fashioned pilotage and dead reckoning…

READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE FLYING CARPET COLUMN, AVIATORS’ PARADISE.” (Please allow a moment for the article to load.)

Photos: Arizona’s remote Mogollon Airpark, 100 miles northeast of Phoenix.

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

©2014 Gregory N.Brown

“Precious Cargo,” Greg’s November, 2014 Flying Carpet column

Lavender by Air

7-GregBrownFT1114_1144eSmw1200What makes something precious? The price tag? Or perhaps that someone you love desires it?

We recently suffered a traumatic horticultural loss — one of Jean’s treasured Provence Lavender plants. She bought them several years ago at the annual Red Rock Farms Lavender Festival outside tiny Concho, Arizona. (See “Scent of the Sky,” FT 6/10.)

Under Jean’s careful tending, the aromatic plants have since flourished in our front yard from 4-inch seedlings to glorious, 3-foot purple-blossomed bushes. Appealing as lavender may be to humans, it’s refreshingly unappetizing to elk, rabbits, and javelina. So we never anticipated losing one to a gopher dining from underneath. I asked Jean if she planned to replace it.

RedRockLavenderRanchAloft-ConchoAZ_1128eSmw1200“I’d like to,” she said, “but it’s challenging finding hardy lavender locally. The last bushes I planted didn’t last.”

“So the Concho plants are hardier?”

“Yeah, they seem better suited to our climate. But although Red Rock offers other lavender products online, they only sell plants during their annual festival that ended last month.” I offered to inquire about flying over to get some.

“No,” she said. “It seems impractical flying almost to New Mexico to buy a few plants.” That ended the discussion for a few days — until I next encountered Jean pondering the remains of her beloved lavender bush.

“I wonder if I can bring it back to life,” she said, but that didn’t look promising.

Admitting it might not make sense flying halfway across the state to buy three or four plants, I asked if other gardeners in her club might want some. That apparently passed the test, so I phoned Red Rock Farms owner Mike Teeple…

READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE FLYING CARPET COLUMN,PRECIOUS CARGO.” (Please allow a moment for the article to load.)

Top photo: Mike Teeple of Red Rock Farms loads lavender plants at St. Johns Industrial Air Park, Arizona.

Bottom photo: Aerial view of Red Rock Lavender Farm, near Concho, Arizona. SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

©2014 Gregory N.Brown