“Inches of Runway,” Greg’s January, 2019 Flying Carpet column

Wind rarely seems as threatening as other weather when flight planning, because you can’t see it. But as every pilot learns, wind is real; it can be helpful or hazardous, and often portends changing conditions.

FLG Flagstaff area aloft_0134e+++Smw1200

We’d planned Christmas in Tucson, but holiday snow was forecast, urged along by a powerful cold front. Indeed, Christmas dawned snowing and blustery. Surprisingly though, Flagstaff’s forecast called for midmorning clearing. Sure enough, at precisely 10am sun warmed our yard, blue sky pierced the clouds, and ceilings rose along our route. So we packed and took off.

Ceilings again lowered as we flew south but so did the terrain, so we cruised comfortably to Tucson for a family holiday dinner. Based on a sunny forecast, we planned to brunch and hike the next day before heading home.

The next morning, however, we were wakened by a smartphone weather alert. Despite yesterday’s clear-skies forecast, Flagstaff now expected morning snow flurries, followed by northeasterly 35-knot wind gusts tumbling from the mountains. What’s more, 40-knot headwinds would plague our normal 8500-foot cruising altitude. I suggested staying another night, but Jean wanted to return for the neighborhood holiday party. That meant departing immediately in hopes of beating the winds home

**Read Greg’s entire column, INCHES OF RUNWAY**

Photo: “Down I flew, carrying partial flaps with knife’s-edge readiness to go around because something bad was surely imminent.”

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

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

“Painted into a Corner,” Greg’s December, 2018 Flying Carpet column

 

Thunderheads_2686eSmw1200“Oh, and the St. Johns VOR is out of service,” said the flight service briefer before we departed Santa Fe for Scottsdale.

In those pre-GPS days, St. Johns was the only enroute radio navigation aid on Victor-190, the 274nm instrument airway between Albuquerque and Phoenix. No matter, I anticipated good weather throughout the 2½-hour flight.

Launching late afternoon in a rented Cessna 172RG Cutlass, we cruised clear skies southwestward. Entering Arizona, however, I spotted unexpected clouds ahead. It turned out that an unforecast stratus layer had developed almost to Phoenix. Fortunately, visual flight conditions prevailed underneath, the only concerning weather being a line of heavy thunderstorms paralleling our route 30 miles to the north.

Soon we cruised under clouds at 8,500 feet, ogling intense distant lightning off our right wing. I’d anticipated reaching lower country by nightfall, but we’d been slowed by headwinds, and darkness falls early under clouds. I calculated ceilings to be 1,000 feet above the highest ridges ahead. While usually plenty in daytime, that’s risky for night flight over mountains…

**Read Greg’s entire column, PAINTED INTO A CORNER**

Photo: A line of heavy thunderstorms paralleled our route 30 miles to the north.

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

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

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

GregBrownFT1118_7379-Pano-3000Smw1200

“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. (Available as a Fine Art Metal Print.)

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

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

“Time Warp,” Greg’s October, 2018 Flying Carpet column

The weekend had long been planned.

Jean and I would fly from Flagstaff to Phoenix, soak up sun at a tony resort, and attend a late-afternoon wedding in nearby Tempe.

Shortly before the wedding, however, Navajo friends invited us to a same-day high school graduation luncheon in Gallup, New Mexico, an hour in the other direction.

For days Jean and I calculated and recalculated how we might attend both events, but the timing was too tight—even an embarrassingly-brief Gallup stop might make us late for the wedding. How disappointing, that two celebrations involving treasured friends should land so far apart on the same day.

“We’d need a time warp to make both events,” lamented Jean as she RSVP’d regrets to Gallup.

But “time warp” triggered an epiphany…

**Read Greg’s entire column, TIME WARP** (Mobile Link HERE)

Photo: Gallup Municipal Airport sign, New Mexico.

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

Greg

©2018 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!

“Big Kids Aloft” Greg’s April, 2017 Flying Carpet column

alexrosenbaum-allenrosenblatt_pittsfieldairport-kpsf_pitsfieldma_5239esmw1200We relaxed with our son Hannis and his fiancée Marissa on Richmond Pond in western Massachusetts, our fourth flying destination crossing the continent from Arizona.

Marissa’s folks Alex and Sabina had been consummate hosts, treating us to sightseeing, concerts, and savory meals. Alex even let me drive his vintage Miata sports car. In return, all he asked was to go flying. Alex had once taken lessons, but circumstances prevented him from finishing. Now he was eager to retake the controls. Once a pilot, always a pilot.

On the appointed morning, however, broken clouds shrouded the lush green mountaintops surrounding Pittsfield Municipal Airport, with no improvement expected. To our mutual disappointment, it wasn’t safe to fly.

Midday came, and as I toted luggage to Hannis and Marissa’s car for their drive home, sunlight momentarily silvered Richmond Pond. Quietly, I checked weather. Area ceilings were indeed thinning, and had risen off all but the highest peaks. What’s more, an amended forecast indicated continuing improvement. I asked Alex what was planned for the afternoon.

“Nothing until dinner,” he replied.

“Then let’s go flying!” …

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, BIG KIDS ALOFT**

Photo: “Alex (L) and Allen celebrate our flight at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, Massachusetts. (KPSF)” See more photos here!

(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!

“Parlez-vous Anglais?” Greg’s March, 2017 Flying Carpet column

gregbrownft317_5569esmw1200“Be aware of a Citation jet practicing instrument approaches, and numerous aircraft flying the Trois-Rivières traffic pattern,” cautioned Montreal Center after issuing our instrument clearance from Quebec back to the States.

Not until reaching the runway did Jean and I fully appreciate the implications. How could we determine when to take the runway with so much traffic chattering in a foreign tongue? We might as well be on another planet!

Every aspect of this flight to French Canada had been impacted by language…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, PARLEZ-VOUS ANGLAIS?**

Photo: “Space-age terminal building at Trois-Rivières Airport, Quebec.” See more photos here!

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

Greg

PS: The dichroic-glass bola tie in my new new author photo this month comes from my friends Dana and Karen at Robbins Ranch Art Glass. Check out their wonderful work!

©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!