Archive for flying adventures

“Sports Car for a Day,” Greg’s September, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in Flying Carpet column with tags , , , on July 20, 2018 by Greg Brown

Unlike most teens of my era, I favored old autos and sports cars over tire-squealing muscle cars. So I bought a ’39 Chevy before heading off to the University of Wisconsin.

After two years of worthy adventures, however, the old car’s 55mph maximum speed became tiresome. Then one day the rear axle bearings seized in a cloud of smoke on Interstate 94, and finding replacements took weeks.

GregBrownFT918_1967VolvoP1800SeSm1200So I sold my beloved Chevy and set my heart on an idiosyncratic Volvo P1800S sports car like that driven by Roger Moore in television’s The Saint.

After much searching I found a fire-engine-red ’67 coupe in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, with four-speed transmission, overdrive, and a claimed 60,000 miles. 

My younger brother Alan and his high-school buddy Paul Cowdrey were already private pilots, so I hitchhiked home to Chicago and Paul flew me to Sheboygan in a Grumman Traveler.

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This was my first time sharing a cockpit with a peer. I’d aviated since childhood with my dad, but although enjoying our destinations had developed little piloting passion since we kids were mostly relegated to the back seat. And while having recently earned my own pilot wings, I’d barely begun overcoming the training traumas to appreciate future aerial adventure.

But tracing the sparkling Lake Michigan shoreline under Paul’s command on such an exciting mission changed all that…

**Read Greg’s entire column, SPORTS CAR FOR A DAY**

Top photo: 1967 Volvo P1800S coupe. Lower photo: Paul Cowdrey at KDPA, circa 1972.

(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

“Cloud Wings,” Greg’s March, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , on January 29, 2018 by Greg Brown

Earning your wings requires hand-eye coordination, but instrument flying (IFR) is a brain game.

Yes, mastering flight by tiny needles is tough, but navigation, holds, and approaches are exciting and fun. And while IFR may be the hardest rating, it’s also the most safety-enhancing, rewarding, and practical. When I earned my cloud wings forty years ago this month, my flight-completion rate doubled overnight to over 90%.

Instrument flying, of course, gets you where you’re going without sight of the ground, and “instrument approaches” deliver you safely to landing.

As with VFR cross-countries, instrument flight plans are crafted around checkpoints, but using predefined fixes from an IFR chart. These days, thanks to GPS and moving maps, we can fly great distances and shoot programmed instrument approaches almost as readily as by looking out the window.

But it wasn’t always that easy…

**Read Greg’s entire column, CLOUD WINGS“**

Photo: GPS Runway 3 LPV instrument approach to Flagstaff, Arizona.

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“Special Girl,” Greg’s February, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column with tags , , , , , on January 2, 2018 by Greg Brown

The romance of flight comes in many flavors, so when my friend Andrew requested a “huge favor,” I didn’t know what to expect.

Andrew formerly edited our local entertainment weekly, for which I’d provided aerial photos. An avid outdoorsman, he was eager to explore Arizona from above, so I’d invited him on flights to Tucson and Lake Havasu City. Instantly he was hooked on both the views and the controls. But that was months ago.

“What’s this ‘huge favor?’” I asked, surprised.

“I’ve met this special girl, Rachel,” he replied, “and I’m planning fun things to do together. So suddenly I got this idea… Would you consider taking us flying? It would be a total surprise for her.” Coincidentally, I already had a fitting mission planned: my semiannual rendezvous with buddy and former neighbor Gary at Payson Airport—Gary motorcycles from Phoenix, while I travel by Flying Carpet.

“Would you and Rachel care to join us for breakfast?” I offered, “Grab a separate table if you like. We’ll sightsee Sedona on the way back!”

“That sounds awesome!” said Andrew. “And we’ll definitely join your table because Rachel is a very social person.” Later, Andrew texted downloaded photos of Payson Airport’s Crosswinds Restaurant. “Is this where we’re eating?” he asked. I replied affirmatively with restaurant views of the scenic Mogollon Rim. My friend’s enthusiasm made me feel increasingly honored that he’d involve me in such a personal mission.

When Andrew introduced me to Rachel at Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, I immediately saw the magic that attracted him to her. A dynamic, outgoing professional woman, Rachel sparkles with humor. When I cranked up the Flying Carpet’s radios she asked, “Greg, are you gonna say that ‘copy, roger, affirmative, and negative’ stuff?”…

**Read Greg’s entire column, SPECIAL GIRL“**

Photo: Andrew and Rachel ‘play airplane’ at Payson Airport, Arizona.

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

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“Dark, Scary Night,” Greg’s January, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Posted in flying adventures, Flying Carpet column, Greg's photographs with tags , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2017 by Greg Brown

 

FinalRwy27-OaklandTroyAirport-KVLL_5404eSmw1200

“Beware—the airport you fly into every day is not the same airport at night,” my friend Donna Wood observed last year.

As a new private pilot, Wood had invested in a Cessna 182 and launched on ambitious regular flights between her Detroit home and Charleston, South Carolina, where she has family and business.

Wood is exceptionally careful and diligent, but 18 months after earning her wings, she’d experienced a scare. Battling u
nforecast headwinds from South Carolina with her nonpilot husband, Roger, the couple had arrived home after dark.

“I was legally night current,” Wood said the next morning, “but wasn’t planning on night flight.” Her first challenge was finding urban Oakland/Troy Airport (VLL) under Detroit Class Bravo airspace, landlocked by obstacles and buildings. “All I saw were lights, everywhere.” Then, on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, the runway lights—activated by a previous aircraft—went out.

Rattled, she keyed the mic too quickly to reactivate them. Fortunately, her former CFI Wayne Hendrickson was waiting to help hangar the airplane, and triggered the lights with his handheld radio.

Now flustered, Wood turned final for Troy’s obstructed 3,549-foot runway, high and too fast. So, she went around. But this time she flew downwind too near the runway and overshot final, destabilizing her approach. This began a dangerous chain of events…

**Read Greg’s entire column, DARK, SCARY NIGHT“**

Photo: “Detroit’s Oakland Troy Airport is surrounded by obstructions, thought-provoking even in daytime.”

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

Greg

©2017 Gregory N. Brown

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