Grand Canyon by “Flying Carpet”

Hey, Fellow Pilots: Can you believe we get to do this??!!

Relive ‘Grand Canyon by “Flying Carpet”’

Miles and Miles of Sunflowers!

I flew my wife and her teammate to El Paso and back over the weekend to compete in tennis sectionals. Two grueling 5-hour round trips, and too hazy to see much of anything in either case, until…

Just 15 minutes from home, I encountered horizon-to-horizon gold! All that yellow is wildflowers, most if not all, sunflowers!

Talk about the power of numbers! Imagine how many plants it takes to carpet so many square miles, vividly viewed from a speeding airplane several thousand feet in the air!

If anyone’s interested in having one of these as a Fine Art Metal Print, please drop me a message. (See my current Views from the Flying Carpet and Down to Earth Fine Art Metal Prints.)


Top photo: Sunflowers stretch from south of Lake Mary toward the San Francisco Peaks. Below: Miles of wildflowers span northeast to northwest viewed from over Mormon Lake. (Click images to enlarge.)

Greg’s current “Sunflowers” Down to Earth Fine Art Metal Prints

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“Santa Ana Winds,” Greg’s June, 2015 Flying Carpet column

The price of adventure


Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out to be a pilot. Flying is as much about adventure as it is about transportation. Jean and I could drive to Southern California for our annual seaside vacation, as others do. Yes, it’s a dull 8-hour trek, and requires negotiating miles of maddening traffic. But little planning and few decisions are required — just hop in the car, and go.

By Flying Carpet, the same journey takes just two hours and delivers us three miles from the beach. Along the way are spectacular views of mountains, desert, and the Colorado River. Sounds impressive to the uninitiated, but flying demands planning, research, and sometimes stress. We pilots see such challenges as the price of adventure — overcoming obstacles for the rewards of stunning sights and completing our “missions.” But for others less suited to piloting, such trials seem troublesome travel complications.

This would be our second flight into Oceanside Municipal Airport for our “beach fix” with friends Tim and Hedy Thomas. It’s a delightful rural airport, but not without challenges: a short obstructed runway, and noise-abatement procedures that demand preflight study. Those I’d mastered last visit.

This year’s travel was constrained because our hosts could accommodate us for only two specific days. Every pilot knows the challenges of trying to meet an inflexible schedule. Fortunately, this route normally features benign flying weather, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

GregBrownFT615_0513eSmw1200As the day approached, the Southwest enjoyed record winter temperatures: Flagstaff in the 60s and Oceanside in the 80s. The cause was a powerful weather system generating easterly “Santa Ana winds.” I knew the effects of the Santa Anas, but had never flown in them.

Yes, 25-knot tailwinds would speed us on our way. But Oceanside is just 30 miles downwind of California’s rugged coastal mountains, raising specters of mountain wave stretching out to sea, moderate to severe turbulence, and low-level wind shear at our destination…

READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, SANTA ANA WINDS.” (Allow a moment for the article to load.)

Top photo: California’s Oceanside Municipal Airport (lower left) lies just up the San Luis Rey River from its namesake town, beach, and pier (upper right). Lower photo: The reward: savoring sunset at Oceanside Beach, California. SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

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


©2015 Gregory N.Brown

“Bad Start,” Greg’s May, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Beach vacation on the rocks…

PatrickShielsC182Cockpit-ILS21LfinalApproachPRC-FredGibbs_0409eSmw1200 Each spring Jean and I look forward to flying to our annual beach retreat with friends in southern California. That was still a few weeks away when I arrived at the airport one chilly morning for a local flight. Having preheated the engine overnight, I primed it as usual and turned the key.

The Flying Carpet, an older Cessna 182, has always been a terrific starter, rarely requiring more than half a turn to waken the engine. But this morning the engine barely cranked – it just groaned to first compression, and stopped. I wasn’t particularly alarmed as today’s mission was minor, and starting problems are usually easily resolved. I first suspected a weak battery. However, the voltmeter showed the battery fully charged to 24 volts, indicating outstanding health and plenty of power to start the engine.

This airplane’s battery is located back behind the baggage compartment. Thinking there might be a faulty connection or ground between it and the starter, I requested a GPU (ground power unit) start from Flagstaff’s Wiseman Aviation. However their battery cart fared no better. That the engine turned at all absolved the ignition switch and starter solenoid. “Obviously,” the problem must be the starter itself…

Mechanics Rory Goforth and Mike Clever towed the airplane to Wiseman Aviation, checked connections, and installed a new starter. But to everyone’s surprise, the engine still wouldn’t crank adequately to start.

GregBrownFT515_2713-starter adaptor calloutsSmw1200Rory explained that the only possible remaining culprit in this simple system was the “starter adaptor.” This clutch-like device mechanically connects the starter to turn the engine, and then disconnects it when the engine starts.

I’d heard of starter adaptors occasionally failing to disengage so the engine drags and burns out the starter, but never one that wouldn’t start the engine. However mine was apparently slipping internally so the spinning starter wouldn’t fully engage the engine

READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, BAD START.” (Allow a moment for the article to load.)

Top photo: Hitching a ride down the ILS to Prescott, Arizona, with instrument student Patrick Shiels and flight instructor Fred Gibbs. Lower photo: Arizona Air-Craftsman mechanic Leroy Dufresne examines the Flying Carpet after releasing it back to service.

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


©2015 Gregory N.Brown

“Tomorrow’s Pilot,” Greg’s April, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Passing the torch

5-GregBrownFT415_3eSm1200We all meet youthful aspiring pilots. For many it’s a passing interest, but now and then we encounter young people whose aviation knowledge and enthusiasm mark them as exceptional.

Gian Jacuzzi messaged me on Facebook last year about becoming a pilot. He’d gotten the bug at an airshow, and regaled me with photos of his favorite airplanes. I helped the 13-year-old enroll in “AOPA Av8rs,” and briefed him on EAA’s Young Eagles program and Air Academy summer camps. I also introduced Civil Air Patrol, where he might affordably solo in gliders as young as 14. He in turn asked about my piloting, and the Flying Carpet. In the process, we discovered that we share the same birthday.

Shortly after Christmas, Gian messaged me asking about university aeronautical programs. After answering, I casually asked about his holiday vacation.

GregBrownFT415_5eV2Smw1200“Truthfully,” he said, “there’s been a lot of pressure here. My mom, sister Nina, and myself just moved to Florida with nothing but 3 suitcases of clothes and essentials. So we didn’t have much money or time to celebrate the holidays. We spent most of our current money on airline tickets. We lived in a hotel for two weeks but it was expensive and we were running out of money. We considered going into a shelter but met some kind people and are staying in their house while my mom finds a job.”

GianNinaRusso-C150_MaribelRussoPhoto_2eSm1200I asked how his mother was holding up. “She has lots of hope and is very motivated. Nina and I are very proud of her.” There was no hint of sadness or frustration, but clearly this family had suffered a bleak Christmas. Yet even among those trials Gian found a bright spot.

“The good thing was we flew here in a 747! I got to see the cockpit, and the pilot and first officer were both fascinated by my passion for aviation!” Spontaneously I made an offer: “Ask your mom if she’d be comfortable with Jean and me buying you a flying lesson. You deserve to do something special after all you’ve been through.” …

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

Top photo: Gian Jacuzzi takes the controls for the first time. Middle photo: Maribel Russo and Nina Jacuzzi, with CFI Yogini Modi and Gian Jacuzzi at Orient Flight School, Homestead Airport, Florida. Bottom photo: Nina Jacuzzi celebrates her brother Gian’s first lesson. SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

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


PS: Check out some exciting followup on this column by my friend and AOPA Flight Training magazine editor, Jill Wood Tallman.

©2015 Gregory N.Brown

“Fun Flight,” Greg’s March, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Sharpening skills for family travel

EmilyLibbyAlanHerringFC_GlendaleAirportGEU_2323eSmw1200“I missed out on a bunch of flying this weekend,” lamented my neighbor, Alan Herring, over dinner.

Alan is a dairy-cattle veterinarian and fellow pilot; he owns a Cessna 170 taildragger, and a Turbo 182. Alan and his wife Jeanie live near Phoenix, and commute on weekends to their vacation home here in Flagstaff. He’d just finished describing how his family names all their vehicles; the Skylane goes by “Wanda,” and the 170 is called “Willy.”

“Our daughter Emily is down in Tucson attending the archrival Arizona State University – University of Arizona football game,” Alan explained. “Her sister Libby is at home west of Phoenix. They’re coming to Flagstaff tomorrow to join us for one night. The plan was for Jeanie and me to fly up here in Wanda yesterday. The girls were to rendezvous tomorrow morning at Glendale Airport, where I’d pick them up. Then we’d all fly home together on Sunday. Sounds crazy for just one night, but we always have a good time together and the girls have shopping in mind. But when we got ready to fly here yesterday, Wanda’s battery was dead, and it was too late to address it.”

I asked about the girls’ contingency travel plan. Emily would now drive from Tucson to Tempe in the morning. Libby would come from the west valley to meet her, and they’d continue to Flagstaff together. Returning home Sunday, they’d detour to retrieve the extra car.

“That’s complicated for one night, and quite a drive,” I observed. “Why don’t you and I just pick up Libby and Emily at Glendale Airport in the Flying Carpet tomorrow? Then they could ride home with you and Jeanie Sunday without leaving cars all over the place.” Alan and Jeanie expressed surprise.

“Oh, we couldn’t ask you to do that,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked. “That would give the girls more time to enjoy their brief visit. And you’d get an extra couple hours of family time traveling home together instead of driving separately. Besides, it’s always fun seeing Emily and Libby — and what more productive excuse could I find to enjoy a morning’s flying?“…

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

Photo: Emily, Libby, and Alan Herring at Glendale Airport, Arizona.

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

©2015 Gregory N.Brown

“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