Archive for July, 2007

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Oshkosh Trip Report – Part 1

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Well, I’m back after flying our Cessna Cardinal to EAA Airventure, Oshkosh. A life goal achieved.  It was quite an adventure and it will stick in my mind for years I’m sure.

My lovely wife put together my camping gear. She pretty much thought of everything, all I had to do was load it. I loaded the plane Saturday afternoon for my planned Sunday morning departure.  My plan was to arrive late Sunday, so as to be in place for the Monday opening.

I was obsessed with Texas weather in the week leading up to the show.  We’ve been having an incredible July, unprecedented in my lifetime.  Almost every day in July large bands of very slow moving thunderstorms have wandered over the state.  These are nothing like our normal summer thunderstorms.  Normally our summer thunderstorms form into tight, well defined lines and roar across the state, northwest to southeast, at 10 to 30 knots, leaving clear air behind them.

Not this summer.  This summer has been a slow motion monsoon.  Huge blobs of intense thunderstorms have just parked over much of the state, moving very slowly, and in weird directions.  In a normal July we get about 2 inches of rain in central Texas.  This year we’ve had well over 14.  This weather pattern is unheard of in my lifetime.

I couldn’t go 10 minutes without checking the weather all week. It became clear that my only chance to escape would be to attempt a dawn departure.  The forecast was for IFR for most of Texas, with the thunderstorms starting by noon. 

I woke up at 4:30am, unable to sleep.  Checking the weather I found most of Texas to be clear, including the Austin!   Off to the airport.

My plan was to make two stops on the way.  In theory my 71 Cardinal can just do the flight to Oshkosh with only one stop, but I’m just too big a chicken to try it.  I like visiting new airports, and after 3 hours in the 1971 seat I start to get a little stiff.  So I planned stops in Arkansas and Iowa.

As I approached the airport I called the recorded weather.  Still clear, but the dewpoint spread was only 1 degree.  Austin’s airport (KAUS) sits right next to the Colorado river, and fogs in almost every morning.  Sure enough, by the time I got through the gate, preflighted the plane, and pull it out of the T-hanger I could see the airport lights disappearing as the fog settled in.  Nothing to do but wait.  Under FAA rules as a private pilot I have no takeoff minimum.  I can takeoff into zero-zero if I have to.  I’ve done one other morning takeoff into fog here and it worked out well.  In that case only the area around the airport was fogged in.  A mile away was clear.  On that takeoff I broke out of the fog at about 100 feet.  In this case I knew the low clouds covered a much larger area, so I wanted to have at least ILS minimums before I launched.  The sun came up around 6am, and I heard (but couldn’t see) airliners taking off.  This meant that we had ILS mins, since charter and airliners can’t takeoff on a truly fogged in airport.  A few more minutes and I could see ghostly airplane shapes taking off.  Time to go!

After receiving my clearance I taxied out very slowly and carefully in haze.  Cleared for takeoff I started the takeoff roll.  I concentrated on my scan, making a very gentle turn to my assigned heading.  At less than 1 minute after takeoff I popped out of the undercast at 1300 feet.  It was clear as a bell under about a ten thousand foot broken layer.  I was in VMC all the way to Springdale Arkansas, the flight was very uneventful after the takeoff. Uneventful in a good way. 

22july aus asgI had spend a lot of time with the Airnav.com fuel planner, and had decided that I needed a stop in the Fayetteville Arkansas area.  I elected to stop at the Springdale airport, based mostly on the fuel price and comments on Airnav.  It was indeed a nice facility, complete with a cafe overlooking the ramp.  I had a serviceable omelette which nicely fortified me for the rest of the trip.Springdale Arkansas Airport (KASG)  The FBO was nice, but had almost nothing in their ‘flight planning room’ except a telephone.

 My next leg was in entirely clear weather.  I still filed IFR, I find IFR flight to just be simpler than VFR.  I find it comforting that someone knows where I am and where at least some of the other airplanes are. 

My next stop was Iowa City, Iowa (KIOW).  This airport had many positive comments on Airnav and good fuel prices.  KIOW is one of the many WWII triangle shaped airports.  It was kind of a strange place, in that it was down in kind of a bowl, with higher terrain all around it. 

Shortly after I shut down a nice young fellow came out, told me the fuel price, and offered to let me use a crew car for lunch.  I didn’t need lunch, but did appreciate a nice fully equipped flight planning room and friendly counter staff. 

22july asg iow Iowa City Airport (KIOW)

 

The next leg was the big one, the one I’ve thought about for years.  VFR past Madison to the Ripon/Fisk arrival to Oshkosh!! 

My first task was to be sure I had the power settings for the arrival.  They want you at 1800 feet, 90 knots, gear down at Ripon.  I knew about what the setting was, but on departure I decided to leave the gear down and verify the power settings.

Taking off on KIOW runway 25 was a weird experience. As I mentioned, the airport is in a bowl.  You roll down to the bottom of the bowl at first, and then up what looks like ski jump, pointed at buildings that seemed a few hundred feet higher than the departure end.  Rotating at was seemed like -200 agl I quickly decided to pull the gear up and pitched up for a maximum angle climbout.  Clearing the bowl, I breathed a sigh of relief as I climbed to 1800′ and lowered the gear.  Noting down the power  settings I pulled the gear back up and headed direct to Ripon. Ripon and Fisk are in the FAA database, so they were in my KLN-89b GPS.  I remember when navigation was hard.

I altered course a little to stay clear of Madison and began descending.  I switched over to the Oshkosh arrival frequency.  I was really upset to hear a young sounding pilot in a Tiger who was totally lost, didn’t seem to have the Notice to Airman (detailed instructions for the special Oshkosh procedures), and in general seemed like an accident waiting to happen.  He was wandering aimlessly about Wisconsin as the Fisk controllers tried to help him find himself.  They were trying to get him to put various fixes in his GPS, but clearly the guy had no clue how his GPS worked.  Nobody but controllers are supposed to talk on the arrival frequency, but this numnuts would not shut up.  I think he’s still up there, with his head up a dark smelly place.  I was amazed at the patience of the controllers.

Phil and Nancy Verghese visited Fisk on the ground, and provide a great description of the Fisk control point, including a video.  In prior years I’ve also visited Fisk on the ground. I can’t recommend this enough, the controllers there are the friendliest government employees you will ever see, and it’s the best airshow you can go to short of sneaking into the Oshkosh tower itself.

The way the arrival works that you descend to 1800′ (about 1000 feet above the ground) over the town of Ripon, then follow railroad tracks to the little town of Fisk, where a group of FAA controllers work out of a trailer, directing traffic into to Oshkosh.  With GPS it was simple to find Ripon, back in the old days it would have a been a challenge to pick this town out from the dozens of identical nearby towns at such a low altitude.  As I came up on Ripon I saw the famous tracks, and saw a couple of other airplanes ahead of me.  I fell into line, careful to maintain my airspeed and altitude.  They were alternating airplanes between runway 27, which from Fisk is a straight-in that takes you to the runway next to the camping area.  Other airplanes were getting runway 18R, which is a more complicated arrival that puts you over a mile from the camping area once you are on the ground.

As I approached Fisk I saw the strobe lights and the trailer.  The airplane ahead of me got runway 27.  ‘Come on, give me 27′ I prayed to the strobes.  ‘Cessna over Fisk rock your wings!”  I gave an aggressive fighter like wing rock, and was rewarded with “good job Cessna, runway 18 right, switch to tower, page 11 of the Notam”.  Darn!  Thank goodness I’d studied, and before long I could make out the airport with its swarm of airplanes.  I think I followed the instructions pretty closely, and touched down near the desired ‘pink dot’. 

 “I did it!” flashed through my mind, and I (prematurely) mentally patted myself on the back as rolled down the runway heading for the next paved intersection. “Cardinal! Get Off the Runway Now!” shouted the tower.  I had forgotten that at Oshkosh you are never allowed to linger on a runway.  As soon as you’re under control on the ground you’re supposed to head off the side of the runway over the grass infield.  I had relaxed too soon.  As I pulled off one of the very dedicated EAA traffic wranglers with his orange paddles gave me the ‘stop’ signal, and then pointed the other way on the taxiway.  I realized that I was still pointed south, but the parking was way north, so I did a 180 on the taxiway.  Thus began a long taxi to the ‘North 40′ camping area.  I was passed from one wrangler to the next down the taxiways and byways of this large airport. 

Finally I was waived into a row of airplanes immediately adjacent to the Hilton Hotel on the north edge of the airport. A volunteer directed me to a parking space, I did a quick check, and shut down. Immediately a pretty lady appeared at my door.  “Welcome to Oshkosh!  I have your paperwork here, do you need tiedowns, do you have any questions?”  She had the registration paperwork, the fuel tickets, and a really friendly face.  I really, really appreciated the nice welcome, it was the perfect end to the day.

I was so happy to have arrived alive and without major screwups!

There wasn’t anything else to do tonight but setup my tent, enjoy the sunset, and meet my neighbors.

Tomorrow was opening day at Oshkosh!!!!!

 

Oshkosh Camp Site 1

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Oshkosh Countdown – Part 2

Friday, July 20th, 2007

 

Oshkosh is coming down the track like a locomotive. I’ve got most of my act together, I still need tie-down stakes and enroute chart L-6.

The weather continues to be pretty sucky here in Austin.  It’s running about 10 degrees below normal, which is cool in the literal and spiritual sense.  It’s also far more cloudy and rainy than anyone can remember.  We’ve had more rain this year so far than we normally get for an entire year!

The forecasts agree that its going to be tough getting out of Austin Sunday morning, as I had hoped. Low clouds, possible thunderstorms and rain are forecast every morning until the end of time. 

It is looking like if I can get out of Texas I’m home free.  I may wind up leaving Saturday night, since the best weather of the day around here has been between 8pm and midnight. 

I just hate being in clouds when there is a possibility of running into a CB. 

 If I get to Oshkosh I’m going to buy one of the XM weather capable gps units.  I’m wishing I had one now.

Everyone cross their fingers for me please!

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Oshkosh Countdown Begins

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Voyager Flight Planner Screen Capture A couple of months ago my budget director approved raiding the piggy bank for enough lose change to fly the Cardinal to Air Venture Oshkosh this year.  That’s a real big deal to me.  I’ve been to eight or ten ‘Airventures’, but I’ve always done the sensible thing and drove or flew in via airliner. 

Having never piloted an airplane into the world’s busiest airport I can’t be considered a true Oshkosh Hajji.  This is a really big deal to me.

I should have been planning all this time, but I’ve been distracted by various things, such as new grandkids and earning the money with which to go.

I’ve been real distracted by my need to complete an Instrument Proficiency Check’ in order to regain the privilege to fly under instrument flight rules (IFR). 

I foolishly let my instrument currency lapse early this year.  I won’t make that mistake again.  After several practice flights over the last month, a 2.5 hour ground review, and a two hour IPC in mostly real instrument conditions I am again a qualified instrument pilot.   It was an expensive mistake, but I greatly benefited from a through review conducted by a highly experienced instructor

In any case the grandkid is doing fine, I’m a real pilot again, and work is as under control as it can be in a startup.

So tonight I started spreading charts, studying the NOTAM,  and running  my Voyager flight planner, trying to figure out where the best intermediate stops might be. 

 I was able make hotel reservations in Watertown, WI, which is about as close as you can to Airventure this late in the game. The Holiday Inn in Watertown is on the airport, so I can drop in there, get my room, and continue on to KOSH. I was surprised that it was still possible to reserve a rental car at Oshkosh from Hertz.  I may camp the last night, but I’ve camped before and really don’t care for it that much.  Trying to sleep while  cold and wet isn’t my idea of a good time. 

My original plan was to arrive on Sunday, 7/22, and attend the show Monday through Thursday.  I may slip to the right a day or two though. 

I hate to say it, but I’d kind of like to hang around for the F-22 Raptor demo, which I understand is going to be on Friday.  I’ve never been a big Raptor fan, but they say it is the world’s best airshow airplane.  There is also an aviation podcaster gathering on Friday that would be fun.

I need to figure out what I’m gong to do for tiedown stakes.  The EAA is very emphatic that you need to have good tie downs.  Having seen some decent thunderstorms roll over the show, I want my plane to stay put.  So I need something in the way of good tiedowns.  Do I want to bring a sleeping bag and a pup tent?  Just in case?  If I arrive Monday instead of Sunday will the parking be full?  So many details to think about.

The biggest show in aviation, and this year I’ve got a bit part!!!!

I better order some charts before I turn in.

Watch this space for greater hysteria as the day gets closer. 

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Austin Electronics Retailer Misleads Customers

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

Sorry for the poor quality, but I took this picture to show what in my opinion is a typical unethical display practice that I often see at a big local electronics retailer in Austin.

The display offers a DVD/RW Pioneer drive for $39 after rebates. Fair enough, that’s not a bad deal.

But be careful! See the gold colored boxes at the front of the display. Those are Pioneer DVD/RW drives. But if you compare their stock number to the one on the sign, you find the numbers differ by 2. The gold drives are $59 with no rebate. Besides the color of the box and a slightly different stock number and model number there appear to be no other differences between the gray box DVDs and the more prominent gold box dvds.

The drives with the rebate are in the gray boxes, located behind and under the gold non-rebate drives.

This isn’t an isolated case in my opinion. I see this tactic almost every time I visit their Austin store.

This national retailer could make plenty of money using honest signage. Walmart, Best Buy, CompUsa, even Circuit City manage to make money without this kind of blatant dishonesty. It’s really sad that this particular store makes this ‘mistake’ far too frequently.

In my opinion this display constitutes a ‘bait and switch’ scam, and if it’s not illegal it should be.

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Because They Like it

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

I rarely just copy content from others, but this post from Michael Ledeen at the Corner is so on point that I’m going to just copy it.  If one more person reads this then its worth it.

 

From an email, clear thinking for what lies ahead:

The real question remains “Why at all?” and the status of these would-be murderers as privileged post-graduates debunks the usual Lefty nostrums about terrorism arising inexorably from the poverty, oppression and “disenfranchisement” of the globe’s Darwinian short-bus. The answer lies more plainly in a memorable line of a memorable character. In 1971’s “Dirty Harry” the city of San Francisco is being terrorized by the rampant Scorpio serial killer. Clint Eastwood is in classic formulaic dialogue with the big shots down at City Hall who just don’t understand what they’re dealing with. Eastwood says “You’re crazy if you think you’ve heard the last of this guy. He’s gonna kill again” and the archetypal skeptical D.A. character responds “How do you know?” (A little imagination here to invoke the Eastwood signature voice enhances the flavor of the closing fastball). “Because he likes it” answers Dirty Harry.

It doesn’t matter a whit if these manqué human bonfires are doctors, shepherds, bureaucrats or street vendors – this is what they do, and they do it because they like it. They are fanatics, subsumed in a crippling theology that fosters self-hatred and murder. Their economic conditions are irrelevant. The Left doesn’t get this of course because Marxist materialism denies belief systems altogether, so they therefore must assume that all human behavior is derived from economic determinism. Tell that to Dr. Kill-dare.

These monsters wish to inflict as much pain and death on as many innocents as they can because… because they’re evil and they’re crazy. And it’s not pretty to say so, but the only reasonable and effective defense is to kill them first.

(Emphasis added)

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Now with WordPress 2.2!

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

I’ve upgraded to WordPress 2.2 from version 1.5.

How do I look?