Sunday, April 22, 2012

Owatonna Lunch Run

Ok, I'm a bit late on this post but late is better than never, right?

A month ago, my wife suggested that we fly somewhere for my birthday, so I decided to fly my wife and son down to Owatonna for some shopping at Cabela's (an outdoor super store) and have lunch at one of the nearby restaurants.  I checked the weather and it looked like the nice weather was going to hold all day so I reserved a plane and headed up to the airport.

 This was my first "$100 Burger Run" so I was curious how everything would work out.  I was told that once you landed in Owatonna, you could simply call Cabela's and they would send a shuttle for you (it's about 1.5 miles away).  I had heard there was also a courtesy car (which we later saw) but I didn't spend a lot of time finding out how to get the keys.  Definitely next time though.

The flight south went very well, and we landed without incident at KOWA.  I was amazed at how nice the facilities were...brand new flight prep room, lounge, and a conference room.  All of it was free to use by transient pilots.

After a few minutes, the shuttle showed up and took us over to the Cabela's store.  They have some pretty cool indoor animal displays, and every piece of outdoor gear you could imagine.  However, we were hungry so we took a quick tour inside the store and then walked to Famous Dave's rib joint.

After we ate, we headed over to the store again but I was worried that the haze was going to close in on my home airport, so we didn't spend a lot of time shopping.  The manager gave us a quick ride back to the airport and we headed north again.

When we were airborne, it wasn't long before I could see Minneapolis in the 25 miles I could still make out the skyscrapers, so I knew that the weather wasn't a concern.

We had a lot of fun, and it was great being able to fly the family somewhere for lunch and shopping.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Icewater Mansion

It felt good to stretch my wings a bit.  After getting my fill of local flights, and flights to nearby airports, I asked my wife Monica what she'd think of a "flying vacation".  She thought it was a great idea, and so we made plans to fly to Sky Harbor Airport on Duluth's Park Point.  Monica and I both went to college in Duluth, and it's a neat town, so we like to visit as much as possible.  Plus, Lake Superior, which boasts the largest surface area of any lake in the world, is also a seaport and the ship watching is very cool.

Amazingly, we left the house on time, got to the airport a little early, and took off 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  Another club member landed and was putting a plane away when we were getting ready, and said the air was very smooth.  He was was a nice smooth flight all the way up to Duluth.  I climbed to 3500 feet and cruised at a stately 108 knots (fuel burn of 9.6 gallons per hour).  As we approached the Duluth/Superior area, I heard on the shared CTAF frequency that they were doing skydiving ops over the Superior Airport (3 miles southwest of Sky Harbor) and there was a slightly disoriented older gentleman over the airport as well.  I did a non-standard wide entry to base for Sky Harbor and landed without a problem.

Jake helps with the preflight
Gotta make sure the altimeter is set correctly...
Just like riding in the car. 
Sky Harbor is the bare patch in the middle of the narrow strip.

Later my wife mentioned she was nervous because the runway looked so short.  It's actually 3000 feet long but with water on both sides, it's a much different sight picture than what she's used to.  My son Jake simply played his leapster in the back seat the whole trip.  I took that as a compliment.

Actually it does kind of look short from up here.

Ship watching in Canal Park.  You have to take the bridge to get to Sky Harbor.

After using my iPhone to learn how to tie a knot in the tiedown, we grabbed our bags and met the Enterprise rental car driver.  We dropped him off, and did our usual touristy stuff.

The flight back was a little bumpier, as the winds had picked up a bit, but the takeoff, cruise, and landing at Crystal Airport were all uneventful.  I even got my wife to take the controls for a bit as I set up the GPS, but upon looking back outside, I noticed we were in an unusual attitude.  So, we might have to look into a pinch hitter course for her some time...

Home sweet home.

All in all, it was a very fun and successful weekend.  My wife has now made more suggestions for flights like Madeline Island and Door County, Wisconsin.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Long Forgotten

I've been delinquent in blog updates of late, as you can tell.  I've flown a couple of times since the last post, but they were just local flights that weren't really worth talking about.

However, I'm flying the family up to Duluth in a few weeks (KDYT on Park Point) and we're staying at Canal Park overnight.  This will be the first practical use of my pilot credentials since my checkride over two years ago.  I know, it's a slow start, but at least it's a start. 

Watch here for the full report.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Long Lunch

So I work with this guy named Luke and ever since he found out I'm a pilot, he's suggested on a weekly basis that maybe we could take a long lunch and go flying.

Well finally we had an opportunity today to grab a real quick lunch and head up to the airport. The winds were calm and the sky was blue. Everybody had the same idea and it was pretty busy at Crystal airport.

Since we had to do a quick flight, I just did a loop around Lake Minnetonka and Lake Waconia. It was calm on the ground but a little bumpy up in the air. We snapped a few photos and zipped back to the airport. It was nice to get up in the air but I hope to do some longer flights now that winter is finally gone (fingers crossed).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Winter's Bone

A month ago I foolishly ventured onto a large ice patch and broke my leg. Now, as a Minnesota resident, I'm no stranger to slipping and falling on's practically a tradition for those of us in the frozen north. In the past the worst that's happened is a mildly bruised backside. For some reason, my leg tangled with gravity, force, and momentum in the wrong way and was soundly defeated.

That being said, I'm on the road to recovery. I have a removable walking cast that allows me to put some weight on my leg. Oddly enough, it's the ankle that is the source of most of the pain lately...I wonder if I messed it up a bit when I fell or if the surgery to insert the stabilizing rod caused some distress.

So I'm hoping in 2-3 weeks I can get into the air again before I forget too much. The weather is improving as well, but this vicious winter is reluctant to let go.

Here's a photo of the break and repair for you to peruse. They laid some sort of contrast enhancing sheet over the leg to take the xray, but if you look above the horizontal stripe, you can just make out the spiral fracture:

Friday, February 25, 2011


Last Sunday, during the Great Blizzard of 2011, I managed to break my left leg on a patch of ice near my house. I'm not thrilled about that but I decided on surgery to speed things along versus a full leg cast for a month (followed by many more weeks in a smaller cast).

So, with a rod down the middle of my tibia secured with surgical lag bolts, my leg is pretty solid and the partial cast will most likely come off in three days. Then I will have five or so weeks with a brace. Doc says I shouldn't have a problem getting back in the air after the brace comes off.

On the brighter side, winter should be over for the most part by the time my leg is healed. But then again, considering the winter so far, it might not be over till June...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Flight Review

So, on Feb. 12th (a week ago) the weather was perfect for some flying. I met Bob, a club CFI, at the hangar for my Flight Review.

The Flight Review is required by regulations and must occur every 24 calendar months, starting from the time the initial checkride is passed. There are some situations that allow you to go longer (such as participation in the FAA's Wings program) but normally if you are beyond the 24 months, you are not current to fly as PIC (pilot in command).

Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, the winter has not been ideal for flying small airplanes. When it's been warm, the clouds have been low and/or it's been snowing, and when there's no clouds, it's been very cold. So I had a 90 day hiatus in flying which put me beyond the 24 month flight review requirement and the 90 day flight currency with the flying club. Thankfully, I knew I could knock both of these out at the same time.

The flight review requires a minimum of 1 hour of ground instruction / review, and 1 hour flight time. So as soon as I got to the airport, Bob was asking questions, sometimes so nonchalantly that I didn't realize they were part of the ground review. I answered most the questions correctly, got a little review on some things, and then we taxied out for some flying.

My steep turns were a bit rough but it had been awhile since I'd done any. We kept them up until Bob was happy, then did some slow flight (flying right above stall speed, and maneuvering without stalling). After that, some stalls. Now, I've never had any problems with stalls, and the last time I did them was last summer when I was checked out in the club 172. But this time, I had a hard time keeping it coordinated during the stall despite my best efforts. The first stall resulted in a spin, which I was glad (after the fact) that I immediately stopped with opposite rudder, neutral ailerons, and throttle. Understandably, Bob wanted to polish stalls a bit more so we did a few more power-on and power-off stalls until I wasn't dropping a wing anymore.

Then we did a bit of "foggle" work (goggles that prevent you from seeing the outside world so you have to fly on instruments). Those skills hadn't atrophied much so we moved on to landings.

I'm proud to say that in general, my landings are pretty good. Granted I don't often land on 1000 foot strips in 30 knot crosswinds, but when it comes to landing, I look forward to it because it's fun and challenging to do a good one.

I did 5 landings with Bob and all of them except the last one were safe but ugly. And the reason is that Bob kept talking during the entire pattern, increasing his chatter and tips during the short final. After landing #4 I asked him to please not talk during short final. He did anyway but I ignored him and had a nice smooth landing.

We did another 30 minutes of ground review and he endorsed me for 2 more years and another club checkout.