Rich's Quest For Flight

My father was a pilot. He died doing what he loved to do. It has been a goal of my life to become a pilot. Now I have chance to do so. Follow me as I pursue my dream.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I Got Lost

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Today was an exercise in cross country navigation. Not counting the checkride, the last cross country I flew was back in October. So I dusted off the chart (yes, a current chart), got out the plotter, and set myself a course to Poplar Grove (C77), just south of the border in Illinois. It was perfect for a short cross country, 51 nm south of Watertown. The weather was ideal, save for some fog that I needed to make sure was burned off before I departed.

I departed in the C152 that I had flown the previous time, and set south for Fort Atkinson, with a slight turn to the left, almost due south to Poplar Grove. There were still some low cloud remnants with some haze, but conditions improved as I continued. Things went perfectly fine until about 10 miles out when I crossed Interstate 43, just east of Beloit. I started having some trouble pinpointing my location visually. I was trying to judge my position by the curve of the interstate as it exited a town, but it would turn out the I was about 3 miles east of my plotted course. I called in range of Poplar Grove anyway, and started looking for the field. Since this was my first time there, I suppose it was wishful thinking.

I couldn't find the field. I knew Poplar Grove ringed a small lake, and I knew the field had a fly-in housing development, but I could find neither. So, in the tradition of pilotage, I flew to the nearest town with a water tower. I descended down to about 1500' AGL and tried to read the town name off the tower. There wasn't any, the tower was painted solid white. So I flew to the next town. The tower there said "Sharon". There was no town marked Sharon on my chart. Okay, so I am now a little lost. I could see Lake Geneva off in the distance, and I was sure I was too close to it. And then, it struck me like a V8 commercial. Use the dang navaid, stupid! I had plotted the radial from Rockford VOR before I left, so why not use it! I knew I was north of the radial, so I dialed it in and flew toward it. And sure enough, just as the needle started moving, there was the field. Poplar Grove has one paved runway and two turf, but there was still snow on the ground, so I entered the pattern and landed on the paved runway. No touch and go since this was a new field, I turned off the taxiway and taxied back to the top of the runway for departure.

The trip back was uneventful. What a beautiful day with great visibility. Beloit and Janesville to the left, Whitewater on the right, over the top of Fort Atkinson, Jefferson and Johnson Creek as I descended into Watertown for a spot on landing in near calm conditions. Good stuff indeed.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

My First Victim

KRYV 041637Z AUTO 24009KT 10SM CLR M07/M14 A3005 RMK AO2

Jason was quite excited when I asked him if he wanted to go up with me. He was certainly more enthusiastic than the 15 year old Colin, who gave a somewhat more indifferent response. So Jason would be, as they refer to in aviation circles, my "first victim".

After my first go around with the C152 last week, I was ready to carry a passenger for the first time. The morning was cold, but Jason was raring to go and he sat in the cockpit giving things a good look over while I walked around the outside. The preflight complete, we had to troubleshoot the intercom connection, but then we were off. The route of flight was a quick trip over to Hartford (with a flyover of my office building), then west to Juneau and back south to Watertown.

There was no turbulence as we climbed to 3000', and Jason was enjoying the view, asking questions. He declined the controls when I offered them, however. But then, shortly before reaching Hartford, I noticed he was staring straight ahead into the instrument panel. He had fixated on the instruments, and now he was feeling nauseous. It didn't help that he could not see over the cowl straight ahead. I turned around and headed back to Watertown, and we made it back without incident. It was good practice for dealing with a sick passenger. I turned the heat off, got fresh air into the cabin, and I had him look outside at the ground and around for other traffic to help take his mind off of it. The plane was still clean as we headed back into the FBO office.

It took about 20 minutes to get all the paperwork taken care of, including some friendly chitchat with others in the lounge. Jason was still a bit pale as we headed to the car. And then, just as we started driving away, he leaned over and deposited his breakfast all over my car. He had a big bowl of cereal, too. Poor kid felt bad about it, too. And I felt bad for him. He was pretty stoic in the end, though. He said he'll try again in just a little while.