Thursday, May 19, 2011

The wizard of Ozzie...

Last night was a new experience for me.
It was the first time I have just taken a friend flying, one who has never been up in the small plane before. I usually go out with friends who have much more experience than me like instructors or fellow pilots like me, hour building on the lower rungs of the of the piloting ladder.
So the first consideration for me was to make sure the conditions were right and to stay on the side of caution as not to put my friend Ozzie off getting in a plane ever again and more importantly keep a very good friend a friend.
So when I saw the initial radar when there was only one cloud over the whole of Florida and it was sitting right on Tamiami airport with a warning of heavy rain and hail I wondered if lady luck was indeed telling me something.
I decided to delay for half an hour and see what intentions this menace of a big black cloud was up to. I have enclosed the radar picture.

 After 30 minutes had passed the storm dissipated into a few showers and it was time to pre-flight and go sight seeing.
I made sure that I went through everything slowly and precisely with my passenger, just to warn of lumps and bumps which can happen, and also went through the procedures for taxiing and running up the engine, just so that he wouldn't be lost in a whole load of radio speak, codes and could sit back and relax as much as possible.

We got the plane fueled ready to go and taxied off for runway 9L and got through the run up and I got to show Ozzie what the various bits and bobs in the cockpit do and the reasons for them.
After a quick safety briefing we were radioing "ready for departure" and full power was on and off into the dark Miami sky we went.
At 1000' feet Ozzie informed me that from the moment of applying full power to leveling out he had forgotten to breath........
Noting he might be a little nervous in unfamiliar surroundings instead of heading straight down the Keys I turned left to take him for a ride down south beach Miami, so that he could spot the various land marks and get to grips with now being 1000 feet above them instead of driving a car passed them.
He seemed to adapt to his new environment well, we even got to fly by the Goodyear Blimp so after a circuit of south beach I decided to to turn us north once again and got him to follow me on the controls for gentle turns to the left and right which he did really well. I have never seen my friend have such a smile on his face.
I felt there and then I might have a flying buddy for life.
We did a few more circuits of the south beach area and Key Biscayne, the showers from earlier in the evening were starting to move around a bit and I didn't want to get caught out and put Ozzie off after he had settled in to things so well.
I thought about heading back to Tamiami airport, just as I started on my way there I heard the tower talking over the radio warning a fellow pilot in the area of light-moderate showers in the vicinity of the airport itself so we decided to go and chase the Goodyear Blimp for another half hour or so and give those showers a little privacy to do what they do best.
Upon hearing the weather had moved to the south east a few miles it was time to head back to base and was once again given runway 9L on left had circuit, as we approached we found a shower or 2 to dodge but managed to get in onto a very wet runway but thankfully managed to pull a pretty sweet landing out of the bag and another 2 hours of flying in the book.
Smiling like a cheshire cat my new found flying friend was a happy man and he insisted upon a few beer to celebrate....
Cheers Ozzie. Time for you to start the studying.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Give me the Keys.......

I am waking up this morning after some lovely night flying last night, not quite believing I am managing a full time day job then flying into the small hours every night after, and the weather is letting me too.
The secret is coffee at the moment.
I managed to head out a little earlier than the night before as the plane was ready on time. This meant that after clearing the airport air space at Tamiami we were able to sit back and relax and watch the sun go down over the Keys with our destination the most southerly point of mainland America at Key West.
It was amazing. Sitting at 2000ft, the sun the colour of fire dropping under the starboard wing and the nose pointing straight down the line of the florida Keys, the chain of islands each linked by bridges and road all the way down to the final one Key West, a very popular holiday destination for Americans.
We were keeping an eye on the weather as during the day there had been some grizzly stuff blowing through but we seems to time it perfectly, with the weather out to the left and disappearing out over the Atlantic and the sunset to the right.

So after the sun dropped the night was clear and we got to see so many huge houses on each of the little islands and even bigger yachts moored in front of the big houses.
We passed over head Marathon, where I have flown into many times before but have never continued on further. Little did I know that 7 mile bridge was just after the airport, yes thats a bridge that is actually 7 miles long, when you get on it, you can't actually see the end, an impressive sight from the air.
With the decision made that the weather is clear onwards to Key West and an interesting few things to remark about the approach.
Firstly there is a military airbase to the north east of the the International airport and it overlaps with the main airport's airspace, so not only needing approach clearance, you also have to get permission to transit the MATZ (military area) once thats cleared its time to set up the approach into KEYW.
The second thing to mention is near the military base is a weather balloon which isn't lit up. and its on a cable from the ground up to 14,000 ft.
Yes a 14,000ft obstacle near the approach to an International Airport......
The third thing to mention about the airport at Key West is, it isn't a huge runway, not that in my little plane its going to be any trouble, but I can't imagine coming in on one of the 737's which service the airport daily, I hope to been down here during the day to see to that sometime.....
So in we went and were greeted by a really pleasant ground crew guy who guided us in and hastily put a fresh pot of coffee on for us and we had a rest for 10 minutes and a chat.
Soon enough it was time get out of there and it was runway 27 up into the moon lit sky and managed an orbit of the Key before heading back up the coast towards the mainland
There is something very relaxed and a different ambiance about flying at night. I can't quite put my finger on it, but its very peaceful and a really enjoyable way to fly. I thoroughly recommend getting a night rating and enjoying flying around the coastal areas, with the moon reflecting off the sea, its hypnotic.

With the skies so clear we could see the lights of the approaching planes going into Miami international after half an hour so we dialed up their frequency to listen to the way the big boys do it, and it was then that we decided to get low and join them and enjoy the night time clear weather and carry on up the coast. We had to initially get low to get under the Miami approach which means getting under 1500ft but the fun really started after passing Miami and getting to Fort Lauderdale. The airport there is a lot closer to the coast line, which means I had to get a lot lower to squeeze in underneath.
700 ft to be exact, with 737's 1000 ft above us coming into land, it was a great sight, a little tricky with a 20 knot cross wind but we carried on all of the way up to Delray beach before turning back and heading for home, once again low level under Fort lauderdale before heading inland over south beach causeway and a right turn to find the approach into Tamiami which is south of Miami downtown.
I'm really enjoying this hour building time, the confidence grows with each hour and looking forward to some more time tonight if the weather is kind.

If anyone is actually reading this feel free to comment or ask any questions, I am mainly writing this for family to keep up with what I am up to and also an aid memoir for when I want to look back in a few years time but would love to hear any thoughts or suggestions from anyone out there whether good, bad or ugly.
P.S. The picture of the jet at the end I have included just because it was parked next door and looks great.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

7 hours in the book and some nice sights at 1am...

Last night was the first time I have been flying a plane a 1'O'clock in the morning, and considering I did my first flight of the day at 2pm, it was a long day.

The day started with a flight out of Opa Locka airport, north of Miami, where I went out in a Cessna Skyhawk for a couple of hours with a full glass cockpit to do some Navigation work with the VOR transmitters around Miami, in preparation for my Commercial License course later in the summer.
We even got to see a family of sting rays in the sea south of Miami near Key Largo.
I then hot footed it down to Tamiami airport for some night flying with my friend Blake to go and build some hours.
We took off late due to the aircraft being used but the moon was rising as we got air born and the view of Miami was great.
We started off to the east to head out over the water towards the moon then tracked around the southern tip of Florida, all of the way passed Everglade City, Marco Island and Naples to head north all of the way to Venice airport after passing Captiva Island.
We landed there in hope of the nearby restaurant/bar being open for a snack and a drink and the tummy was rumbling but the second trip out we had just missed out on getting anything to eat
The whole trip so far had been into a pretty stiff 20 knot head wind so I was pretty glad the idea was hour building as it took over 2 and a half hours to get there.
Anyway after realizing there would be no refreshments for us we decided not to hang around and head on back. The trip back to Miami with the wind with us and heading towards the moon was an utter pleasure heading south down the florida coast line.
We squeezed through the controlled airspace between Naples and South West airport and found the I-75 or better know as Alligator alley, the East/West road between the 2 coasts of Florida, and yes by its name you can guess there are a lot of hungry fellas down there just waiting for us.
The air was so clear without the humidity at night time that as soon as we left the West coast from Naples we could see the city lights of Miami. It looked so good that we couldn't resist going passed the airport at Tamiami and heading up south beach at 700ft above the ocean for a 1am flyby. Ocean drive looked awesome at this time of night under the clear skies.
The plan is with the weather being so nice to fly at night the plane is booked once again for this evening and I hope to be able to head down to Key West under the moon light.
Fingers crossed for the weather and hopefully another 4-5 hours in the book.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Time to head up to see the stars.....

I have 3 weeks or so until I head back to europe for the summer, and I have decided upon a new tactic to boost these solo hours I need, I've block booked a plane every night for night flying as if the weather plays ball it will be a lot cooler and there will be aircraft available.
So I am looking at some airports to see if there is anywhere interesting to head for some late dinner, but I am hoping for some moon lit flying down through the Keys and up the West coast of Florida if the thunder storms keep away.
There has been a lot of nasty weather around of late so no hours in the book this weekend, its seems the stormy season has hit florida early this year with 32 degree temperatures and 80% humidity,  things could get a little warm in the cockpit during the daytime.
Hoping the weather stays nice today and I'll report in tomorrow on the first night flying in the light sport plane.....

A pretty big week of flying with some centreline hopscotch.....

Hours flown this month(FEB): 33 Landings: 8 Countries visited: 5  Continents visited: 3  Quick iron of the shirt and in th...