Friday, March 13, 2009

A White Knuckled Ride on my Birthday

Yesterday, March 11th, my birthday, was rainy, cold, wet and cloudy. A great time to try my skills as a student instrument pilot! This was my first lesson (actually lesson number eight) where I was totally in the soup.

I flew 3 instrument approaches in IMC conditions down to near approach minimums. My first approach was the GPS 36 approach at Georgetown (KGTU). Shown below is the approach plate that I used. Highlighted areas are important information. We filed a "local IFR" flight plan in order to accomplish this flying session.

Thirty minutes of terror followed by 30 seconds of exhilaration as the Georgtown airport finally appeared when I was about 500 feet above the ground. Flying in the clouds can give you the feeling of rapid disorientation. I had this feeling much stronger than any of my other instrument lessons because any tiny glimpse out from under the hood gives your brain enough data to keep going on deciding which way is up. Take away all visual cues added with the movement of the airplane and your brain is toast when trying to figure out which way is up. This was a very strong sensation and the solution is to simply trust your instruments and FLY THE AIRPLANE... while your brain is yelling at you bad advice.

After the flight I decided to play back my recorded cockpit audio and re-fly the flight using the Garmin simulator on my PC. This is the same Garmin we use in the airplane to fly the instrument GPS approaches. Shown below is what this looks like on the PC. You can see me heading to my inital approach fix EWETU. (click photo to enlarge)

In closing I flew from Austin-Bergstrom to Georgetown to Taylor and back to Bergstrom. Shown below is a screen shot of my GPS track log. A little swervy but not bad considering I did not enjoy the luxury of using the auto-pilot. This is all hand-flown in the soup and blind as a bat with regards to looking out the window. The little loop is where we landed at Taylor and taxi'ed back for fuel.

Some ride for my birthday eh?


Tuesday, March 03, 2009


San Geronimo Air Park that is....
Finally, on February 22nd, the stars, moon, winds, weather, and scheduling were right for a flight down to see Chester at San Geronimo Airpark(8T8)... due west of San Antonio, TX. Chester has a hangar full of interesting stuff to ponder but the real gem was his re-built 1947 year model Piper Cub. I can't tell you how many pilots cut their teeth flying Cubs but it was probably the single most popular training aircraft on the planet at one time. The Cub still holds a soft spot in many a pilot's heart. Some photos and comments below:

The air strip is 3000 feet long and 40 feet wide.

Landlubber entrance

Ed and I landed the Grumman Tiger and taxiied off into the grass:

There she all her glory...almost ready to fly!

It wouldn't be a Cub without the "Bear"!
(click photo to see the the Bear up close)

Dead simple instrument panel. VFR-only of course!

Here's the obligatory aerial photo shot...... Canyon Lake and Dam.
Photographed by Charlie on the way down. Autopilot was flying not me.
(click photo to enlarge)

Chester took us for a $100 hamburger at the Dancing Bear Cantina at Medina Lake.
Medina Lake is really low! Indicative of our Central Texas drought situation.
This view is shot from the parking lot of the Dancing Bear Cantina.
(click photo to enlarge)

A great time was had by all...a beautiful day of flying!