Category Archives: single-engine

Fairhope, AL

beaverThis adventure was huge in comparison to all the others. Flying in a de Havilland Beaver DHC2, I covered more than 1,000 miles from Martins Ferry Seaplane Base (WV43) in West Virginia, to Fish River Seaplane Base (5AL) in Fairhope, Alabama (southeast of Mobile). The planning required for this trip took more than 5 hours; seaplane bases are hard to find. The route is so long that I split it into two parts – with a stop-over in Lake Monroe, Indiana (07I). As usual I used SkyVector to plot the course and find the seaplane bases. I also found a rare Water Runways and Seaports document on the Microsoft web site.

The first leg of the journey follows the Ohio River south from Martins Ferry. I stopped at Ravenswood Seaplane Base (WV39) near Ravenswood, West Virginia, for fuel because the next leg is a long one and passes over Cincinnati then west to Lake Monroe, Indiana (about 250 miles).

Along the river section from Ravenswood to Cincinnati I saw a couple power plants with steam stacks. I did a check on SkyVector VFR sectional and sure enough there are (nuclear) power plants along that route.

Lake Monroe was a little disappointing. In real-world it’s mostly state park land with a few private residents living along the shore. In FSX it has a very few houses and any water runway or seaplane base is nonexistent.

The second leg of the trip turns south with few stops for fuel. I was able to find Tims Ford (0TN1) on FSX which is about 238 miles south of Lake Monroe. After Tims Ford there wasn’t another stop until Fairhope.

The leg from Tims Ford to Fairhope was a nail-bitter. It’s 320 miles and the Beaver has a range of 395 miles (if FSX is telling the truth). So, I plotted the leanest route I could and hoped for the best. There were several lakes and rivers along the way just in case I had to ditch. Luckily I made it – with 1/4 of the front-tank (13 gallons) left.

Overall, it’s fun and easy to fly the Beaver. I just wish FSX would model docks/fuel at seaplane bases.

Racine, WI

PiperThis one is a really short adventure. Without navigation equipment the Piper Cub is like a powered glider. I couldn’t go very far and I needed VFR conditions so I could use dead reckoning to find the airport. I looked at SkyVector just to see that it was a straight shot across Lake Michigan on a heading of 270 from Tulip City Airport, KBIV, in Holland, Michigan, to John H Batten Airport, KRAC, in Racine, Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, real-world weather was not VFR and I took off from KBIV in a cold, light rain. That should have been a sign to put the airplane back in the hanger and try again another day, but I didn’t.

I put the Piper on a heading of 270, adjusted the trim, and set the power to max. Up it went to about 6500 feet where it leveled itself. From there on I hardly touched the controls. I just corrected the heading every so often.

When I got to the west side of the lake the weather was worse than the east side. There was a low ceiling – probably 2000 feet – and I was at 5000 feet and descending. I called the airport radio and announced my position and intention. That gave me my position relative to the field so I could guide the airplane toward the field. A few more position calls later and I had airport in sight.

I didn’t hear any other traffic on the radio so I announced “on final” and pointed the nose at runway 22. I think I landed at about 45 knots, and I tried to keep the plane on the runway. The runway had a thin layer of ice on it so I kept steering to a minimum and didn’t use breaks.

Now I can say I flew the Piper Cub and cross that one off the list. Note to self, don’t every fly this plane again, at least not in MVFR conditions.

Leadville, CO

mauleIf you’ve ever been to Leadville, CO, you know it’s a small town, with a small airport, surrounded by Pike National Forest in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. What you may not know, however, is that the airport is North America’s highest (public) airport.  We’re starting at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, KBJC, at 5,673 feet, and flying 70 nm southwest to Leadville’s Lake County Airport (KLXV) at 9,927 ft., in a Maule Orion.

The question isn’t can the Maule  power us up almost 5,000 feet in 70 miles. The real question is can it climb over (or around) the 12,000 foot mountains in those 70 miles? This is our next adventure.

I used SkyVector for my chart. This was a simple flight on paper – a straight shot – but navigating around mountains is tricky. I set NAV1 for an outbound course on the 222 radial of the JEFFCO (BJC) VOR. The weather was good so Metro tower gave us 29R for departure.

I wanted to do a power-takeoff, near-zero-length takeoff, but the takeoff roll was longer than I thought – that’s a bad sign. As I rolled on to the 222 radial and headed for the mountains it become clear that this Maule wasn’t going to top the 12,000 foot peaks in front of me. It struggled to climb to 10,000 feet.

I had to make some tough decisions – which mountain passes do I take. The VFR sectional isn’t crystal clear where the box canyons are or how the passes are shaped. Throw in Flight Simulator’s variable terrain generator and it becomes a guessing game.

There were a couple times I got boxed in and had to turn around. Luckily it’s only 70 miles. I drifted from one valley to another until I was almost on top of Leadville. I made a gliding decent while calling position to local traffic. Soon enough I was on the ground in Leadville wondering what’s next and how am I getting out of here.

Denver, CO

mooneyNow for a little fun in a Mooney Bravo. The Mooney has a ceiling of about 25,000 feet and we’ll need something with a little kick to get into the Rockies. I decided to fly to a little airport west of Denver called Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, KBJC.

I departed Lubbock (KLBB) VFR to the north and followed V81 from Plainview VOR (PVW) to Jeffco VOR (BJC). The route was PVW PNH DHT TBE PUB BRK BJC. I used SkyVector.com for my charts. Flying at 12,500 feet the clouds were thin and the winds were bearable.
Over Pueblo VOR (PUB) I could see the Rocky Mountains on the horizon so I knew it wasn’t too much further to Denver class B airspace.

The Denver sectional shows that KBJC lies just west of the class B airspace but within class E. I needed to transition class B to get there because I was on V81 from the south and descending from 12,500 feet. There’s actually several layers to the class B “inverted wedding cake” on that corner of the Denver TAC.

I got the transition clearance and started descending to 10,500 feet. Off to the right I could see the city of Denver. I started looking for my airport. Metro sits at an elevation of 5,673 feet, and there are 3 runways with different direction patterns. I was hoping I got the pattern right because there is 10,00 foot peaks less than 10 miles west of the airport.

When I contacted Metro tower I was instructed to make left traffic for 29L. I complied and went missed. When I came back around on the downwind I requested 29R and got it. I floated over 29R for what seemed like eternity and finally put her down in time to turn off at the B taxiway.

I pulled up to the tower and powered down.

Some navigation, some technical flying within Class B airspace, some patterns, and good weather made this a pretty good flight.

Lubbock, TX

172For this adventure I chose to depart College Station, Texas, Easterwood Field Airport (KCLL) and head northwest to Lubbock, Texas, Preston Smith International Airport (KLBB) in a Cessna 172. The terrain starts out flat and fairly low then midway it climbs to a plateau. Skies were clear, wind was calm, so I estimated this trip would take about 3.5 hours at a top speed of 100 knots.

I was flying offline and using Flight Simulator’s ATC. I used SkyVector.com for my charts. My flight plan route was CLL CWK LLO SJT BGS LBB.

Easterwood Tower gave me VFR straight-out from runway 34. I taxied out, did final checks, and away I went.

It was smooth sailing all the way, and the ETE was almost spot on. It took 3.5 hours to reach 20 DME from LBB VOR; approach’s airspace.

The Lubbock Class C airspace is 20nm wide and isolated on the high plains of West Texas. The last leg, BGS-LBB, was on V563 which took me through the Lancer MOA, but ATC cleared me through.

The first time I heard the ATIS, winds favored RWY 26, but when I arrived at LBB VOR, winds had shifted to the south and Lubbock Tower gave me a right downwind to 17R.

On the downwind winds were all over the place. When I lined up on final for 17R I was at about 4900 feet. I tried to coast in for the touch-and-go, but I was too high and too fast; Tower never acknowledge my go around. I re-entered the pattern – fought the downwind winds – and made my way around for 17R again.

On the second try for 17R I was at about 4600 feet and 90 knots. I touched down and Tower acknowledged my go around. Tower gave me 17R again, but I requested and got right traffic 17L. Why not make it a challenge! Runway 17L is only 2891 feet long, and it sits in the middle of hangers and lots of non-movement areas.

After Tower gave me right traffic 17L, off I went on the bumpy downwind. I lined up on 17L at about 4200 feet and 80 knots, but I was at least 6 miles out so I had plenty of time to float down. I brought it in on a gentle slope and touched down just past the threshold.

I taxied to fuel – I had about 25% fuel left in both tanks – and parked it in front of the FBO.

Total trip time was about 3:45 – not bad. This wasn’t a terribly technical flight, but I’m not done with the trip. I think I’ll continue northward.

Tampa, FL

172For this adventure I chose to do some technical flying around the Tampa Bay area. Under VFR conditions we can use basic NDB equipment to navigate between Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida. I chose a Cessna 172 because it’s slow enough that I can see the sights without worrying about the instruments, but this adventure can be done in any small, NDB equipped aircraft.

I used SkyVector.com for charts. I recommend using the Tampa TAC chart plus plates for KSPG, KCLW and KTPF.

Depart Peter O. Knight Airport (KTPF) to the south. Exit Hillsborough Bay and fly in a generally western direction around the southern end of the Tampa peninsula. You should see a golf course and MacDill AFB on the tip of the peninsula.

After MacDill (PICNY NDB 388) cross Tampa Bay and head south along the shore of the Clearwater/St. Petersburg peninsula. You should see Albert Whitted Airport (KSPG) before you round the southern point of St. Petersburg.

After rounding Pinellas Point fly north along the beaches until reaching PIE R290 (116.40). Turn east and look for Clearwater Air Park (KCLW). It is approximately 11 DME on the PIE R315.

At this point you can land at the untowered KCLW, or fly to Whitted Airport via the VOR RWY18 approach, or return to Knight Airport via either the NDB RWY3 or the NDB A. I landed at KCLW because I grew up about 500 yards south of RWY 34. It’s good to be back home.