Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Formation Flying

Just enjoy the pic, it was taken flying inboud Suwannee flying together with my friends... The picture was taken from their Cessna 172 close to mine, can you spot me on the window having a nice, BIG view of their aircraft? (note: enlarge it to enjoy the most of it!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flight to Paradise

It was not our first navigation flight in the US, to say the truth, it was our last flight, a day ago. We were planing a flight up to Georgia (GA), the state above Florida (FL), that would take us 5 hours of flight time. We were to depart from Daytona at 14.00 local time (LT) and fly North bound to Baxley Municipal Airport in the middle of Georgia and in the meantime we were to stop at Jekkyl Island a small aerodrome on an island North of Jacksonville. But prior to departure we changed the day plan and decided to go to the Northwest coast of Florida, to an even smaller airfield than Jekkyl Island. That was only decided because we wanted to fly more than 5 hours that day and since we had that field already on our "Airports to go" list, it seemed like a good choice. The place I'm talking about is Cedar Key which is only 104 nautical miles away from Daytona, but this little detour would prove itself to be the right choice, not only because it would increase our trip time by 1hr and 30 min but also because it would turn out to be the most exotic place, quite above our expectations.
Here is the re-planed route for that day, from Daytona Beach to Cedar Key on the West and then Baxley to the North.
Me taxying the plane at Cedar Key.
After 1 hour and a half flying west we arrived at Cedar Key and instead of reading, I think you should see it the way we did!
After this trip to paradise the remaining 5 hours of the flight to Baxley, GA and back to Daytona were seen as rather dull, but once we arrived in Baxley, there was another surprise. We arrived at Dusk, just in time to do a few touch and goes and taxi to the ramp to refuel our work horses. Once we did that we went inside to enjoy the unexpected coziness of the Baxley Municipal Airport facilities.
General view of Baxley.
Me, John -"The Fuel Guy".
Baxley pilots' lounge at Dusk.
Confy hey? Baxley pilots' lounge.
After enjoying Baxley's above standart conditions and resting a little bit it was time to jump on the plane and "drive" back to Daytona doing night VFR (Visual Flight Rules). And then it suddenly it hit us, why are the runway lights off?! It is past dusk and the aerodrome charts says there are lights on the runway, something's wrong. But it was just a matter of seconds, we remembered what we were once told about those runways in the middle of the USA where the pilot could activate the lights just by clicking on the radio transmitter of the aeroplane in a given sequence. We jumped on the flying machine and tried it out. After 5 clicks the runway illuminated and the airport came alive. It was time to leave and what a better way to say goodbye than performing a handfull of touch and goes during the night at such a nice place?
Runway lights at Baxley.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maiden Flight

As it is said, "The first flight of a new aircraft type is always a historic occasion for the type", that is called the maiden flight of the aircraft. Since we flew for the first time in the USA last Wednesday that was our first historic flight, our maiden flight in the States. I know you guys have been waiting for a while but I can assure you the waiting has not been in vain! I decided to express our first flight through a different kind of post, a video post. That is why it took us a little while to work the post out, since my friend Vieira has been working on this eye candy to you faithful readers.
The video is a compilation of the checkout flights made by the four of us out of Daytona International Airport to an aerodrome to the south of Daytona called Massey Ranch (X50) where we did our landing practice and manouver training with an instructor prior to getting the green light to fly the 172S solo. Hope you can feel the good vibe as we felt during the flight, hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
By the way, we've been flying quite a lot, logging more than 20 hours since we made this flight, so believe me, there are a few nice surprises coming up! Feel free to comment!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Moving North to Daytona

I've been delaying this post for a few days to get enough information together and to also attach some nice pictures to the post instead of making it just plain text. And now, after these four days without posting a thing I now have some new stuff to share with you guys! After a few days in Orlando getting used to the US and taking care of the paperwork the FAA(Federal Aviation Administration) has given us authorization to fly in the United States and so we decided to move north on the same exact day, the 14th of September. And so we did, heading north towards Daytona took us something like an hour driving time and we arrived just in time to rent a room at a local hotel on the South Atlantic Avenue at Ormond Beach.
Daytona Beach entrance sign on Daytona Beach's Speedway Airwalk.
As you might be guessing by the name, this place is right in from of the Atlantic Ocean west end, so to go to the beach one just needs to go down the hotel stairs right into the light clear sand beach. The water is at 28ºC and the sea is quite calm when compared to the other end of the Ocean. Due to those high temperatures I was told that Florida is the zone where most shark attacks take place which doesn't sound quite good to me. Anyway, as I am portuguese, that didn't stop me from taking a longggggggg, relaxed diving for quite a few times. And as we got back to the hotel it was just the right time to have dinner.
Ormond Beach view from the place where we were.
My three friends on the crest of the wave at Ormond Beach.
As we have been moving quite a lot we have been eating quite a few bad meals based on Pizzas and Hamburgers and so all the crew decided to go out and have a better yet more expensive meal, but still be on with the American culture it seemed right to go to TGI Fryday's to go and grab a nice full meal.
TGI Fryday's at Ormond Beach.
Detail of TGI's sign illuminated at night.
All this arrival scene into Daytona Beach made it look like quite a nice place to live for the next 3 months. Daytona is much smaller than Orlando and as far as nightlife is concerned, from what I've seen, it seems that there is not much activity, yet everyone seems nice and it seems like quite an exotic place to be at this time of the year. Nevertheless I must confess that on the last days we still haven't been able to experience the nightlife quite right. Anyway,.. the next day we went looking for a place to live during the next 3 months and we found quite a nice place with 2 bedrooms, kitchen, AirCo, cable TV and wireless! As well as a pool and gym for all the renters. I'll be posting a few photos of our place later on. After getting this nice apartment and buying tons of groceries to fill up the fridge we were still able to make it to Air America, the school where the four of us have decided to build flight time. As we finished our sign up they scheduled us to fly with an instructor the next day so they could check us out on the Cessna C172SP prior to lending us the plane. But that... That I shall leave it to my next post as all of us have been quite busy around Daytona.
Detail of Daytona's wildlife.

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Day in Orlando

Yesterday we had our first day out in Orlando. To start with we decided it would be perfect to start the day with a real american breakfast and so we crossed the street over to the waffle house in front of us. Instead of writing about it, I'll leave the photos talk by themselves.
Table for four, please!
General View of half the breakfast. Yes, half, do not forget the waffle!
After breakfast it was time to hit the road, destination? Kennedy Space Center, Nasa's Launch Site in Cape Canaveral.
Crusin' the Chevy.
After a 50 minute cruise in our Chevy we got there. Tickets bought and tags on the chest we were ready to go for the Nasa Up Close tour!
Nasa's Visitor Center.
The tour took us about 3 hours and we went from the visitors' center to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where they assemble the shuttle, then to the Launch Pads and to the Apollo/Saturn V center where there is a museum describing the various Nasa missions across the past decades and also to the International Space Station Building, a sterilized facility where they complete the assembly and constructuion of the various parts used in space, like shuttle modules, satellites and stuff. We also saw the shuttle transportation vehicle, the crawler which moves the shuttle from the VAB to the Launch sites.
The massive Crawler that carries the shuttle.
Launch site L39-B.
Besides the nice buildings and sites inside Nasa's facilities we also had quite a nice wildlife tour since we were able to see Aligators, Bald Eagles' nests, Turtles and Vultures all of that courtesy of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. I must surely confess that the VAB is the nicest, biggest and most impressive building in there, sure the Launch pads are quite nice and the lightning masts on top of the structures are quite impressive, yet the VAB is the top notch if you consider the following four facts.
Vehicle Assembly Building.
See the pic? Consider this, we seem quite big close to the building right? Well, here are the following facts... See the flag? Each star has 6 feet (1.80m) from each point to another and the blue rectangle of the flag is the size of a basketball court. The building itself is higher than a 60 store building. And to finish up, the side doors on the left take a "mere" 45 minutes to open up! After the sightseeing tour on the bus through all the complex we finished up with the Shuttle Launch Experience, a simulator ride that simulates the launch of a shuttle! I must confess I was a little bit disapointed, but only because I had quite high expectations since during all the tour all the workers and guides kept on talking about the amazing experience it would be. I must say, during the all visit all the people were amazing, funny and full of life, cooperative and dedicated which made the visit quite a nice experience.
Apollo landing capsule.
After the visit we went back to the hotel and there was only time and patience to go to the Florida Mall at dinner time to grab something to eat at check out the Apple store to grab a Macbook Pro! It was quite a busy day...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

First Impressions

Lisbon Airport, after the check-in with 2 close friends.
Departed from Lisbon on the 11th of September at 8.00LT (40 minutes delay) we headed to Frankfurt on a Lufthansa Airbus A321-200 where we arrived with only 20 minutes of delay after landing on runway07L. The flight from Lisbon to Frankfurt was quite boring and the four of us spent the time sleeping due to the fact that we hadn't slept that night because we attended a big friend's party at Silk Club in Lisbon and went directly to the airport for a 16 hour adventure to Orlando. Well on the ground at Frankfurt we had almost 3 hours to hang around, check the shops, eat something and look at a few planes. We did so and at 14.00LT we were inside an Airbus A330-300 bound to the US. After a 1 hour delay for pushback and start up due to excessive traffic (our flight was number 35 for push and start) we were able to taxi to the runway and takeoff bound to paradise. Once again a pretty uneventful flight, still, all of us had PTV's and we watched quite a few movies, had some nice meals and tried to sleep a little bit more. At 18.35LT at Orlando (23.35 in Lisbon) our aircraft touched the Orlando's Airport runway and after a few minutes the group was off the plane and on to the customs and immigration officers. All was cleared in a matter of half an hour and after catching the train to the main terminal we collected the bagagge and decided to go on and rent a car.
General View of the Impala.
Chevy's Engine. V6 with 3900cc and 240bhp.
After searching around and discussing prices we settled on for a month rental on a red Chevrolet Impala, a real american car with automatic gear box and a V6 with 3.9L and 240bhp, quite appropriate for the adventure ahead. Loading the car was the hardest part, considering we are four guys and each one of us has 3 bags. Doing the math we had to carry 12 bags so as you might understand it was quite an adventure to load the Impala. Nevertheless after a 15 minutes Tetris game the loading was complete. It was time to head to the hotel after spending 3 hours inside the airport taking care of all the things mentioned above. With no map and a GPS with no satellite signal we hit the road to the unknowned address of our hotel! The only thing that was working right and was setting the pace was the latin music that the radio station was playing. Windows wide open to feel the 30ºCelsius with 90% humidity and light warm rain and the radio blasting to set the mood, the chevy was on the move. With a big load on intuition and an even bigger load of luck we made it to the hotel in less than 15 minutes and checked in right away to unload the car and take a bath. You might think the day was over but not at all, after a quick pit stop the group was on the move again to hit a burger king on Orange Avenue since our stomachs were aching for food. I decided on a $7.49 medium american double whopper which almost looked like a king size portuguese burger king meal.
Burger King Menu.
With a full stomach a need for a BUD (Budweiser american beer) arose and we hit the Orlando night for the first time. Prior to hitting the party area we went for a ride along Orlando downtown with no particular destination, just to sightsee the areas and then, once a destination was determined it took us 20 minutes to reach it. The Universal city walk on the Universal Studios was the place, it looked appropriate since the car rental employee recommended that to us. To say the truth we got there a little late and it looked a little bit empty but we did not enter the clubs and discos (which seemed to have clientele) and decided to get a beer and strolle around the city walk. At 2 o'clock in the morning the BUD was up and it was time to get back to the hotel to recharge for the next day.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Status: Established in Orlando

To all of you wanting to know my status I decided to make this small post, just to keep you up to date. We've landed in Orlando at 18.35 after a 9.30 hour flight from Frankfurt. After clearing imigration and customs and collecting the bags we went to the car rental facilities to get us a car. After getting the car and loading it with all the baggage we got on the road for a 10 minute drive to the hotel, where we currently are. The weather is tropical style with thunderstorms and light rain forecasted for the next days! This is only to let you know how things are going, if you happen to be a friend of mine in facebook I have shared a few photos on my profile, just go there and take a look. Those of you who are not my friends just don't panic, I'll post a big message later on to let you know about the journey from Lisbon and the first impressions and photos!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Dream Comes True

Today's a very special day! One of my great friends and once an instructor of mine has reached his goal and greatest dream. He has made it through the Line Training of an Airbus flying for TAP Portugal, the flagship carrier of Portugal. Valter, my friend, has become the latest and most recent TAP pilot having completed his exam today on an Airbus A321 flying the Lisbon-Amesterdam-Lisbon route at the age of 23.
This post is dedicated to him and all of those who sometimes along the way have second thoughts and doubts while walking the stair towards landing that much desired job flying the big jets. Valter was able to get it and since that made me quite happy (probably as much as him!) I decided to post this up to let you all know it is not impossible, just difficult, but certainly most rewarding!
Back in the days, when we were flying the Seneca. Valter is the one on the left, the instructor.
Valter, keep up the good work!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Countdown Begins...

T- 6 days, 9 hours and 30 minutes
That's right guys, countdown has begun two hours ago when I finally bought my ticket. The departure date has been set to Friday the 11th of September 2009 at 7:20am.
Our route will take us from Lisbon International Airport, in Portugal to Frankfurt am Main Airport, in Germany, where we will spend 3 hours in transit before jumping on another aeroplane to the States, more exactly to Orlando International Airport, in Orlando - Florida. We will be traveling through Lufthansa and after those two flights we expect to arrive in Orlando at 18:05 Local time, which will give us something like 23.05 in Lisbon. So it will be a hard day, but it will most certainly be quite exciting! To all of you who were asking me when I was scheduled to depart, there you go, I now have a clear answer since all the documents have come through, the ticket has been bought and all the paperwork is finished! Now the only thing needed is to start packing for a 3 month leave to the USofA. Will be posting soon, keep up with it if you can!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Flying Machine - Cessna 172SP

While we are waiting for the green light to come and departure date to get defined I decided to write a new post to keep the spirit alive. Since a few of this blog's followers are not well inside the aviation world and since others that are keep on asking me which aircraft will I be flying once I get there I decided to publish this post so you can learn a little bit more about the aeroplane I'll be on for the next few months while on the USA.
The aircraft is a Cessna 172 Skyhawk version S or SP, as both denominations are valid. It is one of the latest Cessna products there is, but prior to talking about the S version let me tell you a little bit more about the Cessna 172 in general.
"With more than 43,000 delivered, the Cessna Skyhawk is the best-selling, most-flown airplane ever."[1]
The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is a single engine piston, four passenger, high wing, fixed tricycle landing gear. It was first built in 1955 and production lasted until 1986 when in came to a halt. After that it was brought back into production in 1997 and it is still produced today.
This aircraft is the most popular aircraft ever, with more than 43.000 units built until today. Since 1955 there have been many versions of the aircraft which first had no version but later, as improvements came along, versions were introduced, to distinguish them.
I will prevent myself from talking about the past versions in order to keep it simple but if you want to learn a little bit more about those you can check the wikipedia link at the end of the post.
The S version was first introduced in 1998, it is equipped with a Textron Lycoming IO-360-L2A engine which produces 180Bhp at 2700Rpm, compared to the 169Bhp at 2400Rpm of the R version. This power increase has made it possible to increase the maximum takeoff mass to 2558lbs (1160kg). The reason it is sometimes called SP is because the market name of the aircraft is Skyhawk SP, although the type certification data sheet specifies it is a Cessna 172S.
In 2005 there has been the introduction of the Garmin 1000 concept, with a glass cockpit equiping the light 172. As from 2009 only the SP version is being produced, with Garmin 1000 avionics as standart equipment.
2. Garmin 100 Avionics on a Cessna 172.[1]
The Cessnas I'll be flying are full IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) equipped, with ILS (Instrument Landing System), GPS with moving map display, Honeywell Autopilot, Dual Radios, Dual VORs and Leather Seats (uh, fancy!). They were all built from 2002 to 2004 and are not Garmin 1000 editions!
3. The one I'll fly![2]
4. General view of the aircraft.[1]
For those who like numbers and performance data I decided to include the following specifications table:
5. General Specifications Table.[4]
I now hope you know a little bit more about the flying machine that I will deal with! Hope you enjoy it!
[1] www.cessna.com
[2] www.airamericafc.com
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cessna_172
[4] http://www.fsinsider.com