Wednesday, October 28, 2009

La Nouvelle-Orléans

New Orleans Skyline View.

La Nouvelle-Orléans, also known as New Orleans is the largest city of Louisiana and it is considered one of the oldest and most unique cities in the United States. Built in the shores of the Mississippi river by a french settlement it is known for its multicultural and multilingual heritage which provided the city with a unique cuisine, architecture and musical background which is most uncommon in the United States.As you might have seen this makes the city quite an interesting place to visit, even more if you are European, since you might identify yourself with the city and its history. As we are 4 European guys on vacation this seemed as the right place to go and so we got on our 2 Cessnas and set sail to Louisiana which we reached after crossing 2 states (Florida and Alabama), flying over the Gulf of Mexico and one time zone, all that done in slightly more than 5 hours of flight. We landed on the Lakefront Airport which is quite close to the city and after getting a map and directions we jumped on a brand new Chrysler Seabring with only 200 miles and went downtown. The nicest and oldest zone of the city is Vieux Carré (French Quarter) which is the place where all the Spanish and French influence can be found. All the tourists go there and can tour around by foot checking the Voodoo stores, Jazz Cafeés or the typical architecture of the quarter.

The guys walking around the French Quarter.

New Orleans Streetcar.

Since we were hungry the first thing we did was to get inside Central Grocery, an Italian shop, to grab a Muffuletta.

Inside Central Grocery Store.

Back on track we strolled around the French Quarter, the Jackson Square and the Saint Louis Cemetery which is the oldest and most popular cemetery in New Orleans.

Jackson Square general view. Saint Louis Cathedral can be sean in the background.

General Jackson. War hero of the battle of New Orleans.

Saint Louis Cemetery.

This is a Roman Catholic Cemetery which was greatly influenced by the Spanish and French and has above ground tombs, not common to the Americans. These tombs are also above ground level due to the usual floods of the Mississippi.

Me stranded on the railroad, ready to be run over by a Streetcar.

Mississippi Shore.
Sidewalk on the shore of the Mississippi. Spot the guy playing his guitar.
Once all theses historical places were seen we decided to tour the Mississippi River with style and got aboard the last Steamboat which still sails the Mississippi River nowadays. We did a 2 hour ride in the Natchez Steamer and while on that tour down and up river we saw Domino's Sugar Factory, one of the oldest and biggest Sugar factories in the World, the docks extending over New Orleans harbour, the Navy Reserve Base, one of the biggest oil refineries in the Western Hemisphere, a few houses that were torn down by the Katrina, the destroyed levee system that failed during the hurricane and flooded the city and the last but not least we had a privileged view over the city.
Natchez Steamer.
Detail on the Natchez big paddle.
Domino's Sugar Factory.

Back on the dock it was time to grab an espresso at The Market Cafe and listen to some live Jazz (what else in the birthplace of such a beautiful music style?). We sat there for a while enjoying some well known hits like "The Girl From Ipanema" and "When The Saints Go Marching In" and my friend Nuno even bought a CD from the band. To finish up and get a broader idea of the city we got on the car and while the sun was setting we drove through the business district, through all the tall buildings and past the Louisiana Superdome, the home of "The New Orleans Saints" which is the local American football team.

General View of a business district street.

Louisiana Superdome.

As a footnote, after the hurricane Katrina, all the people were gathered at the Superdome and an operation basis was mounted there to rescue and feed all the ones in need. After such a long touring day it was time to it the "road" and so we got back to the aeroplane and after taking care of all the paperwork, fees and doing the walkaround we were back on the air for a quite dull and uneventful flight back home. We reached Daytona Beach at 3 A.M., just in time to get the same departure controller that released our flight to New Orleans back on his workstation. He was the one who did recognize us and impressed by the late hour said:

- "Were you the guys that were heading out to New Orleans this morning?"

- Yes We were sir!

- "And did you ever make it there? I heard the wind was quite strong today..."

- Yes We did, 5 hours of flight time each way.

- "Geez..."

- Yeah, long day at the office!

After 22 hours and 30 minutes awake we finally got home almost sleepwalking. We were quite exhausted but I can assure you it was one of the best flights and adventures I have ever had and it was the longest for sure.

Regarding New Orleans, it is quite often said to be one of the poorest cities in the USA but I must tell you that is not true, the city is full of life, colour and history, it has European heritage and style and it is surely one of the most ethnic cities I've seen. On a sunny day you will surely enjoy New Orleans as I did, with its greatness and grace!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Windy Days

I've been lacking posts regarding my USA adventure but I must say we've not been lacking adventures on the New Continent. These last few days we've had quite low temperatures and lots of wind across all the state of Florida. So you guys can have an idea of how windy it got, the other day we had 60 knots headwind at 9500 feet and while landing at a few airstrips to the North we experienced more than 25 knots of wind with gusts. To demonstrate what it was like I decided to post the following video which also has the interesting fact of being on a grass airstrip surrounded by tall trees everywhere which made it much more bumpy and much nicer. Still we managed to do a few touch and goes and put our skills to the test. Hope you like it, as usual, comments are welcome.
(By the way, grass airstrips rock!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Journey of a Lifetime

This is a post for those who really love aviation and the freedom of it! I came across one of the best photoblogs I've seen almost a year ago and since then I've changed my way of seeing aviation. Probably you already know this blog since it is quite well known and/or maybe because I've given almost all my pilot friends the link. This is the blog of an american pilot which left to Alaska to fly his Piper Cub for a few months on the wilderness and unexplored terrains of North America, without any assistance, prepared route or goal. The sole objective was to fly freely, just by feeling, having the freedom and peace of mind one can get on the far most remote places of earth. The pictures you will find are breathtaking and will make you wanna live the very next second to go and feel the thrill of flying for pleasure. For those who enjoy nature and wildlife this is a must see, for those who love aviation, well... I think you will be quite impressed.
Unfortunately Shaun Lunt died when his aircraft crashed while he was circling at low level watching some whales. That must be the saddest end one could have, still he might have had the ride of his life and it is a pleasure and honor he could share all the great moments pictured in the blog with us. I wish one day I could experience even half the joy or freedom he must have felt while exploring Alaska.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The African Success

This post is coming a little late in time but it is a thing I decided to do a few weeks ago and only now had the time and "inspiration"(?).
After more than 9 months struggling to start flying a great friend of mine finally made it to the right side of a big turbine driven aircraft. João Ribeiro (pictured below) got is first aviation job flying an Embraer 120 Brasilia for Air26 in Angola, Africa. He made the Type Rating for the aircraft 8 months ago and after half year of endless paperwork and hard times getting the licenses ready he flew his first commercial flight in Angola. Meanwhile he jumpseated and enjoyed himself around Luanda but now the work has begun and he is doing what he loves the most, flying for real! Furthermore he is flying in one of the most interesting and richest places in the world, Africa, that is why he has a website where one might learn about his adventures:
João flying the Embraer 120.
João, I seriously hope you enjoy yourself and get the best out of it, just like Valter and only a few more, you deserve it! Once again, as you guys make it through the tough aviation business you give the others strength to continue!
I hope for the best and wish him the greatest success one can get!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Thrill of Flying a New Aircraft (...or Two)

Cessna 182T Skylane - Cessna Promo Picture.
As you might already know the four of us spent the last weekend in Miami partying and relaxing from those flting hours we've been building, the weekend was great and Miami was able to meet our high expectations! But was described in the video you saw on the last post. After all those party days it was only fair to get to work as soon as possible, but since the aircraft have been in maintenance during all week we decided to spend extra money and fly a more advanced machine which has been teasing us since we first saw it parked at the ramp, close to our C172. I'm talking about the Cessna C182T Skylane, a 230Bhp, 6 cylinder, Variable Pitch Propeller machine fully equipped with G1000 avionics and only 4 years old. This beauty does not fly much because it is quite expensive once compared to the C172's, so we decided to go for a checkride on it with the instructor, since our Cessnas were lingering in maintenance.
N65306, the Skylane I've flow seen from a different angle.
G1000 Avionics on the Cessna 182 Skylane.
The flight itself was quite simple, the airplane handles really easy like a Cessna 172 on Steroids with a heavy nose but it made me remember those old days when I flew the TB20 which has 250Bhp. The main difficulty was getting used to the G1000 avionics, which didn't take that long since the Flight Simulator hours kicked in and made me remember those Airbus style displays and glass cockpit information displays. After an hour and a half, 4 landings and a few stalls and turns I was set to go on what the FAA calls a high performance aircraft (since it has more than 200 Bhp).
Since I was feeling good and into the flying mood I eased back to Air America's office and decided to schedule a Cessna 172 G1000 avionics equipped just to feel the difference between the ones I fly and these new machines which have the same exact engine and dimensions but are fitted with those TV's and playstation like instrumentation. I was lucky enough to get the newest aircraft on the fleet which is less than a year old and still has that "new car smell". Needless to say that everything on this aircraft worked and felt like new, it flew flawlessly and it had an integrated AutoPilot with Flight Director and Go Around mode (those who understand aviation will know how fancy this is for a Cessna 172). I hoped in for a 5 hour flight to the middle of Georgia and back just to get used to the avionics and the systems of this aircraft and once I landed it felt like a candy was taken from me since I now have to get back to those "old" round dial gauges which are only 5 years old but feel like rags and aircraft from the 70's. Anyway, they still fly quite well and have never let me down and one can not be used to flying only state-of-the-art machines!

I leave you all with this promo video from Cessna...
Photos were taken from the following websites:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weekend at Miami

As the previous videos have had quite a good acceptance and your feedback has been quite good I've decided to post this party video which sums up the weekend we've spent at Miami, South Beach. It has nothing to do with aviation but it is part of our American Trip. As you might notice by the outcome of the video it was a really nice weekend and a good experience! Hope you like it! As always, comments are welcome!