Alternate.

So I had planned a cross-country flight from Waukegan, Illinois to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for yesterday. Earl and I were to fly in the DA-40 to Oshkosh, grab a crew car from the FBO (Fixed Base Operator), have some lunch and visit my Dad’s name on the EAA Memorial Wall. I try to visit once a year and it’s always occurred during EAA’s AirVenture (the world’s largest aviation gathering). This was my first time to Oshkosh outside of AirVenture.

In the days leading up to the flight I had been monitoring the weather. I had planned to fly up at 6500′ and fly back at 7500′, passing outside of Milwaukee’s airspace. I knew the weather was not going to be crystal clear but I was hopeful that we could make our way up and back without having to go too far out of our way to avoid rain. As a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) pilot, I must stay clear of clouds and that’s usually easy to do.

The weather at Waukegan would have made for a beautiful departure, but the forecast indicated that coming home would have been tricky. Thunderstorms were predicted to pop up, but the placement and timing was an uncertainty. I was ready to go; we were even at the airplane with the canopy open and I was starting to get my electronics and like in place, but something in my gut told me not to go.

I always trust my gut.

We ended up driving to Oshkosh instead. It was beautiful the entire time we were up there. Looking back at our home airport, however, showed rain storms and impressive gusts blowing through the area. Getting home would have been a tricky deal and would have involved threading around storms, possibly landing at alternate airports and subsequently waiting for storms to pass.

If I owned my own airplane without obligations to be back at a certain time, I might have considered it. But in a rental in a time slot? I didn’t need the extra pressure.

It was a wonderful day to drive.

Earl and I drove straight to the airport and visited the Memorial Wall. Seeing Oshkosh in its non-AirVenture state just connected me more to the experience of aviation. One of the closest times I ever spent with my father was when he invited me to join my grandfather and him to Oshkosh for my 16th birthday back in 1984.

Oshkosh will always hold a special place in my heart.

Earl and I are already booked for our trip to EAA AirVenture next July and I’m looking forward to the experience. I’m hoping to have my instrument certificate by then. In the meanwhile, I’m happy with the decision I made yesterday.

I look forward to becoming a very old aviator.

Shoes.

If you look at my feet you’ll notice that I now enjoy flying in my Converse All-Star sneakers. I can nicely feel the rudders when I wear these shoes.

In this photo I’m crabbing into the wind as I land on runway 11 at KBMI. It wasn’t my prettiest landing but I’m hyper critical of my landings. The camera didn’t even jiggle when the wheels touched the ground.

View From A CRJ-200.

Yesterday we flew aboard a Skywest (United Express) CRJ-200 out of Denver. It was my first time flying in a westerly direction out of KDEN. The views are spectacular.

While I’ve had some “mountain” flight lessons in a Cessna 172, the mountains were actually the Appalachians between Greenville SC and Asheville NC. We learned all about flying in the mountains during my initial flight training, but I have yet to take a single engine flight over the Rockies.

I’m looking forward to crossing that off the bucket list someday.

Life.

Here is where all my cares go away. I find pure personal fulfillment and enjoyment as a private pilot. It’s one of the greatest accomplishments I have made in my life, and I look forward to continuing to grow as a pilot and enjoying this view for many, many more years to come.

Feelin’ It.

I walked with the National Gay Pilots Association in the Chicago Pride Parade again this year. It is a magnificent feeling, hearing all that cheering and celebration as one walks and waves their way down the parade route, simply being who they are.

Mother Nature came barreling in when we were making our way through the crowds and the parade came to an early end due to lightning being detected in the area. I joined my fellow pilots at a Pride House Party. I was the oldest guy in the room but I still had a great time. Talking airplanes and getting to know each other a little more was an awesome feeling. I remarked that I missed a little bit of the aviation energy I felt back when I was flying out of KRME; there are so many places I want to take my aviation career (even though I was the oldest guy in the room), and participating with the NGPA today gave me the energy boost I was seeking.

I was talking with one of the newer members who is working on her CFI or Certified Flight Instructor rating. One of the examiners she flew with remarked that he thought women didn’t make good pilots. Some of the best pilots I know are women. I wonder how many pilots don’t think gay men make good pilots. They’d be wrong about that too.

And this is why we march in Pride Parades.

Video.

So I’m thinking of starting to make flight videos again. I love sharing my enthusiasm of aviation in any way possible, and since I’m actively learning new skills as a pilot this year, it might be fun to share the experience through video again.

I’ve spent the past two hours building a new version of my “Intro Sequence”. There’s a little bit of old and a little bit of new in this clip, but I’m happy with the way it turned out.

Final Cut Pro X has some bugs in it, though. You have to cajole the application to add simple transitions at random times. I don’t know why that remains a difficulty in video editing software in 2019.

Perhaps I like quick transitions too much.

https://vimeo.com/user591549/review/343361052/05501c9237

Flying.

Messing around with the camera, a flight suit, and an airplane back in 2017.

I’ve already flown more hours in 2019 than I did in all of 2018 but I’m not flying enough. I’m finding the time. We thankfully have the funds. The availability of the airplanes is decent.

It’s Mother Nature that’s being a bit of a problem this year.

I hope this trend of cloudy skies, passing storms, crazy winds, and Low IFR conditions comes to a halt soon. I’m ready for summer. I’m ready for blue skies, clear conditions, and puffy clouds.

I’m ready to defy gravity on a much more regular basis. Flying affects my mood. Flying affects my focus. Flying affects my demeanor.

Tuesday after work looks promising. Let’s hope Mother Nature keeps up her end of the bargain.

Rebound.

It’s amazing how much move improves every time I fly. I feel like more aviation opportunities are now available to me since our move to Chicago nearly two years ago. This is really making my mood much better.

I’m a guy that needs to fly.

Inspiration.

One of the most important elements of my flight training was inspiration. Now, back in 2013, when I went for my initial flight training I was pretty inspired. I had been flying in airplanes since age four, as both my grandfather and father were private pilots. I grew up knowing I wanted to fly but I didn’t really have the resources to do it until I was in my mid 40s. It was after both of the pilots in the family had passed, and right after a very fun flight on a Delta flight from MSP to SYR (we did two go-arounds due to windy conditions), that I made the call to the local flight school to start my flight training. I had my Private Pilot’s Certificate at the year mark with just over 62 hours of flight time.

A main element in keeping focused and committed to that goal was my flight instructor. From the initial discovery flight with Chuck in the Cherokee 140 I knew that I would be comfortable learning how to fly with this guy. He kept me on my toes, challenged me, learned my pacing, and quickly figured out my idiosyncrasies. Plus, he put up with the GoPro in the cockpit.

Chuck and I continued to fly as friends and safety pilots for one another after I passed my check ride and we worked on my instrument training together. We also the round-trip to Oshkosh two years in a row. Since moving to Chicago back in 2017, I have to admit that one of the biggest things I miss about Upstate New York is flying with Chuck and my other flying buddies at KRME.

Being a private pilot while living in the city of Chicago comes with some other challenges. First of all, it’s not like I can rent an airplane at O’Hare and take off amongst the 747s, A380s, MD-80s, and the like. I need to get out of the city limits and up to either KPWK Chicago Executive or KUGN Waukegan National. For either airports it can be anywhere from 45 to 105 minutes, depending on the time of day, and the traffic on the expressways. If the gapers are slowing down for no reason on the Kennedy or Edens, the drive in itself can be exhausting. But after a too-long hiatus at the end of last year, I have been making the regular drive to KUGN to work on getting checked out in the DA-40, and knocking rust off my aviator skills along the way.

One of there resources that I need to remember to use is flight videos available online. I also attend as many safety seminars and other flying club presentations as my schedule allows. Balancing a software developer career, expressway traffic, family obligations, and flight time can be tricky. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all worth it. But then I do “aviation things” for a few days in a row and I feel like I’m back in the groove.

This evening I attended a safety seminar hosted by the Chicago Executive Pilots Association out near Chicago Executive Airport. I’m a member of CEPA and I appreciate the organizations like this are available. Tonight the presentation was given by Jason Schappert, the pilot behind MZeroA.com. Jason has an infectious way of presenting aviation and tonight’s seminar was no exception. He has a solid 21st century approach to his presentational style that still feels very comfortable, even to the older pilots in the audience. I had the opportunity to meet him in person at Oshkosh last year.

Tonight we answered questions around various aviation scenarios using a web browser on our mobile devices. He could see answers from the crowd in real time up on a big screen. The marrying of technology to decades old aviation scenarios was engaging and inspiring. I’m thinking of attending one of his aviation seminars later this year.

The most important element of my aviation career is education. I never want to become complacent. I want to keep learning, try new airplanes, and earn more certifications.

And nights like tonight certainly keep me inspired.