Sunday, October 7, 2012

Flying to Dulles

I recently flew to Dulles to pick up my spouse and children who were arriving from an international flight. I also arrived early and was able to spend a few hours in the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum. I thought I would write up the trip in the event the experience is helpful to other small aircraft operators who are thinking of flying into KIAD.

Being that I was coming in from Zelienople, I started looking through FlightAware for other cleared routes from the Pittsburgh area that other GA aircraft had used. It seems like ESL VOR and then the ROYIL2 arrival was frequently cleared so I went with that. Once airborne just south of Zeli, I was provided a new clearance from PIT approach to go direct Martinsburg VOR (MRB) then KIAD which was actually less mileage to fly and more straightforward. The weather for the flight was fine, save for the usual bumps over the Appalachians  and soon I was handed off to Potomac approach for the final 15 miles or so. they began vectoring me south and to the east of Dulles once I passed MRB. They told me to expect the visual approach to runway 19L. I setup the nav radios set up for the ILS approach regardless and briefed the plate, just in case (this turned out to be a good idea).

I could see the clouds and rain building as I got closer to Dulles, but I had the airport in sight about 2 miles to my right as they continued to vector me for the visual. Potomac did give me a heads up that they were showing some rather heavy precip just south of my position on their radar, I was seeing it as well thanks to the ADS-B broadcast on my iPad. Pretty much as soon as they said that, I entered a wall of rain and was no longer visual, in fact it felt like being inside a car wash. I told approach I was IFR and they told me to expect the ILS for 19R. At this point I was grateful for my instructors advice to always prepare and set up for the real approach even if approach control says it will be visual.

I got caught in that large yellow blob of rain to the south of KIAD
Approach control began vectoring me west now and soon gave me an intercept angle for the localizer. Here is where I learned a valuable lesson to tuck away for the future. I had not thought about the fact that they had vectored me on to the the ILS far inside the outer marker and much closer in than I am used to. Consequently I was not prepared to just blow right through the localizer needle on the HSI. In fact it went through so quickly, that while I was not intelligently looking at something else at that moment, I did not realize it had happened immediately and I sat there looking at the needle wondering why it was showing the opposite indication that I expected. As it was dawning on me, I got a call from Approach control giving me a vector back on to the localizer. Luckily, he was on his toes, saved my bacon, and I thanked him. As he said "not a problem", I was soon given over to the tower for the final approach.

I was back out of the rain about with about a half mile to go to the runway threshold. The Tower asked that I maintain speed which I complied with. Here was the second unusual thing I had to contend with, crossing the threshold at 130 miles per hour with a strong crosswind, you then have to slow down to  landing speed while skimming above the runway at high speed. In addition, I found myself drifting to the left, rather quickly, toward the terminal. Oh yeah, I need to keep that crosswind crab in while skimming the runway at high speed. Finally, nearing 70 knots, I switched from crab to wing low, and finally made a touchdown (with a bounce or two). I think I could hear the tower guys chuckling.

Luckily, with all of that runway skimming, there was not that much farther to taxi to the FBO. I chose Signature for no other reason than the positive comments on as well as the proximity to the landing runway, 19R. On approaching Signature, I saw the guy in the "Follow Me" golf cart, and, well, I followed him. I was parked between and among a bunch of private jets, and as Emel remarked later, the Archer looked like a little duckling among the eagles.

I had a few hours to spare before meeting Emel and the kids so I bummed a ride from Signature over to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. That place is simply stunning and if you are into aviation at all it is a must see. Here's some photos:

The actual Enola Gay!
F14 Tomcat - where's Maverick?
The F35 JSF - likely the last manned fighter
The ride that made Bob Hoover famous - The NA Rockwell Shrike Commander
Finally it was time to get back and meet Emel and the kids. They arrived and I rode with the Signature shuttle bus over to the main terminal. We spied them waiting on the curb pickup and in no time at all we had them and their bags loaded into the shuttle. Once arriving at Signature they then reloaded their bags on the small van to take us back to the Archer. I had performed careful weight and balance calculations and the bags fit fine into the luggage compartment.

Soon we all were jammed into the Archer and I received my IFR and taxi clearance from clearance delivery and ground respectively to depart runway 30. The taxi to 30 was fairly straightforward, but 30 was also all the way on the other side of the airport. We just kept bumping along and were handed off to at least three ground controllers. At one point we were taxing nose to nose with a Boeing 737 which the controller informed us would be turning out of our way and for us to keep going. Even so, Emel was getting a bit nervous about staring down the large airliner. Soon enough the 7-3 turned left and we were cleared all the way to the threshold. I did a quick run-up and the controller asked if we were ready to go. I informed him that we were and we were immediately cleared for departure and the turn on course once reaching 3,000 feet. The whole Dulles experience really could not have been more straight forward and the controllers were incredibly kind, helpful and accommodating.

The flight home was fine, and Emel snapped this amazing picture that I blogged about earlier

and another great one.

We had to fly through a bit of clouds and it was dark night by the time we landed but all in all the trip was a great flight.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Go Felix

October 8th is showtime.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Above, Beneath & Between

My wife took this amazing photo of the cloud layers on our recent flight back to Pittsburgh from Dulles Intl., with her iPhone! The reflection of the sunset off of the nose of the airplane makes it. It's scenes like this that make flying flying. 
At 6,000 feet returning from Dulles to Pittsburgh.
(click for larger version)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How to fly into the FRZ, by Dave Wartofsky

I have flown into Potomac Airfield which is located in the "death zone", AKA the Flight Restricted Zone. I had the chance to meet and talk with Dave during my trip, he's great. I can vouch that this video pretty much explains what you need to know about flying to D.C. :-)

Minnesota Supreme Court exonerates Cirrus Aircraft and UND

This is huge news for the General Aviation community, manufacturers and advocates of personal responsibility. Common sense wins out in a case involving a VFR pilot who clearly attempted flight into instrument meteorological conditions and subsequently crashed his Cirrus with a passenger on board. The pilot took off in marginal VFR conditions that were marked by strong wind gusts and low visibility due to darkness and a cloud ceiling of 14 feet above ground. The pilot's family sued the University of North Dakota who provided pilot training and Cirrus Aircraft, the manufacturer of the aircraft. It is heartening to see that the family was not able to profit from an accident that resulted from a pilot specifically violating Federal regulations.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed the accident on the pilot and stated that the accident was a direct result of "the pilot's improper decision". NTSB also said that "Contributing factors were the pilot's improper decision to attempt flight into marginal VFR conditions, his inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions, the low lighting condition (night) and the trees," the official report said. The NTSB also found that the aircraft was perfectly functional prior to the accident stating, "A post accident examination of the aircraft and engine did not reveal any anomalies".

More from the article here:

Airline Pilots Pick Some Favorite Scenic Routes -

Great article from the journal highlighting some classic airliner "flybys".

Monday, July 9, 2012

Terrafugia completes phase 1 testing of their Transition® - video

Congrats to Terrafugia on completion of their phase 1 testing. Looks like it's almost there!

Posted By Blogger to BitAero at 7/06/2012 01:48:00 PM

Friday, June 8, 2012

Surf Air – All You Can Fly Membership Airline

Surf Air – All You Can Fly Membership Airline:

VCs fund new "private" airline leveraging the single engine Pilatus PC-12 turboprop powered platform. USA Today calls it the "Netflix of air travel". Surf Air, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based all-you-can-fly membership-based airline, has raised an undisclosed amount of VC funding. Backers include Anthem Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Siemer Venturess, Baroda Ventures, TriplePoint Capital and individual angels.

Friday, June 1, 2012

ICON A5 - Spin Resistance Demo Video

I'm no aeronautical engineer, however this appears to be a pretty impressive feat that ICON has pulled off.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

98-year-old woman's helicopter ride wish granted

Hats off to Georgene Barto, nearly 99 years old, for fulfilling her dream of flight in a helicopter. Also, thanks to Spiker Helicopters, which operates out my home airport in Zelienople (PJC), for donating their time and money to grant her long time wish.

Zelienople program grants 98-year-old woman's helicopter ride wish - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New York Times calls attention to FAA's NextGen

Highlighting a New York Times article which discusses the benefits of the forthcoming Next Generation Air Transportation System. What NextGen will truly mean for general aviation pilots remains to be seen, although many pilots are already experiencing the benefits of ADS-B, a component of NextGen, in the cockpit via permanently installed avionics to tablet accessories.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Roman Rescue

Roman - 2 weeks after being rescued from a negligent home
Recently I had a chance to kick off the new flying season with a long trip involving a Pilots n Paws dog rescue. The call, or rather the email, came a few weeks ago from a PnP rescue coordinator asking for pilots to volunteer to help a 4 year old Doberman named Roman, who was currently in a short term rescue in Greenville, SC get to his new foster home and rescue specializing in dobermans, located in Pittsburgh.

Roman has spent most of his life chained in one place, and was rescued by a local shelter owner in Greenville. Even though Roman was of average height for a grown doberman, he weighed under 40 lbs. By the time I picked him up he had gained almost 15 pounds in two weeks under the rescue's care.

I departed Pittsburgh with great weather, stopping in Charlotte, NC at the Monroe Executive Airport. As an aside, this is a great stopover airport with new facilities and a long newly paved runway. The flight to Charlotte took about 2 1/2 hours and after a stopover for fuel and a work related conference call, I was back on my way to Ridgeland, South Carolina, about an hour hop, for a too-short visit with my parents who live nearby.
Our Piper Arrow (N1963T) at Ridgland Airport in South Carolina

With the visit over it was time to head out to Greenville, SC. It was a windy morning with the airport I was to pick up Roman in Greenville calling for winds gusting to 25. Luckily the airport, Donaldson Center Airport, was an old military base with a 150' wide, 8,000 long runway (just slightly better than Ridgeland at 70' x 2,600'...) and the winds were more or less down the runway. I touched down and headed over to the Donaldson Jet Center FBO to meet Roman and Micki Brown, Roman's rescuer. One great thing is that the Donaldson Airport was literally right across the street for Micki, who was used to typically driving her rescues two plus hours one way to Charlotte.
Donaldson Center Airport
Roman turned out to be just a joy to meet, very friendly and curious about everything. As I filed the flight plan and prepped for was would likely be a long flight due to weather and headwinds, Micki and her husband walked Roman to help him "relieve" himself before the flight. Once we were ready to go we walked Roman over to the airplane and he hopped into his kennel in the luggage compartment, no problems at all. I got in, received my clearance, taxied and was cleared for departure as filed all the way to Zelienople.
Micki, Roman's rescuer, saying one last goodbye

I knew that there was going to be some precipitation along the route but it did not appear, given the forecast, that I would have an issue with thunderstorms and that proved to be the case for the duration of the nearly 4 hour flight to Zelienople (PJC). I was cleared to my filed altitude of 7,000 feet, but once I reached that altitude I was solid IMC. I asked for 9,000 and received it about a minute later and while I was still in and out of IMC there was no turbulence, much better conditions than at 7,000. I was keeping an eye on the outside air temperature (OAT) gauge which was now hovering a degree or two below zero, but the water was streaming on the windshield, no ice, yet.

Skimming the tops of the clouds and in-between layers
ATC then requested that I climb to 10,000 which I acknowledged. Once up at 10,000 and still in some IMC I started to see the first ice form on the aircraft. First on the OAT gauge itself and then on the gas caps and a little on the wings. I informed ATC I would have to head back down to 9k which they gave me after about 2 minutes. As soon as I started descending I started getting some odd indications on the airspeed, VSI And altimiter. I was a bit concerned but then remembered I had not yet turned on the pitot heat yet which cleared up my issue in short order. Once back to 9,000 the ice cleared off of the airplane in a few minutes.

The rest of the flight was rather uneventful, save for the 1/2 hour or so around Clarksburg, WV where I heard one side of a converation with ATC working hard to help an aircraft that had inavertently entered IMC conditions. The controller was a true professional, doing everything he could to help the troubled pilot. I'm not sure how that whole scenario ended as the last I heard the pilot was heading down an ILS that ATC had steered him onto.
Close to home now - near PIT's airspace
Soon I was switched over from Cleveland Center to Pit Approach who sent me direct to the inital approach fix (IAP) for the GPS approach into runway 35 at PJC. The good news was that the ceiling was about 700' above the approach's MDA and everything was working smoothly. Just as important, I had not heard a peep from Roman the entire flight and we were now about 15 minutes away from being on the ground.
The route from Greenville, SC to Zelienople, PA
I crossed the IAP, turned slightly left to get on the final approach course and headed down. I broke out relatively soon after, about 5 miles from the runway end. I cancelled with Pit and was on the ground soon after. Once on the ground I taxied to the fuel pumps and got Roman out immediately for a well-deserved stretch and bathroom break. The guys at the airport helped out immensely (thanks Keith and Jason!) by taking care of Roman with biscuits, water and lots of attention while I buttoned up the Arrow and got ready to head out.

Roman was then soon after handed over to his foster caretaker, and he is now in a much better place thanks to Pilots n Paws.

Back on the ground, some final pictures with Roman

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

RunwayFinder Offline

I'm sad to report that, one of my favorite flight planning websites, is now officially offline, a victim of a unjust lawsuit (which I wrote about previously), as now AeroNav's decision to charge high user fees for their digital products. Thank you Dave Parsons for providing such a great site for as long as you did. Undoubtedly you helped the pilot community immeasurably over the years.

Just a point on the AeroNav debacle. The has been written about at length by many in the industry. Some of the best articles I've seen are here, here and here. I still struggle to understand how an agency can be so shortsighted. The main point here, that seems to be getting missed, is about aviation safety. That's why these procedures exist. That's why they spend so much time and effort to make sure they are created properly and check them regularly to make sure they are still safe. The ultimate measure in safety is dissemination of information and ease of access to that information. That is what AeroNav should be focused on. (AeroNav, are you sure you can't figure out how to shave $5M off of your bureaucracy that I'm paying for??)

By the way, if you really want to get nervous about the cost of flying, read the FAA's new FAQ about their reauthorization.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Say something

Likely we have all seen "pilots" (as before, I put pilot in quotes as I do not believe people who do illegal maneuvering are deserving of the title) perform stunts who are:
1) not trained to do said maneuvers
2) in aircraft not certificated to perform said maneuvers
3) are not in a specified aerobatic box to perform maneuvers in a safe manner
4) endangering lives other than just their own

It is point 4 in this case that I'm am extremely upset to read about. I have talked about incidents before here and here, however in a recent case the "pilot" performing the stunt ended four lives other than his own, including two children. This is not a pilot, this individual was nothing else but a murderer.

The NTSB report goes on to say that the "pilot" "was known to perform ostentatious maneuvers in the accident airplane on previous occasions". The very sad takeaway is that "pilot's" colleagues have witnessed the "pilot" performing illegal maneuvers as well as endangering his, and possibly others', lives. They had the chance to talk with him (hopefully they did). They had the chance to report him to the FAA (unlikely they did). Perhaps if proper action had been taken those four other innocent lives would not have been lost due to one "person's" highly inflated ego.

If you see someone performing illegal maneuvering, get involved, say something. It may save a life.

Monday, March 5, 2012

EAA Desktop Dressing

If you've not come across them already, every month the EAA puts out a fantastic calendar wallpaper in a variety of resolutions for download. You can find them here:  Highly recommended! @EAAupdate

Posted By Craig Gomulka to BitAero at 3/05/2012 01:44:00 PM

High school "magnet programs" helps drive student interest in aviation

Re-posting an AOPA article highlighting a great way to get more people interested in aviation at a young age: a high school Aviation Sciences Magnet Program. More here: Houston, we have a pilot

Monday, January 23, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jay Jones

US Navy 051207-N-3019M-006 Four F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft, assigned to the Hawaii Air National Guard, perform a missing man flyover as part of the 64th commemoration 

It is with great sadness that I write about the passing of Jay Jones, a friend and mentor. Jay introduced me to general aviation and was the first person to encourage me to work on obtaining my private pilot certificate when I started thinking seriously about becoming a pilot. I relied often on his deep wealth of aviation advice and counsel many times throughout my training and post certificate flying. I owe him a debt of gratitude for helping me achieve the gift of flight.

Jay marched to the beat of his own drum, a true individual. Jay was an entrepreneur, having worked in start-ups and in founding a factory automation company, Exonic Systems. Jay, being an avid aviator, often used his Piper Archer as an effective way to meet with his clients scattered across the eastern United States. Jay was a very skilled pilot and he had gained his aviation experience by flying many cross-country flights through many varying conditions. There were some flights where he gained significant "experience" but always came through with keeping his cool and making the right decisions.

Jay was also a conscientiousness pilot. A few years back, upon thinking, perhaps realizing, that he had reached a point where he no longer felt he was able to fly to his high level of standards, made the what must have been an incredibly difficult decision to stop flying as pilot-in-command. It is the rare individual who can be so introspective.

Jay had an amazing ability to enjoy life and to show others how to enjoy it as well. I will miss Jay's uplifting presence, generosity, and wisdom. May the wind be beneath his wings.



67, of O'Hara Township, died Monday, January 16, 2012, at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. He was born on D-Day, June 6, 1944 in New Kensington, PA, son of the late D. Eugene Jones and Jean C. Jones. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy and Franklin Regional High School and was graduated with an associated degree in electronics from Penn Technical Institute. Jay was the founder and President of Exonic Systems, a high technology factory automation company with multiple operations throughout the mid-Atlantic United States. He was an accomplished, instrument rated, general aviation pilot and flew his plane to meet with customers on a regular basis. In addition, his interests included cabinet making, boating, electronic and computer equipment, and world-wide traveling. He was a member of numerous organizations involving factory automation, general aviation and advanced technology. Surviving are his beloved fiancee, Diane Rapacchietta of Pittsburgh; sister, Beverly Jones (Buzz) Taylor of Oakmont; brothers, Donald H. (Barbara) Jones of Pittsburgh and Leland A. (Bernice) Jones of Export. He was preceded in death by his brother, Barry E. (Deanne) Jones. Also surviving are nieces, Ali Taylor (Oakmont), Hannah Jones (Hudson, Ohio), Autumn Jones Katarincic (Fox Chapel), Amy Jones Teele (O'Hara Township) and nephews, Stephen Jones (Hudson, Ohio), Nathan Jones (Hudson, Ohio) and D. Tom Jones (Hampton Twp.). Friends will be received from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, January 20 and from 10 to 12 noon on Saturday, January 21 at the THOMAS M. SMITH FUNERAL HOME & CREMATORY, LTD., 930 Center Avenue, Blawnox, PA 15238-3237, 412-828-5700. A memorial service will be held on Saturday January 21 at 2:30 p.m. at the Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church, 384 Fox Chapel Road, 15238, 412-963-8243. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Heart Association , in memory of Jay A Jones.
Send condolences at
Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from January 19 to January 20, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Run for Your Money - Please support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Not aviation related, however I wanted to post this for my wife. She has decided to run in the upcoming Pittsburgh half-marathon and, as part of that, is doing a fundraiser for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If able, she would welcome any support. More information and the link is in the email below. Thank you!

Best regards,

Subject: I'll Give You a Run for Your Money

Dear Friends,

I wanted to let you know that I joined The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program to run a half marathon during the Pittsburgh Marathon 2012 in May.
As always, I will count on your encouragement and support as I never ran this distance before. This time I do need your support in one more way: I would like to ask you to please help me reach my fundraising goal by donating  to my fundraising campaign if possible. Small or big, each donation helps accelerate finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Nearly 958,000 Americans are battling these blood cancers.  I am hoping that my participation in Team In Training will help bring them hope and support.

Please use the link in this email to donate online quickly and securely plus learn more about my progress.  You will receive a confirmation of your donation by email and I will be notified as soon as you make your donation.

On behalf of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I thank you very much for your support and generosity. I am looking forward to this new challenge that will support a great cause.

All the best,

Message sent via fundraising page in support of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The above reflects the opinion of the author and may not represent the views of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Aviation's economic impact

Importance of aviation to our economy. A pretty interesting infographic created by the FAA.