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November 05, 2010

Crosswind landings

Que in 3063L

Que in 3063L

   Today was an other windy day, and so my flight instructor wanted to have me work on crosswind landings.  The winds were gusting up to 19 knots from 320 (west-north-west).  We were cleared to take off runway 32, and did one normal landing before requesting runway 4 for some crosswind word.
   Crosswind landings are neat because they don't look like they should work.  My first experience with a crosswind landing was Chicago Meigs Field.  My boss had charted a Beechcraft King Air to fly a group of us engineers to a trade show in Chicago.  We were coming into Meigs Field and I noticed the plane wasn't pointed at the runway during approach.  Nonetheless, our landing was flawless.  I know now that this was a crosswind landing and we were crabbed into the wind.  While we were flying straight, it looked as though we were pointed the wrong way.
   I have done a couple crosswind landing myself, but we never drilled on them.  Today would be the day for this.  I find it is pretty natural to line the plane up for a crabbed approach.  Decrabbing takes a bit to get use to.  The rudder is really sensitive, and a little rudder correction goes a long way.  So once over the runway, a little rudder to decrab, drop the wing into the wind, and land on one wheel first.  It is actually a lot of fun.  I guess I did pretty good, because after 3 crosswind landing my instructor said I had that down and we moved onto short and soft field landings.
   Short field landings have been really tricky for me.  I had just started getting normal landings down when we started short field.  Instead of a gentle hover above the runway until the excess speed of the plane is gone, you have to get the plane on the ground and stopped in under 1000 feet.  On the ground it looks like this shouldn't be a problem.  But from the air, this is crazyness!  The 1000 foot marks seem like they are just barely after the numbers.  My first short field landing I missed the mark and didn't stop in time.  But after that I was able to stop the plane by the 1000 foot mark. 
   One item we also worked on was soft field takeoffs.  These are a little strange.  You keep back pressure on the yoke and as soon as the plane comes off the ground, you let the nose down.  The idea is to get off the ground and hover using ground effect until you have enough speed to climb.  What is strange is letting the nose down after the plane gets off the ground.  It isn't natural to want to put the nose back down during take off.  But this time I was doing it correctly, and my instructor said I had every one of my soft-field take off correct.
   While I am getting my short field landings better, I still need practice.  I setup a solo flight for Sunday afternoon to work on my landings.
    Picture by Sean.

November 04, 2010

Octagon Calculations

Today is an other article about how to do something in Google Sketchup. I wrote once about how to center an octagon so it's edges lined up with the edges of a square. Last night I was making a design and decided I needed something a little different.

What we see here is an octagon such that upper left edge (point A), and lower right edge (point C) line up with the left side (X) and bottom side (Y) of a square, and the top right corner of the square (point B) is in the middle of the upper right side of the octagon. This is pretty easy to do if you have the octagon first, but in my situation I have the square first.

There are no nice even angles in this calculation, and in order to solve this problem we will need a little trigonometry. We start with a line between point B and point D. This is a 45 degree angle across the box. Because of alignment, it will also cross the lower left side of the octagon in the middle of the line, just as it crosses the middle of the upper right side of the octagon. This will serve as the foundation for our next step. What we are looking for is angle EBG and angle GBF, which should be identical.

In order to solve this problem, let us think about what the lengths of these lines are. Line BG is the octagon's span. Line EF is just the length of one of the side of the octagon—all of which are equal. Line EG and GF are just ½ this length. With this information we have enough data to draw a triangle.

Here is triangle BFG. We have two known sides, ½ N and S. I say ½ N because it is ½ the length of the octagon's sides. Side S is the octagon's span. With some searching, we can find the relationship between the span and the side length. . Now everything can be expressed in terms of the side length. Since we don't want to measure anything but angles, my hopes are that length terms will cancel out when we solve the equation.

To be clear: line S is the triangle's base, and ½ N is the leg. What we want is angle GBF, and we have the adjacent and opposite sides. So we can use the identity . . Notice my hope was true—the side length (N) cancels out. So after we reduce, we get . And solve for the angle: .

Now we have a pretty exact angle that can be used.

So here is how the center point is found. Remember we are given the square. From the square, draw a 45 degree angle (protractor tool) from point B to point D. Using this guide ( line through BD), measure angles EBG and GBF. We calculated that those are both about 11.7 degrees. So using the protractor, start at point B, then click on point D, and then measure up/down the 11.7 degrees. Add guides along lines X and Y. Where these guides intersect the EBG and GBF, draw a guide—so between points E and F. This line is the lower left side of the octagon. Now using line X starting at point F, measure 22.5 degrees to the right. Where this guide intersects guide GB is the center of the octagon. Using the polygon tool with 8 sides, start from the center and pull the polygon to either point E of F. The results:

1 comment has been made.

From Noah

November 11, 2010 at 8:27 PM

Wow - who'da thought that all those math classes would actually be useful one day??

November 03, 2010

Amber's First Flight

Que Landing

Que Landing

   Today, Sean and Amber wanted to fly.  I needed some more time "under the hood" and so I figured I would ask my instructor for an other cross country. 
   Amber had never been in an airplane before.  I thought for her first time she might enjoy flying over her hometown of Brodhead.  There is a grass strip in Brodhead, but we don't like landing there.  But Monroe is a straight path from Brodhead.  My first course was to flying to Dubuque, IA.  But when Sean and Amber arrived, they asked if I could fly around Black Earth, WI.  I made a modified course from Janesville, Monroe, Prairie Du Sac, Lone Rock, Janesville (KJVL->KEFT->91C->KLNR->KJVL).   Amber is rather sensitive to getting motion sick, so the Monroe leg of the trip would be a good test.  I loaded everyone up on Dimenhydrinate (anti-motion sickness) and off we went. 
   The winds for the day were around 12 knots with gusts up to 19 knots.  Amber's first flight was going to be a little bumpy.  I tried to keep my turns between 10-15 degrees except on approaches.  But Amber was fine. 
    Monroe came and went.  The flight to Prairie De Sac was probably pretty, but I was under the hood and didn't get to see it.  After our touch and go there, my instructor told me not to put in Lone Rock into the GPS.  So I flew that leg without navigation.  I almost flew by the airport before I noticed it out my left window.  There we encountered a very slow flying aircraft doing touch-and-goes.  We followed him in doing about 65 knots.  We had to put the flaps all the way down just to get this speed. 
   At Lone Rock we landed and went to the FBO for a bathroom break.  I think my instructor was worried about Amber and thought some fresh air would do her good.  So we stayed a few minutes and then headed back out for the return trip.
   Amber was fine the entire trip.  She said the landings didn't bother her—she just didn't like the turns!
   Pictured is me landing in Janesville on runway 32 taken by Sean.  Runway 32 is the one visible from Hwy 51 on the south side of the airport.  It has several strobe towers leading into the airport.  The other runway visible from Hwy 51 is 23 on the north side of the airport.

November 02, 2010

First Solo Cross-Country

Que flying

Que flying

   My first solo cross country flight today, and I was as excited as a little kid before x-mass.  I had my course plotted, all my number calculated, time estimates, frequencies, and weather all accounted for.  Today was the day, and it was looking to be a great day for flying.
   My course was Janesville, Mineral Point, Middleton, Janesville (KJVL->KMRJ->C29-KJVL).  Mineral Point is around 55 nm away (63 miles/102 km) which is over the 50 nm needed for a cross country flight.  I planned for a touch-and-go in Mineral Point, and then a full stop in Middleton.  There I would meet Tyson and go out for lunch.  I ended up a little behind schedule because the plane wasn't back when I was ready to start.  However, everything else went as planned.
   While I was excited, I also wanted this flight to be done by the number.  I did an extra thorough pre-flight of the airplane.  I had them add a quart of oil, but 3063L was ready for me.  I went through the start checklist and in no time my prop was spinning and everything looked good.   With pretty much no wind, Ground had me taxi to runway 32 which is right next to the jet center.  I did my short taxi, my run-up checklist, watched a Cessna land, and then told Tower I was ready to go.  I was cleared, let go of the breaks.  63L taxied to the center line of the runway.  I push the throttle to full and we were off.
   This first leg of my flight was west, so I climbed to 4,500 feet for the cruse.  Once there, I did my cruse checklist, and relaxed a little to enjoy the view.  I had my timer running and a list of towns I should be flying over and when.  Turned out I was flying a little faster then I had planned, but I reached each point within a minute of planned.
   My flight to Mineral Point was the first time I had flown to an airport I had not ever been without my instructor.  I was able to find it just fine.  I could have flown straight in because they had AWOS weather information and I all the information I needed for landing.  However, I did a left-traffic pattern circle around the airport just so I could have a look and make sure I had done everything correctly.  I verified the runways where the numbers I thought they were, and looked at the wind sock to verify winds.  Then I did an alright touch-and-go, and then climbed to 3,500 to make for Middleton.
   Once back in the air, I got setup for the Middleton airport.  Middleton's airport is just under Dane County Regional Airport's  (Madison's main airport) airspace.  Their airspace starts at 2,300 feet, and traffic pattern altitude for Middleton is 2,000 feet.  This didn't leave much room for error, and I really didn't want to be that low trying to look for an airport—especially since not too far after the airport the airspace drops to ground level.  So I decided I would have Madison Approach give me flight following into Middleton.  Once established on the radio with them, I would be allowed to enter the airspace.  I would also be able to keep my altitude of 3,500 feet—a more standard altitude, and giving me a better view of the area.  I had only talked to Approach a couple times before, and it takes some getting use to.  Approach controllers generally speak quickly, and you have to be ready be ready for what they tell you.  But I did fine.  The Approach controller pointed out several airplanes taking off from Middleton as she brought me in.  Once she let me go, it was an easy set of left traffic turns to the runway. 
   I did an mediocre landing flaring just a bit too high for a good soft landing.  But I was on the ground.  I taxied to what looked to be public parking—fairly full of Cessnas—and shut 63L down.  As I was exiting the plane, Tyson walked out to meet me.  I let him climb in 63L to have a look at her, and then we went off for lunch.
   After lunch, it was back to the airport.  I picked this route in part because they had self-service fuel at both airports.  Originally I was going to stop in Mineral Point and refuel.  I had almost 5 hours of fuel, but I wanted the experience of fueling the plane from a self service pump.  Due to my late start, I decided to refuel in Middleton after eating lunch to avoid making Tyson wait any longer.  So after I returned from lunch, I taxied 63L over to the fuel area and topped her off.  It wasn't complicated, but I wanted to be sure I had done this at least once.  It would be far better for me to fail refueling the plane on a trip were I didn't need fuel then on a long trip were I would have to have fuel.
   Again, check lists and run-up.  With everything good, I anounced my departure intentions, listened to see if anyone had any objections (Middleton has no tower), and departed to the west.  I chose a westernly departure to avoid getting close to Dane County airspace.  I could have talked to Madison Departure, but I thought I'd try flying between 2,000 and 2,300 until I was clear of the airspace.  Originally I had planned to just fly west until I was out of the airspace, fly south while climbing, and then proceed on course once I was clear of the airspace.  However, I had to have the plane back by 5:00 pm and I was a little concerned.  This worked out fine, and I flew on course at 2,000 feet until I was sure I was clear of the airspace.  I then climbed to 3,500 for the remainder of the trip.
   I called Janesville Tower about 10 nm out (11 miles/19 km).  Tower had me flight straight in for runway 4, and asked me to report when I turned finial.  When I turned finial, I was still about 6 nm away.  Tower cleared me to land, but a few minutes latter asked were I was.  I report I was still 3 nm out.  I had reported when I turned and was lined up for finial, but I guess he was expecting me to turn finial a little closer.  It wasn't a problem though.  My last landing was my best with a soft touch down.  I taxied back to the Jet Center and reluctantly got out of 63L.
   My first cross country solo was a success, and I went home a very happy person.   Picture by James.
Onion Man

Onion Man

   It was a near perfect day for flying today.  Almost no winds and a nice clear sky.  I needed some more cross country flight time.  So I decided to plot a course Janesville, Milwakee, Watertown, Janesville (KJVL->KMKE->KRYV->KJVL).  I picked Milwakee because it is class C airspace and requires communications with an Approach Controller.  Milwakee would also the biggest airport I have ever landed.  Milwakee is a full-size commercial airport. They have runways 7L and 7R, 1L and 1R, and it was my guess they would put small touch-and-go traffic like me on the smaller runway so the commercial traffic would be uninterrupted on the larger runways.  I picked Watertown because I like to fly triangles, and because I have driven by the airport so many times on my way to skate—thought it would be cool to land there.
   My instructor liked my idea.  We started off toward Milwakee, and I did some flying "under the hood".  This means I can't look out the window and I can only look at the interments.  I actually don't mind this at all.  It's much like flight simulator—just keep the interments all lined up.  I contacted Milwakee Approach and they set us up for runway 7R.  This runway is 7,700 feet long and 150 feet wide and can take 777 traffic.  Landing on this runway is pretty easy.  But it also the primary runway for commercial traffic.  As we came in my instructor pointed out the line of about 8 commercial jet liners waiting on the taxiway burning jet fuel as I did my touch-and-go.  No pressure!  But my instructor said I did it like a pro—good approach, good landing, and good tower communication. 
   After the touch and go, Milwakee Departure had us turn to the northwest for Watertown.  After we left their airspace, my instructor decided to give me a test and killed the GPS.  My initial instinct was to not care.  I was already pointed in the right direction, and it would only be a few minute before I reached Watertown.  But I decided to try and use some VOR to guide myself in.  That wasn't a good idea and I ended up not flying very level because of it.  In the end, I knew the highway I was following would lead me to Watertown—which it did.  I found my original idea of just staying the course would have been best.
   At Watertown I did a touch and go, and then we were back to Janesville.  After looking at the forecast, we decided tomorrow would be the best day for my first cross country solo as the weather was going to worsen on Wednesday.  I had my course planned, and went home to refine it.  I had been looking forward to this for a long time...

October 30, 2010

Apple Orchard and Pumpkin Patch

   James, Maggie, and I went to the Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard in what has become a yearly ritual.

2 comments have been made.

From Liz


November 11, 2010 at 9:24 PM

which one? I haven't been to a pumpkin patch since either my junior or senior year in high school and I went with the girl scouts.

From Steve

The Garage, WI

November 16, 2010 at 4:39 PM

I wish I would've been able to make The Pumpkin Patch this year; I wound up missing out on that place for this fall. It's all good though, I was happy to be able to at least make a trip to Edwards' Apple Orchard earlier this year.