Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Oshkosh 2015

There's enough posts about all the cool things to see at Oshkosh this year that I won't bother adding to the list.

Oshkosh, as it has been for a long time, is a social event for me. But, to be honest, I wasn't looking that forward to it this year. Some people I had hoped would be there weren't going this year. Some others who I've seen in the past, well, let's just say we've moved on.

Again this year I was making two runs over. This year, my youngest son, Patrick, and I headed over on Tuesday.

Patrick has thoughts of being a pilot someday but at the moment his priority is finishing up a four-year nursing degree program at Augsburg in Minneapolis.

Our flight in was relatively uneventful, save for the 172 that passed up high while we were following the NOTAM. I swear, I will never understand why people who are able to fly an airplane, are so utterly incapable of reading a document intended to help keep them alive.

We had a great time in the days we were there doing Oshkosh things and visiting people like Sam Weigel and his wife, Dawn, who were way out in Row 134 in the South 40. My pal, Warren Starkebaum, was out there one year and I think I'd like to be out there sometime. It's much quieter -- no helicopters every 4 minutes -- and you get a really good view of the approach to 36L. Sam, who won his category in the AirVenture cup race, has written a great post on his time at OSH.

We also had a nice evening with the great folks at EAA Radio, including the sampling of some cherry stout, I believe.

As usual, I enjoyed people stopping by to see the plane, even though we were stuck wayyyy up back in homebuilt camping. We met a great couple just before we departed. They were from Toronto and invited us to use their condo if we ever fly up for a baseball game. I wonder if I'll ever hear from them again?

I'm not too ashamed to say I spent a great deal of time examining polished airplanes up close. They look great far away but I needed to know whether my work is measuring up against other people.

Oh, sure, I found a few flaws.

I say this with all humility. It does. I saw some nice polish jobs, but it was clear to me that in striving for perfection -- I've never achieved it, of course -- I have set a good standard.

We left on Thursday morning because Patrick had to work that evening (and was departing for New York early on Friday) and Carolie and I had tickets for Caroline Smith and also Black Joe Lewis at the Minnesota Zoo.

Want to hear some great cockpit resource management? Here's my kid.

On the way home, Patrick said, "I wonder how high those clouds are?"

"Let's go find out," I said.

Have I mentioned how much I love my RV? You can be at Oshkosh for breakfast, fly home for lunch, do laundry and take a shower in the afternoon, have dinner and a concert, and be back in the air the next morning, headed for Oshkosh.

On Friday, my oldest son, Sean, and I headed back. As luck would have it, my builder pal, Warren, was passing overhead at the time, so we flew over "together", several miles apart and chatting all the way.

Sean wasn't all that sure he wanted to stay until Sunday (which is code for "he didn't want to") but once we landed, he was all in.

This time we were given 18R. I haven't flown that approach in the five times I've landed at Oshkosh but for some reason it struck me as trickier.

I used to watch people make this approach and marvel at the rapid descent, tight turn, and spot landing ability they had. Unfortunately, when I made the rapid descent, tight turn, and landed spot on, the GoPro was out of batteries. But trust me: It was great.

Fortunately, my RV pal, Brad Benson and the rest of the South St. Paul RV crew had arrived the night before and we were able to hook up for good socializing.

The highlight was going to the Charcoal Pit restaurant where Sean sang some karaoke. The Collins clan is not known for singing voices and certainly not for singing in public. But there was my kid, singing before strangers ("People Are Strange" - Doors). The B-52 is cool. The Raptor is cool. Even stumbling across the Little River Band was cool. But seeing my kid stepping out of a comfort zone? That was coolest.

The only downside of Oshkosh this year were the sad exhibit halls, where so much consolidation has taken place, that the empty spots are being taken up by crappy flea market peddlers - a LOT of flea market peddlers.

A friend of mine who runs an avionics company says that although experimental projects in the pipeline when the economy collapsed were completed, there haven't been anywhere near enough new builders to sustain business models. It feels as though it'll be Dynon and Garmin who emerge with everyone else giving up. Even Avery Tools wasn't there this year.

I'm not entirely sure how GA is going to survive all of this.

But that's a topic for another day.

Sean and I left on Sunday morning, taking about an hour and half from start-up to touchdown in South St. Paul, just enough time for him to go home and change, and get to Target Field to watch the Twins and his favorite --the Yankees -- play.

I've heard enough people over the years talking about their memories of spending time at Oshkosh with their dads. When we're gone, these are all we leave behind.

I love my RV airplane.

(Photos by Patrick Collins)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Just tell me where you are!

For the longest time, I've wanted to fly into Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport to watch a Cleveland Indians game and over the weekend, my youngest son -- also an Indians fan -- and I did just that.

It was a thrilling approach to a great airport. My son has put some video up on Facebook of the fantastic approach to Runway 6L and as soon as he changes the permissions, I'll provide a link (update: Here you go).

We watched Saturday night's game and wanted to stay for Sunday's but the 1:30 start time and a front moving in convinced us to try to get out of Dodge, knowing we'd have to hopscotch our way through it.

Our first planned stop was to the Sandusky County Airport and we planned to re-evaluate there and wait things out, but we ran into low cloud cover about 10 miles out and I had to do a careful 180 while my son found us another airport. We ended up watching the rain and mist in Huron County. Nice little terminal building, but the constant beep-beep-beep of some alarm behind a locked door drove us crazy.

As things lifted, we hopped 14 miles through mist to Sandusky County, rain beating the crap out of the paint job on the prop. We were right at minimums with a mile visibility and it required all of our concentration. The workload was more than manageable with two people. We were vigilant and we made a ton of radio calls along the way, and the Garmin 296 called out obstructions which we picked up. A mile visibility in an RV is good for about 20 seconds. Fly over a nice straight road -- not a problem in Ohio -- and be ready.

We spent an hour in Sandusky -- long enough to find out the Indians again had zero offense against Oakland, and then as things brightened we headed for Bowling Green (Wood County) and walked into town to find some grub.

By the time we walked back (seriously, Dunkin Donuts: What's the deal with closing at 3 p.m.?), the western skies were brightening, and the METARs were improving. We took off and we had 6 miles visibility and ceilings up around 2900, and it was a nice flight down low. Ohio has gotten a ton of rain but things were a beautiful green, if a soggy green.

As we neared our favorite stop (which I ignored because I thought the FBO would be closed by then), we heard a pilot announce he was on a "GPS 1 approach to Dekalb County" from the west. We were approaching from the East.

This is one of the things that drives me crazy about IFR pilots. When they make a position report, they report where they are in their instrument procedures, but not where they are in relation to the airport.

I quizzed him about his locations, "Well...uh... I'm on the GPS One approach," he said.

"Are you inbound for landing and how far out are you, we're eastbound just north of the field..."

"I don't have you on my TCAS, we're at 2000 descending."

I was at 1700 and we didn't have him on the ZAON unit either. A minute later, son Patrick saw him -- a Citation -- on final.

The pilot was completely UNABLE to tell us where he was and I hear this all of the time with IFR pilots. What good is making a position report if your report is unintelligible to the VFR pilot? Just tell me where you are!

Another habit we encountered is the rapid-pace at which VFR pilots make their position calls, including the most important part of the call -- the airport. I do this too at my own field and I'm going to stop doing it.

A position report isn't just a requirement to zip through; it has a purpose and we have to be sure it's doing anyone some good.

Clearly, and slowly, say the airport name, give your position, then pause a second and clearly and slowly give the airport name again.

This is especially important for those of us transitioning unfamiliar airspace. Yes, the frequency can be busy, but it's the safe thing to do and that has to be the priority.

By the way, on the flight in from Cleveland, we got great service fro Cleveland approach. At one point, what with haze being thick, we had conflicting traffic and approach told us to hit a steep right turn (which you can't hear in this audio, but trust me, it got my attention). After the conflict, I thanked the controller for helping me (which you also can't hear) and he apologized for the late warning (which you can hear).

The flight in to Burke was particularly fun as we were racing another aircraft. Guess who won?