Back in the Sarasota skies – November 2016

8 November 2016

The fourth chapter of my flying career (in reality, hobby) started this week back in Sarasota, Florida.

The objectives for this trip are to fly every day. To become a better, safer pilot. To fly and land with consistent quality. To fly regularly into controlled airspace – especially class delta airspace where the atc instructions can vary significantly from airfield to airfield. To fly some instrument work, approaches and holds. Understand how to use VORs for positioning. To be as comfortable with old round gauge cessnas as I am with a glass cockpit.

I have ten days and thanks to Denise at Cirrus Aviation I am flying every day. Most of the flying will be in round gauge Cessna 172s as one of the school’s Garmin 1000 172s is in the hangar.

I flew from John Wayne Airport at Santa Ana to Tampa on 8 November with Southwest. My Avis rental is brand new with just 103 miles on the clock.

Out of John Wayne Airport

Newport Beach, CA

Landing into Austin

Approach to 1L at TPA – passing McGill airforce base

Arriving in Sarasota it was a late night watching the USA election coverage. I have tried to avoid any commentary on the election. Mr. Donald Trump is the President Elect after beating Hillary Clinton. It is hard to imagine a less likely figure on the world stage. I fear that an inward looking America is going to change the balance of power and influence in Asia and the Middle East.

Enough of that. The Democrats badly misjudged the mood of the US electorate especially in the so-called rust-belt states.

9 November 2016

Onto the 9th. Good to see everyone at Cirrus. Not much has changed. Then an afternoon flight with my instructor, Alfred Rollin, in N191RA. This is a well-used 172; the GPS has been taken out. The only navaid left in the airplane is the VOR.

Nice weather; calm air. Off we went initially to the west before eventually being turned to the south east towards Punta Gorda. We flew some steep turns, slow flight and a stall recovery. That went fine. It was fun to be flying again.

Turning south after leaving Sarasota on a 240 heading.

Then onto Punta Gorda, class delta, where the tower gave us a runway 33 landing. We flew two touch and goes and the third landing to a full stop. The first landing was ropey, the second better and the third as good as I get! After the third we taxi-ed back to the Golf intersection for a runway 33 departure and back to Sarasota for a dusk landing; a long approach, spot on the PAPI and a nice landing.

It was good to be back; Alfred (he is French by the way but we are all Europeans for now!) was good company. Very sensible.

10 November 2016

I was flying today with Todd Richless in N393SP. This one does have a Garmin 540.

We agreed on a flight to the north east starting with Lakeland, onto Gilbert’s Field (Winter Haven) and then to Bartow and back to Sarasota. Over two hours of flying; five landings (full stop at KLAL, KGIF and KSRQ and a touch and go and a full stop on runway 5 at Bartow.

Lakeland and Bartow are both class D while Gilbert’s Field is uncontrolled. Lakeland asked us to report a three mile base for runway 09. Bartow asked us to report left midfield downwind for runway 05. See what I mean about class D always being different!

My approaches were better than my landings today. Including flying the runway 32 ILS approach into Sarasota.

Tampa ATC was harassed today – don’t think I have ever heard them that busy. 4/22 was closed at Sarasota; there was parachute jumping about 5 miles NE of the airport, and it sounded like everyone was flying into Venice. Venice has to be the busiest uncontrolled airport in Florida.

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Tomorrow we will work on my landings – consistency is key. In my defence I still only have about 10 hours of 172 flying – and even less in round gauge 172s.

That said the 172 is easier to fly that the 162. The extra weight simply makes it more stable.

I enjoy flying with Todd – we have a lot to talk about. Sometimes I am having to listen hard for ATC while we talk.

11 November 2016

Another 10am flight with Todd. We were meant to head out in 393SP but that was in the hangar for a fuel pump change so off we went in 171RA.

This time we decided to head north to Brooksville. KBKV. Heading both north and south ATC took us out along the coastline to avoid traffic at Tampa International and St Petersburg.

It really was a very pretty morning to fly. Calm, blue skies, a little haze and smog.

Clearwater airport

Downtown St Petersberg and Albert Whitted airfield

Brooksville is Class D, with a contract, rather than FAA, tower and the controller was wonderfully accommodating. They had a flight doing calibration work at the airport so they fitted us in around that – for two touch and goes and a full stop to taxi back and depart – all using runway 09. Initially they wanted us to enter a right base; but that change to flying past the airfield and then coming into a right midfield. No problem. The a left pattern after the initial touch and go.

Back at Sarasota we flew a right downwind for runway 32 after being cleared to land while still ten miles north. It really was that quiet at Sarasota.

We were tied up on the ramp at 12.50pm. A little while later one of the Cirrus staff barked at me that the airplane was due back at 12.30pm.

Annoyed. If she or her colleagues require that I return the airplane earlier than my scheduled time then they need to advise me before I leave rather than making unnecessary comments after I return.

Today my reservation for the airplane and with Todd was from 10am – 1pm.

We lost 30 minutes due to a change of airplane from 393SP. I received no verbal request, or email, or message before departure requesting an earlier return or the airplane.

I am lucky in that my schedule is very flexible while I am here. But sometimes the Cirrus team need to remember that the school exists thanks to its paying customers. This is not an inexpensive hobby or career. We are entitled to professional communication and a certain level of courtesy.

Rant over.

And here is 171RA with a couple of pictures of my favourite old Skycatcher N3032R below.

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13 November 2016

Up far too early for a 7am flight with Dave Armbrust, the chief pilot at Cirrus.

Lovely sunrise over SRQ.

It is always good to have a plan. And today we were back in 171RA – there is no GPS in this plane. Just old fashioned VOR receivers.

So here is the plan – we would fly from Sarasota to Naples Regional – about 85 miles south but we would do so by flying VOR radials and along the vfr – Victor – airways.

I had never flown to Naples before so that added to the fun.

We departed from runway 14 at Sarasota on a 180 heading. We had requested 5,500 feet and told Tampa that we would be following the V579 airway. They even offered flight following. One of those mornings when everyone seemed content.

So we use the Sarasota VOR and a from radial to follow V579 to waypoint Viola where the Lee County VOR then centres on our receiver and we fly a to radial to Lee County. At the Lee County VOR we switch to Victor 225 and follow the radial to the Cypress VOR which takes us direct to Naple Airport.

This really was how flying used to be.

We also checked our position by triangulating the Sarasota and Punta Gorda VORs.

OK – the weather was great – and that makes it all much easier. And we have foreflight so can double check the GPS. But I felt I learned something today. The plane trimmed beautifully and it was a fun flight.

Into Naples we requested one touch and go and then a full stop so we could run in for a coffee. Enter midfield for a right downwind to runway 05. Call when three miles out. Make right traffic in the pattern. The $20 ramp fee is a bit excessive when you think how many airfields in Florida have no ramp fee at all.

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Naples GA building and holding short of 05 to depart.

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Heading north – the private airfield is Coral Creek


On approach to KSRQ

The second landing was a touch high and hard but still quite acceptable.

Back direct to Sarasota. Initially expecting runway 14; offered runway 4 by Tampa. Yes please. Far prettier – over Longboat Key. City to the right. Followed in by Keith Sellers and a student in N3032R. Very happy with my approach and landing back into SRQ. 2.8 hours on the Hobbs. Keith would have been pleased that I learned something from him!

13 November 2016

So the birdstrike on 393SP is now impacting my plans. I was meant to fly her from 10am – 1pm this morning. But the plane cannot fly (probably until Wednesday). The school tried to put me in the redbird simulator. No thanks. at this time I really do not need that.

I thought I was scheduled for two hours from 4pm to 6pm with Alfred in 191RA; but there was no sign of Alfred at the flying school and I was too tired/disinterested to be content/safe flying alone.

So I went for a drive along the Bradenton, Longboat Key coast – and I am glad that I did. I only had the Fujifilm X-30 with me but I still got some good sunset/moonrise pictures. Here are a few.

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14 November 2015

A good morning and then more frustration.

Out at the IMG Academy Golf Club for 8.00am to play with Todd (one of my cfis) and two of his regular golfing chums.

It was actually cloudy all day today; cool. Perfect golf weather. Decent course. Which could be made much harder. Bunkers need some work. Good fun and time for a quick lunch.

Oddly I made par on each of the four par 3s. Played some decent golf – and some nonsense.

Had hoped to fly from 4pm. But all that ws available was a 162 skycatcher which I am not checked out for by the school in the last 12 months. Though I could fly it with my eyes closed and did fly it back in March.

So two days of no flying.

15 November 2016

Late afternoon flight with Todd at 4pm. We only had a couple of hours so we flew a fun evening flight down to Punta Gorda.

Back in 171RA. Which does not have a GPS at the moment – it really is a VFR airplane for now as some of the approach fixes require a GPS location.

We took off VFR but as soon as we were talking to Tampa we asked if they had time to give us a pop-up IFR clearance as we were instrument training. Not a problem! So we got a new squawk code and radar vectors for Runway 04 at Punta Gorda.

The great thing about flying IFR is that you are always on radar and always being told where to go by ATC. Yes you still need to keep a look out – yes you need to be sure that a) what you are told to do makes sense and b) that you can execute it. After than fly as instructed.

We asked initially for the ILS to runway 4, with a missed approach and then back to the Localizer for runway 4 before flying missed again and heading back to Sarasota.

As we were short on time we cancelled our IFR clearance and flew VFR back to runway 32 at Sarasota – landing in the dark; always fun.

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So here we are heading south as the sun sets – past Siesta Beach on the left side.

And here is a video of our approach back into Sarasota:

Too much fun!

16 November 2016

Back in a G1000 equipped 172S. N52606. If I am serious about getting my instrument rating most of the work would be done in this airplane.

Flying at 2pm with Alfred we agreed to fly some approaches to St Petersburg to the north of us in Tampa’s Class Bravo airspace. It was a lovely afternoon to fly.

So here was a first – I filed an IFR flightplan using Foreflight. It really is that easy. You get your ATC acknowledgement and a detailed email briefing for the flight as filed. Then you simply request ground to activate your filed IFR flightplan.

The G1000 is complex. It is easy to get fixated on for instance setting up an approach. This would be a good time to use the autopilot while you get the correct approach programmed. There really is so much data.

But I flew OK. One time I was a little distracted and strayed a little too far off course. But I simply flew where ATC wanted me to fly.

Then when we get to the Final Approach fix we simply cut the rpm to about 1850/1900 – set one notch of flaps and follow the glidepath in. The minimum on the ILS at KPIE is 220 feet – so at that point we flew the missed as instructed. Runway heading to 700 feet; then fly 270deg to 1,600 feet. The missed approach is effectively a go-around procedure. Full power, raise the flaps, positive climb.

So we set up to do the same thing all over again. It does mean that you are keeping the speed up a little more than if you were flying VFR. You would only go to the second notch of flaps when you have minimum height and made the decision to land.

We flew back IFR for the Runway 32 ILS into Sarasota. And it is a slightly faster landing. But just cut the power at the minimum height (230 feet); let the plain settle down in ground effect – and you get a nice smooth landing. and a little extra speed with 9,000 ft of runway is not a big deal in a 172.

A few pictures from over St. Petersburg – you can see Albert Whitted airfield off the right wing:

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17 November 2016

Two flights today. A morning IFR flight with Todd Richless to Page Field at Fort Myers. Followed by a solo flight in the afternoon down to Venice; three landings there and then two landings back at Sarasota.

The flight to Page Field was fun. We filed an IFR flightplan on Foreflight for KFMY. Once airborne our ifr route was then changed almost in its entirety by ATC who re-routed us down the coast. We flew the RNAV/GPS approach onto Runway 5 at Page Field. To be honest – easy – do as ATC tells you – then, because we were in the GPS equipped N393SP simply follow the approach activated in the flight plan, assuming that you have loaded the right approach.

Then at the decision height make the call to land and carry out a visual landing.

Back to Sarasota where we requested something completely different – the VOR approach into runway 14. Which is an offset approach – by some 12 degrees. Which threw me a bit as I had to straighten up for the landing – I was a bit fast into KSRQ but it was ok.

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Overflying Venice on the flight to KFMY

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Downtown Sarasota as we head back for the VOR approach to Runway 14

Back on the ground at KRSQ here is N393SP and on the Dolphin ramp this pretty looking Comanche.

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After an afternoon of doing my laundry is was back to the airfield for a solo flight – simple VFR to Venice – a few touch and goes and back to Sarasota.

Venice is a tricky place to fly into. It probably has more aircraft movements than Sarasota because so many people use the airfield to practice approaches and landings. It is uncontrolled so you need to tell CTAF what you are doing and where you are.

So I entered midfield at 45degrees into a left downwind for runway 5; nice landing; touch and go; left traffic. As I land for a touch and go the second time I see an aircraft passing the end of the runway on a crosswind to turn and land in front of me. He did not say a word until he had cleared the runway. Amazing.

I do think Venice is potentially dangerous. It does get busy. Even in controlled airspace there are some very dodgy ATC calls. In uncontrolled airspace there are often either no calls or questionable calls. I am not perfect – but my ATC is decent and I do tell people flying the pattern where I am and what my intentions are.

The second approach was a little high – I landed a little long. Touch and go and back for the third and best approach and touch and go – and then departed back to Sarasota.

I asked Sarasota for a touch and go and then a full stop. Saraosota Tower was busy and the separations were not working out. Extend downwind; tower would call my base. And then on final, and at about 300 feet, ATC cancelled my landing clearance and asked me to fly a heading of 040deg. No altitude given but I was not staying at 300 feet so set out to climb to at least 1,000.

ATC then asked for two 360deg right turns. And then took me out on the downwind before turning me in for runway 14. No problem!

Touch and go. Left traffic. Extend downwind. Before ATC turned me in in front of the Delta MD-80 that was quickly catching up behind me. No delay on the runway. Exit at Alpha 4. No problem. Nice landing. A good way to finish this week of flying.

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Downwind in the pattern at Venice and returning to Sarasota past Siesta Key

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In the pattern at Sarasota

That’s it for now. I have had a good week. Learned plenty. Feeling confident. Enjoying flying round gauges. In fact the G1000 now feels like overload. N393SP with round gauges and a Garmin 430 GPS seems like the best mix of the old and the new.

Would happily do my instrument rating now if I had the time (and enough $).

16 hours in the log book; including 9.5hours of cross country.
25 landings.
7 approaches.
Airfields: Punta Gorda, Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bartow, Brookville, Naples, St Petersburg, Venice and of course Sarasota.

Until next time!