Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Wintry Night Flight

Well, wintry for Florida anyway!  It has been severely clear this week with cooler temps and with the full moon, the sky was just begging me to come up.  It had been a while and I needed the night currency so away I went.  I took off from Craig after sunset and proceeded to Palatka (28J).  When I made the turn to final for runway 9, the moon had risen just above the horizon and was a brilliant orange.  Too bad I couldn't take a picture to do it justice.

The St Johns River, south of Jacksonville

Flying towards Gainsville before turning back towards Palatka (28J)

After Palatka, I proceeded to St Augustine (KSGJ).  I think they installed LED's in their center-line runway lights.  Boy were they bright.

Old Town St Augustine

From there I departed northbound along the beach and headed for home.

Ponte Vedra & South Jacksonville Beach

Beach Blvd looking towards downtown from over the beach

It was a pleasant and smooth flight.  Now that I'm current for night again, it's time to take some folks up that have been asking what it's like at night!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More New Friends, A New Roof, and Conch Fritters!!!!!

Last month's Bahamas Habitat Fly In & Help Out Event was another huge success.   Most folks met up at Orlando Executive Airport (KORL) for lunch and then the mass departure for the Bahamas began!  Over 30 pilots and passengers in 8+ planes made the trip to serve the great people of Eleuthera, Bahamas.  The itinerary was the same as it had been for previous events.

This time I had two friends from church join me.  Both of them had never been in a small plane before, but that didn't damper their excitement.  A little over 2 hours after leaving Orlando, we were the first plane to touch down in Governor's Harbour (MYEM), Eleuthera.  We had loaded up the plane with various supplies that had been waiting to be delivered to the camp which almost turned into a little bit of an ordeal.  The customs officer, freshly transferred from Nassau, was very keen to ALL the boxes we had brought with us.  Luckily you are allowed a $100 exemption per person from import duties so we managed to write up an agreed upon manifest and kept it below that mark!

Odyssey Aviation, the local FBO at the airport, was gracious enough to meet all the pilots and crews with catered finger foods, drinks and gift bags for everyone upon arrival.  They also were generous to donate $3500 to the Zion's Children's Home on Current Island; a project hugely supported by the Bahamas Habitat.  So if you find yourself in the Bahamas and in need of FBO services, please give your patronage to Odyssey Aviation to show your thanks for their support of their communities.

This trip, we worked in the settlement of South Palmetto Point.  We served a nice older gentleman and his aunt as we repaid her roof, demolished the crumbling half of his house, and finished putting on a new roof on the remaining front half of his home.  We did this over two days and it's amazing what can be accomplished by so many in just a short time.

After working the 2nd day, a group of us headed for the airport for a little island hopping.  I let John and Doug take turns flying the plane and they did very well.  After a quick turn at North Eleuthera to load the fuel we needed to get home, we flew towards the Exuma Islands chain and stopped at Staniel Cay and walked to the yacht club for lunch.  Unlike last February, the power was on!  So we enjoyed a fabulous lunch and of course the obligatory conch fritters!

Sunday's flight home was none eventful.  The weather was perfect, clearing customs in Ft Pierce was painless as usual, and we were home in Jacksonville by early afternoon.  It was an amazing four days and I truly enjoyed see some familiar faces, making new friends, and sharing this experience with Doug and John.  The main conversation we had when we got home was,"When are we going back?"  Soon I hope!  The next event will be February 20- 23, 2014.  Mark you calendars and join us!

Here is a slide show of our photos.  It also includes some GoPro video while flying low along the beautiful islands of Exuma.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Testing Out The GoPro Mounted Externally

So I finally figured out an external mounting location to try on the plane.  I put it together and tried it out yesterday.  For the most part I think it worked fine.  The good part was I did not lose the camera!  I am going to the Bahamas Habitat Fly In & Help Out Event next week, so I cant wait to see what kind of videos I get while in the Islands!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fall 2013 Bahamas Habitat Fly In & Help Out Event Dates Just Announced!

It's almost time again for this awesome biannual event!  Here is the copy of Steve Merritt's email announcement:

Dear High Fliers & Support Crew,

Twice a year, pilots interested in gaining international flying experience while enjoying the rewarding opportunity to experience first-hand the people of The Bahamas, gather to support disaster relief efforts and build community in these beautiful islands. Join us! The Bahamas Habitat Fall Fly In-Help Out Event will be held from October 24-27, 2013 at Camp Symonette on Eleuthera Island in The Bahamas.  

Pilots and supporters from all over the country will assemble at Showalter Flying Service in Orlando, FL on Thursday, October 24 for lunch and last-minute briefings, then, load up with much-needed supplies to deliver to Governor's Harbour AIrport on Eleuthera. The supplies include hand tools, building materials and school supplies and are designated for James Cistern projects.   If you haven't flown to The Bahamas, we will have plenty of folks to walk you through the process.

To sign up for this exciting bi-annual event, go to our website:

We look forward to seeing you there!

Bahamas Habitat is an international service organization that partners with volunteers to fly their own aircraft to provide dignified humanitarian outreach to the people of The Bahamas, Haiti and Mexico. We serve by delivering disaster relief and basic medical, economic, housing and other aid. Bahamas Habitat is a 501 c 3 organization, contributions to which are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

All the best,
Steve Merritt, Co-Founder

Bahamas Habitat

Click on the "Bahamas Habitat" tab at the top of this page to see some of my blog entries with pics from past events.

Here is the link to the registration page:  

Please let me know if you have any questions and, if I can get away again this fall, I hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Resolving A Bluetooth Issue

I posted back in March how I had cancelled my XM Music Radio subscription in favor of an iPod touch to take advantage of my audio panel's Bluetooth feature: (Saving A Little Money).  Up until now it hasn't been a flawless move.  Although my iPhone 4S works flawlessly with both music and phone calls, the 3rd generation iPod touch I bought on eBay hasn't been cooperating.

Here's the problem: while listening to music in-flight, the audio stream cuts in and out almost like a skipping record at times.  I've had no problem pairing the units and playing with things on the ground, but in flight, only the iPod touch does not cooperate.  I tried all the trouble shooting methods from Apple and PS Engineering including resetting the audio panels's memory, but all to no avail.
PMA8000BT (Image by PS Engineering)
I have basically just been "living with it" for the last few months and recently started to research purchasing another alternative.  Luckily, my problem has been resolved and I'm now happily rocking it out in the skies!  Before we left NW Arkansas on Monday, I searched the internet again for help.  I found one entry that recommended to try two things: reset the network settings on the iPod touch and if that didn't work, have the iPod touch forget the device and go through the simple process of pairing and connecting it again.

So as we leveled off in the cool morning air I selected the "Reset Network" option.  I got somewhat excited since upon doing this the unit fully shutdown and then powered back up.  I was hoping this move would zap whatever gremlins were lurking inside the iPod touch and all would be well.  After it powered back up, I selected the audio panel in the Bluetooth menu to connect the two and hit play on some music............didn't work.
iPod Touch (Image by Apple)
So I tried one more thing.  I had the iPod touch "forget this device" and then re-selected and it worked!!!!!  It worked all the way to Key Filed without any hiccups.  When we departed Key Field for home and leveled out in cruise, I connected to the audio panel again and sure enough, it started cutting out.  No worries, I went through the forget device step again and all was well!

So, for those that may be having Bluetooth issues where it appears the music is intermittently cutting out or skipping, try this (for Apple products):

-  Go to Settings
-  Select General
-  Select Bluetooth
-  When you see the device you are trying to pair with, touch the blue arrow pointing right and select "Forget This Device"
-  When you end up back at the Bluetooth menu, select the device you want to connect with and hopefully it will work.

If this works for you too, just remember, you'll have to do it for every new flight.  This may seem like a lot, but the steps only take a few seconds and I am so happy to be able to enjoy my tunes again while flying.   Good luck y'all!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Catching Up, Catching Colds, & Visiting Family In NW Arkansas

This year's annual inspection went really well.  A few minor squawks and the Piper Turnbuckle AD
to deal with, but it was done in a few days and I didn't have to sell one of my kidney's to pay for it!  It was scheduled and completed during the week after Independence Day so we could ensure the use of the plane for our travel plans at the end of July and first part of August.

The first trip was to Treasure Island, Fl, but Kristi & I both got colds 2 days before we left so I was obviously grounded and we loaded up the car and drove instead.  It didn't help that we had to stop at the hangar to get the beach gear out of the plane that I had pre-loaded.  Nonetheless, we had a great week and our colds cleared up early in our stay.  I did have to make the obligatory statement during the drives there and home that " You know we'd be there right now if we were flying!"

After a few days back in our own beds and in good health we loaded up the plane to visit family in Siloam Springs, AR.  As much as having a plane gives us tremendous flexibility in schedule, this time of year the heat and thunderstorms dictate an earliest departure as possible.  My wife is awesome and had us all packed and out the door so we could be in the air headed west before 0800.

We had a smooth and easy flight into Meridian, MS at Key Field (KMEI).  Meridian Aviation still has to be the best FBO for us.  How could you not enjoy complimentary ice cream, popcorn, and hot dogs as well as decently priced fuel?  The service is always amazingly efficient too.

I think we were on the ground for less than 30 minutes and with the heat already in full effect at 1000, we launched for the last leg to Siloam Springs, AR (KSLG).  The weather had cooperated all morning and we cruised at 8000 feet while only passing one little buildup just west of Little Rock.  After 6 hours in the plane we made an uneventful landing and arrived to our eagerly awaiting family standing by on the ramp.

We had a great visit and even managed to explore some new places.  For one adventure, four of us (Kevin, Eli, Abby, I) flew over to Drake Field (KFYV) in Fayetteville to check out the Arkansas Air & Military Museum.  Most of the aircraft and military vehicles they have on display are still in fully operational condition.  It was really neat to enjoy the mix of general aviation and military aircraft.  My first memories of planes and flying was with Frontier Airlines that served Manhattan, KS when my dad was stationed at Fort Riley.  It was neat to see all the memorabilia on display.

They even had Sam Walton's first plane he ever owned; a 1947 Erocupe.  Later when we visited the Walmart museum, I got to see a short film on his use of aviation with regards to the operation of Walmart.  I didn't realize he was quite the avid pilot and had amassed more flight hours than the pilots he eventually had in his corporate flight department.  Early on he used his plane to scout for potential store locations while he observed traffic flow and home densities in various towns.  Eventually he used flying to make surprise hops with vendors and buyers to impress them with the "full" Walmart parking lots as they cruised around and discussed business.  It was very interesting to say the least.  I was hoping I could find the video on line, but no joy.

They had three hangars full of aircraft and vehicles.  The museum also had a good size militaria display in some of the airport's old terminal buildings.  I was pleasantly surprised to see they had a good display of US Merchant Marine items from World War II!

Saw this posted in one of the hangars.  It's an ad for new Lycoming IO-360 series engines from 1982.  Don't you just wish you could get a factory new engine for that price now?!?!?!?!

The other thing that I found interesting was all the old silk souvenir scarves put up on display.  Most of them had poems to moms, wives, and girlfriends.  I asked my dad about them, but he never heard of them.  He only remarked that they had to be quiet old since a lot of them that were from "camps" either no longer existing or have been name changed to "forts" for a long time now.  These two are from special places in my life.  I was born in "Fort" Rucker and spent my toddlers years in Fort Riley.

Out on the ramp they had few static displays of some Air Force and Navy jets as well as another Huey Cobra.  You can park right on their ramp next to the main museum hangar and it is open every day of the week.  When we departed, the University of Arkansas is straight our from Runway 34 so we flew over and took a pic of Razorback Stadium for our cousin Landon!

On another day we went to the city square in old town Bentonville to meet up with some more family and visit the Walmart Museum which is located inside Sam Walton's first  5 & 10 Store.  They had a neat collection of all kinds of items and historical Walmart displays.  They even had Sam Walmart's office preserved and his old Ford truck.  We took advantage of the family gathering and our cousin Nikki was kind enough to do a family photo shoot for us (see family pic at top).

After a great few days visiting family and celebrating my wife's birthday, it was time to head home.  The plan was still the same so we were up, packed and out of the house at 0600.  We pre-flighted and loaded the plane in the still morning around sunrise and were wheels up by 0700.

As we climbed over the fog filled valleys, I checked in with Razorback Approach and picked up or clearance to Key Field in Mississippi.

The morning sky gave way to some spectacular views from both above and below.

Thought this was interesting; you could see the clouds ahead that were associated with the stationary front as depicted on the XM weather.

Crossing the mighty Mississippi and some more interesting landscapes.

We made good time in to Key Field.  Quickly fueled with avgas, ice cream, popcorn, and hot dogs again, we loaded up for the last leg home.

We cruised both legs home at 7000 feet.  As we progressed eastward, some of the clouds were starting to build higher than our altitude.  I asked for a climb to 9000 feet, but there was an active Military Operating Area (MOA) above me so we just got approval for minor deviations in track instead to avoid the buildups.

A few controllers later we were directed to descend to 5000 feet for traffic which of course then required numerous deviations to stay out of the rising cumulus that would have definitely caused an uncomfortable ride.  After about 15 minutes of slalom flying the the cloud valleys we were finally allowed to climb back to 7000 feet just in time to beak out into relatively clearer air.

Since we were now direct for home again, I decided to check the XM weather to see what things were like back in Arkansas.  Good thing we left when we did!

So after 6 hours in the plane we were safely back in Jacksonville.  Only thing left to do was pick our dog and go home!

Two of my favorite discussions/quotes from this trip:

On descent into Siloam Springs, Abby asked me," If we had driven our car to make this trip, how long would it take?"  I told her we would have probably done in in two days and it would be about 18 hours in the car.  To that she responded," Oh yeah, I'm all about this plane!"  This was a nice change for me since my kids, even though they enjoy it, don't fully comprehend how lucky we are to have a plane and they usually  remark that they want to "go in a jet."

Next one came from Mary.  I can't remember what she said when we landed at Key Field, but after making a really smooth landing, in a pretty stiff crosswind at Siloam Springs, she immediately asked," Did we crash?"  Geesh, thanks Mary!
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