Thursday, June 28, 2012

2nd Flying Day of the trip

After arriving in MI on Saturday, I spent some time with my mother, and my nephew, The Spud. I also got together with Aaron from The Shekel and his wonderful family for a few hours. This time, we went to the beach for a pig roast, and as Aaron's wonderful wife Tash sat in her beach chair, I bet his oldest daughter Aaaby that she could not hit my hand, which I then held over Tash's head, just out of her view. Naturally, Abby swung, I pulled my hand away, and it was a perfect fait accompli. I love kids...Hee! And of course we also spent some time with Aaron's wonderful gun collection. Gotta get my fix in somehow, right?

Meanwhile back at the Lair, my neighbor Chuck went over to take Murphy out and as soon as he opened the door, Murphy bum-rushed him and took off down the driveway. Chuck pursued as Murphy turned and ran down the street, clean to the corner where Chuck's house is, and around the corner and out of sight. So where did Murphy go? Why to Chuck's front gate, of course! Murphy so loves Chuck, Chuck's wife, and their dogs that he went right over there to spend the day without even waiting for Chuck to leash him up. Silly dog.

Sunday was spent with my father, gong to church, eating BBQ and planning Monday's flight when he wasn't looking. This was a trip up to Ludington, Michigan to see his brother. This was going to be a surprise but someone (cough! Mary! cough!) spilled the beans Sunday night. Still, we got off Monday morning without a hitch and flew west. The skies were pretty clear but we got more convective turbulence than I recall ever getting before--it was whipping us up and down like a retarded yo-yo until I got up to about 5,000 feet, at which point I got locked into that altitude by Lansing Airport ATC as I approached their airspace.

Then we got passed off to Grand Rapids, and had a nice overflight above the city, despite being kept up high by their ATC.
(Downtown Grand Rapids. Photo credit: Pop)

From here, I'd planned to loiter over Grand Haven, MI for a bit since we have quite a bit of family history there, but alas, the turbulence was even worse here, and Muskegon County Airport to the north seemed really bugged about us lolling along just outside of their airspace. I kid you not, about every other transmission from their approach controller started with MY call sign, asking my direction and intention. So I took the hint and just turned us north towards Ludington. But not before we got a few more good pics.
Here's a ship, inbound to Grand Haven's channel.
It's an old self-unloader converted to a barge combo by removing the aft deckhouse and engines and making room for a large tug. I really hate when they do that to these beautiful and unique old ships. This one is the McKee Sons, coupled to the tug Invincible. Built in 1945 as a fast troop ship, she was lengthened and converted to a self-unloader in 1953. She sailed as a steamer until 1979, when she was laid up in Toledo, where she sat for ten years In 1990, she was converted to a barge, as shown here. Lotta history in that old hull.
Here she is, heading into the channel, heading to the Verplank Dock about two miles up the channel.

It's so narrow that she'll have to back out of there after she unloads.
Look at her cutting through the silt coming out of that channel. I'd have loved to go lower, but decided not to due to the protestations of my passenger and Muskegon ATC. For the same reason, I nixed a planned overflight of downtown Grand Haven and Spring Lake. Maybe next time...

Next, we passed Muskegon as we went up the shoreline. By this time, I felt like there were three of us in the place--me, my father, and the Muskegon Approach controller, who apparently had no one else to talk to. But he was gracious enough to allow us an overflight of the Muskegon ship channel so we could grab some shots of USS Silversides, SS 236, at berth.
(Photo credit: Pop)
(Photo credit: Pop)

She's a museum ship now, and one of the best sub restorations I've seen. Next time I fly up, hopefully Aaron and I can fly over for a visit so I can blog it here.

Here's my Pop, caught in a rare moment when he was not clutching the right cabin grab handle with both hands and/or complaining about the bumpy ride.

And Mason County Airport at Ludington.

I added to my aviation education on this field. I checked the recorded AWOS (Automatic Weather Observation System) and got wind speed and direction from them. Based on that, I chose a runway for landing. On approach though, I saw smoke from a local smokestack which suggested a different wind direction entirely. "AWOS got it wrong," I thought. And because of this, after calling on the local Unicom frequency for wind and runway in use at the airport and getting no response, I switched to a runway that lined up with my idea of what the winds were doing. I realized my error on final as I shot over the numbers about 20 knots too fast. However I still got her down, albeit with a bit of tire screeching and using up a fair bit of runway. what do you know, but AWOS was right all long. Lesson learned. Next time I won't be so quick to second-guess it.

We had a nice lunch with Pop's brother and caught up for a bit as we rode around Ludington, and then it was time to head back. Surprisingly, when I was back at the airport, the airport attendant told me that he recognized my plane. It turns out that the man who owned it back in the 1970's and 80's had family in Ludington and used to fly it up there all the time. Now this plane has a bit of distinctive tail art on her that that owner had put on, and the airport man immediately recognized it. (So did the people at Plymouth Mettetal--my plane was owned by a couple of people who'd based it there and they all knew it, too. "Oh yeah...that plane's been around here for years..." one said when he saw it. Small world.

Then we flew back, staying high so as to avoid much of the turbulence. This time even that didn't seem to do it, though. It was still bumpy as all get-out and updrafts kept taking us even higher. But I converted that free altitude to speed by nosing her down and keeping on a shallow dive that added about 10-15 knots to our over the ground speed in addition to what we were getting off of a quartering tail wind. We made the trip from Ludington to Canton in 1.8 hours, including a practice missed approach I shot on arrival.

And here's the happy passenger, back on the ground. Admittedly, it was a rough flight both ways due to all of the clear air turbulence, but he did real good.


  1. "Here's my Pop, caught in a rare moment when he was not clutching the right cabin grab handle with both hands and/or complaining about the bumpy ride."

    Fly like you drive, huh?

  2. Sounds like you're on a great trip! It's nice to hear the names from my home state. I grew up between Flint and Saginaw, went to college in Kalmazoo, lived in St. Joseph and traveled the state for many years until we finally moved to Iowa.

    It is a beautiful state to tour and to drive it's coast! Thanks for the memories.

  3. Good post, great picture's. I've got an angle on a SA "Danish" M1 Granand w/the locking rear sight if your intrested in one. Don't know how long it'll be there as it's a consignment item.

  4. Over the years, I learned to use AWOS as a starting point for actual field conditions.

    Air socks are never wrong.

    I'm getting ready to battle my own hot, rough and bumpy flight. I'm heading to Natchitoches, Louisiana Friday afternoon for a fly-in, book-signing and shooting get-together on Saturday. Temps are expected to be 100F on both days with a high-pressure system settled solidly in.

    Translation? Hot, bumpy, uncomfortable.

    But it beats driving.


  5. @ Sportpilot: A Danish Garand? I'm definitely interested.

  6. Nice shot of Lansing - you can practically see me waving at you off to the northwest! I was telling you to land in Lansing so I could give you the bucket full of once-fired .40 brass I've been saving for you. I can walk to the airport from my house - I could have met you at the terminal!

    As you were flying to Ludington, I was driving there on Sunday, to take my daughter to a camp near Silver Lake, so I could have waved at you up there too!

  7. @ Scott: Damn, wish I'd known.

    I don't like to land at Lansing much but I'd land at Grand Ledge any time. Next time I'm in town, Aaron and I might just have to do that. Think you might be up for it?

  8. Yep, good visit but a short one. Also I forgot to give you something i had laid aside for you. Drat. You'll just have to stop by again....assuming Tash doesn't whack you on the noggin when you do.

  9. Great photoessay. Did you get fooled by the lake breeze at Ludington? Looks like the runway is close enough to the lake to be inside the lake breeze front.