Flying Notes – Hawaii Big Island

4 Sep

Today I took a 2.7 hour flight on the Big Island of Hawaii. Emily was riding in the back seat and the CFI was a gent named Hawk from Hawaii Flight Academy.

The flight was gorgeous scenery of course, but I left most of the sightseeing and photo taking to Emily as I handled the controls.

The weather was exceptionally good. We were able to see all three mountain tops when most tours are lucky to see one or two from the coast. Our counter-clockwise trip took us over the active lava flows where Hawk took the controls and flew lower Part 136 altitudes while Emily and I ogoled the natural wonder.

After that, I took the controls again and we headed toward Hilo, brushing the underside of broken clouds around 3,000. On the far side of Hilo, we angled upslope to avoid incoming rain, but then I let hawk take the the controls and take us on the more scenic trail through the rain and low/no visibility.

Coming around the north side, the skies were clear, but we got a bout of light turbulence. Emily was mildly shaken, but I did a very good job holding altitude within 50 feet of 1,500. The downdrafts downwind of the saddle caught me off guard and I had to take decisive action when I noticed we had glided from 1,500 down to 1,100.

I told the instructor early on that I’d want him to do the landing if the crosswinds were too strong. After all, the most important things in my world were riding in that plane. When we set up for a long final at about 20 degrees left of the runway, we agreed that the landing would be doable.

We were following a light plane doing a touch and go and we were some distance ahead of a larger jet. I maintained centerline fairly well, but flared too much and ballooned the touchdown. I made a good stabilizing re-approach at wingspan height, adjusting for crosswind, and set it down with enough room to take H taxiway back to the fuel station.

This is also the first time I was directly involved in a refuel. This isn’t your Chevron filling station. Well, okay, it was *a* Chevron filling station, but the everything involved was much beefier.

Check out more photos as well as a geotagged photo map from our trip.

Flying notes – Landings lesson 1

22 Aug

Today I flew 1.3 hours with John La Porta. This is my third lesson with him and my 6th overall. Aviation has been a dream and a goal of mine since I was very young and I decided it was time to realize that goal when I met a friend who happened to be a CFI (certfied flight instructor).

After preflight, I asked John if we could focus on landings today. He agreed and asked me to tell him what I know so far about landing a small craft. After discussing for several minutes, he gave me the list of steps we would take during a landing which I jotted down.

On our first go round, we came around too steep so my instincts told me to nose up. It was on this landing that I got my first real lesson on flying “the back side of the curve.” The little Cessna C-150 took the bounce surprisingly well. We settled it down and then re-applied full throttle to take off again. Surprised that my sucky landing didn’t snap the wings off, we climbed albeit a bit unsteadily.

John took us out over Redmond so we could discuss landings further and get me more proficient at firm rudder control. Previosly, I was unaware of the amount of spring in the rudder controls. You can (and should) depress both pedals simultaneously a few inches to keep the rudder from being blown about.

We also simulated several patterns. I continue to be impressed by. The tight turning radius this thing is capable of in slow flight. I need more hours to ge used to it’s capabilities.

We returned to BFI for four more landings. Each one was incrementally better, despite a notable crosswind.

It was very comforting to see the runway come into alignment and realize that I am naturally crabbing 15 degrees to maintain centerline without any effort.

My final landing stuck fairly well. I was mostly able to let go of my instinct to control altitude with the nose and instead use throttle with angle of attack controlling airspeed.

I have a long way to go, but this was perhaps the most instructive lesson to date.

(apologies for typos and grammar. Written on iphone, editing later on)

Return of the Rum Runners

4 Aug

Liquor bottlesLast weekend Washington state just upped its liquor prices an average of 13% per bottle in a bid to help fill its 6 billion dollar budget gap. The estimated proceeds from the increase in liquor tax should cover about 1.3% of the budget shortfall. The problem is, I don’t think they will take in nearly as much as they have estimated.

It hasn’t even been a week and I’m already hearing several people talking about making booze runs down to Portland, Oregon. A casual web search reveals some insightful answers.yahoo.com advice suggesting there is no peril in shuttling copious quantities of booze across state lines, but I remain dubious. However, with over 75% of the cost of a bottle now profits to the state, it will become harder for people to resist a little bit of sales and use tax evasion.

I hate to say it, but it will probably take a horse’s ass to spearhead an initiative to reduce state liquor taxes. It can’t be many more years before people start whining about the ever-increasing rates in general and I know someone will come riding in on their white horse to rescue the taxpayer’s hard-earned dollar once the general consensus agrees that the economy has sufficiently recovered.

Photo credit Thomas Hawk

Curtains for Theater Listings

21 Jul

no_popcornThis morning I received a call from a gent with a Boston accent. He indicated that he represents a firm that is displeased with some data I’m using on isnoop.net. According to the caller, my theater listings page is using his client’s intellectual property and I’m not properly licensed to do so. The lawyer seemed nice enough. Perhaps I should have kept him on the phone longer so he could tick up some more billable hours…

Like some other things I’ve developed, theater listings was a simple service I wrote for myself to clean up an otherwise cluttered interface and make the data available in my favorite feed reader. Over the years, many people have written with questions and thanks regarding the page. Thank you to everyone who used the service. I hope you might find some of my other tools just as useful.

As of now, the theater listings page is closed. If you still want this information in your web browser, check out Google’s movie listings service. For you feed reader junkies, Yahoo Pipes is widely known as a useful service for turning any web page into an RSS feed.

I’ll investigate the possibility of re-sourcing the data, but don’t get your hopes up. Also, for those who are already firing up their email clients to ask me for the source code, hold your horses. I’ve been working up a post on ethical screen scraping and now I can finally share it without being hypocritical. I won’t share the source, but look forward to an interesting and useful guide to capturing and reusing data on the web, including some advice that should help prevent you from getting your own C&D.

People Use FeedSifter.com?

19 Jul

rssAs with most of my web toys, FeedSifter.com started off as a tiny tool that served a very simple need I had. Assuming a handful of people might have the same need, I publish most of these utilities and some of them actually manage to become fairly popular.

FeedSifter is a simple service that allows you to filter an RSS or ATOM feed for various keywords. There are many other services out there that do this same thing, but this site is anonymous, uncluttered, and intuitive–exactly what I wanted at the time.

Looking at the traffic stats today, I’ve found that feedsifter.com managed to become fairly popular while nobody was looking. Over the past 8 months, daily traffic has been steadily increasing and it is fast approaching 2,000 requests per hour. That’s a pleasant surprise and a good indication that I should put some effort into finishing those final few features I never got around to implementing years ago.

Firefox's Refreshing Source View

25 Jun

Did you know you can trigger a refresh while viewing the source of a page? This feature has been around since the dawn of Firefox 2.0, but it is still unknown to many web professionals.

All the standard keyboard shortcuts work, including the F5 and Ctrl+Shift+R for a cache flush. Give it a try on your favorite dynamic page.

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