Flying over MSU and UofM

0:05 – Take off from FPK
0:20 – Lansing Capitol under the left wing
0:25 – Michigan State University
0:55 – Flying over UofM Stadium
1:20 – Landing ARB
1:45 – Departing ARB
3:25 – Landing JXN

On Sunday I spent majority of the day flying around Michigan. I got to the airport at 8am and flew with one of my partners in the Cherokee 6 up to his cottage on Beaver Island in his Piper Twin Geronimo. I did record some snippets of that and will put that together later this week.  After I returned from that flight I then went flying at 2pm with my flight instructor Patrick to continue working on my instrument rating.

Now that the FAA has specifically published a letter of clarification regarding external mounting of video cameras on your airplane I have started to experiment a little bit more. The letter generally says that small cameras that are not permanently mounted and do not significantly change the aerodynamics or weight and balance of the airplane are no big deal.

So, Patrick and I ziptied one of my GoPro cameras to the front of the beacon on the empennage of 3 Delta Tango. The results were pretty awesome.

We departed Charlotte, flew over Lansing, then over MSU campus and then headed towards Ann Arbor.
I did the VOR 24 approach into ARB then a VOR approach into Jackson and then back in Charlotte we flew the GPS 20 approach. The camera ran out of battery after leaving Jackson and heading back toward Charlotte. After we landed in Charlotte we did a take off and landing on the grass strip to get some soft field practice in with the Cherokee 6. My plan is to fly to Florida this summer and there are tons of grass strips so I wanted to be confident in taking off and landing no problem on the grass. The 300hp engine had us climbing out over 1500ft/min at Vx.

When doing your instrument training you wear a visor that blocks your vision outside of the aircraft. Even though it was a beautiful day to fly I was stuck under the hood for majority of the flight. I did peek once or twice over campus to make sure I had an ok flight path, then at one other point in Ann Arbor there was so much traffic around the airport that we needed all the eyes outside.

Beautiful day to fly and the footage came out better than expected. I’ll definitely try this mounting location again for some Great Lakes flying.

Biggest lesson from this flight:

  • During the last flight I wanted to practice running one of the aux tanks dry in a controlled environment so I knew what it felt like when in goes dry when flying. By working the left aux tank dry then working the left main a lot the plane was unevenly weighted. Although not pictured my takeoff track out of Charlotte was pretty terrible due to the right wing being heavier and taking the plane to the right more. I was compensating with rudder more than just throwing in more aileron. It was a noticeably different feeling and a good learning moment.

Other lessons:

  • Unlike most the other planes I have been flying the Cherokee 6 normal take-off is with one notch of flaps. On touch and goes I remember to leave in the one notch but have been pretty late bringing them back all the way down.
  • Getting a lot faster and more comfortable setting up the different types of approaches.
  • Still need to get the plane slowed down and a bit lower after my final approach fix, I’ve been having to drop the power and really drop it in there. I guess that works with a Cherokee 6, but not so well with a slippery plane like a Mooney or Bonanza. I’ll be working to get those habits tuned in a little better.
  • The prop filter lens I have been using on my GoPro to cut down on prop blur has been making everything look like crap. I’m not using that anymore and the footage is so much better.

Night flight to Flint KFNT, KJXN, KFPK

First night flight recording with the GoPro and first flight mounting the camera on the exterior.  The suction cup mount worked great, definitely going to try this during the day now.  The GoPro is mounted on the outside of the windshield and I ran the tether through the window vent and put a zip tie looped on the end to make sure it didn’t slip through the window. Once we setup for cruise it flipped back and was pointing at the sky. I had to stick my hand out the vent window and re-adjusted it.  With a ground speed of 180kts (207mph) at the time it was pretty hilarious trying to fix it. The force of the wind with my hand out the little side vent window was intense. But, the suction cup held just fine.

Still working on my 10 hours of dual instruction required before I can fly my plane solo.  I’ve got 8 logged now, so another couple flights and I’ll be good.  Good thing is that I have been working on my instrument rating and I need hours of instruction, instrument time, and plenty of pilot in command cross country time before I’m eligible to take my practice IFR test. So, this 10 hours of dual in the Cherokee 6 has been a great opportunity to get more comfortable flying VOR, ILS and GPS approaches with the Garmin 530.  I haven’t got into the Garmin 496 too much yet, but it is hooked to XM weather so that’s pretty nice to be able to easily check whether at any of the airports.

The camera facing back at Patrick and I didn’t record any audio, I don’t think it was plugged all the way in; and the lighting was terrible so there was nothing to look at anyways.  I just set this to an audio track (Phantogram) and left it at that.  The battery died between Flint and Jackson so there was only one landing captured (2:30 min).

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First PIC flight with Cherokee 6 – 323DT

I flew with my flight instructor Patrick, Alison and her mother to Muskegon airport this last weekend.  I have to get in 10 hours of flight instruction in my plane before I can fly it solo due to the insurance requirements.  I’m going to try and fly 2 or 3 times a week to get in my time and hopefully go on our first adventure out of state.

The very first flight I took in the airplane was to get my High Performance endorsement. After that I am now able to fly and log Pilot In Command (PIC) Cross Country (XC) time which I need towards my instrument rating.

Even though I need the 10 hours for insurance requirements I also still need plenty of instruction and instrument time towards my Instrument Rating so the extra time working with Patrick.

  • 3:00 we are on final approach landing in Muskegon
  • 4:30 flying along the coast of Lake Michigan

I have to do some research on what happened with my camera. The white balance or something didn’t reset and as the sunset the footage became all grain and was unusable.  I think if I would have stopped and restarted it the camera would probably have readjusted to the different light and been ok.  We’ll see.  I’m flying tomorrow at night and I’ll fire them up to see if it is any better.


I bought a 1977 Piper Cherokee 6

Well at least a portion of a Cherokee 6. Last week I officially bought into a partnership with two other pilots that fly out of Charlotte airport (KFPK). They have owned N323DT for 10 years and recently had a partner pass away and another lose their medical and have been looking to bring in another partner.

Why did I decide to buy a plane?

Soon after I finished my license I was renting a Cessna 177RG Cardinal. This plane was reasonable to rent at $155/hr wet and was pretty fast at 140kts (160mph). This plane had lots of availability on the schedule and I was able to take it for weekend trips. Unfortunately, that plane is no longer available and I don’t have access to anything I can use for weekend or weeklong trips. I needed to do something; either buy my own plane, join a club or find a partnership.

Why did I decide to buy into a partnership?

I’m just not sure the plane I want to fly today will be the plane I want to fly 5 years from now. I wasn’t ready to invest in a plane on my own and also pay for all of the monthly hangar fees, insurance fees, maintenance fees, and for the annual inspection. I just don’t think I’ll fly that much each year to justify all of those expenses on my own.

The right time, place, and plane.

I’ve been working toward my instrument rating (IR) and my instructor Patrick Retzer of Great Lakes Air Ventures knew I was looking for a way to get access to a plane I can take for weekends or full weeks here and there. One thought was to put a hold on my IR training and do my multiengine so I can rent the Twin Comanche that is available on the field. This was an interesting option and I know I eventually want to get my Multi-Engine Land (MEL) so we did a flight in that and I had a blast. However, around that time he also caught wind that the Cherokee 6 was looking for another partner and he made the proper introductions. I decided to stay the course and continue working towards my IR and buy into a partnership on a Cherokee 6/300. I’m thinking that I might do my multi-engine sometime late next year.

The Cherokee 6 has everything I am looking for in a plane right now.

  • 150+ mph
  • IFR certified
  • Constant speed propeller
  • Seats at least 4 – The Cherokee 6 can actually seat 6 which will be great for group trips or when we are camping with some friends and have all of our gear.
  • I kind of wanted a complex plane with retractable gear just to build good habits and practice. But, the decreased maintenance, insurance and other benefits with the fixed gear works for me.

The Cherokee 6 price was right.

Even though more people were in the partnership in the past it was only 2 people 50/50 on it prior to me buying it. They decided to have a total of 4 shares, so I purchased 25% of it. There is still one share of 25% available to be purchased. Right now the other guys are covering the un-owned 25% portion of the monthly fees, which is a pretty good deal for me.

  • $20,000 – to purchase 25% of the plane. Technically ¼ share of the business that owns the plane.
  • $160/mo – hangar, insurance and reserve
  • $140/hr wet – this is based off of tach time not hobbs time, so it’s really less than this when comparing it to other planes that I was renting based on hobbs time.


  • Lycoming IO-540 – 300hp (500 hours, factory remanufactured. 2200 TTAF)
  • 3 blade Hartzell propeller
  • 84 gallons (25 in left / right mains and 17 in left/right tips)
  • Garmin 530 GPS
  • Garmin 396 with XM subscription
  • Electric trim (the auto-pilot does not have altitude hold)

Plane valuation

Based on my purchase of 25% of the plane for $20,000 gives the plane a valuation of $80,000. Based on my research a Cherokee 6/300 in this condition is usually sold for more than $100,000. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to find a plane with this few of hours on the airframe and so few engine hours since a major overhaul. The plane also has relatively modern avionics with the Garmin 530 and 396. I would never consider anything with an engine an investment, but based on the valuation this was definitely a good buy. In the future if I continue to fly regularly I may want a smaller 4 seater that really goes fast, but I could see myself still keeping this to have access to a 6 seater since the monthly payments are so reasonable.

Next Steps

I have my complex endorsement but since this plane is kicking out 300 ponies I needed to also get my high performance endorsement. I’ve got to do 10 hours of dual in this plane before I can solo due to the insurance policy.

I’ve got a handful of flights tentatively planned over the next couple months.

  • Traverse City – Alison’s parents live in TC and it’s a fun and easy flight to fly up north and have them pick us up at the airport.
  • Bellaire – I’d like to do a day trip up north with some friends to Shorts brewery. Their food is delicious and I can fly back a growler to enjoy later.
  • Mackinac Island – Alison and I will probably head back up to Mackinac Island for the weekend this fall; it’s a nice little flight and would be interesting to visit in the off season.
  • Nashville – Hopefully we’ll get a weekend that looks like good VFR weather and we’ll head down for a long weekend to enjoy Nashville TN.
  • Florida – This winter I want to fly to Jacksonville to visit my brother, then over to the Tampa area to see my parents. I’m hoping to stay down there for a week or two and work remotely. We’ll see if that plan comes together or not.
  • Maine – In the late spring I think it would be really fun to fly to Maine with Alison and do some camping.

I’m looking forward to all of the adventures we’ll have with 3 Delta Tango.

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Using Google Calendar to reserve flight times.

Google Calendar is pretty easy to use and most phones and mobile devices integrate with it very easily.  We decided to use this as the primary way to reserve flights in the partnership that I just joined. The only problem was that it’s really useful to get notified whenever anyone scheduled a flight.  Just so you have some situational awareness of what’s going on next week, over the weekend or on any upcoming holidays.

  • We setup the Google Calendar on it’s own Gmail account.
  • I didn’t want other peoples flight time showing up in my primary calendar so I actually just installed a 3rd party app called “CalenMob” for iOS.  I connected the Gmail account to that and use that for seeing the planes schedule.
  • I setup an IFTTT recipe (if this then that – to send us all an email whenever a new event is added to the calendar.  This was a stock recipe so it was very easy to setup.  Now we all receive an email (usually within 30 minutes) of anyone scheduling a flight in the calendar.

Questions to ask before joining an airplane partnership

I’m posting this to help anyone else who might be evaluating a plane partnership and is wondering what questions they need to ask before joining the partnership.

  • Cost of the buy-in?
  • Where is maintenance handled, who is responsible for making sure the annual gets done?
  • What are the monthly fixed costs for: insurance, hangar, reserve?
  • Are those monthly fixed the same across everyone or is it different depending on who flies the plane more?
  • Monthly maintenance reserve? – is there an overhaul fund?
  • What is the hourly wet charge for flying the plane?  Is this time based on Hobbs or Tach time?
  • What, if any, software is used to track scheduling the plane, hours flown, billing, maintenance tracking?
  • Are there any limitations to how long someone can keep the plane? Over the weekend, a week somewhere else?
  • Who handles the paperwork – sending invoices, collecting checks, paying insurance, hangar etc.
  • How do they handle IFR/VOR checks every 30 days?
  • Why did past partners leave the partnership?
  • How would they handle an unexpected big expense, is there currently a reserve or would it be an assessment?
  • Do they have a contract they use or an existing agreement in place?
  • What’s the process of selling your share back, what’s the process for anyone else to sell their share?
  • What’s the process for bringing additional people into the plane?
  • Who pays the deductible if there is an incident?
  • Who is authorized to fly the plane?
  • How are upgrades evaluated and decided upon? Such as the 2020 ADSB requirement?
  • How are squawks or minor items reported and handled?
  • What documentation is provided to show your shares or ownership in the plane?
  • How is fuel handled. Do you fill it up after each flight? Is there a credit card for the plane, or do you pay out of pocket and get reimbursed?

How much does it cost to learn to fly?

Ryan Doom Passes CheckrideThe most common route to go if you are not looking at a career in aviation is to follow part 61 of the FAA guidelines.  If you are following part 61 all you need is a certified flight instructor to spend the necessary time with you in the air and approve you for your written and practical test.  The instructor has some flexibility on how they deliver the training and does not have to follow a strict agenda or routine.  There are more formal flight schools who will deliver training under part 141 which will follow a rigid agenda and may be less flexible for your schedule.

You can check out the details in this Flying Magazine article.

I did my flight instruction at a part 61 school and the overall process looked something like this:

  • If you are flying for recreation / business purposes you must have at least a 3rd class medical.  You can get a 2nd or 1st class but the medical examination is more rigorous.  If you do want to eventually fly for the airlines or in some commercial capacity it is best to get your 1st class. I have a 3rd class medical. You can find a medical examiner using the FAA website.  A medical examination is around $100.  You don’t want to fail this, it’s a real pain if you do. If you have any health concerns do a little more research beforehand and see what you might need to have prepared to help this process go smoothly.
  • I did not do an organized ground school. I purchased a box of books that were recommended by the flight school and read through them all and asked my instructor questions here and there as necessary.  This also came with some helpful study guides and materials you’ll need to help you prepare for your written test. Books: $225.
  • Once you are comfortable with the written materials and consistently scoring well on practice exams your instructor can sign your logbook approving you to take your written exam. Written Exam: $130.
  • You have to do a minimum of 40 hours in the airplane before your instructor can consider approving you for your practical exam usually referred to as your checkride.  The amount of time it will take you to get ready is unknown, I think the national average is around 70.  However, if you fly 2 to 3 times a week you should be able to build your skills and knowledge up enough to finish in under 50 hours.  I had 46.2 hours when I took my checkride.
    • Instruction:$2,557
    • Plane Rental: $4,436.50
  • The practical exam consists  of a sit down portion where a designated FAA examiner asks you questions and reviews your knowledge on critical flight topics.  After you have completed the oral exam you then do your flight checkride. This consists of a handful of maneuvers, different landings and takeoffs and gives the examiner time to ensure you are not a risk to yourself or others. Checkride: $400
  • There will also be a handful of miscellaneous items you are going to want to get.  I purchased a physical copy of the operating handbook for the plane I was flying regularly. POH $25  If you don’t have a tablet you will probably want to purchase one and buy a subscription to ForeFlight $75/yr or Garmin Pilot.  These applications make navigation and flight planning significantly easier; I always have it with me.  I would also recommend buying your own headset, I didn’t purchase one until I was licensed but in hindsight I should have purchased one immediately. It’s nice to have your own.

The total costs involved for me to learn to fly and take my tests during the 6 month period between July 2013 and December 2013 was $7,948.50.  Pricing for instruction and plane rental will vary from place to place.  Overall I think Great Lakes Air Ventures is extremely competitive and they work really hard to get you finished in under 50 hours.  If you are planning to learn to fly in Michigan I would budget $10,000 to be safe.  It was certainly an investment but earning my pilots license was more gratifying than any of my technical certifications and even my college diploma.  It’s an amazing feeling when you pass your checkride and you have a license to fly the skies. A client of mine is an attorney and she earned her pilot’s license about 5 years ago. She said that she was more proud of earning her wings than passing the bar exam.  These things are certainly not equivalent in effort, but it just goes to show you how emotional some people are about their achievement.

If you have the time and the money to invest in the education I would strongly recommend it.

It will change you forever.

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First Multi-Engine Airplane Instruction

A month ago the Cessna 177RG I used to rent had an unfortunate incident and is now out of commission indefinitely.  The FBO I rent at has two trainers and a twin, but it’s hard to rent the trainers for a full weekend trip.  The twin however, is regularly available.  I’ve been working on my instrument rating but still have 25 hours cross country/pilot in command time to get in; I was thinking of taking a slight tangent and getting my multi-engine, then using that to finish up my XC/PIC time.  I don’t really want to fly just for the sake of building hours, I would much rather go places and actually do things so losing the Cessna 177 was tough.  Even if I don’t go through and finish my MEL at this time I figured there were worse ways to spend a few hours on a Saturday then flying around a Twin Comanche.  Here is my first 1.2 hours of instruction edited down to under 20 minutes.
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This is a 1965 Twin Comanche, N7693Y and available for training and rental from

You can jump forward in the video if you want to see anything specific.

  • Take-off: 1:50
  • Cloud-climb: 4:00
  • Steep-turns: 6:00
  • Emergency-Descent:15:00
  • Base-to-final-landing: 18:00

This was my first time in this plane so I didn’t have much time to find good camera mount points. I wore the GoPro head strap and used a tripod in the backseat.  I’m working on some ideas for some external mounting points, we’ll see how it goes.

At the airport there was also a beautiful Bonanza with TKS a Cessna 310 and a little Titan Tornado



Mackinac Island – Alison’s Birthday Weekend

August 15th – 17th Alison and I spent the weekend on Mackinac Island.

We left Charlotte at 3pm and were on the island around 5pm.  Normally this is a 4 hour drive, plus another hour or so parking, getting a ferry ticket and getting over to the island. Flying was definitely the way to go!

We stayed at the Metivier Bed & Breakfast on Market St. It was really nice and the breakfast was excellent.

After we hiked, biked, ate, and drank all weekend we headed to Traverse City to have dinner with Alison’s parents.

Traverse City airport was pretty busy Sunday afternoon. There were some helicopters coming in and out, 3 other small planes in the pattern and a couple of jets departing. We actually had to do one hold in the downwind to wait for some traffic to clear, which gave us a great view of the bay.

Alison’s mom and dad were waiting for us at Harbour Air Services. One of the attendants actually drove her dad out to watch us fly in and listen to ATC. After we landed they drove back and gave us the best ramp spot and topped our tanks off.

We ate at Red Mesa grill and then went back to the airport for our hour flight back to Charlotte airport. The sky was calm and quiet on our way home and we flew a little lower to see some sites. When we came in to the Lansing area there was an overcast layer, but we were still able to fly 2000 AGL and make it home before dark.


Dan Lash – First flight with Captain Doom

My friend Dan Lash and I went for a 90 minute flight over to Muskegon Michigan. I really like this flight because you get to move between 3 different approach frequencies so it is good radio practice. Plus, it’s a good distance to log cross country time and most importantly – Muskegon airport is right on Lake Michigan so the view is awesome.

15 Minute Video

The 15 minute video is edited down but is still 1x speed and has both a forward and rear facing GoPro view. You can hear our audio feed and us chattering with ATC.

6 Minute Video

This video was an experiment. I just put it together real quick to see how it would work. The speed is increased 350% and the video is still edited down. It just has the outside GoPro view and I put in an audio track that is not synced to the flight at all. Made sure to pick a very cliche song like “Aviation High.”



Dan Lash Flying

After a simple flight briefing on the controls I let Dan take it over for a few minutes. He’s a natural.