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Reflections On 2011

Wow. 2011. What a year.  Going into it I had some expectations.  I’m not one to have too many expectations as I’m always surprised what a year brings, but 2011 I went into with one — to get back into flying.  And I did.  It took a little more time than I thought.  I think it was about 8 weeks for me to get things lined up and get my third class medical (with restrictions for colorblindness that I didn’t have previously).  Then there were a few more weeks as I went through re-familiarization and a flight review (and getting checked out in plane models I hadn’t flown previously).  I don’t have my exact hour tally here, but I flew close to 50 hours this year and it’s been amazing to be back at it again.  The Cessna 162 I put a lot of that time in even has a glass cockpit.

Technology like that has really changed aviation.  My first experience with using a GPS for flight navigation was last year in a G1000 equipped Cessna 182.  I was amazed.  It was like I was on the Enterprise.  Well, in getting back to flying this year, the two planes I’ve been flying (a Cessna 172S and a Cessna 162) both have GPS.  To top it off (and for when I’m in something else eventually) I got my iPad setup with ForeFlight for geo-referenced electronic sectionals and AFD.  Honestly, I like that setup better than the built-ins on the planes.  I remember cross-countries used to be nerve racking for me as I was sure I’d get off course and mistake landmarks resulting in me getting lost.  No more.  Now it doesn’t take nearly as much concentration and leaves more attention for the flying and scanning for traffic tasks.  One more nice bit of cockpit convenience is my Bose A20 headset.  Past experience had left me weary of noise canceling technology, but enough positive reviews led me to bite the bullet and give them a shot.  I can happily say that they work amazingly well.  Noise fatigue is nothing to mess with and I’d like to keep my hearing, so I consider this a great investment.

One last bit of technology has changed my flying and non-flying life — lasers; specifically LASIK.  I’ve thought about it for years, but finally went for it.  I’m still recovering, so I won’t be flying for at least another couple months, but if everything stabilizes correctly I’ll be able to get around without my glasses.  It sounds innocuous enough, but without my glasses I was totally blind.  If something ever happened to them while flying there would be no possible recovery as I wouldn’t even be able to see the instruments.  Hopefully, I’ll be back in the air this spring.

Being out at the airport I’ve had the chance to see, hear, and feel some beautiful old warbirds and it sparked a desire to get some experience with them.  I decided to make it a goal to fly in as many old aircraft as I can before they’re gone.  I’m not limiting myself to warbirds, but that’s the typical implication.  So, I had some success with this too.  I got 0.7 hours dual in a Boeing Stearman.  That was amazing.  We did basic familiarization maneuvers and a whole series of different stalls (some of which I had never done before).  I’m hoping to get some more time in it.  It gives me the desire to go get my conventional gear and high performance endorsements.  I also got rides in a couple of WWII bombers that came through the area.  First was a Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Fifi”.  That experience really deserves it’s own post.  It was incredible, though.  Then at the end of the year, EAA’s Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Aluminum Overcast” came through the area offering rides.  That was another experience deserving of its own post.  Most striking was just how much the technology developed and changed in the relatively short time between the development of the two bombers.  I’m looking forward to what 2012 might bring on this front.

One more cool thing to add to my aviation high points for the year — flying under the Golden Gate Bridge.  Yes, we really did it.  I have the photos and video to prove it.  I didn’t think it would be possible, but during a helicopter tour of San Francisco the pilot offered and we hardily took her up on it.  It was incredible.  Definitely a high point.

We’ve done a bit of other travelling as well.  I attended a conference in San Jose and stayed for the weekend to do some sight-seeing in northern California (I’d never been before).  Shinta flew out too and we even met up with some old friends.  We crammed a lot in, but it was a good trip.  Because we were “close”, we had to go see the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.  This is another one of our “things” now.  We try to see big aquariums.  The other “things” are Segway tours, helicopter tours, and fancy food.  So, on this particular trip we also went to see the giant trees, famous San Francisco landmarks, and Pebble Beach.  Neat, but short trip.

We drove out to Atlanta for Independence Day weekend (returning before the actual day).  That was a whirlwind.  We went to the famous Georgia Aquarium (which was completely awesome), the World of Coke, and got a tour of CNN Center.  We also worked in a Segway tour which led to a dinner at Ted Turner’s Bison steakhouse (very tasty).  Who knew he owned the most bison in the country.  Neat city and we’ll have to visit some more to explore.

We made a trip out to New York City this year too.  We went up to see the sights and hang out with friends.  I absolutely had to have lost some weight with all the walking we did.  I had some good shoes and my feet hurt daily.  We walked all over Manhattan (at least it felt like it, and I have the GPS tracks to prove it).  We also saw a couple of Broadway shows (Spider-Man and Chinglish), ate some awesome food, and saw the sights.  Amazing city.  It’s incredible just how much there is there.

So 2011 was a great year.  I wonder what 2012 will bring.

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