AOPA Indianapolis Fly-In Escapades

Me in a Corvalis

Last weekend, I flew with two of my students to the Indianapolis AOPA fly-in. It was the first large-scale fly-in that I have actually flown myself to.

My dad and I used to fly in to pancake breakfasts when I was little, but I don't really remember them well, and they were very small compared to these AOPA regional fly-ins.

But I knew, somewhat, what to expect. We were coming in from the east, and leaving Columbus, Ohio meant that navigation would be easy - turned out that the NOTAM said that incoming traffic from the east should arrive over Interstate 70 and follow it pretty much right to the downwind for runway 7, which happened to be the runway in use that day. It was also CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited) all day. Pretty much a perfect day for the fly-in to happen!

Aluminum Overcast

We flew out of Bolton Field (KTZR), one of the airports I instruct out of. Interstate 70 runs right through downtown Columbus, and you can pick it up upon departing Bolton almost immediately. So we did! We got flight following as soon as we had cleared Bolton's class D airspace, and climbed to 6,500 feet for our westbound trip to Indy Regional (KMQJ). I was a little on edge right from the start, knowing that we were flying in the morning of the fly-in, and that that would probably be the busiest time to arrive all day.

I told both of my students that I would need their eyes, and that traffic would be pretty heavy the closer we got to Indianapolis. I'm not sure they believed me at first... but by the time we got within a few miles of the airport they sure did! One sat in the back of the Cessna 172 we rented, and the other sat in the left seat, with me in the right. In the back, my student tapped me on the shoulder and raised the number of fingers of the planes she had in sight behind us in the "conga line" over I-70. I think she had up to four by the time we were entering downwind.

P-51 Mustang

KMQJ is a non-towered airport, so we were on our own from about 30 miles out when Columbus Approach said "Radar Contact terminated, squawk VFR." This was prior to reaching a rest area on I-70 just west of Richmond, IN. Which I thought was an interesting idea - I have a hard enough time not missing Rest Areas when I'm in the car and need to pee. Good luck identifying one from above when everyone else in the sky is also converging on the same spot at the same time - or so it felt like.

The CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) was pretty much lit up at all times from the time I switched over from Columbus Approach until we flipped the avionics master off for shutdown. I felt sorry for any other non-towered field that shared the frequency... they weren't getting a chance to say much that day. It was also hard to determine who was where any given time. I heard calls saying "I think I'm number 5 on final," and numerous "somebody on base cut off my final, going around" calls.

Organized chaos. Without as much organization as you would hope.

Nice and Shiny

The NOTAM called for anybody coming in from the east to turn right base upon reaching a "split" in I-70 about two miles from the approach end of runway 7. Which we did. And immediately upon doing so, saw a plan on final right in front of us. No problem - they'd be out of the way by the time we got to the extended centerline for final. We also noticed about 3 more planes ahead of that one. That's four (count 'em) planes on final within about 2 miles of the field. Busy.

But more importantly, we also saw at least three more planes BEHIND the one in front of us - "uhhh - I think I'm number 7 for the runway of the same number." Yikes. We couldn't find a gap to squeeze into, so I made a steep left turn and extended my downwind a little further, trying to communicate what I was doing at the same time.

Pilot Musicians Plane

We ultimately found a gap, made our turn, and ended up on final for 7. As we got closer, the S-Turns started. I had 10-degrees of flaps in, and started s-turning myself to make space, or at least not loase any space, between us and the plane in front of us - a low-wing something-or-other. Others behind us were s-turning as well, but we ultimately touched down behind the low-wing, who I thought was going to make the first turn-off (allowing me to land longer and give space to the plane behind me), but it didn't. It rolled right past, where, as I followed with my eyes, noticed there was at least one more plane on the runway in front of him. So by the time I touched down, there were three of us still on the active runway.

I know at Oshkosh they land three at a time on the same runway, but in my head I'm thinking "runway incursion." I'm also thinking - that guy behind me is probably close, too... and I had not added any more flaps - I was still at 10-degrees. So The lading was pretty good, until I decided I HAD TO MAKE THE FIRST TURNOFF and get off the runway ASAP - because of the guy in front of me who I thought should already be off, and also because someone was landing behind me and I wanted to clear the way.

BRAKES. SQUEAL. LEFT RUDDER. BACK ELEVATOR. TAXIWAY QUICKLY PASSING. And into the grass we went, right between to runway lights, JUST BARELY past the taxiway. Then slowly, embarassingly, taxiing back onto the taxiway, between two taxiway lights. Missed it by 10-15 feet at most. Never lost control of the aircraft at all, but definitely a bad judgement call to try to make that taxiway with everything else happening so quickly. But everything else happening so quickly was also WHY I made the call to try to make the first taxiway. A catch-22 if ever there was one.

Student in Corvalis

I take some solace in the fact that I was certainly not the only one to have a bit of an issue coming into the fly-in. I heard about a Cirrus landing nosewheel first and smoking the tire a good length of the runway, and somebody else locking up their mains with heavy braking upon touchdown. I actually saw someone level off on final and fly OVER the person landing in front of them, and then landing in front of them anyway instead of going around (WHAT!?!). Yeah - that happened. But this is a learning experience, right? That day, it was a learning experience even for the teacher - and I hope my students learned something, too. We talked about it even on the taxi to parking immediately after, and I knew before I even rolled into the grass that I should have braked straight ahead and let the folks behind me decide whether to land or go-around.

Heck - If I thought the plane in front of me was too close, *I* should have gone around. But hindsight is 20/20 - in the heat of the moment, it was get on the ground and get out of this mess of traffic up here. Alternatively, we could have gone to the alternate airport and taken the shuttle in to the fly-in. Which is what I HIGHLY suggest you do if you are flying in the morning of. I certainly will next time.

Student with plane

Other than a learning opportunity and some slightly bruised pride, the fly-in was a TON of fun. My students and I learned about unusual attitudes (code for aerobatics) and attended a session on communications with Air Traffic Control (ATC). We also got to see some incredible airplanes, meet some interesting people, and learn about some fantastic organizations. And we got to fly in. How cool is that?

Below are some more pictures from the day - me and my students, in and around airplanes. Just can't beat that.


Notice what the wingtips say:



Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio. This was his first (and hopefully last) excursion into the grass (other than at a soft field airport).

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Testing Tuesday: Transitioning from VFR to IFR on a Composite Flight Plan

VFR-IFR Transition

Last week's Testing Tuesday post was one of the questions on my Instrument Knowledge test that I had missed while I was studying for the exam. It was one that, this time around, I answered correctly (I always attempt to answer the question before I post it here). Here is one that I answered wrong before, and answered wrong AGAIN before deciding to post it on Smart Flight Training (how embarrassing!). But that's the point, right? Expand our knowledge together and admit our mistakes and missteps in the hope that other pilots will learn from us without having to make the same mistakes we did. After all, there are plenty of mistakes to go around!

On to today's question:

What is the recommended procedure for transitioning from VFR to IFR on a composite flight plan?

  1. Prior to transitioning to IFR, contact the nearest FSS, close the VFR portion, and request ATC clearance.
  2. Upon reaching the proposed point for change to IFR, contact the nearest FSS and cancel your VFR flight plan, then contact ARTCC and request an IFR clearance.
  3. Prior to reaching the point for change to IFR, contact ARTCC, request your IFR clearance, and instruct them to cancel the VFR flight plan.

Click here to display the answer...

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio.

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Testing Tuesday: Class C Airspace Requirements

FAA Airspace

It's Tuesday again, and that means another installment of Testing Tuesday at Smart Flight Training!

I hope these question and answer sessions are helpful for you, but I'll be honest: I'm doing these for myself, too. I needed to continue to work on my CFII (Certificated Flight Instructor - Instrument) knowledge, and this seems as good a place as any to make sure my knowledge is strong as I move closer to that goal that, I'll admit, I've already missed the deadline I set for myself.

With that said, let's get on to today's question:

What minimum aircraft equipment is required for operation within class C airspace?

  1. Two way communications and Mode C transponder
  2. Two way communications
  3. Transponder and DME

Click here to display the answer...

Well, hopefully this Testing Tuesday post was helpful. This was a question I myself missed when I was originally studying for my Instrument Rating knowledge test, so it was good to review this and make sure I don't miss it again and can teach it to my future instrument students accurately and well.

Please let us know what you think about our Testing Tuesdays, and let us know if you have a question you would like answered - maybe something you missed on your own knowledge tests along the way, or something you were asked during the oral portion of a checkride. Let's make this more social, more interactive, more interesting! Try to stump me, try to stump the rest of my readers! You shouldn't have much trouble stumping me, but my readers are smart, so that will not be an easy task!

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, OH.

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Testing Tuesday: Weather – Lenticular Clouds

Welcome again to #TestingTuesday! Learn to fly smarter by being prepared for your lesson - your instructor (and your wallet) will thank you!

The presence of standing lenticular altocumulus clouds is a good indication of

  1. a jetstream.
  2. very strong turbulence.
  3. heavy icing conditions.

Click here to display the answer...

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, OH. He makes seven figures but the first two are zero.

ABOUT TESTING TUESDAY: Each Tuesday, Smart Flight Training will post a sample question that a pilot should expect to see on an FAA Knowledge Test or hear during the oral portion of a checkride. A little known secret to saving money and time during your flight training is PREPARATION! Hopefully Testing Tuesday posts will be one small step in helping you live up to your side of learning to fly by being prepared when you meet with your flight instructor, saving you money and time! Good luck on the below question – click the link at the bottom to see the answer and explanation!

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12 Aviation Resolutions – A Blogging in Formation Post

This is installment nine of the Blogging in Formation Series, a monthly series where six big-time aviation bloggers put their heads (and blogs) together and post about the same topic, each in their own special way.


Ah, New Year's.

The time of year to suffer all the prediction posts about what will happen in the upcoming year. If you have been a follower of the Blogging in Formation series for any length of time, you are aware of my disdain for predictions.

So I'm not going to do one.

What I will do is suggest how you might choose your resolution(s) for 2014 - at least as they relate to aviation.

But first, let me give you my aviation resolutions for 2014:

  1. Complete my CFII (by March?)
  2. Blog more regularly (if it weren't for Blogging in Formation, I wouldn't have blogged at all the past few months)
  3. Podcast more consistently

Now they are out there and public! That should be even more motivation for me to follow through on all of them in 2014.

But what about you?

If you are reading this post and following the Blogging in Formation series, you are either a pilot or you would like to be a pilot!

With that in mind, I'd like to suggest 12 aviation resolutions - 1 for each month of the year of 2014.  You certainly don't have to do all of these, but what a fun challenge that might be - to do one of these suggested resolutions each month in 2014 (just print this post and use it as a checklist - you're familiar with checklists, yes?)!  Or simply choose one of these if you are having trouble deciding on your own aviation resolution for 2014:

    • If you are not a pilot yet - START YOUR TRAINING!Go out to your closest airport and talk to an instructor about starting (or finishing) your flight training. Set a goal to get through solo, or to complete a Sport Pilot Certificate, or Recreational Pilot Certificate, or even go all the way through the Private Pilot Certificate!

      If you are already a pilot - GET A NEW RATING!

      Start working on that instrument rating, or a Seaplane Rating, or Multi-Engine, or Glider, or Rotorcraft - you get the idea!

    • Simply set more time aside to fly!Do your best to at least stay current. Get your Flight Review done if you need to, and go get an instructor and practice landings at least once every ninety days! Don't fool yourself into thinking that this makes you proficient, but also take pride in being able to call yourself a "current pilot" - even if that is all you can manage!


    • The $100 Hamburger FlightThese days it might be a $250 hamburger, but the idea still stands. This resolution is one you could do twelve times throughout the year and still meet the spirit of the post. It might even help you meet resolution 2 if you do it consistently!


    • Fly a Different TypeIt's quite possible that you flew one type of airplane while getting your certificate - most likely a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Go out and fly a new kind of plane! If all your training was in a high-wing, go out with an instructor (or another pilot who is familiar with the plane) in a low-wing. Or a glider. Or a helicopter. Or a high-performance/complex something. Get creative! Have fun!


  • Take someone on their first flightThere is nothing quite like taking someone on their first airplane ride - whether they love it or they vomit on final approach (both of these have happened to me on intro flights) it is an experience that you both will remember! Imagine the impact we could have in getting people interested in aviation if every pilot took up one new-to-flying person per year!


    • Shoot an instrument approachEven if you don't have an instrument rating, and even if you never plan on getting one, get with an instructor or another current and proficient instrument pilot and go shoot an approach. Breaking out of the grey and haze of the clouds and seeing an airport in front of you is nothing short of magic, and every pilot should experience this from the cockpit at least once in their career, even if the career is a hobby!


  • Give Back
    Join the Civil Air Patrol and fly as a mission pilot on search and rescue missions. Volunteer as a pilot for Air Care Alliance and fly medical patients to badly needed treatments. Or save animals from being euthanized by volunteering for Pilots-N-Paws and flying animals to no-kill shelters or to their new homes. Or choose from many of the other aviation charities out there!
  • Fly in to a Fly-In Breakfast (or lunch or dinner or Saturday at Sporty's for a free Hot Dog)
    Check out Social Flight or Google "Fly-Ins in [your area]" to find an airport that has this kind of activity scheduled and go! This is a great way to use your certificate for something other than flying the pattern or flying circles around your (or your friend's) house.
  • Fly to an unfamiliar airport
    This one can be combined with several of the others, but keeping yourself sharp by planning a flight, navigating to a new place, and finding that new airport that you have never been to before is not only valuable and ego-boosting - it's fun!
  • Take an actual vacation by airplane
    For all the talk of the utility of the airplane, I don't actually know very many people who have taken a plane to go on vacation once they have their pilots license and the ability to do so. So go take a long weekend with the family and fly somewhere you would not be able to go by car - whether that is simply a farther distance or a place that is difficult to get to by car, but not so difficult by airplane (I'm thinking backcountry out West)!
  • Fly into / out of a grass strip
    For some, this may be how they fly every time they go up, but for many pilots doing a soft-field takeoff or landing is a maneuver they have to demonstrate to get their certificate, but they will only ever do it from a concrete strip. Go out and do it for real - with an instructor or an experienced pilot who is familiar with turf operations, of course!
  • Aerobatics or Upset Recovery Training
    Take an aerobatic lesson or several. Complete an Upset Recovery Training course. Or just get an instructor and do some spin training! Any of these things will increase your comfort with the plane, will increase your skills and confidence as a pilot, and will make you safer. Not to mention they are a whole ton of fun!


So there you are! Take any or all of these suggested aviation resolutions and make a commitment to do them in 2014!

And let me add 1 more - read the other Blogging in Formation posts this month! We are trying out a new format: two bloggers a day, completing the series in three days instead of six. So go read Karlene's post today too! Here's this month's schedule:

Jan. 1: Smart Flight Training - Andrew Hartley & Flight to Success - Karlene Petitt
Jan. 2: House of Rapp - Ron Rap & Adventures of Cap’n Aux - Eric Auxier
Jan. 3: iFlyBlog - Brent Owens & Mark L. Berry

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio. He hopes his new year's resolution to only say nice things about people isn't misinterpreted as a vow of silence.

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