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2009/06/24 Flight Out Group Trip To Yellowstone, Glacier Park and Portland / Evergreen Museum
π 2009-06-24 01:01 in Flying, Trips

Flight Out Group trip to Yellowstone, Glacier Park and Portland

One of the CFIs at our flight club, Dan Dyer, organizes occasional flights and small trips and this time it was at trip to Yellowstone and Glacier Park (with a stop around Portland on the way back to cut the trip up a little bit). It's a nice little treck, about 2000 miles/3300 km total, see the map at runwayfinder.

Here's the complete track of our trip, including the park visits and scenic flights:


Flight to West Yellowstone

Initially I had planned to do the flight by myself with Jennifer, but when prompted taking an experienced CFI along would be a good oportunity to fly lower in Canyons and learn a few things that I just wouldn't have done by myself where I just keep a bigger safety envelope due to limited experience closer to the peaks. This made it a good learning trip in addition to it being a great sightseeing trip.

We left a little bit later than the rest of the group so that I could have a chance to get enough sleep not to be useless as a pilot, although that still meant a before 06:00 wakeup, but we made up for the time with a non stop flight thanks to the 182's good payload capacity and full fuel takeoff with our limited weighs.

Trip Planning before departure
Trip Planning before departure


Jason Miller, keeping me out of trouble and teaching me new things
Jason Miller, keeping me out of trouble and teaching me new things


Runways there are simple, you just spray paint white corners on the ground :)
Runways there are simple, you just spray paint white corners on the ground :)


ILS approach to yellowstone with Voyager
ILS approach to yellowstone with Voyager

KWYS, West Yellowstone
KWYS, West Yellowstone


The flight to Yellowstone was nice and uneventful, even if it was a bit long. However, the weather wasn't ideal when we arrived, so we couldn't go overfly Yellowstone due to clouds and fairly high windws.


Yellowstone Park

As soon as we landed in Yellowstone, we got our rental car and went to the park to get a chance to see as much of it as possible before the day would be over. Jennifer had done a lot of research on the park and knew what to see in the time we had.





Old Faithful
Old Faithful




Yellowstone Day 2: Mountain Flying and tour of the Park

Most of us went mountain flying the next morning. While had already gotten 2 mountain checkouts, I figured getting some more practise couldn't hurt. We flew in some canyons, did some practise short radius turns, got pushed around by the wind and turbulence a fair amount before we headed for a Yellowstone overflight.

Jason and Scott in their trusty 172SP
Jason and Scott in their trusty 172SP

Ok, that wasn't part of our group :)
Ok, that wasn't part of our group :)


Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring

The old faithful settlement
The old faithful settlement

Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs

Practise low radius Canyon turns
Practise low radius Canyon turns

After a nice overflight of yellowstone, we went back to the ground and drove to the park to tour it the other way. Unfortunately, they had a stupid roadblock that only opened for 5mn every hour. We got there a couple minutes late and had to wait 30mn. Then, I made the critical mistake of letting the cars go so that we wouldn't get stuck in a long line of cars, but this turned out to be a mistake as they closed the road as soon as the continuous flow of cars stopped, just in front of us, and we got stuck another 30mn.
Oh well, we eventually got through and were able to do the loop the other way while stopping at all the relevant locations. We even ended up having just enough time to finish the loop the other way and get back to our hotel.






The 'Yellowstone Grand Canyon'
The 'Yellowstone Grand Canyon'





A lot of bisons in the park
A lot of bisons in the park

but they sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road :)
but they sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road :)

bridge to south entrance
bridge to south entrance



Day 3: Glacier National Park

The next morning, we tried to take off early to beat some brewing bad weather, lowering ceilings and incoming thunderstorms, and we did manage to get off on time towards better weather in Glacier National Park, which we reached by 11:00, in time for doing a nice visit of the park.

a little brewing bad weather
a little brewing bad weather

but we thankfully got out of it before it got bad
but we thankfully got out of it before it got bad


After a nice picnic by Lake McDonald, we went up to Logan Pass. By sheer luck, the Going to the Sun road had just opened a day earlier, and gave us a chance to reach the peak, along with some other people who had brought their skis and snowboards to ride the little bit of snow left at the top :)


Glacier Park's Lake McDonald
Glacier Park's Lake McDonald

the long road up that had just opened
the long road up that had just opened

weeping wall
weeping wall

the first patch of snow left (more higher up)
the first patch of snow left (more higher up)


those two were cute
those two were cute

People got excited to ski/board a few feet of glacier :)
People got excited to ski/board a few feet of glacier :)

It wasn't that much, really :)
It wasn't that much, really :)



Virginia Falls by Mary's Lake
Virginia Falls by Mary's Lake

We had enough time to reach the other side of the mountain range, and do some hiking by Mary's lake to Mary's and Virginia Falls, and then did the long drive back to our hotel.


Day 4: Glacier Park Overfly and Spruce Goose at the Air and Space Museum in Mc Minnville by Portland

The next morning we did an overfly of Glacier Park and headed for south of Portland to see Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose at the Air and Space Museum.
Flying Glacier Park at peak's height was impressive, even in nice weather and low winds.


KGPI / Glacier Park
KGPI / Glacier Park

KGPI
KGPI

Nice Little Runway
Nice Little Runway

Logan Pass
Logan Pass


that's lower than I would fly :)
that's lower than I would fly :)


We then went south to fly Clearwater Canyon for a while, and took a more direct route to Portland.

Clearwater River Canyon
Clearwater River Canyon

Those are not the missile silos you are looking for :)
Those are not the missile silos you are looking for :)

Crossing traffic
Crossing traffic


The Minnville Air and Space Museum was actually better than what we were hoping for. Quite a collection of planes, and of course the one and only monster wooden plane.



the Spruce Goose
the Spruce Goose

Damn, those aren't flaps, those are barn doors :)
Damn, those aren't flaps, those are barn doors :)

With this you can become #1 on final if you were #5 :)
With this you can become #1 on final if you were #5 :)

The Spruce Goose's rudder is bigger than most planes' wings
The Spruce Goose's rudder is bigger than most planes' wings

SR-71
SR-71


We then still had enough time to fly back to Palo Alto, as we didn't have much to do in Portland that we could think of, and were happy with the prospect of a nice night at home. Mt Sashta was on the way, so we flew right by it on the way down.



Mt Sashta
Mt Sashta

its ski slopes are in the wrong place though :(
its ski slopes are in the wrong place though :(

home, sweet home :)
home, sweet home :)

While it was a bit short and packed compared to what there was to see and do, it was a great trip. Too bad we didn't have more time to hang out and socialize as a result.
Thanks to the people who helped organize it.

You can see pictures about:

  • Palo Alto to Yellowstone
  • Yellowstone Day 1
  • Overflight of Yellowstone
  • Yellowstone Day 2
  • Flight from Yellowstone to Glacier Park
  • Visit of Glacier Park
  • Overflight of Glacier Park
  • Flight from Glacier Park to Evergreen Museum
  • Visit of Evergreen Air and Space Museum/Spruce Goose
  • Flight back to Palo Alto
  • 2009/06/22 Taking Videos from my Minimag RC Plane
    π 2009-06-22 01:01 in Rc
    So, first I made sure that my plane would be able to carry the extra weight imposed by the camera and be able to fly despite the possible change in CG and in the case of my camera, the added drag (it's likely you'll have to significantly retrim. It's specifically important that the plane flies as straight as possible without any input, both to get nicer videos, but also to predict where your plane is going to fly when it is too small to tell which way it's pointing or flying (more on that later).

    Next, I used a long range Spektrum DX7 transmitter with dual channel and dual receiver AR7000 (giving 4 antennas and chances to receive the signal). This isn't park flying anymore, at those distances you want guaranteed control of the plane, it would suck that you can't make it turn back and come back to you. While my plane is reasonably slow speed and all foam and very unlikely to cause any personal harm or property damage due to the low kinetic energy, but you just don't want to take the chance.

    Camera angle: obviously, it's important :) In my case I tried a few placements (see previous blog post)

    Sometimes video looks like it was shot by a drunk person, but that's really because the video wasn't shot per se, I tried to fly the plane over the target the best I could from a fair distance.
    The problems were twofold: first from a distance, it's hard to tell whether you're anywhere above your target, not not. Then, from a greater distance with a smallish plane, it quickly gets hard to know which way your plane is pointing. I even lost it in the sky a couple of times at Rancho when I was pushing distances.
    First, I always made sure to have a full battery to start with, and a flight timed to only be half my battery capacity due to how I have to push the motor a lot more to sustain the extra weight, and also keep plenty of altitude so that I could make errors or have a chance to glide somewhere somewhat useful should I lose power (I hadn't quite planned for losing the prop like in the first Google/Shoreline video, but that one worked out quite well :)

    Then, when I start to lose the plane and can't even tell which way it's pointing, I do gentle turns to raise a wing, making the plane more visible and the turn then shows me which wing is raised and which way the nose is pointing :)
    (needless to say that this is somewhat pushing it a little bit, this may not work for you and you may just lose your plane into the horizon ;)

    Now, given all this, it'll make more sense when I explain that given those conditions, and non live video (recorded onto SD and downloaded after landing), it is very hard to film something on purpose, so don't be too critical if you think videos were shot badly: that's because they mostly weren't shot :)

    Now that this all out of the way, here are the videos and a few frames I hand picked:
    First, flights around the Rancho San Antonio park:


    Two of my better and more daring flights around Rancho San Antonio, shows 280, nearby neighborhoods and hiking trails.



    Then, flights around Google and the Shoreline Amphitheatre:


    First test flight of Google and Shoreline Amphitheatre with prop that flies off:


    Better flights of google and Shoreline Amphitheatre (especially 2nd video):
    200+rancho_skypict 201+rancho_skypict 202+rancho_skypict 205+rancho_skypict 207+rancho_skypict 208+rancho_skypict 209+rancho_skypict 210+rancho_skypict 211+rancho_skypict 212+rancho_skypict 213+rancho_skypict 214+rancho_skypict 215+rancho_skypict 216+rancho_skypict 217+rancho_skypict 218+rancho_skypict 219+rancho_skypict 220+rancho_skypict 221+rancho_skypict 300+google_amphitheatre_skypict 301+google_amphitheatre_skypict 302+google_amphitheatre_skypict 303+google_amphitheatre_skypict 304+google_amphitheatre_skypict 305+google_amphitheatre_skypict 306+google_amphitheatre_skypict 307+google_amphitheatre_skypict 308+google_amphitheatre_skypict 309+google_amphitheatre_skypict 310+google_amphitheatre_skypict 311+google_amphitheatre_skypict 312+google_amphitheatre_skypict 313+google_amphitheatre_skypict 314+google_amphitheatre_skypict 315+google_amphitheatre_skypict 316+google_amphitheatre_skypict 317+google_amphitheatre_skypict 318+google_amphitheatre_skypict 319+google_amphitheatre_skypict 320+google_amphitheatre_skypict 321+google_amphitheatre_skypict 322+google_amphitheatre_skypict 323+google_amphitheatre_skypict 324+google_amphitheatre_skypict 325+google_amphitheatre_skypict 326+google_amphitheatre_skypict 327+google_amphitheatre_skypict 328+google_amphitheatre_skypict 329+google_amphitheatre_skypict 330+google_amphitheatre_skypict 331+google_amphitheatre_skypict 333+google_amphitheatre_skypict 334+google_amphitheatre_skypict 335+google_amphitheatre_skypict 336+google_amphitheatre_skypict 337+google_amphitheatre_skypict 338+google_amphitheatre_skypict 339+google_amphitheatre_skypict 340+google_amphitheatre_skypict 341+google_amphitheatre_skypict
    2009/06/17 Fucking Insurance Companies And Regulators
    π 2009-06-17 01:01 in Public
    So, I got 2 slightly bent rims on my car due to having had to drive over some bad potholes, one was on a 270 degree turn single lane onramp, where I had nowhere to go.
    When I called the insurance company for a comprehensive claim, it first sounded like they'd cover it minus the $1000 deductible, and then just told me that it would actually be a collision claim, because I "collided with the pothole on the road". One hour later of trying to go through that bullshit and talking to a supervisor, I got nowhere further. Having to drive over an unavoidable pothole is considered a "collision" for which you are fully responsible, which means a collision point on your record and increased rates.

    This just pissed me off, they actually said it was mandated by california, they had no say or leeway in it, and that the state I'm paying tax to, to make sure roads are in driveable condition then leaves huge potholes in some of them, causing damage to my rims due to low profile tires and lightweight aluminum rims, and then they mandate that such claims must be the driver's fault.
    The other thing is that a point is a point, whether you rolled a $200,000 car, hit 3 more, one of them drove off a cliff and another one caught fire, whether you slightly damaged someone's bumper in a parking lot and the damage is $800, or whether you "collided with a pothole on the road".

    Grr...

    For now I told them to stuff it and I'll pay for the damage myself, but that's just wrong.

    2009/06/16 Taking Videos from RC planes at Rancho San Antonio
    π 2009-06-16 01:01 in Rc
    One of my coworkers had thrown around the idea of attaching an Android G1 phone to an RC plane and taking a movie and GPS track. I found the idea amuzing and knew my Multiplex Minimag had enough power despite its short size, for the added weight (in RC scale, the G1 is a heavy brick :) ).
    I'll skip my first flight a few days earlier where I used packing tape to attach the phone, and packing tape didn't hold at all, with the end result of the phone falling off soon after takingoff and falling from 10-15ft up to the packed dirt. Micarulously, the phone actually survived.

    Anyway, I came back a few days later with another phone (an already damaged one just in case), and got a reasonable GPS track and so so video (video from the top of the plane pointing down isn't actually so great).

    very professional attachment
    very professional attachment

    looks pretty streamlined, except for adding a *lot* of weight :)
    looks pretty streamlined, except for adding a *lot* of weight :)


    seemed lke the natural place to put the GoPro camera, but it picked up the prop
    seemed lke the natural place to put the GoPro camera, but it picked up the prop


    this was actually a better place thanks to the extra clearance I got from the big wheels
    this was actually a better place thanks to the extra clearance I got from the big wheels

    First two flights recorded from the Android G1:

    gps track of flight #1 and gps track of flight #2



    Flights recorded from the GoPro camera, pointing forward (above and under the nose):

    (Yes, the lines on the first video are due to partial every X line recording from the camera capturing pieces of the prop, doesn't look so good...)

    Flights recorded from the GoPro camera, pointing down and back:

    The camera pointing forward and down actually doesn't look that good, I angled it too much. The camera pointing back gives a nicer few, all the way up to where I crashed when the battery crapped out and the plane went out of view (below the ridgeline), so I wasn't able to glide it to a safe landing :(

    2009/06/14 More Rancho San Antonio Flying
    π 2009-06-14 01:01 in Rc
    I recently found out that not so many people come flying on weekends, especially the afternoon when I typically show up, both because the winds are higher, and because there are too many tourists who get in the way and/or stand on the "runway" :)
    But I didn't know that people show up in the morning on weekdays and come flying every day while others are going to work :)

    Some people bring nice planes
    Some people bring nice planes

    A gyro plane
    A gyro plane

    Ok, some have better collections than me :)
    Ok, some have better collections than me :)

    this one is quite nice
    this one is quite nice


    See more images for More Rancho San Antonio Flying
    2009/06/14 Bought and Built Multiplex ParkMaster 3D RC Plane
    π 2009-06-14 00:00 in Rc
    Daniel tricked me into getting a new RC plane, well, at least that's my story :)
    Building was not too bad, the control surfaces are huge, and the overall build was well designed and worked well.

    I felt a bit weird that the wing of a high G 3D plane come in 2 pieces
    I felt a bit weird that the wing of a high G 3D plane come in 2 pieces

    but a good gluing surface and carbon spar for strength helped
    but a good gluing surface and carbon spar for strength helped

    I thought the parkmaster was small, it's actually bigger than my minimag
    I thought the parkmaster was small, it's actually bigger than my minimag

    maiden flight
    maiden flight

    Unfortunately, on my first video'ed flight, in high wind, I found out my DX7 just wasn't programmed properly for the plane: in dual rate mode, a stick throw gave so much deflection and authority that the plane turned all the way left, and then right, and then crashed :)

    maiden flight video
    maiden flight video

    This was later quickly fixed by putting my exponential rates to 80% so that I don't get so much deflection on partial stick throws. In a later flight in calmer winds I actually did much better, including a little bit of harrier and knife edge.
    2009/06/12 Flight to Norcal TRACON
    π 2009-06-12 01:01 in Flying
    A few pilots from my flight club went to Norcal TRACON to visit the radar facility and see the air controllers who work there. Unfortunately, I have 0 pictures from there as it is a fairly secured facility and all pictures are forbidden, but it was a nice, albeit short visit (we only got 10-15mn minutes to sit with controllers, which was the most interesting part, but I suppose we're kind of a distraction for them, no matter how incredibly good they are at multitasking).

    The other remarkable portion of that flight was that I went in a Mooney Acclaim (fastest piston plane on the market).

    The for hire Moffett Blimp advertising the UP movie
    The for hire Moffett Blimp advertising the UP movie





    See more images for Flight to Norcal TRACON
    2009/06/11 Google Volunteering at RAFT: Resource Area For Teaching
    π 2009-06-11 01:01 in Google
    For our group offsite, our team went to volunteer at RAFT. They basically receive donations of random materials from local companies and reuse them to create school supplies and simple science experiments that school teachers can use.



    Most of the time I spent there was used to empty moving boxes filled with pens, pencils, permanent markers, dry markers, post-its, paper clips, push pins, staples, and more. It was "fun" to sort them down to the last paper clip :)


    Then, came mouse untangling and cleaning, and our time was over.


    2009/06/10 Switched To Comcast Business
    π 2009-06-10 01:01 in Public
    Ok, those of you who know me, you're going to ask who is writing this, and what I did with the real Marc :)
    So yes, I switched from our dual DSL setup (12Mbit/s down / 1.5Mbit/s up) to comcast business internet for their 25Mbit / 5Mbit offer.

    Now, because I had close to zero trust in comcast, I looked at their customer agreement, and got it amended where it was unclear and changed a few things I didn't like. In the end, this is what I got in the contract I signed:

  • comcast business is mostly a different company
  • I'll never have to call the dreaded 800-comcast number ever
  • $95/month for 25Mbit/s down 5Mbit/s up (real sustained, and 50Mbit/s |
  • 10Mbit/s with powerboost) and I can drop my second phone line that I otherwise don't need (another $20/month savings)
  • No bandwidth cap
  • Got the install fees waived
  • Waived early termination fee
  • First month free was offered
  • Now, my SLA actually says I'm getting 22Mbit / 5Mbit (without powerboost), but I seem to be getting a bit more right now (of real sustained speed after protocol overheads).

    The downsides:

  • latency is now 100ms instead of 10ms, although I can live with that
  • even if it's comcast business, I have slightly lower trust in them, but we'll see.
  • Now, you have to be careful with speed tests and general speeds from comcast due to speedboost that temporarily gives you fake speeds.


    Here are real speeds that I measured with sustained TCP speeds over an ssh connection:

  • download: 3.2MB/s | 25Mbit/s
  • upload: 640KB/s | 5Mbit/s
  • 2009/06/04 Skip Barber 3 Day Racing School at Laguna Seca
    π 2009-06-04 01:01 in Cars


    One thing about LS, is that it's a pretty track
    One thing about LS, is that it's a pretty track




    the favourite corkscrew
    the favourite corkscrew


    After goofing around a few times too many on the track and hitting kind of a plateau, I figured it was about time for me to get some proper track training, so I signed up for the skip barber formula 2000 3 day class (there was the option of doing to do the same with miatas, likely for those interested in spec miata racing, but I was more interested in trying formula cars).

    the formula ford 2000 car
    the formula ford 2000 car



    you can see my camera on the 47 number
    you can see my camera on the 47 number

    The tradeoff with that is that it takes a little while to get the hang of the formula cars. The sequential shifting is actually pretty cool, although the heel and toe for downshifting was harder for me with my wide feet (my foot would often push on the gas while braking, which caused me a few issues).

    with wide feet, it can be hard not to push brake and gas at the same time
    with wide feet, it can be hard not to push brake and gas at the same time


    The good news is that outside of going straight off track in 11 due to not braking enough (click for vid) as I mis-pushed the gas with the brakes, filling the car with pebbles in the process :), I actually stayed on track the entire time: I never spun out or otherwise went off track due to trying to get in too hot (the only spinout was a self induced one on the AutoX pad as we were encouraged to push the cars and go a bit past their limits to see where said limits were).

    one of the mechanics vacuuming the pebbles I put in the car :)
    one of the mechanics vacuuming the pebbles I put in the car :)

    Many other folks did get greedy and spun out though :)

    That's a little bit too sideways :)
    That's a little bit too sideways :)

    another customer :)
    another customer :)

    The Skip Barber curriculum was good. They went through the car's basics, from braking to heel and toe (which is really left side of the foot/right side of the foot) shifting, threshold braking, lane toss exercises (for passing), passing theory (although that one would take a lot of practise to exercise), and in the last 2 sessions we got to put it all together: race start, passing, threshold braking for laptimes, and of course heel and toe for each downshifting turn.

    side by side race start practise
    side by side race start practise

    Threshold braking exercise
    Threshold braking exercise

    The last session was a great way to finish the day with a little bit of (good) excitement for me: I passed 4 cars, including one that spun out right in front of me and getting very close to 2 bumpers. You can see the video of the last lap of the last session

    Now, in a real race situation where drivers defend their spot, I probably wouldn't have been able to pass more than 1 or 2 cars, but eh, I'll still celebrate the minor achievement with my arguably still meager lap times of 1:50 (vs 1:38 when done by a professional). Speeds were 100mph tops, much less than what I do at thunderhill, but 100mph is actually plenty fast when you're on a rollcage with wheels with your butt inches from the ground :)

    Either way, it was a crapload of fun :) I wasn't the best one in the group, but probably ranked 3rd or 4th, which provided a nice mix of little victories and humility :)

    You can see some of the videos I took below (click the more info tab for each video to get offsets to juicy bits where relevant)

  • Instructor giving us a tour of the track balls out in an airport van :)
  • Lap taken at wheel level
  • Session taken from above my head, with track out in pebbles
  • 2nd to last session on 3rd day, with practise starts
  • last session of the 3rd day, where I passed 4 cars and one spun out
  • The only downside, was that I felt I had just learned enough in 3 days to apply my skills and hone them on a 4th day, but there was no such 4th day. They are however happy to sell you another advanced class for 2 more days :)


    During the 3 days, I got to see Jennifer on day #2 when we came for a car control class, and also found out that the track staff had had the same idea than me: that the track was a fine place to fly RC planes :)

    Jennifer also came one day for a car control class
    Jennifer also came one day for a car control class

    I wasn't the only person who thought that a track was a perfect place to fly RC planes :)
    I wasn't the only person who thought that a track was a perfect place to fly RC planes :)


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