Saturday, February 17, 2018

Decision Making

The Florida State Fair 2018
I made arrangements with the prospective student to do a Go/No Go weather check at 8:00am. I got up early to check the METARS and weather summaries for our proposed 10:00am flight. It was dense fog but forecast to clear to light scattered by the time we took off. I sent him an email that we were "Go". I walked out of the house and could hardly see across the street.  I wasn't sure if I made a good decision.

I arrived at the airport before 9:00am. Still dense fog, but I could hear an airplane engine. Moments later I heard the take off on RWY23 but never saw him. I remembered the tragic crash at the Bartow airport Christmas Eve. Similar conditions, fog so dense you couldn't see more than a few yards in front of you. I wonder if this pilot knew the risk he was taking. He made a very bad decision.

My student arrived on time. I apologized for not canceling but he was happy to be at the airport around planes. We went to the pilot's lounge and talked about goals. And then, we talked about weight. Light Sport is ruled by the 1320# maximum take-off weight limitation. He, Sally and I would be fine for taxi, but not for take-off, and any fuel in the tanks would put us way over the limit. He understood but still wanted to see the airplane. We went out to the hangar where I gave him my best "static display" presentation. I took him back to his car. Too bad, I would have enjoyed flying with him. This was a hard decision.

I always try to fly a "check flight" before flying with a new student. I want to make sure that Sally is seen in the best light, clean with all the systems working. So we took off on RWY23 and flew over the fair. Kathy and I attended last week and really enjoyed it. If you fly into KVDF it's only a few minutes away down Rt 301. Come on down! It would be a good decision.

Cracker Country at the State Fair.
Video Notes: Downtown

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sebring 2018

I was out the door by 7:00 am, I was wheels up by 8:30am. Not bad.

I started listening to the temporary control tower at Sebring (KSEF) around 9:00 and monitored Lake Jackson Approach Control on my standby frequency. Lake Jackson was not responding to any calls. So I approached the northern shore of the lake and made my calls in the blind. Fortunately, there wasn't much traffic today so I followed the procedure and headed inbound once I passed over the water tower. There were at least two in front of me and they had already landed by the time I turned right downwind for RWY01. It was an easy taxi over to the visitor's parking area.

A golf cart picked me up after I secured Sally. The winds were already picking up so I used my chock on the nose wheel, covered the pitot and secured the controls with the gust lock. No gas needed today. The cart took me to a staging area where I boarded a minivan for the 10-minute ride to the FBO, The setup is different this year. Tickets can be purchased in the lot in front of the FBO. $25 but a $5 discount for AOPA or EAA. Enter through the FBO, pass by the restaurant and some vendors and finally past the security checkpoint (looking to see the wristband proving you paid), then out to the show area. Bristell was located immediately to the right, the outdoor vendor tent to the left. Directly across was Cruiser Aircraft Inc.
SportCruisers at the US Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring, FL
The tent already had a few visitors, but Izzy came over to greet me as soon as possible. We walked out to the line to talk. After trading stories and discussing some business items we went back to the tent where he introduced me to Josh and Lukas. More good discussion about the LSA environment and in particular the progress being made with SportCruiser, I completed my visit by signing up for a new Bose headset door prize. I didn't win.
Demonstrations ready to go.
The breeze turned into a wind.

I walked exhibit row and most of the major manufacturers were there. Lockwood and Tecnam had their hangars open and were welcoming visitors. The demonstrator line had about a half dozen planes tied down. I saw many flights go throughout the day, but as the winds picked up they became less frequent. 

The four tents set up for forums were busy, each topic appeared to be well attended. The main show tent was empty now but would be filled to capacity for talks later in the day. It was encouraging to see this kind of interest on a weekday afternoon. 

I had lunch at the Runway Cafe. Today it was subpar. They were busy and the inside tables were taken so I sat out on the veranda. The simple burger came out lukewarm. Dry and not much flavor. I'll stick to breakfast there for now on. 

On my way out I stopped at Dynon to talk with Kirk. He has put together some great video on how to use Skyview and I thanked him for them. I also wanted to learn more about Ranger, a new high wing  LSA announced by Vashon, a sister company. I asked if it was an attempt to improve SkyCatcher, the failed Cessna product. "NO!" He has actually flown the plane and said to expect it to be officially unveiled at Oshkosh this year. 

I left Sebring at 1:30pm, my PiperSport got off the ground quickly. A bit bouncy on the way home. Winds were off my starboard wingtip at 40kts while cruising at 2500'. Landed about 2:15pm 12G20 right down the runway. A little "spicey" for an LSA.During the long landing rollout, I noted some movement on the centerline of the runway. Turns out an Osprey and a Buzzard were fighting over a large fish. I caught the action at the end of the video.

Video Notes: Sebring 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Two More Things

66°F with dense fog. Partly sunny, high of 80°F low of 62°F. Not flying weather, but I went out to the hangar anyway.

1)This would be the second oil change in the cycle. I use Mogas so target every 50 hours. I would not remove the reservoir and clean the oil screen today. I picked up about 4' of 1/2 inch clear plastic tubing at the home improvement store. This fit on the quick drain on the oil reservoir and down into my gallon jug. I burped the engine (about 2/3 on the dipstick) and let it flow. I'm glad I didn't try this last week when the temperatures dropped to freezing. This was the easy part.

The hard part is the filter change. The filter is nestled behind the radiator and just inside the bend in the upper radiator hose to the engine. It's too tight to remove the filter unless you somehow move the hose. Tip: loosen the radiator and pull it to the pilot side of the airplane. This will provide JUST enough clearance to remove and replace the filter. Just a few drops on the lower cowling, not bad. I added 3 liters of clean oil back to the reservoir.

2) I had not been doing a good job of keeping my navigation databases up to date. One reason is the difficulty of removing the unit from the airplane.
To COMPLETELY REMOVE the 696 from the OFTEN VERY TIGHT AirGizmo 696 panel mount:

1) roll the AirGizmo locking lever down on the right side — FULLY DOWN — and then tilt the 696 forward (toward the Pilot) about an inch or so

2) CHECK to make sure that the 696 AirGizmo locking roller device on the right side of the AirGizmo mount is FULLY DOWN all the way

3) The uncomfortable but necessary step— carefully grab the top of the 696 GPS Unit and SHARPLY pull it forward (toward you sitting in the seat) to disconnect the 696 GPS unit’s “rear axle bar” (AirGizmo calls this a “back latch” device which is screwed onto the back of the 696 GPS Unit itself with four screws) from the AirGizmo’s “grappling, rotating retaining hooks”.

This step 3) may require a rather violent, quick, SHARP PULL in some cases to free the 696 GPS Unit completely from the AirGizmo mount.

"Violently" pulling against a plastic part just never appealed to me. Tip: You don't have to remove the unit to update the DBs. It turns out I was using an outdated Garmin webpage. The correct site is: (Note - this can ONLY be used with Internet Explorer (IE),  the latest version.)

The unit doesn't have to be removed, simply update an SD card and insert it while in the airplane!

The final Tip: join a "type" group for your airplane. You really don't need to solve all of the problems by yourself. Most probably, someone has already solved the issue you are struggling with and I've found that most pilots are anxious to help you out.  My tips came from:

It's where the CRUZ guys hang out.

No leaks after the runup.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Minor Maintenance

Kathy called our Christmas activities as "Happy Chaos". Certainly one of the most joyous times we've had since moving to Florida. But the children left and it was time to go back to work. I headed out to the airport to get Sally ready for some student flights.

I changed out the voltage rectifier. The symptom was a low voltage annunciator at low RPM, usually when clearing the runway after landing but occasionally at other times during taxi. Never in flight. I pulled the connector to see if it might just be corrosion, but the Corrosion X used the last time had protected the connectors. They were clean.  It seems I replace this part about once every 18 months, but it is really sensitive to heat so the hotter the flight time the more often it needs to be changed. This one only lasted about 150 hours. (Reference:

The nose wheel seemed to shimmy more that usual during my flight review. This is usually due to low tire pressure. Cooler winter temperatures can cause the pressure to decrease. And this one is a bit tricky to visually check due to the wheel pants. Typically you need to remove the pant to get to the stem to pump the tire but I was lucky this time. Feeling up under the pant I felt the stem and was able to push Sally back enough to rotate the stem to the small notch in the pant to get the compressor attached. 18lbs.

It was close to time for an oil change. I gathered my tools and supplies and removed the upper cowling. After burping the engine (still in the top third, she uses very little oil) I placed my drip pan and positioned my empty gallon jug under the reservoir to get started. I couldn't find the plastic tube to go from the quick drain to the bottle. Rats. So many moves in the past year I just misplaced it somewhere. So that is still on my list.

I went flying instead. Winds were calm so I chose RWY23. Moderate traffic today with a twin in the runup area as I arrived. There was one Cessna 172 on downwind and a Citation called 5 miles out on an extended left base for RWY23. A Piper was on final for RWY36 with another C172 just entering for that runway about 5 miles south. Good flying weather in Florida (low 80°s). When it was our turn we took off and departed to the southeast to overfly the house, then flew north past Plant City (KPCM) to test all of the avionics. Sally performed well.

Back in the pattern things were still pretty busy. We took interval between a Piper making a downwind departure to the north and a Cessna making his base turn. It seemed that most folks had abandoned RWY36 for RWY23 although the winds were still very light. I got three in and really enjoyed the practice.

I like winter flying in Florida.

Video Notes: Local Area Dec2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017


§61.56 Flight Review
(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (f) of this section, a flight review consists of a minimum of 1 hour of flight training and 1 hour of ground training. The review must include:
(1) A review of the current general operating and flight rules of part 91 of this chapter; and
(2) A review of those maneuvers and procedures that, at the discretion of the person giving the review, are necessary for the pilot to demonstrate the safe exercise of the privileges of the pilot certificate.
(f) A person who holds a flight instructor certificate and who has, within the period specified in paragraph (c) of this section, satisfactorily completed a renewal of a flight instructor certificate under the provisions in §61.197 need not accomplish the one hour of ground training specified in paragraph (a) of this section.

I arrived at the airport an hour before my scheduled appointment time. A beautiful day to fly. A thorough preflight was done.  I made sure that Sally had enough fuel for the flight plus an hour reserve, which meant 6 gallons in each tank. I had done the weight and balance sheet and calculated that we would be good as long as the CFI weighed less than 220 lbs. I met Stacy in the office of Superior Aviation Gateway at Tampa Executive Airport. Weight would NOT be a problem.

I handed over my identification and logbook for copies to be made for my record and Stacy asked me if there were any maneuvers I would like to try. I have been spending so much time doing landing pattern work that all of my high work was rusty. We went to a "training area" about 10 miles east of Zephyr Hills and did a stall series, some steep turns and some emergencies. Then she talked me trough a Chandelle and some Lazy Eights. Fun. I must take time to do this more often as it is pure joy to fly these maneuvers in a plane like Sally. The visibility is fantastic.

Back to KVDF for some landings. It got busy as we were using RWY36 and the Corporate Jets were using RWY5. Eyes outside, I did two (demonstrated a slip on the second) and she did one. Stacy and Sally got along just fine. I hope she takes the opportunity to fly with me again. (Before 24 calendar months go by.)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


The progress is always slow. Each landing fine tunes the previous effort resulting in small but significant improvements. "You're slow. Go around!" Then, "You're too high", "Nose attitude controls airspeed, power controls rate of descent." Each circuit adds that little bit of experience. The pattern fits together like a chain, a weak link and it all falls apart. "Let's do it again." Slowly, overtime, the CFI becomes silent as the student makes corrections without being prompted. Typically, it takes from 10 to 30 hours of flight time before a pilot has the instinctive feel of an aircraft to be safe flying solo in other than perfect (no wind) weather. And typically, it takes an Instructor about that much time to trust a student to fly his airplane.

Bruce made good progress but just didn't see the roundout and flare. So I added a few exercises to our routine. We departed our home airport to try other venues (KZPH). We exercised. One circuit after another. "Let's try it again, this time hold the speed a little longer." Again....again...and then he saw it. We entered the pattern at home field and I stayed quiet. Nice landing. Again. Nice pattern, good corrections, safe landing.

Today we went out and I did the customary three circuits. It was perfect weather. He let me out on the ramp and went off on his own.

Nice job.

Reference: Flying
"But you will want to share the event with your friends and family afterwards. My biggest regret with my solo flight is that I didn’t get any pictures. And while the experience is still fresh in my mind, it would have been nice to be able to look back at that moment. Make sure that your first solo gets recorded. Pictures are great and video is even better."
Video Notes: Solo

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Flying Season

6 Turns in the pattern at KVDF.
61°F fog at 7:00am EST. I look out the window and can barely see my neighbor's house just a few yards away due to the dense fog. Welcome to central Florida. But it isn't time to go back to bed. I start the coffee pot and go look at weather briefings on the computer. By 9:00am it should be in the high 60°s and beautiful blue skies. I get myself ready, grab my gear and head out to Tampa Executive.

The weather looks great by the time I finish the preflight. One last check to insure I have everything before I pull her out of the hangar.  "Hello Sally" as I start the prestart checklist. I use the choke now as it's cold enough to make a difference. The oil pressure was a bit higher, about 80psi. OAT read about 20°C. I closed the canopy for taxi over to the FBO.

I've been doing training flights. I enjoy the work. The wonderful Florida climate makes it a joy to fly this time of year.

After a Discovery Flight
We were coming back from a Discovery Flight just south of Plant City, 15 miles east of the field. The active runway at KVDF was 05 and there were no planes in the pattern at my initial call. I opted for a crosswind entry and headed for I75 where it passes north of the runway. Nearing the departure end of 05 I heard a position call from a Cessna "Upwind Rwy 05". I looked over my left shoulder for the traffic. Nope. You know that "itchy feeling" on the back of your neck? Where is this guy? His next report was crosswind Rwy 05. There he is, just in front, right off my nose. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." There is a difference in the nomenclature. The Departure leg is an extension of the runway centerline. The upwind leg is offset from, and parallel to the runway. We called crosswind, #2, traffic in sight.  (BTW, he flew a lousy pattern.)

Be safe out there.