Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Two Valleys

7N8        Butter Valley Golf Port Airport
Bally, Pennsylvania, USA
Dimensions:       2420 x 85 ft. / 738 x 26 m (1535 X 24 ASPH INSERT AT S END; REMAINDER TURF.)

N10        Perkiomen Valley Airport
Collegeville, Pennsylvania, USA
Dimensions:       2880 x 40 ft. / 878 x 12 m

My landings needed some work. My touchdown point had started to get a little past the numbers and the center-line had become just a bit elusive. Sloppy. The best way I have found to correct that is to find a small airport to practice landings. If there is no room for errors, you won't make any.

The winds were out of the northwest, slightly under ten knots with moderate gusts. RWY34 at Butter Valley meant the wind was right down the runway. We bounced a bit on final with some interesting gusts but overall an acceptable landing (3 out of a possible 5)

I flew a right hand (non-standard) pattern at Perkiomen Valley to give me an overshooting crosswind. The breeze wasn't much of a challenge except I turned the square base leg into more of a Navy racetrack. (3 out of a possible 5.)

I was pleased to find a friend in the pattern at Quakertown. Tom was flying his beautiful DiamondStar. When that plane turns a corner you can see those long wings five miles away. Again, a few gusts made the flare interesting but I succeeded in another acceptable landing. ( 3 out of a possible 5) No squeak. 

Clearly I need more practice.

Video Notes: Two Valleys

The wing camera had an unacceptable vibration for this flight. I believe I didn't tighten the camera cradle properly when I adjusted the elevation angle. At least I remembered to turn it on!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Two Landings

A break in the weather. It is just so much easier when I don't have to fight with the frozen hangar doors.

My mission was to fly reconnaissance for a student ready for a solo cross country flight. It would be a good way to stretch my wings, double check all of Sally's systems and insure there really were no hazards with the proposed route. While not a Spring day, it was sunny, relatively mild with light winds. The route was a good one covering mostly familiar territory with a new airport added for the sense of adventure. One leg got close to the Philadelphia Class B, but there were numerous good landmarks to help keep clear of the controlled airspace. As I turned on final at KUKT I was satisfied with the planning and felt good about the student's next flight.

For some reason I've been landing a little right of center line lately. I occasionally go through periods when the center line is elusive and usually clear up the problem by taking a few circuits at 7N8. I'll have to do that once the snow gets cleared. This time it nearly cost me. I touched down right of center line and my right tire went flat. Fortunately it was very controllable and I was able to clear the runway and taxi ways without any difficulty. But it could have been a problem. Diligence.

Yesterday (Friday) I had the opportunity to take a solo cross country flight from KUKT to KMGJ. Just over 80 miles, I took the opportunity to check in with Allentown Departure to practice my radio skills. I was rusty. Just like any other skill, you must use it or lose it. When the time came, New York was too busy to take the Flight Following hand off. That seldom happens, but I switched frequencies and squawked VFR.  I saw a flock of about twelve geese and one Piper Cub flying about 1000' beneath me.

My plan was to fly direct to STUFF FAF for runway 03 at Orange County and then straight in from there. No. The airport was just too busy so I broke it off early and maneuvered for the normal 45° entry. This time I landed a little left.

I enjoyed the day very much.

Video Notes: Two Landings

Unfortunately I had some technical problems with the cameras. I used a remote to start the wing camera...it failed. When I reached back for my headset I must have pulled the audio cable on the cockpit camera..so only the external microphone worked and it didn't pick up very much. Finally, the GPS data is slightly out of sync with the video. I'll need to put a checklist together to keep these kinds of problems from recurring.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Looking Back

Friday the weather turned a bit milder. With Temperatures in the mid 30's I arrived at the hangar around noon. The doors were frozen shut. Again I got out the ice chipper and a flat bladed shovel to clear a trench for the sliding doors.  Slow work. After a few hours I made enough progress to get Sally out into the sunshine. And then I had a decision to make: Two flights were scheduled for Saturday. Should I put Sally back in and leave the doors open, or let her sit outside for the night?   After consulting with her co-owner we decided to let Sally spend the night under the stars and lock up the hangar.

I arrived Saturday morning about 8:30am. The hangar doors were frozen shut.


It was very light and easily removed. Mark arrived early and helped to finish the preflight. He did the (cold) start and Sally roared to life after about three attempts. I went back to the FBO and he taxied over once she had warmed up a bit. We briefed as Sally waited in the sun.

On a whim, I decided to turn the wing camera backward to show where we had been. I had seen other videos, mostly aerobatic airplanes, use this angle to show the smoke trail of a maneuver. I didn't expect too much. I am pleased with the results.

Video Notes: Looking Back

(The other) Mark took this idea and enhanced it a bit while flying his RV12. Mark's Video

I've been playing around with WingX Replay hoping to use it as an instructional tool.  This video combines the replay with some other video. Looking Back KDYL

Garmin had an update waiting for me when I started Virb Edit this time. I downloaded the 4.0 firmware to both Virb cameras. Initially one camera would not reboot after the installation. I was able to correct the problem by removing the battery and powering it on normally. It seems to be working fine now.

There doesn't seem to be a good way to capture video from an iPad into a video format. New to the IOS system, I may just be illiterate to some of its amazing capabilities but so far this functionality has escaped me. I invested in a third party application called X-Mirage :

X-Mirage is the most professional AirPlay server for Mac and Windows PC, which allows you to wirelessly stream contents or mirror iPhone, iPad and iPod screen to any Mac/Windows PC. Record screen and audio from iOS devices, as well as voiceover via Microphone with one click.
It works, but not flawlessly. Right now I can record about 90 seconds of video at one time, then it crashes. I suspect a memory allocation error. Version 1.01.5

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Cold Decision

Still February. Still cold. Bitter cold. I had two scheduled flights for Saturday, but in an email Friday night I warned one student:

"Caution. I am concerned about the frigid temperatures forecast for Saturday.  Weather check by 8:00am for Go/No Go decision. No sense flying if we're going to freeze our noses off." (...yes, NOSES...)
Saturday morning the weather clock said 9°F. I almost canceled right then but decided to get out of bed and check the computer for regional weather reports. It was then that I found the dilemma. While it was still unseasonably cold there were no winds. No clouds. No precipitation. The airmets reported nothing in the way of turbulence. The forecast said it would warm to the mid-20's.  Reluctantly I wrote:
My logic is this: My preheat system is good for about 20°. I like to start the engine above freezing which means airport temperature should be in the mid to high teens. KUKT is reporting -13° or about 9°F right now, but forecast mid teens by take off time.
All other weather conditions are good"
I brewed a pot of coffee while I got myself ready to go to Quakertown.

Back in the Saddle
The hangar doors were frozen shut. Not quite as bad as last time but still frozen enough to keep Sally imprisoned inside. First I checked on her temperature. Still a bit cold so I moved the switch to the "High Heat" setting. Then I found my ice chipper and started to work. Just an inch at a time removing the ice along the door's track. Fortunately Mark arrived early and volunteered to help with the work. Finally we opened both sides to give us a very narrow clearance. Mark guarded the left wing as I pulled. Nope, too close. Repositioned, I tried again. I turned Sally to angle her out and after multiple tries she was free. Mark and I both did the preflight as she warmed in the sun, then climbed in to try to start her. Two tries was all it took. Mark taxied us to the ramp area, another sunny spot, where we shut down and went in to brief the flight.

The altimeter setting was 30.83. Mark asked a good question:"How high can the altimeter be adjusted?" Before my glass panel I would adjust the altimeter using the Kollsman window, a mechanical adjustment knob to correct for non-standard atmospheric pressure. Is there a limit to the amount of adjustment that can be made? 31.00 inches Hg.

Sally's heater struggled for the whole flight.  The defroster was non-existent. I was constantly using a micro fiber cloth or a soft rubber squeegee to remove moisture from the bubble canopy. During a short portion of the flight that moisture froze. (The frost was easily removed with the rag.) Winter is not the best time of year to fly light sport airplanes.

It was a very good refresher for Mark lasting just over an hour.  After the debrief I sat in the warm FBO office waiting for Keith. This would be his first flight in an LSA.  He arrived on time and we briefed as Sally waited patiently in the sunshine. She started easily this time. It was a good Discovery flight that lasted about 0.5 hours. After the debrief Keith left and I sat in the FBO with a cup of coffee and a Kind bar. It was time to put Sally away for the day.

I'm glad I painted a yellow line on the taxiway in front of the hangar. It is a great reference for the center of the hangar opening. As I pushed Sally toward that opening I could see she wasn't going to make it. I found the chipper and started to work. After another half hour I had recovered an additional six inches. Slowly I pushed her back in, stopping often to check the clearance on each wing. Success.

Burped, plugged and covered, I pulled the doors shut. Sally was secure. I was done for the day.

Video notes: I recorded both flights to share with the clients. I may post them here later.
Synopsis: Saturday Morning

The Ipad mini worked well stashed in the back behind the co-pilot's seat. However both flights were recorded in the same file. I entered a problem report with WingX to see if this file can be separated. (Probably a user error.)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

0.5 Hours

The weather clock display showed zero degrees, frigid, sunny. The forecast promised it would get warmer. The winds were calm. My plan was to take Sally up for a brief flight to knock some rust off the pilot, check the status of her systems, and put some 100LL in her tanks.(I like to mix Avgas and Mogas in the winter to reduce the moisture content possibly absorbed by ethanol.) I wanted everything to be ready for a student's flight the following day.

I pulled up to the hangar by 10:30am. I ribbon of snow left by the plow blocked my door. My padlock was frozen, not allowing me to insert my key. I used the cigarette lighter from my car to warm the lock and some lock deice from a little spray tube I keep in the glove box. That worked after repeated applications. I finally got in to release the hangar door locking pins only to find the doors were frozen shut. I found my shovel and ice chipper and started to work.

We had a snowfall earlier in the week followed by a brief warming the following day. Some of the snow melted after the plow went through and the melt from the hangar roof dripped and puddled in front of the hangar. When the next Arctic Front came in it froze in the tracks of the doors. I started chipping. At 12:00pm I took a break and sat in the car to get warm.

By 1:00pm the doors were slid opened wide enough to free Sally. The thermometer I use to monitor the effectiveness of the engine warmer read 35°F. I gently pulled her out into the sun then went into the FBO for a cup of coffee. I was cold.

Preflight completed, I climbed into the seat at about 2:00pm. She started easily, engine temp read about 45°F and climbing. We taxied to the ramp area to let her warm up the rest of the way.

The sky was clear, winds slightly gusty and the visibility was simply fantastic. But it was cold. The cockpit heating system just couldn't beat the low outside air temperature. After a thorough systems check, including VOR tracking, I let Sally take us home, knowing we were ready for the student's flight the following day. We logged 0.5 hours, 1 landing.

I pulled up to the fuel pump and put 5 gallons in each side. ($49.40) We taxied back to the hangar and I carefully pushed her pack in. Post flight, plugs and covers and then I pushed the doors shut. It was about 4:30pm. 

The student canceled.

Video Notes: half hour
Virb Edit
Camtasia 8.5

Sync issues. The GPS data isn't aligned with the video. Virb Edit has a utility to correct this but I shouldn't have to manually do this.

First flight with Ipad mini and WingX. So far, so good. I like the Replay option. I did a minor video re-edit to include some WingX Pro7 replay data : half hour WingX

Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 2015

Sectional Chart overlay in Google Earth
I've never liked February. The month is the dead of winter, ugly gray, frigid cold, blustery winds and snow. Too much snow. None of it is good for flying, especially VFR only kind of flying. While I have gotten some flights in, more have been cancelled. Last week I had to postpone a flight due to cold temperatures, 1 degree Fahrenheit. (Gusty winds and moderate turbulence factored in, but the cold was the real show stopper.) So its important to find other things to do while waiting for the Spring thaw.

  • eFIRC: (Electronic) Flight Instructor Refresher Courses (FIRC) help Flight Instructors stay abreast of changes in general aviation flight training. I took the one provided by the AOPA/Air Safety Institute. Some of the courses need to be refreshed but overall the course was interesting and well produced.
  • Google Earth: My Virb Elite camera produces a GPX track as a byproduct of the video. I usually just use the information as an overlay to show flight data, however the track is useful as input to Google Earth to show where the flight went. Some investigation on the web provided a way to import Aeronautical Charts. I think this will be especially useful to analyze cross country flights.
  • Ipad Mini: The pressure was just to great. I like my Nexus 7 but if you attend any pilot learning session the hot topic continues to be Ipad apps. The final straw came while attending Expo. I stopped by the WingX booth to discuss the latest software updates and found that no new development was being done on Android. Additionally, the latest version of the program was being offered for free to CFIs. Ipad Mini2 with Retina Display, 32gb, IOS 8.1.3. I'll let you know more once I've flown with it.
  • Keeping her warm: A lot of good internet discussions about keeping the ROTAX engine warm in the winter. A variety of different kinds of blowers, heaters and warming devices are being discussed. I'm still using Dr. Paul's concept using a heat gun with conduit into the exhaust channel at the bottom of the cowling.
Finally, there is a stack of unread magazines on the table. I wonder if I should get the digital versions for the Ipad?

Video Reference Google track: Cold Sunday 
Video weather analysis

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Condition Inspection

§91.327 Aircraft having a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category: Operating limitations

(b) No person may operate an aircraft that has a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category unless—

(2) A condition inspection is performed once every 12 calendar months by a certificated repairman (light-sport aircraft) with a maintenance rating, an appropriately rated mechanic, or an appropriately rated repair station in accordance with inspection procedures developed by the aircraft manufacturer or a person acceptable to the FAA;
(c) No person may operate an aircraft issued a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category to tow a glider or unpowered ultralight vehicle for compensation or hire or conduct flight training for compensation or hire in an aircraft which that persons provides unless within the preceding 100 hours of time in service the aircraft has—
(1) Been inspected by a certificated repairman with a light-sport aircraft maintenance rating, an appropriately rated mechanic, or an appropriately rated repair station in accordance with inspection procedures developed by the aircraft manufacturer or a person acceptable to the FAA and been approved for return to service in accordance with part 43 of this chapter; or
(2) Received an inspection for the issuance of an airworthiness certificate in accordance with part 21 of this chapter.

So, an SLSA gets a condition inspection, and a standard category gets an annual inspection. The FAA does not use the term "annual inspection," and makes no distinction between the procedures for an annual or a 100 hour inspection. The FARs say that all aircraft must have had a "condition inspection within the preceding 12 calendar months", and those in commercial service must have a condition inspection within the previous 100 hours of operation. Sally is being used in "commercial service" (IE flight school operations), so needs the 100 hour inspection.

I decided to have the inspection done while I was away attending the Expo in Sebring. Saturday morning before my trip I pulled Sally out of her hangar at Quakertown and made the short flight over to Butter Valley. Harry had left tie down ropes and chocks on the asphalt pad in front of his workshop. It was so cold. The chocks were frozen to the ground. I had to break them loose by kicking them with the heal of my shoe. I opened the wing locker and removed the canopy cover. I hadn't used it in awhile so it took time to position it properly. It was so cold. Finally Kathy arrived to pick me up. We sat in the car for a few minutes to warm up before checking Sally one last time. She was secure. I left this note for Harry:
The airplane has been flying well. Take off power reaches just over 4900RPM (my min is 4850). All temps and pressures are solid “green”. Except for discrepancies listed below, I’m very happy with her performance.

1. 100 hour Condition Inspection – needs breaks.

2. Oil Change (oil and filter provided) Note the new drain valve.

3. Oil Leak. Left side…nothing new. Doesn’t appear to be getting worse. Bugs the heck out of me. Fix it if you can.

4. Coolant leak. Just started to notice fluid on nose wheel pant after a flight. I have not added any coolant in the past 100 hours.

5. Nose wheel pant: scraped up pretty much after my landing with flat tire. I’ve decided not to modify the other pants. Do your magic on this.

6. Canopy struts: Replace. The old fittings can be used on the new struts provided.

7. Left flap: Student stepped on it. Cosmetic dent. Pull it out if you can.

Then we left and I focused my attention on my trip to Sebring.

On Monday I called from sunny Florida. Pennsylvania was having an ice storm, Harry was unable to get started because of the bad weather. I checked back on Wednesday and operations were well underway. Sally was in is workshop, her pieces being carefully inspected. She did need brakes.

When I stopped by to check on progress Harry was still waiting on the delivery of brake parts. He showed me the progress he had made with the rest of the items on my list.  The important items had been completed, but it would take a few more days before we could escape from Butter Valley.

Reference: Finding a Czech Mate for Flying Adventures ,
Certified Czech