Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tampa Executive Fly-in

Hot Dogs and Hamburgers on a hot summer day

I spent a good part of Friday cleaning her up. I did the upper surfaces first, then got down on the ground to work on the wheel pants and the rest of the undercarriage. Finally I laid down on my back and cleaned her belly. Although she hadn't been done in awhile, this job wasn't as nearly bad as expected. At least I didn't have to do it in the snow.

Sharing ramp space with an old friend

Visiting with an older sister
Cleaned up for the event
We got to the airport about 9:00am on Saturday and Kathy and I quickly removed the covers, tie downs and plugs. She burped after 20 pulls. Kathy got in and I pulled her out onto the taxiway.  One last walk around before I strapped in. I paused before turning the key. (It seemed like so many times we've gotten to this point, only to find a problem.) Not this time. Sally started easily. I taxied with the canopy open and the airflow rattled our thermos cups in the holders behind the seats. Not a problem (but did have us worry just a bit). As we approached the ramp area a plane captain came over to direct us in. I shut her down and we got out to talk with him a bit. He had helped us with the battery on Mother's Day. He looked at the nose wheel and commented that he wasn't sure his tow bar would fit, so I instructed him on how to maneuver the plane by pushing on the prop.  He did well pushing her back into a parking spot.

We were the first ones to arrive. I thought that we might be the ONLY ones to arrive! Soon the staff brought out the tents and the grill and after awhile Marcel stopped by to talk about flying. As we chatted more aircraft began to arrive. A trio of Trikes from Zephyr Hills. A Bulldog from Lakeland. A jet from Albert Whitted. All in all a nice selection of airplanes. A good crowd of aviation enthusiasts from the local area filled the parking lot. The burgers and dogs were great, the ambiance wonderful.

A light Florida rain shower passed through about 12:30pm. Pilots scurried out to close canopies, but within a few minutes the shower had moved on. Kathy and I decided it was time to go, so we jumped in and taxied back to our covered tie down spot. The two of us had Sally settled in just a few minutes.

It was a good day

Monday, July 4, 2016

Night Shift

I arrived at the airport later than expected. However the clouds were just starting to build so I was confident I could get an hour of flying in before the bumpers got nasty. The preflight went well, Sally looked ready to fly. I checked my weather app one more time and found that thunderstorms were building over St Petersburg, a mere 30 miles away. There were more building to the east of Lakeland and another line of yellow and brown splotches to the north. Unstable air, high humidity and hot temperatures are not conditions to take lightly. I cancelled for weather.
A beautiful sunset

I went back out around 7:30PM. The convective threat had subsided and most of the sky looked clear. There were still some isolated storms out there, but they were dissipating. I watched as a pair of Powered Parachutes as they flew by the field and inspected the terminal building. They seemed to be the only aircraft flying. But not for long.

Turn Rate displayed by the horizontal line at top left.
Two missions for this flight: 1) I have a student interested in getting his Instrument Rating. Sally is not a great platform for this because she can't fly in actual IMC. (The FARs allow it but I would never let one of my students take their practical test without some actual time in the clouds and least a few real instrument approaches.) However she is superb for teaching the basics and great for seeing how an Electronic Flight Book works. So I wanted to fly some basic IFR patterns and do a simulated  approach or two. 2) Have you ever seen a Fireworks display from above?

The EFIS has a number of options to choose from and if you choose them all the screen gets cluttered, especially if you shrink to 2/3 to show the HSI. I had configured mine for VFR flight. Among other things I had eliminated the turn indicator. I would need that to exercise Standard Rate Turns.

Glide slope is indicated vertical scale right of HSI
I also needed to see how the glide slope performed. I dialed in the ILS RWY23 and pushed the source button to VOR (Green). I adjusted the CDI to the final approach course and pushed the autopilot button.  Sally made the correction, captured the course and flew us inbound to the FAF. At that point I set the altitude to the DH and performed my 6Ts. (I missed having a clock to start and used my watch instead.*Edit; use the function button on the transponder for a stop watch or countdown timer.) I experimented with the power setting that would yield 500ft/min descent.

Setting up the 696 GPS
I did a GPS for RWY23 next. I'm not satisfied with the way I swapped pages on the GPS. I could have the chart, but if I looked at another page I would lose the approach chart and return to the airport diagram. Also, I had to fumble a bit with activating the approach. I spent some time in the run-up area perfecting my technique, but it still takes too many twists and pushes to get the approach set up. This will take more practice to refine. I made progress but will spend more time in the practice area before I'm ready to let a student try.

Finally, it was time to play. I took off on RWY23 and headed to the southeast. Sally and I enjoyed the fireworks from 1500'. While the big community shows were wonderful, I especially enjoyed the backyard patriot displays. And there were a LOT of them to watch. 

Video Notes: Night Shift

We lost Gladys today. I hope she and Bill also enjoy watching the fireworks from above.

Monday, June 27, 2016

More Practice

We had one of the wildest light shows I've seen in quite some time. The afternoon Florida skies turned dark and winds picked up considerably. Temperatures plummeted just before the rain came. Heavy drops pounding from the ragged clouds, and then the lightning. Fantastic blazing bolts from all directions. Yesterday was a good day to be on the ground.

I wondered how Sally would be in her covered tie-down spot. She looked surprisingly clean! I know she could use a good Waxall cleaning but considering the conditions I was very pleased. As I removed the canopy cover two spiders jumped away. I saw another insect nest near the copilot air scoop, and found a squashed tree toad under the nose wheel. (I suspect he may have been hiding in the wheel pant and got caught when I rolled Sally out.) The tie down ropes were still wet. I took a large fuel sample from each wing. The fuel caps must still be tight, no debris or water found. The gascolator  check also looked good. Start and all ground procedures went well. Temperature read 33C for OAT. I left the canopy open for taxi.

KVDF is a busy little field. A constant stream of piston singles, a few twins, a few helicopters and the occasional business jet make it an interesting place for pattern work. Today I needed the practice. A couple of missed approaches because we were too high, one was a bit too deep and all of my landings were just "OK". I tried a right hand pattern that went well.  It was a good work out.

The upwind leg for RWY5 goes directly over I75. The northbound lane was just barely crawling along. A news helicopter was buzzing around and called saying he was at 600ft. I think it was construction but didn't venture up that way to find out.

Today was a good day to be in the air.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Summertime 2016

I was out at the airplane early enough to get the preflight done before the client arrived. Sally looked good. She could use another thorough cleaning but was more than acceptable for this flight. The weather was excellent, maybe a bit warm but nothing that would keep us grounded.

The client arrived early had a lot of good questions. He had done some research on the web and was curious about everything from SLSA registration to burping the Rotax engine. After the safety brief we strapped in and Sally started easily. I let him taxi to get the feel of asymmetrical steering as we headed toward RWY5. More good questions about engine performance indications as we completed the run-up. A Sandhill crane flew by and landed next to our taxiway. Sally got a little warm at the hold short while waiting for landing traffic (250F) but cooled off nicely with a bit of throttle. We made a normal take off and departed to the southeast.

A Technically Advanced Airplane is a lot to handle the first time out. Scan pattern is different for glass, add to that the electric trim and it can be overwhelming. He had almost always flown a yoke with left hand on the throttle. I should have realized sooner that there were just too many differences for him to enjoy flying the airplane. By the time I took her back he was frustrated and exhausted. My fault. So I demonstrated the autopilot and let Sally take us home. He relaxed and started to enjoy the flight.

Visibility was great. The city of Tampa looked beautiful next to the bay. I talked through the landing pattern and answered some more questions about the EFIS. I had too much speed in the flare and made a lousy landing. Not my best day as a CFI.

That evening I got an email from him. He would like to try it again. I'll take the Mulligan.

Video Notes: Summertime

*Because of the claimant's policy, this video can't be played in some countries. - Sorry Germany!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


"...the action or process of making ready or being made ready for use or consideration."

Be a Sport Pilot, have more fun!
 I got a call asking for a Discovery Flight. We set the time and date and I began my preparation. A Discovery Flight is not a lesson.
  • This person is bigger than the "standard" American. I did a weight and balance to determine just how much fuel I could carry.
  • Checked weather for the rest of the week to insure our day was at least feasible.
  • Went out to the airport to check on Sally. In addition to the normal preflight I also cleaned out much of my personal gear and made sure the cockpit looked neat and clean.
  • Did a short flight to insure all systems were nominal. Then double checked the avionics to insure they all worked and would fit into my "scripted demonstration" (Autopilot, GPS, EFIS and EMS are work well and DSAB is engaged.)
  • Video cameras checked.
  • The flight also allowed me to burn fuel to the appropriate level.
  • Post Flight included polishing the canopy and general exterior cleaning.
 All systems are ready.

Tonight I'll review key points of the presentation. I cover a lot in 20-30 minutes flight time. I'll also send an email reminder and ask for logbook, explain payment methods (I'm starting to use Square), and ask to be contacted immediately if the flight has to be postponed.

We are prepared.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Rust Removal

Good day for the sun shade
I find that if I'm grounded for more than a week the "rust" begins to form on my piloting skills. So one of my missions is just to go out and take a few turns in the landing pattern.

The rest of the week is going to be typical Florida weather with high temperatures (33c or about 90f) with high humidity and the likelihood of afternoon thunderstorms. Monday would be the best day. Preflight went well. Start and taxi were all normal. OAT read 33c. CHT on the ground stayed in the 230f range. All other indications were normal. We used RWY36. 330@6
  1. A little tight and high. Other traffic reported inbound, I slipped her in and transitioned for a nice touch down. We were off by the first exit.
  2. Better downwind distance, cut base a bit short. (Just missed a diving with red markings.) Landing was OK but too long.
  3. Nice pattern, watched a C130 landing at MacDill (double checked to make sure he was landing and not taking off flying at me). Good base and final (no power adjustment needed). Squeek
  4. Nailed the pattern, added just a touch of power on final then landed a bit long. (Wind sock showed a change of left to right)
Sally had no issues with heat. I was ready for a cold one.

At the insistence of my social network consultant (daughter) I've created a "Landing Page".

Friday, June 10, 2016

No Show

We were scheduled for a 9:00am Discovery Flight. At 9:15am I started to think it wasn't going to happen. He was former military and since I hadn't received a phone call or text message I thought something else must of come up. Sally was fueled and preflighted and the weather was beautiful and I had the time blocked. The temperature sensor for the Virb had failed to record on the last flight so I replaced the battery and could test it. I hadn't landed at Plant City  (KPCM) yet so we had a valid mission.

Sally performed well and I did not detect any abnormalities. We flew over the new house, but didn't see any progress. So after a few turns-around-a-point we approached the airport from the south. Located just west of Lakeland controlled airspace, its a nice airport with a good runway. It seems to be a busy airfield.

Upon return I traded emails and he just missed the calendar entry. We will try again.

Video Notes: PCM
Garmin Virb Edit 3.6.0

Some thoughts on Commercial Air Travel

We had a family event near Philadelphia. It would take about fifteen and a half hours to drive the thousand miles. I would probably do it in two days. So we flew the aluminum tube. We had a 7:30am boarding time. I was told to estimate two hours for security. Add another hour to drive to the airport, and another half hour to get from parking to check-in. We left the house by 3:30am.

No traffic or delays to the airport. TSA PreCheck took approximately 15 minutes. We were at the gate by 5:00am.

For the return trip we had a 3:30pm boarding time. It would take about one and a half hours to drive the PA Turnpike (in horrible weather - including hail). Took the shuttle from the rental car lot which took about 30 minutes. Although we had TSA PreCheck stamped on our boarding pass the TSA doesn't honor that in Philly. It took about 45 minutes to get through security. We were at the gate by 1:30pm.

So much wasted time. But the most annoying part is the inconsistency. "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get" ~ Gump

* You don't fly GA if you have a tight schedule which must be met. In this case, we would have missed the event due to weather had we taken Sally instead of American.