Thursday, August 21, 2014

Oil Pressure

Fortunately I've been busy this summer learning to fly. Two teenage flight students have done their initial flights while another student prepares for his solo. While they think I'm teaching them, the real truth is they are teaching me. Insightful questions, interesting comments and observations, looking at the obvious with fresh new eyes, has allowed me to see General Aviation in a new perspective.

Learning to Fly

Just before the trip to Oshkosh Sally started having trouble with GPS steering. A warning "GPS Fix unavailable" was displayed and the magenta tracking information on the HSI disappeared. I have since checked and found multiple satellites available to the 696 and that device appears to be operating properly. I was given (SCFlier) the software settings for the GPS and the HS34 and checked them to see if those settings had become corrupted but all look fine. I suspect the wiring may have come loose from the GPS to the HS34 and will do more extensive troubleshooting later. (An outside chance that the HS34 has failed?)

Recently after the starting the engine I noticed my oil pressure flashed "bars" instead of providing the 65psi I'm accustomed to seeing. I shut her down, removed the upper cowling and did a general inspection of the cabling. Nothing unusual, I climbed back in and tried again with the same result. Allen responded quickly to my call and did a cursory check, found nothing and suggested we remove the sender and put a pressure gauge on to eliminate the possibility of electronic failure. I love the glass panel EMS but do appreciate seeing actual pressure on an old analog pressure gauge. 65psi.

An internet search pointed to LEAF and their technician explained that the Honeywell sender is no longer available and that the replacement is from Keller. However the thread pitch is different so the engine block has to be re-tapped in order to make it fit. So, I called Lockwood and had a conversation with their technician who explained that they did have the Honeywell sender but it needs a "cable kit" to fit a ROTAX engine. (Essentially a new plug to attach the wires.) After the parts arrived Allen had us all fixed up in less than an hour.

No video notes this time. I have done some Discovery flights and made some interesting post processing enhancements, but decided to protect the students privacy by not posting them on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Great Adventure

I have never been to Oshkosh.

It is hard work to be a Flight Instructor, but it has it's benefits. The moment that a student "gets it" is fantastic. This time I was able not only to teach but pass along my affection for flying - for VFR General Aviation Flying. What better motivation than getting ready for the biggest aviation experience in the world; Airventure at Oshkosh.

Interactive Link: here

I have never been to Oshkosh, but maybe next year.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast

ADS-B, which consists of two different services, "ADS-B Out" and "ADS-B In", could be replacing radar as the primary surveillance method for controlling aircraft worldwide. In the United States, ADS-B is an integral component of the NextGen national airspace strategy for upgrading or enhancing aviation infrastructure and operations. The ADS-B system can also provide traffic and government generated graphical weather information through TIS-B and FIS-B applications.[6] ADS-B enhances safety by making an aircraft visible, realtime, to ATC and to other appropriately equipped ADS-B aircraft with position and velocity data transmitted every second. ADS-B data can be recorded and downloaded for post-flight analysis. ADS-B also provides the data infrastructure for inexpensive flight tracking, planning, and dispatch.[6] - wikipedia
 I love having NEXRAD weather on board Sally. XMWeather was particularly useful during my last trip to Texas/Georgia and played a significant role in my enroute flight planning. However XM has a costly subscription tied to it and I'm always looking for ways to save my aviation dollars. I've been learning about ADSB but wasn't quite ready to switch over until I saw a post in SCFLIER.COM about a good deal on a Garmin GDL-39 ADS-B IN portable receiver. I decided to take the plunge and experiment with this new technology.

(First, General Aviation people are just great to work with. The seller took the time to thoroughly test the device and its sub-components BEFORE concluding the transaction.The deal went off without a hitch.)

I eventually plan to attach this to my 696 and remove the XMWeather antenna, but for testing purposes I'll run Garmin Pilot on my Android tablet and use Bluetooth as the connection technology. My first attempt failed. The tablet could find the device but gave an error code say it failed to connect. After multiple iterations and numerous Google searches it was time to call the experts. Garmin Support picked up immediately, asked a few questions and walked me through resetting the GDL39. Bingo, it works! least sitting on my desk at home.

An added advantage for me is Traffic Information Service (TIS) for any aircraft that is transmitting ADS-B Out. Right now that only includes the Airlines and a few corporate jets so I'm not going to give up using Flight Following on my cross country trips.

Another technology in the cockpit. Remember to look outside!

Sunday, July 6, 2014


July 2nd: Holly took me out to the airport and helped preflight, even burping the engine. Sally was in good shape. We said our goodbyes and I went back to the FBO to complete my planning. It was pretty straight forward up to Blue Ridge (KMTV) but a decision had to be made about going east or west around the SFRA. Weather would be the primary factor so I decided to wait until the afternoon to see what might develop. Arthur was south and hopefully no factor. We took off about 9:00am into dense haze. Atlanta didn't want me in their Class B so I headed east at 2500'. As I turned northeast Flight Following asked me to descend to 2000' for traffic. The towers at 1340' and 1369' looked close and Sally didn't like them much. After a short time we were allowed back up to 2500 and then to our cruising altitude of 5500'. We were still in the haze so I asked for and was granted 7500'. We had a horizon (and a slight tailwind). Just south of the Virginia border we began our descent and I saw portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and then to the west of us. I stopped the descent at 3500' until within 10 miles of the airport. Although it was hot, the linesman came out to help with fueling and soon I was on the last leg home. Thunderstorms were building in central Pennsylvania so I decided to go east around Washington. Some of the restricted areas were active so I asked and received a waypoint (TAPPA)  to keep clear. Potomac and Patuxent Controllers were excellent. But now we had another race. XMweather showed heavy (yellow, red, brown) storms approaching Reading. A thin broken layer forced me to descend to 2500'. I was passing familiar airports now, 58M, N57, KOQN, and then N47 and KPTW, but the storm was ugly off my left wing. Dark charcoal gray clouds with heavy rain moved across the mountains just east of Reading. I cancelled and went VFR to land on RWY 16 at Butter Valley. As I put Sally in the hangar the rain started.


Sally averaged about 107 MPH and burned an impressive 19 MPG. Best speed was 118 kts from KADS to KLMS. Longest leg from KCBE to KBWG. This was a difficult trip, not for flying but because of decision making. Weather delays are difficult and many times I WANTED to see ways to continue my flight when none were really available. It was especially hard to do a "Look & See" only to return to the airport. But that is all part of VFR flying, and I am truly glad to have had the adventure.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Service Bulliten

"Recently the Czech Sport Aircraft Factory has put out a service bulletin (SB-CR-017) regarding the main landing gear attach points. The service bulletin requires inspecting the landing gear attachment to the fuselage. Although it is not clear in the service bulletin, this can be done without removing the wing. If there is evidence of any rivets being stretched, sheared, or pulled the service bulletin repairs must be accomplished. To complete the service bulletin 18-20 man-hours are required even though the bulletin only allows for 16 man-hours.
...This service bulletin can be accomplished by a shop of your choosing or at our Addison Texas facility. If you choose to have a local mechanic preform repairs we recommend that you have your service provider contact us. A specially designed wing rack is recommended for removing the wings and special wing alignment tools make wing re-installation much easier."

Monday 30th: The team had already pulled Sally into the hangar and were preparing to do the inspection by the time I called at 8:00am. Less than 15 minutes to the airport and I got a thumbs up that the inspection was successful. Sally wouldn't need to have her wings pulled off. So I turned her over to the Service Experts and let them "do their thing". John and Tom were excellent, advising me of each defect and telling me what to look for and how to avoid potential problems. A Condition Inspection, new brake linings, muffler shroud springs, spark plugs, and broken BNC connector on my ELT, and an oil change topped the list. I also learned how to treat a few nicks on the prop with Bondo and prop paint. Sally even got her belly washed. But this all took time so I extended my stay another day. (I later learned the weather in the Atlanta area was horrible and I probably would have been forced to land early and spend the night short of destination...again.)

Tuesday 1st: Sally started easily by 10:00am and I had the radio tuned to Ground Control to request Flight Following. Once airborne we climbed on course to 5500' but were still in the dense haze.  We went up to 7500' to get a horizon and enjoy the tailwinds. It was a smooth flight crossing the Mississippi and into Louisville Winston County Airport (KLMS). This airport was just a fuel stop and I expected to be there all alone but as I taxied up to the fuel tank a man in a golf cart came out to offer assistance. It was a hot, uncomfortable day but he patiently showed me how to run the pump and offered to fuel the plane for me. This was true Southern Hospitality and as I taxied out he gave me a smart salute to send me on my way. (I love General Aviation.) We climbed to 5500' but were just in the base of a scattered layer of small cumulus clouds so once again we went up to 7500'. As we started our descent into Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field (KFFC) I noticed a deep sound on my headset. My eyes immediately went to the engine instruments and finding everything normal looked at the canopy. That was also secure. Then I realized that the batteries in the headset had gone dead. Once replaced I could hear clearly again, phew. Falcon Unicom confirmed that my ride had arrived.We landed at 5:00pm EDT.

Video Notes:

Departing Addison
Falcon Field

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wx Delay

Sunday 22nd: This was my planned departure date. Weather in the Philadelphia area was too poor for takeoff so I delayed a day.

Monday 23rd: Good local weather and a reasonable forecast enroute, Sally and I took off from Butter Valley at 9:15 am EDT first stop Cumberland County, MD (KCBE) at 4500’. Weather at this fuel stop was marginal (MFVR) but we had an interesting visual approach under the broken layer and over the mountains and valleys leading into this beautiful airport. We got a quick turnaround, took off and wove our way through the broken overcast and began the longest leg of the trip heading to Bowling Green, KY (KBWG). The weather at destination was controlled by thunderstorm cells especially north of my GPS track. Sally and I followed a Civil Air Patrol flight of two into the airport. Storms were quickly approaching the airport bringing heavy rain (yellow and orange) and gusty winds. About 5 miles out one of the CAP guys announced he was going around and I was concerned that winds might be a factor. Fortunately Sally and I had no problems. Later in the FBO I learned it was a training flight, not impacted by weather. As planned, we spent the night.

Tuesday 24th: I woke to marginal weather. The 1800WXBRIEF discussed a wide band of IFR conditions west of Bowling Green to just east of Hot Springs (KHOT). 30 gals at 6gals/hr gives me 4 hours of flight with reserve. KHOT was 4 hours away at 90kts planned ground speed. I decided to take a “look and see” (L&S) flight.  We leveled at 4500' with 19 kts headwinds, giving me 89 kts over the ground. The tops of the broken undercast started scraping the dirty side of the airplane so I climbed to 6500'. Ground speed dropped to 75 kts. I replanned my destination to KSRC, an hour closer. Weather there was very marginal. XM weather verified my morning weather brief that thunder bumpers were growing in a line between me and destination, an unstable air-mass. The broken layer had turned to solid undercast and a thin layer was building above me. The numbers just didn't work. I turned around, found a little hole and circled to descend through it VFR. I tied her down and sat at the FBO with a can of Coke listening to the Weather Channel. We would try again tomorrow.
Crossing the Mississippi River enroute to KHOT
Wednesday 25th: A beautiful flight into KHOT. ( This was supposed to be a fuel stop with a quick turnaround but it was not to be. Composite RADAR showed a “thunder bomb” in the Dallas area. I arranged to have Sally put in a hangar while I spent the night at the Austin Hotel.
Thursday 26th: IFR at KHOT. There is an observation tower on a mountain within view of the hotel. I looked out my window and saw that clouds engulfed the top of the tower. Not a good start to the day. The weather briefer said not to expect any improvement during the remainder of the day. I called the airport and told them to keep Sally in the hangar. The weather Channel said that Hot Springs had the most rain in the state for the week, over 2.33”.

1,256 feet above sea level. 216-foot observation tower.
Friday 27th: I checked out of the hotel at noon and took the free shuttle to the airport. Sally was pulled out of the hangar so I could take another “L&S”. We took off but we couldn’t get above 1500’. XM weather showed a gap to the south but poor visibility and rain showers were just too much to get through. We went back to the airport. Another view of the weather maps indicated that there might be an open door to the west. Sally and I took off again but found that door quickly slam shut. We couldn’t go under, over or around the weather so we were forced back to the airport. I tied Sally down and took the free shuttle back to the hotel.
Saturday Morning at KHOT
Saturday 28th: I looked out the hotel window very early Saturday morning and couldn’t see any stars. This was a bad omen. Later that morning I checked on the observation tower and it was still hidden by clouds. I called the weather briefer to see if I should cancel for the day but was surprised to find some optimism. I checked out of the hotel by 10:00 am CDT and caught the shuttle to the airport. Finally I saw some patches of blue. I preflighted Sally, loaded my bags and went back into the FBO for another weather check. Addison reported 3500’ broken with winds at 16G26. Enroute weather looked OK with various layers of scattered and broken clouds topping out around 4500’. Time to go. We found a good sized hole on our way to 4500’ and called Memphis for Flight Following. I pushed the buttons to let Sally fly and opened a package of cheese crackers for my breakfast. It was a pretty day to fly. Eventually the cloud tops were up to my level so we climbed to 6500’ and accepted the penalty of 10 kts additional headwind. I carefully watched the layers of clouds beneath us to ensure there were still holes I could use to get down. Most of the trip was widely broken but about 45 minutes out I checked the METAR at KADS and found they were now MVFR with a 4000’ overcast. Winds were still gusting to 26kts but pretty close to straight down the runway for RWY 15. We began our VFR descent at 30 minutes out to get below the cloud layer. It was bumpy and rainy at 3500’ with a lot of dark clouds by the time we checked in with Regional Approach.  Soon we were directed to descend to 2500’ and eventually handed over to KADS Tower and directed for a visual approach to an extended left base leg. I opted for a no flap landing due to the gusty winds. Sally handled that well and we were easily off at Gulf taxiway. It was an quick ride over to US Sport Aircraft and we were met by Stuart. I started to get out of the airplane but the winds pushed Sally like a weathervane so I sat back down and mashed the breaks. Stuart pushed us back and started the tie down process before I attempted to get out.

As I sat in the office waiting for my ride to the hotel some fliers came by asking about the weather. They were afraid of being called “wimps” because of deciding not to go out on a windy day.  I told them that my rule was not fly for fun when winds exceeded 18 kts. They were NOT wimps. Reference #3
Sunday 29th: The first time in nearly a week that I didn’t have a o530 wake up call.

Video Notes:

Bowling Green
Hot Springs