Thursday, November 20, 2014

Planning a Trip

This is how I typically plan my trip:

1. to check initial distance. This will tell me how many flying days should be planned.

2. Break trip down into 200 mile legs. Find 6 routes (or so). Provides rough idea of intermediate stops.


3. Check airport comments and nearby alternates. Eliminate poor reviews. Elevate those with interesting comments. I'll also check comments on AOPA. I prefer places I've never been...adds to the adventure for me.

4. I plan 600 miles a day for travel (2 fuel stops before an overnight) Consider "on airport" dinners/restaurants. Check on accommodations, for me AND Sally. (I like to actually talk to someone at the FBO if I plan to spend the night.)

a. 600 miles ~ 6 hours. That's enough time for me to be flying a small airplane each day. Add in preflight, fueling and securing the airplane it easily turns into 8 or 9 hours. If the weather is good and my energy level is good I can skip a stop. But I'm usually ready for a break after a 2 hour leg. Reference here

b. What do I talk to the FBO about? Hangar or tie down. Services available. Transportation options (crew car?). Any preferred hotel (discounts?) etc. Do they sound like good people?

5. Review for hazards (SUA, terrain, TFR, etc)

6. Break the trip into day trips.

7. Enter plan into Pilot (or Foreflight) Check NOTAMS. Adjust and finalize.

After a GO decision I enter the plan into my 696 and put my tablet in the bag. The tablet goes into the FBO with me if I need to change the plan.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Uphill Monday Morning

Take off on runway 29er @ KUKT
It might be the last nice weather flight this year:

A strong cold front will move through on Wednesday and send temperatures south in a hurry for the 2nd half of the week and weekend. There may even be some snowflakes in the air Thursday night in some areas.

So I took a short flight just to enjoy the countryside. Added a few landings just for practice and called it a day.

Video Notes: I tried a different camera angle and set the aperture to "wide". It gives the impression that Sally is always going "uphill" but does capture a lot of the terrain.

Monday Morning

See the memo from the FAA, or read the summary below:
The mounting of external camera does not constitute a major change and therefore is not subject to the regulatory purview of 14 CFR Part 43.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Night means the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the Air Almanac, converted to local time.
14 CFR 61.57 - Recent flight experience: Pilot in command.
Night takeoff and landing experience.(1) Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise, unless within the preceding 90 days that person has made at least three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise, and—
(i) That person acted as sole manipulator of the flight controls; and
(ii) The required takeoffs and landings were performed in an aircraft of the same category, class, and type (if a type rating is required).
 14 CFR 61.315 - What are the privileges and limits of my sport pilot certificate?
(c) You may not act as pilot in command of a light-sport aircraft:
(1) That is carrying a passenger or property for compensation or hire.
(2) For compensation or hire.
(3) In furtherance of a business.
(4) While carrying more than one passenger.
(5) At night
An awesome power. Five clicks on the radio button turns a black hole of darkness into a runway lit up like a Christmas tree. The world stays beautiful at night, but it also becomes a bit more dangerous to those of us use to the light. Obstacles remain unseen. A deer on the runway, the tree that grew too tall on the approach corridor, minor mechanical failures all become more hazardous.

"Night flight is so completely different from day that it requires careful introduction. Any pilot deficiencies become magnified at night. The night horizon is less visible and more indistinct. Night flight is semi-IFR with considerable reliance on the instruments. Clouds and terrain are from difficult to impossible to see.  There can be a gradual loss of visual clues when flying into darker terrain. This leads to disorientation and loss of control." PilotFriend
Video Notes: This video really stressed the Camtasia software. I wanted to show the effect of decreasing sunlight. Running the clips simultaneously seemed to be very hard on the rendering engine. I had many crashes before this video was finally successfully rendered.


20 Things You May Not Know About Night Flying
Darkness comprises roughly half of every day, but that’s no reason to avoid flying at night, if…
By Bill Cox

Friday, October 31, 2014

Lock Haven

Lock Haven ~ KLHV
Richard was working with Paul to get his new SportCruiser a condition inspection. It was a chilly but sunny day in Barto so I decided to take the one hour flight to go and visit them for lunch.

The drive to the airport gave me some concern. While the cold front had passed through last evening, the colder air had merged the morning temperature and dew point. Mist and fog lingered over the lakes and streams and changed the clear blue morning sky into IFR conditions. I worried that I might be forced to cancel.

I pulled up to hangar, opened the doors and got my preflight started. Sally is getting close to her own 100 hour condition inspection. While everything looks normal, I worried about the minor oil leak and how that will be handled during the inspection.

I rechecked my navigation. A direct course would take me too close to the Allentown Airspace. So I decided to travel a little west before turning north to go direct to my destination. While there were no TFRs in effect today, a major VIP visit over the weekend is going to effectively close Quakertown traffic routes to the south. I always worry about TFRs just "popping up" while I'm out flying.

Soap Box ~The Fear of Flying:
Acrophobia (from the Greek: ἄκρον, ákron , meaning "peak, summit, edge" and φόβος,phóbos, "fear") is an extreme or irrational fear of heights, especially when one is not particularly high up.
I have a bit of Acrophobia. That third step on the ladder is as far as I go. But flying a small airplane is the definition of freedom. To be able to pick up and go (almost) anywhere at (almost) anytime is fantastic. But each freedom comes with a responsibility. A trust between the pilot, the airplane and our society. The real fear of flying is breaking this trust:
  1. The fear of doing something stupid. One of the famous last lines is, "Watch this!"
  2. The fear of an inflight emergency. Know your airplane. What is normal and what is abnormal. Listen to her.
  3. The constant fear of the 3rd class medical. Know yourself. Establish personal guidelines and adhere to them. (IMSAFE)
  4. The fear of breaking the rules. FARs, AIM, PHAK have them all written down. But do you understand them?
  5. The fear of getting caught in bad weather. Meteorology: She is a bitch, don't get her mad. Know your own limitations.
  6. The fear of getting lost. Try flying without the purple line. Pilotage is a skill requiring practice.
  7. The fear of bending the airplane. Airmanship: Take a few laps in the pattern...on a windy day.
You are going to screw up. I can count on one hand (and have some fingers left over) how many "perfect flights" I've had. Usually minor stuff, but yes I've done some really dumb things as well. That doesn't mean you stop flying. Like the quarterback throwing an interception you get back in the game and don't make that mistake again.

You see, I think the worries and fears keep a lot of us from going out to the airport. That's a shame because exercising freedom is really a lot of fun.

OK, I'm done.

Video Notes:

Lock Haven

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Allentown, PA
I ordered a 'tempe' wireless temperature sensor to track cockpit temperature. It links to the Garmin Virb Elite and other devices. I often get asked if it gets hot (or cold) due to the bubble canopy and I usually respond that the temperature can be controlled. It never hurts to have data to back your argument. The read out appears in the lower right in the attached cockpit video.

I got up early on Saturday morning and beat the gusty winds that were moving through the area. It was smooth at 3000' but got pretty bumpy down low. Gusts were up to 16kts by the time I got back to Quakertown. It was still gusting on Sunday, enough for me to cancel all flights for the day. I suspect it won't be too long before the winds are driving snow.

Video Notes:


PPL Center is a sports arena in Allentown, Pennsylvania that opened on September 10, 2014. Its naming rights are owned by the PPL Corporation, which is headquartered in Allentown. PPL paid an undisclosed sum over ten years. The arena is part of a larger redevelopment project of the central business district of Allentown. The project encompasses a 5-acre square square block area, in which several new structures are planned to be erected. Part of the arena site was previously developed in the 1990s as an office building called Corporate Plaza; shortly after opening, on February 23, 1994, it collapsed into a sinkhole, due to limestone in the ground and the decision not place the building on a concrete pad, but rather on spread footings; the plaza was imploded on March 19 of that year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Queen City

An older gentleman came to the FBO door just as I was locking up on a Sunday. He asked what planes we have to rent, so I pointed to the C172 on the line and handed him one of the postcards I use to provide information about Sally. He mentioned that he was from out of town, here on a business trip but would like to get a flight in if he could find the time. He was familiar with light airplanes and has flown an Aeronca "Champ" at his home airport. I said "my number is on the card, call me if you want to arrange something".

That evening my cell phone rang after 9:00PM. At my age phone calls at this time of the night are usually not good news. Caller id was California. He apologized for the late call but asked if we could fly on Monday at noon.  If the weather was good I said we would go.

He arrived a little late, stuck in traffic on Rt309. We sat at the picnic table as I explained what I planned to cover on our Discovery Flight. He had other ideas and asked if we could go over to Vansant (9N1) and Queen City (KXLL). Well, with the recent rains I didn't want to land on the (possibly soggy) turf at 9N1 but said we could do a low pass. KXLL would be fine.

The winds were starting to kick up a bit. After some taxi practice on the runway so he could see how to control a castering nose wheel, I made the take off  and gave him control once leaving the traffic pattern. He did well with basic maneuvers as we wandered over to the Delaware River. We used that as our base leg and I talked him through the low approach. We departed and headed over to Queen City. "This is much more complicated than I had thought. I had no idea what a modern LSA was like." Although I discussed the avionics and demonstrated the GPS, this flight was more about the scenery so I made sure to point out the various landmarks. I could see him loosen his grip on the stick as he became more comfortable with the controls. He was starting to "feel" the airplane.

Sally warned us about the high cell towers on the ridge at South Mountain. We entered on a 45° to RWY25 following a DA40. That traffic forced us to get a little deep but he handled the situation well. Winds were gusty but the touchdown was good. I asked when was the last time he had made a landing. "Oh about 6 months ago." I said "No, about 5 seconds ago, you did this one all on your own!" He grinned.

It turns out he had made his first solo flight out of Queen City 50 years ago. I'm so glad I could participate in this home coming.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pennsylvania Autumn

Cold front after cold front, like waves pounding against the shore. Each one bringing stormy gray skies, each with buckets of rain so far. The temperatures are in decline as each wave drops it a few more degrees. I woke to 41°F. The oil cooler baffle was screwed on earlier this week.

Between the storms we sometimes have calm. That's how it was on Sunday. I got up just before sunrise to find the morning stars shining and the ground dimly lit by the full moon. Flying weather. The weather maps reported patchy fog or mist at a few airports but soon the daytime temperatures would burn that off. Quakertown was already VFR by the time I pulled Sally out of the hangar.

I decided to head northwest toward Williamsport, but since I had previously landed there chose a little airport just south; Danville (8N8). The route should provide some interesting terrain and a good look at the fall foliage.

It was calm and cool. No need for an autopilot. Minor trim adjustments kept Sally on altitude. The only time we felt a burble was passing over the ridges on the way home. By that time convection had started and generated some light winds. I opted for a straight in approach at home field. I misjudged it, got high and fast so had to use a slip to get down. Floated halfway down to runway to a lousy landing. (I edited all that from the video....) Obviously I need more practice.

Video Notes:

Pennsylvania Autumn

When I was in school one question on a final exam was to compute the lift components for the third airplane flying in a "V" formation. (The Professor didn't appreciate my creative mathematical analysis.)  I liked this video. Why Do Birds Fly In V Formations?