Monday, November 2, 2015


Nearly a month since we had flown. Too long. I stopped by the FBO to get the pin to access the south gate, then drove out to the line to park near Sally. She looked lonely baking in the Florida sun, but I would take care of that today.

Localization 1: to become familiar with the local airport, its normal operations, ground procedures, and traffic patterns. I had printed out the Airport Directory page from AOPA and studied it before turning the key. The winds were out of the south east, a "fielders choice"  between RWY 18 or RWY 5. Sally started easily. A ROTAX likes to be warm. No one was currently in the pattern so I chose 18 and announced I would leave the ramp area and take taxiway Alpha to get there.  I noticed tents were up on the other side of the canal and wondered what event was taking place. Before I locked the canopy I heard cheers from the crowd.

Sally was running great with well over 4900RPM static check. We lifted off and corrected left for about 8kts of crosswind. I looked down at the canal and found a Regatta taking place; sculls racing along the waterway. A beautiful sight,  I turned crosswind once over the interstate. Field elevation is only 20ft, so I leveled at 1000ft for my downwind leg. There is a special kind of joy that comes with flying the landing pattern at a new home field, and I love the new sights from this airport. I'm anxious to explore but today was devoted to learning this airport.

A float plane announced his entry and said the crosswind was a bit stiff for him and would take RWY 5 instead. No problem, I adjusted my pattern to enter midfield for RWY5 and practice some landings with the winds from my right.

It was a great workout. I logged 6 and all felt good. (Two were great!, one was too high and I had to slip her in.) I taxied back to our new tie down the shade. Not a hangar but at least protected from the sun. (and the snow won't be much of a problem.) A good sized lock box allows me to store cleaning supplies and other essentials. I like it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Home Coming

I wanted to get some more flights in but my travel schedule, the Pennsylvania weather and finally a visit by the Pope kept me on the ground. I really regret not getting one more flight in with Mark. He'll do well with another instructor. All of my students will.

My plan was to fly to the SportCruiser/PiperSport Home Coming in Addison on October 2nd, then travel to Tampa from there the following week. Hurricane Joaquin changed my plans. The foul weather wasn't directly associated with Joaquin, but the low pressure system over Pennsylvania was locked in place until the hurricane moved out to sea. Winds for the weekend were forecast to hit 40 mph. Mike found me a hangar and I spent the weekend warm and dry.

A direct route would take me down the east coast into what was left of the storms, and South Carolina, which was really hit hard  by the never ending rains, would not be a very good host. I decided to stay west of the Appalachians and travel south as soon as feasible. The original plan looked like:

UKT - USW - RVN - HQU - X60 - VDF

About 8:00am Monday morning, preflight complete and looking at beautiful blue skies I turned the crank. hmmm. Turned the crank. Rested, checked everything and turned the crank again. The blades spun but no pop. First time ever, I flooded her. After 20 minutes or so I tried again (choke off) and after a sputter she came to life. ahhhh.

A late start but I got a pleasant surprise at 6500ft, a tailwind. Passing Harrisburg I started recalculating my destination. After notifying Flight Following that I would change my destination I settled in to reset the GPS. Browsing the AOPA directory I found that my new fuel stop didn't have any fuel. Back to inflight flight planning. Another airport chosen, but this time I checked first, again no fuel. One more time and I found Lonesome Pine.

A beautiful airport in the extreme southwestern corner of Virginia, it is primarily a corporate airfield used by the coal industry as a place to check on local mining operations. A single engine piston is kind of a rarity. They treated me as something special. As I checked on the weather further south I was disappointed to find IFR conditions all the way to Tampa. I might get another hundred miles but it would be marginal. At Klnp the airport manager offered me a crew car, helped with reservations at a local hotel and offered free hangar space. I stayed the night.

I woke up to fog. I took a leisurely breakfast, put some gas in the Jeep and headed back to the airport. By the time I got there it was blue sky with wispy mist laying on the farmers fields. The weather briefer said I could get down into Georgia but after that there would be low clouds. Not advisable for VFR. I decided to travel as far south as Atlanta then stop and take a look.

The clouds filled the valleys of  Tennessee and brushed up against the mountains around Asheville. I wondered if I was Sport Pilot legal? I had good ground reference with the peaks but directly below was a solid undercast. The controller lost me for awhile and asked or a position report. I love my 696. NRST/VOR immediately gave the radial and distance to the nearest VOR. I was advised to stay clear of the Asheville Class C and did so with a minor track correction to the west. By the time I crossed the Georgia border the clouds had disappeared and it seemed to be turning into a nice VFR kind of day. I took on fuel at Milledgeville.

The weather there was great. Tampa showed 3500ft broken and improving, but in between was a solid low layer of clouds. I would be VFR on Top, a Private Pilot once again. With full tanks I had over 2 hours reserve but I get that "twinge" flying above a solid deck knowing that Sally and I are not IFR current should I need to get down. Passing Gainesville I started to see some holes again, and by the time we reached Ocala it was time to descend to avoid the tops that were reaching up to touch us. Florida is flat. I was comfortable at 2500ft for the final leg of the trip. I prepared for the arrival at KVDF.

"N674PS if you can hear me turn NOW!" I over powered the autopilot and turned sharply to the right. I must have missed his first call. Another plane at the same altitude on opposite heading got the controllers attention. I looked back through the little window and watched him pass by. Thank you Flight Following.

A very nice landing at Tampa Executive (I need to find out about the history...recently called Vandenberg) and as I pulled into the visitors tie down space the linesman asked how long I intended to stay. "Oh, about ten years." Welcome home, Sally.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Experiment

A Scientific Method

The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. 

  • The steps of the scientific method are to:
    1. Ask a Question
    2. Do Background Research
    3. Construct a Hypothesis
    4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    5. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
    6. Communicate Your Results
  • It is important for your experiment to be a fair test. A "fair test" occurs when you change only one factor (variable) and keep all other conditions the same.
Open for Business
  1. Question: Can flight training be fun and affordable? Does new technology enhance the flight training experience? Can an LSA be a platform that can survive the training environment? Will students see value in the Sport Pilot Rating?
  2. Research: I went to visit my Mentor, Dr Paul up in Lock Haven. He had successfully started AvSport a few years earlier and was a font of information. I can not thank him enough for the encouragement he provided. However his talents extend beyond my own. He has the ability to perform his own maintenance, which I am not prepared to do. My enterprise would have to be different. I looked at a variety of business models and subscribed to many on line forums for insight and ideas. Patrick was especially helpful sharing business information from the company he runs at US Sport Aircraft. Of utmost importance was Kathy's ability to ask questions about the unforeseen circumstance.
  3. Hypothesis: A one plane/one instructor flight school can be financially successful if based upon modern LSA technologies and will be attractive to students otherwise turned off by older, standard category aircraft. Furthermore, students will have fun learning to fly in this type of aircraft.
  4. Test: The Light Sport Adventure was started in April 2013 when I got my CFI/CFII Certificate from the FAA. I was still based at Butter Valley (7N8) which was not particularly attractive for new flight students, nor convenient to a population center. Harry was very helpful getting the word out, and his help generated some Flight Reviews. It was a start. However, it wasn't until the Airport Manager at Quakertown asked me to move to his airport that the school got busy. Without Mike's help this experiment would have failed.
  5. Conclusion: Its been 1 year and 1 month since I moved Sally to Quakertown. We have prospered. We survived a very long difficult winter. Many weeks I canceled more flights than I flew, but we continued to reschedule and to see students make progress. Everyone leaned from the experience. We had fun and we grew the number of students learning to fly. ...and Sally survived. My experiment was successful.
Departing Runway 29er to the South
One of the many, many things we learned is that the flying season in Pennsylvania is too short.  So we have decided to correct that. It's time to "change a variable". This month we will cease our Pennsylvania operations and move south to Florida to start A New Adventure.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Week in Review

Summertime in Pennsylvania means warm fronts and cold fronts and fronts that really don't know what they are. The mix of weather makes for a challenging topic for new flight students and really disrupts a flight schedule.

Speed, Speed, Speed
Tuesday, after a sunny afternoon with light winds I made the decision to cancel an evening flight. Usually one of the best times to fly, a cold front was coming trough like a freight train bringing thunderstorms and heavy rain along with it. Estimated time of arrival was our take off time. Sometimes the forecasters get it wrong, not this time. I made a good decision.

"S" Turns and Turns Around a Point
Turning Around a Point
Wednesday, after the storm had passed we experienced a calm cool morning. Great flying weather, but by the time the student was available to fly the winds had started gusting up. We canceled the afternoon flight with winds gusting to 14 knots and trending higher. This meant the late afternoon flight was also canceled. (Nearby airports were reporting: 28010G18KT, 31010G18KT, 32014G20KT)

Thursday was much, much better. The afternoon flight was an introduction to landings. The evening flight was Ground Reference Maneuvers.
Both students are progressing well and more importantly seem to be enjoying the lessons. I know I am.

The week finished up on Saturday with a Discovery Flight. We had canceled the flight at least a half dozen times due to poor weather, but Saturday was near perfect. The family met us at the terminal building at KDYL. The airport was busy on a beautiful Saturday morning. The gentleman had wanted to fly in a small plane for years and this flight would be a gift from his son. When I pushed the throttle in I knew he was excited and he had fun finding familiar landmarks as we traveled south toward Philadelphia, which we could clearly see on the horizon. The next challenge was to find his house near some stone quarries close to the Delaware River. "There it is, I see it!" Then I let him take the controls and make some basic maneuvers before returning to Doylestown. We had a blast.

Hangar #2
After a short debrief. Kathy and I jumped in the plane and headed back to Quakertown. The Airport Manager had asked us to change hangars, stating it would be an improvement for us since it was south facing and wouldn't suffer the ice dams blocking the door like we had this past year. So after a few hours of lugging gear, Sally has a new home at Hangar #2. 

Although I lost my Mic Muff and had to buy a new one from Sporty's ($5.50 + shipping for a tiny piece of foam), it was still a pretty good week.

Video Notes: Weekly Review

Friday, July 17, 2015

Exhaust Gas Temperature

Flying might not be all plain sailing,
but the fun of it is worth the price. 
~ Amelia Earhart ~

Ceiling and visibility unlimited. Finally, a good weather day. Two training flights scheduled and the weather would be perfect. The briefing and preflight went well. The engine run-up was normal and the static ground check just before take-off had the shaft spinning just over 4900RPM. Winds were light and out of the east. We departed to the south heading toward Pottstown Muni (N47) for some landing practice.

As I prepared the student for his entry procedures I noticed the left EGT* was high. Oil pressure & temperature normal, CHT normal, no abnormal noise or shuttering, just an occasional yellow blip on the instrument.  I elected to proceed. 

As we descended it cooled off but leveling at pattern altitude it started to rise again. We did a low pass and departed to fly north up the Lehigh Valley. Level flight, power at about 5000RPM the temperature started to rise again. Time to go home.

I added maximum power and raised the nose. The temperature dropped. Leveled off in cruise, it rose. Descended at at idle power it dropped. No other indications.

I did an uneventful straight in approach at Quakertown. With the engine running at idle on the ramp we had no abnormal indications.  I was stumped.

Until I turned the key to shut her down. Only two clicks, not three.

When the student had performed the magneto check during the engine run-up he had returned the switch to the Left, not Both position.

I should have thought of that. 

*An exhaust gas temperature gauge (EGT gauge) is a meter used to monitor the exhaust gas temperature of an internal combustion engine in conjunction with a thermocouple-type pyrometer. EGT is an indication of how hot the combustion process is in the cylinders, and the amount of "afterburning" that is occurring in the exhaust manifold. EGT is also directly related to the air/fuel ratio. The excess fuel will act as a coolant. The richer the air/fuel ratio, the higher lower the EGT will be. Reference:

Saturday, July 11, 2015


The slow moving cold front was still west of State College but due to arrive in our area about 2:00pm. I decided that we could go if I altered our lesson plan and skipped ahead to introduce landings. I thought we could stay at the airport and do 3 or 4 landings before the bad weather arrived. There was no defined ceiling but there were layers of scattered clouds at 2000' and above. Visibility was good. When the student arrived he mentioned that he was surprised I said "Go".

The preflight went well and as we finished the Run-Up it started to rain. Just a local shower. A small cell. We launched.

During the crosswind leg I looked over my left shoulder toward Quakertown. The rain shower was beautiful, but we weren't going to practice landings there for awhile. Instead we headed for the relatively clear air out east toward Lake Nockamixon. I took advantage of the situation by describing the weather functions on the 696, pressed the nearest button to display the closest alternate airports  and discussed the dangers of getting too close to rain showers that you can't see through.

Eventually the cell moved to the south and provided a window for us to get back in. We didn't follow the lesson plan but hopefully the student gained much more from the real life experience.

Video Notes: Rain


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Post Flight Debrief

WingX Replay File
Google Earth .gpx File
"And even taking it to the extreme, Wally. I don't know that many people realize this, but the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels - the best of the best - videotape every single performance they do and debrief in detail what they did right, what they did wrong - every single event."

"Right. I believe the Navy pilots do the same thing with their carrier landings. They're videotaped and later debriefed. So that's probably the most important thing a good airman does - is they really analyze their flight and they're self-critical.

If you found that you were surprised during a flight by something, don't just say gee that surprised me. Go back and see if you can analyze why you were surprised. Did you miss an item on your checklist? Did you fail to get a good weather briefing? What was it that surprised you?

Some pilots I know keep a diary and they talk about the good things and the bad things that happened during their flight. And that gives them a focus for their next training event or their next study event." ~
Analyzing a Steep Turn
I only recently started using video as Post Flight Debrief tool. I always felt that the debrief was one of the most important aspects of the flight, but most students were exhausted by that time and unable to accept any additional input.  The video alleviates that problem. By posting the video on a secure website, the student can view it at his convenience, and "the camera doesn't lie". I had two cases this week when the student pointed out how helpful the video replay was for them.

A good video replay takes effort, often times more effort then it is worth. WingX Pro7 includes a replay function on its moving map. This takes nothing more than a button push to record and another to send the .gpx file to the student. The GPS track can then be opened in Google Earth and gps derived flight data analyzed. While not actual airspeed and altitude it can still be used as a tool to point out when corrections are needed. This track is especially useful in pointing out consistencies in the landing pattern.

For some, flight comes easily—others have to work at it. In teaching people the science and art of aviation, the instructor often guides someone grappling with something far different than normal life challenges. ~ June 24, 2015 by Bruce Landsberg
Video Notes: Learning to Land

 Have Fun, Be Safe, Train Well.