Monday, May 13, 2019

Did you hear that?

It had been a nice flight down to Venice (KVNC). The Florida weather clear and calm with just a few scattered high clouds. Perfect weather for flying an LSA. We were not alone. The EAA Group in Venice was having a Young Eagles Meetup and the traffic down the gulf coast was nearly saturated for this Saturday morning. Tampa Approach Control had all they could handle and was not accepting any VFR Flight Following. So that part of the lesson would remain incomplete. The navigation and communication topics were covered and we even got in a little bit of "Foggles" time.

As we entered the crosswind for RWY05 we heard a "Pop". MFD was fine, showing nothing unusual with our trusty ROTAX 912. I thought it might be a bird strike but all of Sally's surfaces, at least the ones I could see looked good. I told Leo to Fly The Airplane. Then I saw it. The canopy hook behind his shoulder had come loose and there was now a gap about an inch wide. I told him to fly a normal pattern and not be distracted if my hook also came loose. But it didn't. We made a normal landing and parked her at the FBO as we always do.  A quick inspection showed a small crack in the canopy rail.

Some minor repair work would be required. Ownership has its privileges and its responsibilities. Between that and foul weather Sally would be down for about a month.

The Florida weather turned to the summertime cycle. Fog and mist in the early morning, turning to low clouds by lunch-time with thunderstorms by mid-afternoon. Even so, Sally and I were able to get in two "Back in the Saddle" flights and a new student Discovery Flight last week. We weren't able to get all of the planned items done, but did make progress...and had some fun doing it.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Lakeland 2019

The entrance to Sun 'n Fun 2019.
I love living in Florida. As I left the house we had blue skies, thin high scattered layer with temperature in the mid-60s. Only 30 minutes from my driveway until I was parked at Sun 'n Fun. This would be a good day.

I got my ticket (no line) and walked through the entrance on my way back towards the exhibition area. The crowd was light, even for a weekday. I stopped to talk to Josh at Cruiser Aircraft and discussed the logistics of getting his airplanes to the show. All of the planes looked good. (and though I still don't care for the big "delta" on the tail, the new paint combinations are great.)

Next, I visited the Piper display area to look at the new $265K VFR trainer (They did not have one on display. They did have the IFR model.) It reminded me of the Cherokee I used to fly out of the grass strip at Slatington. Only this airplane only has two (or optional three) seats. I asked if it has an autopilot. The IFR plane ($285K) does but not the VFR trainer. So it is NOT a Technically Advanced Aircraft. This is important because I can use my LSA PiperSport for Sport Pilot, Private Pilot, and Commercial Pilot training since Sally does qualify as a TAA platform. I could only use the new Piper trainer for Private Pilot. I wonder what the fuel burn is? Too bad. Too expensive.

T28 Trojans
I walked the exhibitors' line looking at all of the new airplanes and enjoyed listening in on some of the sales pitches. I wonder if many sales are made at this show or if most of the folks are just "tire kickers". I spent some time in the sales halls looking for any must-have new gadget. I was able to keep my wallet securely in my pocket.

P3 next to a B25 
It was at this time I heard a very familiar noise. Not a whine, not a roar, but maybe a mixture of both.  The sound of four Allison T56-A engines. Fat Albert had arrived.

Finally, I walked out to the warbirds. The NOAA Hurricane Hunter P3 was there right next to the shiny B-25 Panchito. The P3 is a big bird. I saw a number of P51s a TBM and a small group of T28s.

Afternoon appointments called me back to reality, but it was a beautiful morning to spend some time with airplanes.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Turn Pattern

1. Description. The turn pattern (TP) is a series of constant angle of bank turns while maintaining altitude and airspeed.

Turn Pattern: Clearing the Area
2. General. The TP is started in normal cruise on a cardinal heading (north, south, east, and
west). The TP consists of two 15º angle of bank turns in opposite directions for 30º of heading
change, two 30º angle of bank turns in opposite directions for 90º of heading change, and two 45º angle of bank turns in opposite directions for 180º of heading change. A smooth reversal is made going from one turn into another, eliminating a straight and level leg. (Figure 6-4). Throughout the pattern, check the area clear, check the aircraft attitude with the horizon, and then crosscheck the nose attitude with the altimeter-VSI and the angle of bank with the attitude gyro. Correct the visual attitude as necessary. Crosscheck your instruments by periodically scanning the RMI for turn progress and the airspeed for power required. Note that the absence of a wing attitude crosscheck instrument (other than the gyro) allows you to scan the RMI frequently for turn performance and thus keeps you from overshooting headings.

The 15º angle of bank turn will require little backstick pressure or additional power. For the 30º and 45º angle of bank turns, it will be necessary to raise the nose slightly to increase the angle of attack in order to compensate for the loss of vertical lift as the bank steepens. Additional power will be  equired to maintain airspeed. To avoid overshooting the rollout headings, lead the rollout heading by a number of degrees equal to one-third the angle of bank. (For a 15º angle of bank turn, lead the rollout by 5º, etc.) Strive for smooth reversals between turns.

Trim the aircraft as necessary throughout the pattern. Remember, as the reversal or rollout occurs, the nose must be lowered back to the level attitude, and since it has been trimmed "up" during the turn, the nose will require forward stick pressure to lower it. Remember to use the P.A.T. principle.

3. Procedures
Figure 6-6 Turn Pattern 

a. Establish the aircraft straight and level on a cardinal heading, base altitude, and normal cruise.
b. Clear the area. Turn for 30º of heading  change using a 15º angle of bank. Clear the area (in the other direction) then reverse the turn, leading by the one-third rule for 30º of heading change using a 15º angle of bank.
c. Clear the area. Reverse the turn leading by the one-third rule and turn for 90º of heading change using a 30º angle of bank. Maintain altitude and airspeed with power and nose attitude; retrim. Clear the area (other direction) then reverse the turn using the one-third rule for 90º of heading change using a 30º angle of bank.  Remember to adjust nose attitude as necessary to maintain airspeed and altitude while rolling through wings level.
d. Clear the area. Reverse the turn leading by the one-third rule and turn for 180º of heading change using a 45º angle of bank. Adjust power and nose attitude to maintain altitude and airspeed; trim. Clear the area (other direction) then reverse the turn leading by the one-third rule; hold slight forward stick pressure to prevent ballooning as you roll through the wings level. Reestablish the attitude to maintain altitude; turn for 180º of heading change using a 45º angle of bank.
e. Roll out on the original heading using the one-third rule and holding slight forward stick pressure to prevent ballooning.
f. Reset power to the normal cruise power setting (as required), reset attitude and retrim for straight and level.

4. Common Errors
a. Applying the control pressures too rapidly and abruptly, or using too much backstick pressure before it is actually needed. Remember the aircraft is flown through a medium-banked turn before it reaches a steeper turn.
b. Not holding the nose attitude steady. In order to determine the appropriate corrections, you must first establish a steady attitude and allow the instruments to stabilize.
c. Staring at the nose and consequently applying control corrections too late. Divide your attention. Scan your instruments, never fixating on any one instrument. Anticipate the need for additional power and nose up. Do not wait until you are low or slow.
d. Gaining altitude in reversals. Not lowering nose as the wings pass the level flight attitude, usually due to fixating on the RMI instead of scanning the horizon.
e. Not clearing the area before and during all turns.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Next Step

He soloed, twice. The pattern work and landings had improved to the point where he could fly in good weather at his home field. Now it was time to stretch those wings. We planned a simple flight down to Airport Manatee to give him a chance to experience something new and different. For this flight we would stay out of Class B, C and D airspace to concentrate on navigation.

We sat down at one of the cafe tables to spread out the Miami Sectional. The lower shelf of the Tampa Class B follows I75 so we would stay east of that until we got far enough south. Leo used his EFB to find a few waypoints to plug into the GPS that would help define the route. We took the opportunity to review some of the information on the sectional. I recommend this link. Finally, we discussed the Nav Log. His EFB said we would use about 1.3 gallons to fly there. I gave my rule of thumb calculations and discussed "Bingo" fuel. Finally, I mentioned that there would be a lot of challenging new stuff on this flight.
After takeoff, we climbed to 1200' and finished the checklist. Leo started working with his EFB and Sally started to drift to the left. After a while, I suggested we engage the autopilot. A short brief on its operation and some cautionary comments about looking outside followed.
As we approached 48x, traffic reported using RWY25 so we prepared for that left-handed entry, but as we got closer the winds shifted more easterly so we changed to a right-hand entry to RWY07. This would be his first time using a right-hand pattern.
Turf strips usually don't have many markings, few reference points to check progress for the visual approach. It's a little disconcerting when I've been preaching to "land on the numbers" and suddenly there are no numbers.
We did soft field and short field takeoffs. Gently letting that nose come down right after the liftoff takes a lot of practice. Not bad for the first time.
Immediately after departure, I handed him the Foggles. One of the real joys of flying Sally is the fantastic view. I just took that away. Climbs, turns, speed changes and descents all take on a new meaning when you can't see the real horizon. And Sally provides a lot of cautionary distracting alerts when you approach a cell tower.
I asked for the Foggles back. It had been a good flight. I decided we had accomplished enough for the day so I canceled the emergency practice and told him to take us home.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Cutting a Shirt

A first solo.
I started by looking at the 5-day forecast. It was obvious that Saturday would be lousy. I checked aviation weather on Thursday and Friday. The weather on Saturday was still forecast for low clouds and poor visibility. Friday night I went to bed certain that I would not fly on Saturday.

I checked all of my weather sites before sunrise Saturday morning. The little circles were all colored in green. A warm front had stalled just north of us and the weather up there was lousy... but ours was...not bad. I was still doubtful, thinking we would have low lying scud, so when I texted Leo I told him it would probably end as a No Go but was willing to give it a try.

No school buses to deal with, the drive in was easy.  The only real traffic was when I almost hit a low flying Osprey chasing his breakfast. Beautiful animal. Sally was down to about 12 gallons (my no go is 10) but that would be plenty for pattern work. Leo was waiting at the FBO when I taxied up. It was overcast at 4500' with light winds from the north. Lets go!

Sandhill Cranes are very large (~4') tall birds with a long neck,
 long legs, and very broad wings.
As we took the runway 3 Sandhill Cranes were eating their breakfast just off the left side of the runway. They were kind enough to let us use their runway and the takeoff and pattern work was normal. But as Leo entered his round out to flare I saw movement on the runway centerline. Those three birds had decided to settle on the middle of runway 05. Time to Go Around! I called Skyport Aviation and told them about the birds, they said they would handle it.

The next pattern was good, and as we landed I noted that the birds had moved off the asphalt onto the grass on the left just off the runway. As we taxied back a golf cart came out to chase them away.

The next 3 landings were average or above average. Some people wonder if it is a hard decision to let a student go for the first time. Not really. After spending hours in the plane with him, you get to know the student pretty well. So it's not a sudden decision, it comes after many many turns in the pattern to get the necessary experience and the "sight picture". You both know when the time is right. It was time for me to get out and let him solo.

But why did I cut his shirt? In the early days of flight before intercoms were common instructors used to sit behind their students in a tandem aircraft and pull on their shirt tails to give directions. After successfully soloing, the student has shown that he doesn't need that direction anymore and therefore doesn't need his shirt tail. CONGRATULATIONS LEO!

Video: 1st Solo

Friday, January 25, 2019

Sebring 2019

On our way to the Sebring Expo.
I planned to fly the 60 miles to Sebring (KSEF) on Thursday. Mother Nature said no. Friday looked like a good weather day from the forecast, but when I checked the computer early in the morning it showed gusty winds (in the high teens) and low ceilings (2000' broken). The forecast said to expect improvement throughout the day so I went back to bed for an hour.

This time the forecast got it right. The winds had died down and the clouds disappeared. It would be a good day to go flying.

Tampa Executive Airport was already busy by the time I got to the run-up area. And it was cold for Florida (60°F). I actually had to wait for the oil to warm up before I could do my runup. Winds were out of the north at about 8kts, Sally jumped into the air. We turned to the southeast, climbed to 2500' and settled in for the 35-minute flight. Just a bit of a tailwind this morning, nice.

At twenty miles out I called Lake Jackson approach and was told to continue and report 3 miles north of the water tower. Since I've already done this a few times I already knew what to expect. Others on the frequency weren't quite so comfortable and not as familiar with the numerous lakes surrounding Sebring. Eventually, I was told to follow a "low wing" coming up from the south and switch to monitor tower frequency. The temporary tower was busy and when the guy in front of me was cleared for his right downwind turn I continued over the field anticipating the same instruction. It never came. So, I checked in, rocked my wings and used an extended right base leg to get back into the landing pattern. No problem. Sweet landing. Long taxi to the parking spot.

The shuttle van picked up about 5 of us for the 15-minute ride over to the show entrance. We talked about BasicMed, the use of autogas in the Rotax and many other aviation topics. Not once did anyone mention the government shutdown. Ahhh, relief. After buying my wrist band I went into the terminal to get some breakfast. It was exactly 11:00am, breakfast was no longer being served. RATS! BLT on rye.

5.5 gals/hr
TAS 113kts
It was a good family reunion. I saw Jamie as he was getting ready for his Rusty Pilot Seminar. Caught up with Walt as he walking back to his Flight Design booth. Talked to Josh and Lucas and congratulated them on a huge their tent design. (Hopefully, this one won't blow away.) Next, I went over to see Jon and Lou at the Bristell tent, both were very busy so I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Rich. He explained the canopy latching mechanism they use and it seems like a nice improvement over the SportCruiser system. Time will tell.

Next, I walked the flight line just to see if there were any new players. Not so far as I could see. It was a beautiful day to walk around looking at airplanes, but all good things come to an end.

Back on the shuttle, I spoke with a guy who is an FAA accident investigator. He has seen enough to know that the safety measures we use are important. If even the small things are ignored it can have devasting effects.

Sally was parked way the heck out on the line. It was a long taxi back to the runway and we had a few holds due to incoming traffic. When we got the runway the CHT was already warm and waiting for landing traffic was making it worse. Just as I was about to abort and taxi back to cool down we were cleared for takeoff. She cooled off quickly during the climb out.

The flight home was uneventful and very enjoyable. And the landing at home...5 stars!

Sunday, January 6, 2019


First, there is the forecast weather. We check it before even going out to the airport. Two hours before takeoff the winds were forecast to be 31008Kts. Good enough for a pre-solo student to practice landings.

Then there is observed weather. The flags were flapping as I drove in. A cold front had moved through last evening and the winds were the aftereffect of the disturbed air behind that front. The broadcast weather (AWOS) at the airport reported 30010kts as we sat in the airplane listening before our taxi out to RWY 23. The windsock was nearly fully extended as it flapped in the stiffening breeze.

Finally, there is actual weather. That is what really counts, and as we lifted off the runway we knew almost immediately that we had been lied too.  The GPS showed a direct crosswind at 20kts at pattern altitude. Sally nearly stopped as we turned on base leg. The landing was going to be a battle. And a great learning experience.

Two times around was enough experience for one day.

He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again. ~Tacitus