Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Aging Aeronaut - Eyes

... 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 ...
If you are young and immortal you can skip this post. least for now.

I had been working with the eye doctor for some time. As you get older these appointments become more important. My glasses had the correct prescription but it had become increasingly difficult to drive at night. The glare from oncoming headlights was more disturbing and reading highway signs was a challenge. Part 61.57 states I need three takeoffs and full stop landings every 90 days to allow me to take passengers along with me at night. During my latest night currency flight I noted that Sally's landing light had gotten awfully dim. It was time.

We decided to wait until after Sun 'N Fun. Cataract Surgery would remove each of my lenses and replace them with the latest technology flexible implanted artificial lenses. A new procedure would also insert a medicine package to alleviate the use of eye drops. I was told the recovery time would be minimal.

This was true for the left eye. The procedure was done on Friday, by Saturday morning that eye was back to 20/20. Miraculous. Not so true for the right eye. That procedure was done the following Friday and I was virtually blind in that eye the next day. I could see the remains of the medicine pack as a black shadow over my eye and the center of my vision was completely blurred. Not good. Turns out that although rare, the invasive procedure had caused swelling in my retina. The doctor prescribed eye drops to help reduce the swelling. I hate eye drops.

Yesterday I flew for the first time since the surgery. It was glorious! I CLEARLY watched a blimp traverse the Philadelphia airspace. Traffic calls in the pattern were easy. All with no glasses! Left eye vision is better than 20/20 and a true joy. Right eye is still improving, probably back to about where it was when we started. I still have some minor swelling.  ...and it is only going to get better. The new lenses allow some "tweaking" to fine tune the vision after 90 days. I'm excited about the future.

Sally is doing well. The DSAB failures and Low Voltage problems were all fixed by replacing the voltage Regulator/Rectifier.  We did 5 landings and with all of them we were off on the first taxiway for 29er. Gusts to 10kts and nearly a direct crosswind. I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Video Notes: none

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Eminent Domain Case - Solberg (N51)

Reference: Balloon Festival

A small general aviation airport in rural New Jersey known as “Solberg” has been under withering assault for nearly a decade by the local township. Solberg has been around forever and is enjoyed by pilots and aircraft owners up and down the East Coast and beyond. A lovely family owns it and they have been nearly bankrupted in trying to protect what was legally theirs to peaceably enjoy.

Well, they won a huge victory. Not only did the judge hearing the eminent domain claim turn the township away, it assessed millions of dollars in fines against it.

Armstrong's 54-page ruling came after a 48-day trial that began in May 2014 and ended in January with testimony from 11 witnesses and more than 800 pieces of evidence. The judge also reviewed 5,600 pages of court transcripts.
Not only is general aviation important to the national infrastructure, but it serves a critical role as the cradle of aviation. The security and economic vitality of the United States depends on this laboratory of flight where future civilian and military pilots are born. Airports such as Solberg blossomed in an era when local young men turned their dreams of barnstorming into air dominance in World War II and led this country into its golden age. These dreams still live in our youth, and general aviation endures as the proving ground for future pilots from all walks of life. Finally, there is a certain freedom that defines general aviation. Men and women throughout history gazed longingly at the soaring effortless freedom of birds, pondering release from the symbolic bondage of gravity. Only here can a man or woman walk onto some old farmer’s field and turn dreams into reality. As Charles Lindbergh once said: “What freedom lies in flying, what Godlike power it gives to men . . . I lose all consciousness in this strong unmortal space crowded with beauty, pierced with danger." - Judge Paul Armstrong
Armstrong ruled that the township's condemnation plan "was orchestrated to prevent airport expansion under the pretextual banner of open-space policy" and that it amounted to a "manifest abuse of power."

Links: Airfare America
  Solberg Airport News

Legal Ruling

In fine, an objective scrutiny of the collective testimony of the elected officials involved in the architecture and implementation of the eminent domain ordinance concerning the SHA property reveals a studied attempt to obscure the true purpose of the condemnors in the instant taking. The Court finds this testimony, as a whole, to be unforthright, evasive, untrustworthy, argumentative, lacking credibility and therefore unworthy of belief.

Moreover, the resultant lack of transparency in governmental actions of Readington Township has subverted an open political process thus weakening the protection of all its citizens’ private property rights including the Solberg family. That is to say the condemnation was singularly initiated to secure Township control over airport operations.This objective evidence conclusively establishes that the taking was in direct response to Solberg’s airport development proposal and only ostensibly part of some environmental protection plan dependent upon the condemnation of the subject property. Such behavior undermines the integrity of the municipal government’s stated public purpose behind Ordinance 25-2006 and demonstrates bad faith. Accordingly, the taking is invalid in its entirety.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


The weather window opened and allowed some interesting flights over the Pennsylvania countryside. One flight concentrated on turns. Easy on the ground, controlling a vehicle in three dimensions becomes more interesting and practice at a variety of bank angles teaches the pilot how to coordinate all controls effectively.

Another flight concentrated on takeoffs. While all controls are used, this is primarily a pitch exercise. The drill emphasizes the performance characteristics of the airplane and refines the touch required to keep the aircraft in "ground effect" until the appropriate velocity can be reached. It is counter intuitive to push the nose DOWN after take off, but that's what it takes.

Sally suffered an electrical problem during the takeoff practice. As we ran through the takeoff checklist the red generator annunciator light came on followed by low voltage warnings. We continued in the pattern for a few more turns, but ultimately ended the training flight early to investigate the problem. I suspect a voltage regulator/rectifier problem.

Video Notes: Learning to Turn,

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


2015 Sun 'n Fun
This trip had multiple objectives. We were on vacation so beach time was near the top of the list. Tampa has many wondrous beaches and we sampled many of them. We had some business meetings planned and were able to make all of our appointments. And of course, Sun 'n Fun.

We arrived a little before noon on Friday. Larger than Sebring, this event is much more spread out with many more vendors and airplanes to see. Our first stop was US Sport Aircraft to talk with Patrick, Mitch, Jim and Bryan. They gave us the "lay of the land" offered us some cold water and invited us to refresh there as often as we wanted. We left and went out exploring. The displays were much more elaborate, the planes bigger and four, full sized hangars were devoted to vendor space. I was surprised to see a number of drones being demonstrated, new for me at an airshow.

I had two "must see" vendors on my list. The first was Hilton Software, the maker of WingX Pro. I had a "limitation" that I wanted to discuss concerning the playback feature. I love the capability, but want to have files accessible by flight, not by day. It would allow me to send each student his own .gpx file and combined with video, create individual flight reviews. After a short demonstration the guy working the booth finally understood my requirement and agreed to take it back to the development team.

The second was Spencer Aircraft. I bought two travel chairs from them at Sebring and one had failed. An ingenious design with aluminum tubes and bungees, this chair is very compact and light weight. Perfect to throw in the wing locker when going to an airshow. But the resin connecter on one chair had failed after the first use. I found the booth and was prepared for an argument. Instead I got an apology, immediate replacement for the broken part from one of the kits in his booth and a free t-shirt. All he asked was that I send a picture of the broken part with the serial number so that he can advise his supplier of the defect. Done Deal! (yes, I WILL do business with his company again.)

After lunch (a surprisingly good hamburger) and wandering around in the warm Florida sun, we found our way back to US Sport Aircraft. Although very active with customers, we were invited to sit in the shade and enjoy the afternoon airshow. Great seats and all the teams did a superb job. The Thunderbirds are just so impressive, I had forgotten just how good they are.

We thanked our hosts and left for our final event, the NAFI Member's Dinner to honor 2015 Hall of Fame inductees.  We got lost. Some how I turned right and should have gone left. We were hot, tired and frustrated and really not too sure where to go. We obviously looked lost. A kindly gentleman in a blue minivan pulled up and asked if he could help, then drove across the campus to deliver us to Buehler Hangar. Thanks friend, fly safely.

Good food, great conversation and wonderful speakers, the highlight was the Keynote Presentation by Rod Machado. Not a direct quote but something like: "...After a smooth take off the student immediately reached for the post takeoff/climb checklist. Rod snatched it from his hand and threw it in the back. The stunned student asked how he was supposed to climb? Rod told him "Point the nose up and don't hit anything!" You should take advantage of any opportunity to hear this man speak, it will be worth your effort.

Penna weather is lousy. It was hard to come home after spending some quality beach time.

Pictures: from Flying and Spaceflight Insider and Plane & Pilot

Commentary: A Tale of Two Air Shows

Monday, April 13, 2015

Delaware River

Within a day of its publication in Philadelphia, General Washington ordered it to be read to all of his troops. It encouraged the soldiers and improved their tolerance of their difficult conditions. On the morning of December 25, 1776 Washington ordered his army to prepare three days' food, and issued orders that every soldier be outfitted with fresh flints for their muskets. Washington, along with commanders John Sullivan, Nathaneal Green, John Glover and Henry Knox crossed the Delaware River with 2,400 troops, 18 cannons, baggage, and about 50-75 horses. They crossed at McKonkey's Ferry Inn (NJ).

The upper Delaware River tour.
The day wasn't perfect, but it was the most perfect day this year. Temperatures were close to 60°F, clear blue skies and gentle winds. I was surprised that none of my students had contacted me for a lesson, which meant Sally and I had some time to go out and play.

I arrived at the hangar close to 10:00am. She burped after 30 pulls and passed all of her preflight checks. I removed the cold weather baffle covering the oil cooler and cleaned the canopy with the remainder of my Plexus. Then I pulled her out into the warming sun.

The winter weather had kept me out of the seat for awhile. I had just a tinge of "strangeness" so reached for the checklist. Once I turned the key all was familiar again. We taxied to the ramp area to watch airplanes land as we waited for the Rotax to warm up to 122°F. Other pilots took advantage of the flying weather too. It was a busy day at the Quakertown Airport.

I had a new glitch during takeoff. My DSAB intermittently failed during the roll eliminating my primary airspeed indication. It would go dark, give a DSAB failure message then reset, only to fail again 5 seconds later. Fly the airplane, fly the airplane, fly the airplane. A DSAB reconfiguration in flight resolved the issue.

Where I started.
It was a good flight. I reached the Delaware River about where General Washington had crossed. It didn't look that impressive from 2000', but then I wasn't in a tiny boat on ice swollen water. We turned north and followed the river's meanderings up through the gap. I left the river there (remembering my time spent swimming in the river at Camp Hagan near Shawnee on the Delaware). We turned west following the valley north of Allentown. We turned south again to pass through the Lehigh Gap and got a good view of Slatington, where I took my first flights as a student pilot.

Then back to KUKT for landings. I got 3 turns in the pattern, but nothing to be too proud of. My best was a 4 out 5 (got a squeak but landed long). Of course, being a Sunday afternoon on a beautiful day meant I had an FBO full of judges to grade my attempts. Just perhaps one of them might offer an opinion on my performance. Sally flew well.

Video Notes: Delaware River

I used the Video Properties menu to adjust the "Z" rotation to correct the 3° wing mount attachment angle. I then added a slight zoom to remove the crop gaps on the corners of the video. This adjustment is most noticeable during take off helping to provide a level horizon. I also experimented with adjusting for a faster time but every bump and jitter was magnified. Instead I chose to edit out "boring" footage to keep the video under my target of ten minutes.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Just for Fun

“In like a lion, out like a lamb” has always seemed a straightforward enough proverb: when March starts, it’s still winter, and by the end of the month spring has begun. True, in many climates the weather hasn’t quite reached the lamb stage by the end of the month—it’s more like a surly cat, maybe, or one of those awful territorial honking geese. But we get the idea. I have seen the phrase referred to as an “eighteenth-century saying” in more than one unreliable Internet source, while Wikipedia calls it “an old Pennsylvania” saw. -

It hasn't turned into a little lamb yet. Blustering winds, surprise snow showers and temperatures 20° below normal have left us all wondering when spring will really start. So when a forecast finally provides just a hint of optimism pilots head out to the airport.

One of my students had reported a "shimmy" upon landing. I figured it was tire pressure and planned to remove her nose pant to inspect the tire condition and the pressure. There were some loose screws on the pant but overall the nose tire was in good shape. Now, putting the pant back on proved to be a bit of a challenge. The two pieces need to be perfectly aligned and the composite material has a good deal of flex to it. I ruined some screws using my power driver trying to "snug up" the fasteners. stripping the the heads beyond repair. (18 M9s I believe.) As I worked a hangar neighbor stopped by to talk. A Mooney owner, he had never seen a PiperSport and had a lot of questions about Sally specifically and the Light Sport rules in general. She does draw a crowd.

Everything buttoned up and preflighted, it was time to fly. But I had "No Particular Place to Go." Kathy had planned to go to Reppert's Candy to pick up her supplies for Easter, so I decided to wander over toward Oley and the valley towns north of Reading. And I did wander. The air was relatively smooth and clear. A Beautiful blue sky and the visibility was truly unlimited. (CAVU) Just a joy to be in the air.

The landing back home was a good one.  Close to the numbers and on centerline.(4 out of 5) No Squeak. Very little shimmy.

Video Notes: Just4Fun

Camtasia upgraded to 8.5.1

This was one of the more simple edits. While I used the audio from the cockpit camera, all of the video used the wing camera mount.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Two Valleys

7N8        Butter Valley Golf Port Airport
Bally, Pennsylvania, USA
Dimensions:       2420 x 85 ft. / 738 x 26 m (1535 X 24 ASPH INSERT AT S END; REMAINDER TURF.)

N10        Perkiomen Valley Airport
Collegeville, Pennsylvania, USA
Dimensions:       2880 x 40 ft. / 878 x 12 m

My landings needed some work. My touchdown point had started to get a little past the numbers and the center-line had become just a bit elusive. Sloppy. The best way I have found to correct that is to find a small airport to practice landings. If there is no room for errors, you won't make any.

The winds were out of the northwest, slightly under ten knots with moderate gusts. RWY34 at Butter Valley meant the wind was right down the runway. We bounced a bit on final with some interesting gusts but overall an acceptable landing (3 out of a possible 5)

I flew a right hand (non-standard) pattern at Perkiomen Valley to give me an overshooting crosswind. The breeze wasn't much of a challenge except I turned the square base leg into more of a Navy racetrack. (3 out of a possible 5.)

I was pleased to find a friend in the pattern at Quakertown. Tom was flying his beautiful DiamondStar. When that plane turns a corner you can see those long wings five miles away. Again, a few gusts made the flare interesting but I succeeded in another acceptable landing. ( 3 out of a possible 5) No squeak. 

Clearly I need more practice.

Video Notes: Two Valleys

The wing camera had an unacceptable vibration for this flight. I believe I didn't tighten the camera cradle properly when I adjusted the elevation angle. At least I remembered to turn it on!