Friday, October 14, 2016

Oil Change

Overdue. She really should have had the oil changed BEFORE Oshkosh, but life sometimes gets in the way. No excuses are good ones so it was really important not to delay any longer and give Sally some attention.

I'm always tentative about letting a different A&P look at my engine. I've had mostly good luck, but every so often you get started on a repair and realize that the mechanic is way in over his head. An oil change is a good way for me to get Sally introduced.  Dave Patrick had been recommended by a member of the SCFlier forum. He is a good guy and I will be returning to him for all of my maintenance.

A good morning
We left KVDF just before 8:00am for a 60nm flight up to Marion County (X35). The weather was forecast to be mostly scattered, possibly some fog and mist. I was sure that as the sun warmed the air the dew point would lag behind the temperature and the atmosphere would clear throughout the day. 1500' was a good initial altitude, but after some thought I decided to climb to 1600' just in case someone else was out there dodging clouds. It was a beautiful morning.

Video Notes: Oil Change

Dave welcomed me to the field and acted as a "Follow Me" to guide me back to his hangar. On my list:
  • Oil Change
  • Dave waits for me to shutdown
  • Install capacitor
  • Low oil pressure sending unit
  • Adjust Prop pitch
  • BRS Repack
  • General engine inspection
CorrosionX. Dave a huge proponent of this product. He demonstrated by spraying some on the electric fuel pump and brushing it in. Within a few seconds it looked like new. Recommended for all parts, I'm particularly interested to see how it will work on the 1/4 turn fasteners for the wing lockers.

When we removed the lower cowl the landing light dropped to the length of the electrical wires. The stainless steel attachment bracket had broken close to the light mounting hole. Fortunately, a welder is located on the field and was able to fix the bracket before I left. (Great job BTW)

He worked steadily with no breaks, educating me with tips from his experiences dealing with light sport airplanes. I got much more than I paid for. I commented to him later that one of the seldom mentioned aspects of General Aviation is the fantastic people involved in this activity.  I had a very good day.
* Camtasia 9.0, Virb Edit 4.2.1

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Sally weathered Hurricane Matthew well. I didn't notice anything unusual in or around our covered tie down space and the neighboring aircraft all looked to be fine as well. Temperature was in the mid-SIXTIES!

The preflight went great. I added ten gallons of gas from the local Wawa at about $25 ($1.50/gal less than 100LL). My plan was to fly up to Inverness. It was one of choices when returning from KOSH and it could become a cross country destination for my Sport Pilot Students. The weather was supposed to be 6000' overcast with 10 miles visibility. I decided to fly at 2500'. It wasn't long before the visibility was obscured with rain showers so I decided to descend to 1500' and alter course to stay clear of the heaviest rain. It took about a half hour to cover the 47 NM at low cruise settings of 5200 RPM. We burned just less than 5gal/hr.

Very little traffic, we did a straight in to RWY01. It was a nice 5000' asphalt runway with PAPI. A well maintained airport, I would not hesitate to send a student there.

Winds were directly off my left wing at 25kts for the trip home. Again some widely scattered showers but I was able to stay at 2500'.  5350 burned 5.3 gal/he. We encountered some mild turbulence close to KVDF and some traffic practicing instruments approaches using RWY23 circle to land RWY05. Our timing was good so we didn't experience any traffic delays.

Sally performed very well. No warnings or unusual indications. I'll take her for an oil change and a checkup tomorrow.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Preparing for Matthew

I drove out to the airport today to check on Sally. As I went through the gate I noticed the overflow ramp was full.. Planes have flown in from the eastern part of the state to find refuge from Matthew's mayhem.

Sally looked fine. The ropes were secure, the covers fastened properly and no obvious debris in the vicinity.  I double check my tie downs and a chock was added for each of the main gear. I made sure the vents were closed (insects have a way of finding any opening).

Satisfied I had done all I could, I left by the front (Terminal) gate. The main ramp was full too. I hope this storm makes a last minute starboard turn and spares the Florida coast.

From AOPA:

 If tying your aircraft down proves to be the best method of protection, you may want to follow this checklist to help reduce (and perhaps eliminate) damage to your aircraft.

...and from the FAA:

Allow for about 1 inch of movement, and remember that manila rope shrinks when it qets wet. TOO mch slack will allow the aircraft to jerk against the ropes. Avoid tightening the ropes too rmch. Tight tiedown ropes actually put inverted flight stresses on the aircraft, and many of them are not designed to take such loads. A tiedown rope holds no better thap the knot. Antislip knots such as a bowline or a square knot are quickly tied, and easy to untie.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Thin Scattered

We went flying today. Hurricane Matthew is still in the Caribbean Sea trying to figure out where it will unleash it's mayhem.  The first cold front of the season weakened into some broken troughs and lingered to the east letting unstable moist gulf air into the Tampa Bay area. The result was a thin scattered layer at about 800', with building cumulous over the central areas of the state. It looked like if we went before noon the weather would be skuddy but doable.  By 10:00am the fog had lifted and visibility was close to 10 miles, so we went flying.

Thin Scattered
The scattered layer was less than 100' thick and easy to fly around. As we climbed to 1500' we got a better view of the cloud build up to the east. I didn't need XM Weather to show me not to go there. We turned further south and got close to the menacing cell towers that pop above 1500' and have been the source of a few nightmares. My initial mission was to over fly the sink hole near Mulberry which is just south of Plant City. The large clouds near Lakeland changed my mind. So I changed my mind and decided to fly down Lithia-Pinecrest Road  to see where it goes. As I traveled southeast I noticed the scattered layer was getting thicker. Time to go home.

Sally had performed well. No low pressure indications, no annunciator lights, all systems normal. As we entered the 45 for RWY23 I was glad we had returned early. The thin layer had gotten thicker and was already starting to fill in. We were forced to fly the pattern a bit lower than normal. It would not be a good day for VFR pilots trying to fly later in the day.

Video Notes: Thin Scattered

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Unexpected

Our first flight had been cut short by the weather. Thunder cells were building over the gulf coast and moving east toward the northeast Tampa suburbs. We got in some taxi practice and did one lap in the pattern before deciding to call it quits. The weather was worse than forecast and arrived sooner than expected.

This time the weather was great. There would be storms in the afternoon but this morning's flight would be fine. We took off on course for RWY23 until over the interstate, then turned east to get away from the Class B airspace. A part of the lesson was to fly rectangular pattern using a ground reference to simulate the airport environment. We found a long narrow lake to use as our runway and exercised the procedures need to fly the landing pattern. I stressed the need to be prepared for the unexpected and we practiced a low approach and "go around" a few times before heading for home.

KVDF was busy today with a lot of King Airs and other twins participating in a Customs and Border Protection exercise. As we entered on our 45, a Seneca announced an extended downwind and a Navajo called 5 mile final for straight in RWY23. I didn't see the Seneca so opted to do a 360 and come in behind him. The Navajo entered on an extended upwind as #3. All aircraft in sight, I concentrated helping my student with his cues as we turned base leg. It was then that the Navajo called to tell the Light Sport (me) that the Seneca had just run off the runway!

We had just practiced this. After initiating the climb we stated our intentions to follow the Navajo to RWY18. (Nice to have a choice.) A normal landing followed by a careful taxi back to the terminal. By the time we parked the maintenance crew was on their way to airplane.

* No one was hurt. Looks like the nose gear collapsed, but still an undetermined cause. By the time I left the airport there we a number of plain white cars with no hubcaps (FAA) coming onto the airport grounds.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Voltager Rectifier/Regulator

Ducati Voltage Regulator/Rectifier
The regulator slash rectifier performs two tasks. Power coming out of your Rotax engine is AC power. The two yellow black wires coming from your magneto each have a different "phase". The regulator/rectifier converts this from a 3 phase AC power to a single phase DC.

The magneto is always trying to put out the same amount of power, this creates a problem when the battery is fully charged, or there is no heavy load on the system. A lot like a tap filling a pail of water, if something is drawing water from the pail at the same rate it is entering it will not over flow. But if the water keeps coming in with none being taken out, it will over fill, - thus the battery over charges.

The regulator rectifier prevents this by taking the excess voltage and and converting it to heat to keep the system with acceptable limits. -
After the storm
We survived the Hurricane. I was pleased to find Sally in great shape safely secured in her covered tie down spot. In general, this turned out to be more of a giant squall line for the Tampa area then a Class 1 Hurricane, but there was significant flooding and northern Florida had numerous downed trees and power lines. We were safe.

A subsequent flight after the storm went well, except for a persistent red generator light. Having had these symptoms before, I suspected a failed Voltage Regulator. I ordered a replacement from US Sport Aircraft and planned to spend some time over the Labor Day Holiday to replace the failed part.

It is a relatively simple job made complicated by the attachment design. Two through bolts hold the Voltage Regulator to the firewall. If I had eight foot multi-hinged arms I could hold the bolt head inside the cockpit while loosening the nut in the engine compartment. I don't. Or, I could get some help, but my lead assistant was busy at the mall taking advantage of Labor Day bargains. I would be solo on this one.

First, how to get to the bolts. Enter the pilot's side, and keeping your left leg on the wing, kneel onto the pilot's seat. (Advance throttle and choke to full forward.) Slowly roll your shoulders onto the copilot's seat and using any available handhold force your body past the stick close to the rudder peddles.  (Caution: Make sure all tools and supplies are prepositioned for easy reach.)

The trick is: Vice Grips and masking tape. By reaching under the copilot panel, find the bolts holding the voltage regulator and tightly clamp in place with the vice grips. Now, tape the tools to the firewall. (If you skip this step the vice grips will rotate with the nut until they interfere with something else under the panel. Not good.)

Now, get out anyway you can. (I suspect it won't look elegant, but that's just me.) Remove and replace the part. Easy. Now retrieve the vice grips. Not so easy.

The test flight went well. Green generator light the whole time. However, I did have a strange radio feedback on my initial call for taxi. It went away after a few minutes. Everything seems to be just fine, for now.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Readiness Flight

I always do a Readiness Flight before I get with a new student. I try to go about the same time as the scheduled flight either a day or two prior to the actual event. This gives me a chance to evaluate typical weather patterns for the time of day, especially the heat, and check out the overall condition of the airplane. It is especially important if I haven't flown in awhile as it helps to knock my rust off as well.

I stopped to get 5 gallons of gas from the local Wawa for our flight. That would give me about an hour of flight time. I was surprised to find Sally looking so clean. Two weeks under the overhang had treated her well. Always a few spiders nests as well as some other crawly things, but for the most part not too bad. She burped after 20 pulls and the oil level was halfway up the flat. Nothing unusual under the cowling. The tires looked good. I pulled her out into the sunlight to continue to preflight and found a little debris from the gascolator., but nothing to worry about. I climbed in and finished my checks. An easy start, oil pressure was good and everything looked normal. No it didn't, generator light was on. Voltage was 11+ but she was discharging.

I decided to do some pattern work to see if there were any other problems. Run-up was fine. All other checks were good. Winds were from the north so we used runway 5. I was the only airplane flying at Tampa Exec today. Sally performed well in the Florida heat (90's) and after to circuits I was confident that she only had one discrepancy, what I suspect to be the voltage regulator (or rectifier.) Last changed in May 2015, and before that in April 2013. A new one is on order. (approx $200).

Video Note: Readiness Flight

Note: Pretty quiet without the generator online.