Monday, March 2, 2015

A Cold Decision

Still February. Still cold. Bitter cold. I had two scheduled flights for Saturday, but in an email Friday night I warned one student:

"Caution. I am concerned about the frigid temperatures forecast for Saturday.  Weather check by 8:00am for Go/No Go decision. No sense flying if we're going to freeze our noses off." (...yes, NOSES...)
Saturday morning the weather clock said 9°F. I almost canceled right then but decided to get out of bed and check the computer for regional weather reports. It was then that I found the dilemma. While it was still unseasonably cold there were no winds. No clouds. No precipitation. The airmets reported nothing in the way of turbulence. The forecast said it would warm to the mid-20's.  Reluctantly I wrote:
My logic is this: My preheat system is good for about 20°. I like to start the engine above freezing which means airport temperature should be in the mid to high teens. KUKT is reporting -13° or about 9°F right now, but forecast mid teens by take off time.
All other weather conditions are good"
I brewed a pot of coffee while I got myself ready to go to Quakertown.

Back in the Saddle
The hangar doors were frozen shut. Not quite as bad as last time but still frozen enough to keep Sally imprisoned inside. First I checked on her temperature. Still a bit cold so I moved the switch to the "High Heat" setting. Then I found my ice chipper and started to work. Just an inch at a time removing the ice along the door's track. Fortunately Mark arrived early and volunteered to help with the work. Finally we opened both sides to give us a very narrow clearance. Mark guarded the left wing as I pulled. Nope, too close. Repositioned, I tried again. I turned Sally to angle her out and after multiple tries she was free. Mark and I both did the preflight as she warmed in the sun, then climbed in to try to start her. Two tries was all it took. Mark taxied us to the ramp area, another sunny spot, where we shut down and went in to brief the flight.

The altimeter setting was 30.83. Mark asked a good question:"How high can the altimeter be adjusted?" Before my glass panel I would adjust the altimeter using the Kollsman window, a mechanical adjustment knob to correct for non-standard atmospheric pressure. Is there a limit to the amount of adjustment that can be made? 31.00 inches Hg.

Sally's heater struggled for the whole flight.  The defroster was non-existent. I was constantly using a micro fiber cloth or a soft rubber squeegee to remove moisture from the bubble canopy. During a short portion of the flight that moisture froze. (The frost was easily removed with the rag.) Winter is not the best time of year to fly light sport airplanes.

It was a very good refresher for Mark lasting just over an hour.  After the debrief I sat in the warm FBO office waiting for Keith. This would be his first flight in an LSA.  He arrived on time and we briefed as Sally waited patiently in the sunshine. She started easily this time. It was a good Discovery flight that lasted about 0.5 hours. After the debrief Keith left and I sat in the FBO with a cup of coffee and a Kind bar. It was time to put Sally away for the day.

I'm glad I painted a yellow line on the taxiway in front of the hangar. It is a great reference for the center of the hangar opening. As I pushed Sally toward that opening I could see she wasn't going to make it. I found the chipper and started to work. After another half hour I had recovered an additional six inches. Slowly I pushed her back in, stopping often to check the clearance on each wing. Success.

Burped, plugged and covered, I pulled the doors shut. Sally was secure. I was done for the day.

Video notes: I recorded both flights to share with the clients. I may post them here later.
Synopsis: Saturday Morning

The Ipad mini worked well stashed in the back behind the co-pilot's seat. However both flights were recorded in the same file. I entered a problem report with WingX to see if this file can be separated. (Probably a user error.)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

0.5 Hours

The weather clock display showed zero degrees, frigid, sunny. The forecast promised it would get warmer. The winds were calm. My plan was to take Sally up for a brief flight to knock some rust off the pilot, check the status of her systems, and put some 100LL in her tanks.(I like to mix Avgas and Mogas in the winter to reduce the moisture content possibly absorbed by ethanol.) I wanted everything to be ready for a student's flight the following day.

I pulled up to the hangar by 10:30am. I ribbon of snow left by the plow blocked my door. My padlock was frozen, not allowing me to insert my key. I used the cigarette lighter from my car to warm the lock and some lock deice from a little spray tube I keep in the glove box. That worked after repeated applications. I finally got in to release the hangar door locking pins only to find the doors were frozen shut. I found my shovel and ice chipper and started to work.

We had a snowfall earlier in the week followed by a brief warming the following day. Some of the snow melted after the plow went through and the melt from the hangar roof dripped and puddled in front of the hangar. When the next Arctic Front came in it froze in the tracks of the doors. I started chipping. At 12:00pm I took a break and sat in the car to get warm.

By 1:00pm the doors were slid opened wide enough to free Sally. The thermometer I use to monitor the effectiveness of the engine warmer read 35°F. I gently pulled her out into the sun then went into the FBO for a cup of coffee. I was cold.

Preflight completed, I climbed into the seat at about 2:00pm. She started easily, engine temp read about 45°F and climbing. We taxied to the ramp area to let her warm up the rest of the way.

The sky was clear, winds slightly gusty and the visibility was simply fantastic. But it was cold. The cockpit heating system just couldn't beat the low outside air temperature. After a thorough systems check, including VOR tracking, I let Sally take us home, knowing we were ready for the student's flight the following day. We logged 0.5 hours, 1 landing.

I pulled up to the fuel pump and put 5 gallons in each side. ($49.40) We taxied back to the hangar and I carefully pushed her pack in. Post flight, plugs and covers and then I pushed the doors shut. It was about 4:30pm. 

The student canceled.

Video Notes: half hour
Virb Edit
Camtasia 8.5

Sync issues. The GPS data isn't aligned with the video. Virb Edit has a utility to correct this but I shouldn't have to manually do this.

First flight with Ipad mini and WingX. So far, so good. I like the Replay option. I did a minor video re-edit to include some WingX Pro7 replay data : half hour WingX

Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 2015

Sectional Chart overlay in Google Earth
I've never liked February. The month is the dead of winter, ugly gray, frigid cold, blustery winds and snow. Too much snow. None of it is good for flying, especially VFR only kind of flying. While I have gotten some flights in, more have been cancelled. Last week I had to postpone a flight due to cold temperatures, 1 degree Fahrenheit. (Gusty winds and moderate turbulence factored in, but the cold was the real show stopper.) So its important to find other things to do while waiting for the Spring thaw.

  • eFIRC: (Electronic) Flight Instructor Refresher Courses (FIRC) help Flight Instructors stay abreast of changes in general aviation flight training. I took the one provided by the AOPA/Air Safety Institute. Some of the courses need to be refreshed but overall the course was interesting and well produced.
  • Google Earth: My Virb Elite camera produces a GPX track as a byproduct of the video. I usually just use the information as an overlay to show flight data, however the track is useful as input to Google Earth to show where the flight went. Some investigation on the web provided a way to import Aeronautical Charts. I think this will be especially useful to analyze cross country flights.
  • Ipad Mini: The pressure was just to great. I like my Nexus 7 but if you attend any pilot learning session the hot topic continues to be Ipad apps. The final straw came while attending Expo. I stopped by the WingX booth to discuss the latest software updates and found that no new development was being done on Android. Additionally, the latest version of the program was being offered for free to CFIs. Ipad Mini2 with Retina Display, 32gb, IOS 8.1.3. I'll let you know more once I've flown with it.
  • Keeping her warm: A lot of good internet discussions about keeping the ROTAX engine warm in the winter. A variety of different kinds of blowers, heaters and warming devices are being discussed. I'm still using Dr. Paul's concept using a heat gun with conduit into the exhaust channel at the bottom of the cowling.
Finally, there is a stack of unread magazines on the table. I wonder if I should get the digital versions for the Ipad?

Video Reference Google track: Cold Sunday 
Video weather analysis

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Condition Inspection

§91.327 Aircraft having a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category: Operating limitations

(b) No person may operate an aircraft that has a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category unless—

(2) A condition inspection is performed once every 12 calendar months by a certificated repairman (light-sport aircraft) with a maintenance rating, an appropriately rated mechanic, or an appropriately rated repair station in accordance with inspection procedures developed by the aircraft manufacturer or a person acceptable to the FAA;
(c) No person may operate an aircraft issued a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category to tow a glider or unpowered ultralight vehicle for compensation or hire or conduct flight training for compensation or hire in an aircraft which that persons provides unless within the preceding 100 hours of time in service the aircraft has—
(1) Been inspected by a certificated repairman with a light-sport aircraft maintenance rating, an appropriately rated mechanic, or an appropriately rated repair station in accordance with inspection procedures developed by the aircraft manufacturer or a person acceptable to the FAA and been approved for return to service in accordance with part 43 of this chapter; or
(2) Received an inspection for the issuance of an airworthiness certificate in accordance with part 21 of this chapter.

So, an SLSA gets a condition inspection, and a standard category gets an annual inspection. The FAA does not use the term "annual inspection," and makes no distinction between the procedures for an annual or a 100 hour inspection. The FARs say that all aircraft must have had a "condition inspection within the preceding 12 calendar months", and those in commercial service must have a condition inspection within the previous 100 hours of operation. Sally is being used in "commercial service" (IE flight school operations), so needs the 100 hour inspection.

I decided to have the inspection done while I was away attending the Expo in Sebring. Saturday morning before my trip I pulled Sally out of her hangar at Quakertown and made the short flight over to Butter Valley. Harry had left tie down ropes and chocks on the asphalt pad in front of his workshop. It was so cold. The chocks were frozen to the ground. I had to break them loose by kicking them with the heal of my shoe. I opened the wing locker and removed the canopy cover. I hadn't used it in awhile so it took time to position it properly. It was so cold. Finally Kathy arrived to pick me up. We sat in the car for a few minutes to warm up before checking Sally one last time. She was secure. I left this note for Harry:
The airplane has been flying well. Take off power reaches just over 4900RPM (my min is 4850). All temps and pressures are solid “green”. Except for discrepancies listed below, I’m very happy with her performance.

1. 100 hour Condition Inspection – needs breaks.

2. Oil Change (oil and filter provided) Note the new drain valve.

3. Oil Leak. Left side…nothing new. Doesn’t appear to be getting worse. Bugs the heck out of me. Fix it if you can.

4. Coolant leak. Just started to notice fluid on nose wheel pant after a flight. I have not added any coolant in the past 100 hours.

5. Nose wheel pant: scraped up pretty much after my landing with flat tire. I’ve decided not to modify the other pants. Do your magic on this.

6. Canopy struts: Replace. The old fittings can be used on the new struts provided.

7. Left flap: Student stepped on it. Cosmetic dent. Pull it out if you can.

Then we left and I focused my attention on my trip to Sebring.

On Monday I called from sunny Florida. Pennsylvania was having an ice storm, Harry was unable to get started because of the bad weather. I checked back on Wednesday and operations were well underway. Sally was in is workshop, her pieces being carefully inspected. She did need brakes.

When I stopped by to check on progress Harry was still waiting on the delivery of brake parts. He showed me the progress he had made with the rest of the items on my list.  The important items had been completed, but it would take a few more days before we could escape from Butter Valley.

Reference: Finding a Czech Mate for Flying Adventures ,
Certified Czech

Friday, January 30, 2015

Escape from Butter Valley

A cold winter's day.

Almost no breeze, the sun was shining on the snow covered yard. It was bitter cold but the weather conditions wouldn't keep me from flying.

As I turned onto the entrance road to the airport I could see the work Harry had done on the turf "taxi way". It looked passable. But as I approached the runway I was disappointed to see that it hadn't been touched. I wouldn't be able to go until that was cleared. I parked in the lot and walked down past my old hangar to find Harry in his workshop. The cowling was off so he could show me all of the work that had been done.  It looked good. After a thorough inspection I climbed into the cockpit and put the key into the ignition. I read out the numbers for the Hobbs meter and he jotted it down for the records. I finished the cockpit preflight, looked to make sure he was clear, got a thumbs up and turned the key. She cranked but no start. I rechecked everything, called "Clear" and tried again. Rough at first but she smoothed out quickly. "Hello Sally."

Pressures, temperatures and RPM all looked good. I let her idle for awhile before shutting her down. We rechecked everything and once convinced there weren't any leaks put the cowling back on and buttoned everything up. The pilot and airplane were ready, the weather was OK but deteriorating, and the runway still wasn't ready. Harry went to find out about the delay. (The plow truck wouldn't start, but eventually got repaired.) I walked the plowed taxiway to insure there were no clumps of grass or ruts or icebergs that might be in my way. Two cross-country skiers using the runway as their play ground stopped to chat. They were happy to share Butter Valley with me.

I checked the weather one more time then climbed back into the cockpit and went through the checklist again. This time she started easily. I let her warm up as I watched the plow go out to runway and begin running up and down its length. I think the skiers were watching too but couldn't be sure. When the snow plow left I started my taxi. Slow but deliberate. I wanted to keep the momentum up. When I reached the runway I was pleased with the work the plow had done. The windsock showed the breeze was from the south so I used the back taxi to inspect the runway surface. I turned at the end of the asphalt and did my final checks. Time to go. We were off in about 100' and climbing quickly.

The forecast for the afternoon called for snow showers and increasing winds. The next day brought more snow and low ceilings. More snow and wind after that. If I hadn't been able to take advantage of that narrow window I might have been trapped there for a long time. I was very happy to land at Quakertown.

Video Notes: Escape

I couldn't get the hangar doors open. They were blocked by the ribbon of snow and ice left over from the plowing operation. I found Mike and borrowed a snow shovel. After a half hour of digging I finally got Sally back into her hangar. It started snowing as I locked the hangar door.

Monday, January 19, 2015


The "Affordable" Expo
My plan was to fly Sally down to Sebring, Florida for our first U.S. Sport Aviation Expo. At over 840 miles it would be a two day trip primarily down the east coast, although we might travel west a bit to fly into the Atlanta area for the overnight. But planning a VFR trip in winter is difficult. Snowstorm, ice-storm, windstorm, followed by more IFR conditions forced me to cancel my plans and consider another way. My commercial Delta flight departed Philadelphia and delivered me to Tampa. A rental car would take me the rest of the way.

This way to blue sky
The airport is located right next to the Motor Speedway. So I was a little confused by the signs inviting me to enter Gate #1 or #2, et cetera.  Traveling further down the entrance road led to a "linesman" directing cars into the open field across from the main gate. (No parking fee.) At 9:00am I got a GREAT parking spot. I had pre-registered on-line and once presenting my printed receipt was given a wrist band and Pocket Guide. I entered the gate under foggy, low overcast skies. Booths were still being assembled, only a few planes were positioned for demo. While the exhibitors would polish their displays throughout the week, the IFR conditions would remain ...really through Friday morning. The planes would trickle in, but some tents remained nearly vacant.

The best looking plane at the Expo
I talked with Richard, Prof Paul, "Garbageman", everyone in the Rotax booth (with lots of cold weather operation questions) and of course, the "A"-Team at US Sport Aircraft. Patrick, Stewart, Jim and Kolby did a fantastic job answering questions and promoting the "comely" SportCruiser.

Talk to Steve about this one
The Fora:

  • My first forum was given by Steve McCaughey: Seaplane 101. If you are thinking about flying one you should talk to Steve. He was convincing enough for me to join the Seaplane Pilot's Association and I don't have access to a seaplane!
  • Lou Mancuso: LSA Operational Tips. I was pleased to find someone professing the same ideas I use for instruction. He did a great job explaining techniques he uses for LSA pilots in the landing pattern. 
  • Barry Hull: #1 Killer of Pilots & How you can Prevent it. He has a system on how to measure judgement and as a former F18 pilot brings a lot of credibility to his presentation.
  • Kyle White: Aviation Insurance 101. To say this was exciting would be a gross overstatement. However in today's world there aren't many things in aviation that are more important.
  • Jamie Beckett: Start or Join a Flying Club. Can I do this with Sally? Should I?
  • Phil Lockwood: Rotax Engine 912 Seminar. So many myths and legends. This was really good stuff. I'm not going to use Sea Foam anymore.
  • Paul Shuch: Category and Class. Do I need to take a written test to get a Seaplane endorsement?
  • Nothing wrong with this.
  • Also, Dr. Story Musgrave (Hubble Astronaut) gave a great presentation in the "main tent" over lunch. "Don't give up!"
If I were going to build...
Attendance was down (so I'm told). Airplanes were missing. $2 for my morning coffee. But I was in warm Florida, around lots of new airplanes talking with people really excited about airplanes.

My first time at this show and I really enjoyed it. The "experts" may have other opinions, but I think it was a success.

Kathy picked me up at the Philadelphia Airport on Sunday, during a major ice storm. She had to wait until the major roads were cleared of accidents and their debris, allowing the temperature to get into the high 30s. Wintery weather expected for the rest of the week. Sally and I would have been forced to stay in Florida for another month. (Wait a minute.....)

Thursday, January 1, 2015


I stopped by the hangar to pick up my headset. I noticed the flap indicator light was lit. Not good. Following the cockpit demonstration done the previous evening for a prospective student I had forgotten to turn off the Master Switch. But no time to deal with that now. It was time to go flying.
It's a two-seat all-metal side-by-side airplane with a large cabin that seats the occupants ahead of the wing spar for maximum room and superb visibility. 
The RV-12 meets the certification standards of the Light Sport Aircraft category and the RV-12 is eligible to be licensed as a LSA: E-LSA for aircraft built from one of our kits or S-LSA for the factory built model. RV–12 General Information
Arriving at the FBO the RV was already in the pattern. After a few turns I realized that he was burning off some fuel so that we would be within weight limits for my ride. Two "big" guys and just over 16 gallons of Mogas still kept us under the 1320 pound LSA restriction. Mark and his brother had spent two years of weekends putting her together. The fit and finish were superb. Similar to Sally in many ways including the ROTAX engine, there are noticeable differences as well. Mark has a single panel SkyView (I like SkyView!) in addition to a number of other wonderful "bells and whistles". Plenty of leg, shoulder and head room. The V speeds are within 5kts of Sally's. Visibility is outstanding. I felt right at home flying over the Pennsylvania countryside. (Thanks for the recommendation David.)

After I watched Mark depart I sat in the office for a few minutes to plan my activities for the rest of the day. Sally came first. I attached the engine pre-heater and went back to the office to make some phone calls. I told Mike about my battery problem and he offered his charger for me to use if needed. I called Harry and made another appointment for a Condition Inspection and fortunately he had saved me a slot for next week. Then the FAA arrived.

Nice guys, but they do have a way to clear a room. "We're from the FAA and are here to help" just doesn't encourage a lot of pilots to stick around and talk. Two new "Operations Inspectors" were making the rounds to the various airports in their district. When I asked what their new duties would be I got ...well, a government kind of response (ie Make sure operations are safe, check paper work, etc. Kind of like a ramp check for an airport.) The lead guy, Bill, seems pleasent enough. Asked me a bit about LSA, how the business was doing, etc. He took one of my DVDs to look at. (I sure hope I haven't documented anything incriminating!) Everyone breathed just a bit easier when they left.

I went back to the hangar and disconnected the heater, pulled her out into the warming sunshine and finished the preflight. I turned the switches on and got nothing. I pushed her back in and went looking for Mike. I borrowed the charger off the back of his truck. I disconnected the red lead from Sally's battery, hooked up the charger and set the timer for 45 minutes. Back to the FBO for pilot chatter.

Warm flying jackets
After 45 minutes I went back to the hangar, cleaned up after the maintenance and prepared Sally for a start. Cough and chug, it took two tries but she started. After all of that you know I had to take her for a check flight.

Video Notes: Battery Check 

I mixed video speed with this one. I like the effect. I also annotated with "call outs" and am pleased with that functionality. Finally I added a "custom setting" to return to the blog after the video ends.