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. - www.theparisreview.org

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!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Two Landings

A break in the weather. It is just so much easier when I don't have to fight with the frozen hangar doors.

My mission was to fly reconnaissance for a student ready for a solo cross country flight. It would be a good way to stretch my wings, double check all of Sally's systems and insure there really were no hazards with the proposed route. While not a Spring day, it was sunny, relatively mild with light winds. The route was a good one covering mostly familiar territory with a new airport added for the sense of adventure. One leg got close to the Philadelphia Class B, but there were numerous good landmarks to help keep clear of the controlled airspace. As I turned on final at KUKT I was satisfied with the planning and felt good about the student's next flight.

For some reason I've been landing a little right of center line lately. I occasionally go through periods when the center line is elusive and usually clear up the problem by taking a few circuits at 7N8. I'll have to do that once the snow gets cleared. This time it nearly cost me. I touched down right of center line and my right tire went flat. Fortunately it was very controllable and I was able to clear the runway and taxi ways without any difficulty. But it could have been a problem. Diligence.

Yesterday (Friday) I had the opportunity to take a solo cross country flight from KUKT to KMGJ. Just over 80 miles, I took the opportunity to check in with Allentown Departure to practice my radio skills. I was rusty. Just like any other skill, you must use it or lose it. When the time came, New York was too busy to take the Flight Following hand off. That seldom happens, but I switched frequencies and squawked VFR.  I saw a flock of about twelve geese and one Piper Cub flying about 1000' beneath me.

My plan was to fly direct to STUFF FAF for runway 03 at Orange County and then straight in from there. No. The airport was just too busy so I broke it off early and maneuvered for the normal 45° entry. This time I landed a little left.

I enjoyed the day very much.

Video Notes: Two Landings

Unfortunately I had some technical problems with the cameras. I used a remote to start the wing camera...it failed. When I reached back for my headset I must have pulled the audio cable on the cockpit camera..so only the external microphone worked and it didn't pick up very much. Finally, the GPS data is slightly out of sync with the video. I'll need to put a checklist together to keep these kinds of problems from recurring.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Looking Back

Friday the weather turned a bit milder. With Temperatures in the mid 30's I arrived at the hangar around noon. The doors were frozen shut. Again I got out the ice chipper and a flat bladed shovel to clear a trench for the sliding doors.  Slow work. After a few hours I made enough progress to get Sally out into the sunshine. And then I had a decision to make: Two flights were scheduled for Saturday. Should I put Sally back in and leave the doors open, or let her sit outside for the night?   After consulting with her co-owner we decided to let Sally spend the night under the stars and lock up the hangar.

I arrived Saturday morning about 8:30am. The hangar doors were frozen shut.


It was very light and easily removed. Mark arrived early and helped to finish the preflight. He did the (cold) start and Sally roared to life after about three attempts. I went back to the FBO and he taxied over once she had warmed up a bit. We briefed as Sally waited in the sun.

On a whim, I decided to turn the wing camera backward to show where we had been. I had seen other videos, mostly aerobatic airplanes, use this angle to show the smoke trail of a maneuver. I didn't expect too much. I am pleased with the results.

Video Notes: Looking Back

(The other) Mark took this idea and enhanced it a bit while flying his RV12. Mark's Video

I've been playing around with WingX Replay hoping to use it as an instructional tool.  This video combines the replay with some other video. Looking Back KDYL

Garmin had an update waiting for me when I started Virb Edit this time. I downloaded the 4.0 firmware to both Virb cameras. Initially one camera would not reboot after the installation. I was able to correct the problem by removing the battery and powering it on normally. It seems to be working fine now.

There doesn't seem to be a good way to capture video from an iPad into a video format. New to the IOS system, I may just be illiterate to some of its amazing capabilities but so far this functionality has escaped me. I invested in a third party application called X-Mirage :

X-Mirage is the most professional AirPlay server for Mac and Windows PC, which allows you to wirelessly stream contents or mirror iPhone, iPad and iPod screen to any Mac/Windows PC. Record screen and audio from iOS devices, as well as voiceover via Microphone with one click.
It works, but not flawlessly. Right now I can record about 90 seconds of video at one time, then it crashes. I suspect a memory allocation error. Version 1.01.5

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.)