Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Queen City

An older gentleman came to the FBO door just as I was locking up on a Sunday. He asked what planes we have to rent, so I pointed to the C172 on the line and handed him one of the postcards I use to provide information about Sally. He mentioned that he was from out of town, here on a business trip but would like to get a flight in if he could find the time. He was familiar with light airplanes and has flown an Aeronca "Champ" at his home airport. I said "my number is on the card, call me if you want to arrange something".

That evening my cell phone rang after 9:00PM. At my age phone calls at this time of the night are usually not good news. Caller id was California. He apologized for the late call but asked if we could fly on Monday at noon.  If the weather was good I said we would go.

He arrived a little late, stuck in traffic on Rt309. We sat at the picnic table as I explained what I planned to cover on our Discovery Flight. He had other ideas and asked if we could go over to Vansant (9N1) and Queen City (KXLL). Well, with the recent rains I didn't want to land on the (possibly soggy) turf at 9N1 but said we could do a low pass. KXLL would be fine.

The winds were starting to kick up a bit. After some taxi practice on the runway so he could see how to control a castering nose wheel, I made the take off  and gave him control once leaving the traffic pattern. He did well with basic maneuvers as we wandered over to the Delaware River. We used that as our base leg and I talked him through the low approach. We departed and headed over to Queen City. "This is much more complicated than I had thought. I had no idea what a modern LSA was like." Although I discussed the avionics and demonstrated the GPS, this flight was more about the scenery so I made sure to point out the various landmarks. I could see him loosen his grip on the stick as he became more comfortable with the controls. He was starting to "feel" the airplane.

Sally warned us about the high cell towers on the ridge at South Mountain. We entered on a 45° to RWY25 following a DA40. That traffic forced us to get a little deep but he handled the situation well. Winds were gusty but the touchdown was good. I asked when was the last time he had made a landing. "Oh about 6 months ago." I said "No, about 5 seconds ago, you did this one all on your own!" He grinned.

It turns out he had made his first solo flight out of Queen City 50 years ago. I'm so glad I could participate in this home coming.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pennsylvania Autumn

Cold front after cold front, like waves pounding against the shore. Each one bringing stormy gray skies, each with buckets of rain so far. The temperatures are in decline as each wave drops it a few more degrees. I woke to 41°F. The oil cooler baffle was screwed on earlier this week.

Between the storms we sometimes have calm. That's how it was on Sunday. I got up just before sunrise to find the morning stars shining and the ground dimly lit by the full moon. Flying weather. The weather maps reported patchy fog or mist at a few airports but soon the daytime temperatures would burn that off. Quakertown was already VFR by the time I pulled Sally out of the hangar.

I decided to head northwest toward Williamsport, but since I had previously landed there chose a little airport just south; Danville (8N8). The route should provide some interesting terrain and a good look at the fall foliage.

It was calm and cool. No need for an autopilot. Minor trim adjustments kept Sally on altitude. The only time we felt a burble was passing over the ridges on the way home. By that time convection had started and generated some light winds. I opted for a straight in approach at home field. I misjudged it, got high and fast so had to use a slip to get down. Floated halfway down to runway to a lousy landing. (I edited all that from the video....) Obviously I need more practice.

Video Notes:

Pennsylvania Autumn

When I was in school one question on a final exam was to compute the lift components for the third airplane flying in a "V" formation. (The Professor didn't appreciate my creative mathematical analysis.)  I liked this video. Why Do Birds Fly In V Formations?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Audio Check

The woman at the Verizon store opened my phone and removed the battery. Laying the battery flat on the counter she spun it like a top. "That's the problem. You have a dead battery." Not sure that I completely agreed with her technical analysis technique but unwilling to invest in a new phone, I gave her solution a try. A new battery delivered the next day from Amazon was less than $10. It worked.

Cold weather has returned to Pennsylvania. A rain filled cold front moved through the area all day Saturday, we woke to freezing temperatures Sunday morning. My old bones ache with cold weather so it was hard to get myself moving. I was comfortable sitting at the computer with a hot cup of coffee, my own inertia holding me in place. I got out to the hangar later than planned.

In addition to preflighting the airplane I needed to check the Virb camera systems. I had reported a problem with the external microphone setting. Upon reboot all previous setting were forgotten and it would default to microphone on. This meant that the headset would be deactivated. My checks appeared to indicate that the latest firmware (3.90) had fixed this problem, but I needed to test it in actual conditions.

The autumn weather has started changing the leaves to brighter colors. A trip along I80 last weekend saw some fabulous reds, oranges and yellows. I thought the change in seasonal colors would show up great in a video and the trip over to Lockhaven would be a perfect exercise. (We are not at peak yet, another flight is required.)

The Sentimental Journey fly-in breakfast at Lockhaven was high on my event list. In addition to all of the normal festivities, Richard was going to there with his airplane. I was anxious to see them both and talk to Paul about the flight instruction business. Even with my late start my ETA would still allow me time to get a few pancakes. But as I traveled west the ceilings dropped down and the winds picked up. I flew through the gap at Cabelas (Hamburg) , and checked the METAR at Selinsgrove and found it overcast at 2500 feet. Williamsport wasn't any better. I remembered that some of the mountains out that way reached up nearly that high. The clouds were gray and getting darker, I turned around to look for some sunshine.

A few sunbeams poked through along the ridge just west of Quakertown. I investigated, then flew to Gortt intersection just to see where that is located. (Not a bad idea to understand IFR fixes even though I only fly VFR.) Then I entered on the 45 for runway 29er. I got a surprise on short final with a strong gust of crosswind and later found that some were up to 16 kts. Don't get complacent!

Video Notes:

Audio Check

Thursday, September 25, 2014

KLRO - Return Trip

A line of demarcation
It is amazing how dependent we have become on cell phone technology. In addition to all of the useful flight planning apps, its just the simple things like texting and making phone calls from any location that have escalated it from luxury to a necessity. Fortunately I did bring along my laptop and Nexus tablet, but for scouting out a new area nothing beats a smart phone.

The weekend weather was lousy. Rain, wind and low overcast most of the time. I finally saw the sunset Saturday night. Early Sunday morning I checked my laptop for the weather and saw a lot of red dots along the coast. However west of my track was all green. It was like my flight plan was the dividing line between good and bad weather. The forecaster recommended that it was NOT suitable for VFR. (However he also suggested I consider going west around the SFRA should I decide to go anyway.)

I could really smell the paper mills on my drive to the airport. Crossing over the bay on I526 I guessed the visibility to be greater than 6 miles. No ceiling or noticeable winds, it looked very VFR. Without my GPS I made a few wrong turns and was a bit worried about finding my way back to the airport. I thought some landmarks looked familiar, or maybe I just wanted them to be. Finally I saw the green airport sign on US17 and in a few minutes I passed through the gate and drove out to Sally. All was well.

As I finished the preflight 3 Globe Swifts taxied out to the runway. Just a beautiful flight of three, probably departing for their monthly breakfast get together. A good day for it.

Sally and I took off and contacted Charleston Approach for Flight Following. Smooth air, no clouds, good visibility, we stayed at 3500'.  Soon Charleston cancelled and advised me to contact Myrtle Beach. I found a Kind bar and a small bottle of orange juice and settled in for the journey.

A note on ADSB. I attached the unit to my tablet and started the Garmin Pilot app. It works well for weather, not so well for traffic. There are still too many planes it just doesn't pick up. I was thankful for Flight Following as they pointed out traffic on four separate occasions and once near Richmond, had me make a course correction to avoid traffic. Traffic I never saw...and neither did the ADSB. I'm spoiled with my 696. I didn't like the extra clutter in the cockpit required by this portable system Perhaps when I make it a permanent installation I'll be more of a fan but for now I'll fly without it.

Both systems had 'green' returns along my route, but as I flew into the area all I saw was clear blue with a high thin cirrus layer. Its not often I get to fly when the weather is better than the forecast.

Halifax–Northampton Regional Airport (KIXA) is a public use airport located eight nautical miles south of the central business district of Roanoke Rapids, a city in Halifax County, North Carolina. It is a new airport and could become home to a factory built LSA (Allegro) Right now it is very quiet. As I pulled up to the pumps the airport manager came by to see if I needed any assistance. We chatted as I fueled (15.3 gallons @ $5.79). This is a beautiful airport and I recommend it for a fuel stop.

We climbed back up to 3500' and I decided it was lunch time: Snapple and a granola bar. I checked in with Washington Center and listened to the traffic flying overhead. (Hello Gary! - Gary's Flight Journal). We took the east side around the SFRA and landed at Quakertown a little bit ahead of schedule.

A beautiful Sunday to fly.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


A new sign at KUKT
A busy week. Tuesday we had an excellent discovery flight with Andrea. She was enthusiastic and had a wonderful time in the air. This kind of flight makes flying fun. Wednesday Mark made his first solo flight in Sally. The winds had calmed following the mid-afternoon heat and provided the perfect day for a solo flight.  Three beautiful landings. Congratulations Mark!

Taking The Light Sport Adventure

Thursday was my planned departure day for a solo xcountry trip down to Charleston, SC.The forecaster saw nothing unusual and said that the weather maker was a weak low pressure trough just west of Washington DC, but he expected VFR conditions for the entire route of flight. I might even have a tailwind. I planned stops at Tappahannock, Virginia (KXSA) and another at Wayne Executive Jetport (KGWW) near Goldsboro, NC. Final destination would be Mount Pleasant (KLRO) just northeast of Charleston. Total distance right at 500nm.

It was overcast. Still VFR but a thin overcast layer at 6000'. I contacted Philadelphia Approach/Departure right after takeoff and soon got permission to enter the Class Bravo airspace. As Sally and I traveled south the layer continued to descend. We descended as well and leveled at about 3500' near The Bay Bridge Airport (W29). An extension of the Washington Class Bravo has a floor at 3500' so we went down another 100' or so to stay under the shelf and clear of clouds. We crossed over the Chesapeak talking all the time to Washington, Patomic, and Patuxent Controllers and soon began our descent into Tappahannock.

The Airport Manager greeted us at the pump and helped us with the self serve Avgas. (19.7 gallons @ $5.69). As we were fueling his fuel truck arrived. He told me if we had been 30 minutes later we would have got the gas for 20¢ cheaper! As I pumped he walked around Sally. "I didn't know Piper made a Light Sport." I explained a bit of her history. He nodded, then went over to look at the instruments. "Nice airplane." I buttoned her up and pulled clear of the pumps and watched a crop duster come in to take on a new load of chemicals. Dusty Crophopper is a big airplane. A normal takeoff and as I was departing I heard on Unicom "That sure is a pretty airplane".

The winds were not "unfavorable" and as I approached KGWW I decided to skip that fuel stop. I advised SEYMOUR JOHNSON Approach that my new destination was KLRO. I love my 696. The 175nm would take less than 2 hours with plenty of fuel for reserve. The weather was good with still a few clouds at 4500' so we stayed at 3500' and continued west bound. Smooth air, good visibility.

As we traveled south of Fayetville the conditions began to deteriorate. Convective buildups in the heat of the afternoon started to appear on the Nexrad weather display. The ceilings were dropping. Suddenly a moving object flashed by my head. I instinctively ducked out of the way! A quarter sized moth had found its way into the cockpit. I put up with the distraction, phew. The air was still calm but I tightened my shoulder harness anyway. When I contacted the FBO at 15 miles I couldn't make out their response. But a twin Cessna on an instrument appoach checked in at his initial approach fix and asked for my position. We decided I would take a #2 position behind him so I maneuvered for a 5 mile final. That worked out well. He was just clear of the runway by the time I landed. A good ground crew had the rental car waiting as I shut her down. (18.8 gallons @ $6.79. Free tie down.)

A thunderstorm cell was threatening to drench the field so I quickly got started putting the covers on. (Love bug season, yuck. I'm sure I trapped some in the cockpit.) As I worked, a couple walked out from the FBO across the ramp to look at Sally. They asked about her history, etc "I've seen some light sports before but none looked this good. This is what a Light Sport SHOULD look like!" True southern hospitality. I liked Charleston.

Video Notes:

Andrea's Discovery Flight
Charleston Flight

And then my cell phone died.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The 60th annual PAOP fly-in Breakfast

Arriving Pottstown Heritage
Three very big Fly Ins were planned on Sunday: at Pottstown (KPTW), Braden (N43), and Sky Manor (N40). Kathy and I planned to fly to two of them but the turbulent gusty winds spoiled our plans. I decided to fly solo to Pottstown for a "look and see" flight and after getting pushed around a bit decided to cancel our afternoon plans. Too bad. The blog and Facebook accounts tell me these were all great events.

Attending any Fly In is like a family reunion. It was great to see David (credit the great image above), and Tom & Cleo, as well as a few of you readers (thanks!). The best part was seeing so many youngsters. While waiting in line for breakfast I watched as the parents of a toddler pointed to each airplane coming in and exclaimed "airplane"! (The kid had on a Penn State sweatshirt so I told the parents that I thought they were doing a fantastic job raising their child.) I sat with a Dad and his two daughters at a picnic table eating my eggs and the young girls seemed very enthusiastic about the planes. "Wouldn't it be great if we could fly to go camping!?" Lots of kids, young ones, were brought out to this event. I didn't see too many thumbs punching cell phones. There is hope.

I decided to depart for home and walked around Sally for a "quick" preflight. An open canopy attracts a crowd. Soon I was in lecture mode providing stats about the airplane and taking in the wonderful compliments about how pretty she is.  After nearly 45 minutes I called "CLEAR!" and asked anyone close by to move back. Carefully, with the help of a Linesman, we taxied away so glad to have attended such a nice event. These guys did a great job. You should attend it next year.

Video Notes:


* Pretty gusty on the final and I misjudged it a bit.  Sally does a very nice slip. I'll log two at home base.

How Important Is a Pilot’s First Airplane? Why older trainers often have the edge on newer ones.

"With no purpose-built trainers in production in the United States, attention turned to the LSAs, small, inexpensive, two-seat aircraft limited in such areas as weight and speed but unburdened by the costly requirements for an FAA airworthiness certificate. Although the FAA would not issue such certificates for the LSAs, the agency was an active participant in the discussions that created the criteria under which the aircraft would be produced and sold in the United States.

Under former CEO Jack Pelton, Cessna began to explore the category as a possible entry point for people just coming to aviation. The newbies would need an airplane with a low price and curb appeal. “We went out on a covert mission,” Pelton recalls about the time when some “key folks ran down to Sebring, Florida, where they hold the Light Sport Aircraft show.” This was around 2006, and Pelton asked the team to look at the market. “We wanted to know if this was something we should be part of,” he says. “The general consensus was that this was a fascinating new market opportunity to bring people into aviation at a much lower price point.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Problems. Minor ones, the kind that you can fly with but will eventually require some attention. Just before leaving for Oshkosh Sally lost her ability to hold GPS tracking. "GPS Fix unavailable" was the error message and could be caused by a number of things each taking some time to troubleshoot. We opted to let her fly and resolve the "gripe" another day.

With some help from SCFlier I narrowed it down to a hardware problem. Specifically a loose connection. Unfortunately I didn't find a specific loose wire or detached connector. After looking at the backside of the pilot's panel and tracing the GPS connectors and checking all of them for general health, I did a test flight today to find that everything worked properly. Its fixed. (But I have that lingering feeling that I didn't really fix anything, that the problem simply went away. That happens sometimes.)

Video Notes: My cockpit camera failed due to a full memory card. I need to remember to delete the old flights.

Morning Flight

"To assume that moving “down” is always less demanding is every bit as inaccurate — and dangerous — as responding to the intuitive sense of up and down that can lead pilots to mishandle an aerodynamic stall. Any pilot who has transitioned from a standard category airplane to a light sport aircraft (LSA) will attest to the very real challenges involved in moving to a lower-performance airplane. Whether moving to a more capable aircraft or to a simpler machine, every bird we fly deserves, and indeed demands, the utmost level of respect from its pilot". - FAA Safety September/October 2014 SAFETY BRIEFING-