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.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Canopy Strut

The weather hasn't been good for VFR flying. Low gray clouds or gusty winds have grounded Sally and me for most days. The few flights we've had we've remained in the pattern for landing practice. Satisfying but I look forward to something a bit more adventurous. Maybe next month.

Time to take care of some maintenance. If you watch the beginning of this video you'll notice the canopy itself. The gas struts have slowly begun to fail. Fortunately a discussion was started at explaining the various design changes this part has undergone. Shawn decided to buy multiple sets of P/N 280292, a slightly different number found on my strut. After careful measurement I decided to purchase a spare set from him. Hopefully I'll have a chance to install them next week.

* "I saw the pic you posted on your blog of your canopy strut. If you remove that sticker, which I'm not sure who put that on there, you will see the OEM info for the strut. 280292 100N 21/10. The part number, the force in newton meters and the date code they were made. Yours were made in the 21st week of 2010." - Shawn

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cold Sunday

The alarm clock went off in the early morning darkness. The temperature was below freezing. I forced myself to get up even though my aching body demanded more sleep. Bleary eyed, I checked the weather maps to see if it was worth the trip to the airport. It didn't take too long for me to decide to start a fresh pot of coffee.

S.O.G. (Snow on ground). The sun struggled to penetrate the overcast layer that the maps had said was at 5000'.  Thin patches of ice lingered at the edges of the reservoir I cross on the drive in, and on the puddled taxiway near the hangar. A small pile of snow was in front of the hangar doors, too close to the structure for the plow to scrape away. The thermometer inside read 35°F but felt colder. I unfastened the upper cowl to check on the Rotax. Then I found my home made engine warmer, snaked the duct up from the exhaust vent, under the left cylinders, over the prop housing, under the right cylinders and pointed the open end at the oil reservoir. I turned on the "low" setting and gently placed the upper cowling back on before going back to the warm car and my cup of coffee. 45 minutes later I went in and cycled the prop, short of a "burp" but enough to move some of the oil. After another 30 minutes she was warm enough to start.

The density altitude was -850'. Sally loves the dense air and nearly jumped off the runway. We stayed in the pattern for about 3 circuits then departed to explore the local area. SOG everywhere.The world had lost its color, everything was displayed in shades of gray. The season has changed. The radio was busy with other Sunday fliers out getting some exercise. Leaving Butter Valley we were faced with a flock of Snow Geese. I decided not to let Sally's white wings join up with them so cut my departure leg a little short. After a good work out we came back to Quakertown to an empty pattern.

I logged 6 landings. Sometimes it seems that no matter what adjustments you make, the "squeak" just doesn't happen. This time they were easy. Sally and I were completely in sync. It was really worth that effort to get out of bed.

Video Notes: Cold Sunday

Interesting Analysis: GA's Difficult Climb Back

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In the Hangar

I recently started using Lightroom 5 to develop my pictures. The software does pure magic working with the stills captured from the Virb so I decided to experiment with some shots taken with really poor lighting conditions. I'm satisfied.

Nice reflected light pattern
Nose art

The panel.
I'm really very fortunate to be in a hangar. This was Sally a few years ago when we were tied down at Butter Valley.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Planning a Trip

This is how I typically plan my trip:

1. to check initial distance. This will tell me how many flying days should be planned.

2. Break trip down into 200 mile legs. Find 6 routes (or so). Provides rough idea of intermediate stops.


3. Check airport comments and nearby alternates. Eliminate poor reviews. Elevate those with interesting comments. I'll also check comments on AOPA. I prefer places I've never been...adds to the adventure for me.

4. I plan 600 miles a day for travel (2 fuel stops before an overnight) Consider "on airport" dinners/restaurants. Check on accommodations, for me AND Sally. (I like to actually talk to someone at the FBO if I plan to spend the night.)

a. 600 miles ~ 6 hours. That's enough time for me to be flying a small airplane each day. Add in preflight, fueling and securing the airplane it easily turns into 8 or 9 hours. If the weather is good and my energy level is good I can skip a stop. But I'm usually ready for a break after a 2 hour leg. Reference here

b. What do I talk to the FBO about? Hangar or tie down. Services available. Transportation options (crew car?). Any preferred hotel (discounts?) etc. Do they sound like good people?

5. Review for hazards (SUA, terrain, TFR, etc)

6. Break the trip into day trips.

7. Enter plan into Pilot (or Foreflight) Check NOTAMS. Adjust and finalize.

After a GO decision I enter the plan into my 696 and put my tablet in the bag. The tablet goes into the FBO with me if I need to change the plan.

Reference: Quiz

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Uphill Monday Morning

Take off on runway 29er @ KUKT
It might be the last nice weather flight this year:

A strong cold front will move through on Wednesday and send temperatures south in a hurry for the 2nd half of the week and weekend. There may even be some snowflakes in the air Thursday night in some areas.

So I took a short flight just to enjoy the countryside. Added a few landings just for practice and called it a day.

Video Notes: I tried a different camera angle and set the aperture to "wide". It gives the impression that Sally is always going "uphill" but does capture a lot of the terrain.

Monday Morning

See the memo from the FAA, or read the summary below:
The mounting of external camera does not constitute a major change and therefore is not subject to the regulatory purview of 14 CFR Part 43.