Saturday, February 25, 2017

Notes from a Long Trip

After a lot of consideration we decided it would be best to fly Sally up to Burlington, Wisconsin to have some needed maintenance done and return flying "Blue" a 2016 SkyView equipped SportCruiser to use for sales. The trip would be just under a 1000 miles each way and cross three weather systems. Since I typically plan 600 miles per day I planned on taking two days in each direction with a buffer thrown in for poor weather.

Tuesday morning Sally and I took off from KVDF about 8:00am EST enroute to our first fuel stop at KBGE. (214 NM). The weather was MVFR with ragged ceilings at 2500' and winds on the nose at 10kts. We found a hole near KBKV and got Flight Following while VFR Over The Top through most of Florida. I elected to stay "Feet Dry" passing Withlacoochee Bay until I reached the pan handle of Florida. When I checked in with Tallahassee Approach the undercast thinned out so I could see land again. Relief for a VFR pilot.   I've never been to Decatur County Industrial Airpark before. So as I descended at 10 miles I got confused by what appeared to be crossing runways surrounded by some very tall radio towers. GPS said I was still a few miles south, so I climbed back up to see this huge runway out in front of me. A former military base, I landed well before the first turnoff. It was a good fuel stop.

We left KBGE by 11:00am EST under clear sky enoute to KMSL (271 NM), a little long for me, but definitely within range for the PiperSport. Weather was good. I checked in on the CTAF and heard a Columba check in at 10 miles on an ILS final, so I deferred to him. As I reached abeam I spotted him still at about 3 miles out. I called #2 and extended my downwind. He called for a Touch and Go so I adjusted my pattern accordingly. I was deep so held my altitude as I slowed down to drop flaps, turned base and waited. Turned final and waited. I watched him roll to the end of the runway and was glad I had given him some extra interval. I began my descent on final, made the call still #2 waiting for him to clear.Waited still. Into the roundout I added some power to hold Sally off the runway. At midfield we went around. After I made the call the Columbia came back with a terse "Cooling the turbo". ummm. OK, I fly because it's fun. Going around just gives a little bit more time in the air. Still...?

We left KMSL under an overcast at 8500' enroute to KMVN (223 NM). The weather guesser said I should easily get under the clouds and to expect VFR conditions for the leg. About halfway there we entered some rain showers. Sirius XM showed a line from west to east of light green surrounding some dark green with a few splotches of yellow in the middle. Memphis Center said to expect some "moderate showers" in about 15 miles. I was nervous and prepared to do a 180.  I checked the OAT and the wings for possible icing. Nope all clear. I adjusted course to the west to stay clear of the worst of it, and saw the yellow patches dissipate as I traveled north. We broke out just over the river, exactly were the display said we would. GREAT technology. It started getting cold. I pulled my hood over my headset and found some gloves to wear. Cold and tired, we tied down for the night here. It was a good stay. (Crew car and a new hotel with an airport discount.)

I went out to preflight about 8:00am CST Wednesday morning. Cold breeze was blowing but the sun was shining. I should have had my winter baffle to cover the oil cooler. KMVN to KBUU (263 NM) would take us through the Chicago Class B. Not a problem with the Garmin 696 GPS. As we approached the airspace we were given permission to enter which cut a few minutes off the trip. It was cold. We were now under an overcast so were deprived any solar heating. The heater (if you call it that) was useless. By the time I landed I was shivering and ready for a hot cup of coffee.

Approaching the Gulf of Mexico
I slept well at the hotel. Meghan picked me up at 7:30am CST Thursday and took me over to the airport. It was cold, but I did the preflight in a heated hangar. We left KBUU back to KMVN. I had read the book on SkyView and had some training by both Todd and Meghan, but it is different flying a new system solo for the first time. Invigorating. This heater sort of worked. I took my winter coat off at MVN.

I left KMVN enroute to KAUO (381 NM). This leg would be a stretch for me. The weather was good and I was becoming more comfortable with the systems. I was directed around an active MOA by Fort Campbell Approach and was way ahead by easily seeing the restricted area and being able to use the autopilot to maneuver clear. A great system! As I turned the corner I had a pleasant surprise, an actual tailwind. I set 5350RPM at 5,500', and got a fuel burn of 5.9gph, 118TAS and 140KTS over the ground! I spent the night and slept very well. (The Italian Restaurant next to the Hilton Garden Inn is great.) BTW the staff at the airport is nearly all students and you couldn't meet a nicer group of people. This was a great stop.

I left KAUO for KVDF (319 NM) by 9:00am CST Friday. By this time the airplane and I are good friends. I settled in and enjoyed the flight. It was good to be back in the warm sunny climate of Florida.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Flying with Glass

Dynon SkyView Touch

  1. Radio: In addition to being much clearer, new radios can transfer frequency information to the screen. With the additional encoded information you can see if Center, Tower or Approach is assigned to the frequency you are using. An Example:I was approaching KMVN, an airport I've never been to before. I told Flight Following that I wanted to check the weather and would check back in once I had it. I pushed the Waypoint button to see all of the frequencies associated with the airport. Touch the AWOS frequency and it was put in the Standby mode on my Nav radio. It also popped up on my display as MVN AWOS with the proper frequency. Memphis Center was listed on the Comm Radio as my Primary. No Confusion.
  2. Wind Vector: I remember using all sorts of arcane means to determine the wind vector, all so you could plug it into a time/speed/distance problem to calculate your position. Now it is derived from the GPS as a given. An Example: I was landing at KMSL. I looked at the wind vector to see what the most likely runway would be and matched it to the HSI to see how I would set up for my entry. Nice to have when descending into the landing pattern.
  3. Runway Extensions: I LOVE these! Little green and black extensions to the runway which provide a clear visual on how to set up for a VFR entry. An Example: After a 2.5 hour flight I approached KAUO, another airport I've never been to. I was approaching from the northwest, they were landing on RWY36. At 10 miles it was easy to see where I needed to fly for my 45° entry.
  4. Autopilot: All of the modes are displayed on the screen so you immediately know if the plane is flying on a fixed heading or using a Nav Source to follow a track to the next waypoint. An Example: I got a call from Ft Campbell Control that the MOA was hot and to adjust my heading 10° right. The autopilot was in Nav mode. I reached over an clicked the heading button and turned the knob. I could immediately see that I was still in altitude mode and now flying in heading mode, because that's what it said on the top of my screen.
  5. Voice Annunciation: Sally talks to me. She directs my attention to the screen when something isn't quite right. An Example: "Fuel Pressure Low", gets your immediate attention, and flashing gauge on the panel can be analyzed quickly.
  6. ADSB: Traffic and weather. You often see the traffic on the screen before Flight Following calls it. With the vectors attached to the targets it makes avoidance easier.
  7. Weather: To be able to see the weather on the screen is nothing short of miraculous. Yes, there are drawbacks and we can misinterpret what is being shown, but it is so much better than just looking out the window at the dark gray stuff. An Example: Flying north from MSL to MVN I encountered a line of muck running west to east.  The forecaster had said to expect it and that I should be able to stay under it VFR. He was wrong. Center said I was running into "moderate" rain. My weather display showed light green, turning to dark green with small patches of yellow. The largest yellow patch was directly on my route. Visibility was about 5 miles. I was nervous. I adjusted to the west and over time watched the patch slowly dissipate. I popped out of the rain just about where the display said I would. Nice to have the extra information on this flight.
  8. Airspace: Is there a TFR active? What is the height of the shelf on that Class B? How far does the Class C extend under the shelf? All this and more is available on the screen. An Example: I was flying north to KBUU from KMVN, which would take me through the Chicago Class B. I could clearly see the airspace, had complete confidence on the heights of the extensions and was able to easily navigate around that space, as well as the numerous Class D spaces nearby.
  9. Toys: Synthetic vision and all of the derivatives are just "plane" fun. 
Video Notes: Dynon Skyview

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 US Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring KSEF

Landing on the Orange Dot
Adding Wawa premium
A few weeks ago I was asked to fly a new SportCruiser across the country to be used for the show. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to fly a brand new plane, loaded with the latest avionics, nearly 1000 miles to attend the premiere event for Light Sport Aircraft? But it was not to be. Weather at the departure airport was crap. Twice I flew the airlines to get the LSA, twice I flew the airlines home. Maybe February will be kinder.

Cruiser Aircraft Inc debut.
So I flew Sally instead, not a bad deal. The flight from KVDF to KSEF takes just under an hour. I commuted each day. The weather in Florida has been perfect. (Sally and I delayed one morning for fog, otherwise we had just beautiful flying conditions.) On Saturday Kathy flew with me. She took all of the pictures on the video while spending her time solo exploring the show. I spent time at the new Cruiser Aircraft Inc tent talking to prospective customers. We both had a great day.


Having read a number of news reports, the Expo seems to have been a huge success. Good weather, beautiful airplanes, and a wonderful group of aviation enthusiasts all contributed to make this event a great kick off to the 2017 season. See you at Lakeland Sun 'n Fun!

Video Notes: Sebring 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Disney Tour

We woke to foggy conditions. The winter weather in Florida is still producing a lot of advection fog as the winds bring moist air from the gulf over the central Florida airports. I knew the sun would burn it off by mid morning.


We arrived about 10:00am to start the preflight. Mandy was a big help getting Sally ready to fly. As we were taking the tiedown ropes off we could hear the whine of engines coming from the terminal. The Direct TV blimp was taking off and flew right over us. I love blimps.

Even though it was a week day, the airport was busy. As we taxied out I could hear planes announcing arrivals and departures for RWY23. We chose RWY18. It was Mandy's first ever take off and though nervous, did fine. We made a downwind departure to the northeast and climbed to 2500'. It was hazy but over 10 miles of visibility. The haze layer provide an excellent horizon to work on basic air work.

After awhile we passed just south of Zephyr Hills and she pointed out some sky divers. As we approached Orlando I noticed some strange looking clouds. Soon I realized that they were sky writers. I called approach to let them know we would be wandering around in nearby airspace (under the Class B and over the Disney TFR) just touring and taking pictures. He gave us a squawk code. It was exciting to see all of the Orlando attractions from the air. The theme parks seem so big when your looking for "Country Bear Jamboree" but not so large from 3200'. We saw "The Orlando Eye", "Epcot" and Universal Studios in addition to Disney World. The tour lasted a little more than 30 minutes and was a lot of fun.

The trip back to KVDF was uneventful. We enjoyed the Florida scenery and I thought about flying over our home but reconsidered. Not everyone enjoys being in a small airplane for over 2 hours. So instead I briefed Mandy on landing pattern operations. She was NOT anxious about making the landing. But I coached her through and she did great!

So in summary; a blimp, some sky divers, sky writing, pictures of Orlando attractions, a take off and a landing. Not a bad discovery Flight.

A Great Discovery Flight



Video Notes: The Disney Tour


Saturday, December 31, 2016

A short December Flight

It was cool for Florida, about 14°C OAT. I decided to clean her up later in the week when the temperature was forecast to get warmer. (25°C) Instead, I spent time doing a thorough preflight. It took about 30 props to get a burp, oil was in the middle of the stick. Fuel came out of the sumps clean. Tires are a little worn but the inflation was good. Lots of spider webs but nothing covering the vents or pitot tube. Considering I hadn't flown her in two weeks she looked pretty good.

The mission was simple: just exercise the systems and get a few landings in.

Winds were variable 020 to 050 at 7 gusting to 18. I chose RWY36. The runup went well. I felt comfortable. As we took the runway I searched for the sock and found the winds blowing straight down the field. Static check at 4950RPM. We lifted off quickly. All indications
were nominal. We did two landings to a full stop without any problems (4 out of 5 stars). Then we departed to the east and climbed to 2500'. I expected more turbulence but it was relatively smooth. We did a few steep turns, some slow flight, then headed for home. All systems worked well with no annunciator lights.

As I checked in with KVDF another Light Sport was giving a position report over "Kidney Lake" (Lake Thonotosassa ) which is northeast of the airport. He said he was at 300', departing and returning to Peter O'Knight. I looked to my right and found him climbing to the south. I turned and my formation training came back to me in a flash. I joined him in trail and came up on his left side. I had never seen an Icon A5 before. What a beautiful aircraft. After a minute or so I broke off to the left and reentered the traffic pattern at KVDF. A great no flap landing followed.

Another beautiful day to fly in Florida.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December Activity

A weak cold front
 Fog. The mornings have been obscured with fog and low clouds. Sometimes its due to a weak cold front, but more often due warm moist air blowing over the cooler land (Advection). Lately this has kept me grounded for most of the day. Morning temperature starts in the mid 60s and gets up to the low 80s by mid afternoon.

I've been troubled with a low oil pressure problem. This seems to have been going on for some time now. I'm convinced it is a false indication. No other symptoms exist. I recently had the Honeywell sender unit replaced but had the problem again on the way home. I'll focus on wiring and a loose connection next.

Post flight complete
The BRS parachute needs to be repacked. Dave had a very good conversation with Patrick and decided the best way to do this was to remove the instrument panels and the rocket and slide the chute out from under the glare shield. Unfortunately the schematic for Sally did not match the configuration we found in the airplane. Since we didn't want to tamper with the rocket we decided to delay the removal until we got better documentation.

A bracket for the nose gear pant broke. I ordered a new one from US Sport Aircraft and had Dave replace it. He'll take the broken one over to the welder so that I'll have a backup when the next one breaks. Reinstalling the pant was a challenge. Lining up all of the screw was difficult. At least I didn't have to do it laying on a frozen floor.

Sally was DIRTY. The covered tiedown keeps the harmful UV off the plane, but dew and rain seeps from the cover to leave black spots on all upper surfaces. Waxall and few clean rags and a lot of effort cleans her up in about an hour. The bonus is a clean airplane, uncovered with fuel in the tanks. Add the late afternoon sun dissipating the fog and we have a recipe for an enjoyable hour bouncing in the pattern.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Starting Over Again

I was taxiing from our tie down spot to the FBO to brief my student. Two Sandhill cranes crossed the taxiway in front of me. They stand about 4' tall and have long pointed beaks. One was limping and stopped right in front of me. Both looked at Sally as if asking "What are you going to do now?" I edged over to the right as far as I could and slowly moved forward. The crane limped off to the left. Florida wildlife is amazing.

The morning flight would focus on emergencies. The homework assignment had been to study Section 3 in the PiperSport POH. We sat in the snack room to discuss some of the subtle points. He was well prepared. My first 3 items on engine failure is Pitch, Point and Petrol. (After that if you have time, do the checklist.)

Pitch, Point, Petrol

Next we discussed take off emergencies. I divide the takeoff into 4 sections:
  1. Failure on the takeoff roll (and if possible immediately after takeoff,) abort.
  2. If below 300' PUSH the nose down and land straight ahead.
  3. The BRS can be used above 300' and should be considered.
  4. Above 700' consider the "Impossible Turn".
KVDF is surrounded by Interstate highways, are they an option?

The flight went well. We both learned a few things.

The afternoon flight would focus on the landing pattern. I always go to an "outlying field" to give the student a chance to depart and enter the traffic pattern. Plus, its more fun to see different places. I made a mistake and did too much talking while parked on the ramp after engine start. The weather is cooler now but the CHT still got high. We had the opportunity to learn about power settings to cool the engine off on the ground.

I demonstrated pattern entry and it didn't go as well as I hoped. Another plane in the pattern flew wide and deep forcing me to alter my "standard". I ended up dragging it in, exactly the wrong lesson. We departed and headed for home. A crosswind entry ended in the student making a good landing. I still need to give a good demo of the Standard entry (45 degree entry) and pattern, but that will have to wait for the next flight. In the meantime, PHAK Chapter 13 is a good homework assignment.

The students have dramatically different backgrounds and experience. But they are both flying a new airplane. The handling characteristics are different from what they have previously flown. The common lesson I present  is the "Distraction Exercise". Stabilize the airplane, including trim on a heading and altitude. Then tune the GPS to go Direct to an airport. Use the menu to get the weather and Unicom frequencies and tune them into the radio. Finally, switch back to map mode and make the appropriate radio call. Add a little turbulence and its not as easy as you might think.

So I learned something. I can still do "two-a-days", and I like it.

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