Friday, May 13, 2016


It takes a lot of planning and coordination to make a take off on time.

I had tracked the weather for a week and it looked like great conditions for our Mother's Day flight to Atlanta. This is nearly 350 miles and would include one fuel stop. I checked about a dozen candidates before narrowing my choices to a primary and alternate. I rechecked the Navlog many times. We carefully packed our overnight bag with only the essentials and set the alarm to get up early for a 9:00am ETD.  A careful preflight followed by loading the plane had us in the seat ready to start on time!


The frustration was nearly unbearable. I uttered an expletive. Kathy called the FBO who sent out a service truck. After 45 minutes the charger showed complete but the battery discharged immediately after turning the key. Next we jumped her from a car, she started immediately. I let her run for about 15 minutes hoping the generator would complete a recharge and then shut her down. I sat for moment, held my breath and turned the key. Click. We threw in the towel at 12:00pm, unpacked the plane and put our luggage in the car. We drove to Atlanta (and had a great weekend.)

Monday had me back out to the airport to get the numbers off the battery. I sat in my car and made phone calls to local shops to see if anyone had one in stock. Florida is a land of electric golf carts, shopping buggies and all sorts of other electric vehicles. Autozone had one.

Time for a check flight.

As I taxied to RWY23 a C17 flew overhead on final to MacDill AFB. A Hillsborough Police helicopter was in the landing pattern practicing his technique. It was a beautiful day. Sally performed well.

As I taxied back in a P3 was on final to MacDill. I always view that as a good omen.

Video Notes: Battery Check

Windows 10
Camtasia 8.6 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Summer Breeze

Oil pressure sender.
More than one sensor was providing out of limit alerts. CHT was just out of range, but an extra long wait on the ground might justify that one. Fuel pressure low right after take off was bothersome, but did not recur during the climb or leveling at cruise altitude. EGT happened once. The real problem was oil pressure low. It would usually happen during the take off roll, then subside during climb out. After 20 minutes of flight it would sound off again. Each fluctuation would trigger it and the frequency of alerts would increase over time. By the time I got to Sebring the oil pressure indicator was flat lined. No vibration or temperature rise, no other visible indication that anything was wrong. We sent my D120 to Dynon for analysis. Lockwood lent me a spare that they had sitting on the shelf.

The D120 is an amazing piece of equipment. It turns out you just can't pop one out and slap another in. It has to know the fuel status and that takes calibration, two gallons at a time (for each tank.) It also knows each senor and what the limits are to trigger an alert. It also knows the Hobbs time. All of this information (and more) is customized for each airframe. So work had to be done for the loaner, then redone when my box returned. I spent Tuesday in Sebring getting this work done. Fortunately the IAC trials were going on so I got to watch some great performances while the tanks were being calibrated.

Rwy 23 at KVDF
While at Sun 'n Fun I discussed my problem and all of the experts had the same conclusion: bad oil pressure sender unit. So in addition to replacing a card in the D120, I also replaced the sensor. The flight home on Tuesday was uneventful (Yes!)

Wednesday was a washout. A cold front with driving rain came through the area. Thursday I went out to KVDF to preflight for a validation flight. Choppy, gusty winds were forecast for the afternoon. We took off by 9:00am. The cold front had left us with beautiful blue skies and puffy scattered clouds at 4000ft. We would stay at 1500ft to stay under the Tampa Class B shelf and head west to the gulf.

I4 & Rt 301
It was already getting bumpy. The autopilot would occasionally have problems holding heading. The little arrow on my display showed 20kts from the west. It was choppy but not as bad as one might expect. The trip down the gulf coast was fun. On a calm day I would fly down to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, but not today. We settled for over flying Clearwater Airpark (which was pretty busy with two in the pattern and a Helicopter preparing to join them). We departed to the north and made the 20 minute trip back to Tampa Executive. 310@14G22

A routine flight. No sensors reported out of limits.

Video notes: Florida Scenery

Virb Edit  3.5.2

Sunday, May 1, 2016


I closed out the house in Parrish. After turning over the keys to the Leasing Agent I jumped on I75 and headed north to Tampa Executive. It was time to get away from the moving boxes and clear my head from all of the issues involved with moving household goods from one location to another.

Sally was dirty. All of the upper surfaces were spotted with dirt and pollen. (The belly was clean.)  I'll need to give her a good cleaning before we fly down to Sebring to get the D120 replaced. But not today. Today we would go flying.

Twelve pulls was all it took. I would have expected 4x that, but the engine is much tighter now. Full choke, throttle at idle, she caught immediately but I removed the choke too quickly and she sputtered. Sorry Sally. She started cleanly on the second attempt. I'll get the soft start modules figured out sooner or later.

Over 5000RPM for the static check, 10 degrees of flaps, the take of would be normal except for the oil pressure low warning. That warning would go of many times during the flight. Each time I would carefully check the validity and each time I would silence the alert and continue the flight. So after a visit to Tampa North and Pilot's Country I headed back to Tampa Exec. The Gulf Coast was within reach and my plan had been to fly down the beach for awhile. But not with an engine alert. This is how a bad habit gets developed and I didn't want to continue even though I'm sure it is just a bad sensor. But what if it isn't?

Thursday, April 14, 2016


It was only Wednesday but had already been a difficult week. I was ready to exit the "real world" for a few hours to enjoy a vacation in the sky.

The weather was good. A weak cold front had stalled in northern Florida which had the potential of bringing clouds and rain later in the day, but when I arrived at KVDF I was welcomed with blue skies and light winds. The preflight went well, she burped with less than twenty pulls. I'm still learning how to start using the new ignition modules.  As I waited for her to warm up two Cessnas, one belonging to C.A.P. joined me in the runup area. I let them go first while I waited for 122°F. When it was my turn I got the low oil pressure and low fuel pressure alerts when I added take off power. The engine sounded great, gave no other indications so I continued.  CAP announced he would stay in the pattern and I saw him on downwind as I departed to the east. When I leveled at 1500' all engine indications were normal.

Sally and I explored the area just east of the airport for awhile. First we traveled over to see Plant City (KPCM) but stayed clear of the area and didn't land there. Next we went south to see Wimauma, a private grass strip. We passed east of the five giant TV towers south of Riverview. They scare me. At 1500' I was still looking up at them and on a hazy humid day they could be all but invisible. It would not be good to wander too close.

Next we flew down to Parrish to overfly the housing development we currently live in and see the surrounding community. It always looks different from the air. The SRQ Class C airport has a shelf  with a base at 1200' so we went down a bit to enjoy the view. There are a lot of houses being built in Florida. We returned north by following Rt 301 and staying under the 3000' shelf of the Tampa Class B. Sally reported low pressure problems only a few times during our travels, and immediately recovered without any additional indications.

We did about 5 turns in the pattern. Again with a few low pressure annunciations but no other adverse indications. I am convinced we need a new oil pressure sensor.

Video Notes: I inadvertently left previous video on the chip and ran out of space to record this flight. Too bad as I had made meticulous audio notes of each indication whenever we had a low pressure annunciation. So instead, I offer this video from US Sport Aircraft: Takeoff

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lakeland 2016

2016 Sun 'n Fun
The thundering roar of an old warbird. Everything else stops as heads turn toward the sound. I couldn't see anything until slowly the beautiful beast climbed above the viewers tents. A B17 was taking off. WOW! Throughout the day we would be awed by P51s, F4Us, P39, B25 and some others I couldn't identify. But the sound, the thunder, had me turn my head every time.

Best looking planes at the show
Later in the day came the new guys. F22 is an old friend, but this was the first time I had seen a demonstration flight. I didn't see the F35 but it was there. Neither of the big military demonstration teams performed, but the Golden Knights opened each morning by bringing in the Flag. (My friend Duane told me that about half the crowd understood the phrase "Remove your covers" on opening day.)
Nose art...on the tail
Former training squadron

The aircraft displays were great. To spend the day just walking around new airplanes and equipment is a real pleasure. But as often been said, the real joy is the people. These shows are in fact, Homecomings.  While 90% of the conversation is centered around things that fly, talk of family and work and health also occasionally crept in. Off limits this year was any discussion about politics. The aerobatic performers and the numerous formation teams were all spectacular. But for me the best was the final act of the day. A flyby of a P51 with an F4U in tight formation. Breathtaking.

I'm told this show isn't as big as Oshkosh. We'll see.

Video Notes: Lakeland Departure

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Lake Parker Arrival

I got started later then planned, but was still airborne before 10:00am. The weather was clear blue skies but gusty. A cold front was predicted for the evening. I would have to pay attention to the weather to insure I wouldn't be spending the night in Lakeland.

Sally still has some sensor issues. It seems if running at a high RPM (>5200) she starts to report out of limit readings. It is nerve wracking, but I'm convinced its a gremlin and not a real reading. Still, getting a low oil pressure annunciation gets immediate attention!

Lakeland (KLAL) is only about 18 miles from Tampa Executive (KVDF) so the flight is relatively short. This would be a busy flight as I had to understand and follow the NOTAM for the Lake Parker Arrival. Inbound, the beautiful clear sky made it easy to pick out traffic. As I turned in toward the power station on the northeast corner of the lake I spotted a number of airplanes starting their procedure.  I took interval behind a "high wing" and was happy to "Rock my Wings" over the power station for positive identification. I maintained a westerly heading at 1200' and 100KTS but strong winds from the east increased my groundspeed by about 20KTS. It was fun looking for the landmarks along the way.

The controllers did an outstanding job keeping everyone informed and the tower was just great handling the huge amount of traffic. The key to flying into an event like this is to study the procedure, listen to what is being said, and respond to the commands. There simply isn't any bandwidth available for chatter.

The only problem I had was spotting my intended point of landing. I didn't see the "orange dot" until well down the runway, but I understood that this was a heavy traffic situation and the tower wanted me out of the way and off the runway as soon as possible. (I misjudged the gusty winds and landed just short of the dot, argh!)

The ground crew and linesman did a superb job of getting me to my parking spot. After shut down a linesman came by to remind me to double check my "Master -Off" and asked if I need tie downs. After the episode a few years ago, tie downs are mandatory. (I brought my own...The Claw)

Once I was sure she was secure, I took the L O N G walk to the display area and immediately found some old friends.

Video Notes: Lake Parker Approach

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Heads will fall, tails will rise

I had a student interested in learning about the VOR. (VHF Omni Directional Radio Range). Sally was providing false sensor alerts but I felt comfortable taking her up for this kind of lesson.

I dug into my old flight bag and found a set of "Foggles" to use as a vision limiting device. I decided to use LAL and SRQ for our practice stations which would keep us clear of the Tampa Class B airspace.

First we went directly to LAL and upon station passage (cone of silence, when the VOR needle disappears on the Horizontal Situation Indicator) I told him about the 6 "T's".

  1. Time: for groundspeed calculations,not used much now that we have GPS
  2. Twist: The Course Deviation Indicator to the desired course
  3. Turn: to the Desired course
  4. Time: for outbound holding (seldom used now) or approach timing.
  5. Transition: climb, descend, change configuration for an approach.
  6. Talk: to the controlling agency (if necessary)
 Next we talked about intercepting courses. The head of the needle always falls, the tail always rises. So you pick a heading that will allow the head to fall to the desired course. The head points to the station, the tail indicates the radial you are on. Upon intercepting, the 6T's boil down to Twist and Turn.

I've always felt that the test questions were designed to be tricky and intentionally confusing. Actually seeing it used in the airplane seems to help eliminate that confusion.

  • Track: A path along which something moves; a course:  The line you draw on the sectional is the track. The magenta line the GPS depicts is a track.
  • Course: the route or direction followed by a ship, aircraft, road, or river. Course is the direction over the ground along which the plane is currently moving.
  • Heading: The heading is the direction to which the "nose" of the object is pointing, its orientation. The angle between heading and track is known as the drift angle.
  • Bearing: Angular direction measured from one position to another using geographical or celestial reference lines. Relative bearing refers to the angle between the plane's forward direction, and the location of another object (like a VOR station.)
Reference:  Training Video (Pilot Training Solutions)