Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winter Home

I have been flying. Nothing extraordinary, no special trips, nothing that one might call an adventure. Just nice local area aviating. I've become much more comfortable in the left seat getting my pattern work and landings back where I want them to be, to my own standards. I've played with the avionics with practice ILS and Localizer approaches, some GPS approaches but all in the local area.

The autopilot will not fly a holding pattern. It can get me to the IAF but after that I'm on my own. Unlike a GNS 430, the 696 just doesn't know IFR. No need I suppose as it is a VFR only bird. It handles the final approach course well, just doesn't know a procedure turn or holding patterns.

She is getting ready for another oil change and I have a very small list of gripes to go over with Harry. (The towing ring broke on the nose wheel and I have the part to be installed. etc) I have some cosmetic gripes as well. The "Do Not Step" warnings on the flaps show wear, and a few other blemishes need to be addressed. I'm sure if she were hangared I wouldn't be seeing this kind of wear. All a part of ownership.

Today I took a short flight down to Pottstown Municipal (N47) to keep her for the winter. It extends my drive by about 15 minutes, but puts her on an asphalt pad and prepared taxi ways that can be more easily cleared when the snows begin to fall.  Hopefully it will mean more winter time utilization. N47 also has some good night lighting, so hopefully I'll be able to take advantage of my new lighting package.

As I pulled up to the fuel tanks Joe came out to help. He showed me the on/off switch and how to clear the pump to start fueling. I'll figure on a winter time mix of  50/50 100LL and auto-gas. Ethanol/moisture in the winter has me just a bit concerned about freezing fuel lines.  I haven't sumped any water but DID have water in the fuel sensor line, enough to keep me cautious.

We also got some very nice compliments. Pilots like the lines of a PiperSport and she always gets attention. One pilot stopped by to discuss LSA, it turns out he just bought a Cessna SkyCatcher. It should be a lot of fun to compare notes!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


We achieved another milestone this week.  On December 2nd 2010 I signed a piece of paper, handed over a check and the bank, my wife & I bought N674PS. We've had her for a full year now and if anything I've learned to enjoy flying even more. This weather has been incredibly lousy, but even so we's had some good statistics:
  • Hobbs: 122.1
  • Height: 10.500' en route to Ohio
  • Speed: 122 TAS between Pottstown and Quakertown (TAS check)
  • Longest leg: 392 miles, 4.2 hrs
Today I started on the new year. Crisp clear air, I wanted to do a VOR check and visit another local airport. I've noticed that Solberg has been quite busy on on the Common Traffic Airport Frequency so decided to find out why.

When I got to the airplane there was still a bit of frost on the northern side of the plane, so I took a few minutes to polish that off before starting the rest of my preflight. She's getting ready for another oil change and the dark black oil was just a bit under halfway after she burped. I added some antifreeze into the bottle the last time out and that still looked good. The biggest discrepancy right now is dirt. I hesitate to do any deep cleaning, don't want water to find someplace where freezing could cause a problem. She starts fine, but idle is a bit low. Maybe I'll have Harry take a look at that during the oil change.

A beautiful day to fly. Clear cool air only increases the airplane's performance. Level off and clean up "my office" for a 20 min cruise over to SBJ using the VOR for navigation. I made some course changes to see how the autopilot would respond and was pleased with the results.  Approaching Vansant (9N1) I heard a call that glider operations were under way so maneuvered behind the pair to get a good look at the separation. Looks like fun.

N51 was busy. Two in the pattern and two more waiting to take off. Runway 04 was in use and I entered on the 45 behind a Cessna turning base. A nice landing at a very pretty airport. I can see why it stays busy. I taxied back and waited for two before departing. Climbed up to 3500' and did a few intercepts into the VOR. Convinced that everything is working properly I dialed in Butter Valley in the 696 and pushed the button to follow the magenta road.

Someone was in the pattern at home. (That's a bit unusual for 7N8) I flew the whole pattern using a crosswind entry instead of my normal straight in from the reservoir. After landing I noticed two men on the line of parked planes watching my return. After shut down they stopped by to talk about light sport operations and to get a good look at 4PS. Nice guys.

I can only hope we'll have a few more days like this bfore the weather turns ugly for the winter season.  I still need to check about moving down to N47 for a few months. But today, it was just perfect to be a Butter Valley.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Waiting for the oil to warm up.


The fall weather is simply too good to let pass. I struggled to get my desk clear so that I could go out to the airport. I was in the air heading north by about 3:00. I had never been to Lehighton before and wanted to check it out as part of my "local airports" tour.

There was a mild chop as I climbed through the haze layer and settled down at 3500'. Visibility was great looking away from the sun but only 5 miles or so looking west. I could easily see ABE and 69N in the distance but picking out anything looking the other way was hard. It was a nice, uneventful trip and I started my descent just past the ridge line.  A crosswind entry to 08 let me land with a slight  left crosswind. Nice airport but no activity other than a guy on a ladder washing his 172.

I departed 22N to the southwest hoping to pick out Grimes. 8N1 lies right next to I78, but is a turf strip in the middle of farm country. Everything looks like it could be an airfield. I decided to forgo a landing until I've had a chance to study some satellite pictures. (I'm looking at it now and I was right...just not confidently right.)

As I approached home I saw this activity south of Butter Valley, a balloon preparing for take off. What a pretty day for sightseeing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Setting up the 696
The mission was a simple one. We had not flown together since mid- August and I wanted to get her back into the air. She wanted to try out her new Clarity Aloft Headset, new HD sunglasses and a few new tricks to combat airsickness. I was still checking things from the annual, and besides, it was a beautiful Pennsylvania day. It was the first time she got to see a takeoff from RWY 16. It is just a little different taking off from grass.

I contacted Allentown Approach immediately after take off to get clearance through the Class "C" and we were given a squawk right away. The air was cool and calm and as you can see from the pictures, visibility was fantastic. We traveled over at 3500' and
really enjoyed sightseeing. She had grown up in the neighborhood  at the bottom right of the photo, and I had spent some time walking there after school. Down Hamilton Street, Past the PPL and Hess's, then over the 8th Street Bridge to her house. Sometimes I rode the bus, most times not.
LVIA (formerly ABE)

 ...and around then I spent  some time in the Allentown Airport Traffic Area learning to talk to the tower and other controllers on a hand held mike and listening on a speaker in the cabin of an old Cherokee. I stayed away from there when flying the Champ, although I did wander down the ridge from Slatington to fly through the Water Gap and back up the other side of the mountain. I think we were a little past the peak foliage this year, but then we had a blizzard last weekend that kept us all on the ground around here.
Delaware Water Gap

 While the controllers were busy, we only saw a few planes during our trip. When I switched frequencies to Blairstown I was surprised at how quiet it was.  They do a brisk breakfast business and I expected a lot of traffic on a pretty Saturday morning. After landing we found that they had been impacted by the sudden snow and their power was still out. After considering our options we decided to head back home and have a late breakfast at 7N8. She had the weekend errands to do and I wanted to winterize Sally.

The flight was uneventful except for one thing, I overflew home base! Flying into the sun, some glare, but mostly finding this little airport from a different direction caused me to miss it. Fortunately I recognized my house when I flew over it and was able to recover before going to N47. We made a nice landing going down the hill on RWY 16.

Runway 07 at Blairstown
 After a nice lunch we went back to the plane to tie her down, and cover her up. We went home to go about chores and I changed and went back out to the airport to add the winter baffles and take the wheel pants off. All went well until I got to the last screw on the last pant. The driver slipped and I destroyed the head. Different sized drivers only made things worse...aargh. Similarly one screw on the oil cooler baffle would come loose either, with much the same result.

My new best friend is a #2 'easy out' (screw extractor). After carefully drilling a shallow hole in each screw I was able to insert the tool and slowly remove the stubborn screws. Which is really good news because that means a test flight. Hope we have good weather tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


October has been a real "roller coaster", not the least of which has been the dramatic change in seasons. I went out to Butter Valley the morning following our "Apocotoberlypse" (thanks Kevin) to find I had a taildragger. What a sickening sight. Fortunately no damage but merely a starck reminder that winter weather is upon us.

Harry got the lighting package installed. 4PapaSierra is now allowed to wander out after dark. I'm very pleased with the quality of the kit and its installation.

We completed our first annual inspection. No major discrepancies were found, although Harry does have a few recommendations for design changes. Shouldn't inspection plates be screwed on rather then riveted? He also found some water in the fuel line leading down to the fuel pressure sender. I had been having some problems with intermittent low fuel pressure indications and was recommended (by a Facebook friend) to clean or replace the unit. When Harry put in the new sender (from Dynon) he found the water. We suspect it comes from using Mogas with ethanol and have decided to check this line whenever we do an oil change. Hobbs read 104.8.

Yesterday the alarm went off just before 0600 on a dark, frigid morning. I was scheduled to fly Sally (my pet name for 4PS) to Piper Memorial Field for my 'bi-annual' Flight Review. So, after I got the coffee pot brewing I sat down to do my flight planning. The route was simple, no TFRs or other anomalies, but the weather was ugly. Temperature and dew point were equal at M2 and Runwayfinder showed a lot of red. My call to Lockheed only confirmed what I already new.  The good news was conditions were expected to improve once the sun came up. I have been VERY fortunate to have excellent instructors, but since I've been flying Light Sport I haven't really started a relationship with a local guy. I wanted to fly with someone who could 'mentor' me with an LSA, not just do the maneuvers. Through the Sport Pilot Talk Blog I found Paul at AvSport in Lockhaven, about an hour's flight from 7N8.

When I got to the airport I found her encased in frost, the first of the season. Fortunately a blogger friend (thanks Gary) had told me about some de-icing fluid I could pump spray on to melt and remove the frost. It works great, but after polishing the frost off and burping the engine I was ready for another coffee in the warm car. I called Paul at 7:30 and found conditions were still 1/2 mile in mist. Wait...

I could see two hot air balloons rising about 5 miles south of Butter Valley. We had perfect blue skies and still air. The geese on the pond were making a racket, and when they took off flying directly over me I could hear the air swooshing past their wings as they slowly climbed south in the cold air. Wait...

3miles. At 9:00 the digi-weather site reported 3 miles of visibility and Williamsport was calling +6 and clear. We agreed to give it a try, so I finished the final items on the preflight and strapped in. There was still about an inch of snow on the turf taxiway, which was now crusted over with ice. A cautious "full power taxi" with very careful braking got me to the runway threshold. With checks complete a few minutes later I was airborne. ETA for KLHV was 10:30.

I used Flight Following and enjoyed the conversation for the otherwise uneventful trip. 5000 RPM yielded about 100 Kts over the ground at just over 5gals/hr. As the GPS wound down toward my destination I saw a problem. Dense clouds were lining each of the valleys I was passing over and it looked like Lockhaven was in one of those valleys up ahead. When I crossed the last ridge I could see the runway, directly beneath me but KLHV was definitely IFR with the mountain ranges on each side rising above the cloud tops. (IF..., but we aren't.) I diverted to KIPT. Safe arrival just few minutes later. Nice place, great hospitality, free coffee and I got a package of Krimpets from the vending machine. Wait...

At 12:00 Lockhaven went VFR. I entered a left downwind for RWY 9 and felt good about bringing my PiperSport back to Piper Memorial field.  I pulled up to the hangar and Paul and I met in person for the first time.

I won't go into all of the details for the flight review, but will say that it met and surpassed my expectations. It focused on Light Sport documentation, fundamentals and the implications of WEIGHT. It was my first ever flight from the left seat and although not to my standards, I know that I can be safe on that side now. (My landing was a but well left and 'floated'.) I will really enjoy getting more experience in that seat.

AND, what a great guy Paul is! He rearranged his whole day just to take care of me on this last day of the last month. I am delighted to say I have found another instructor/mentor.

...4PS got a lot of nice complements while sitting on the ramp. I think Paul enjoyed the chance to fly a different LSA. The trip home was uneventful except that it was one of 'those moments', when you stop and realize how great it is be a pilot. "Remember this", I said to Sally, "this is good stuff".

So, a nice landing back at 7N8 and as I started my back taxi I sawa large black dog running around free on my left. This dog is just having a great time plowing through the snow, rolling around, darting back and forth, and then sees me. I stopped and immediately put my hand on the ignition switch. Two kids in panic mode come over the hill frantically trying to coral this animal. I decide that if it gets within a wingtips distance I'll shut her down. Fortunately they caught it and took control of the situation. I finished my taxi, parked, tied down and covered her. It was 1800, and I was beat.  Quite a Halloween.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


The weather in Pennsylvania has been horrible. Seldom have we seen even a patch of blue peeking through a solid overcast. Grounded.

Suddenly it changed. A series of cold fronts pushed through leaving crisp morning air, cloudless blue skies and unlimited visibility (CAVU). So Thursday afternoon I escaped from all of my earthly responsibilities and headed out to the airport. The PiperSport was filthy. The birds and the weather had left me with quite a chore, but even in this state she looked beautiful to me. I did a leisurely preflight making doubly sure that everything was as it should be.Coolant level was good, engine oil in the middle of the flat and she burped after about sixty pulls. I still get a thrill when I turn the ignition. All is well.

As the oil warmed N123GT came home after a morning flight making a nice three point landing before rolling up the hill. I taxied out as he was putting on his sun shade. A very nice Cessna 180H.

I departed to the west over the power lines and the rise of mountains that parallels Rt100 and stayed north of the Reading airspace. Once I spotted I78 I flew further north and used that as my ground reference. GPS showed a parachute drop zone around Grimes but nothing was in the air. I felt that I could see forever the visibility was so good.

Indiantown Gap (a significant gap through the Pennsylvania mountain) is home to a small Army Airbase, and their restricted area (R-5802) was active. I stayed to the east and monitored tower frequency as I toured the area. The tress are just starting to turn although no bright fall colors yet. The farmers have been busy and most of the corn has been harvested.

Dad died on October 5th. He had been suffering with Lewy Body Dementia, but the cause of death was congestive heart failure. A World War Two Veteran, he was a gunner/ordnance man on PBYs out of Jacksonville. He will be buried with Military Honors at Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetary next week. It looks like a nice place.

Monday, September 19, 2011


First Hurricane Irene, then tropical storm Lee left the Northeast drenched and weather conditions ugly. VFR pilots were getting a lot of time to read aviation magazines. The weather broke on Saturday but family commitments kept me busy at home. Sunday the sun came out again and I went out to the airport.

Ralph was preflighting his beautiful Tripacer and came over to ask if I was going to the Limerick Fly-in. I had missed the one in Trenton on Saturday and didn't even know that Heritage Field (KPTW) had one planned. I decided to overfly Pottstown and head to Brandywine, a field I had never been to before. 4PS performed well, I think we were both glad to be airborne on such a beautiful day. Cool temperatures thicken the air and the wings and engine like that. Visibility was fantastic and I was really surprised NOT to see any fall colors yet. (Good, I'm not ready for the damnsnow.) The Dynon HS34 worked well and I had no low fuel pressure indications. Nice

A few were in the pattern and one was on a simulated VOR approach to 090. I overflew the field to get a position on everyone and decided to make a non-standard right hand pattern to follow the the Piper on the approach. It all worked well and ended with a sweet landing and easy exit at the first turn off. As I held short to reconfigure for take off a helicopter called 3 miles out for landing. I asked and was granted permission to get out in front of him. He watched my departure to the west although I never saw him.

A slight chop started to bounce us at 2500' so I climbed up another thousand and eased around the northern edge of KLNS airspace. I monitored the tower frequency and found Lancaster was busy for a Sunday morning. Smooth air on a beautiful day, especially after a long wait is such a wonderful feeling. As I started my descent I saw a large radio tower directly on my flight path on the crest of a mountain. I thought my terrain avoidance should be calling that for me, and as I was about to take a note in my "gripe" log Sally came on to tell me about it and created a hazard window on the GPS to point it out for me. Cool Stuff.

I had been to 58N before. I a nice little strip with some flight school operations close to Hersey. Another "4PS" resides there, also in the classic silver and blue. The airport owner has had some engine problems with that airplane and is not at all happy with the support received from her salesman in Lancaster. While I've had a few bugs, these folks have had enough of the PiperSport. I explained that I was still in love, and we agreed that a lot of that has to do with the excellent support I have received with my issues. 10 gallons of gas from the pump and I was on my way. While I waited the last few minutes for the oil to warm up, a Piper Cub did a low pass right in front of me.  Fantastic.

The trip home was nice. I decided to hand fly and followed RT322 south of the Reading airspace. I called "Approaching Home Plate" at 10 miles alerting my wife that I was inbound. She came out to help with cover and tie downs .A sour note to the whole day was a lousy landing at Butter Valley. Moderate gusty variable winds, meant I should have added a few knots to my final approach speed, but I didn't. Dropped it in....rats.

Brandywine is about 30 miles from Butter Valley, Reigle is about 50 miles away. Lunch at the Airport restaurant was a BLT and a cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


It is a difficult time in my life right now. Getting out to go flying is a much needed escape and I'm so grateful to have a beautiful set of wings at my disposal.

I set the alarm for 0darkthirty so I could get out and back before work. After the mandatory cup of coffee and a quick email check I looked at the weather. Runwayfinder was all reds and yellows due to fog and mist. Time enough for another cup of coffee.

By 7:30 some blue was starting to poke through, although Pittsburgh looked like it was getting some showers. I gathered my gear and jumped in the car for the short 10 minute trip to Butter Valley.   A hot air balloon lifted off from a nearby lot climbing straight up in the still air. When I got to the airport a small flock of geese were feeding on the taxi way. After preflight and start, while waiting for the oil to warm to 122 a helicopter called in for traffic. I alerted her to the geese and her rotors chased them off. What a magnificent machine. I think she and her passengers came in for breakfast but unfortunately the grill was still closed because of power outages from Hurricane Irene. They took the courtesy truck into Bally. 

Visibility wasn't great. (I love my)696 showed the storms in western Pennsylvania hadn't moved much and the air was still and smooth. Banks of mist still laid in the valleys and it was beautiful to see the fog pushing its way through the gap at Slatington. The windmills on the ridge to west were motionless. No one in the traffic pattern at KHZL, I chose an extended left base for runway 28 and landed well short of the first turn off. Nothing was moving.

I taxied back to the approach end and prepared to depart. A dozen wild turkeys were busy in the field to the left. These are LARGE birds. Fortunately they stayed there and my departure was uneventful. I used the VOR coupled to the autopilot for the return trip. The analog input constantly rolled the airplane from one side to the other as it tried to find a course to stabilize the CDI. I liked it for sightseeing but don't think most would care for the constant rocking motion.

As I began my descent a flight of four Blackhawks traversed beneath me from left to right. My wife heard my radio calls on the handheld and came out to the airport to help with  cover and tie down. That deserved a fresh breakfast over at the Strawberry. A lot of aviation for one short flight. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The weather is spectacular! Temperatures in the mid 70s, clear blue skies and visibility forever. I got out to Butter Valley for my lunch break, added 5 gallons of premium, and pushed 60 blades to get the burp. I just couldn't force myself to get into my PiperSport without taking a closer look at my neighbors. Two classic Cubs were tied down next to me, and across the turf was a gorgeous polished aluminum Globe Swift. I have loved the look of a Swift, well, forever. This one was simply pristine. If I can ever get down to my target weight I would definitely want to try one of these on. This one is based in York and I was fortunate to meet the owner as he came out to the line as I finished my preflight.  I think we were both a bit jealous of each other and at the same time proud of our planes.

A very pleasant round-robin to Pottstown Heritage (Limerick), Wings, and back to Butter Valley with a full stop landing at each. Just a very few cumulus building at 6K, which brought a mild chop along with them, but at 2500' it was still a smooth ride. As I left KPTW I could see a flight of two Cubs making their way south. I hope they had a good lunch at 7N8.

Wings is getting some maintenance done on its taxi ways. I turned off on the first ramp, but folks coming down through the throat must back taxi a bit to get to the approach end on RWY 24. I waited at the hold-short line as a Piper Arrow came out to play. The trip back home was nice and I made a 5 mile final into home field. I learned about the earthquake when I called home to check-in.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Rwy 26 at KCXY
N674PS at KCXY
The weather stinks. I had made plans for a few 1+ hour trips this week, but the only good weather day was Wednesday, and an emergency at work took the whole day. So when it improved to marginal on Friday I jumped at the chance for a local tour. An easy flight up to Blairstown and then along the ridge line and through the gap over to Slatington and an easy ride south back home gave me the 'fix' I needed. ahhhhh. That night a hail storm blew through with wind gust over 33 kts. Fortunately no damage to our PiperSport.

A beautiful line of planes
We planned a flight over to Harrisburg to visit a friend we hadn't seen in 5 years. Capital City is a controlled field, next to the town's international airport along the Susquehanna River. We woke to dense fog...the kind where you can't see across the street. So I went back to bed for a few more hours to wait for the sun to burn some of mist away. At 11:00 we were finished with the run-up and ready for take off. (So much for the breakfast meeting we had planned.) Still hazy, but at least 7 miles and nice still, smooth air all the way. My radio skills were a bit rusty, and it showed especially during the departure from Capital City, but good enough to get us away without too much embarrassment. I really enjoyed the challenge and had fun with the whole exercise.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Smoketown is a nice airport just outside of Lancaster airspace. I had noticed on the NE Flyers Meet-up page that their fly-in was listed and the agenda included a talk about Light Sport Aviation. Preflight planning showed some local airports shrouded in mist, but generally good weather until T-Storms rolled in later in the afternoon. No TFRs were shown to be active.The preflight was done and the oil was warming up by 8:30. Garmin said the trip should take about 30 mins, and weather was visible far out to the west of us. Everything was "GO" for the trip as we lined up on Rwy 34 to complete the checklists.

The trip over was uneventful, except for the incredible beauty of the Pennsylvania countryside. Carved farmlands separated by hills of forests spotted with barns and silos and an  occasional town until we got close to Lancaster. We listened on CTAF and were surprised at the volume of aircraft calling their positions in the pattern. High wing, low wind, biplane, experimental and soon to join in, a PiperSport. We entered on the 45 to Rwy 28, and watched closely as other airplane sorted themselves out in the pattern. We called downwind behind a Cessna, and obviously a Stearman was either not listening or felt his crosswind gave him priority, but in any case I decided not to argue and broke it off for another entry. That went well and now I'm anxiously waiting for the arrival photos to be posted on the website.

The linesmen did a great job getting us to our parking spot. As we got out of the plane, two friends (whom I had never met) came by to greet us. From Pottstown Heritage, we had exchanged email and blog post and invited each other for coffee at our respective airports, but never met. It was nice chat, reacquaint and talk about airplanes. Then we wandered the line of beautiful planes and made our way to the hangar for breakfast, the standard pancakes and eggs and donuts.  After eating we strolled over to Hangar "F" for the Light Sport Lecture. An instructor from Lancaster came in with his StingSport and did a great job explaining the LSA limitations for both pilots and aircraft to a diverse crowd of about 25.

Back out to walk the flight line, and I nearly fell in love with the Calidus GyroCopter. I've always been intrigued with the self powered rotating wing, like the flight characteristics and would love to fly one. This one was a real beauty.

But the weather was starting to turn. We decided it was time to get our VFR airplane back home before the gray skies forced an unexpected overnight stay. The flight home was uneventful. As we buttoned her down a guy drove up in his car to talk about Light Sport Flying, and kept talking for about 30 mins. We enjoyed it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Right Hand Pattern

Weathered in this past weekend, I was very anxious to get into the air again. Monday proved to be just too busy, so I hoped to get any early morning start on Tuesday. Fog and mist prevented that. As I waited for the heat to dissipate the haze, I noted a line of storms moving in from the west. As soon as the local area reported Marginal VFR I was on my way out to the airport.
Original plan to venture a few minutes south to KPTW was scrapped in favor of staying in the pattern at home. Though I fly from the right seat, my right hand pattern needed some work. I tend to cut the crosswind a bit short, leaving me a bit high and fast turning base to final. My sight picture is now adjusted to have the wing tip fly down the runway instead of the gas cap. It made for a much nicer approach.

5 full stop landings and one missed in 0.5 hours. Probably about an hour total from door step to door step...not bad.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I wanted to go. I REALLY wanted to go. It would be my first ever meeting with the NE Flyers, back to some 'home turf' at Poughkeepsie's Duchess County (KPOU) to celebrate the opening of a new on field restaurant. The airplane was fueled, no gripes. Everything was pushing me to go...except:
KXLL - Allentown Queen City Municipal AirNav
Allentown, PA
Reported at: 7:35am EDT
Wind: 170° true at 7 kt
Visibility: 10 sm
Clouds: scattered 1300 ft AGL, broken 2100 ft AGL
overcast 6000 ft AGL
Temp: 22° C, Dewpoint: 20° C
 ...and similar reports from other local airports. My midway point, Sussex (KFWN) was reporting clouds broken 1900 ft AGL. Poughkeepsie was solid VFR, but the weather at home wasn't. I sat in the car, watching the low clouds drift by wondering if I should take the covers off. Forecast called for improving weather, with thunderstorms later in the day. If I was IFR current, and if the airplane was IFR certified I would be gone.

But, we aren't.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


A family reunion at Butter Valley
I had the engine burped by 7:30am. I wanted to test the air before the sun had a chance to produce some convective turbulence, and was rewarded with glass. The airplane ride was so much smoother than the drive to airport. Morning mist still filled some of the Pennsylvania valleys and the radio crackled only occasionally.

Off in the distance I could see what used to be NAS Willow Grove (Now listed as NXX, Horsham Police), so very large compared to all other airports in the vicinity. Pennridge didn't have any jumpers in the air, but even so I kept my eyes outside looking for any falling bodies.

There was just one departing Doylestown and he favored RWY 5, so I lined up for an extended left base. Another early riser in a low wing (Piper?) and I saw each other and raised a wing to let each know we were aware of the others position. I turned final with "red over white" and made a smooth, comfortable landing. I could have easily turned midfield, but that taxiway had a yellow 'x' so I let her roll down to the next exit. As I taxied back for takeoff, I saw another pilot checking the engine on his plane as part of his preflight ritual.

Checklist complete I was back in the air climbing to 1200' before my turn on course back to 7N8. Just beautiful. Total time was less than an hour, but what a great flight.

7N8 was busy, good weather brought out a lot of folks looking for a good Sunday breakfast. A pretty white and blue Luscombe was already on the ramp, and after breakfast two Cubs and a few Cessnas came in from Brandywine (OQN). We took a look at the cockpit, felt nostalgic, but decided we loved the modern seats and instruments in the PiperSport.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Headset holder works well
 Overslept. We had planned to get up with the sun to take advantage of smooth air for the 30 min flight down to Chester County. Too many hits to the snooze alarm changed all that. We got to 674PS about 9:00am and were airborne after a thorough preflight.

The sky was clear following a weak cold front, a bit of haze and a few bumps. We got a good jolt after leveling 2500' that rocked the wings about 45 degrees. A few more bumps sent us up to 3500'. She was suffering from a bit of motion sickness so I opted for an extended base to nice long, broad runway. Taxi and shutdown were normal followed by a short walk across the ramp to the restaurant
Departing 7N8 to the SouthWest
The food was great. The small stack was two huge pancakes, and my country ham with eggs was outstanding. We had a nice view of the runway and ramp as we relaxed with our meal. Cessnas, (a beautiful 195 among others), Pipers, a Kolibar and a Sting Sport all arrived as we watched, and a very pretty Columbia took off just before we did.

Pretty much a straight shot back, lot's of traffic on the radio, but we didn't see anything along the way. All systems on the airplane (except the landing light) are working well. ...and our coordination doing the preflight and post flight has improved tremendously.

Nice airport, FBO & restaurant
This was a great way to spend a Saturday morning. We are working our way through the FLY2LUNCH website for nearby places to eat.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Practice Precautionary Emergency Landing.

Practice, practice, practice!
A beautiful day to go flying. I checked on the minor repairs made and all seemed to working as planned. The plane handled well and the gorgeous smooth air was just a joy. So time for an easy test. While the picture only show the approach from the west, I did try one from the other direction with similar results.

It was fun.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Crowd watching us depart at 7N8

Good place for breakfast, busy on Sunday
Beautiful blue sky before 10:00AM, but lots of chop and gusts after noon. We  had tried this "$100 Hamburger" run before but aborted due to turbulence.  But we had started later in the day, this time we should be home before the thermals started in the afternoon heat.

Crossing back into PA

Final Approach to Rwy 34 at 7N8
A Citabria parked near us and my acquaintance from Beltzville (14N) stopped by to talk about airplanes. He had been an instructor in Slatington (69N) when I was just starting out. Still has the original seat cushion from the Champ I had trained in.

We completed the preflight and started her up. Saw the crowd in the parking lot as I lined up on the runway. (Not use to having an audience, but I was in the right seat and could blame any embarrassment on her.) It was a smooth normal take off and we immediately picked up the purple line and climbed to 2500'. I engaged the autopilot, did my cruise checks and generally 'cleaned up my office' for the flight out of the state.

Sky Manor is a pleasant little airport just past the Delaware river in NJ. There was a Cessna departing as we entered the pattern, and just a mild wind, pretty much down the center line as I rolled onto final. The Place was really busy on a beautiful Sunday morning. Many folks sat in lawn chairs watching the runway as we landed. Nice breakfast as we watched a helicopter student learning to maneuver. At least 3 folks stopped us to ask questions during the preflight to was particularly interested in a transition due to a medical condition. (An interesting discussion on FB: should pilots have the option of "self approval" and will this be abused and lead to LSA accidents? Time will tell.)

We excused ourselves from the conversations and climbed in for the return trip. The heat was starting to churn the air and we encountered light chop most of the way home. Disconnected the autopilot over Pennsberg and headed toward the reservoir to set up for a long straight-in to Rnwy 34 at Butter Valley. 

I kept it a little high knowing that once past the 'big ugly tree' she sinks pretty quickly over the grass. Cross wind from the left kept me busy in the round out and a few extra knots helped me cushion the flare, but it was a good workout keeping everything going in the right direction.

Overall a very nice trip, one I hope can be repeated often.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A little work with Harry

The 'todo' list had been building up:

  1. Oil change; she was now at 80 hrs (Hobbs)
  2. HS34: replacement unit from Dynon
  3. Fuel line reroute: Donato had sent me some pictures on how to move the line up, away from the engine.
  4. LOA: I needed Harry to sign the letter saying he would do the work to install the night lighting package
  5. Landing light: intermittent, but mostly just couldn't turn it on (switch spring loaded to off)
We decided in the time available to him, we could do 2-5 and save #1 for next week. We took the cowling off, disconnected the battery and started with the fuel line. It was a straight forward change, but Harry explained why it was important to dress the line properly to avoid any possible kinking or future damage to the hose.

Next up, the landing light. VOM showed the battery was good but no voltage was coming into the light. Time to take off the  pilot side instrument panel to check the switch. This is really a CB with a toggle on it and turns out the CB failed. I ordered a new one from Aircraft Spruce.

Next, the HS34. This small box allows the navigation systems to talk to the autopilot. It was an easy swap, just one cable on the back and a long screw to hold it on the instrument panel. It probably took more time to button up the panel then to change out the box.

Last, I gave Harry the documents for the Letter of Authorization (LOA) to review. That has been filed and we are waiting for CSA to approve.

We've had two test flights since (just short hops) and all appears to be working well.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

6b6 and back

Another first, well sort of. I had been assigned two weeks of work in Concord, Massachusetts and driven up and back for the first week.(about 7 hours one way.) Weather permitting 674PS would be used for the second week. The FBO at Minute Man Field was very helpful, but I found out the recommended car rental company was closed on Sunday, and the one trying harder would close at 2:00PM. My flight planning indicated about a 2 hour trip and the weather guessers said I should expect clear sky with a slight tailwind enroute. They lied.

I left Butter Valley with a 4000' broken layer of towering cumulus and was forced to weave my way around toward northern New Jersey to get above most of the clouds at 5500'. I picked up flight following as I was returning back to course and settled in for the journey. All systems were working normally and I enjoyed the luxury of having an autopilot coupled to the navigation system. Super duper cruise control. I found that I could switch to heading mode to steer around some buildups then pus the NAV button to return to course. After a while there were just too many deviations so we climbed another 2000'. This worked well and gave me a clear shot through the NYC class B.

Crusin' with the big boys! "4PS traffic 6 o'clock closing 7000 ft should be no factor." Just wonderful watching these beautiful machines highlighted against towering white clouds. Head on a swivel but comfortably watching the show.

The rest of the flight into 6B6 was uneventful. A nice little field (2700') with great service. When you want to visit historic Concord, this is the place to stop.

Friday morning I got up to beautiful clear blue skies. Weather planning again called for light winds with no issues. When I left work at noon I found a solid overcast with some dark gray imbedded cumulus in all sectors. The weather briefer promised better skies to the southwest so I took off and stayed below the layer at 3500'. True to his prediction the clouds started to break and I found a nice blue hole to pop through while passing through the Hartford area. 8500 put most the clouds beneath me. Again, I recommend flight following is a great resource and they were very helpful pointing out traffic during this long holiday weekend. Traffic around NYC was busy and it must have taken me 10 minutes just to check in! Beautiful views of clouds and airliners for the next half hour.

As I approached Quakertown I called (approaching home plate) for my wife to hear on the handheld radio. I later found out that she had been tracking me on FlightAware, getting updates every other minute or so. I was pleasantly surprised to see her waving at me as I passed over the last tree on final. (Sub par landing, a little nose high and slow..I'll chalk it up to being distracted.) It was so great to have her there...and wonderful to have someone help me tie down the plane. A Great trip!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Miscellaneous Pictures along the way.

Spectacular buildups at 10K ft.

Clear of clouds


Beautiful countryside

KBJJ - about 1 mile long, 100 ft wide



Mississippi River

Beautiful view

More spectacular sights

Always good to be looking down on white puffies

Big Branson

The Mighty Mississippi



Capital City (Frankfort, KY)

Windmills in Pennsylvania

Mountains of Pennsylvanis