Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking Advantage

We haven't had many good flying days. Winter weather and snow packed fields have kept me grounded most of the time, but there have been a few opportunities to get airborne.

Last week I departed 7N8, headed north to ETX and out V30 toward KZER. It was a great exercise to get out of the local area and play with the VOR. Everything worked well (NAV SRC is a GREEN light, not red like the GPS). A touch & go at Zerby and a short trip back home with 3 full stop landings made for a great trip.

I was over booked with work this week and suddenly an afternoon opened up. The weather was great so I had to take advantage of it, but I didn't have a 'plan'.  However I had just been reading about short field landings over an obstacle and decided to see what 4PS could do. The real trick here is to finesse speed control at the lower end, close to Vso. Nice workout. (45kts seems to be about right.)

I also went over to Bally Spring Farm for a low approach. Shorter than 7N8, it sits down in a "bowl" and the GPS squawked "pull up!" the whole time in the pattern. Nothing I couldn't get into or out of, but this was one place that requires quite a bit of respect.

I also tested the 180 degree option on the autopilot. If a pilot pushes his luck and gets into bad weather, he can press and hold the autopilot button and the plane will execute a level 180 degree turn.  Nice.

In other activity, I just got a letter from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Enforcement, Planning, Analysis and Discovery (The Discovery Division). They would like a check for 6% sales tax on N674PS. (8% if I live in Philly.) I previously investigated trying to register the aircraft in Delaware to avoid the sales tax...AOPA Lawyers and other tax accountants said that was a myth..."if the property or services subsequently are used, consumed, or stored in Pennsylvania" 104-31.7.

I also passed my 2nd class medical. That's something I might be able to take advantage of in the future.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Like giving a parched man a cool glass of water.

Five landings. I'm still working on my muscle memory for power adjustments in the pattern. Full power back to 4000 RPM is a lot of travel, and back again to 3000 RPM is more than you think. Basic air-work was good (considering the layoff) and the landings were sweet.

I'm still thirsty.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I'm learning why it might not be a good idea to call a place with turf tie downs and taxi ways home for the winter. Snow removal is a big problem.

Yesterday was 'good' Pennsylvania winter weather. Temperatures above freezing, winds below hurricane force and much of the snow/ice had retreated. I went out to the airport around 11:00am with the intent of doing some basic air-work and a few landings.  123 props to get the burp, about 15 gallons (3 hours) on board and no ice on the airframe. I still had to negotiate snow drifts to get the tie down straps and cover off and perform the exterior walk around. Carefully manipulating my balance to get inside without getting snow on anything, I buckled in and pulled out the checklist. She started after 6 props and hummed nicely.  This was to be the best part of the day.

Warmed up and ready for taxi we moved about 6"s and stopped. Full power to taxi just didn't seem reasonable, and she wasn't moving even with that. Slow exhale.

Shut her down, unstrapped and got out to take a look. The left main was up to her wheel pant in a ditch. It became abundantly clear why former owners had placed wooden pads in the ground for tire support. The PiperSport has a narrower stance so the only wheel supported for her was the nose.  I couldn't push her out. Slow exhale.

One of my other hobbies is woodworking. I always have a few pieces stored in the garage waiting on the next project, so I cut a 6' 1x6 into 3 pieces, grabbed a small garden shovel, my screw driver and some work gloves and after a little lunch headed back out. First I took the pant off and insured no damage was done, then I worked with the shovel and my pocket knife to try and clear a path. I couldn't push her out. Slow exhale.

Sat in the car for a bit. Obviously I needed some help, so I called the office and Ashley said she would send someone out. I remembered why Pennsylvania is nicknamed "Linebacker" country. Troy was at least 6'4" and ~220#s. I'm pretty sure he could have lifted the LSA out of the hole by himself, but graciously allowed me to help by pushing on the nose. Done, no problem. Five minutes later he was back in his warm equipment shop and I was sitting in the car figuring out what to do next.

Surveying the current spot, if I could move the airplane about a foot to the left I could get the left main and nose on former blocks and use one of my freshly cut boards for the right main. So I filled the ditch with ice (plenty of that) and decided to taxi forward enough uphill to allow me to reposition the airplane.  Carefully manipulating my balance to get inside without getting snow on anything, I buckled in and looked up to see my car sitting on the taxi way in front of me.  But that's OK because I'm not going to go that far anyway. Right. Slow exhale.

I moved the car and, carefully manipulating my balance to get inside without getting snow on anything, I buckled in and pulled out the checklist. Took a bit longer to start, probably really didn't need any choke. I moved forward slowly and tapped the right brake to straighten her out. Nope, just continued to slide left. Mashed both brakes and stopped. Close enough. Glad I moved the car.

With the tow bar attached it was easy to move back into the position I wanted. All 3 wheels are now out of the mud and I decided to remove the other two wheel pants. After getting two of the six screws out of the right main, the next screw got obstinate. Having gone way into debt on patience I decided to replace the two removed and call it a day. Strapped, covered and secured I headed for the house.

Hey, no damage, I got a start and a 'run-up' and whole lot of exercise. And I continue to learn how much I really don't know about aviation.