Friday, April 22, 2011

Runway 16

Still caught in the weather transition to Spring, the past few days have been just too gusty to fly. Today we were just north of a stationary front and a high pressure system in New England was feeding us with cold wet air. It was stable, but getting grayer and darker by the hour. Winds were light and predominately out of the south.

The plane was filthy. After the time spent polishing off the dirt a flock of large birds must have decided to make their mark. What a mess.

Lots of golfers out today. Special care to watch the driveway at the approach end of 34, and keep a watchful eye on the grounds beyond the runway markers for wild shots and golfers chasing balls out of bounds.

Landing on runway 16 was a bit like flying to a different airport. All of my normal 'keys' were gone so I had to fly the pattern with visual reference to the runway instead of my checkpoints on the ground. It was fun to establish the right downwind distance and the point used to turn base. I found that turning over the power lines is just the right depth for final. Landing in this direction is also done on turf rather than the small asphalt strip used for RWY34. My pattern work lacked consistency, but all in all a very enjoyable flight.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Impossible Turn

The weather was good for Pennsylvania, winds were less then gale force and overcast high enough to get out of the landing pattern. It wouldn't stay that way very long. I wanted to start calibrating myself for the 'impossible turn' I mentioned in the last post. I like to have options, and Barry Schiff made it clear that understanding how plane and pilot perform could make this option possible. It requires doing it in the airplane.

Two tries. First on a north-south heading, the second on an east-west heading. The results (for me) appear to be this:
  • Below 300 feet land straight ahead. RWY34 has some power lines, so I would probably make a slight deviation to the right where there is a nice farmer's field.
  • 300 - 700 feet either straight ahead or pull the BRS. BRS should deploy safely at a minimum of 300', but unless it is catastrophic I'm still heading for the field.
  • 700 feet and above I should be able to get her back on the runway.
I believe I shall practice this a bit more, but for now I'll use these numbers as my starting point. (By the way, it was raining by the time I had her strapped down and was putting the cover on.)

Another thought: I stated using for an online log book. It took some customization and a bit of help from the support guy, but now I have all of my hours entered. So far, I like it.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Before going out to the airport today I watched a Kestrel perform in my backyard. This little hawk has the ability to hover with amazing precision. Winds were gusting to 12 kts and varying by 20 degrees and this creature stayed fixed in the air like it was somehow pinned there. After 30 or 45 seconds he broke the hover and dove to the ground for a quick snack. It's great to have an office window.

April is half over and I only have two flights so far. (Of course, we had snow on the ground following a blizzard on April Fools day.) The first was just a short hop over to Queen City (KXLL). Interesting because it is a 'semi-controlled' field living under the ABE Class C airspace and the ridge south of the field is high enough that anyone entering from that direction needs to contact Allentown to safely approach the field. This is a nice airport and I enjoyed flying over some old 'haunts', having lived there...a long time ago.

The second was a nice trip over to Reigle Field near Hershey Park. As I was preflighting, the airport owner stopped by to take a look at the airplane. I offered a flight...if he could find me some hanger space.  A friend had told me to use for fuel planning on cross country trips. Preferring MOGAS, I used that as an input which gave me 58N as a nearby source. Reading (KRDG) is about midpoint and directly enroute so even though passing clearly over their airspace I contacted Approach just to let them know I was in the vicinity. I declined Flight Following but he did point out traffic closing at my eleven which turned out to be very close to my VFR altitude going in the opposite direction. Good call and I thanked him for it.

58N is a very nice little asphalt strip under the Harrisburg TRSA. A normal VFR entry to RWY31 and a back taxi to wind around to the fuel pumps. As I got there a man was fueling a C150 and motioned me to park across from him. I opened the canopy and he motioned again and said he would take care of it. Nice offfer, but I felt this is something I could do myself so decided to shut her down and wait. The fellow looked confused, then smiled and said "Oops, I thought that was mine". Turns out he has a PiperSport, same color and thought this was one of his students bringing her home. Wade is a great guy and we traded stories about our planes as I refueled. Good price and a lot easier to pump 10 gallons than it is to carry. I'll be back.

Trip home was uneventful and enjoyable. I cancelled with Approach after clearing Readings airspace and started my descent from 5500 feet. The autopilot is setup for 500 fpm which would never get me there in time, so I pushed the button and took her down myself. She squawked about my rapid descent (good feature) and even though the outside air temperature was mild I still cooled the oil enough to get another RPM warning. Again this is a good thing and I should probably think about the effects of 'shock cooling' the engine. (A VERY nice landing back at 7N8.)

Some other thoughts:
  • I bought some Waterless Wash Wax ALL Aircraft Cleaner (Amazon). Remember, I have very limited facilities and moving close to a hose hookup was not going to be easy.  A little pricey, but it does say aviation on the label. This stuff is GREAT. I used about half of a 16 oz bottle and it easily cleaned the whole airplane. Streaks on the vertical surfaces are gone. And the big test, getting bugs off the spinner and prop was actually easy. I went through about a half dozen wash cloths and not a drop of water.
  • I got a fuel low warning while doing slips to a landing. Fortunately I had the high wing tank selected, and leaned that 7 gallons is the magic number.
  • Started her without using the choke. Throttle up just a smidgen and she started nicely.
  • is back. I like this application for preflight planning and am glad the two parties figured out how to settle the patent dispute.
  • The Impossible Turn: a very well written article by Barry Schiff. You should read it here. Even Golden Rules have exceptions.
  • While planning this flight I had begun to wonder about an aborted takeoff at 7N8. So I noted the distance required, approximated that just using the asphalt (the turf overrun to be used as my buffer) and tried it out. No problem.
Looks like crummy Pennsylvania weather again this weekend, but I'm hopeful this is winter's last gasp.