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

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Monday morning came too soon. After a wonderful stay in Branson it was time to head back across the Mississippi. Flight planning was more direct this time. It would be just under 1000 miles. The weather was good although very light tailwinds.The system just wasn't there to help push us along.
As I taxied for take off I noted something strange, I had indicated airspeed. But I also had get started 'itis' and continued with the checklists. Takeoff on the 7000+ foot runway was normal, but I got to my rotate speed much too early, and she felt 'mushy' lifting off. Higher altitude, humid, full load were all good excuses but not the right reason. During the climb out she continued to accelerate and as I looked again at the digital airspeed the tape was red and yellow instead of Green.  The steam gauge also showed us near the top of the yellow arc. Something was wrong. Called the tower to let them know we would be coming back in to check out an airspeed problem. Interesting to land with an unreliable airspeed indication, so it was VERY nice to have that huge runway in front of me. I taxied back in at about 80kts.

It turned out to be a blocked pitot static system. They have 'mud-daubers' in Missouri which are little wasps that love to build their muddy nests inside of airplane pitot tubes. (My wife had asked if we shouldn't take the cover with us; "Nah, it will only be a few days." Another lesson learned. I also learned how the expert dissembles the system, cleans it, and re-installs it. (The hit to the check book wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be...another good experience.)

So buttoned and ready to go, we tried it again.  This time no additional problems so we were off on course to M30. It was uneventful until I started my landing brief. The on board AOPA airport directory (I love my 696) said that M30 had no fuel! I had checked and planned with so this was a surprise. I'm still not sure what information was more current since I decided not to test it and diverted to KCIR. Just a little place a few miles from the river, cheap gas and stale crackers, we stayed long enough to catch our breath and refuel before getting on our way.

An uneventful flight into KFFT. This would be our lay over point and I had checked to insure multiple hotels in the area. I did not make reservations and was surprised to find my first two choices all booked up. The FBO staff was fantastic. They called and then took us to a nice hotel in town. (A great rest stop!) The Airport Manager picked us up the next morning to take us back to the airport.

Next planned stop was KMGW. Planning showed a large storm north of Pittsburgh making its way south. As we started to begin our descent the clouds got gloomier and visibility deteriorated. My fuel planning was good and was mentally calculating a missed approach and short flight t an alternate when I heard another plane on CTAF. She was VFR shooting touch & goes. We got in just before the rain started. They had a very nice restaurant and comfortable lounge which helped us pass about a 2.5 hour delay.

Fueled and rested we headed for home. Weather was no longer a factor, the HS34 was working, all was right wit the world.  It was a great flight.

997 mile, 53 gallons, 8.6 hours, and 1 great adventure.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

PiperSport Fly-in

GA Hanger Space
The reason for the trip was to meet other owners and flyers of PiperSports and SportCruisers.  We arrived on a Thursday, a session was arranged for Saturday to include presentations from US Sport Aircraft (the distributor we purchased from), Dynon Avionics, Rotax, the organizer of the event, Dick Russ from Piper Flyer Magazine. Casual get together's were also planned so that we would all have a chance to meet and talk with each other. I really enjoyed this aspect of the trip.

Business side of the terminal
The second reason was to play. Branson is a wonderful community built on music. We, were able to see SIX, visit Silver Dollar City, ride on the Branson Belle and enjoy dinner at the Dixie Stampede. We highly recommend all of these shows and would not hesitate to go back and do it all again. We had a great time with all of these family oriented shows and it was great to be in a place where veterans are honored and gospel music sung in nearly every show. (Even during the free hotel breakfast.)
Flight planning in the FBO

Inside the FB
The pilot sessions were outstanding. US Sport Aircraft was unable to attend, but did send in some talking points about warranty service. Dynon stressed pilot education using any glass panel aircraft and devoted much time to answer questions. It was good to hear other owners speak about their experiences and have an expert address possible solutions. He even provided business cards with his cell phone number.  Refreshing.

The Rotax rep was just great. He started with a brief presentation about the company, stating that the Rotax engine in our airplanes was built from the ground up to be an aircraft engine. He brought a display model with him so that he could point out areas as he discussed them. Fuel, oil, cooling and electrical systems were all discussed in detail. I've decided to fly down to Mississippi this fall to take the owners course from him (he was just that good).

At the end of the session a raffle  was held to give away two LightSpeed Zulu headsets. My wife won one of them. Thanks to the sponsors (LightSpeed and Piper Flyer) for this fantastic door prize. What a fantastic vacation!


We decided to accept the invitation for the inaugural PiperSport Fly-in in Branson, Missouri.

I used Airnav fuel planner to divide up the trip, specifying 220 miles between stops. I initially requested MOGAS but got zero results so had to go with 100LL. Next I used the comments section to check on facilities, restaurants and available hotels. I cross checked that information with AOPA's airport directory and came up with a list and some alternates. I started watching weather about a week ahead of time to get a feel for tendencies.

I also did some flight testing. I new we would have some lines of weather to cross over so did a few altitude tests. 4PS easily climbed to 9500 feet and even though Light Sport pilots are limited to 10,000' I knew I could go higher. (I suspect 4PS could go up to 12,000' if I had to get there...and I do carry a portable O2 bottle in the airplane...Sporty's).

More troubling was an intermittent low fuel pressure warning. First appeared at top of climb, but developed into a truly random event. Turning on the standby electric pump did not increase the indicated pressure. I had Harry put an analog pressure gauge on and compared the pressure readings in the cockpit for different power settings.  The engine driven mechanical pump was within limits while the cockpit indication was approximately 1 - 2 psi lower. We decided this was not a 'show stopper' and I will continue to investigate. (BTW, a few others spoke up during our session in Branson with the same issue, and Facebook has found even more complaining of this common problem. Dynon sensor, Piper plumbing, or Rotax fuel pressure, all have to be pursued.)

Another issue is my HS34. This electronic device gets input from a navigation source and outputs data to the AP74 autopilot. (All Dynon, except the input - Garmin 696 GPS or Garmin SL30 VOR.) This intermittent problem meant that instead of letting the GPS navigate, I would have to manually enter heading commands. This one seems to be heat related, if the plane sits on the ramp for awhile the HS34 doesn't work. Dynon has provided an RMA for me to return the unit for inspection.

So, with all known problems mitigated we took off to the west from our little home field at Butter Valley. It was a very hazy morning but smooth air. First stop would be KIDI (Jimmy Stewart) and as luck would have it the air got bumpy. The haze turned into cumulus with late morning heating and the gusts picked up as well. METAR (I love my 696) read gusts to 24 kts, but right down the runway. No problems except to say that a LSA does feel just about every breeze that comes along.

A short rest/fuel stop and we were off to KBJJ (Wayne County) to spend the evening with relatives. The cumulus clouds were still growing and it took some weaving to stay clear of clouds. 4PS reached her new altitude record of 10,500' with 75% of the tops beneath us. Afternoon heating would grow these clouds into monsters, but after just a few miles we were in the clear. Although we would fight strong headwinds, I elected to stay at altitude to enjoy the smooth air. This resulted in an uneventful flight, I like that.

Just a quick note here to talk about VFR Flight Plans. I don't use them. A very strong believer in Flight Following, I find it a much better tracking resource and I don't have to worry about forgetting to close my flight plan at my destination.

The next day was uneventful. KGEZ and then KSAR (4 hours of flight time plus time on the ground for rest and refueling) and we had a decision to make.  The weather was good. We picked up an hour of daylight heading west (Central Time Zone) and the airplane was doing well. I hate not to take advantage of good weather. She agreed and we pushed on. The 2.6 hours was again uneventful (except for the magnificent views of clouds.) I started looking for the airport about 10 miles out, but all I could see was a brown slash in the green hills, much too large for an airport, or so I thought. KBBG is huge, over 7,000'. I entered an extended left base for RWY 14 while speaking with a very friendly tower.

1014 miles, 64 gallons, 11 hours and about $375 in fuel.