Saturday, June 11, 2011


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.

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