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.