Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012 Review

We got out for a little "fly about" this weekend. Only an hour touring the local area. We stayed low, below 2000', which is quite unusual for me. I wanted to enjoy following some of the roads I travel out near Skippack and Blue Bell. Although the visibility wasn't great I did spot some interesting towers out that way, some rising over 1500'. Sally and I decided to climb up to a more comfortable 2500' for the ride home.

Gary inspired me. Over at his blog he posted a summary of his flying accomplishments for the year. I decided to steal a page from his book and try something similar here. I used Zululog to compile this data:

A nice trend in Total Time. Just over 50 hours for the flight out west. The numbers are still good even without that trip. I feel that I'm getting good use from this little two-place VFR airplane.

Good cross country time. Sally is a comfortable ride on a long distance and can definitely fly longer than I can. The seats are comfortable, the glass panel is great and I love the autopilot. Another good trend. We added about 30 new airports to our list this year.

I was surprised to find this number roughly equal. Obviously this year I flew more flights out of the local area, but I enjoy just going out to the airport an exercising the process. My target is about once a week, if the beautiful Pennsylvania weather will let me.

This one surprised me, less landings this year. I love to stay in the pattern and shoot landings. That encompasses nearly every element of flight. The convenience of Butter Valley lets me escape with even the shortest bit of notice, and those escapes usually find me in a landing pattern at a local airport. Obviously I'll have to make a better effort on this category next year.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Gray. The weather in the Northeast this time is year is usually gray, dismal, with misty rain (or worse, snow). But not always.

The weather reports (METARs) from the surrounding airports were good. Visibility was over 10 miles, ceilings unlimited (CAVU) and most important for me, the winds were light. I finished up my latest word.docx and headed over to Butter Valley for an extended lunch break.

I had seen a "where is it" photo on Facebook showing a beautiful fall picture of an airport surrounded by lakes and was surprised to find it was Andover-Aeroflex just over the Delaware River. Plus it was another airport that shared 122.8 CTAF with Butter Valley. I had heard traffic calls from there and wondered what the airport looked like. AOPA Flight Planner said it was just over the 50 miles that defines a cross country flight. I decided to check it out for myself.

Two 5 gallon jugs filled with 93 octane from the local Sunoco had to be put in the tanks first. When I drove up Harry's door was open and he was working on the old Cessna fuselage as Ralph watched him prepare the surface for new paint. We talked about my trip out west, complained about politics, and generally discussed the weather and other pilot talk. The three of us agreed it was a good day to fly.

Sally only had about five gallons in each side already so the extra ten was a good idea. I have started burping her AFTER each flight, so now it only took a few props to get that satisfying gurgle. Oil is clean and just below the full line on the stick. I took some time to clean the canopy before I pulled her out of the barn. It was cold, about 45F so I was glad to have the oil cooler baffle installed. Patrick told me not to use the one for the radiator, so that one is stored in one of the workbench drawers.

Smooth start, easy run up, she lept off the ground and climbed quickly to 3500'.  The airfoil just loves the cold air. I flew over Quakertown to keep southeast of the Allentown Class C airspace. I dialed in Solberg VOR to use a radial as my midpoint check and enjoyed searching for airports along the way. Clean crisp CLEAR air, I could see New York City and Philadelphia at the same time.

A Huey Helo was practicing water drops. He announced his position when I made my initial call, I got him in sight as I approached on an extended left base for a 3 mile final. What a beautiful little airport. A smooth landing and off at the first taxi way, I was followed by a pretty Cub as I made my way back to the runway. The Huey said he would wait for me, but I responded I would rather sit and watch the show. When he finished his drop I took the runway and began my roll. (Remember, wake turbulence!)

The return trip was equally beautiful, I enjoyed passing over I78 (frequently traveled) and eventually 309 at Quakertown. Another nice landing at home field and back to the barn. This afternoon adventure took 1.5 on the Hobbs plus another hour on the ground. Not too bad.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Who are you?

Typical monthly stats.
I recently posted my 100th entry on this blog. Sally and I are about to start our 3rd year together on December 2nd (time flies). I thought it would be interesting to share some of the inside blogging numbers with you.

I started this as a project just to keep some notes on our flights and concerns about Light Sport Aviation. I'm surprised about the number of people that have taken the time to read it. I'm even more surprised at the international interest.

I only expect to post a few more entries this year. The weather is getting lousy for VFR flying and the Christmas Holidays will be a distraction (which I will thoroughly enjoy.)  I hope you enjoy the coming weeks as well and can take the opportunity to go out and fly.

Thanks for reading. I hope next year will be even more interesting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

As I write this its snowing, the first of the season. Most local airports are LIFR with Snow/Fog causing very limited visibility. Non-aviators tend to call it pretty, but it isn't. We are grounded.

The flight line at 7N8
It was interesting getting back into the routine of flying short local flights. Without a defined mission, or objective to be achieved I engaged in a more casual approach to each flight. Still checking weather and TFRs, but only for the afternoon. The weather system making its way across the Midwest has no interest, instead I focus on the local airports and primarily look for the winds. I've decided to keep my wind limit at 18kts for a No Go decision. Sally and I fly for fun, if it starts gusting over 18kts, well, its a lot less fun. I have found that I am using my Nexus tablet for planning. I'm starting to like Garmin Pilot, and as the updates continue to refresh and improve the code, I'm beginning to use it more often for preflight planning.

I really LIKE my new prop! Sally seems to leap off the runway now taking much less time to get up to 40kts. 65kts seems to have the nose a bit higher and I find I'm compensating by letting her get into a 'cruise climb' a bit earlier. Speed tests show about 5kts increase in TAS for level flight. She just feels more solid, substantial...smooth.

Nate and Stephanie were able to share Thanksgiving with us. When we got up on "Black Friday" the weather was...'iffy'. No TFRs and ceilings were good, but visibility was less than 5 miles and in many places IFR. Fortunately by mid morning the temperature (in the 50F range) had started to rise above the dew point and the local METARs indicated the improvement by most showing 5 to 7 miles. We left for Butter Valley about 10:00am.

Nate has spent a lot of time around airplanes. He jumped right in helping with the preflight. I took care of the Rotax, checking the oil (burp), water, and overall integrity while he did the walk-around. After I pulled her out of the barn I explained that it was very important to do a "F-O-D" walk down past the old silo to insure there was nothing that would get caught by my new prop. I usually find a golf ball or two, and routinely check to insure the ground maintenance crew hasn't stowed a bag of fertilizer on my taxiway. This time we found a bicycle from a visitor who had stopped by to visit with Harry.

I briefed that we would depart 7N8, climb to a safe altitude and do some stalls, then over to KUKT for a landing, then back home. Nate works on FMS at Honeywell and is interested in avionics, so I also briefed him on the Dynon glass and autopilot. He did very well with the high work and Sally showed him a nice clean stall with a straight ahead break. I emphasized that it is what it might feel like when trying to extend a glide on final. His pattern work was fine, even did the landing back home with out my hands on the controls (well, they were pretty close).

Stephanie had waited in the restaurant enjoying a hot cup of tea. She just wanted a local tour. I tried not to be too "talky" and let her enjoy the ride. Unfortunately the visibility wasn't great so we didn't see a lot. When she did take control she did well, turning the aircraft without any issues. All too soon it was time to go back to the barn.

Friday night a cold front came through. Winds were blustering. We were grounded.

It must have been a successful flight. Nate wanted to know what I thought about a SportStar. They rent one at KSDL.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lessons Learned - KSDL Trip

Sally over the Big Ditch

Some pictures from our trip: here.
  1. MVFR - Marginal Visual Flight Rules; means visibility less than 5 miles and/or ceilings lower than 3000'. Normally this would be "No Go" for me. We took off on our first leg of the trip in MVFR conditions. While not recommended, this can be a "Go" decision IF you are flying into improving weather. We successfully navigated around some rain showers and were headed toward rising ceilings. It worked out well.
  2. Endurance - how long can we fly? Sally can fly longer than I can. The KAFJ to KMTO leg was really hard on me, but it was early in the trip and I was excited about reaching my first overnight stop. The KGNT to KSDL was also hard due to end of day into the haze. Better planning and awareness of my own limitations might have included an additional stop. 2 Hours (@ 100 MPH) is a good planning number. 
  3. Packing for Sally - If anything I over packed for me. Plenty of T-shirts and jeans with one set of "nice" clothes for going out. I thought I packed well for Sally. Tie downs, chocks, covers and plugs but I also should have packed an extra bottle of oil. You just can't get Aeroshell Sport Plus everywhere.
  4. Autopilot - Sally flies very well here on the east coast. Mountain flying is different. She just couldn't keep up with the rapid updrafts and downdrafts. Just click the altitude hold off and ride the waves. +/- 500' is just fine.
  5. Density Altitude - Over 8,000' for one take off. Full tanks, full baggage and me, that's a lot to haul. Sally did fine but the climb was less than 500 FPM. Check and understand the impact of high/hot/humid and be prepared to react accordingly (or not go at all.)
  6. Cash - At least take enough for a full tank of gas. Only one place didn't take credit cards, and he was willing for me to mail him a check. Fortunately my wife insisted I take more than the $50 I was planning.
  7. Turbulence - It got very bouncy out there at times. Remember that when packing. It wouldn't be good to have a laptop or tablet come flying at the canopy from its 'stowed' position in the back. I used a cargo net to cover everything in the back except my snacks and a small overnight bag.
  8. Flight Following - use it.
  9. Mountain Obscuration - The clouds are low but you can see the tops of the mountains. It should be good enough to go, but is it?  Know the tops of the mountains and expect some new cell towers to be put up there. Listen to the forecast closely. I had decided that if caught in IFR I was going to climb to get out instead of trying to maneuver over the mountains. So, better know where the tops of the clouds are. Another consideration was my choice of alternate. Had I chosen a stop beyond the ridges at KUNV it might have been an easier decision with fewer obstacles. 
  10. When to fly - Convection in the desert is a big deal. Add to that the mountain waves and the afternoon can get pretty interesting. We flew over the Grand Canyon in the morning and had a very smooth enjoyable flight. We flew up to Page in the afternoon...not so smart.

Descent into KSEZ

*This should be my last post on the trip. Time to start thinking about the next adventure.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

at US Sport Aircraft

Richard had sent me a note about some nose strut problems at his flight school. I read another about a strut failure in Europe. I contacted Ft Pierce who forwarded my note to Patrick in Addison. I was a little concerned about Sally's nose strut. Lately I had noticed that there was some wear on the wheel pant from the strut rubbing against it. Patrick responded that I had nothing to worry about as long as the strut cleared the pant. Hmmmm.

I sent some pictures and discussed the situation. It didn't look TOO bad, but... So the concern took root in my brain, something to keep an eye on.

During the conversation we also discussed the wear and tear my prop was taking. The leading edge tape had some good nicks in it. He quoted me a good price and planted that seed in my brain. As I planned my return trip from Scottsdale it occurred to me that I should plan on an oil change, by that time the trip would be over the recommended 25 hours when using AVGAS. The pieces started to come together so I added KADS to my flight plan.

I called Patrick the week prior to my planned arrival to make sure he was ready for me. I also needed to get some taxi directions to US Sport Aircraft after landing. Everything was arranged. The new prop was in and he would do the oil change. It should take less than a day to get her all buttoned up.

As mentioned in a previous post, the flight in was great, testing my skills working with controllers flying at night into congested airspace. The accommodations were superb, a Hilton Garden less than 10 minutes away. I slept soundly.

When I called the next morning work was well underway. The engine compartment was filthy, they cleaned it. The original overflow bottle was a, it was substandard. They changed it. They asked if my POH had the latest revisions, I'll get a new one. A binder was created with all maintenance information well organized including all Service Bulletins. Nice.

I asked about the canopy seal. A, we'll send you a new, improved one. He showed me the new Air Conditioners and we talked about inadequate heating. He has some good suggestions for that. Canopy alignment, we'll take care of that. Every question addressed, and with an attitude that we want to make Sally better than new. Nice.

The nose strut was worse than expected but not as bad as it might be. He had some ideas about repairs, but this would delay my departure. I made arrangements to stay an extra day.

So as long as we have the time... Completed the Annual, tuned the engine, washed, waxed and vacuumed Sally. (Even added a few spots of touch up paint.) ...and ultimately changed out the nose strut. Ouch. ( I honestly don't remember ever 'pranging' her in. Though unlikely, I think it could have been done horsing her around in the snow. In any case I just couldn't leave thinking that I could put a new prop on without protecting it with the new strut.)

This was great experience. True professionals who understand customer service. Because they are pilots, they understand pilots. I look forward to doing this again.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reviewing the Numbers

The trip to Scottsdale
  • Distance = 2059 miles
  • Time (GPS not Hobbs) = 20.5 hours
  • Fastest leg = 109 MPH (7N8 to KAFJ)
  • Longest leg = 427 miles (KAFJ to KMTO) at 4.1 hours*. This was my longest time in the seat for any leg of the trip.

The trip from Scottsdale (via Addison)

  • Distance = 2204 miles
  • Time (GPS not Hobbs) = 17.9 hours
  • Fastest leg = 145 MPH* (KARG to I69) Top speed for the trip.
  • Longest leg = 444 miles* (KATS to KADS) at 3.5 hours. This was my greatest distance for any leg of the trip.
Total round trip distance was 4263 miles, 38.4 hours for an average of 111 MPH (ground speed). I spent ~ $1500 for ~ 260 gallons of fuel, which yields ~ 16 MPG. (Cheapest at KADS for MOGAS.) Sally reached a new record altitude of 11720' over the Grand Canyon. The new prop yielded a new speed record 123 kts TAS. As noted above, a new endurance record for Sally at 4.1 hours (too long).

Mission Objectives:

  1. Fly solo VFR on a significant cross country. Check
  2. Meet with family in Phoenix. Check
  3. Fly to AOPA Summit and do the parade. Failed (Wx delayed departure)
  4. Fly to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. Sally couldn't go, but the rest of us did.
  5. Fly to LSA Fly-in at Page, Az. Check
  6. New propeller for Sally. Check+

We flew at night (KADS). We flew through snow (KAFJ to KMTO). We landed and took off at an 8300' DA airport (KGNT). We flew through rain and avoided mountain obscuration (KUNV). We flew in turbulence (constantly out there) and landed in high winds (KATS). We landed on the USS Sedona (KSEZ). We learned new limitations. We expanded our envelope.

But the greatest thing I take away from the trip are the great people we met. Fifteen miles out, an hour before closing I call the FBO and tell them I'll be spending the night. I'm met with a Cadillac, given the keys and asked when I'll be back (KWWR). NOT an unusual case! Time after time I was met with friendship and a strong willingness to help in any way possible. The Fly-in at Page (KPGA) just another example where total strangers have become good friends.

There may be something wrong with General Aviation, but I'm here to tell you, there is also a lot right.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

from Scottsdale

All too soon it was time to leave. Nate drove me out to the airport early Sunday morning. We finished packing Sally, went into the FBO to settle our account (Landmark Aviation had been a superb host) and sat at the computer for flight planning. Lockheed didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, no TFRs, no significant weather, no important NOTAMS to worry about. Once more around the plane and Nate and I made our goodbyes and I buckled in. I pushed the Trip button after a smooth start, called ground and taxied out. Sally and I thanked KSDL for their hospitality and departed to the east.
Final packing before departing KSDL

I climbed to 7500' but quickly realized that wouldn't cut it. After awhile we climbed to 9500' to clear a range of mountains and soon after ATC asked us to go up to 11,500' to stay in radar coverage. Slight quartering tailwinds didn't help us much but the skies were clear and the view was gorgeous. I had chosen a southern route to take advantage of the valleys and more favorable terrain. Just a few peaks were still above us and it was easy to choose a course around them. Before too long the first fuel stop came into view with winds down the runway at 22 kts. Funny how that now seemed relatively mild.

South east to EWM over to WHOLE to avoid White Sands
Topped her off, stretched my legs and climbed back in. Soon we were heading east again and as I climbed to 7500' I called for Flight Following. White Sands was active, what were my intentions? I love my 696. I wasn't going over it, too far to divert to the north, so I said I would stay south. He offered some way points at EVM and WHOLE to keep me clear so I plugged them into the flight plan. I told him I would fly the route as advised, pushed the autopilot buttons and settled in. We were getting beat up at this altitude so once again I asked for and received clearance (maintain VFR) for 9500'. Still turbulent but a little more comfortable but too much for Sally. I clicked off altitude hold and hand flew. Soon I got a DSAB error telling me we were not linked to the GPS. I switched to heading mode and made minor corrections to stay on course. With nothing else to do I tried DSAB reconfiguration which would work for awhile but fail time and again.

It was about noon when I hit my head on the canopy. The ridge really didn't look to be all that impressive. The chart said the peaks were less than 4500', but with convective heating and gusty winds the effect on Sally was major. A few more bumps and we were clear, and my heart went back to a normal rhythm.

My fuel calculations were looking good. I would need to make one stop before KADS instead of two. So I started checking weather and decided to make the one coming up and skip the next. (IF things changed I could always add it back in.) Winds at 26 kts this time...that had my attention. As I turned on final I felt like Sally stopped. Our roll-out was probably ten feet, and I was very cautious with the taxi over to the FBO, making sure I didn't get a wing lifted by the stiff breeze. I chose full service this time. This place was under major repair. Cabinets were pulled off of the walls, the desk was in the middle of the floor and stacks of sheet rock were lined up in the hallway to the rest rooms. The temporary Sunday afternoon help took awhile to figure out the credit card machine, but the price was good so no complaints.

Eastbound again and enjoying some 20kt tailwinds at 5500'. We would definitely make Addison without additional fuels stops. Heading east you lose daylight. We would reach our destination after dark. This could get interesting. I played with the DSAB and found that after doing a reconfiguration and resetting the autopilot power switch my error went away. I flew the next hour or so without any problems.

I like flying at night. I just don't get to do it very often because my home field really doesn't have a good light system. After the sun goes down the air get calm and other airplanes become much easier to see. Airports are usually easier to see as well due to their lights and beacons. Sally's instrument lighting is great. The Dynons auto-adjust and the 696 is easy to dim for low light conditions. I pulled a flashlight out of my bag, checked it and sat on it. I was ready.

ATC handed me over to regional control, and I made a step down descent to 2000' to stay beneath the Class B shelf. I was told to continue east until past the dam, then turn onto the final approach course and announce any changes in altitude. What dam? The 696 showed a dark spot to the east and seeing no lights I assumed it was a reservoir. The 696 provides runway extensions so turning on course was easy. I left the autopilot on and let Sally hold altitude while I used the heading knob to make turns. Regional Control was very busy and decided to give me a box to fly to get me out of the way for faster traffic...a Cessna Citation.

Back on course he thanked me for my cooperation and told me to let him know when I had the field in sight. Eh, 7 miles out and I don't see it. Lot's of city lights but nothing I can identify as an airport! Patience. The first thing I saw was the beacon, then the beautiful threshold lights. A great landing followed. A short taxi over to US Sport Aircraft and we were done for the night. What a GREAT ride! (I would later find out, after talking to other pilots, that KADS is notoriously hard to find at night.)

Patrick made wonderful arrangements for me. I'll talk about the fantastic service in another post, but suffice to say Sally is like a new airplane. The new prop is wonderful and she really runs...smooth. I am delighted.

We departed Wednesday late in the morning I enjoyed executing the ground procedures and getting Flight Following set up before taxi. Once airborne I was forced to stay at 2000' feet until I cleared the traffic area, then found a hole in the broken layer and climbed up to 5500' on top. She sounds different. I can't hear the RPM changes like before so have to pay a bit more attention to the tachometer when leveling off. She is about 5kts faster and she is ....smooth. I feel a difference but don't know another way to say it. Smooth.

After two hours I was feeling the fatigue so decided to make KARG my overnight stop. Walnut Ridge is an old WW2 training base that has gone through a number of evolutions to become a GA airport. The runways are gigantic and at one time serviced 747's. (One reason I chose this during my planning was a NOTAM stating 747s can't land here...what's up with that?) Just as I prepared to make my position call the batteries in my headset failed. That gets your attention. I cannibalized my flashlight and was soon back to Active Noise Cancelling.

I was given the crew van, directed to the Days Inn in Pocahontas. They honored my military discount and were helpful with directions for an evening meal, but as I drove down the road I spotted a Sonic! Pocahontas has a SONIC! Worked for me.

An 8:00am start with a climb to 3500' under an overcast. Soon I found a hole and climbed on top to level at 7500'. Smooth sailing into Clermont County (I69) and a visit to Sporty's. It's OK, just OK. The catalog has much more stuff in it. After buying my stuff in Addison, there really wasn't any temptation to open my wallet again. I grabbed an ice cream sandwich out of a vending machine and sat down to do some planning. Three hours from home but KPTW was IFR. A call home confirmed low ceilings and light rain so I planned for an alternate at KUNV.

Smooth air at 5500' and no obvious clue that weather in eastern Pennsylvania was lousy. Permission to pass through the Pittsburgh Class B shortened my trip into University Park and I landed well before dark. Great service by the FBO. I caught the shuttle to the Holiday Inn Express, the aviation discount a few dollars better than my discount. I got a (well deserved) rib eye at the nearby Outback.

Friday I woke up to fog. Dense ugly fog. The weather briefer was optimistic for the afternoon so I had a good hotel breakfast (biscuits and gravy) and waited for awhile before going back to the FBO. I watched the low ceilings as the shuttle took me back to the airport. Light winds and good visibility, but the clouds hung low over the mountains. The briefer called it 'Mountain Obscuration", which really meant 'forget about it'. He expected improvement by 2:00.

At 1:30 I did what turned out to be a test flight.A few miles from the airport the clouds reached down and hid the mountain ridge to the left, and light rains veiled the ridge to the right. I did a "RTB" to wait for better conditions.

At 3:00 I tried again, and this time was able to avoid the trouble spots and get safely home. A nice landing at Butter Valley, I checked the trip time at 20:56*. What an adventure.
2,204 miles

* A check flight was done at KADS to check on all maintenance (0.5). I did a weather check flight at KUNV (0.6).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


A little airplane over a Grand Canyon.
Is this Mars?
I use Google Reader to keep me updated on the various blogs and aviation forums. One of my favorites has been probably because it is devoted to Light Sport Flying. When planning this trip Roger Lee posted an invitation to attend the 6th Annual CT Fly-in at Page, AZ. He provided links to previous events which included beautiful videos showing CT's flying over phenomenal landscapes. Of course the problem is I don't fly a CT. So I called him to ask if this was really an exclusive event. On the contrary, he repeatedly assured me that not only would we be welcomed but we would considered a part of the Light Sport family! He was so sincere I decided to give it a try.

The flight from Sedona took about 2 hours in choppy headwinds. We passed to the right Humphrey's peak and saw portions of the painted desert, along with other wonderful scenery. This land might as well be a different planet for all of the differences compared to the east coast. Words can not describe it, it must be experienced.

Beautiful places to fly.
Ron & Jan's CT
We arrived at Page and were hosted by Classic Aviation. Dan was running the desk and couldn't have been more hospitable. I was stating to feel comfortable when another pilot looked at my PiperSport T-shirt and said, "You know you're the enemy don't you." Well, I come in peace. Fortunately we shared a van to the hotel and confirmed that he was joking and we were indeed welcome. phew.

Wonderful host
After check-in there was an informal congregation in the lobby. Pilots were discussing plans for the next day's (pre event) fly out and most were interested in Monument Valley. Ron and Jan wanted to do the Grand Canyon which was the top of my list, so we arranged to meet in the morning for a briefing. Ron was prepared with charts and frequencies, I was not. He became the flight leader. He became my friend.

This was a flight of a lifetime.  Imagine flying your own plane, in formation with another, over the Grand Canyon. About 2 hours is all it took. I can't think of any superlatives to give it justice. His pictures are wonderful but honestly fall well short of reality.

As great as this was there was something else here, more subtle going on. We had a group dinner that night as "the official kick off" for the event. 60+ people in a room all enthusiastic about Light Sport Aviation. Mostly gray hair, but a few younger folks as well. Pilots from all over the country here, just to enjoy flying. It is not a fly-in like the others. You can't buy headsets or Ipad apps or the latest aviation gadget here. You come here to fly. Thanks Roger.

 *Our schedule just didn't line up properly. We had to be back in Scottsdale Friday evening for other appointments. As we were leaving the FBO a pilot came in wearing a cap with Navy Wings. Turns out he is a former P3 Pilot and flew out Jacksonville.  We traded stories about times past. Small world.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Sedona. This was not a major stop on my list while visiting Arizona. It should have been.

KSEZ in the distance (see it?)
We departed KSDL on our way up to Page (KPGA) to attend the (CT)Light Sport Fly. KSEZ was merely a mid point rest stop along the way to another interesting destination. The climb out was normal for the area, trying to reach 8,500' to work our way around some mountains. The landscape is phenomenal, desert, mountains, mesas, gulches and all in beautiful earthy colors. As we wound through the passes south of Flagstaff we found a valley of sorts, speckled with towering rock formations. The GPS told me the airport was close but I couldn't pick it out. Kathy suggested it was a 'white' area ahead but I couldn't believe it. She was right. Who was the guy that thought of putting an airport there?

I admit that the approach is intimidating. First you weave your way through the towering rocks, then turn downwind over a deep valley to end up on final with a very steep drop off just before the threshold. When Sally called 500' on base I couldn't believe it. Surely we were higher, but she was programmed for the the runway height not the surrounding terrain. So I ended up fast. Not my best landing. Fortunately we had light winds to go along with the long runway.

Just past this rock and turn right on downwind.
I'll post about our trip to Page later, but after the great fly-in we returned to KSEZ on our way back to Scottsdale. Finding the airport when coming from the north wasn't as challenging but perhaps even more spectacular. How often have you made a visual approach looking UP at rock formations as you descend between them approaching the runway? This time I was more prepared and made a very nice landing. We decided to stop and make a day trip out of it and visit the nearby village. Car rental was $10/hour or $30 a day. What a bargain!

Depart just to the right

Looking up at the rocks
We toured Tlaquepaque, a beautiful shopping plaza down from the airport. Enjoyed a delicious light lunch at "The Hidden Garden" and casually drove around the tourist spots.

The Holy Cross Chapel is built right into the rock face offering wonderful architecture and more amazing views.

The words don't match the experience. The pictures don't quite capture it. Kathy and I have been changed by the beauty of the this country. Take the opportunity to visit, you won't be disappointed.

Video: here

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Painted Desert

 Since we drove to the Balloon Fiesta we had the opportunity to drive through the Petrified National Forrest on the way home. It is impossible to describe in words, and even the photos don't do justice. Fantastic views on every turn of the winding road. There is so much more in the desert than we were taught in school...or thought we knew from watching old westerns. Here are just a few of the XXXs we took.

News Paper Rock - Glyphs

Petrified Forrest

Petrified Log

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Albuquerque, New Mexico

It rains in the deset. Heavy thunderstorms passed through during the night offering a fantastic light show. The system was moving east, between us and the Balloon Fiesta. Sally would not be going.

I called Landmark Aviation at KSDL and asked about a rental car. The helpful people at GO Car Rental set us up and we were on our way for the six hour drive. Beautiful lanscape, mountains, desert, cactus, nothing at all like Pennsylvania.

The Ballon Fiesta is the most photographed event in the WORLD! Here are some of mine:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

to Scottsdale

I awoke Saturday morning in time to see a beautiful sunrise. The temperatures were still warm and the sky was mostly clear. I was optimistic but knew that bad weather was due to arrive from the west sometime in the afternoon. Maybe I could get out, perhaps to Johnstown, wait for the weather to pass and resume my trip. Johnstown was flagged Red = Limited IFR. The NEXRAD composite behind the cold front was just ugly. A southern route wasn't much better. No Go again on Saturday.

Sunday brought low ceilings gray sky, much colder temperatures and limited visibility. The maps had local airports flagged mostly Blue = Marginal VFR. However west, out near Pittsburgh it was improving and the little airport symbols were Green. I packed my overnight bag, poured some coffee in a Chinet cup and headed out to the airport. Go - IF the local weather stayed VFR.

I put the oil cooler baffles on anticipating the colder temperature and was glad to have them. Heat started to come into the plane as the oil warmed up. All ground operations were normal. The 696 showed nothing awful along my route of flight. The engine purred. I pushed the trip reset button on the timer and advanced the throttle. We were off.

Well, at least up to 2500'. Enough to clear the nearby mountains but not where I had intended to cruise. I dialed up Allentown for Flight Following and wen I stated my altitude he asked if I intended to climb. "As soon as the weather would let me." I diverted around some showers over Reading which showed as yellow blotches on my 696.  We were able to climb up another 1000' just before the next ridge line and stayed there until descending for the fuel stop south of Pittsburgh.

A quick turn and off again heading west. By now the ceilings were a bit higher so we leveled off at 4500'. All systems were normal so I settled in for a nice cruise. The skies were still gray and after awhile we started the scratch the bottoms so I told ATC we would drop down 1000'. That worked well for most of Ohio, until it started SNOWING! Truly beautiful but not good for VFR flying. Visibility was deteriorating rapidly and I advised ATC that I would go down another 1000'. He cautioned me that we might lose radar contact. I weighed the options and decided that Sally was a VFR kind of girl, we went lower. Approaching Wright-Patt most of the snow showers were behind us and we climbed back up to 4500'. Smooth sailing into our first overnight stop at KMTO.

*A beater of a crew car (and thankful to have it), Hampton Inn honored a Military Discount. It was a good stop.

Frost. Monday morning and Sally is encased in a block of frost. Fortunately there were clear blue skies overhead and the temperatures were rising quickly. Time enough for some more great FBO coffee and hangar talk with the guy sitting behind the desk. I waited about an hour before my soft squeegee could remove all of the frost from the airplane.

We had an easy climb up to 6500' and settled in for the next leg. Smooth air over very flat country. Crossed the Mississippi near St Louis and had a nice conversation with the controller about LSA flying.It was starting to get warm, OAT read 10C and rising. Two hours out and the next rest stop came into view.

Another quick turn and another uneventful climb to 6500'.  Still flat country, but getting warmer all the time. I took my lightweight sweater off and closed the heater vent. We were heading back into Summertime. The oil temperature showed that as well as we were now running on the high side of the green arc. Not a full fledged worry but something to keep my eye on. I pulled out my tablet and opened PILOT to look at fuel prices. Eureka, Kansas had some MOGAS so I asked ATC to change my destination and we headed there. Winds were picking up and airports in the area were posting gusts in the twenties, 13K had the winds pretty much straight down the runway which gave me another reason to divert.

The MOGAS was only 87 octane, not good for Sally. We went with Avgas instead. There was a drop of oil on her nose wheel pant. Argh. All of the work Harry had done came into my mind. Did something come loose? Cowling came off and everything was dry, except the oil reservoir overflow. The oil had to expand due to the heat (baffles still on). It was below the flat on the oil stick so I added a little and removed the baffles in the blowing (but warm) wind. Triple checked everything and off again.

Climbed back up to 6500" and everything was solid. Oil Temperature and Pressure were solid and steady, and blew a sigh of relief. After awhile my next overnight came into view. KWWR was great! A Cadillac crew car, good prices and wonderful hospitality. (Hampton Inn was unable to honor the military discount this time.)

The landscape changed again in Oklahoma with the ground becoming more scarred with gullies and washes. The ground was rising up to meet me.  Lots of cattle pens and brown open spaces. Two fuel stops later I was wearing a T-shirt and the air vents were wide open. This time I climbed to 8500' and battled head winds approaching the mountains. Soon I learned something. Sally was trying to maintain altitude and was struggling with it. I advanced the throttle to full, slowed to Vy and still descended at 200 FPM. Crossing the next plateau we climbed at over 1000 FPM and I had the throttle near idle. It didn't take too many cycles to learn that altitude hold wasn't going to work out here in these windy conditions. So I pushed the buttons to give me GPS track mode and hand flew the altitude. Around Los Vegas, New Mexico I decided that getting beat up by the turbulence wasn't fun anymore and took her up to 10,500', which meant higher head winds but somewhat smoother air.

KGNT: last fuel stop. I wove down through the mesa and valleys looking for this tiny airport. I wasn't sure if it would be near a town or on top of one of the Mesa flats. Neither, it out of town near I40. Self serve, full tanks and taxied out. Altimeter read 6500' on the ground! I clicked the CTAF frequency and mentioned that and the FBO came back with the Density Altitude of 8,300'. Visions of that now infamous YouTube video came to mind. I let her accelerate a long time before easing back on the stick. Slowly, slowly she climbed. I turned back to climb up over the airport before turning on course over the mountains to the southwest.

I was thirsty and had already downed my two water bottles. Should I dare to open a can of Coke Zero at 10,000 ft? I thought better of it and munched on some nuts instead.

I also learned that a magenta GPS track may go straight over a peak that is higher than current altitude. Heading mode to divert around the big ones, then Direct/Enter/Enter when clear. Many times I was pitch up, full power and could barely maintain altitude. Mountain flying is just a bit different. My six hour day turned into a long 8 hours as I passed the last range into Phoenix airspace.

By now the Sun was low on the horizon, the glare was painful and the haze was unbelievable. I told the tower I was three miles from the field and still couldn't make out the airport. A vector to downwind helped and soon the long runway was in front of me. Smooth landing, off at Alpha 10 and a kind ground control gave me some help to get over to Landmark Aviation.

I shut her down and checked the trip time at 22:26.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Maintenance Check Flight

Cell phone technology is truly amazing, but it doesn't always work. Thursday I got my coffee and went into the office to check email and found I had missed a call from Harry. I called him immediately. Sally was back together but needed some tuning. Twenty minutes later I was sitting in the airplane ready to start.

It was a rough start. So he adjusted, I cooperated and together we worked through the morning to get her running smoothly again. But the weather was lousy with low ceilings and poor visibility. So I waited. By mid afternoon it had improved enough to take a lap around the field and all indications were good, except...High idle. Sally likes to land with no power and even a little throttle cause her to float. I think I must have bent the throttle arm trying to pull the power off, but a good slip and a little patience got us down at Butter Valley safely. Harry said that would be an easy adjustment. Now I wanted to do some more testing.

Friday was perfect. If she had been ready I would have started the trip, but I still had some questions. Preflight complete (looking very carefully at every hose, wire and engine component) I pulled her out of the hangar, climbed in and turned the key.  Smooth.  Next we taxied over to the little asphalt pad for an extensive run up. Nice. Next I sat on the runway and added full power while holding the breaks, which seemed like eternity but was really only thirty seconds. Power was good everything else normal. Once released she rolled down the runway and was ready to fly before the dip and hill, sooner than normal. So far so good.

Speed check. 6500' and 5450 RPM yielded 115 kts. Not as good as new but consistent with previous tests. I was satisfied that she passed that test. Altitude check. Up to 8500' at cruise climb speed (~75 kts), no problems noted. I was convinced she could go higher if I wanted to, but this was good. I was satisfied that she passed that test. Next I descended down and joined the pattern at N47. Idle still high I extended a bit and made a 'floater' but safe landing, then taxied over to pumps to top them off. I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually flown with a full fuel load.

Endurance check. I picked 4N1 as a way point which is just under an hour's flight north. I wanted to do a normal cruise, check all systems to be sure I didn't have any unexpected problems (like a  malfunctioning autopilot) and to make sure that running the engine under normal flight conditions didn't uncover any new issues. It was a pretty day, smooth air and the engine just hummed. I was satisfied that she passed that test.

So the only thing left to adjust was the idle. I put her back in the barn, pulled the cowling and checked everything. Clean and dry. I called Harry but he said he would be unavailable until Monday. Rats. I went home for lunch. Did I mention how great cell phone technology is? Harry called and said if I flew up to Slatington (69N ~ 20 minutes north) he would adjust the idle for me. Gee, that would mean I would have to fly twice in one day. Done deal.

It was a bit more than just a 'simple adjustment' but after a few trips around the pattern the idle was perfect. Harry suggested I get up to 4500' on the trip home to insure that the auto adjusting carbs still worked properly. I did, and they did. I was satisfied that she passed that test.

We were ready to go. Now if only the weather would cooperate. It didn't.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I woke Friday morning in a fog. No, not a hangover, a dense fog surrounding the neighborhood. I doubt I could see beyond ten yards. The thickest I have seen in a long time.

It had cleared by midday and I ventured out to see how Sally was doing. She is in for a 200 hour checkup (Hobbs is at 195 hours). When I stopped by Harry had the covers off and was checking compressions. #1 was a little low but well within limits. He found a frayed cable to the right side carburetor. There was a drop of water in the left carburetor bowl, and he showed me how he had added a safety wire to hold the latching arm in place. And then he showed me something else. The #1 cylinder top left bolt would not hold its torque. It would 'back off' just a bit after reaching the 200 ft-lbs on the wrench. We also saw some residue on the upper cowling and on the wiring under the head. It wasn't necessarily wrong, but it wasn't right.

He called me later in the afternoon to come by and check it out.  The valves and rings and other internal parts all look good. There is some grime on the top and bottom of the casing and head. Next step is a thorough cleaning. Hopefully new parts won't be required.

You do inspections for a reason. I'm planning a long cross country and it is oh so much more important to find any problems now than during the trip.

Trip Notes:



I finally broke down and entered the tablet age. An Ipad just seemed too large for the cockpit, even though it seems that Foreflight is a mandatory app these days. I went with the Google solution and am trying Garmin Pilot as a navigator. I want the ability to plan at home, and disconnecting the 696 really isn't feasible. This tablet solution allows me to do the planning, then add the way points into the 696  as needed. User reports will be forthcoming.

Some videos I like:
Some discussions I've been following:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Near and Brief

The sun is setting sooner and work is lasting longer. I got out to the airport around 6:00pm. My mission was to do a TAS check. Sally just passed 190 hours on the Hobbs and is going down for maintenance next week so I wanted to do a speed test to use as a baseline.

As we departed Butter Valley I saw a hot air balloon to the south and decided to climb up to see it. The air was calm with a slight breeze from the south and a thick haze layer at about 4000'. I circled the balloon as I climbed, far enough away not to be intimidating, but close enough to enjoy a great view of this colorful aircraft. I got a spectacular view as I maneuvered between the balloon and the sun from a slightly elevated position. What a joy to be sharing the same air space.

The test didn't give me the results I had hoped for. 6500', 5450RPM (6.2 gals/hr) yielded 115 Kts TAS. I had expected 120 kts. Many factors are involved and one might be using 93 octane gas with ethanol instead of 100ll Avgas in my tanks. Another may be its time for Sally to get a good tune up.

* My Aeronautics professor would be very disappointed. The engine developed 5450 RPM regardless of fuel or other factors. It did its job. This reduces to a thrust vs drag problem. A different propeller would change the equation and reducing the drag would help. Maybe Sally needs a bath.

Only a short flight, the sun was setting and I don't trust the lighting at 7N8. Normal pattern and landing and put her to bed in the barn. As I was driving away I could see the balloon was also landing, but over on the other side of town.

"Adventure, after all, doesn't have to be distant or prolonged in order to be worthwhile." - Lane Wallace.  Please read her full article here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Last week, before all of the terrible weather blew in, I had just taxied around the barn and was cautiously making my away across the lawn to  a little run up area. A fellow pilot drove up to his plane pulled the covers jumped in and off he went. Wow, not even 'kick the tires'?

Today I thought of that as I did my magneto check. Left was fine, right dropped a bunch and was rough running. A few common solutions came to mind but at the end of it the right mag just wasn't cutting it. I taxied back, shut her down and pondered. Got out and decided to pull the upper cowling off only to find a loose plug wire. Yes, I had done a preflight and I always 'push' on the plug wires as a routine check. Son of a gun. No explanation.

Started right up (no choke) taxied back out and this time the run up was fine. I took off with the intent of staying close 'just in case' but all indications were good. Sally and I did a small round robin underneath the shelve of the Philadelphia Class B airspace with a stop at Cross Keys. Along the way we flew over KLOM, 19N, 7N7 and KPTW.

The procedures work if we take the time to use them.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Canopy Latch Handle

About a year ago I was practicing landings over at Quakertown. Satisfied with the progress I had made that day it was time to depart. Shortly after take off the canopy began to rise a little bit. I considered a landing attempt but it was already too late for that so instead I was forced to go around. Fly the airplane, Fly the airplane, Fly the airplane.

Climb to the downwind was normal. Level off was fine, although I did notice the wind noise. I stayed below 75 knots the whole time and was beginning to think it was a 'non-event' until I turned on base. As the nose pitched down, the canopy went up. More wind noise and something behind my seat was trying to escape. It turned out to be my sun cover and a chart or two. 

I had no controlability issues. I was distracted and really had to concentrate on the basics. I made a normal, full flap landing and safely taxied off the active runway. I diligently went through the take off check list again, triple checked that the canopy was down and latched and flew home. Now I always check the handle position, push up on the center of the canopy and visually check both sides to insure each latch is engaged.

This is a good description and video of a canopy open in flight.

I figured that was all there was to it until I started reading some posts on the yahoo group board. We had all been waiting for the reults from an investigation on a PiperSport that had crashed in Florida last year.

Looking aft
The NTSB has just posted the Factual Report on the May 6, 2011 fatal accident of a Piper Sport in Florida. The unusual aspect of the accident is that the pilot's body was found 1800 feet from the aircraft wreckage. Based mostly on the location of abrasion marks on the pilot and the location of baggage items extending from the flight track to the crash site, the report suggests that the pilot's seat belt was unbuckled, maybe while reaching for something in the back, and the canopy opened in flight with a suggestion that either a loose shoulder harness or a headset cord wrapped around the canopy release and opened it. (Full report)
..and there was this from a friend flying in Hawaii, who bought his plane the same week I bought Sally.

To add a little to the discussion on this topic: A fellow pilot flying my Piper Sport did experiance the canopy opening at about 100 knots. The result was a violent pitch down, the canopy going almost vertical and the negative G ejection of everything lose in the baggage compartment (manuals, camera, sun cover, chocks, etc.) He got pitch under control, slowed to 65 kts and landed with no damage. Lessons: (1)NEVER unbuckle the seat belts in the air. (2) The canopy opened because only one of the catchs engaged and the "push up on the canopy" preflight check will not catch this condition. Best to do a visual; check of both sides also.
Looking down

Joe Kiefer
As a group the PiperSport/Sport Cruiser owners started thinking of additional safeguards.  Today I experimented with a bungee approach. I don't particularly like purple, but this might be effective. I like it because it is simple, it keeps the belts and cords from getting underneath the handle and its easy to install. We're still looking for good ideas, please don't hesitate to offer them.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday Morning Fly-about

Cleaned up
The Labor Day weekend weather didn't look to be all that great. As I checked the maps early Saturday morning there were NEXRAD returns to the south and east, visibility was poor to the north with 4 miles in haze and further west had a convective sigmet with some ugly red and yellow returns. But right  around here it was OK.
Preflight completed

Ready to climb in.
I arrived to find my hangar neighbor's Aeronca Champ sitting out on the concrete and he and his wife were preflighting. They were planning a breakfast run down to The Flying Machine Cafe and in a short time they were up and on their way.

Sally looked pretty good with the bugs cleaned off her canopy, leading edges and wheel pants. But she needs more than a quick cleaning, some dirt still shows on her fuselage and empennage. The belly could use a wash as well...but not today.

We took off to the north heading west of the ABE airspace toward the mountains that define the northwestern edge of the Lehigh Valley. No rain, but haze and low ceilings made it a poor day to take pictures. The CTAF is also used by University Park and I heard a few planes checking in for the opening game at PSU. I turned left and headed down the ridge toward Reading while following the Lehigh River. Lots of little hilly knobs protruded from the dark green Pennsylvania farmland. I made another left turn and overflew Kutztown. The Runway Diner was very busy this morning, even though there isn't a runway anymore.

I headed over to N10 to see if anyone was home but the CTAF frequency was quiet. I punched 7N8 nto the GPS, turned on the autopilot for the first time this flight and let Sally take us home.

Butter Valley was quiet and my first landing was just "OK". I back taxied and prepared for another turn in the landing pattern. The next one was nice, however I'm not as consistent as I would like to be. hmmm, maybe I need more practice.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


No Wind
The weather changed. Suddenly the skies turned blue, the clouds departed and the winds died down.

I went out after work to try my hand at an ILS. It has been a looong time. I studied the chart at home to insure I knew all of the fixes and altitudes and frequencies, then printed out the chart and headed over to 7N8. Chester County is about 20 minutes south. I tuned in the CTAF on the primary and put Philly Approach on standby and enabled the monitor function. A Skycatcher was in the pattern, but departed before I rolled onto the final approach course. A Tiger asked for a radio check and waited patiently at the hold short line as I made my way down to a low approach.

I did a few. Experimented using the autopilot to fly down to Decision Height and found that 85 kts seemed to work well for an approach speed. Pleased with that work I did two on my own just to knock some rust off. The Dynon display provides a nice instrument  environment. The scan is substantially different due to the glass panel, but the instruments are easy to read and interpret.

I got up early today to test the clear blue morning sky. Less than an hour just wandering about, enjoying just being there. And I made some very pretty landings at home. What a great way to start the day!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Great Debate: is the LSA rule a failure?

Reference: Air Facts

...or is it a success?

This discussion has had some very interesting comments made on both sides of the argument. I break it down into these categories:
  • Maximum Take Off Weight limit (1320#) is too limiting. If it were only slightly higher (1500#) it could include legacy aircraft like C140, C150, etc
  • The light weight makes LSA less safe and harder to fly.
  • The rule was only put in place so that pilots don't need a medical exam from an FAA approved Medical Examiner. (special issuance medical not needed) This allows older less able pilots to fly. Medically able pilots shouldn't bother with the Sport Pilot Rating.
  • The LSA rule was supposed to make flying affordable. Why would anyone buy an LSA when you can pick up a C-150s for much less money? Only the rich can buy these toys (I can find hundreds of used Cessna 172s for under $50K)
  • Except for the Cessna Skycatcher, flight schools have not adopted LSA and few aircraft are available for training.
  • Experimental equipment (avionics and instruments) is far superior and far less expensive than certified equipment.
 My thoughts:
  1. I wish I could take more stuff. When Kathy & I take a trip I'm always looking closely at the weight to insure we don't exceed the Max Take Off Weight (MTOW). It means she packs lighter and we NEVER have full gas tanks. I usually plan enough gas for two hour (5 gals/hour) legs with reserve. On the other hand, most of the time I fly solo. So MY utilization is good as it meets MOST of my weight requirements. (BTW, I'm also on a diet program)
  2. I don't fly on windy days. I have a personal wind gust limit and if the forecast goes above that I stay on the ground. So I am grounded on some days that other pilots might fly. (I also don't fly in IMC any more, a personal choice.) I don't believe that LSA is less safe, but one must understand their own personal limitations and the decision making can be more critical.
  3. I still fly with a medical, without any special issuance. If this allows more pilots to fly then I say it is a good thing. I don't know of any LSA accidents attributed to pilot incapacitation.
  4. Flying is expensive, period. Like any other avocation you can spend what you want to and then some. It is unreasonable to think that you can buy a new product at the same price as an old one. I have found my operating costs to be lower than what I would have spent on an older airplane.
  5. This is somewhat of a "Chicken & Egg" story. Flight schools want students, students want new airplanes, but flight schools won't buy new airplanes until they have students. Sally draws a crowd wherever we go. I think having an attractive new airplane on a flight line would be a great draw for new students, as long as the hourly rental costs were set properly.
  6. It has been a long transition, but I like glass over steam gauges. If it weren't for LSA I wouldn't own a plane with a glass panel, autopilot, BRS system or other modern innovations. The technology is simply fantastic.
So check out the reference link, read through the comments and decide for yourself. LSA has been successful...for me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

One point One

It was not the crystal clear blue sky kind of day I had hoped for. Instead I saw deep red glowing beneath the overcast as the sun started to peek above the ridge to the east. "Red sky in morning..."

Coffee started, I sat down at the computer to check the weather pages. Forecast stunk. The METAR dots spread across the weather map were primarily blue, a sprinkling of red and a mix of green. Blue means marginal VFR, and in this case it was due to poor visibility. Mist or fog or both were causing visibility to be less than 5 miles and in some cases (red dots) less than 3 miles. However the ceilings (or the bottom of the overcast) were way up there and not a factor. I decided to drink my coffee and see if daytime warming would improve the conditions. No bothersome TFRs today, the campaign must be somewhere else.

The 8:00am weather conditions had improved, at least good enough for some local flying. A line of green and yellow NEXRAD composite returns blocked my travel to the southeast but it looked relatively good to the west. At least good enough to give it a try. I poured some coffee into a Chinet cup and headed over to Butter Valley.

To my surprise there was a tent set up on "my" taxi way! And a volleyball net! Closer inspection showed that I could get past if I altered my normal path just a bit, but not too far or I would be sideways on wet grass crossing a rather steep hill. Sure that my path was clear I went over to the hangar to start my preflight.

All ground operations were normal and the taxi turned out to be a non-issue. After the run up I looked across the turf to see a flock of brown geese eating their breakfast. There was no wind so I had my choice of runways and decided to take off to the north. Once airborne I found the weather to be calm, ceilings high but visibility restricted to less than 10 miles. So I stayed low and headed south toward N47. When we were coming home from a day trip last week we had wondered about a fork in the road and where it went. At 1500' it was easy to see where it split off from Rt100 and wandered into Pottstown.

I made a 180 to fly back to the north. I stayed clear of N47 and KPTW airspace and chose a track toward Quakertown. Smooth calm air, to travel over the Pennsylvania countryside, not even a burble in the air. I started checking terrain alerts with visual identification against what Sally was calling out. I picked out obstructions at about 5 miles, Sally alerted me at about 3 miles. Good system.

Passing Rt309 I decided to follow that south for awhile. I tuned in the CTAF and used the monitor function as I passed KCKZ.  It's fun to follow a well known path to see landmarks from the air. After awhile I decided to let Sally fly and punched the Direct button to make our way back to 7N8.

But it was too nice to call it quits. I overflew the airport and continued in a generally northwest direction taking me directly over Bally Spring Farm. Sally told me to switch tanks...45 minutes already. There was a cell phone tower off to my right and Sally called it for me (as well as the smaller one to the left). We crossed the ridge and entered the Lehigh Valley. With 3 gallons in the right, 5 gallons in the left, it was time to go home.

A flight of two Citabias had entered the pattern at 7N8. I came in from the 45 and gave them both time to land and back taxi before I called final. A very nice landing today. I back taxied and cut across the lawn in front of the tent, crept past the volleyball net and gunned it to get up the hill. I shut her down with 1:06 on the flight clock.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I looked up from my computer to see a flight of three ultra lights flying northbound. We listened on the handheld radio to the variety of traffic calls (and missed calls) so decided we might need a closer look. Kathy and I went over to Butter Valley on Aviation Day to see what was going on. We found an interesting mix of airplanes and were pleased to see the parking two deep on the east side of the parking area. Our own little (unannounced) Fly-in! The restaurant was crowded, even for a Sunday. A good day at 7n8. 
Thunderstorms swept through the area in the evening and kept up all day Monday. The cold front pushed through and left us with a misty foggy morning with temperatures in the low 60's. By lunchtime the visibility had improved enough to do some local flying.

Harry's hangar door was open so I stopped by to say hello. A Cheetah was doing his run up. He didn't like something because it was taking him a long time to prepare for the take off. Finally, after a long idle he took the runway, added power and departed to the west. I still like the Grumman product line.

Normal preflight (57 pulls), taxi and run up. There really wasn't any wind so I had my choice of runways. I took off to  he north and departed to the east.  A Cessna was off my right wing slightly below as I continued my climb to 2500'. It looked like he might be heading into  Quakertown, my plan was to go over to Pennridge. I thought it might be fun to stop in and see the airport manager who had shown an interest in LSA. However, the CTAF at KCKZ is not 122.8 and the voice I had recognized was on that frequency. Then I remembered he always used Perkiomen in his announcement. I selected the nearest function  on my 696 to find another airport and pulled up N10 at Collegeville.

I flew over at 2000' to check for winds and decided to use rwy 9. I entered downwind all alone and turned base a little deep to allow me to make adjustments if necessary. There is a BIG tree on final and I added a bit of power to insure I didn't get any leaves caught in my brakes. Otherwise a normal landing followed by a back taxi and take off. 

I departed to the north and climbed back to the west on course to Butter Valley. I picked out the airport at about 7 miles (it is a little airport) and decided to enter on a downwind for rwy 16. Sally doesn't like to descend close to the ridges on the far side of Rt100 (or the power lines close by) and kept reminding me of the terrain.  I made a nice approach and landed on the grass just north of the asphalt and taxied straight ahead to go back to the barn.