Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Local Stuff

I decided to take advantage of the sunny weather and headed out to the airport. AIRMET called for moderate turbulence until 10:00PM, but the winds had been trending down and I figured after the convection heating of the afternoon  was done it should smooth out a bit.

Normal preflight, but strange indication after start. I got a DSAB bus failure. I rechecked everything while the oil was warming, including a configuration reset but still got a failure. I took the extra step of turning everything off (including the Master) and then activated the switches one at a time. Everything looked good until I turned the Landing Light on, then DSAB failure again. Landing Light? Doesn't make any sense to me. I also learned that if had the Autopilot switch off, the HS34 worked fine. So with both the Landing Light and the Autopilot on I get a bus failure.

It was a daylight flight in the local area, so since I didn't really need either one I went out to enjoy the airplane. I tried it in the air a couple of times (did not turn off the Master though) with the same result. Strange.

The picture was taken with my cell phone.  I've been using Eye-Fi with my new camera, and the mobile app allows me to upload my phone pictures using the same wireless connection. Neat technology.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


The alarm clock rang but I ignored it for awhile. Eventually I hauled myself out of bed, started  a pot of coffee and went into the office to check the weather maps. Not bad. The sun was shinning outside, temperatures were above freezing and the winds were moderate. Looked like a "Go".

I spent some time going over the charts to pick a destination. I would be solo today so no need to find a runway cafe'. I went out about 50 miles and drew an imaginary circle to see what looked interesting. I had gone south last time (WWD) so looked out west.  I haven't been to York or Gettysburg yet, and should be pretty flying over the Pennsylvania farmland. Nothing grabbed my attention to the north, but then I saw Hackettstown (N05). That rang a bell with me. I pulled out the old (original) logbook and found it. 11/27/70 0.6 to Hack, and 0.5 back to Slatington. My last x-country before my check ride. Time for another visit.

I loaded my gear into the car. It was time for some Mogas so I stopped at the Shell station with my two 5 gallon fuel jugs. ($3.77 for premium with 10% ethanol.) I also had a can of Seafoam additive to mix in with the gas. 10 miles down RT100 to N47, I arrived before 9:00am and began the preflight. It was cold. It was windy? The weather maps didn't indicate this kind of gusty wind. I removed the cowl and checked the engine. She burped after about 80 pulls and I almost lost my hat putting the cowling back on. Wind? I looked at the sock and it was straight out and flapping. The nearby flag for the airport was also waving briskly. I added the fuel but didn't take her covers off. Time to check the weather again. PTW was 8G18, UKT was 10G20, NXX - 12, RDG- 12G22. Decision time.

This is what I mean by "invested". Beautiful clear blue skies, visibility is probably a million miles. Cold, but not freezing. The performance will be great! I have an interesting mission plan. I got up early, got the fuel, made the drive and the airplane is ready to fly. I'M ready to fly!

No Go.

Maybe later but not now. My personal minimums say don't take off if winds are gusting greater than 18 in the local area. (I also decided not to go with temps less than 25 degrees.) Being invested makes it harder to say "no". It's good to have personal mins to help you make the decision.

As I drove up the hill to get home I could see a plane in the pattern over at Butter Valley. ...maybe later.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Wind, rain, fog, more wind, sleet more wind, snow and more wind has been the winter time pattern so far this year. Fortunately we haven't had the brutal cold or deep snow like past years but still the weather hasn't been good for LSA flying. So I was surprised yesterday when the weather actually turned out better than forecast. The low overcast burned off by late afternoon to reveal blue sky with light winds, visibilty not great but definitely VFR. I text-ed my wife: "Sally called to ask if I could come out to play. Dinner will be late."

I got to N47 about 4:00PM and did a rigorous preflight. Just over 60 pulls to get the burp, Fuel was dry, oil was good (just above the flat...just had her oil changed) water in the bottle and the cap was tight, and the nose gear was inflated. All of the lights worked and the controls were free and correct. I climbed into the left seat anticipating I would like the little heat I could get and buckled in. I looked up to see two guys sprinting across the ramp toward us. Gulp.

"We wanted to take a look at your plane!" I gave them the 20 minute tour, answered questions about LSA as well as providing performance numbers for the PiperSport. I gave them my card just in case they had any additional questions. Sally does get attention.

Ground operations were normal, I decided just to stay in the pattern for landing practice. While not for everyone, I love pattern work and get a lot of joy just flying around in circles. I was joined by a Cessna 172 and after a while he suggested we switch from RWY 26 to RWY 08. The setting sun and the haze were making the visibility on final challenging. I had never landed on the opposing runway so liked the idea immediately. Great for visibility but landing with a tailwind, even though slight, requires a good deal of respect. My first attempt yielded a high final and full length of the runway. The next one afforded the opportunity to use a full slip (Sally yelped at me about the high rate of descent), and the next I extended my downwind to make correction for the wind.

The sky turned to a pretty red and purple diminishing the glare problem, so we switched back to RWY 26. We were joined by a Cessna Cardinal, and for a short time with a Piper Warrior. The Warrior departed and I heard her making calls at Butter Valley. Soon the Cardinal called it a day and then the other Cessna called it quits. I had the field to myself. It was about 5:30, sunset occurred at 5:11 PM.

I took a bit of extra time at the hold short line to adjust the lights. I pulled out my flashlight and turned it on and sat on it. Changed my glasses. The Dynon avionics all have light sensors and adjust well. The 696 was bright and I found the menu item to manually dim the display. (and I was pleasantly surprised to see it had switched to the nighttime mode.) I'll check to see if there is an automatic setting for brightness. My newly installed panel lights are great with the fiber optic labels providing just the right amount of light.

My landing light works well. I got a thrill lining up on the center-line, edge lights on either side as I added takeoff power. I'm very please with the visibility to all of the instruments. I enjoyed looking at the runway all lit up as I turned downwind. Boyertown and Gilbertsville looked nice. Somebody was being pulled over on RT100 and the blue light from the police car was very easy to spot. Four landings to a full stop and I was done. It felt great.

Friday, January 20, 2012


No, not the guy that just cut me off on downwind. Throttle creep. Almost since the first week of flying this airplane I have noticed I need to pay close attention to the throttle. I like the concept and setup of the throttle on the PiperSport, but it didn't seem to be working very well. This week I read a not on the Yahoo Group forum about adjusting the tension, so I went out to the airport this afternoon to see if I could make the throttle tighter.

I quickly learned that "loosening" (counter clockwise) was the correct was to engage more friction. I'm pleased with the feel now and am ready to test this out.

The other chore was to investigate my heater. The door in the picture below shows the inlet of the cabin air system. About two inches in diameter, it is located just above the right rudder pedal on the left had side. With the flow restriction baffles on, not mush warm air comes into the cockpit.  There is no inlet on the copilot side.

I think I'll need to check on the canopy seal and perhaps add weather stripping to keep air from seeping in from behind the pilot.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Philadelphia International Airport
Cold. I looked out on my deck as I was doing my weather briefing to watch the snow swirling in the breeze. It was just a light frosting, too cold to stick to the frozen deck boards. The good news was there wasn't any frost.

Typical indications, note 32kt headwind
My copilot was busy with family obligations so this would be a solo flight. I had heard great things about Cape May and decided to use this as a surveillance flight. An opportunity to check out the restaurant,  museum, and general convenience as a "beach" destination for summertime day trips.

Commodore Barry Bridge
A winter high pressure system over the area, but the winds were forecast moderate, out of the north gusting to 14kts. I made the "Go" decision, grabbed my bag and headed out to Pottstown Muni.  Normal preflight (with a few extra breaks taken in the warm car to sip hot coffee), over 200 props to get a burp, and some of the surfaces had to be lightly brushed to insure the loose snow wasn't ice.

I had and interesting problem last week. The upper cowl plugs had absorbed some water and when frozen they expanded into the openings locking them in place. After removing the cowl I was able to push them out from the inside. I've contacted Bruce for their suggestions.

Airborne by 10:00, my first way point was Modena VOR. I stayed at 3500 ft under the shelf of the Class B and got to play with the VOR a bit. I still remember how to do an intercept and track into the station. Next it was direct to Cape May. I had just a few burbles along the way but nothing of real concern. Except it was cold. Cabin heat on full but I felt nothing but a chilly breeze on my neck. Fortunately the bubble canopy lets in a lot of sun.

Ten miles out I made my call and found a Helo getting ready to enter his downwind. When he reported clear I asked about the winds (696 said 8G14) but he said it seemed rougher than that, more like gusts to 18kts. The book says the PiperSport can take 12kts direct crosswind, I estimated that the component was probably 8-10 so continued my approach. It had been a bumpy ride after leaving 3500 feet and was definitely that way at 1000. I tightened my harness and extended my downwind to give me a better chance to stabilize my final. I found that I was holding about a 20 degree crab, 10 kts faster than normal approach speed. When Sally called 500 feet another gust forced me to adjust even more. Not this time, no thanks.  Pitch up and power and we were out of there.

I flew back over top at about 2500 feet. A Mooney was on final and got in without any reported issues. Light Sport is just that, LIGHT. I climbed up to 4500 feet and headed for home.

Uneventful. Smooth as glass at 4500 feet but a strong headwind meant about an hour enroute. I enjoyed taking a few pictures and watching the beautiful view. But I was still cold. With the sun at this angle I could see just a little daylight coming from the rear edge of the canopy seal on the pilots side. A gap. Looks like I'm in the market for some weather stripping.

A very nice landing back at N47 and I pulled right up to the pumps for 10 gals of 100LL. Joe and two other guys came strolling out to help me refuel. Jeff & Jeff wanted to take a look at Sally so I gave them the nickle tour. Both fly bigger Pipers and enjoyed looking at a smaller sister. I also met the owner of the FBO and he also showed some interest. He had some unimpressive experiences with LSA and noted that he could buy two used Warriors for the price of one PiperSport. True enough, but would two old Warriors bring in any new business? After some discussion he agreed that he would really like to get a ride. I think I can make that happen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Santa brought Belly Wash

December 30th was a mild winter's day, it was also my last flying day of the year. I drove the 20 minutes down to Pottstown intending to clean her, both inside and out.  I failed. I did a good job on the outside but it took longer than expected. By mid afternoon I had enough of scrubbing and polishing and decided to try a bit of flying...always an easy decision.

In addition to a large jug of Waxall Waterless cleaner, I also found a small bottle of degreaser under the tree. I laid down on the asphalt under the plane, sprayed on about a square foot or so and used an old green scrubby to loosen any tough spots. The gunk wiped off easily with a rag, and I worked my way to the tail using the same process. First time in a year I had addressed the belly and it REALLY needed it.  Thanks Santa!

I also worked on the plexiglass canopy, hit the wings (especially the non-slip foot paths used to get into the cockpit) and the engine cowling. Last but not least, I attacked the Woodcomp Propeller with the degreaser. This really cleaned up the back side of the prop of all the bugs that had sacrificed themselves for my enjoyment. (The prop is in great shape, but I am envious of the new Sensenich wood prop now available through an LOA for the PiperSport & Sportcruiser.)

Santa also brought me a new camera. The battery compartment door on my Pentax Optio had finally failed. I liked being able to carry my camera in an Altoids box but was anxious to try some new technology. Strictly a 'point and shoot' kind of guy, I was pleased to find a Nikon Coolpix S9100 under the tree. (Much more sophisticated than I need, but a very simple device to operate.) The picture was taken in "special effects" mode - blue selected. Aperture, shutter speed, iso were all automatic. It will take me awhile to become proficient with settings other than automatic.

The flight was a simple one. I departed to the north to see if Harry had his "beacon on". He wasn't in, but I decided to do a landing at Butter Valley anyway. I left there and flew back to N47 for a straight in followed by four more full stop landings. I made progress adjusting my power off landing from the pattern. I also started my survey of possible landing spots just in case the engine quits after take off.

It was a good day, a good year for flying.