Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just for Fun

No real plan for the late afternoon flight, I decided just to go out and fly. (No TFRs, nothing to worry about with weather) As I started my preflight a guy came over from the fuel pumps to talk with me. He had wondered about the Pipersport and asked a lot of questions about LSA. I think I'm going to have quite a few folks asking for rides this Spring.

Ground operations were normal. The maintenance shop on the field was pulling a twin out of the hangar and one wing was intruding on my taxiway. I crept up slowly and stayed far to the left hoping the workers would check for clearance. They didn't but I was able to stay well clear. Winds were out of the north providing and undershooting crosswind so at least on pass was in order. A little power in the flare made for smooth touchdown but a long roll.

Satisfied with that I left the pattern and headed out to the northeast. The autopilot was turned off to just hand fly the plane while enjoying the mild weather, wonderful views and great performance. I flew over a few airports seen on the chart, a prison, an isolated ski area (prominent because it was the only place with snow),  and then back toward the twin cooling towers at Limerick. Low and slow and just wondrous fun.

Staying well south of Pottstown Muni, I announced inbound on the 45. Suddenly a Beechcraft cut me off and announced his downwind. Shocked, I moved out to a wider position and announced my downwind with him insight. Extending to give him time to finish his approach, I turned final as he rolled out to the end of the runway. I was able to land and turn off at the first taxiway, and called clear saying I would give way to him as he made his way back. He told me to go ahead and apologized...all is well, no harm done. Interesting because I had considered making a straight-in but decided to utilize the full procedure for safety. It works.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


On the 45 to Hackettstown
 A very windy weekend. As I sat at home doing chores I continued to monitor the weather. The trend was good. By 2:00PM the winds were below 16Kts and improving. Time to go flying.

VOR Navigation over Trenton
N47-PTW-ARD-METRO-SBJ-N05. I wanted to give the VOR a good workout. GPS has proven itself on our cross country flights, so I wanted to see if the VOR would work in a practical way as primary navigation. It works well, but not as well as I would like. GPS will store the way points and automatically cycle to the next, even using 'fly by' points to ease a steep turn. Not so with the VOR. The autopilot tracks the radial and stops navigating at the station. The track over Trenton is a good example. I think the correct procedure for me will be to use Heading Mode close in, manually adjust the outbound heading, dial in the outbound course and switch back to VOR navigation. A beautiful day to fly, I could clearly see Philadelphia and NYC...at the same time!

Philadelphia 20 miles, NYC 70 miles, both in sight from NXX
Identifying an intersection is tricky. If I leave VOR as the source, I can no longer use my HSI to select a course, unless I use Heading mode on the autopilot. I played with it for awhile, but quickly decided I needed a safety pilot to be looking outside as I played with the avionics. Its enough to know that I need more study and practice to get this technique perfected. After METRO I pushed the GPS button and followed the purple line. (It makes identifying an intersection just sooooo easy. A long way from doing holds with a single ADF.)

Sally didn't like Hackettstown very much.  The airport sits low in a valley with a few cell towers sprinkled around. She squawked terrain alerts a number of times on downwind and base, warning me to "PULL UP!". The instructor was a real stinker sending me there so many years ago. Not an easy place to find, I was glad to have a GPS to help me.

It was a busy traffic day today. Lots of calls on 122.8 and 120.7 at KTTN was controlling two in the pattern when I checked in. I was listening to the traffic at Sky Manor outbound from N05 when I saw a flight of two birds just ahead off to my right at 2500'. Close enough for me to grab the stick and overpower the autopilot.

My route home went direct to LANNA then direct N47. An easy flight, light winds, very little bump and pretty watching the setting sun. Uneventful except for the poor landing. (I let it drop in, sun in my eyes.) As I rolled back in I noticed that two of the Cessnas on the line were cantered a bit to the north. Winds had forced them to weather-vane a bit. A hangar sure would be nice.

Update: The weather stripping is working well. I sat in the left seat on this flight and enjoyed some warmth from the heater and the sunshine through the canopy. (OAT was about 0). The landing light was replaced and I no longer have DSAB failures. Good stuff.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Another Saturday

Canceled (Weather - wind). Pk wind 27032.

So, as I sit here reading magazines and listening to the wind howling between the houses rattling my vinyl siding, I wonder how a heavier plane would be effected by gusty winds. My wife asks if a Cirrus Sr20 would be flying.

So, my PiperSport has a wing area of 141.6 sqft. Legislated gross weight of 1320#s gives a wing loading of 9.3#/sqft. An Sr20 is 22#/sqft, a C172 is 15#/sqft. I'm light but so what?


Which can be juggled around to be:


where G = gusts and Ws is wing loading. Therefore my PiperSport is impacted twice as much by a gust as an Sr20. It really is LIGHT sport.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday Morning

 Clear, cool, and good visibility. Winds were light to moderate, but I was sure they wouldn't stay that way very long. A weather check confirmed everything to be within my tolerance so I grabbed my bag and headed south.

Just less than 100 pulls, the oil was at the top of the flat, the fuel was dry, the tanks sloshed and the rest of the plane looked great. As I started the interior checks a pretty Piper Cherokee (lime green) pulled into the ramp area, shut down and the pilot departed. The plane effectively blocked my way out of the ramp area. I continued with my start, let the oil warm up and waited a bit. After awhile I called Joe on the radio and asked for the owner for some help. Immediately the pilot came out, started the plane and moved it.

Ground operations were normal. No one was in the pattern. I took off and departed to the north. Extra caution is required on weekends, especially on a nice day in the middle of winter. I heard lots of traffic calls but didn't see anyone. As I approached my house my wife was leaving the driveway in her little red car. I descended a few hundred feet, followed her for a bit south on RT100, then departed north for a landing at Butter Valley. It was quiet there as well, so I departed thinking I would go over the Quakertown, but as I looked at the timer it was getting time to head back. (Weekend appointments get in the way sometimes.)

I made a normal entry on the 45 to RWY26, again all by myself. Winds were picking up bit in an over shooting crosswind. I added just a touch of power in the flare to cushion the landing. That was fun, so I decided one more circuit was in order. Just before turning crosswind I saw a streak about ten yards off to my right. (Really the only traffic I saw all day. Good for an adrenalin rush.) Just a bit of red tail on an otherwise brown bird diving straight down. Wow! The downwind required a bit more correction as the winds were growing stronger. Base leg was eliminated as I turned it into a "Navy" pattern. Another nice landing and my time was up. A great way to spend a morning.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentines' Day

The weather window opened, just a crack. A weak cold had passed through in the morning and another was forecast the next day. In between we had VFR conditions with temperatures in the low 40s. Twenty minutes to Pottstown Municipal, twenty minutes to preflight and another ten or so for the warm  up, run up and I was ready to go.

I decided to go up to Breinigsville to  see where my wife works. It just so happens to lie on a direct course from N47 to the East Texas VOR. I programed the waypoint into the GPS but allowed the VOR to do the navigating (We followed the green line instead of the purple one.) The course kept us just west of Allentown airspace.

Tek Park
Pennsylvania is brown right now. Some snow under the trees surrounding the farmer's fields, but the trees themselves are bare and the fields are shades of tan and brown. Stark, but I still enjoy seeing the rolling hills and the large amounts of open space sprinkled with occasional housing developments and technical centers. Tek Park (formally a slew of other names, AT&T, Lucent, etc)  includes the PA87 Helo Pad and houses a number of tenants now, including one that uses my wife as a contractor. So I thought it would be fun to fly over and text her a message with the photo attached. It worked well and she was able to show the picture following a meeting being held during my flight.

Light Sport Aeronaut
As I approached N47 on my way home I noticed a large red tarp on the west end of the field. I entered on the 45 to RWY 26 and the tarp was blocked by the hangers at that end. Sally was running a bit low on fuel so we taxied up to the fuel farm and asked Joe to come up and pump 5 gallons for each wing. After getting a push back,  I taxied back to the ramp and started the post flight process. From landing to covers on took about 20 minutes. So I was really surprised to see that the red tarp had turned into a beautiful balloon as I started my drive home. A real light sport aeronaut. Someone was getting a GREAT Valentines' Day present.

Some updates: The dsab failure was caused by a faulty landing light. I have the new one and should get it installed shortly. The placards on the wings will be replaced. I talked to US Sport Aircraft and they will send a new set of decals. I'll figure out how to remove and replace them this Spring.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wing Lockers

I changed out the hardware on the wing lockers. Two of the ten dzus quarter turn fasteners were rusted, the other eight were starting to age. (AJ5-30) were replaced, and I used #5 "O" rings to hold the new fasteners in place. Some rust had stained the doors so I used my liquid pumice hand cleaner as a rubbing compound and coated them with wax before installing the new dzus buttons. I also took some time to clean the inside of the doors, pretty scrungy since they're not weather proof. Maybe I can find a rubber seal to line the lockers to keep the water out.

I'm pleased with the improvement.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Autopilot Descent

Normal setup for the pilot's EFIS
The big reason to go out to the airplane today was to install some weather stripping. I bought some of the standard quarter inch foam stuff from the local home improvement store, but was worried that it would make the canopy too hard to latch. So since it was a relatively warm day, it seemed like a good time to experiment with it.

The original seal is about an eighth inch tubing glued around the circumference of the canopy. I mounted the foam along the edge of the fuselage from one latch hook to the other. I was able to secure the canopy without difficulty and could feel a tighter fit as I closed the latch. The test flight confirmed that the seal worked and it made for a much warmer flight.

I also worked on some cleanup. My CO sensor has expired and the residue from the glue was stuck on the panel. Goo-Gone and my finger nails  took care of that. My fuel caps were also stained with dirt and grime. Waxall didn't work as well as I would have liked, so I tried some "liquid pumice" hand cleaner. I gently rubbed the tops of the caps with my fingers and got rid of about 90% of the grime. I also worked on the wing lockers, but decided the quarter turn fasteners (dzus) are beyond hope.  I'll remove and replace them. I did take some time to clean the inside of the lockers. Since they aren't weather tight they can get pretty dirty.

The test flight was only partially successful. The weather strip works. I played with autopilot in both VOR and GPS mode, and used the Heading and Track functions to navigate. The autopilot did a fair job of intercepting a course, but does too much searching (s-turns) close to the station. The bad news is my landing light/autopilot conflict still exists.  I had hoped that letting the generator charge the battery might fix the problem. (Low battery might make a voltage spike when initializing either function. I was wrong.) I have opened a problem with Dynon, who referred me to my PiperSport dealer, who gave me a link to CSA about a diode fix for a fuel pump problem. This could take awhile.