Saturday, June 30, 2012


"In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith."
The AOPA Flight Planner said it should take about 2.5 hours to travel the 280 miles. A slight tail wind would help us out on the way down, which was good. As always, I was worried about weight. Two adults, one small suitcase, airplane covers, chocks and tie downs, and fuel.  We would be heavy.

We got a good start in the morning. Preflight went as planned, but I inadvertently clicked the autopilot switch when checking the lights, and turned it off immediately once I had realized my mistake. This would be a lesson learned. All ground checks were normal, and although the take off roll was a bit longer than normal we were easily off before my abort point and climbed easily on course. 6500' and level, I engaged the autopilot, or at least tried. Annunciator said "AP ERR ERR". I guess I had UN-calibrated the servos during my preflight and now I would have to HAND FLY the airplane for 2.5 hours (OH the tragedy!) How long has it been since you kept a scan going that long and kept it to PTS proficiency? It was a good workout and I'm convinced I should do it more often.
Dare County Regional

Dare County Regional is a busy place. Sky Divers, banner towing, biplane rides, all combined with General Aviation. Just 15 miles from First Flight, it is a GREAT stopping point to begin the exploration of the area. FBO was very helpful and provide super service. Rental car right up to the plane with no hassles. Use these guys for your trip, you'll like working with David.
The First Flight

The Memorial
First stop was to check in at the B&B. They weren't ready for us. So we went off in search of lunch. Sugar Creek Restaurant just over the bridge had GREAT scallops! Kathy enjoyed a salad with crab meat and we both guzzled down the southern sweet tea. Next we headed up Rt 158 through Nags Head to Kill Devil Hills and turned left into the Wright Brothers National Park. The parking lot was busy for a hot Wednesday afternoon and we were happy to see a good crowd in the Visitor's Center. We walked out to the first flight exhibit and wondered how they must have felt after the success of the fourth flight of the day, when there was absolutely no doubt they had achieved successful CONTROLLED flight. We went back into the Center for an excellent lecture on the Brothers and viewed a full scale model of the original Flyer. This a "First Class" event and I think every pilot should fly in, you won't be disappointed.

Exhausted, we headed back to Manteo to check in to the B&B and go look for some dinner. We got some directions to a sandwich place and enjoyed some crab cakes and cold beer. We also learned a little bit about Virginia Dare (Google it) and the Lost Colony. I never heard about this in history class.

Thursday was beach day. The B&B breakfast just didn't cut it, so we went looking for something on the beach, and Kathy found "Stack'em High Pancakes" on Rt 158. The biscuits and gravy (w/home-fries) were fantastic. Go there! Then we hit the beach. Its a very nice beach and we lounged for about two hours.

Sally and me at KFFA
Signing the registry
Dehydrated, we decided to go for a small lunch. The Life Guard recommend the local Stop & Shop so we refueled there, then drove the beach road north to check out the community. Then to Wally World for trinkets. Still the hottest part of the afternoon, we decided to drive south to find the light house at Hatteras. It was under scaffolding for painting, so not very photogenic right now. By now the afternoon heat was dissipating so we went back to the beach there. Just wonderful. OK, for you folks that see them all the time, it is probably not a big deal but to everyone else: Pelicans are phenomenal. Cartoons have made them into some ugly, ungainly silly kind of bird which is completely unfair. Kathy and I watched them all day and were delighted with their skill and grace.

Sunburned and sandblasted we made our way back to the B&B and decided to try and make the evening performance of "The Lost Colony" out door theater. A little problem with mosquitoes, the play was very good (stage craft fantastic) and I would give it another good recommendation.

KMQI to KFFA. Video here!

Friday was back to KFFA, but this time we flew in.   We secured the airplane, took a breath and looked at the 'mountain'.  We went into the ofiice ("Squawk VFR and hit the # key for access".) I signed the register and came back out onto the front porch. Slowly we made out way to the base, looked at each other and Kathy said "Let's go!" Its a long haul to get up there but we are both glad me made the climb. Its all part of the experience and the views from there are beautiful. Pictures taken, we came back down the hill and prepared the plane for the flight home.

We back taxied for take off position, talked with a helicopter flying down the beach and made our departure to the north. Planning had slight headwinds this time and the estimated the trip at 3 hours. I planned a fuel/rest stop at KGED. Level at 5500' I again went to push the autopilot button and found the annunciator "AP TST TST". I had failed to run the test procedure after the reconfiguration and now would have to hand fly for three hours, or until our stop at Georgetown. Calm but very hazy, hardly any horizon at all. But the winds were better than forecast so at SBY I decided to skip the stop and go straight home.  I updated ATC with my decision and he put our new destination into the system. I cancelled when we passed the Philadelphia Class B and began my descent just south of PTW. We landed at Butter Valley with 3 gals in each side.

An amazing trip, and one that we would like to repeat. Only spend more time enjoying the southern hospitality.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Sentimental Journey

As we exited the Piper Museum we overhead a young teenager on her cell phone, "I flew! I really Flew! Just now. It was great! No, I really flew in an airplane!"
I would say it was a pretty successful flight.

The event really lasted four days, but I couldn't get away from work. We planned to depart Butter Valley first thing Saturday morning, spend much of the day in Lockhaven and return home in the mid-afternoon. The weather forecast was good so we headed out to the airport for preflight.

Suddenly the urge for Cotton Candy.
Sally was in good shape. I spent some time cleaning her this week so at least the wheel pants and leading edges were bug free. I also got a small step ladder so that I can reach the VOR antenna and the top of the vertical stabilizer with my Waxall spray cleaner. Heavy winds and thunderstorms moved through with the cold front last night and dust and straw covered everything, so Kathy grabbed the plexiglass spray to polish the canopy while I checked the engine and listened for the burp. (50 pulls). Out of the barn, we completed the last checks and climbed in. She made all of the ground radio calls on our way to takeoff. We slowly climbed out to the west and I decided that 6500' should be a smooth ride. It was like glass and we both enjoyed the beautiful Pennsylvania views.

Control Tower really help to control the ground ops.
Flight Following was busy but helpful. Harrisburg was particularly busy and it took a number of trys (stepping on each other) to check in. I have found it helpful to tell ATC that we are a Light Sport Airplane when identifying our type. Spelling out C_R_U_Z just seems to delay the process a bit, and I still get called a Cherokee to other traffic. As we were leaving his area, Harrisburg Approach wished us a good day at the Fly-in, we liked that.

Little puffies were starting to grow at our level so at about 20 miles out I started a gradual descent. .  When approaching from the south the airport his hidden by a high mountain just before the river. What a beautiful sight to see the airport once over that final ridge. We had been listening on the common frequency and arrived at a gap in the traffic. Paul, a familiar voice, welcomed us to the event and said he would be at the museum. So many little yellow planes were parked down there! Established on final a Warrior decided he could wait no longer and jumped onto the runway to depart. I had separation, but slowed a little anyway, vigilant of what might happen and ready to abort if I heard a hiccup. No problems, I rolled to the end and turned off onto the grass. The makeshift tower instructed us to taxi to row 3 and a linesman directed us in. This was a well run event.

We parked and unbuckled, but before we could get the canopy opened had some onlookers checking us out. So Kathy and I got out and started answering questions, mostly about the airplane but also about Light Sport in general. Members from the flying club were there, having camped out for the event. One wise guy wanted to ask me about the canopy pull down handle, and as I started to explain my reluctance about the useability he smiled and introduced himself. Richard! The truly great thing about blogs is finally meeting people you have corresponded with through the electronic media. I really look forward to flying with you Richard!

So, we did the Fly-in 'thing'. Ate some burgers, wandered through some booths, marveled at the airplanes, etc. The J3s were by far the star of the show. To see so many taking off and landing on a pretty grass strip is just an awesome experience.  We took the tractor ride down to the museum and enjoyed learning more about Piper's history. But I missed Paul! My one regret of the day.

All too soon it was time to depart. A few more questions answered before we strapped in (and a nice compliment from a young lady that Sally was the prettiest girl at the ball) and we were ready to go.

So, over the mountains and up to 5500' for the trip home. The bases of the clouds looked to be at about 7000' so I tried to find the smoothest air available underneath.  The good news was we had about a 10 Kt tailwind but that still meant about a 45 minute trip. This was a great outing.

I remember passing by Lockhaven on my way to and from Penn State. I would wonder what it would be like to land there. Well, its good, especially on a day like this.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I received an email from the North East Flyers Group that there would be a fly-in to benefit the Duchess County Community College Flying Club and the NROTC. BBQ and Aviation Art sounded like a good event on a pretty Saturday morning.  But the alarm went off too early and I was tempted to roll over but didn't. The weather check was good but my own inertia was problematic. I started the coffee pot, played with AOPA Flight Planner and stalled for awhile. I had to drag myself to the airport.

Then I pulled open the hangar doors and the excitement stated to grow. Sally needs another cleaning, but otherwise the preflight was good. 60 pulls for the burps (no improvement with the official ROTAX filter), and all other checks were satisfactory. I pulled her out of the barn into the sunlight. Lights, flaps, sumps and control surfaces all good. I put my gear in the back and climbed into the right seat. It felt good. I started to taxi at 9:00.

With all the ground checks complete I took the runway and was quickly airborne. What a beautiful day! While climbing to cruise altitude I contacted Allentown Departure to ask for Flight Following. They were busy! Seems that others may have overcome their inertia and were out enjoying the beautiful views. Lots of traffic calls, some I saw others I didn't. It made the flight all that more interesting. How good can it get? Hot coffee and a granola bar for breakfast at 5500'. All of the gauges were green and Sally was doing the hard work of maintaining course and altitude, just sweet.

Kingston is a nice airport right near the bridge over the Hudson River. Landing was to the south today and when I arrived there was one in the pattern in front of me and another following me in. My pattern was a little wide, but good corrections lead to a nice landing. (Good thing, as I had an audience.)

A "Follow Me" golf cart came out to lead back to the party and I secured her close to the fuel pumps. The linesman was very impressed and I gave him my nickle speech about LSA and some of Sally's features. Then I walked up the hill and sat at a picnic bench to wait for the food to start, but the grill hadn't arrived so people were in a holding pattern. (BTW, BBQ is not shredded pork or brisket, it only means that an outdoor charcoal grill is being used.) Eavesdropping I heard some compliments so went over and introduced myself. Turns out I gave my nickle speech about a half dozen times. At one point I was asked if I was a dealer, and I explained merely an owner. It was a nice day to show her off.

I stayed on the ground for about an hour, bought a Pepsi and made a donation, got 5 gallons of Avgas and prepared to depart. I had pilfered the round sun shade from my wife's car and it worked well to keep the summer heat from Sally's avionics. Everything was working well. Took off to the south directly over the bridge climbing on course to Butter Valley.

Weather was still good, and I had to double check my wind indication. The first time I had seen 'light and variable' at 4500'.  ATC reported traffic over  Blairstown that turned out to be a glider.  Simply beautiful to watch from above. I flew over my old friend at "High Point" and the park looked empty. The skies were not. Two flying low south of Queen City and to my amazement there were 6(!) waiting to take off at 7N8. I circled a bit to allow them to get airborne, then set up for a rare landing on RWY 16. (Land on the grass or go around.)

A wonderful flying adventure. I'm glad I overcame the inertia.
"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward." - Amelia Earhart

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Around the Patch

The engine started normally and I was going through the checklist waiting for the oil to warm up. Suddenly motion whisked by in front of the prop and I quickly reached for the switch. One of the golf course maintenance guys was in a cart going to a nearby hangar to get some mowing equipment. You never know from where a hazard might come.

The weather has been good so I have been out and about. I spent an hour over at Quakertown practicing landings, including so much needed no flap landings. Harry changed the oil (3 liters of Aeroshell) and we purged the fuel line to the fuel pressure sensor. A half hour in the pattern at Butter Valley with three full stop landings proved that the work was successful and Sally was good to go.

I made a solo run down south to KEVY and 58M. A little bumpy under the clouds but a fun trip just the same. I especially liked Cecil County, a nice little runway right next to the water. They're building a beautiful new FBO there, and a comment on the AOPA Airport Directory said that a crew car is available to go eat at the Marina in town.  I'll be back.

I spent some significant time in the hangar cleaning Sally. The outside always needs to have bugs removed, but I also paid attention to the engine compartment. (I'm still cleaning out the "residue" left by the birds last year. I'm not done yet but made significant progress.)

Today I headed north to N82. Departing Butter Valley I decided to fly over the house. I could see my wife on the back porch waving, so I rocked my wings to acknowledge.  Kind of fun. The flight took me over Allentown and the new construction "hole" for the hockey arena. I didn't ask for Flight Following but was listening to approach and tower while in the vicinity. Approach has two frequencies, one for traffic above 300', and below.  I couldn't remember which one to use and when I used my 696 to pick the frequency it cautioned me that since I was above 3k I should use the other. I really like that GPS. The air was smooth an silky above 4000'. I enjoyed following the often traveled path through the Water Gap, along RT209 to Milford and Port Jervis. The visibility wasn't great but I could see well enough to recognize the old landmarks. Just a touch at Sullivan County then headed back home.

Clouds building in the local area so I decided to try and climb above them. I was clear at 8500'. Winds were exactly off my right wing and I wondered if going down a little would give a tailwind. It didn't really help much, but then again I wasn't really in any kind of a hurry. I made my position call and made a nice landing at 7N8, a good way to finish a trip.