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.