Sunday, December 29, 2013

VF-1

VIRB Flight 1

Santa left a VIRB Elite camera under the tree for me. This is Garmin's competitor to the GoPro camera. Kathy and I had seen this demonstrated at the AOPA Summit and were interested in the GPS Overlay capability. It seemed to me that this would be an outstanding way to debrief a flight.

Hardware:
In addition to the camera, I purchased a 64g micro SD card for ~$50. (The camera doesn't come with ANY SD card.)  The top receipt is from GPSCity.com and includes the suction mount hardware (kit) to fasten the camera to the canopy. The second item is an adapter for an external microphone. The bottom receipt is from Aircraft Spruce for the external microphone to aircraft communication adapter.

The assembly of all of the pieces took me about an hour but was not at all difficult. (I was probably overly cautious.)


I placed the assembly on the left side canopy shown here. It would be just about at the pilot's left ear.

Software:

The viewfinder can be checked with an App on an Android phone or tablet. It is a BIG help for the initial set up but once the camera has started the view finder App can't be used.

I also downloaded a desktop app (VIRB Edit) to retrieve movie clips from the camera.

The Flight:

I overslept a little bit, left the house about 8:00am. Milder temperatures than expected at about freezing. More importantly there were no clouds and very little winds. The weather forecast had moderate turbulence just west of Reading and I was a little concerned that I would find gusty winds later in the day.

As I drove north on Rt100 I noticed a hawk on the telephone wire beside the road. A field mouse was nicely draped over the wire and was being held in his left talon. Breakfast. I thought about stopping for a good country breakfast but have already put on too many Holiday pounds. I took another sip of coffee and continued on my way to the airport.

Butter Valley was very busy with golfers. It must have been a tournament because the parking lot was nearly full. Good, I hope it helps his business. I drove through the lot and parked across from the hangar. It was good to see Sally again. She was dirty. I had failed to put the tarps and covers on following my last flight so drainage from the melting snow had left their mark. After storing my gear and doing a lights check, I found the canopy cleaner and went to work. The rest of the plane would have to wait. I pulled her out and finished the preflight.

It took more than the normal 3 or 4 blades. I added just a touch of throttle and she finally caught, rough at first but smoothed out quickly.

Virb Flight 1 Video Here

Post Processing:

I made a mistake using VIRB Edit. By importing the video off of the camera and putting on my computer, I lost the GPS data and was unable to apply any of the Overlays. Lesson learned is to leave the videos on the camera until the SD card is full.

I used the highest quality setting (1080 HD) and it took about two hours to process about fifty minutes of video. This could be reduced by trimming out unneeded pieces of video before processing. Finally, I used my own desktop software to trim the final version and add the text.

 Comments:

Overall I'm very pleased. The picture quality is what I had hoped for and the audio quality is great. While the glass panels couldn't be seen I think their brightness can be adjusted. Once the overlays are added it will really enhance the value of using this as a review tool.

*Note: Information on the VIRB can be found here.
*Note2: Another communication cable

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice

Winter officially arrives today at 12:11pm EST, although most areas got a jump start to winter and have doubled or even tripled normal December snowfall already this month. Butter Valley is snowed in. The asphalt runway has been cleared but the plow left piles of ice along each edge. The taxiway has been packed down by snow mobiles and that icy mix just isn't very good for steering using differential breaking.

What to do while waiting on the thaw? Read and study:
  1. New Owner for SportCruiser in America : One of the most recognized aircraft in the LSA space is the SportCruiser, which ranks high on our LSA Market Share ranking (2012 figures). Solid in the #4 spot, they are likely to move up with another decent year in 2013, thanks to what some might call the "halo effect" of having had the Piper name on the airplane (photo) for a year, and now, a new owner. Don Ayers retired and handed the reins to his partner and new company president, Patrick Arnzen
  2. The Dynon ChannelIn this video we provide step-by-step instructions on how to enable and control the autopilot using SkyView's Simplified Control Scheme. This control scheme is ideal for VFR flying that doesn't require the more complex modes that our IFR-centric Expert Control Scheme offers.
  3. Look up, Look Out : Consider it a cautionary tale. If you fly with what I like to call “pretty pictures,” more often known as EFIS, PFDs or MFDs, or even Garmin / iPad GPS moving maps on your lap or clamped to your yoke, please remember this: those are just representations of the world outside
  4. Five ways to make bad landings: After beating me handily in a spot landing contest, he reinforced the practice of stabilized approach parameters.  Find the target speeds you need to hit on every leg.  Once you have the pitch set for speed, make distance adjustments with the power
  5. 3rd Class Medical Exemption:  Lots has been written and speculated about what the FAA might do about the requirement that a Private Pilot has a medical. “For the non-aviators out there, most pilots need two documents to fly: 1) a non-expiring pilot certificate and 2) a medical certificate that gets renewed every six to sixty months. I said “most” since there are some pilots exempted from having a medical certificate at all. Some pilots who fly balloons, gliders, and certain small, sport planes (LSA) need only to self certify that their medical condition is appropriate for their flight.” - Here  Some speculation suggested that the LSA industry would suffer if GA pilots were allowed to fly larger aircraft without the medical. My Thoughts:
    • I fly for fun. Your definition of fun may differ, but for me it starts when the nose wheel lifts off until the mains squeak back on the runway.  I can honestly say that I have yet to find an airplane that is not fun to fly, although some are more fun than others.
    •  I fly the best airplane I can afford. Your definition of affordability may differ, but for me the primary factor is operating costs. The loan is a burden, but the low day to day operations really impacts how/when I fly. Also, my CFO would not approve $1/4M of fun. (A few other items rank higher on the household budget.)
    • ...and the intangible.  I like the group of people that call themselves Sport Pilots. When we sat at the dinner prior to the CT Flyin out at Page we were with people from all over the country, different lifestyles, different experiences, but all there to enjoy flying their little airplanes on new adventures. Yes, pilots in general are like this, but Sport Pilots seem to relish it just a bit more.
    • I believe that people shouldn't have to buy things they don't want (talking LSA here). If a pilot wants to fly a C172 rather than an LSA he should be able to. Some people like trucks, others don't. I find very little value add in the medical certification process we have now. If getting rid of it hurts the LSA industry than the industry needs to provide a more "valuable" product.
    • So with all of the turmoil would I buy LSA again? My only regret is that I didn't buy one sooner. 
Just maybe I'll get one more flight in this year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Anniversary

The thermometer read 2°C under gray skies. No wind. Most of the local airports were reporting marginal VFR in 5 or 6 miles of haze, overcast at 5000'. The forecast said to expect some sunshine later but I was skeptical. There was still a pile of work on my desk left over from the Thanksgiving Holiday. Sunset would come at about 5:00PM.  If I was going to do it it would have to be over my lunch break.

At noon I turned on my "Away" light and bundled up to go to the airport. I put on my pair of unlined leather gloves before I touched the cold steering wheel and put the heater to full hot. I was getting heat by the time I got to the hangar. Someone had left one of the hangar doors partially opened so the floor was covered with leaves. I'll bring the blower out next time. A flight of honking geese, about 15 in a single line flew overhead. More would follow which made me pause to think about the possible hazard.

Sally looked good. The canopy was a bit dusty but overall she was still clean from the detailing done in Addison. I took my time with the preflight and was pleased with the exterior of the airplane. She burped after about 30 pulls, much sooner then I expected on a cold day like this one. The battery was good, all of the lights worked. I pulled her out into the daylight to do the sumps. Avgas that I bought in West Virginia was still in the tanks and tested clean.

After I climbed in the straps needed to be adjusted to fit the extra bulk of my winter flying jacket. I shouted "Clear" to no one and turned the switch. A very smooth start. I taxied up around the silo to look out over the runway. The little pond looked thick with a layer of ice, ripples frozen in place. A month's worth of rust had accumulated on my brain so as I waited on the oil temperature to rise I reviewed the checklist to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. At 122° we taxied over to the run up spot and completed our ground checks. I was still fighting my own inertia until I took the runway. Lethargy turned to excitement simply by adding full throttle. And then lifting the nose.

My landings were sh.....didn't meet my expectations. Only four of them, but all ended with a thud rather than a squeak. Only about a half hour on the Hobbs. Was it worth all of the effort? Oh yeah.

December 2nd is the day we celebrate our anniversary with Sally. This was #3. It was great to get reacquainted.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November Drought

The week long weather delay in Addison messed with my schedule. I needed to get a Flight Review in before the end of October and was running out of days. So I called Paul. He was very accommodating, even suggested we attend an FAA evening seminar together at Penn State, inviting me to spend the night in his guest room. An offer I just couldn't refuse.

The flight out was bumpy. Low overcast, some mild snow showers and headwinds. It was not flight review weather. So we concentrated on ground work, discussed current LSA topics and visited his new flight simulator. Paul has made some interesting improvements but still faces some implementation challenges. Anyone who has installed new complex technology understands that getting a production system up and operating takes more than just a "turn of the key." But theses are just minor glitches in the overall scheme of things, I'm convinced this is going to be a very valuable training tool.

We did the actual flight review the next morning. If you are a Sport Pilot I strongly recommend you go to Light Sport Instructor to have his experience for this review. Paul did a superb job, I was challenged and learned some things that I can use in my day to day operations. Insights that most CFIs simply would not have from flying C172s.

The trip home was bumpy, and the landing in very strong cross winds at Butter Valley was a challenge. 45° crab lead to a smooth touchdown, but I danced on the rudders most of the way down. The hangar doors were really flapping by the time I put Sally away for the night.

The annual done, my flight review signed off, it was time to FLY. Except IMSAFE got in the way. A lingering chest cold would not go away. Too many sunny weekends came and went with us stuck on the ground. Finally I feel better, but a winter snow storm has arrived.

It has been a 'dry' month.

Friday, November 1, 2013

From the Summit

I had a light breakfast at the hotel (although I couldn't pass up just one more taste of biscuits and gravy). Checked out and got to the airport just before 8:00am. US Sport was already busy positioning airplanes and people were getting ready to fly.  Dropped off the rental car keys and picked up Sally's and I thanked everyone for their hard work. I carried my luggage out to Sally and began the preflight. She was in good shape so I pulled her away from the parking spot. "Clear!" She purred. Finally I put my headset on and...nothing. No radio. I checked the connections, volumes and got nothing. So I shut her down and found some help. I sit in the right seat and therefore the intercom switch must be on to hear the radio. (Look for that little green light. Thanks Sam, lesson learned). I listened to ATIS and went to adjust the altimeter and found it was set to millibars. Installing the new firmware must have set everything back to the defaults. I took a few minutes to insure all of my settings were correct.

Smooth takeoff to the north and soon I banked right and was climbing on course to 5,500'. It was good to be on my way and Sally was running great. We were traveling through smooth air above the low cumulus clouds off to my right. We even had a slight tailwind. I must never allow myself to forget how beautiful the world looks from up here.  Soon I was looking for Batesville for my first fuel stop. This was a nice clean airport with friendly people. After the fuel truck left a pickup stopped close by and an older guy got out to give Sally an inspection. A retired Marine, he flew a Piper Cub out of this airport and was interested in the Piper logo on Sally's nose. We talked about the joy of flying light airplanes. He offered me a ride to his hangar to look at his plane, but I was anxious to get on my way. We shook hands, he drove off and I climbed in.

The weather briefer said that it would remain VFR but that I could catch up to the remains of the cold front before I reached Bowling Green. Crossing the Mississippi I decided to climb to 7,500' to get above the broken layer. Not too long after that the broken clouds were turning into a solid under cast.  I told ATC my plan and descended down to 3,500' and bounced north of the Campbell MOA. It was gray and turbulent and I was glad to have updated weather available to me. KBWG still looked good. When I switched to unicom I found a plane in the pattern using the short crossing runway. I entered on the 45 and he took interval on me. Nice landing, I was immediately met by a linesman and directed me to roll up under the CO-MAR awning. They made arrangements for me at the hotel and took care of putting Sally to bed. I had an early dinner and went to bed myself... and slept well.

Fog. I peered out across the lighted courtyard in the early morning darkness and saw a layer of fog covering the ground. The weather application on my cell phone was red with poor visibility at local airports. However I knew it wouldn't last. When the sun came up and warmed the earth the fog would dissipate and leave me with beautiful VFR conditions. I got my breakfast and packed my overnight bag, than called CO-MAR for transportation to the airport. By the time I was done with the preflight the sun was shining.

I took off to the north and turned right on course as we climbed to 7,500'. The low lying areas to my right were still covered in mist. On my left, clear. I finished my cruise checks and enjoyed the smooth ride. A large flock of geese were flying well beneath me. Their wedges pointed to my right. I started to notice a change in foliage around Lexington and by the time I got into West Virginia the earth was in its full fall colors.  As I descended into Braxton County the rolling hills were fantastic. I missed having my photographer on board. It was getting windy and we hit some good buffets before we found the airport hidden beyond one of those hills. I really liked this little airport, beautiful "back country" style and friendly people. An RV7 pilot stopped by to chat as I fueled Sally. He had recently lost his medical and was interested in LSA. He was optimistic about getting his Special Issuance and convinced he didn't want to worry about his 3rd class medical after that. He liked Sally.

Sally and I climbed back to 7,500' to enjoy the tailwinds. This last leg would be the fastest speed over the ground, reaching 145kts at times. The route took me just northwest of the SFRA and  I kept busy switching between the many controlling agencies. Sally was having a slight problem maintaining altitude with the rolling waves coming off the Appalachian Mountains, but by the time we reached Harrisburg everything had smoothed out. The Pennsylvania trees were already past their peak color and were now mostly brown with only a few remaining splotches of color. I started my descent approaching Reading and felt the buffeting winds once below 5,000'. It was a challenge at Butter Valley but nothing I hadn't see before. I was delighted when I saw Kathy and her Mom waving to me from the edge of the parking lot. Nice landing.

Home.



It's hard to explain the feelings I have after a long cross country like this one. Pride of ownership, accomplishment of a challenging task, the delight in seeing new places and talking with interesting people, its all a part of General Aviation. More than anything else I feel fortunate to be able to participate in the adventure.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Weathered in, Addison

The alarm clock went off well before sunrise on Sunday morning. It was time to leave Fort Worth and get Kathy to the DFW airport for her flight home. The road construction and lack of signage still confused me and we made a few wrong turns along the way, but got her to the airport in plenty of time to get through security to her gate. Goodbyes are hard.

Sisters
I continued over to Addison to attend a systems briefing given by US Sport Aircraft. Patrick had set up some tables and chairs in a "U" shape and positioned Sally in the opening of the "U". She was going to be the demonstration article! Fortunately I had just had her washed and waxed. I was one proud Papa. Perhaps a dozen owners/pilots had come to learn about wheels and brakes, oil and fuel systems, and general tips and misconceptions about Rotax engines. Patrick did a great job going over all the material and answering questions. It was great until he started her; rough runner. Although he used the situation to explain carburetor balancing it became clear Sally needed more help. Class dismissed.

Patrick and staff spent the next few hours of a Sunday afternoon to troubleshoot the problem. Ultimately it turned out to be a bad carburetor seal and soon she was purring nicely.  Thanks guys, I really appreciated the efforts to get me ready for a Monday morning departure.

Waiting on the weather.
Ohdarkthirty Monday morning I checked the weather. There was really no decision to make as the strong cold front was just west of Addison dumping buckets of rain on Texas. It was hard IFR. There are times when I miss exercising IFR privileges, but I'm not sure I would have wanted to fly in this weather if I were current. They needed the rain but it was clear I wouldn't be going anywhere for awhile.When I checked in, Patrick asked if I had any afternoon plans. Knowing my interest in aviation education he invited me to go out to a high school US Sport was sponsoring. I had the opportunity to inspect their Red Bird flight simulator and talk to the (roughly 15) kids for a few minutes. Later we chatted with the school principal and the curriculum administrator. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I can only hope high schools in other parts of the country can implement this kind of program.

Ohdarkthirty Tuesday morning I checked the weather. Nope, not going today. I went over to the hangar to talk to folks about airplanes and their experiences. Not a bad way to spend a rainy day. My friend Duane called to ask how things were going and pointed out that there was a new service bulletin to inspect the nose strut. I added that to the list of maintenance done on Sally. Sam loaded the latest firmware revision from Dynon. I would validate the improvement on the way home, but this effectively fixed the problem I had losing GPS steering.

S2 - "Stoof"
Ohdarkthirty Wednesday morning I checked the weather. Still raining, but finally the forecast was showing improvement. I decided to go visit the Cavenaugh Flight Museum located right on KADS. As I pulled up I could see an S2 sitting on the ramp. After walking through the hangars enjoying the old warbirds from WW1 to present, I wandered across the ramp to inspect the "Stoof". I took a picture of the bureau number and when I got home checked my log book. I had flown this one on Sept 25th, 1975.


Ohdarkthirty Thursday morning I checked the weather. It was time to go.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

AOPA Summit: Fort Worth, Texas

Zack is my hero.

When he learned that we were stranded at Addison Airport he immediately offered his help. Our luggage in his trunk, he took Kathy and I over to the Hilton Garden and waited for me to check availability. They were full. He and Kathy then started cell phone searches to find another suitable place to stay. The Holiday Inn Express promised us a room so he took us over there, again waiting to insure no problems with registration.THIS is a step beyond good customer service. Thanks to US Sport Aircraft for taking care of someone in need.

I called Hertz at 8:00am Thursday morning and was told they no longer had any cars available. What?!?!? But some were expected back in this morning. I asked the hotel to get me a cab, but after 20 minutes I was still waiting in the lobby. I called Patrick to discuss the work to be done on Sally, and when he heard of my situation he sent someone over immediately. Again, he made sure everything was taken care of properly before leaving to do his "real" job. Thanks


Robert, Kathy and Dave
Convention Halls
We had missed the Flight Training meeting that was held prior to the Summit because of the weather that delayed our start. Now we missed the opening keynote session because of the mix up with the rental car. Not off to a very good start, we arrived at the venue about 10:00am. After parking and registration we entered the exhibition hall to get a quick overview, then traveled upstairs to attend a training session or two. Then we went back down for a more detailed view of the exhibitions. I met my friend Robert and talked about my Dynon system. Kathy stopped by Clarity Aloft and got some help with how her headset fits. I went over to Lightspeed to inquire about new headset pads and we both enjoyed just looking at all of the interesting pilot supplies. We left a little early to go check in at the new hotel and visit Aerofest.

Dusty Crophopper
This required some significant driving. Aerofest was held at Meacham Field and our hotel was in the "Fossil Creek" area north of Fort Worth. GPS said 20 minutes but that doesn't take into account getting lost, road construction or heavy traffic. We made it work and got over to the airport in time to see Dusty, Fifi, and a lot of other interesting aircraft. Kathy enjoyed sitting in the new Sport Cruiser pointing out the differences and improvements they have made since we bought Sally. I did my best helping Sam by offering stories about my customer satisfaction to anyone who would listen. Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel to end Day 1.


After breakfast we jumped in the car and headed south back to the convention center. This time were able to attend the keynote address and both enjoyed it very much. While all of the speakers were good I think we were most impressed by Greg Coleman from Disney Animation Studios. I want to go and see the movie now. We attended more training sessions, did some more shopping, and even found some time to stroll outside in the beautiful Fort Worth Water Gardens.


Chow Down at Cow Town
Next on the agenda was "Chow Down at Cow Town". Some great Texas brisket with all of the fixins washed down with Shiner Bock started the evening entertainment while we listened to live music. Then we went next door to watch a real Rodeo. This was the first time Kathy and I had seen an event like this and it was truly amazing. AOPA did a truly wonderful job hosting this event, we both agreed that it was one of the highlights of the trip. Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel to end Day 2.

The last day of the Summit started at Aerofest with a pancake breakfast. Mark Baker spoke about his plans and had his key staff on stage to answer audience questions. It was very well attended and addressed all of the hot topic questions of the day. We think Mark will be a good change for AOPA. The last event was held back at the convention center for the Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers. Mark also attended this event and after some brief remarks again opened the floor to questioning. Clearly he wants to hear what issues AOPA members think dominate the world of General Aviation. I enjoyed this session as well (and even got a free back pack!)

We ended the evening by driving back to Addison to attend a Sport Cruiser/PiperSport owners' dinner. The traffic to and from this event was unbelievably bad, but the gathering itself was really appreciated. It wasn't quite the gathering we had in Branson but still it was great to meet people and talk about airplanes. Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel to end Day 3.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

To the Summit - Day 2

We woke up early enough to have breakfast and check out of the hotel by 8:00. CO-MAR picked us up shortly after that and took Kathy out to start preflighting while I paid the bill. By the time I got to the airplane she had loaded the luggage, removed the tie downs, cleaned the canopy and organized the cockpit. All I had to do was burp the engine and check for overall integrity.  Teamwork!

The weather check was good but some clouds could be expected once we got into Arkansas. We departed KBWG and climbed on course to 6500'. About 25 miles out ATC had us switch to Clarksville Approach  and asked if we were familiar with the restricted military areas surrounding Fort Campbell. I said yes, but would take a vector to keep us clear of the hot areas. She obliged by vectoring us south of the MOA. The most difficult part of this leg was trying to listen carefully to the controller. The radios were weak with a lot of background static. Every call got my immediate attention while I tried to decipher if it was a call for us. I was glad when were passed to Memphis Center.

As we continued southwest the scattered layer thickened to broken. Slowly a line of clouds started building up to our level. An hour out from our destination I had decide to go over or under. Checking METARs on (I love my) 696 showed low ceilings on the eastern side of the Mississippi River with clearing immediately after crossing over. I decided to go up and over. The air was still smooth at 8500' and we were well clear of any build ups. 

KHKA
As we started our descent Kathy asked if this would be our lunch stop. Oops. She was already hungry and I hadn't planned on a full meal until we got to Hot Springs. A quick check showed that Arkansas International was only a short distance away. Maybe we could go there? Unicom answered and said that we could land on his taxiway if we wanted. The main runway was under repair. Also, no fuel was available so we scratched that plan and went back to "Plan A".  Blytheville Muni is a crop duster strip in the middle of farm country. I had been maneuvering for Arkansas International so when we changed back to the original plan I wasn't set up for a normal entry. I was way too high and could do a 360 or slip, but wasn't sure if Kathy would appreciate an uncoordinated descent. Turns out she loved it. (phew). Although it had an "old" feel to it, the place was clean and well maintained. The manager was courteous and helpful and let us sit in the pilots' lounge munching of carrots and celery while we were fueled. (I like KIND Bars) When the fuel truck driver came in we heard him say that there was a real nice Piper on the line. Thanks!

KHOT
With 11 gallons in each side we climbed back up to 6500'. We both enjoyed maneuvering around the clouds as we climbed to cruising altitude. Once settled in Kathy found her blanket/sunshade and took a nap. I enjoyed the smooth air and listening to fellow travelers on the radio. Little Rock was very busy and I watched a C130 depart from Robinson AFB. The white contrails overhead gave a good indication of where the VOR station was as they made their way outbound. Soon we passed over the Arkansas River and planned for our descent in Hot Springs.  Once again I was a little high (distracted by the hills on the right) and needed to add a touch of slip to bring us down on glide slope. (Sweet landing). The first thing we noticed was the Tower, but I had no tower frequency. I would later learn that it has been unmanned since PATCO went on strike and were subsequently fired. This is a great rest stop. Courtesy van provide free for two hours, we went into town and found a Cracker Barrel for lunch. We returned refreshed and ready for our final leg.

Sally had a rough start. The engine smoothed out above 3000 RPM but it was not like her to be a rough runner. I had noticed this trend earlier and knew it would have to be addressed. I'm glad to have the full set of instruments on the EMS so that I can evaluate engine performance. Extra care during the run up convinced me we were good to go.

Crossing the Red River I began to get a little nervous. I don't fly much in controlled airspace anymore and the thought of working with the controllers at the DFW Class B was a little intimidating. How rusty am I? I shouldn't have worried. The only real confusion was differentiating another "4PopaSierra"  in the congested airspace. That, and trying to spot the airfield at sunset. As it turns out I was able to enter a left downwind without any problem. I intentionally landed a bit long to take the most convenient taxiway over to US Sport Aircraft. It was about 6:30PM, Hertz was closed and we didn't have any transportation. Now what?
KADS

Second day summary: 652 miles in 6.0 hours.


Monday, October 21, 2013

To the Summit - Day 1

Departing 7N8
Finally we woke to good weather. Tuesday morning brought clear skies and mild winds. A little fog restricted visibility in some of the low areas but I was convinced that would burn off by the time we were ready to fly. A call to Lockheed Martin confirmed it would be a good day to travel south VFR. No unusual TFRs or NOTAMs either.

The first worry about traveling in a light sport airplane is weight. I loaded all of Sally's gear (canopy cover, engine plugs, chocks, tie downs, oil, etc) in the right wing locker. I put our shared overnight bag in the other locker. A shared suitcase for a week of clothing went behind my seat, my flight bag went behind hers. In between went the cooler with snacks and water and behind that some small bags of cosmetics, shoes and other light items. I had a little over 10 gallons in each side, planing on 6 gals/hr for 2 hours. One final walk around the plane confirmed we were ready. "Clear!"

I noted that the Hobbs meter read 300 hrs. I pushed the button to reset the trip timer and officially started our new adventure. Sally climbed easily in the cool air. The mountains still wore their summer colors and while the visibility wasn't  crystal it was good enough to admire the Pennsylvania farms. West is even, we climbed to 6500' and contacted Allentown Departure for Flight Following. (Even with a government shutdown they welcomed us to the system and provided us with a "squawk" code.) Cruise checks completed we settled in and enjoyed the smooth air to Maryland.

KCBE
Greater Cumberland Regional airport is a NICE airport. It reminded me a little of Lockhaven as it is screened behind some mountains and the runways are hidden until you pass over the last ridge. The FBO facility looks new and obviously was designed to handle larger traffic. After shutdown we were quickly met by a linesman in a golf cart who took our fuel order and then offered to drive us to the on field restaurant.  We were the only people around and felt a little sad that this beautiful airport wasn't being used by more folks. Lunch was great and we highly recommend this as a great "$100 Hamburger" destination. As we were warming up getting ready for departure a group of 4 Cubs came in for lunch. I hope they are regulars here.


KHTW
We departed and again climbed to 6500' and received Flight Following. We were just above the haze layer so had a nice horizon to use as a reference. All of Sally's systems were working well. I kept the throttle set between 5300 and 5400 RPM which was yielding over 110 KTS True Airspeed (TAS). She was sipping 6 gals/hr. Head winds put us over the ground around 100 KTS. Lawrence County Airpark is on the southern tip of Ohio. It is a fuel stop only. Kathy rested in the "lounge" with a few dozen Stink Bugs while I refueled the plane. You really don't need to go here.

Still smooth at 6500', we sat back and enjoyed the ride. Kathy was on the sunny side (left seat) and searched for her blanket to use as a sun shade. After a short while she was asleep. About an hour out I got a DSAB error that we had lost GPS Navigation. The autopilot lights showed it had defaulted to heading mode. I cycled the autopilot and did a DSAB reconfiguration but could not correct the fault. Easy to keep on the purple line by adjust the heading knob every so often, but I don't like it when we have any kind of failure. It makes me think "What's next?"

KBWG
Bowling Green Kentucky is another beautiful airport, and this one IS busy. CO-MAR Aviation runs a 5 star FBO and couldn't be more friendly. The lineman brought us in under the big awning the jets use and helped us with our overnight bag. Then we decided to taxi over to the free tie down spot and cover Sally for the night. I had made hotel reservations and free transportation was provided by the FBO. This was a great choice for our overnight stay.


Home of the Corvette.
CO-MAR gets a good discount at the Holiday Inn. Accommodations were first class and the Hotel Restaurant was great. I usually plan to fly to different airports during my cross country flights. I like to see different places when I have the chance. However this was a perfect halfway point and I knew I couldn't beat the service. I decided I would plan to return here on my way home.

First day summary: 632 miles in 5.1 hours. (GPS time)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Waiting

Harry completed the annual with only a few minor discrepancies. A slight oil leak from the #2 valve cover appears to be a seal problem. Oil had bee dripping down on the exhaust pipe leaving a crusty residue. He cleaned it all up and now it looks like new. A small coolant leak from the upper radiator hose was also addressed. An hour or so of local flying devoted to testing the engine verified Sally was ready for our 1,100 mile trip. Just south of Allentown I found "Snoopy" making his way eastward, probably en-route to provide aerial views for a weekend sporting event. Sally and I went in for a closer look, but not too close. After a few orbits we departed for some landings at Quakertown.




Our route of flight is completely blocked by this cold front.

I planed for two days at about 6 hrs/day. Estimated departure was planned for an early Saturday morning launch. Unfortunately the weather didn't agree with me. We woke Saturday to see dense fog in the back yard. A quick weather check showed a blanket covering most of Pennsylvania extending down into West Virginia. I played with various options but ultimately decided "No Go". So, we waited.

Sunday morning was worse. It didn't take me long to decide that we weren't going to try to fly through a powerful cold front. Disappointed, we are still waiting.

Monday didn't have the fog but the line of storms was more intense. The front was passing over our first fuel stop. Heavy rain and gusty winds made the decision an easy one: Canc Wx.



Sunday, September 15, 2013

One Hour on a Sunday Morning

Kathy had places to go and people to see on Saturday. I had the morning to myself. Butter Valley was quiet. I wanted to make some adjustments to my Electronic Flight Information System (EFIS) by ading a few minor display items. First, I had previously removed the altitude "tape" to declutter the screen. I added it back. Next I wanted to add a "bug" on the airspeed tape at 65kts (Vy). Finally, I wanted to change the roll indication to a more traditional view. I sat in the cockpit pushing buttons for awhile exploring the different menus until I had made all of the changes I wanted. When I finally lifted my head up I noticed the sun had gone and the hangar doors were blowing in the gusty wind. I checked my Android phone app and all the local airports were coded "yellow or "red"  with winds or low ceilings. I closed her up and went over to the Grill for a bagel and a cup of coffee.




Kathy set her alarm early for Sunday. She saw the sky to the east was orange waiting for the sun to rise. My weather radio said is was 44°F out there. The heater had come on during the night but it was still cold in the bedroom. I forced myself to get out from the covers to check flight conditions. The hot coffee helped. I dragged myself to the car and adjusted the heater. The season has changed.

A thin mist lingered over the runway as I entered the airport. It was quiet, calm, and cold. The hangar doors seemed heavy. The prop was cold in my hand as I turned it over a few times to burp the engine. I banged my head (hard) on the open tailgate of my car as I reached in to get my camera and the travel mug of coffee. I climbed in the plane and immediately felt comfortable. Smooth start, we taxied around the silo to view the runway as the oil warmed up. It may be time to but the oil cooler baffle on for winter. OAT read 7°C.

Sally loves the cool air. The prop takes a deeper bite and wings generate more lift in the dense air. As we climbed to 1000' I could see two hot air balloons out to the east. I went over to play.I stayed well above them as I circled and even so Sally didn't like it much. She warned me with an occasional "Terrain" as I got close to a cell tower or "Altitude" if I descend to within 500' of my my target. I engaged the autopilot when I pulled the camera out.

The balloons had enough for the day so I wandered further east to fly along the Delaware River. I really enjoyed watching the low clouds laying in the valleys. Beautiful, calm, clear. I turned for home.

*Note: Mandy gave me her old IPOD Touch. I created a playlist for flying and have enjoyed this new sensation of listening to music while enjoying the scenery. However, you can't sing to the music (unless you move the microphone out of the way.) Its OK, it was a solo flight after all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

N40 Sky Manor Fly-In 2013

Video Link: A Light Sport Adventure

We wandered across the wet grass down to the food hangar. I was looking for a cup of coffee but none was available. It was still too early for lunch. Some old friends were on display at the end of the ramp, some T28s. One was marked with the colors I was used to, even sporting a "Doer Bird" emblem from VT2. Another was painted in the Navy Blue executive colors. Both were awesome looking machines. Kathy wanted some pictures so I stood nearby and let her shoot.

Sunday morning I pulled out my logbook. Leafing through the pages I found entries in June 1975. I had flown 138265 on some Radio Instruments (RI) flights. Wow.

EAA Chapter 643 pictures



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Weft & Warp

I've been following a few threads about LSA/SP that have been interesting and at the same time frustrating. There is a lack of understanding about the whole concept of Light Sport Aviation which has generated some negative bias about the airplanes and the people who fly them:
I found this discussion very interesting:
On the ADVENTURE of flying:
The state of General Aviation in the US:
LSA has been around for almost 10 years. Hows it doing?:
I sat quietly in the Airport Diner eating my BLT on marbled rye looking out over the little runway at Butter Valley. Good sandwich. I was savoring my flight with Sally down to N47 to practice some landings.The wind was kicking up a little left to right crosswind. I saw first one, then another yellow Cub on the downwind and waited for them to land as I finished my coffee. The first Cub danced a little in the gust but made a nice landing. The next one made it look easy, smoothly touching down before going up the hill and out of sight.

I overheard some conversation from the table behind me, "He couldn't have gotten around that fast." I turned and held up two fingers. The golfer smiled and told his friend that there were indeed two airplanes. "Excuse me, but does this airport have a Control Tower?"

"No, this is a Pilot Controlled field", I said. "We fly a standard pattern and make position calls so that anyone close by knows where to look for us. We maintain control by talking on the radio to each other."

"That's good. I always wondered about that." Then the conversation turned to golf. I left.

Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 Lehigh Valley Airshow

 http://www.lehighvalleyairshow.com./



We did our first airshow this weekend participating as a static display. "We" included my wife, daughter & son-in-law, and Sally and me. It was a real adventure and quite a lot of fun.



On Saturday we had an "open cockpit" to allow people to sit inside. The biggest draw (and by far the most amount of work) were parents taking pictures of their young children sitting in the pilots seat. My daughter sat in the co-pilots seat guarding errant hands while her husband and my wife helped kids in and out. I worked the crowd talking about LSA. Art was there from Queen City with his plane and another LSA (Sky Jeep) was also on display. ( I was told more than once that Sally was the prettiest girl there )

We kept the cockpit closed on Sunday.

There is a LOT of bad information out there, mostly about what you can't do with LSA. I spent a lot of time explaining my trip to Phoenix last year, and won a few arguments about the merits of a Rotax engine. Just a few wanted to argue, most were very interested and respectful. I had to tell just a few "extra sized" folks that LSA was not a good fit for them. I spoke to a lot of people that look like me. But I also spoke to quite a few young people, late teens early twenties. Hopefully we planted some good seeds.


I was fortunate to do a TV interview with the local cable company, and the local newspaper took a few pics of kids in the cockpit. It was the first airshow at this airport in 16 years and overall I believe it was a huge success. After two days of standing on my feet and non-stop talking we are all worn out. My dermatologist would go nutz if she saw my sunburn. It was really hard work and I would do things differently next time, but I would definitely do it again.
B-25

If your community has an airshow, sign up. It will put a smile on your face.

Note: I was #1 holding short to depart Sunday evening. Panchito (B25) took off right in front of me. WOW!

T-28
Note 2: Finishing one of our conversations about LSA a fellow walked up to me with a beautiful T-Shirt with a T-28 on it. I remarked that I liked it and he thanked me saying he had designed it. I told him I had flown them during my advanced Navy training in Corpus Christi. He explained that he was the owner of one of the T-28's doing the aerial demonstrations and had he known would have given me a ride. 2x WOW!


Sequestration didn't stop this airshow. These guys were awesome!


*Note: Excerpt from Service Electric video is here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

W05

The second day in a row. The morning skies were clear of clouds, winds calm and visibility was close to infinity. I just couldn't let another day like this go by without flying. I took a vacation day.

The plan was to fly out to Gettysburg. The planner said it was ~90 miles over some beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch countryside. While there were no NOTAMs or TFRs, the airport was directly underneath the red circle of the Washington DC SFRA (VFR Speed limit restriction). I wouldn't want to drift any further south than absolutely necessary.

All preflight checks were good and engine start was normal. However I did get a DSAB error. The Dynon Smart Avionics Bus allows all of the avionics to talk to each other. A failure meant that I still had flight instruments and engine instruments, but the normal interactions were broken. As an example, I typically set my altimeter with the HS34 control box. Without DSAB this doesn't work. (It could be set using menu functions on the Flight Management System.) I pushed the button to find the setup function, then paged through screens to find the DASB configuration function and pushed the buttons. That worked.

By now the oil was warmed up so I taxied to the runup area, completed my ground checks and finished the ground checklists. No wind, I used the preferred northern runway and departed to the west. It really was a beautiful morning. A little mist clung to the rivers and low areas making the farms look sleepy, even though I knew there were hard working farmers down there. Climb checks complete, I pushed on the autopilot and got nothing. Cycled the switch, checked breakers, did all the normal stuff to no avail. I did another DSAB configuration but it didn't help. OK Sally, I'll just fly this one myself.

I wasn't using Flight Following so south of Reading we climbed up to 4500' to go over Lancaster's airspace then turned more southerly to pass clear of the TRSA around Harrisburg. Then we descended to 2500' and overflew York before lining up with Gettysburg. I hit the CAT about 10 miles out. Clear Air Turbulence. Sally sank and pulled hard left while I countered to keep on course. Only that one 'pot hole' but enough to wake this pilot up. Other than this one event the air had been smooth as glass. Don't get complacent.

W05 charges a landing fee so I settled for a low pass and started my trip home. I did pick out some monuments, some cemeteries and could see some of the battlefields to the south. I think this will make a great day trip for us.

East is odd, we climbed to 3500'. Passing over the Susquehanna River I heard Paul making position calls in the training area south of Lockhaven. Impressive radio reception today.  We overflew Smoketown and adjusted course to the north. A scattered layer of little cumulus clouds were building right at our level and I was tempted to punch through some 'just for fun'. I didn't, we are restricted to VFR only. Morgantown went by the right wing and I took a bearing off the towers at Limerick.  A few minutes later we entered the pattern  at Butter Valley. Sweet landing.

I back taxied over to the runup area and did an autopilot calibration. Another DSAB configuration and everything checked out. I got a "Autopilot Disconnect" from Sally validating my efforts and drove her back to the barn. What a great way to spend the morning.

Note: The diner has gone to a new kind of potato chip - Sweet Maui Onion. Try 'em if you can find 'em. Good stuff.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

S37 - 2013

"Rex, you gotta get an LSA!"
Community. Camaraderie. Fellowship. Friendship.

It was an early start. Kathy's alarm went off before 6:00am, too early. But the early morning light was streaming in the bedroom window encouraging me to get up and play. I made my way down to the computer to see if we had "Go" weather. All the charts and graphs, NOTAMS and TFRS said: yes. We got ourselves ready to go fly.

I had done a thorough preflight the night before so we did cursory checks now. Kathy did the checklist and the engine start. I taxied around the barn and chased some waddling geese as we got to run up area. All the ground checks were good. We were airborne a little after 8:00am. As we climbed we monitored the RV Flight frequency to see if they had departed KPTW. They were about 10 miles ahead of us so we leveled at 2500', set the autopilot, and completed the cruise checks. Pennsylvania looked pretty good this morning.

2011
Ten miles out I switched to Smoketown's CTAF to listen for traffic. Very busy. So as we spotted traffic and listened for position calls I was distracted enough not to see the airport until almost directly overhead. We flew outbound  about three miles before reversing course to enter on the 45. I saw two on downwind and took interval behind the second. There was also another making his base to final turn making us number 4. We did the landing checks, but I kept the speed up keeping my interval on a C172. When we turned final there were at least two more behind us. I was requested to land long, complied and expeditiously got off the busy runway. (I hope Kathy didn't wave to the photographer this time.)

The ground support was OUTSTANDING! I felt very comfortable as we were directed to our parking spot. Kathy shut her down and we both took a minute to catch our breath. The RV group had already landed and David came over to welcome us.

A little after 8:30am and already good attendance. David counted 80 - 100 planes with at least 13 LSA's. After picking up my FREE T-shirt we got in line for a very good pancake/egg/ham/donut breakfast. As we ate Rex came by and we talked about airplanes and freedom and all of the stuff pilots talk about. I think we sparked his interest in LSA's and when David showed him his beautiful RV the poor man was hooked.

2013
So after a lot more talk and looking at a lot of gorgeous airplanes we climbed back into Sally and prepared to leave. Once again Kathy did the checklist and the start. It was an easy takeoff and departure to the north, the weather still nice with a high overcast to keep the sun from getting us too warm. After awhile I clicked off the autopilot and let Kathy get a feel for the controls. We talked about airspeed, and trim and...airspeed. She did quite well.

So after awhile I took the controls and descended down to enter the pattern at 7N8. Yucky landing.

We buttoned everything up and went over to the Runway Grille for lunch. This was already a very good day and it wasn't quite 12:00pm.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pulse Oximeter

Roku. I got this streaming device for Christmas and have really started to enjoy it. In addition to playing Angry Birds I've been making the time to watch AOPA Live. One of the features has an AME discussing various medial topics and common problems pilots might see. He recently did a segment on oxygen deficiency and recommended the use of a pulse oximeter.

I took off today in beautiful weather. Clear blue cool skies with a scattered layer of little puffy clouds. I flew over home plate and got a request to "rock your wings". Fun. First event was to play in the pattern at KPTW (Heritage Field). Interesting because the westward runway uses right hand turns and since I hadn't practiced them in awhile I wanted to refresh that sight picture. The entry lap was a bit close but subsequent circuits smoothed out nicely. The actual landings were all above average...I was in the groove.

I departed to the north, switched frequencies and listened to a Citabria make his calls at Pottstown Muni. Just a beautiful day. During the climb I took a break and did some steep turns (add rudder going to the right, almost none to the left) then continued up to 6500'. Smooth air, I set the autopilot to roughly north, scanned for traffic and reached for my new device. It doesn't do well in bright sunlight so I adjusted heading to put us in the shade. I did see a decrease in O2 level after 10 minutes. Nothing dramatic, but still as expected a slight effect. My thought is that for long cross country flights at altitude, landing at night, it might be a good idea to take a reading and maybe a shot of O2. (Especially for old guys and those flying IFR.)

Back to Butter Valley. All the Sunday fliers were out so it was difficult to fit in my position calls. Talk fast and get off the frequency! I descended too fast at idle and let the oil temp get down to 120°. Sally told me about it as I advanced the throttle during my level off. I must remember to monitor that more closely. By the time I entered the pattern the temp was back up so I could use my normal power settings. Two more laps and we were done for the day.

I hope the August weather stays this way. Beautiful.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Balloon Festival - N51

Saturday Morning Launch
Our interest in these fabulous flying machines continues to grow. Kathy found the notice for this event after attending the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque last year. She did a great job planning for this. The weather was spectacular and it was well attended and very well managed. 

video

We arrived Friday and went to the hospitality tent for dinner and "the show". A beautiful ascension of about fifty balloons. The assortment of colors and shapes simply wondrous. As the daylight faded we wandered down to the stage to experience "Blues Traveler". Only "WOW!"

Saturday started early. We met in the lobby at 6:30am and bleary eyed made the twenty minute drive to the airport. Having the parking pass made life MUCH easier. We made our way across the field just trying to get our bearings, but didn't see any balloons being prepared for flight. Time for breakfast at the Quick Trip tent. Amazingly good service for an egg and sausage sandwich. And coffee. By the time we finished and found our way back up across the field the balloons were being inflated. There was a slight mist in the air. It was cool. The winds were calm to nonexistent. Many times they just hovered in place ten or twenty feet overhead silent except for the whoosh of the propane burner. By 8:00am it was done, but perhaps the most impressive part of our whole experience. We went back to the hotel to nap.

video

We regrouped in the afternoon to wander the runway and taxiway converted to thoroughfares for a wide variety of vendors selling trinkets and food. After a few hours of walking in the hot sun we again returned to the hotel to freshen up for the evening concert; "REO Speedwagon". Fantastic performance.

This is a "Five Star" event. If you can, do it.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Just Sightseeing

No, not these.
woosh. The noise was familiar but it was too early to lift my head off the pillow. woosh. Deeper this time and more sustained. Kathy was out of bed and checking the windows. "Its a balloon but I don't see it!" woosh. It was getting fainter, moving away. I pulled myself out of bed to see what was going on. The weather looked overcast but not even a slight breeze. The farmer's field, about a half mile from our house, had a visitor. Bright yellow with a band of decorations around its maximum circumference, the balloon was gently cruising at treetop level slowly moving south. woosh. Could just hear it now as they climbed away on their morning adventure. http://www.balloonfestival.com/

The weather has been good enough to let me have a few flights this month. Sally has been doing great. My airmanship has needed work and I've noticed some improvement. It has been HOT and I've imposed an artificial upper temperature of 90° (F). Early morning or early evening have been reserved to take advantage if the opportunity to fly is there. Since I was already up and the air felt cool it was definitely time to head over to Butter Valley.

My new pitot cover doesn't fit snugly. I'm afraid a little breeze from the wrong direction will blow it off. I'll be shopping at Sporty's for a replacement.

Two Cubs, a Citabria, two C172s and an RV were in for breakfast today. Good to see traffic sitting on the ramp. Winds were variable so we took off to the north on a sightseeing trip. We leveled at ~1500' and meandered to the southeast. The steam from the Limerick cooling towers kind of cork screwed up until it faded away. Lot's of traffic on the CTAF but not any planes in sight, I enjoyed flying low and slow over the Pennsylvania country side. I turned left at RT73 and followed it to the 'round-about' with Rt29 then turned south west to follow a small ridge of mountains. A Maule was in the pattern at N47 so I went over there to play for a bit. One full stop then departed behind him on the opposing runway and headed north.  I followed Rt100 to County Line Road and approached Butter Valley, but I wasn't ready to finish yet.

Heading east, I followed Rt 63 to Harleysville past Green Lane Park and Reservoir. It's a beautiful sight from the air.  A few more turns down familiar roads and it was time to head for home. When I called on the 45 a Cirrus 10 miles out called his position and intentions. I back taxied and got out of the way to watch his landing. Not bad.

And not a bad way to spend a cool Sunday morning.