Monday, April 29, 2013


Photography Familiarization Flight One. The objective was crew coordination, aircraft and photo equipment limitations and establishing safe operations. If we got any good pictures on this flight that would be a bonus, as we were really trying to figure out how to do it. Our subject would be the Reserve housing development and possibly a nearby church.

Saturday afternoon the weather was good, but we had spent the morning with other activities and were already worn out. Pushing a training flight would probably frustrate the both of us so we held off for another day. Sunday morning the weather was still calm with clear skies so I went out to the airport to get Sally ready. All preflight checks were good.

We took off to the south and turned on course to the development. I wanted to try two cruise altitudes for the photo runs and started with the high pass first running east to west with left hand turns. The second pass would be 500' lower but fly the same rectangular pattern. This is not as easy as it sounds. I am very comfortable with the ground reference maneuvers but setting up the proper standoff for the best camera angle and accounting for sun position for shadows, etc takes some experience. Meanwhile she was busy with the camera technology working in a unique environment while trying to exercise the best photographic techniques.

We were close to the Butter Valley traffic pattern so I kept their CTAF tuned in and made frequent position calls using the prominent race track as a reference point. I also let traffic pattern aircraft know when I had them in sight. After less than an hour we were tired and headed for home.

It was a GREAT session, we both learned a lot. As I relaxed at home I read portions of  Billy Fortney's "America at Five Hundred Feet". I follow his blog and really enjoy his work, especially the aviation photos. As I was reading through the opening pages I realized I had never transitioned to slow flight!

So much to learn.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Be Prepared

My Dad gave me the opportunity to be a Boy Scout but it just didn't fit. Camping just wasn't my thing so my interest withered quickly. However I did learn some valuable lessons and the Scout Motto was one of them.

Harry is a Saint. After I called to let him know my new tire and tube had arrived he asked me to leave them in the hangar and he would get to them when he could. The man has a very busy schedule keeping the planes flying at the Lehigh Valley Flying Club.  When I got to the hangar the next day it was installed. So I put her pant back on and got ready for a test flight.

It still hasn't reached full Springtime here yet. We had clear blue skies but temps are in the low to mid 50's during the warmest parts of the afternoon. Its still windy. So when I checked the local METARs I wasn't surprised to find gusts to 12kts. The windsock verified it and was fluttering in all directions. We took off to the north with a climb well above 800 Ft/Min and got bounced around a bit leaving the pattern. It was great to be up in the air again. I could see out to forever. So we wandered around a bit, followed some well traveled roads and enjoyed seeing the yellow-green color once again on the trees. The Pennsylvania farmers are busy.

All too soon I was back on the 45 to runway 34 doing my landing checks. A Cessna had just departed to the east and I didn't see him, but our radio calls gave me confidence that we were well clear of each other. Downwind was bumpy and the winds were pushing me into a tight pattern. I extended a little to give me a better chance to line up on final. The windsock was straight out direct crosswind and I was correcting to left most of the way down. Nothing I hadn't seen before so I confidently got myself ready to dance on the rudder to kick her straight before touchdown. A sharp gust lifted my left wing and I corrected. Another after that and suddenly I was fighting the controls. Almost without thinking the power lever went full forward and I looked for a positive rate of climb. "4PS going around."

The next attempt was uneventful. Wind was now straight down the runway and while I didn't get a "squeak" I was pleased nonetheless.

Its a good motto.

Monday, April 15, 2013

61.73 (g)

The new 61.73 states that:

(g)Flight instructor certificate and ratings. A person who can show official U.S. military documentation of being a U.S. military instructor pilot or U.S. military pilot examiner, or a former instructor pilot or pilot examiner may apply for and be issued a flight instructor certificate with the appropriate ratings if that person:

(1) Holds a commercial or airline transport pilot certificate with the appropriate aircraft category and class rating, if a class rating is appropriate, for the flight instructor rating sought: 

(2) Holds an instrument rating, or has instrument privileges, on the pilot certificate that is appropriate to the flight instructor rating sought, and 

(3) Presents the following documents:

(i) A knowledge test report that shows the person passed a knowledge test on the aeronautical knowledge areas listed under §61.185(a) appropriate to the flight instructor rating sought and the knowledge test was passed within the preceding 24 calendar months prior to the month of application. If the U.S. military instructor pilot or pilot examiner already holds a flight instructor certificate, holding of a flight instructor certificate suffices for the knowledge test report. 

(ii) An official U.S. Armed Forces record or order that shows the person is or was qualified as a U.S. Armed Forces military instructor pilot or pilot examiner for the flight instructor rating sought. 

(iii) An official U.S. Armed Forces record or order that shows the person completed a U.S. Armed Forces' instructor pilot or pilot examiner training course and received an aircraft rating qualification as a military instructor pilot or pilot examiner that is appropriate to the flight instructor rating sought. 

(iv) An official U.S. Armed Forces record or order that shows the person passed a U.S. Armed Forces instructor pilot or pilot examiner proficiency check in an aircraft as a military instructor pilot or pilot examiner that is appropriate to the flight instructor rating sought.

(1) √
(2) √
(3) (i) √ : I enrolled in the Sheppard Air software for Military Competency Instructor (MCI) and studied the material provided. I took the test on March 29th and got a good score but more importantly met the requirements for this section.
(3) (ii) √ : The official US Military record is a DD214 form. Although old and faded it listed all of my my primary specialties in Box 11 including 8543 INSTM FLGTINST, 2 YRS, 3 MOS, and 8592 FLGT INST VT, 11 MOS.
(3) (iii) (iv) √ : In addition to a letter from Naval Aviation Schools Command stating I had completed a Flight Instructor Course, I also provided my OPNAVFORM 3760-31 (REV 4-65) Aviators Flight Logbook. The front section entitled "Qualifications and Achievements" validated the DD214.

The next step was to call the local FSDO (Flight Standards District Office - I chose Philadelphia) and ask what their requirements might be and if the were any additional ones to this list.  The only other form was FAA 8710-1 "Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application".  Sheppard Air provided some guidance filling this out (IACRA - Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application - doesn't work for this program so the form must be done manually). Still, I had difficulty with Box III: Record of Pilot Time. Was this total time, total instructor time, total civilian time or some combination of all? I calculated instructor time in the T34c at 1065.7 but decided to call the FSDO back for clarification. They don't use this box for this program so no need to fill it out at all. I made an appointment to review this material with the FSDO for Tuesday April 9th.

After about a thirty minute review I was issued an FAA Form 8060-4 (Temporary Airman Certificate) with the additional privileges of Flight Instructor Instrument Airplane (CFI, CFII). My new picture of Orville should come in about 45 days.

With the paperwork done the next step is contact my mentor to find out how to really be a flight instructor. The forecasters have promised flying weather any day now.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


My wife and I needed a beach vacation but really couldn't afford to spend a lot of time away from work. We settled on a 48 hour getaway to Ocean City, Maryland. The plan was to leave Wednesday morning and return late Thursday afternoon or evening. We wanted to get as much beach time as possible and enjoy some delicious sea food. Gary has spoken so often of his adventures there I just had to see what it was like.

The people packing was easy, just an overnight bag and some beach gear. I filled one wing locker with Sally's stuff; canopy cover, chocks, plugs, etc. Our shared suitcase fit behind our seats and the beach gear (towels, blankets and shoes) went in the other locker. I had about 11 gallons in each side for what should take a little over 6 gallons to get there. We would be pretty close to MTOW. Weather planning for the trip out looked great, but the Thursday return could be interesting. A massive cold front was due to come through which would make conditions IFR. I needed to keep an eye on that.

I pulled Sally out of the barn to load the bags and noticed a rubbing sound from the left main gear. Low tire pressure. Fortunately I keep a little compressor in the car (conveniently calibrated to Bars). No obvious leaks but something I needed to keep an eye on. I packed the compressor to take along with us.

The Reserve
All ground operations were good. The low voltage problem seems to be solved and I found no other abnormalities. We took off to the north, departed to the west before finally coming back on course to the south. Philly approach provided Flight Following and gave us permission to enter the Class B airspace. About the time I was getting settled at our cruise altitude of 5500' Philly asked me to come right 30 degrees. They were a bit busy so vectored us away from the airport final approach course. That was fine with us, no hurry this morning as the air was smooth and somewhat hazy. Smooth air is good. Once cleared on course I punched the necessary buttons to let Sally take us south and sat back to monitor our progress. An uneventful trip, that's good stuff.

Ocean City Municipal
The lady at the FBO is Nola. What a treasure! She gave us great advice on where to eat, where to stay and how to get around. The hospitality was just great. First stop was the Sunset Grille for crab cake sandwiches. We sat upstairs looking out over the marina with fresh breezes coming in through the sliders. GREAT(!) sandwiches. Next over the causeway to find our hotel and hit the beach. Beautiful sand, wonderful ocean but just too cool yet. Maybe that's why we had the entire beach to ourselves? After about a half hour we gave up and headed back inside to get warm. The sun was inviting but the air just wasn't 'summer' yet.

Wild pony at Assateague
We had a car so went out to explore. This must be a very busy place "in season" but is nearly deserted this early in April. After driving up and down the main strip we headed back across the causeway to see what might be on the bay side. Kathy saw the sign for Hwy 611 pointing to Assateague Island, a place we had always planned to visit to see the wild ponies. So off we went. By now it was getting close to sunset and the views looking through the wilderness were beautiful. After awhile we stopped the car hoping to possibly hear some horses, but nothing. We turned around to leave the park. Just prior to the exit we saw the two ponies. Cool.

By now we were both hungry but most places don't open until Friday in the off season. So I was pretty certain we were headed back to eat at the hotel. Suddenly Kathy pointed to the right and shouted "PGN"! That's one of the places Nola had recommended. Of course it was fantastic! Jumbo shrimp which were indeed really jumbo. (It says on the menu 6, but it really serves like 12.) Kathy had silver dollar sized broiled scallops...yes, they were outstanding. And southern sweet tea, oh yea.

Sunrise at the beach
We slept well. Thursday I checked the weather and wasn't pleased. Beautiful here but a stationary front lay right over Philadelphia and the ceilings north of it were low. MVFR around 2500' with that strong cold front moving in from the west. Time to go.

Kathy didn't want to have breakfast at the hotel, said we should find something local instead. So I spotted Layton's as we traveled south on Philadelphia Avenue. I went with one of my favorites, biscuits and gravy, while Kathy had pancakes. (and we had a cinnamon stick donut for an appetizer...the diet was on vacation too.)

Saying Goodbye
Back to the airport to get ready for departure. The weather forecast was the same, I got another 6 gallons just in case we had to divert and we went out to preflight. The left main was low so I pumped that up. It will be on my list for Harry to look at, probably get some new improved tires this time. Everything else was normal so we loaded up to start our departure. We headed north then east to fly out over the beach to see where we had been staying. Beautiful and empty, I'm sure it won't be that way much longer.

Cruise checks were done at 4500' and I punched the buttons to let Sally take us home. Smooth air is good. It was uneventful until we approached Philly. When Dover cancelled Flight Following I had all but decided to just fly VFR beneath the Class B shelf, but that little voice in my brain said check in. So I announced that my Pipersport (C_R_U_Z) was descending to 3500'. The immediate response was stop the descent and maintain 4000'. Sure enough a Piedmont commuter was off my right wing coming underneath us. Nice to have another set of eyes helping out. I was cleared into the Class B to maintain 3500'. After passing the final approach courses for Philadelphia I asked and received 2500', and then altitude at pilot's discretion. Just south of KPTW we were down to 1500' and my "plan B" was to land there. We maintained VFR, dodged some virga and traveled the final 15 miles at that altitude. We landed without any problems, it was good to be home.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Low Voltage

It was nearly a 3 year old battery, probably due for replacement. So when I got constant low voltage indications I assumed that was the problem. Wrong.

Changing the battery is easy. Very accessible and the "u" shaped retaining strap is made from light weight flexible aluminum which can be moved out of the way to get the old out and the new in. Unfortunately my flight check did not show any improvement. It wasn't the battery.

Anthony had suggested that it could be the "rectifier". I call it a voltage regulator but he is probably more correct. I called US Sport and spoke with Sam. He said that while it could be a failure, more likely it was corrosion on the multi-connector. Any moisture (coolant) that gets in has no way to escape and corrosion builds up. I took an extended lunch break and went over to check. It is always interesting trying to separate a connector that is designed not to come undone. I worked slowly, deliberately and finally pried the two pieces apart. Green.

Contact cleaner did the trick. I also have a set of micro files (thanks Dad) that allowed me to scrape the internal surfaces. Once convinced I had everything as clean as I could get it I gently put the pieces back together. I turned on the master and instrument switches and everything looked 'normal'. Preflight.
The ground procedures were normal. I did occasionally get a "Low Voltage" warning but the Amps were positive and voltage never got below 11.0.  The wind sock was billowing. It would be a short hop.

We climbed west to 2500' then came back to the southeast and I went through my cruise checks. Everything looked good (and Sally was warnings!) After 30 minutes in bumpy air we came home. I think this one is fixed for now.