Saturday, June 22, 2013

The "No Go" Decision

Sometimes its easy. If the weather is below VFR minimums at home and you fly a VFR only airplane, you're not going. Period. If its "knda, sorta" OK at home but lousy at the destination, and the trends aren't good, don't go. If the ceilings and visibility are fantastic but the winds are a gale force you should probably let her sit it out in the hangar. Black and white, easy decisions.

But we live in a world of grays. I had the opportunity to fly Sally up to Binghamton, NY to attend an LSA Repairman Seminar. Flight planning calculated about 45 minutes over some very pretty country. The rains had stopped here at home around noon, forecast there was good after 5:00PM local time. 4PS would be used by the class as an inspection article and I was anxious to get some feedback from the instructor. I was incented to go. However the forecast also had gusty winds at destination above my criteria. I planned to take my wife and moderate turbulence was reported. We needed to be back for work on Monday and the weather for the return trip was crud. It turned into about a 3 hour drive.

In addition to the weather, I woke up Saturday morning for class with a full blown gobby-snotter head cold. Even if we had flown up, I wouldn't have been able to fly back.

The Pennsylvania weather has finally turned into Summer. Blue skies, mild temperatures and light breezes, but my head cold lingered. Thursday was a big day for the Sentimental Journey at Lockhaven. "DesignRS" was planning to attend with a new SportCruiser, "David" with his beautiful RV12, "FastEddie" with his Sky Arrow and of course, "DrSeti". I'm anxious to see the Red Bird simulator he just bought. I think this has huge potential and want to discuss his experiences so far with the "Jay". So, I was incented to go.

In the Navy we called it gouge. A memory trick or aid to help remember some important group of items or checklist. (We didn't know enough to call it a mnemonic.) Many times when studying a new block of material you would hear someone say "What's the gouge?"
 IMSAFE is a mnemonic used by some aircraft pilots to assess their fitness to fly.
  • Illness - Is the pilot suffering from any illness or symptom of an illness which might affect them in flight,
  • Medication - Is the pilot currently taking any drugs (prescription or over-the-counter),
  • Stress - Psychological or emotional factors which might affect the pilot's performance,
  • Alcohol - Although legal limits vary by jurisdiction (20 mg/mL blood in the UK,[2] one quarter that for driving), the pilot might want to consider their alcohol consumption within the last 8 to 24 hours,
  • Fatigue - Has the pilot had sufficient sleep and rest in the recent past, and
  • Eating - Is the pilot sufficiently nourished?
I flunked the IMSAFE test. I was still sick. I was very disappointed.

Saturday morning I felt GREAT! The weather was beautiful, my head cold had subsided, I was READY to fly. No real mission or objective, I just wanted to get airborne. Sally looked great and easily passed all of the preflight checks. I smiled as I sat in the cockpit waiting for the oil temperature to come up.  I thought about the freedom I had at this very moment, I could go anywhere.

There was a broken scud layer of puffy clouds at 2500' north west of Butter Valley, extending in a line down past Pottstown. We took off to the south and climbed above it, and since we were in a climb, decided to level at 6500' for a TAS check.  (Just because its fun to let her run all out once in awhile. Still looks like ~ 115 KTAS.) The N47 CTAF had two in the pattern so I decided to go over and visit. Passing 4000' I could no longer clear my ears.


Yawn, swallow, move my jaw, blow my nose, the normal stuff all got little squeaks but not any real relief. So I climbed back up to 5K and tried again. Marginal improvement. Dumb, I should have known better. So back to Butter Valley. Still clogged, right ear is OK but the left has some dull pain. A distraction, nothing more.

I made my calls for the pattern using Runway 16 and turned final a little high and fast. Too fast. We rounded out just before the asphalt and bounced, I added power to "go around". I'm sure the golfers enjoyed the show. The next pattern was dead on and concluded in a "squeaker on the grass" if that's even possible. I let her roll to the end then added some power to taxi back to the barn.

Since we had talked about it in class, I decided to shut her down using the emergency fuel shut off instead of the ignition. I flipped off all of the switches then moved the fuel selector to "Cut Off". 30 Seconds later she is still idling nicely. That can't be good. So, I moved the selector to the left tank, right tank and completed the circle back to cut off. Still running very nicely after 60 seconds. Harry and I are going to have to talk.

I shut her down with the ignition, pushed her into the barn and did a good post flight. A screw was missing from the nose wheel pant, another was loose on the left main. I used some bug cleaner on the prop. The pitot cover still gets hung up on that screw, Sporty's will get my business this week.

I went over to the Runway Grill for some coffee and a bagel. That first bite of bagel cleared my ears.