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. 

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.

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.

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.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Just a little VFR

Each morning as the alarm goes off I turn to the weather radio and find a symbol similar to this one. A brief line of text accompanies the picture explaining the severity of the storm expected for the day, but for me the picture is usually enough. Its a "No Fly" kind of day. Sunday was no different. I peeked through the bathroom window and saw only gray overcast. The clouds thick enough not to allow any shadows on the ground. Dismal weather for this time of year, for any time of year.

Ever the optimist at 8:00am I checked Aviation Weather Map hoping for any encouragement. Nope. A blanket of red dots with only a small number of blue was all there was within a 150 mile radius. At 10:00am I noticed something strange, a shadow on my deck. Checking the weather map I found a few green dots. I finished up my house projects, grabbed my bag and headed out to the airport. No Walmart today!

Birds have made a nest in the barn over Sally's left wing. I'll have to start using tarps and covers again. Some enterprising wasps built a mud nest in the right air vent. That could have been an ugly surprise. She burped after 20 pulls and all of the preflight checks were good so I pulled her out into the sunlight. (Yes, the sun was shining!)

My old Lightspeed 20Xl fell apart on my last flight. It had been trying to die for some time, I just wouldn't let it as it was perfect for passengers. I replaced it with a basic David Clark (passive) set I've had for years but seldom used. I decided I would use it today to insure passengers could hear everything OK. They work fine, but I quickly missed my own headset.

I enjoy flying the gaps around clouds. The base of the broken layer was at 2800', the tops roughly at 4000' so I climbed up to 5500' and settled in:

RPM      TAS      Fuel Flow  
5400      114Kts    5.9gph         
5300      110Kts    5.5gph
5000      102Kts    4.8gph
4800        93Kts    4.3gph

A nice overall improvement with the new Sensenich Power-Flow propeller. I wove my way back down to re-enter the traffic pattern at Butter Valley. I haven't been thrilled with my last few landings. I prefer to go to idle power at the 180, hold 55-60 knots on base and final, slowing further once "over the fence". Lately I've been high forcing me apply a slip as I turn final. My first landing was the same and Sally didn't like the "thump" when we touched down (neither did I).

After some more laps I realized I was cutting the pattern too close. (Not a long enough cross wind.) Since I fly right seat, I wasn't getting a proper view of my offset which cut the base leg short, which meant I was high on final. I fixed that by flying wider and really looking for proper alignment on downwind. Squeak.

Finally, I wanted to use the fuel cut off to shut her down. I left the Master and Instrument switches on (as well as the ignition) and twisted the fuel control to cut-off. After 2 minutes I got a "Low fuel pressure" alert, and after almost exactly 3 minutes the engine quit. Nice to know.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Some Discovery Flights

Just having some fun at my home airport.

Fly-by over Rwy 16

Pre-taxi check list

Just a little cross wind

Taking Sally back to the barn