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.

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. 

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!

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?

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.

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.

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?"

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


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.