Saturday, December 20, 2014

Canopy Strut

The weather hasn't been good for VFR flying. Low gray clouds or gusty winds have grounded Sally and me for most days. The few flights we've had we've remained in the pattern for landing practice. Satisfying but I look forward to something a bit more adventurous. Maybe next month.

Time to take care of some maintenance. If you watch the beginning of this video you'll notice the canopy itself. The gas struts have slowly begun to fail. Fortunately a discussion was started at explaining the various design changes this part has undergone. Shawn decided to buy multiple sets of P/N 280292, a slightly different number found on my strut. After careful measurement I decided to purchase a spare set from him. Hopefully I'll have a chance to install them next week.

* "I saw the pic you posted on your blog of your canopy strut. If you remove that sticker, which I'm not sure who put that on there, you will see the OEM info for the strut. 280292 100N 21/10. The part number, the force in newton meters and the date code they were made. Yours were made in the 21st week of 2010." - Shawn

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cold Sunday

The alarm clock went off in the early morning darkness. The temperature was below freezing. I forced myself to get up even though my aching body demanded more sleep. Bleary eyed, I checked the weather maps to see if it was worth the trip to the airport. It didn't take too long for me to decide to start a fresh pot of coffee.

S.O.G. (Snow on ground). The sun struggled to penetrate the overcast layer that the maps had said was at 5000'.  Thin patches of ice lingered at the edges of the reservoir I cross on the drive in, and on the puddled taxiway near the hangar. A small pile of snow was in front of the hangar doors, too close to the structure for the plow to scrape away. The thermometer inside read 35°F but felt colder. I unfastened the upper cowl to check on the Rotax. Then I found my home made engine warmer, snaked the duct up from the exhaust vent, under the left cylinders, over the prop housing, under the right cylinders and pointed the open end at the oil reservoir. I turned on the "low" setting and gently placed the upper cowling back on before going back to the warm car and my cup of coffee. 45 minutes later I went in and cycled the prop, short of a "burp" but enough to move some of the oil. After another 30 minutes she was warm enough to start.

The density altitude was -850'. Sally loves the dense air and nearly jumped off the runway. We stayed in the pattern for about 3 circuits then departed to explore the local area. SOG everywhere.The world had lost its color, everything was displayed in shades of gray. The season has changed. The radio was busy with other Sunday fliers out getting some exercise. Leaving Butter Valley we were faced with a flock of Snow Geese. I decided not to let Sally's white wings join up with them so cut my departure leg a little short. After a good work out we came back to Quakertown to an empty pattern.

I logged 6 landings. Sometimes it seems that no matter what adjustments you make, the "squeak" just doesn't happen. This time they were easy. Sally and I were completely in sync. It was really worth that effort to get out of bed.

Video Notes: Cold Sunday

Interesting Analysis: GA's Difficult Climb Back

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In the Hangar

I recently started using Lightroom 5 to develop my pictures. The software does pure magic working with the stills captured from the Virb so I decided to experiment with some shots taken with really poor lighting conditions. I'm satisfied.

Nice reflected light pattern
Nose art

The panel.
I'm really very fortunate to be in a hangar. This was Sally a few years ago when we were tied down at Butter Valley.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Planning a Trip

This is how I typically plan my trip:

1. to check initial distance. This will tell me how many flying days should be planned.

2. Break trip down into 200 mile legs. Find 6 routes (or so). Provides rough idea of intermediate stops.


3. Check airport comments and nearby alternates. Eliminate poor reviews. Elevate those with interesting comments. I'll also check comments on AOPA. I prefer places I've never been...adds to the adventure for me.

4. I plan 600 miles a day for travel (2 fuel stops before an overnight) Consider "on airport" dinners/restaurants. Check on accommodations, for me AND Sally. (I like to actually talk to someone at the FBO if I plan to spend the night.)

a. 600 miles ~ 6 hours. That's enough time for me to be flying a small airplane each day. Add in preflight, fueling and securing the airplane it easily turns into 8 or 9 hours. If the weather is good and my energy level is good I can skip a stop. But I'm usually ready for a break after a 2 hour leg. Reference here

b. What do I talk to the FBO about? Hangar or tie down. Services available. Transportation options (crew car?). Any preferred hotel (discounts?) etc. Do they sound like good people?

5. Review for hazards (SUA, terrain, TFR, etc)

6. Break the trip into day trips.

7. Enter plan into Pilot (or Foreflight) Check NOTAMS. Adjust and finalize.

After a GO decision I enter the plan into my 696 and put my tablet in the bag. The tablet goes into the FBO with me if I need to change the plan.

Reference: Quiz

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Uphill Monday Morning

Take off on runway 29er @ KUKT
It might be the last nice weather flight this year:

A strong cold front will move through on Wednesday and send temperatures south in a hurry for the 2nd half of the week and weekend. There may even be some snowflakes in the air Thursday night in some areas.

So I took a short flight just to enjoy the countryside. Added a few landings just for practice and called it a day.

Video Notes: I tried a different camera angle and set the aperture to "wide". It gives the impression that Sally is always going "uphill" but does capture a lot of the terrain.

Monday Morning

See the memo from the FAA, or read the summary below:
The mounting of external camera does not constitute a major change and therefore is not subject to the regulatory purview of 14 CFR Part 43.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Night means the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the Air Almanac, converted to local time.
14 CFR 61.57 - Recent flight experience: Pilot in command.
Night takeoff and landing experience.(1) Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise, unless within the preceding 90 days that person has made at least three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise, and—
(i) That person acted as sole manipulator of the flight controls; and
(ii) The required takeoffs and landings were performed in an aircraft of the same category, class, and type (if a type rating is required).
 14 CFR 61.315 - What are the privileges and limits of my sport pilot certificate?
(c) You may not act as pilot in command of a light-sport aircraft:
(1) That is carrying a passenger or property for compensation or hire.
(2) For compensation or hire.
(3) In furtherance of a business.
(4) While carrying more than one passenger.
(5) At night
An awesome power. Five clicks on the radio button turns a black hole of darkness into a runway lit up like a Christmas tree. The world stays beautiful at night, but it also becomes a bit more dangerous to those of us use to the light. Obstacles remain unseen. A deer on the runway, the tree that grew too tall on the approach corridor, minor mechanical failures all become more hazardous.

"Night flight is so completely different from day that it requires careful introduction. Any pilot deficiencies become magnified at night. The night horizon is less visible and more indistinct. Night flight is semi-IFR with considerable reliance on the instruments. Clouds and terrain are from difficult to impossible to see.  There can be a gradual loss of visual clues when flying into darker terrain. This leads to disorientation and loss of control." PilotFriend
Video Notes: This video really stressed the Camtasia software. I wanted to show the effect of decreasing sunlight. Running the clips simultaneously seemed to be very hard on the rendering engine. I had many crashes before this video was finally successfully rendered.


20 Things You May Not Know About Night Flying
Darkness comprises roughly half of every day, but that’s no reason to avoid flying at night, if…
By Bill Cox

Friday, October 31, 2014

Lock Haven

Lock Haven ~ KLHV
Richard was working with Paul to get his new SportCruiser a condition inspection. It was a chilly but sunny day in Barto so I decided to take the one hour flight to go and visit them for lunch.

The drive to the airport gave me some concern. While the cold front had passed through last evening, the colder air had merged the morning temperature and dew point. Mist and fog lingered over the lakes and streams and changed the clear blue morning sky into IFR conditions. I worried that I might be forced to cancel.

I pulled up to hangar, opened the doors and got my preflight started. Sally is getting close to her own 100 hour condition inspection. While everything looks normal, I worried about the minor oil leak and how that will be handled during the inspection.

I rechecked my navigation. A direct course would take me too close to the Allentown Airspace. So I decided to travel a little west before turning north to go direct to my destination. While there were no TFRs in effect today, a major VIP visit over the weekend is going to effectively close Quakertown traffic routes to the south. I always worry about TFRs just "popping up" while I'm out flying.

Soap Box ~The Fear of Flying:
Acrophobia (from the Greek: ἄκρον, ákron , meaning "peak, summit, edge" and φόβος,phóbos, "fear") is an extreme or irrational fear of heights, especially when one is not particularly high up.
I have a bit of Acrophobia. That third step on the ladder is as far as I go. But flying a small airplane is the definition of freedom. To be able to pick up and go (almost) anywhere at (almost) anytime is fantastic. But each freedom comes with a responsibility. A trust between the pilot, the airplane and our society. The real fear of flying is breaking this trust:
  1. The fear of doing something stupid. One of the famous last lines is, "Watch this!"
  2. The fear of an inflight emergency. Know your airplane. What is normal and what is abnormal. Listen to her.
  3. The constant fear of the 3rd class medical. Know yourself. Establish personal guidelines and adhere to them. (IMSAFE)
  4. The fear of breaking the rules. FARs, AIM, PHAK have them all written down. But do you understand them?
  5. The fear of getting caught in bad weather. Meteorology: She is a bitch, don't get her mad. Know your own limitations.
  6. The fear of getting lost. Try flying without the purple line. Pilotage is a skill requiring practice.
  7. The fear of bending the airplane. Airmanship: Take a few laps in the pattern...on a windy day.
You are going to screw up. I can count on one hand (and have some fingers left over) how many "perfect flights" I've had. Usually minor stuff, but yes I've done some really dumb things as well. That doesn't mean you stop flying. Like the quarterback throwing an interception you get back in the game and don't make that mistake again.

You see, I think the worries and fears keep a lot of us from going out to the airport. That's a shame because exercising freedom is really a lot of fun.

OK, I'm done.

Video Notes:

Lock Haven

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Allentown, PA
I ordered a 'tempe' wireless temperature sensor to track cockpit temperature. It links to the Garmin Virb Elite and other devices. I often get asked if it gets hot (or cold) due to the bubble canopy and I usually respond that the temperature can be controlled. It never hurts to have data to back your argument. The read out appears in the lower right in the attached cockpit video.

I got up early on Saturday morning and beat the gusty winds that were moving through the area. It was smooth at 3000' but got pretty bumpy down low. Gusts were up to 16kts by the time I got back to Quakertown. It was still gusting on Sunday, enough for me to cancel all flights for the day. I suspect it won't be too long before the winds are driving snow.

Video Notes:


PPL Center is a sports arena in Allentown, Pennsylvania that opened on September 10, 2014. Its naming rights are owned by the PPL Corporation, which is headquartered in Allentown. PPL paid an undisclosed sum over ten years. The arena is part of a larger redevelopment project of the central business district of Allentown. The project encompasses a 5-acre square square block area, in which several new structures are planned to be erected. Part of the arena site was previously developed in the 1990s as an office building called Corporate Plaza; shortly after opening, on February 23, 1994, it collapsed into a sinkhole, due to limestone in the ground and the decision not place the building on a concrete pad, but rather on spread footings; the plaza was imploded on March 19 of that year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Queen City

An older gentleman came to the FBO door just as I was locking up on a Sunday. He asked what planes we have to rent, so I pointed to the C172 on the line and handed him one of the postcards I use to provide information about Sally. He mentioned that he was from out of town, here on a business trip but would like to get a flight in if he could find the time. He was familiar with light airplanes and has flown an Aeronca "Champ" at his home airport. I said "my number is on the card, call me if you want to arrange something".

That evening my cell phone rang after 9:00PM. At my age phone calls at this time of the night are usually not good news. Caller id was California. He apologized for the late call but asked if we could fly on Monday at noon.  If the weather was good I said we would go.

He arrived a little late, stuck in traffic on Rt309. We sat at the picnic table as I explained what I planned to cover on our Discovery Flight. He had other ideas and asked if we could go over to Vansant (9N1) and Queen City (KXLL). Well, with the recent rains I didn't want to land on the (possibly soggy) turf at 9N1 but said we could do a low pass. KXLL would be fine.

The winds were starting to kick up a bit. After some taxi practice on the runway so he could see how to control a castering nose wheel, I made the take off  and gave him control once leaving the traffic pattern. He did well with basic maneuvers as we wandered over to the Delaware River. We used that as our base leg and I talked him through the low approach. We departed and headed over to Queen City. "This is much more complicated than I had thought. I had no idea what a modern LSA was like." Although I discussed the avionics and demonstrated the GPS, this flight was more about the scenery so I made sure to point out the various landmarks. I could see him loosen his grip on the stick as he became more comfortable with the controls. He was starting to "feel" the airplane.

Sally warned us about the high cell towers on the ridge at South Mountain. We entered on a 45° to RWY25 following a DA40. That traffic forced us to get a little deep but he handled the situation well. Winds were gusty but the touchdown was good. I asked when was the last time he had made a landing. "Oh about 6 months ago." I said "No, about 5 seconds ago, you did this one all on your own!" He grinned.

It turns out he had made his first solo flight out of Queen City 50 years ago. I'm so glad I could participate in this home coming.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pennsylvania Autumn

Cold front after cold front, like waves pounding against the shore. Each one bringing stormy gray skies, each with buckets of rain so far. The temperatures are in decline as each wave drops it a few more degrees. I woke to 41°F. The oil cooler baffle was screwed on earlier this week.

Between the storms we sometimes have calm. That's how it was on Sunday. I got up just before sunrise to find the morning stars shining and the ground dimly lit by the full moon. Flying weather. The weather maps reported patchy fog or mist at a few airports but soon the daytime temperatures would burn that off. Quakertown was already VFR by the time I pulled Sally out of the hangar.

I decided to head northwest toward Williamsport, but since I had previously landed there chose a little airport just south; Danville (8N8). The route should provide some interesting terrain and a good look at the fall foliage.

It was calm and cool. No need for an autopilot. Minor trim adjustments kept Sally on altitude. The only time we felt a burble was passing over the ridges on the way home. By that time convection had started and generated some light winds. I opted for a straight in approach at home field. I misjudged it, got high and fast so had to use a slip to get down. Floated halfway down to runway to a lousy landing. (I edited all that from the video....) Obviously I need more practice.

Video Notes:

Pennsylvania Autumn

When I was in school one question on a final exam was to compute the lift components for the third airplane flying in a "V" formation. (The Professor didn't appreciate my creative mathematical analysis.)  I liked this video. Why Do Birds Fly In V Formations?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Audio Check

The woman at the Verizon store opened my phone and removed the battery. Laying the battery flat on the counter she spun it like a top. "That's the problem. You have a dead battery." Not sure that I completely agreed with her technical analysis technique but unwilling to invest in a new phone, I gave her solution a try. A new battery delivered the next day from Amazon was less than $10. It worked.

Cold weather has returned to Pennsylvania. A rain filled cold front moved through the area all day Saturday, we woke to freezing temperatures Sunday morning. My old bones ache with cold weather so it was hard to get myself moving. I was comfortable sitting at the computer with a hot cup of coffee, my own inertia holding me in place. I got out to the hangar later than planned.

In addition to preflighting the airplane I needed to check the Virb camera systems. I had reported a problem with the external microphone setting. Upon reboot all previous setting were forgotten and it would default to microphone on. This meant that the headset would be deactivated. My checks appeared to indicate that the latest firmware (3.90) had fixed this problem, but I needed to test it in actual conditions.

The autumn weather has started changing the leaves to brighter colors. A trip along I80 last weekend saw some fabulous reds, oranges and yellows. I thought the change in seasonal colors would show up great in a video and the trip over to Lockhaven would be a perfect exercise. (We are not at peak yet, another flight is required.)

The Sentimental Journey fly-in breakfast at Lockhaven was high on my event list. In addition to all of the normal festivities, Richard was going to there with his airplane. I was anxious to see them both and talk to Paul about the flight instruction business. Even with my late start my ETA would still allow me time to get a few pancakes. But as I traveled west the ceilings dropped down and the winds picked up. I flew through the gap at Cabelas (Hamburg) , and checked the METAR at Selinsgrove and found it overcast at 2500 feet. Williamsport wasn't any better. I remembered that some of the mountains out that way reached up nearly that high. The clouds were gray and getting darker, I turned around to look for some sunshine.

A few sunbeams poked through along the ridge just west of Quakertown. I investigated, then flew to Gortt intersection just to see where that is located. (Not a bad idea to understand IFR fixes even though I only fly VFR.) Then I entered on the 45 for runway 29er. I got a surprise on short final with a strong gust of crosswind and later found that some were up to 16 kts. Don't get complacent!

Video Notes:

Audio Check

Thursday, September 25, 2014

KLRO - Return Trip

A line of demarcation
It is amazing how dependent we have become on cell phone technology. In addition to all of the useful flight planning apps, its just the simple things like texting and making phone calls from any location that have escalated it from luxury to a necessity. Fortunately I did bring along my laptop and Nexus tablet, but for scouting out a new area nothing beats a smart phone.

The weekend weather was lousy. Rain, wind and low overcast most of the time. I finally saw the sunset Saturday night. Early Sunday morning I checked my laptop for the weather and saw a lot of red dots along the coast. However west of my track was all green. It was like my flight plan was the dividing line between good and bad weather. The forecaster recommended that it was NOT suitable for VFR. (However he also suggested I consider going west around the SFRA should I decide to go anyway.)

I could really smell the paper mills on my drive to the airport. Crossing over the bay on I526 I guessed the visibility to be greater than 6 miles. No ceiling or noticeable winds, it looked very VFR. Without my GPS I made a few wrong turns and was a bit worried about finding my way back to the airport. I thought some landmarks looked familiar, or maybe I just wanted them to be. Finally I saw the green airport sign on US17 and in a few minutes I passed through the gate and drove out to Sally. All was well.

As I finished the preflight 3 Globe Swifts taxied out to the runway. Just a beautiful flight of three, probably departing for their monthly breakfast get together. A good day for it.

Sally and I took off and contacted Charleston Approach for Flight Following. Smooth air, no clouds, good visibility, we stayed at 3500'.  Soon Charleston cancelled and advised me to contact Myrtle Beach. I found a Kind bar and a small bottle of orange juice and settled in for the journey.

A note on ADSB. I attached the unit to my tablet and started the Garmin Pilot app. It works well for weather, not so well for traffic. There are still too many planes it just doesn't pick up. I was thankful for Flight Following as they pointed out traffic on four separate occasions and once near Richmond, had me make a course correction to avoid traffic. Traffic I never saw...and neither did the ADSB. I'm spoiled with my 696. I didn't like the extra clutter in the cockpit required by this portable system Perhaps when I make it a permanent installation I'll be more of a fan but for now I'll fly without it.

Both systems had 'green' returns along my route, but as I flew into the area all I saw was clear blue with a high thin cirrus layer. Its not often I get to fly when the weather is better than the forecast.

Halifax–Northampton Regional Airport (KIXA) is a public use airport located eight nautical miles south of the central business district of Roanoke Rapids, a city in Halifax County, North Carolina. It is a new airport and could become home to a factory built LSA (Allegro) Right now it is very quiet. As I pulled up to the pumps the airport manager came by to see if I needed any assistance. We chatted as I fueled (15.3 gallons @ $5.79). This is a beautiful airport and I recommend it for a fuel stop.

We climbed back up to 3500' and I decided it was lunch time: Snapple and a granola bar. I checked in with Washington Center and listened to the traffic flying overhead. (Hello Gary! - Gary's Flight Journal). We took the east side around the SFRA and landed at Quakertown a little bit ahead of schedule.

A beautiful Sunday to fly.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


A new sign at KUKT
A busy week. Tuesday we had an excellent discovery flight with Andrea. She was enthusiastic and had a wonderful time in the air. This kind of flight makes flying fun. Wednesday Mark made his first solo flight in Sally. The winds had calmed following the mid-afternoon heat and provided the perfect day for a solo flight.  Three beautiful landings. Congratulations Mark!

Taking The Light Sport Adventure

Thursday was my planned departure day for a solo xcountry trip down to Charleston, SC.The forecaster saw nothing unusual and said that the weather maker was a weak low pressure trough just west of Washington DC, but he expected VFR conditions for the entire route of flight. I might even have a tailwind. I planned stops at Tappahannock, Virginia (KXSA) and another at Wayne Executive Jetport (KGWW) near Goldsboro, NC. Final destination would be Mount Pleasant (KLRO) just northeast of Charleston. Total distance right at 500nm.

It was overcast. Still VFR but a thin overcast layer at 6000'. I contacted Philadelphia Approach/Departure right after takeoff and soon got permission to enter the Class Bravo airspace. As Sally and I traveled south the layer continued to descend. We descended as well and leveled at about 3500' near The Bay Bridge Airport (W29). An extension of the Washington Class Bravo has a floor at 3500' so we went down another 100' or so to stay under the shelf and clear of clouds. We crossed over the Chesapeak talking all the time to Washington, Patomic, and Patuxent Controllers and soon began our descent into Tappahannock.

The Airport Manager greeted us at the pump and helped us with the self serve Avgas. (19.7 gallons @ $5.69). As we were fueling his fuel truck arrived. He told me if we had been 30 minutes later we would have got the gas for 20¢ cheaper! As I pumped he walked around Sally. "I didn't know Piper made a Light Sport." I explained a bit of her history. He nodded, then went over to look at the instruments. "Nice airplane." I buttoned her up and pulled clear of the pumps and watched a crop duster come in to take on a new load of chemicals. Dusty Crophopper is a big airplane. A normal takeoff and as I was departing I heard on Unicom "That sure is a pretty airplane".

The winds were not "unfavorable" and as I approached KGWW I decided to skip that fuel stop. I advised SEYMOUR JOHNSON Approach that my new destination was KLRO. I love my 696. The 175nm would take less than 2 hours with plenty of fuel for reserve. The weather was good with still a few clouds at 4500' so we stayed at 3500' and continued west bound. Smooth air, good visibility.

As we traveled south of Fayetville the conditions began to deteriorate. Convective buildups in the heat of the afternoon started to appear on the Nexrad weather display. The ceilings were dropping. Suddenly a moving object flashed by my head. I instinctively ducked out of the way! A quarter sized moth had found its way into the cockpit. I put up with the distraction, phew. The air was still calm but I tightened my shoulder harness anyway. When I contacted the FBO at 15 miles I couldn't make out their response. But a twin Cessna on an instrument appoach checked in at his initial approach fix and asked for my position. We decided I would take a #2 position behind him so I maneuvered for a 5 mile final. That worked out well. He was just clear of the runway by the time I landed. A good ground crew had the rental car waiting as I shut her down. (18.8 gallons @ $6.79. Free tie down.)

A thunderstorm cell was threatening to drench the field so I quickly got started putting the covers on. (Love bug season, yuck. I'm sure I trapped some in the cockpit.) As I worked, a couple walked out from the FBO across the ramp to look at Sally. They asked about her history, etc "I've seen some light sports before but none looked this good. This is what a Light Sport SHOULD look like!" True southern hospitality. I liked Charleston.

Video Notes:

Andrea's Discovery Flight
Charleston Flight

And then my cell phone died.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The 60th annual PAOP fly-in Breakfast

Arriving Pottstown Heritage
Three very big Fly Ins were planned on Sunday: at Pottstown (KPTW), Braden (N43), and Sky Manor (N40). Kathy and I planned to fly to two of them but the turbulent gusty winds spoiled our plans. I decided to fly solo to Pottstown for a "look and see" flight and after getting pushed around a bit decided to cancel our afternoon plans. Too bad. The blog and Facebook accounts tell me these were all great events.

Attending any Fly In is like a family reunion. It was great to see David (credit the great image above), and Tom & Cleo, as well as a few of you readers (thanks!). The best part was seeing so many youngsters. While waiting in line for breakfast I watched as the parents of a toddler pointed to each airplane coming in and exclaimed "airplane"! (The kid had on a Penn State sweatshirt so I told the parents that I thought they were doing a fantastic job raising their child.) I sat with a Dad and his two daughters at a picnic table eating my eggs and the young girls seemed very enthusiastic about the planes. "Wouldn't it be great if we could fly to go camping!?" Lots of kids, young ones, were brought out to this event. I didn't see too many thumbs punching cell phones. There is hope.

I decided to depart for home and walked around Sally for a "quick" preflight. An open canopy attracts a crowd. Soon I was in lecture mode providing stats about the airplane and taking in the wonderful compliments about how pretty she is.  After nearly 45 minutes I called "CLEAR!" and asked anyone close by to move back. Carefully, with the help of a Linesman, we taxied away so glad to have attended such a nice event. These guys did a great job. You should attend it next year.

Video Notes:


* Pretty gusty on the final and I misjudged it a bit.  Sally does a very nice slip. I'll log two at home base.

How Important Is a Pilot’s First Airplane? Why older trainers often have the edge on newer ones.

"With no purpose-built trainers in production in the United States, attention turned to the LSAs, small, inexpensive, two-seat aircraft limited in such areas as weight and speed but unburdened by the costly requirements for an FAA airworthiness certificate. Although the FAA would not issue such certificates for the LSAs, the agency was an active participant in the discussions that created the criteria under which the aircraft would be produced and sold in the United States.

Under former CEO Jack Pelton, Cessna began to explore the category as a possible entry point for people just coming to aviation. The newbies would need an airplane with a low price and curb appeal. “We went out on a covert mission,” Pelton recalls about the time when some “key folks ran down to Sebring, Florida, where they hold the Light Sport Aircraft show.” This was around 2006, and Pelton asked the team to look at the market. “We wanted to know if this was something we should be part of,” he says. “The general consensus was that this was a fascinating new market opportunity to bring people into aviation at a much lower price point.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Problems. Minor ones, the kind that you can fly with but will eventually require some attention. Just before leaving for Oshkosh Sally lost her ability to hold GPS tracking. "GPS Fix unavailable" was the error message and could be caused by a number of things each taking some time to troubleshoot. We opted to let her fly and resolve the "gripe" another day.

With some help from SCFlier I narrowed it down to a hardware problem. Specifically a loose connection. Unfortunately I didn't find a specific loose wire or detached connector. After looking at the backside of the pilot's panel and tracing the GPS connectors and checking all of them for general health, I did a test flight today to find that everything worked properly. Its fixed. (But I have that lingering feeling that I didn't really fix anything, that the problem simply went away. That happens sometimes.)

Video Notes: My cockpit camera failed due to a full memory card. I need to remember to delete the old flights.

Morning Flight

"To assume that moving “down” is always less demanding is every bit as inaccurate — and dangerous — as responding to the intuitive sense of up and down that can lead pilots to mishandle an aerodynamic stall. Any pilot who has transitioned from a standard category airplane to a light sport aircraft (LSA) will attest to the very real challenges involved in moving to a lower-performance airplane. Whether moving to a more capable aircraft or to a simpler machine, every bird we fly deserves, and indeed demands, the utmost level of respect from its pilot". - FAA Safety September/October 2014 SAFETY BRIEFING-

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Oil Pressure

Fortunately I've been busy this summer learning to fly. Two teenage flight students have done their initial flights while another student prepares for his solo. While they think I'm teaching them, the real truth is they are teaching me. Insightful questions, interesting comments and observations, looking at the obvious with fresh new eyes, has allowed me to see General Aviation in a new perspective.

Learning to Fly

Just before the trip to Oshkosh Sally started having trouble with GPS steering. A warning "GPS Fix unavailable" was displayed and the magenta tracking information on the HSI disappeared. I have since checked and found multiple satellites available to the 696 and that device appears to be operating properly. I was given (SCFlier) the software settings for the GPS and the HS34 and checked them to see if those settings had become corrupted but all look fine. I suspect the wiring may have come loose from the GPS to the HS34 and will do more extensive troubleshooting later. (An outside chance that the HS34 has failed?)

Recently after the starting the engine I noticed my oil pressure flashed "bars" instead of providing the 65psi I'm accustomed to seeing. I shut her down, removed the upper cowling and did a general inspection of the cabling. Nothing unusual, I climbed back in and tried again with the same result. Allen responded quickly to my call and did a cursory check, found nothing and suggested we remove the sender and put a pressure gauge on to eliminate the possibility of electronic failure. I love the glass panel EMS but do appreciate seeing actual pressure on an old analog pressure gauge. 65psi.

An internet search pointed to LEAF and their technician explained that the Honeywell sender is no longer available and that the replacement is from Keller. However the thread pitch is different so the engine block has to be re-tapped in order to make it fit. So, I called Lockwood and had a conversation with their technician who explained that they did have the Honeywell sender but it needs a "cable kit" to fit a ROTAX engine. (Essentially a new plug to attach the wires.) After the parts arrived Allen had us all fixed up in less than an hour.

No video notes this time. I have done some Discovery flights and made some interesting post processing enhancements, but decided to protect the students privacy by not posting them on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Great Adventure

I have never been to Oshkosh.

It is hard work to be a Flight Instructor, but it has it's benefits. The moment that a student "gets it" is fantastic. This time I was able not only to teach but pass along my affection for flying - for VFR General Aviation Flying. What better motivation than getting ready for the biggest aviation experience in the world; Airventure at Oshkosh.

Interactive Link: here

I have never been to Oshkosh, but maybe next year.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast

ADS-B, which consists of two different services, "ADS-B Out" and "ADS-B In", could be replacing radar as the primary surveillance method for controlling aircraft worldwide. In the United States, ADS-B is an integral component of the NextGen national airspace strategy for upgrading or enhancing aviation infrastructure and operations. The ADS-B system can also provide traffic and government generated graphical weather information through TIS-B and FIS-B applications.[6] ADS-B enhances safety by making an aircraft visible, realtime, to ATC and to other appropriately equipped ADS-B aircraft with position and velocity data transmitted every second. ADS-B data can be recorded and downloaded for post-flight analysis. ADS-B also provides the data infrastructure for inexpensive flight tracking, planning, and dispatch.[6] - wikipedia
 I love having NEXRAD weather on board Sally. XMWeather was particularly useful during my last trip to Texas/Georgia and played a significant role in my enroute flight planning. However XM has a costly subscription tied to it and I'm always looking for ways to save my aviation dollars. I've been learning about ADSB but wasn't quite ready to switch over until I saw a post in SCFLIER.COM about a good deal on a Garmin GDL-39 ADS-B IN portable receiver. I decided to take the plunge and experiment with this new technology.

(First, General Aviation people are just great to work with. The seller took the time to thoroughly test the device and its sub-components BEFORE concluding the transaction.The deal went off without a hitch.)

I eventually plan to attach this to my 696 and remove the XMWeather antenna, but for testing purposes I'll run Garmin Pilot on my Android tablet and use Bluetooth as the connection technology. My first attempt failed. The tablet could find the device but gave an error code say it failed to connect. After multiple iterations and numerous Google searches it was time to call the experts. Garmin Support picked up immediately, asked a few questions and walked me through resetting the GDL39. Bingo, it works! least sitting on my desk at home.

An added advantage for me is Traffic Information Service (TIS) for any aircraft that is transmitting ADS-B Out. Right now that only includes the Airlines and a few corporate jets so I'm not going to give up using Flight Following on my cross country trips.

Another technology in the cockpit. Remember to look outside!

Sunday, July 6, 2014


July 2nd: Holly took me out to the airport and helped preflight, even burping the engine. Sally was in good shape. We said our goodbyes and I went back to the FBO to complete my planning. It was pretty straight forward up to Blue Ridge (KMTV) but a decision had to be made about going east or west around the SFRA. Weather would be the primary factor so I decided to wait until the afternoon to see what might develop. Arthur was south and hopefully no factor. We took off about 9:00am into dense haze. Atlanta didn't want me in their Class B so I headed east at 2500'. As I turned northeast Flight Following asked me to descend to 2000' for traffic. The towers at 1340' and 1369' looked close and Sally didn't like them much. After a short time we were allowed back up to 2500 and then to our cruising altitude of 5500'. We were still in the haze so I asked for and was granted 7500'. We had a horizon (and a slight tailwind). Just south of the Virginia border we began our descent and I saw portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and then to the west of us. I stopped the descent at 3500' until within 10 miles of the airport. Although it was hot, the linesman came out to help with fueling and soon I was on the last leg home. Thunderstorms were building in central Pennsylvania so I decided to go east around Washington. Some of the restricted areas were active so I asked and received a waypoint (TAPPA)  to keep clear. Potomac and Patuxent Controllers were excellent. But now we had another race. XMweather showed heavy (yellow, red, brown) storms approaching Reading. A thin broken layer forced me to descend to 2500'. I was passing familiar airports now, 58M, N57, KOQN, and then N47 and KPTW, but the storm was ugly off my left wing. Dark charcoal gray clouds with heavy rain moved across the mountains just east of Reading. I cancelled and went VFR to land on RWY 16 at Butter Valley. As I put Sally in the hangar the rain started.


Sally averaged about 107 MPH and burned an impressive 19 MPG. Best speed was 118 kts from KADS to KLMS. Longest leg from KCBE to KBWG. This was a difficult trip, not for flying but because of decision making. Weather delays are difficult and many times I WANTED to see ways to continue my flight when none were really available. It was especially hard to do a "Look & See" only to return to the airport. But that is all part of VFR flying, and I am truly glad to have had the adventure.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Service Bulliten

"Recently the Czech Sport Aircraft Factory has put out a service bulletin (SB-CR-017) regarding the main landing gear attach points. The service bulletin requires inspecting the landing gear attachment to the fuselage. Although it is not clear in the service bulletin, this can be done without removing the wing. If there is evidence of any rivets being stretched, sheared, or pulled the service bulletin repairs must be accomplished. To complete the service bulletin 18-20 man-hours are required even though the bulletin only allows for 16 man-hours.
...This service bulletin can be accomplished by a shop of your choosing or at our Addison Texas facility. If you choose to have a local mechanic preform repairs we recommend that you have your service provider contact us. A specially designed wing rack is recommended for removing the wings and special wing alignment tools make wing re-installation much easier."

Monday 30th: The team had already pulled Sally into the hangar and were preparing to do the inspection by the time I called at 8:00am. Less than 15 minutes to the airport and I got a thumbs up that the inspection was successful. Sally wouldn't need to have her wings pulled off. So I turned her over to the Service Experts and let them "do their thing". John and Tom were excellent, advising me of each defect and telling me what to look for and how to avoid potential problems. A Condition Inspection, new brake linings, muffler shroud springs, spark plugs, and broken BNC connector on my ELT, and an oil change topped the list. I also learned how to treat a few nicks on the prop with Bondo and prop paint. Sally even got her belly washed. But this all took time so I extended my stay another day. (I later learned the weather in the Atlanta area was horrible and I probably would have been forced to land early and spend the night short of destination...again.)

Tuesday 1st: Sally started easily by 10:00am and I had the radio tuned to Ground Control to request Flight Following. Once airborne we climbed on course to 5500' but were still in the dense haze.  We went up to 7500' to get a horizon and enjoy the tailwinds. It was a smooth flight crossing the Mississippi and into Louisville Winston County Airport (KLMS). This airport was just a fuel stop and I expected to be there all alone but as I taxied up to the fuel tank a man in a golf cart came out to offer assistance. It was a hot, uncomfortable day but he patiently showed me how to run the pump and offered to fuel the plane for me. This was true Southern Hospitality and as I taxied out he gave me a smart salute to send me on my way. (I love General Aviation.) We climbed to 5500' but were just in the base of a scattered layer of small cumulus clouds so once again we went up to 7500'. As we started our descent into Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field (KFFC) I noticed a deep sound on my headset. My eyes immediately went to the engine instruments and finding everything normal looked at the canopy. That was also secure. Then I realized that the batteries in the headset had gone dead. Once replaced I could hear clearly again, phew. Falcon Unicom confirmed that my ride had arrived.We landed at 5:00pm EDT.

Video Notes:

Departing Addison
Falcon Field

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wx Delay

Sunday 22nd: This was my planned departure date. Weather in the Philadelphia area was too poor for takeoff so I delayed a day.

Monday 23rd: Good local weather and a reasonable forecast enroute, Sally and I took off from Butter Valley at 9:15 am EDT first stop Cumberland County, MD (KCBE) at 4500’. Weather at this fuel stop was marginal (MFVR) but we had an interesting visual approach under the broken layer and over the mountains and valleys leading into this beautiful airport. We got a quick turnaround, took off and wove our way through the broken overcast and began the longest leg of the trip heading to Bowling Green, KY (KBWG). The weather at destination was controlled by thunderstorm cells especially north of my GPS track. Sally and I followed a Civil Air Patrol flight of two into the airport. Storms were quickly approaching the airport bringing heavy rain (yellow and orange) and gusty winds. About 5 miles out one of the CAP guys announced he was going around and I was concerned that winds might be a factor. Fortunately Sally and I had no problems. Later in the FBO I learned it was a training flight, not impacted by weather. As planned, we spent the night.

Tuesday 24th: I woke to marginal weather. The 1800WXBRIEF discussed a wide band of IFR conditions west of Bowling Green to just east of Hot Springs (KHOT). 30 gals at 6gals/hr gives me 4 hours of flight with reserve. KHOT was 4 hours away at 90kts planned ground speed. I decided to take a “look and see” (L&S) flight.  We leveled at 4500' with 19 kts headwinds, giving me 89 kts over the ground. The tops of the broken undercast started scraping the dirty side of the airplane so I climbed to 6500'. Ground speed dropped to 75 kts. I replanned my destination to KSRC, an hour closer. Weather there was very marginal. XM weather verified my morning weather brief that thunder bumpers were growing in a line between me and destination, an unstable air-mass. The broken layer had turned to solid undercast and a thin layer was building above me. The numbers just didn't work. I turned around, found a little hole and circled to descend through it VFR. I tied her down and sat at the FBO with a can of Coke listening to the Weather Channel. We would try again tomorrow.
Crossing the Mississippi River enroute to KHOT
Wednesday 25th: A beautiful flight into KHOT. ( This was supposed to be a fuel stop with a quick turnaround but it was not to be. Composite RADAR showed a “thunder bomb” in the Dallas area. I arranged to have Sally put in a hangar while I spent the night at the Austin Hotel.
Thursday 26th: IFR at KHOT. There is an observation tower on a mountain within view of the hotel. I looked out my window and saw that clouds engulfed the top of the tower. Not a good start to the day. The weather briefer said not to expect any improvement during the remainder of the day. I called the airport and told them to keep Sally in the hangar. The weather Channel said that Hot Springs had the most rain in the state for the week, over 2.33”.

1,256 feet above sea level. 216-foot observation tower.
Friday 27th: I checked out of the hotel at noon and took the free shuttle to the airport. Sally was pulled out of the hangar so I could take another “L&S”. We took off but we couldn’t get above 1500’. XM weather showed a gap to the south but poor visibility and rain showers were just too much to get through. We went back to the airport. Another view of the weather maps indicated that there might be an open door to the west. Sally and I took off again but found that door quickly slam shut. We couldn’t go under, over or around the weather so we were forced back to the airport. I tied Sally down and took the free shuttle back to the hotel.
Saturday Morning at KHOT
Saturday 28th: I looked out the hotel window very early Saturday morning and couldn’t see any stars. This was a bad omen. Later that morning I checked on the observation tower and it was still hidden by clouds. I called the weather briefer to see if I should cancel for the day but was surprised to find some optimism. I checked out of the hotel by 10:00 am CDT and caught the shuttle to the airport. Finally I saw some patches of blue. I preflighted Sally, loaded my bags and went back into the FBO for another weather check. Addison reported 3500’ broken with winds at 16G26. Enroute weather looked OK with various layers of scattered and broken clouds topping out around 4500’. Time to go. We found a good sized hole on our way to 4500’ and called Memphis for Flight Following. I pushed the buttons to let Sally fly and opened a package of cheese crackers for my breakfast. It was a pretty day to fly. Eventually the cloud tops were up to my level so we climbed to 6500’ and accepted the penalty of 10 kts additional headwind. I carefully watched the layers of clouds beneath us to ensure there were still holes I could use to get down. Most of the trip was widely broken but about 45 minutes out I checked the METAR at KADS and found they were now MVFR with a 4000’ overcast. Winds were still gusting to 26kts but pretty close to straight down the runway for RWY 15. We began our VFR descent at 30 minutes out to get below the cloud layer. It was bumpy and rainy at 3500’ with a lot of dark clouds by the time we checked in with Regional Approach.  Soon we were directed to descend to 2500’ and eventually handed over to KADS Tower and directed for a visual approach to an extended left base leg. I opted for a no flap landing due to the gusty winds. Sally handled that well and we were easily off at Gulf taxiway. It was an quick ride over to US Sport Aircraft and we were met by Stuart. I started to get out of the airplane but the winds pushed Sally like a weathervane so I sat back down and mashed the breaks. Stuart pushed us back and started the tie down process before I attempted to get out.

As I sat in the office waiting for my ride to the hotel some fliers came by asking about the weather. They were afraid of being called “wimps” because of deciding not to go out on a windy day.  I told them that my rule was not fly for fun when winds exceeded 18 kts. They were NOT wimps. Reference #3
Sunday 29th: The first time in nearly a week that I didn’t have a o530 wake up call.

Video Notes:

Bowling Green
Hot Springs