Tuesday, March 25, 2014

5 Airports

The weather was cold and clear. Winds were gusting less than 10KTS which meant it was a flying day. I put my coffee in a Dixie cup and microwaved an egg sandwich, grabbed my gear and got out the door. Kids were still at the school bus stop. I got to the hangar about 8:00am.

My first chore was to pull out my home made preheater. A paint stripper heat gun with about 6' of heater hose (SKEET Ducting) attached to the nozzle with a hose clamp. I wound that under the left cylinder heads, under the prop and under the right cylinder heads and threaded the open end to point at the oil reservoir.  I covered the engine with a tarp and returned to my warm car to eat my breakfast. I let it run about 45 - 60 minutes. The news said MH370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean.

I disconnected everything and pulled Sally out into the sun to finish my preflight. All checks complete I climbed in and turned the key. Smooth start, the oil temp read 45°. We taxied down past the old silo to let her warm up to 122° while I completed the ground checks. Ducks were landing on the pond. It wasn't frozen over anymore.

My objective was simple: Landing practice. A short 'round robin' that would allow me to enter the landing pattern and once again get comfortable landing the airplane. Nearly three months on the ground let my skills atrophy so I wanted the exercise to get back in shape.

  • KPTW Heritage (formerly Limerick) has a right hand pattern due to the nuclear cooling towers south of the field. My pattern was lousy (too low abeam) so I dragged her around the whole way. yuck.
  • KLOM Wings: Sally provided a lot of distractions with terrain alerts and low RPM warnings, but the pattern was better and the landing was fine.
  • KDYL Doylestown: The only airfield with traffic today. Nice pattern and landing (getting stronger).
  • KUKT Quakertown: Best landing of the day.
  • 7N8 Butter Valley: Acceptable.
You can view the video here: Irregular Pentagon

I also had the opportunity to fly with Mike at Quakertown. He is the airport manager there and expressed an interest in Light Sport. So I taxied over to the office and he got in and we chatted for awhile. Then we took a short hop in the local area for him to feel the controls. He liked Sally. However, from a business perspective he can't quite see the ROI in buying an LSA when he can buy 2 (or 3) C172s for the same price. I provided some material that might help him see some benefits he may not be considering. It was a good flight, but I made a lousy landing (#@*^&!) He said it was great for me to demonstrate how Sally could handle student landings.(#@*^&!)

Video Notes:
Virb mounted in center of rack

This turned out to be an endurance test for the Virb. It didn't have a full charge at takeoff and I didn't check the phone app to see what endurance was predicted, but it lasted for nearly the full flight (2+ hours). It shut down nicely and saved everything when the battery did dissipate just prior to landing at Butter Valley.

  1. I like the overlay in this video. It provides all of the information I want to keep and displays it in a clear presentation. I may adjust the colors a bit but overall I think this will become my default.
  2. This was definitely a "set it and forget it" kind of flight. I didn't even try to play with any settings. I'm pleased with the results.
  3. Post processing took awhile but completed without any crashes or hangs. 
  4. All video effects were done using Camtasia. I'm still learning the best way to utilize that software.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


I pushed the knob on top of the box to stop that annoying sound. Bleary eyed I looked at the current weather readout and it wasn't bad. Too cold, but partly cloudy and mild winds. OK, not a bad start.

Cup of fresh coffee in hand I sat down to look at the weather on the computer. Local airports were reporting 5000' overcast, winds easterly at 10 knots, temperatures around freezing. It was worth going out to the airport to take a look.

I parked near the door of my hangar because the ice on the shady side of the barn looked treacherous. Another sip of hot coffee before I got out to walk the taxi way. The concrete was clear except for some small stones and gravel. The sod was firm, frozen actually. I kicked a few protruding worrisome pieces out of the way as I walked to the approach end of the runway. Doable.

I walked back to the hangar and opened the doors. "Lets go flying Sally."

This would be Virb Flight #2. My objectives were to calibrate the camera to the airplane systems to see how far off the camera might be. The real purpose of the flight was to knock some rust off of the pilot and exercise the airplane. When I climbed in I had the strange feeling again, I had been grounded too long to feel comfortable. I turned the key. It took more than 3 props to get started but once she did I felt at ease. I remembered how much I like this.

The flight into Pottstown Municipal went well, but I was behind the airplane and my landings were sh...lousy. The high work went well. Sally's systems are as they should be. Everything seems to be working after the long hibernation. The entry and landings at Butter Valley went well, but I was behind the airplane and my landings were cra...lousy.

I think I was smiling the whole time.


  1. I had a lot of problems with the Virb Edit software for Windows 7. It wasn't until I down loaded the latest version (2.4.0) that everything started to work as advertised.
  2. I think the video and audio are great. I'm disappointed that I can't boost the brightness of the Dynon displays to have them captured. This is not a unique problem of the Virb and I'll continue to try and improve my technique to make this better.
  3. I have permanently fixed the Virb cradle to the headset rack in the middle of the canopy rail. So far this seems to work well.
  4. I experimented with a number of different "overlays", Garmin's term for displaying the GPS data. I haven't decided on any favorites yet.
  5. I experimented with two different zoom settings and will stick with the default "Ultra Zoom".
  6. I need a haircut.

I was at first disappointed. The Altitude, Heading, and Airspeed were not consistent with what I was seeing on my instruments. Dummy. The camera is just another GPS unit. Altitude is really referenced to a mathematical geoid, based on a standard day. That won't be close. The Heading is what the airplane is flying, I should be comparing with the track from my 696. Similarly I should be looking at groundspeed, not airspeed, to make my comparisons.

All Virb Videos can be viewed here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is it Spring yet?

We've had few days of warm weather. The icebergs at the end of the driveway have shrunk so that I can see both edges of the asphalt and only about 50% of the lawn is still covered in white.

I called Butter Valley to see if the airport was open. She answered "Butter Valley Golf", I had to remind her about the "port" part. After I pleaded for awhile she promised to get John to scrape the remaining ice off of the runway. I decided to go visit Sally.

Most of the ice had melted from in front of the hangar door. We were no longer prisoners. The outer door still scraped along the concrete but I was able to get it open to allow some sunshine in. I pulled all of the tarps and covers off and was pleased to find she had weathered the winter well. Master on, the panel quickly came to life relieving me of my fears that the long inactivity would leave her without any voltage. She took a long time to burp, but the oil level was still just slightly on the high side. I've forgotten when she had the last oil change, I'll have to get on Harry's schedule for a Spring refresher.

I walked around carefully checking all surfaces. She was ready to fly. Maybe today?

I did a FOD walk-down and except for a few mounds of snow everything was clear. Until I came to the sod taxi way. 50% of that turf was still covered with ice with some piled high enough to be a challenge. The rest was spongy due to the thaw. Not flying today, but soon.

I spent some time with the Waxall going over all the upper services. Then I took the 696 out to take home for terrain updates.

A bit of advice: It is NOT a good idea to test just how spongy the turf is by driving your car over it. You should WALK it first. If you drive over it you may get hopelessly stuck in the mud and have to call the airport owner to come pull you out with his tractor. Just sayin'