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

Friday, June 20, 2014

Soft Field Landing

We flew a very nice introductory flight out of Brandywine. The weather treated us well and the countryside looked freshly washed after the summer rain. We both enjoyed being up in the air, and Sally performed very well. It was a good flight. As we sat on the bench at the airport talking about "pilot stuff" afterward, the FBO manager came out to tell us he was locking up for the night. So we finished our talk, he went to the parking lot and I walked over to prepare Sally for the flight home. The nose tire was low. My fault, I had been watching it closely and adding air after every other flight but I should have taken the time to fix it. Instead, here I was with a problem.

First, double check to see if any maintenance is available. Next, double check the preflight for anything else. Finally, taxi check to see how she handles. Wide easy turns at first, then tighter turns going down the taxi way convinced me she was controllable. I opted for a soft field takeoff to take us back to Butter Valley. Along the way I thought about the landing. No winds to speak of, I opted for RWY 16. That way I wouldn't have to turn to back taxi. I executed a soft field landing keeping the nose wheel off as long as I could. We landed long and slow with just enough energy to clear runway. There wasn't any steering problem at all, she landed straight ahead. I pulled onto the little asphalt pad I use for my run up area and shut down. The tire was flat.

The next morning Harry stopped by, and using his airplane tractor towed Sally over to his shop. There was a very small leak at the base of the stem of the tube. The wheel pant took a beating but nothing so serious it can't be repaired. The lesson learned (once again!): Don't let problems linger. Address each issue immediately BEFORE it can turn into something dangerous.

This week it was time for  a fresh oil change. I know it shouldn't make a difference but Sally just seems to fly a lot better with a new filter and a clean reservoir of oil.

Note 7N8 over the brim of my hat.
We've been flying out of Quakertown a lot lately. Some Discovery Flights, a few transition to LSA flights and the occasional drop in just because I like the runway there. Before the Discovery Flight with Maria, the airport manager asked me to stop by and talk with him about an idea he had. He asked if I would consider moving my operations to KUKT. He offered some interesting incentives and I feel that the overall training environment would be much better. Plus, I'll be able to fly at night again. We plan to make the move next month.

The Airport Authority includes the Quakertown, Doylestown and Van Sant airports. As a new small business at the airport, the head of the authority invited me to attend the 2014 Small Business Conference for Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce, in Quakertown, PA. It was a GREAT opportunity to meet the local small business community and hand out business cards. It also gave me time to meet and talk with John, the head of the Airport Authority (a proponent of LSA). It was a good day.

Next week Sally and I plan once again to find our way down to Addison. A new service bulletin has been issued on the wing connection assembly and I decided to have the experts take a look at Sally. It also gives me the opportunity to go flying for a few days. I like that.

Reference: A biased news story - Safety last: Lies and coverups mask roots of small-plane carnage

"The real story here is media bias and editorial malpractice, not the dangers of aviation or manufacturing defects. The article insinuates that huge numbers of people are dying in small airplanes, and that the cause is largely manufacturing defects. Both conclusions are untrue" Reference: Unfit for Publication: How USA Today Got Everything Wrong

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What is a Discovery Flight?

Web definition:
This is an introductory flight that you can take to see if you want to learn to fly. You will actually get to fly the airplane and do climbs, descents and turns.
  •  "The Joy Ride " - Never been up in a small airplane before? The Joy Ride is an excellent introduction to general aviation and will cover all the basics. Sit back and enjoy the scenery, listen to the pilot chatter on the radio and experience the thrill of flying.
  • "The Future Pilot" - This is for the person who is reasonably certain he or she wants to pursue flight training, but just wants to be sure before committing too much time, money, or effort.Hands on the controls, you experience basic flight maneuvers like climbs, descents and turns.
What a great weekend! We got to do two "Future Pilot" and one "Joy Ride" Discovery Flights.The weather was acceptable but got a little gusty for the "Joy Ride". (Gust up to 17kts by the time we got back to Butter Valley.) 

This generated two Videos:

Notes: A new forum has started which is focused on PiperSport/SportCrusier topics. Sally and I will be contributing here: SCFlier

An interesting article in "Plane & Pilot".