Thursday, December 17, 2015

I nailed the glassy

I left Sally at her comfortable covered tie down spot in Tampa and drove the 70 miles to Winterhaven, Florida. I arrived before sunset, checked into the hotel and then immediately drove the ten minutes over to the seaplane base. I wanted to be sure I knew the way to insure I wouldn't be late for my ground school class starting at 7:30 am the next morning. The sun was setting behind a Piper Cub on floats. This was paradise.

First let me stress that his is NOT a trivial undertaking. There are many new complex ideas to be understood, lots of new terminology, and a totally new airplane to be learned. I was back in the student role once again and climbing the learning curve at my age just isn't as easy as it once was. Fortunately, Jon Brown has put together an excellent organization and his instructors and staff are all top notch. It was a fantastic experience.

The iconic Piper Cub is just a joy to fly. My first challenge was to climb into the machine. Although I got better at it, there is just no graceful way to get into the back seat. Once the instructor climbs in the forward visibility is gone. The student is left with some triangular slices of windscreen on either side of the instructors head, the tachometer on the left and altimeter on the right. Quite a change from the plethora of colorful information provided from Sally's panel. But it is enough. Look outside. Pick reference points. Look at the relationship of the wing to the horizon. Vx, Vy, V anything is 60kts. VSI is your gut. Inclinometer is your butt. Glorious. I love this plane.

The airport is nearly any lake you can see, and there are thousands of lakes in Florida. The runway is now a "Lane" and it can be in any direction. You land into the wind. Simple, but not easy. Gone is your primary reference, the asphalt runway with centerline and numbers. How do you determine the wind? How do you fly a good downwind? How do you handle different surface conditions?

The most challenging landing for me was the "Glassy Surface". When the water is smooth you lose all depth perception. The closest analogy is landing at night without a landing light, but even this comparison fails because the runway lights are there for peripheral vision. This is truly flying on faith into a black hole. The technique used is to set a pitch and power configuration at an "LVR" (Last Visual Reference) and wait (patiently) for the airplane to land. My brief summary makes it sound simple, it isn't.

I still get "check-itis". Sitting down in the office with Jon and taking the oral exam is an experience in itself. Fair but firm, he probed each area to insure I had at least the minimum amount of knowledge. I was worried that too many times my response was "I don't know", but finally he said let's go fly.

He wasted no time. One maneuver to the next in rapid succession. Some went well, some others didn't. My crosswind landing was lousy. When we walked back in I didn't know and he gave no indication. "Let's debrief in my office." It was an acceptable flight. He said I was safe. "...and you nailed the glassy."

So now I am a Single Engine Seaplane pilot with a license to learn.

Jack Brown's Seaplane Base

Friday, December 4, 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015


Nearly a month since we had flown. Too long. I stopped by the FBO to get the pin to access the south gate, then drove out to the line to park near Sally. She looked lonely baking in the Florida sun, but I would take care of that today.

Localization 1: to become familiar with the local airport, its normal operations, ground procedures, and traffic patterns. I had printed out the Airport Directory page from AOPA and studied it before turning the key. The winds were out of the south east, a "fielders choice"  between RWY 18 or RWY 5. Sally started easily. A ROTAX likes to be warm. No one was currently in the pattern so I chose 18 and announced I would leave the ramp area and take taxiway Alpha to get there.  I noticed tents were up on the other side of the canal and wondered what event was taking place. Before I locked the canopy I heard cheers from the crowd.

Sally was running great with well over 4900RPM static check. We lifted off and corrected left for about 8kts of crosswind. I looked down at the canal and found a Regatta taking place; sculls racing along the waterway. A beautiful sight,  I turned crosswind once over the interstate. Field elevation is only 20ft, so I leveled at 1000ft for my downwind leg. There is a special kind of joy that comes with flying the landing pattern at a new home field, and I love the new sights from this airport. I'm anxious to explore but today was devoted to learning this airport.

A float plane announced his entry and said the crosswind was a bit stiff for him and would take RWY 5 instead. No problem, I adjusted my pattern to enter midfield for RWY5 and practice some landings with the winds from my right.

It was a great workout. I logged 6 and all felt good. (Two were great!, one was too high and I had to slip her in.) I taxied back to our new tie down the shade. Not a hangar but at least protected from the sun. (and the snow won't be much of a problem.) A good sized lock box allows me to store cleaning supplies and other essentials. I like it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Home Coming

I wanted to get some more flights in but my travel schedule, the Pennsylvania weather and finally a visit by the Pope kept me on the ground. I really regret not getting one more flight in with Mark. He'll do well with another instructor. All of my students will.

My plan was to fly to the SportCruiser/PiperSport Home Coming in Addison on October 2nd, then travel to Tampa from there the following week. Hurricane Joaquin changed my plans. The foul weather wasn't directly associated with Joaquin, but the low pressure system over Pennsylvania was locked in place until the hurricane moved out to sea. Winds for the weekend were forecast to hit 40 mph. Mike found me a hangar and I spent the weekend warm and dry.

A direct route would take me down the east coast into what was left of the storms, and South Carolina, which was really hit hard  by the never ending rains, would not be a very good host. I decided to stay west of the Appalachians and travel south as soon as feasible. The original plan looked like:

UKT - USW - RVN - HQU - X60 - VDF

About 8:00am Monday morning, preflight complete and looking at beautiful blue skies I turned the crank. hmmm. Turned the crank. Rested, checked everything and turned the crank again. The blades spun but no pop. First time ever, I flooded her. After 20 minutes or so I tried again (choke off) and after a sputter she came to life. ahhhh.

A late start but I got a pleasant surprise at 6500ft, a tailwind. Passing Harrisburg I started recalculating my destination. After notifying Flight Following that I would change my destination I settled in to reset the GPS. Browsing the AOPA directory I found that my new fuel stop didn't have any fuel. Back to inflight flight planning. Another airport chosen, but this time I checked first, again no fuel. One more time and I found Lonesome Pine.

A beautiful airport in the extreme southwestern corner of Virginia, it is primarily a corporate airfield used by the coal industry as a place to check on local mining operations. A single engine piston is kind of a rarity. They treated me as something special. As I checked on the weather further south I was disappointed to find IFR conditions all the way to Tampa. I might get another hundred miles but it would be marginal. At Klnp the airport manager offered me a crew car, helped with reservations at a local hotel and offered free hangar space. I stayed the night.

I woke up to fog. I took a leisurely breakfast, put some gas in the Jeep and headed back to the airport. By the time I got there it was blue sky with wispy mist laying on the farmers fields. The weather briefer said I could get down into Georgia but after that there would be low clouds. Not advisable for VFR. I decided to travel as far south as Atlanta then stop and take a look.

The clouds filled the valleys of  Tennessee and brushed up against the mountains around Asheville. I wondered if I was Sport Pilot legal? I had good ground reference with the peaks but directly below was a solid undercast. The controller lost me for awhile and asked or a position report. I love my 696. NRST/VOR immediately gave the radial and distance to the nearest VOR. I was advised to stay clear of the Asheville Class C and did so with a minor track correction to the west. By the time I crossed the Georgia border the clouds had disappeared and it seemed to be turning into a nice VFR kind of day. I took on fuel at Milledgeville.

The weather there was great. Tampa showed 3500ft broken and improving, but in between was a solid low layer of clouds. I would be VFR on Top, a Private Pilot once again. With full tanks I had over 2 hours reserve but I get that "twinge" flying above a solid deck knowing that Sally and I are not IFR current should I need to get down. Passing Gainesville I started to see some holes again, and by the time we reached Ocala it was time to descend to avoid the tops that were reaching up to touch us. Florida is flat. I was comfortable at 2500ft for the final leg of the trip. I prepared for the arrival at KVDF.

"N674PS if you can hear me turn NOW!" I over powered the autopilot and turned sharply to the right. I must have missed his first call. Another plane at the same altitude on opposite heading got the controllers attention. I looked back through the little window and watched him pass by. Thank you Flight Following.

A very nice landing at Tampa Executive (I need to find out about the history...recently called Vandenberg) and as I pulled into the visitors tie down space the linesman asked how long I intended to stay. "Oh, about ten years." Welcome home, Sally.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Experiment

A Scientific Method

The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. 

  • The steps of the scientific method are to:
    1. Ask a Question
    2. Do Background Research
    3. Construct a Hypothesis
    4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    5. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
    6. Communicate Your Results
  • It is important for your experiment to be a fair test. A "fair test" occurs when you change only one factor (variable) and keep all other conditions the same.
Open for Business
  1. Question: Can flight training be fun and affordable? Does new technology enhance the flight training experience? Can an LSA be a platform that can survive the training environment? Will students see value in the Sport Pilot Rating?
  2. Research: I went to visit my Mentor, Dr Paul up in Lock Haven. He had successfully started AvSport a few years earlier and was a font of information. I can not thank him enough for the encouragement he provided. However his talents extend beyond my own. He has the ability to perform his own maintenance, which I am not prepared to do. My enterprise would have to be different. I looked at a variety of business models and subscribed to many on line forums for insight and ideas. Patrick was especially helpful sharing business information from the company he runs at US Sport Aircraft. Of utmost importance was Kathy's ability to ask questions about the unforeseen circumstance.
  3. Hypothesis: A one plane/one instructor flight school can be financially successful if based upon modern LSA technologies and will be attractive to students otherwise turned off by older, standard category aircraft. Furthermore, students will have fun learning to fly in this type of aircraft.
  4. Test: The Light Sport Adventure was started in April 2013 when I got my CFI/CFII Certificate from the FAA. I was still based at Butter Valley (7N8) which was not particularly attractive for new flight students, nor convenient to a population center. Harry was very helpful getting the word out, and his help generated some Flight Reviews. It was a start. However, it wasn't until the Airport Manager at Quakertown asked me to move to his airport that the school got busy. Without Mike's help this experiment would have failed.
  5. Conclusion: Its been 1 year and 1 month since I moved Sally to Quakertown. We have prospered. We survived a very long difficult winter. Many weeks I canceled more flights than I flew, but we continued to reschedule and to see students make progress. Everyone leaned from the experience. We had fun and we grew the number of students learning to fly. ...and Sally survived. My experiment was successful.
Departing Runway 29er to the South
One of the many, many things we learned is that the flying season in Pennsylvania is too short.  So we have decided to correct that. It's time to "change a variable". This month we will cease our Pennsylvania operations and move south to Florida to start A New Adventure.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Week in Review

Summertime in Pennsylvania means warm fronts and cold fronts and fronts that really don't know what they are. The mix of weather makes for a challenging topic for new flight students and really disrupts a flight schedule.

Speed, Speed, Speed
Tuesday, after a sunny afternoon with light winds I made the decision to cancel an evening flight. Usually one of the best times to fly, a cold front was coming trough like a freight train bringing thunderstorms and heavy rain along with it. Estimated time of arrival was our take off time. Sometimes the forecasters get it wrong, not this time. I made a good decision.

"S" Turns and Turns Around a Point
Turning Around a Point
Wednesday, after the storm had passed we experienced a calm cool morning. Great flying weather, but by the time the student was available to fly the winds had started gusting up. We canceled the afternoon flight with winds gusting to 14 knots and trending higher. This meant the late afternoon flight was also canceled. (Nearby airports were reporting: 28010G18KT, 31010G18KT, 32014G20KT)

Thursday was much, much better. The afternoon flight was an introduction to landings. The evening flight was Ground Reference Maneuvers.
Both students are progressing well and more importantly seem to be enjoying the lessons. I know I am.

The week finished up on Saturday with a Discovery Flight. We had canceled the flight at least a half dozen times due to poor weather, but Saturday was near perfect. The family met us at the terminal building at KDYL. The airport was busy on a beautiful Saturday morning. The gentleman had wanted to fly in a small plane for years and this flight would be a gift from his son. When I pushed the throttle in I knew he was excited and he had fun finding familiar landmarks as we traveled south toward Philadelphia, which we could clearly see on the horizon. The next challenge was to find his house near some stone quarries close to the Delaware River. "There it is, I see it!" Then I let him take the controls and make some basic maneuvers before returning to Doylestown. We had a blast.

Hangar #2
After a short debrief. Kathy and I jumped in the plane and headed back to Quakertown. The Airport Manager had asked us to change hangars, stating it would be an improvement for us since it was south facing and wouldn't suffer the ice dams blocking the door like we had this past year. So after a few hours of lugging gear, Sally has a new home at Hangar #2. 

Although I lost my Mic Muff and had to buy a new one from Sporty's ($5.50 + shipping for a tiny piece of foam), it was still a pretty good week.

Video Notes: Weekly Review

Friday, July 17, 2015

Exhaust Gas Temperature

Flying might not be all plain sailing,
but the fun of it is worth the price. 
~ Amelia Earhart ~

Ceiling and visibility unlimited. Finally, a good weather day. Two training flights scheduled and the weather would be perfect. The briefing and preflight went well. The engine run-up was normal and the static ground check just before take-off had the shaft spinning just over 4900RPM. Winds were light and out of the east. We departed to the south heading toward Pottstown Muni (N47) for some landing practice.

As I prepared the student for his entry procedures I noticed the left EGT* was high. Oil pressure & temperature normal, CHT normal, no abnormal noise or shuttering, just an occasional yellow blip on the instrument.  I elected to proceed. 

As we descended it cooled off but leveling at pattern altitude it started to rise again. We did a low pass and departed to fly north up the Lehigh Valley. Level flight, power at about 5000RPM the temperature started to rise again. Time to go home.

I added maximum power and raised the nose. The temperature dropped. Leveled off in cruise, it rose. Descended at at idle power it dropped. No other indications.

I did an uneventful straight in approach at Quakertown. With the engine running at idle on the ramp we had no abnormal indications.  I was stumped.

Until I turned the key to shut her down. Only two clicks, not three.

When the student had performed the magneto check during the engine run-up he had returned the switch to the Left, not Both position.

I should have thought of that. 

*An exhaust gas temperature gauge (EGT gauge) is a meter used to monitor the exhaust gas temperature of an internal combustion engine in conjunction with a thermocouple-type pyrometer. EGT is an indication of how hot the combustion process is in the cylinders, and the amount of "afterburning" that is occurring in the exhaust manifold. EGT is also directly related to the air/fuel ratio. The excess fuel will act as a coolant. The richer the air/fuel ratio, the higher lower the EGT will be. Reference:

Saturday, July 11, 2015


The slow moving cold front was still west of State College but due to arrive in our area about 2:00pm. I decided that we could go if I altered our lesson plan and skipped ahead to introduce landings. I thought we could stay at the airport and do 3 or 4 landings before the bad weather arrived. There was no defined ceiling but there were layers of scattered clouds at 2000' and above. Visibility was good. When the student arrived he mentioned that he was surprised I said "Go".

The preflight went well and as we finished the Run-Up it started to rain. Just a local shower. A small cell. We launched.

During the crosswind leg I looked over my left shoulder toward Quakertown. The rain shower was beautiful, but we weren't going to practice landings there for awhile. Instead we headed for the relatively clear air out east toward Lake Nockamixon. I took advantage of the situation by describing the weather functions on the 696, pressed the nearest button to display the closest alternate airports  and discussed the dangers of getting too close to rain showers that you can't see through.

Eventually the cell moved to the south and provided a window for us to get back in. We didn't follow the lesson plan but hopefully the student gained much more from the real life experience.

Video Notes: Rain


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Post Flight Debrief

WingX Replay File
Google Earth .gpx File
"And even taking it to the extreme, Wally. I don't know that many people realize this, but the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels - the best of the best - videotape every single performance they do and debrief in detail what they did right, what they did wrong - every single event."

"Right. I believe the Navy pilots do the same thing with their carrier landings. They're videotaped and later debriefed. So that's probably the most important thing a good airman does - is they really analyze their flight and they're self-critical.

If you found that you were surprised during a flight by something, don't just say gee that surprised me. Go back and see if you can analyze why you were surprised. Did you miss an item on your checklist? Did you fail to get a good weather briefing? What was it that surprised you?

Some pilots I know keep a diary and they talk about the good things and the bad things that happened during their flight. And that gives them a focus for their next training event or their next study event." ~
Analyzing a Steep Turn
I only recently started using video as Post Flight Debrief tool. I always felt that the debrief was one of the most important aspects of the flight, but most students were exhausted by that time and unable to accept any additional input.  The video alleviates that problem. By posting the video on a secure website, the student can view it at his convenience, and "the camera doesn't lie". I had two cases this week when the student pointed out how helpful the video replay was for them.

A good video replay takes effort, often times more effort then it is worth. WingX Pro7 includes a replay function on its moving map. This takes nothing more than a button push to record and another to send the .gpx file to the student. The GPS track can then be opened in Google Earth and gps derived flight data analyzed. While not actual airspeed and altitude it can still be used as a tool to point out when corrections are needed. This track is especially useful in pointing out consistencies in the landing pattern.

For some, flight comes easily—others have to work at it. In teaching people the science and art of aviation, the instructor often guides someone grappling with something far different than normal life challenges. ~ June 24, 2015 by Bruce Landsberg
Video Notes: Learning to Land

 Have Fun, Be Safe, Train Well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Software Update

Usually it comes as a message when you open your current version: "A Software Update is available." I anticipate new functionality and fixes to old problems, a good thing. Unfortunately this is not always the case. (Have you tried Windows 8?)

Recently Garmin released a new version ( of the Virb Edit software. This is the utility that enables the transfer of video files from the Virb camera to the computer. The most interesting feature allows the creation of "Overlays" which allows GPS data captured with the video to be displayed as part of the video. I usually include groundspeed, GPS derived altitude, bearing, the GPS track, and cockpit temperature. The new version uses the camera's accelerometer to capture "G-Metrix", Garmin's term for movement like pitch and roll, etc.

I updated one computer with the new version but fortunately hesitated to do the second machine. (see the Virb Edit Forum). The major change that hit my normal workflow was the inability to export video greater than 4gb. Since I record the whole flight, then export and edit in Camtasia, the ability to export larger files is critical. Right now Garmin believes it is a Windows 7 problem. But Microsoft isn't alone. Apple recently updated their software and forgot to support a number of external GPS devices.

So "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts". You may be wise to let the newest version mature for awhile before you install it on your machine.

Video Notes: Clouds I got this little icon that appeared on my toolbar that says "Get Windows 10"...hmmm

Saturday, June 20, 2015


A sport pilot may not act as pilot in command of a light-sport aircraft:
  • When the flight or surface visibility is less than 3 statute miles.
  • Without visual reference to the surface. 
Cloud Clearance - Class E - Less than 10,000 feet msl:
  • 3 statute miles
  • 500 feet below
  • 1,000 feet above
  • 2,000 feet horizontal
MVFR means Minimum or Marginal Visual Flight Rules. MVFR criteria means a ceiling between 1,000 and 3,000 feet and/or 3 to 5 miles visibility.

Max. Demonstrated Headwind:
  • 24 KTS
Max. Demonstrated Crosswind:
  • 12 KTS
For most training flights my personal limits are 3000', 8 statute miles visibility and gusting winds less than 12 Kts. There are of course exceptions and that's what makes it interesting.

I stared at the computer. 0700 was time for my daily weather brief. There were a mix of red, blue and green dots sprinkled across the local area. The METARs ranged from 500' overcast to 1500' scattered to clear skies. Visibility was less than 6 miles in most cases. A few isolated showers were present. The winds were not a factor yet, but could be later in the day. A slow moving cold front was making its way across western Pennsylvania bringing unstable air along with it. Airports in the middle of the state were reporting gust up to 14kts, but it was calm here.

Its the marginal decisions that are the tough ones. We could go but not do all of the lesson plan. We could accomplish something but would it be enough to be a valuable lesson?  At this stage of training I wanted a clear horizon to practice basic airwork and although experiencing marginal conditions would be useful it was just too early for this student to struggle with poor conditions. In end, I cancelled. (...and then I questioned my decision for the rest of the day.)

I went out to the airport anyway. Sally hadn't been cleaned in awhile so I took this opportunity to work on her. Belly wash and wheel pants first. Extra time spent on the canopy inside and and out. Then my attention went to all of the leading surfaces to remove the squashed bugs. Its still early in the season so that part really wasn't too bad. I noticed that the gas caps had some brownish stains around the edges. Meguiar's Clear Plastic Polish cleaned off about 90% of the stains.

It only took a few hours and Sally looked great. We were ready for the Discovery flight scheduled for the following day.

I stared at the computer. 0700 was time for my daily weather brief. Marginal (at best). Canc-Wx.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Country Club Style

I was at an outlying airport preparing to take a student up for a lesson. As I did my walk around I heard a voice from behind: "I've never seen a PiperSport before." So as the student strapped in I gave my "elevator speech" on the airplane, LSA and Sport Pilot requirements. I always finish with a smile on my face and stress how much fun she is to fly. When he left we got back to business. The lesson went well, and upon return I opted to debrief while sitting in the airplane. As I reviewed the simulated in flight emergency a voice came from outside the airplane: "What kind of airspeed do you get out of this?" Once again I spoke to Sally's attributes for a few minutes, smiled then excused us and went back to the debrief. "She sure is a pretty plane". And so it goes.

Plane & Pilot has a great article this month about the company that imports SportCruisers into the USA.
  • Patrick Arnzen, the 34-year-old president of US Sport Aircraft, says, "It's all about knowing your customers, providing them what they want and keeping it fun in the process.
  • Wes Wynne, a new private pilot, said, "I started my training at another school. I was frustrated by maintenance issues with their 40-year-old planes when I happened to drive by US Sport's ramp and saw the cool planes they were flying. I went in the office and was impressed by the friendly people. But when I found out that it cost less to rent a brand-new SportCruiser than a 1970s 172, I was hooked. "
  • The success US Sport has experienced can be traced back to their energetic president. A former airline pilot, and one of the youngest designated pilot examiners (DPE) in the country, Arnzen has run several aviation businesses prior to launching an Addison, Texas, location for US Sport Aircraft. Starting with a dirt-floor hangar and one aircraft, Arnzen quickly grew the business to a 10,000-square-foot facility, 20 or more planes and 20 staff members. "I could not have done this by myself. My biggest talent is probably being picky and only bringing on team members who share our vision and passion."
  • "The SportCruiser is everything we could have hoped for in a modern, well-equipped and economical cross-country airplane, and the friendships we've formed with the personnel at US Sport Aircraft will last long after we stop our flying adventures." -Gary Cordell

Have fun, be safe, train well.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


It was supposed to have been a busy week and I was looking forward to it. Either a Discovery Flight or Flight Lesson scheduled everyday, I was anxious to get back in the saddle and do some CFI work. It was not to be. Each morning weather check read the same way: low clouds and poor visibility. So each day I got up, checked and sent out an email saying Flight Canceled - Wx. Until Thursday. The weather was not great but was good enough to get in a couple of Discovery Flights.

I got to the airport well before the first student to preflight and position the airplane. She took some effort to start, but after a few extra cranks she ran smoothly. I taxied around the hangar to park in front of the FBO to give a better presentation to the prospective new client. Sally does have good ramp appeal.

After a good preflight brief we taxied to Runway 11 and departed over Quakertown, went by Pennridge and out over Lake Nockamixon. It was calm and the visibility was good under the 3500' overcast. The student did some climbs, descents and turns getting accustomed to the light feel of the control stick. He did well. It was a good flight and Sally really showed the positive aspects of flying a modern LSA. I floated a bit on the landing (RWY11 has a slight down hill grade) but recovered to make a nice landing. After the debrief I sat in the office munching on a Kind bar to wait for the next event.

A text message informed me that the afternoon flight was canceled. The student had some business that couldn't be postponed and would have to reschedule our flight for some other time. RATS!

I had a plane. I had gas. She was already preflighted, so...

Video Notes: Kutztown

When I was a student pilot, Kutztown was one the airports my instructor insisted I conquer before I could solo. Less than 25 miles from Slatington, with East Texas VOR for a Navaid, the flight would end at the busy airport with glider traffic. It had an hump in the middle of the paved runway which made the landing interesting. A Notice To Airmen was published for Kutztown Airport in December 2008 that the airport would be closed to transient aircraft. It was announced that the airport would close all operation on January 31, 2009. The Diner is still open.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Aging Aeronaut - Eyes

... 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 ...
If you are young and immortal you can skip this post. least for now.

I had been working with the eye doctor for some time. As you get older these appointments become more important. My glasses had the correct prescription but it had become increasingly difficult to drive at night. The glare from oncoming headlights was more disturbing and reading highway signs was a challenge. Part 61.57 states I need three takeoffs and full stop landings every 90 days to allow me to take passengers along with me at night. During my latest night currency flight I noted that Sally's landing light had gotten awfully dim. It was time.

We decided to wait until after Sun 'N Fun. Cataract Surgery would remove each of my lenses and replace them with the latest technology flexible implanted artificial lenses. A new procedure would also insert a medicine package to alleviate the use of eye drops. I was told the recovery time would be minimal.

This was true for the left eye. The procedure was done on Friday, by Saturday morning that eye was back to 20/20. Miraculous. Not so true for the right eye. That procedure was done the following Friday and I was virtually blind in that eye the next day. I could see the remains of the medicine pack as a black shadow over my eye and the center of my vision was completely blurred. Not good. Turns out that although rare, the invasive procedure had caused swelling in my retina. The doctor prescribed eye drops to help reduce the swelling. I hate eye drops.

Yesterday I flew for the first time since the surgery. It was glorious! I CLEARLY watched a blimp traverse the Philadelphia airspace. Traffic calls in the pattern were easy. All with no glasses! Left eye vision is better than 20/20 and a true joy. Right eye is still improving, probably back to about where it was when we started. I still have some minor swelling.  ...and it is only going to get better. The new lenses allow some "tweaking" to fine tune the vision after 90 days. I'm excited about the future.

Sally is doing well. The DSAB failures and Low Voltage problems were all fixed by replacing the voltage Regulator/Rectifier.  We did 5 landings and with all of them we were off on the first taxiway for 29er. Gusts to 10kts and nearly a direct crosswind. I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Video Notes: none

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Eminent Domain Case - Solberg (N51)

Reference: Balloon Festival

A small general aviation airport in rural New Jersey known as “Solberg” has been under withering assault for nearly a decade by the local township. Solberg has been around forever and is enjoyed by pilots and aircraft owners up and down the East Coast and beyond. A lovely family owns it and they have been nearly bankrupted in trying to protect what was legally theirs to peaceably enjoy.

Well, they won a huge victory. Not only did the judge hearing the eminent domain claim turn the township away, it assessed millions of dollars in fines against it.

Armstrong's 54-page ruling came after a 48-day trial that began in May 2014 and ended in January with testimony from 11 witnesses and more than 800 pieces of evidence. The judge also reviewed 5,600 pages of court transcripts.
Not only is general aviation important to the national infrastructure, but it serves a critical role as the cradle of aviation. The security and economic vitality of the United States depends on this laboratory of flight where future civilian and military pilots are born. Airports such as Solberg blossomed in an era when local young men turned their dreams of barnstorming into air dominance in World War II and led this country into its golden age. These dreams still live in our youth, and general aviation endures as the proving ground for future pilots from all walks of life. Finally, there is a certain freedom that defines general aviation. Men and women throughout history gazed longingly at the soaring effortless freedom of birds, pondering release from the symbolic bondage of gravity. Only here can a man or woman walk onto some old farmer’s field and turn dreams into reality. As Charles Lindbergh once said: “What freedom lies in flying, what Godlike power it gives to men . . . I lose all consciousness in this strong unmortal space crowded with beauty, pierced with danger." - Judge Paul Armstrong
Armstrong ruled that the township's condemnation plan "was orchestrated to prevent airport expansion under the pretextual banner of open-space policy" and that it amounted to a "manifest abuse of power."

Links: Airfare America
  Solberg Airport News

Legal Ruling

In fine, an objective scrutiny of the collective testimony of the elected officials involved in the architecture and implementation of the eminent domain ordinance concerning the SHA property reveals a studied attempt to obscure the true purpose of the condemnors in the instant taking. The Court finds this testimony, as a whole, to be unforthright, evasive, untrustworthy, argumentative, lacking credibility and therefore unworthy of belief.

Moreover, the resultant lack of transparency in governmental actions of Readington Township has subverted an open political process thus weakening the protection of all its citizens’ private property rights including the Solberg family. That is to say the condemnation was singularly initiated to secure Township control over airport operations.This objective evidence conclusively establishes that the taking was in direct response to Solberg’s airport development proposal and only ostensibly part of some environmental protection plan dependent upon the condemnation of the subject property. Such behavior undermines the integrity of the municipal government’s stated public purpose behind Ordinance 25-2006 and demonstrates bad faith. Accordingly, the taking is invalid in its entirety.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


The weather window opened and allowed some interesting flights over the Pennsylvania countryside. One flight concentrated on turns. Easy on the ground, controlling a vehicle in three dimensions becomes more interesting and practice at a variety of bank angles teaches the pilot how to coordinate all controls effectively.

Another flight concentrated on takeoffs. While all controls are used, this is primarily a pitch exercise. The drill emphasizes the performance characteristics of the airplane and refines the touch required to keep the aircraft in "ground effect" until the appropriate velocity can be reached. It is counter intuitive to push the nose DOWN after take off, but that's what it takes.

Sally suffered an electrical problem during the takeoff practice. As we ran through the takeoff checklist the red generator annunciator light came on followed by low voltage warnings. We continued in the pattern for a few more turns, but ultimately ended the training flight early to investigate the problem. I suspect a voltage regulator/rectifier problem.

Video Notes: Learning to Turn,

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


2015 Sun 'n Fun
This trip had multiple objectives. We were on vacation so beach time was near the top of the list. Tampa has many wondrous beaches and we sampled many of them. We had some business meetings planned and were able to make all of our appointments. And of course, Sun 'n Fun.

We arrived a little before noon on Friday. Larger than Sebring, this event is much more spread out with many more vendors and airplanes to see. Our first stop was US Sport Aircraft to talk with Patrick, Mitch, Jim and Bryan. They gave us the "lay of the land" offered us some cold water and invited us to refresh there as often as we wanted. We left and went out exploring. The displays were much more elaborate, the planes bigger and four, full sized hangars were devoted to vendor space. I was surprised to see a number of drones being demonstrated, new for me at an airshow.

I had two "must see" vendors on my list. The first was Hilton Software, the maker of WingX Pro. I had a "limitation" that I wanted to discuss concerning the playback feature. I love the capability, but want to have files accessible by flight, not by day. It would allow me to send each student his own .gpx file and combined with video, create individual flight reviews. After a short demonstration the guy working the booth finally understood my requirement and agreed to take it back to the development team.

The second was Spencer Aircraft. I bought two travel chairs from them at Sebring and one had failed. An ingenious design with aluminum tubes and bungees, this chair is very compact and light weight. Perfect to throw in the wing locker when going to an airshow. But the resin connecter on one chair had failed after the first use. I found the booth and was prepared for an argument. Instead I got an apology, immediate replacement for the broken part from one of the kits in his booth and a free t-shirt. All he asked was that I send a picture of the broken part with the serial number so that he can advise his supplier of the defect. Done Deal! (yes, I WILL do business with his company again.)

After lunch (a surprisingly good hamburger) and wandering around in the warm Florida sun, we found our way back to US Sport Aircraft. Although very active with customers, we were invited to sit in the shade and enjoy the afternoon airshow. Great seats and all the teams did a superb job. The Thunderbirds are just so impressive, I had forgotten just how good they are.

We thanked our hosts and left for our final event, the NAFI Member's Dinner to honor 2015 Hall of Fame inductees.  We got lost. Some how I turned right and should have gone left. We were hot, tired and frustrated and really not too sure where to go. We obviously looked lost. A kindly gentleman in a blue minivan pulled up and asked if he could help, then drove across the campus to deliver us to Buehler Hangar. Thanks friend, fly safely.

Good food, great conversation and wonderful speakers, the highlight was the Keynote Presentation by Rod Machado. Not a direct quote but something like: "...After a smooth take off the student immediately reached for the post takeoff/climb checklist. Rod snatched it from his hand and threw it in the back. The stunned student asked how he was supposed to climb? Rod told him "Point the nose up and don't hit anything!" You should take advantage of any opportunity to hear this man speak, it will be worth your effort.

Penna weather is lousy. It was hard to come home after spending some quality beach time.

Pictures: from Flying and Spaceflight Insider and Plane & Pilot

Commentary: A Tale of Two Air Shows