Friday, January 30, 2015

Escape from Butter Valley

A cold winter's day.

Almost no breeze, the sun was shining on the snow covered yard. It was bitter cold but the weather conditions wouldn't keep me from flying.

As I turned onto the entrance road to the airport I could see the work Harry had done on the turf "taxi way". It looked passable. But as I approached the runway I was disappointed to see that it hadn't been touched. I wouldn't be able to go until that was cleared. I parked in the lot and walked down past my old hangar to find Harry in his workshop. The cowling was off so he could show me all of the work that had been done.  It looked good. After a thorough inspection I climbed into the cockpit and put the key into the ignition. I read out the numbers for the Hobbs meter and he jotted it down for the records. I finished the cockpit preflight, looked to make sure he was clear, got a thumbs up and turned the key. She cranked but no start. I rechecked everything, called "Clear" and tried again. Rough at first but she smoothed out quickly. "Hello Sally."

Pressures, temperatures and RPM all looked good. I let her idle for awhile before shutting her down. We rechecked everything and once convinced there weren't any leaks put the cowling back on and buttoned everything up. The pilot and airplane were ready, the weather was OK but deteriorating, and the runway still wasn't ready. Harry went to find out about the delay. (The plow truck wouldn't start, but eventually got repaired.) I walked the plowed taxiway to insure there were no clumps of grass or ruts or icebergs that might be in my way. Two cross-country skiers using the runway as their play ground stopped to chat. They were happy to share Butter Valley with me.

I checked the weather one more time then climbed back into the cockpit and went through the checklist again. This time she started easily. I let her warm up as I watched the plow go out to runway and begin running up and down its length. I think the skiers were watching too but couldn't be sure. When the snow plow left I started my taxi. Slow but deliberate. I wanted to keep the momentum up. When I reached the runway I was pleased with the work the plow had done. The windsock showed the breeze was from the south so I used the back taxi to inspect the runway surface. I turned at the end of the asphalt and did my final checks. Time to go. We were off in about 100' and climbing quickly.

The forecast for the afternoon called for snow showers and increasing winds. The next day brought more snow and low ceilings. More snow and wind after that. If I hadn't been able to take advantage of that narrow window I might have been trapped there for a long time. I was very happy to land at Quakertown.

Video Notes: Escape

I couldn't get the hangar doors open. They were blocked by the ribbon of snow and ice left over from the plowing operation. I found Mike and borrowed a snow shovel. After a half hour of digging I finally got Sally back into her hangar. It started snowing as I locked the hangar door.

Monday, January 19, 2015


The "Affordable" Expo
My plan was to fly Sally down to Sebring, Florida for our first U.S. Sport Aviation Expo. At over 840 miles it would be a two day trip primarily down the east coast, although we might travel west a bit to fly into the Atlanta area for the overnight. But planning a VFR trip in winter is difficult. Snowstorm, ice-storm, windstorm, followed by more IFR conditions forced me to cancel my plans and consider another way. My commercial Delta flight departed Philadelphia and delivered me to Tampa. A rental car would take me the rest of the way.

This way to blue sky
The airport is located right next to the Motor Speedway. So I was a little confused by the signs inviting me to enter Gate #1 or #2, et cetera.  Traveling further down the entrance road led to a "linesman" directing cars into the open field across from the main gate. (No parking fee.) At 9:00am I got a GREAT parking spot. I had pre-registered on-line and once presenting my printed receipt was given a wrist band and Pocket Guide. I entered the gate under foggy, low overcast skies. Booths were still being assembled, only a few planes were positioned for demo. While the exhibitors would polish their displays throughout the week, the IFR conditions would remain ...really through Friday morning. The planes would trickle in, but some tents remained nearly vacant.

The best looking plane at the Expo
I talked with Richard, Prof Paul, "Garbageman", everyone in the Rotax booth (with lots of cold weather operation questions) and of course, the "A"-Team at US Sport Aircraft. Patrick, Stewart, Jim and Kolby did a fantastic job answering questions and promoting the "comely" SportCruiser.

Talk to Steve about this one
The Fora:

  • My first forum was given by Steve McCaughey: Seaplane 101. If you are thinking about flying one you should talk to Steve. He was convincing enough for me to join the Seaplane Pilot's Association and I don't have access to a seaplane!
  • Lou Mancuso: LSA Operational Tips. I was pleased to find someone professing the same ideas I use for instruction. He did a great job explaining techniques he uses for LSA pilots in the landing pattern. 
  • Barry Hull: #1 Killer of Pilots & How you can Prevent it. He has a system on how to measure judgement and as a former F18 pilot brings a lot of credibility to his presentation.
  • Kyle White: Aviation Insurance 101. To say this was exciting would be a gross overstatement. However in today's world there aren't many things in aviation that are more important.
  • Jamie Beckett: Start or Join a Flying Club. Can I do this with Sally? Should I?
  • Phil Lockwood: Rotax Engine 912 Seminar. So many myths and legends. This was really good stuff. I'm not going to use Sea Foam anymore.
  • Paul Shuch: Category and Class. Do I need to take a written test to get a Seaplane endorsement?
  • Nothing wrong with this.
  • Also, Dr. Story Musgrave (Hubble Astronaut) gave a great presentation in the "main tent" over lunch. "Don't give up!"
If I were going to build...
Attendance was down (so I'm told). Airplanes were missing. $2 for my morning coffee. But I was in warm Florida, around lots of new airplanes talking with people really excited about airplanes.

My first time at this show and I really enjoyed it. The "experts" may have other opinions, but I think it was a success.

Kathy picked me up at the Philadelphia Airport on Sunday, during a major ice storm. She had to wait until the major roads were cleared of accidents and their debris, allowing the temperature to get into the high 30s. Wintery weather expected for the rest of the week. Sally and I would have been forced to stay in Florida for another month. (Wait a minute.....)

Thursday, January 1, 2015


I stopped by the hangar to pick up my headset. I noticed the flap indicator light was lit. Not good. Following the cockpit demonstration done the previous evening for a prospective student I had forgotten to turn off the Master Switch. But no time to deal with that now. It was time to go flying.
It's a two-seat all-metal side-by-side airplane with a large cabin that seats the occupants ahead of the wing spar for maximum room and superb visibility. 
The RV-12 meets the certification standards of the Light Sport Aircraft category and the RV-12 is eligible to be licensed as a LSA: E-LSA for aircraft built from one of our kits or S-LSA for the factory built model. RV–12 General Information
Arriving at the FBO the RV was already in the pattern. After a few turns I realized that he was burning off some fuel so that we would be within weight limits for my ride. Two "big" guys and just over 16 gallons of Mogas still kept us under the 1320 pound LSA restriction. Mark and his brother had spent two years of weekends putting her together. The fit and finish were superb. Similar to Sally in many ways including the ROTAX engine, there are noticeable differences as well. Mark has a single panel SkyView (I like SkyView!) in addition to a number of other wonderful "bells and whistles". Plenty of leg, shoulder and head room. The V speeds are within 5kts of Sally's. Visibility is outstanding. I felt right at home flying over the Pennsylvania countryside. (Thanks for the recommendation David.)

After I watched Mark depart I sat in the office for a few minutes to plan my activities for the rest of the day. Sally came first. I attached the engine pre-heater and went back to the office to make some phone calls. I told Mike about my battery problem and he offered his charger for me to use if needed. I called Harry and made another appointment for a Condition Inspection and fortunately he had saved me a slot for next week. Then the FAA arrived.

Nice guys, but they do have a way to clear a room. "We're from the FAA and are here to help" just doesn't encourage a lot of pilots to stick around and talk. Two new "Operations Inspectors" were making the rounds to the various airports in their district. When I asked what their new duties would be I got ...well, a government kind of response (ie Make sure operations are safe, check paper work, etc. Kind of like a ramp check for an airport.) The lead guy, Bill, seems pleasent enough. Asked me a bit about LSA, how the business was doing, etc. He took one of my DVDs to look at. (I sure hope I haven't documented anything incriminating!) Everyone breathed just a bit easier when they left.

I went back to the hangar and disconnected the heater, pulled her out into the warming sunshine and finished the preflight. I turned the switches on and got nothing. I pushed her back in and went looking for Mike. I borrowed the charger off the back of his truck. I disconnected the red lead from Sally's battery, hooked up the charger and set the timer for 45 minutes. Back to the FBO for pilot chatter.

Warm flying jackets
After 45 minutes I went back to the hangar, cleaned up after the maintenance and prepared Sally for a start. Cough and chug, it took two tries but she started. After all of that you know I had to take her for a check flight.

Video Notes: Battery Check 

I mixed video speed with this one. I like the effect. I also annotated with "call outs" and am pleased with that functionality. Finally I added a "custom setting" to return to the blog after the video ends.