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,