Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Readiness Flight

I always do a Readiness Flight before I get with a new student. I try to go about the same time as the scheduled flight either a day or two prior to the actual event. This gives me a chance to evaluate typical weather patterns for the time of day, especially the heat, and check out the overall condition of the airplane. It is especially important if I haven't flown in awhile as it helps to knock my rust off as well.

I stopped to get 5 gallons of gas from the local Wawa for our flight. That would give me about an hour of flight time. I was surprised to find Sally looking so clean. Two weeks under the overhang had treated her well. Always a few spiders nests as well as some other crawly things, but for the most part not too bad. She burped after 20 pulls and the oil level was halfway up the flat. Nothing unusual under the cowling. The tires looked good. I pulled her out into the sunlight to continue to preflight and found a little debris from the gascolator., but nothing to worry about. I climbed in and finished my checks. An easy start, oil pressure was good and everything looked normal. No it didn't, generator light was on. Voltage was 11+ but she was discharging.

I decided to do some pattern work to see if there were any other problems. Run-up was fine. All other checks were good. Winds were from the north so we used runway 5. I was the only airplane flying at Tampa Exec today. Sally performed well in the Florida heat (90's) and after to circuits I was confident that she only had one discrepancy, what I suspect to be the voltage regulator (or rectifier.) Last changed in May 2015, and before that in April 2013. A new one is on order. (approx $200).

Video Note: Readiness Flight

Note: Pretty quiet without the generator online.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Oshkosh - Epilog

Saturday 7/30: I called the airport early Saturday morning to let them know that I was the owner of the PiperSport tied down on their ramp. I told the manager that I would be up to get her on Sunday. Nate made his early afternoon commercial flight Saturday.

Sunday 7/31: Kathy drove me up to the Crystal River Airport Sunday morning. It seems we had parked Sally in a spot reserved for the training aircraft of the fight school. The manager had already received a number of requests asking to rent her. Kathy waited in the car under a shade tree as I did a thorough preflight. Coolant level was good, but the oil was at the bottom of the flat. I added about a third of a bottle to bring it up to about midway. Tires and the rest of the exterior looked good.

I had cracked open the canopy to let some of the Florida heat out. I needed to use rags as oven mitts to use the handholds as I got in. The leather seats were hot too. I brought a small flat blade screwdriver to see if I could use it as a lever to pry the electric fuel pump on. It worked. She started easily and the remaining checks were good. We had an uneventful flight home.

Conclusion: This was an event of a lifetime and is really hard for me to overstate. The journey to and from Oshkosh, coupled with THE show itself were way above expectations, but spending a week of quality time with my son was nothing short of fabulous.

Thanks Nate.
  1. Nate bought a hat at Airventure. (I received some comments about trying to shield his eyes while landing at Fon du Lac.)
  2. My cell phone was under warranty and has been replaced.
  3. The fuel pressure issue is under investigation. During the annual a new mechanical fuel pump was installed and some memorandum indicate fluctuating low pressure may be normal and acceptable.
  4. The broken toggle switch has been repaired. 
  5. F = Food, S = Sleep. (IMSAFE) In any case, we were too tired to continue.
  6. The mileage and performance charts previously provided were based on straight line distance between airports and Hobbs time. This skewed the speed calculations. Remember that we lost some GPS data due to loss of battery power at Terre Haute. The following chart is a more "realistic" calculation of ground speed from the GPS track information available from the 696. (Average of 96kts)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Return from Oshkosh

Wednesday 7/27: There were dark clouds just north of KFLD. The weather briefer had also advised us of storms along the coast line of the lake. We worked together to get the tie downs off, gear packed and preflight completed. Before turning the key we paused, double checked everything and validated what we were about to do. Sally started easily, we contacted ground and prepared to take off to the north, right at the storm. We made a downwind departure to the south, putting the ugly weather behind us.

KGYY: The challenge on this leg was the very busy Class B and numerous Class C & D around Chicago. Flight Following was good at pointing out the many targets and before too long we were out over the shoreline at 1500' under the Class B shelf. Spectacular views of the city skyline and a sad park that was formerly known as Meigs Field. KGYY was only a fuel stop so we didn't stay long. We met two fliers from Philadelphia on their way to KOSH that were waiting out the weather we just ran away from. I wonder how they made out?

KHUF: Easy departure, weather was not a factor, we had light (8-10kts) headwinds as we traveled south into Indiana. Weather briefer had no major concerns until we reached the southern part of the state, so Terre Haute  would be our rest stop. We arrived just before 6:00pm so the person working the FBO desk wasn't sure about letting the crew car go for the night, but a check with the manager gave us permission. A nice Honda Pilot was ours until 8:00am Thursday morning. Some great food at M Moggers Restaurant and Pub before returning to the hotel for some rest.

Thursday 7/28: Rain and fog and thunderstorms. We sat in the pilot's lounge waiting on the weather. Eventually we borrowed the crew car to go get some lunch and along the way stopped by Rose-Hulman University to take a look. We had visited this place years before as part of Nate's college tour. The sun started to break through in the afternoon, but we were still in an unstable air mass. Nate suggested we try some landing practice. (How often have you landed on a 9000ft runway?) As we went through the preflight I noticed the GPS representation was different. During our last shutdown Nate had pressed a button on the 696 activating its internal battery. It had gone dead over the night so all of my customization's were gone. Track up anyone?

KBWG: We departed the pattern about 3:00pm heading direct to Bowling Green. There were lots of Cumulus clouds but easy enough to fly around. Headwinds at 3500' were moderate at 10-12kts. Due to heavy, ugly thunderstorms to the south, this would be an overnight stop. Colmar Aviation took good care of us by providing shuttle service to and from the Holiday Inn. (They even provided a free breakfast!)

Friday 7/29: Low scattered clouds and mist. The briefer told us to expect a broken layer at 4500' on our way south. This should be an easy leg.

KGLW: The scattered layer turned into a broken layer just a few miles after take off. We climbed above it and very soon after there were no longer any holes beneath us. A quick check of the METARS showed our destination was overcast at 3500'. KBWG was now marginal VFR, the next best airport was Gasgow Municipal. This was not a good time to exercise "VFR Over the Top". We turned back to wait for better conditions.

I large cell was just to the south of us, another had KBWG in IFR conditions. A rectangular SIGMET put us in the box. I thought it would be an hour for that mess to move off to the east. It did, but another cell was born and traveled right behind. We ordered pizza. I went out to Sally to set my preferences back into the 696. We waited. After some more time, we formulated a plan to head north and west around the biggest cells, then south into good air.

KMDQ: We departed about 2:00pm heading roughly toward KBWG. The weather was better than expected, but even so we listened to ATC helping flights find their way around the storms. We had choices to make. Could we make it safely through the opening to the left? Should we divert more to the west? We had Flight Following. We had XM Weather (and were very aware of the limitations). All the time we kept the dark gray monsters in sight to the east. 3500' was good until we got close to Nashville, then we had to go lower but we had to do that anyway to get beneath the west side of the Class C airspace (2400') around Nashville. Down 200' up 100', down another 200' picking our way clear of the base of the clouds. Sally squawked obstacle and terrain avoidance and we could visually verify each one.  After KBNA the weather finally got good enough for us to relax. We climbed back up 3500'. Nate put the Foggles back on and set up for an ILS. I had him review the chart on his iPad and brief the approach. Hard work after an already busy day. Just another fuel stop, we did a quick turn around and got on our way.

KCKF: Easy departure, about 4:00pm and weather was still a factor with large thunder storms directly on our path. We had light (8-10kts) headwinds as we traveled southeast avoiding the isolated storms on our way to Georgia. We watched in wonder at the downpours in the mountains west of Atlanta and were relieved when we turned the corner to head south again. Finally some clear skies. But another problem got our attention, an intermittent low fuel pressure warning. Fortunately we have a full set of instruments and there were no changes in fuel flow, RPM or any other gauge. I suspect a bad sensor. We set up for an RNAV approach so Nate got to try going down to an MDA instead of a glide slope. Just another fuel stop, we did a quick turn around and got on our way.

KCGC: We departed about 6:30pm. One more large cell to the south was clearly visible on XM on the 696. We could see this beautiful monster in the distance and could easily get around the western edge and then turn south once again. Weather forecast in Florida was good. We snuck under a thin layer at 4000' as the sun was setting. We prepared for night flight by dimming the instruments and sitting on our flashlights. This part of the country was sparse, not many ground lights. I cautioned Nate about fixation and the "black hole" effect. A Diamond Star was coming up from the south to get his night landings in. While we had a number of airports to choose from, and I chose poorly. "Full Service" does NOT include Self Service. After a night visual approach and landing Nate broke the electric fuel pump toggle switch when turning off the pump. We taxiied to the ramp (avoiding the Diamond Star) and shut her down.

It had been a long day. IMSAFE said we should no longer fly due to fatigue. Low fuel pressure indications with a broken standby pump at night meant our journey was at an end. Although less than 45 minutes from home, it was time to call the ground crew. We secured Sally, walked over to the local Applebees and waited for Kathy to come fetch us. Our heads hit the pillow back in Tampa about 2:00am.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Light Sport AirVenture

Monday 7/25: We taxied over to the fuel station at Fon du Lac and shut her down. We both took a deep breath and smiled at each other. That was quite an entry. We gathered our wits and planned our next move. First we called EAA to find out if tent camping was still available (General Aviation Camping was closed). We were assured we could camp there. A shuttle was available to take us from KFLD to KOSH. Parking on the grass was available at KFLD, so we moved Sally over to the field and tied her down. We had planned to camp under Sally's wing but now with the change of plans we had to remove any gear we might need while camping at Oshkosh. Fortunately we travel light.

We took the last two seats on the next shuttle, Nate sitting way in the back of the bus, I sat next to a pilot who just flew his Mooney in from Connecticut with two teenage daughters. He was still wound up about his entry into KFLD.  I started to tell my story but he was just two excited to listen.

My First
We checked in at the ticket counter and bought tickets (wrist bands) through Wednesday. Nate was surprised to find that I was already an EAA member. This would save us a lot of money throughout the week. They were not able to provide camping passes, so that would be a long walk (first of many) to another building. Camping passes are purchased by the week and if you leave early the unused days are refunded. Now that we were assured of a spot it was time to see the show. This time we took the shuttle bus.

Our agenda was as simple as A,B,C,D. Those are the hangars that hold the aviation vendors. We were methodical and diligent. We both had things we wanted to see, but nothing we wanted to buy. This was a reconnaissance mission. (BTW, you get what you pay for. We saw many pieces of gear that you might expect to use for an emergency back up situation that really weren't manufactured or tested with any safety standards. Beware.) About 3:00pm my cell phone died. While disappointed that I wouldn't be taking pictures, I would not miss the daily news. It was...liberating. Nate still had his phone in case of any emergency. We visited a few more vendors (including US Sport Aircraft and the Airbus E-FAN)) before calling it a day.

Camp "Dads"
Nate had ordered camping gear from Target. We took another long walk over to the store to pick up the gear, then had Uber take us back to camp grounds. After some quick checking in the dark, our site was selected behind some Port-a-potties near a Dumpster. (No, it was a GREAT spot! You can really appreciate the convenience as you get older.) Tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses w/battery powered pump, pillows, ...but we would still be roughing it - no pillow cases! Putting up camp in the dark is never easy, but Nate handled it very well. We put our heads down about 11:30 pm and slept VERY well.

Tuesday 7/26: Priorities were 1. Airplanes, 2. Food, 3. Rest.

I woke up around 7:30am to the sound of rotor blades flying overhead. Next the unmistakable sound of a Merlin engine. We were just a few steps from the bus stop and near the beginning of the route which meant we could sit down for our ride to the show. After some coffee and an egg sandwich we headed over to Boeing Plaza (stopping to look and our favorite vendor displays along the way). We spent time with the B17, then spent time talking with the P3AEW&C Plane Commander about his current duties and operations. He had a great story about flying this 4 engine plane into a VFR traffic pattern with homebuilts. We looked at all the planes in the plaza and asked questions about each one. Did you know that Air Force F15s have tail hooks?

I found a shady table as Nate stood in line for food. Two guys asked to join me and of course I welcomed them. Both family doctors and AMEs from Wichita, they had flown into Green Bay in their C210 and drove a rental car in every day, about 45 minutes from their hotel. We discussed the changes to the Third Class Medical and their experiences giving pilots exams. They are uncertain that the pilot population can self regulate. It was a great discussion.

We made many, many more stops but one in particular was the EAA Pilot Proficiency Center. With mobile Apps to send alerts about significant weather, why can't incoming pilots be alerted when Oshkosh parking is full? How does someone make a reservation? The unsatisfying response: "The grounds are actually open weeks in advance. You should come earlier."

It was time to head to the beer tent. We found some seats at the end of a table so I claimed our spot as he went for beer. It felt really good to sit down. Across from me sat a guy wearing a light blue Air Force cap with "scrambled eggs" on the brim. I asked what he flew and the immediate response was an RV7. We talked about General Aviation for a bit before I pressed him on what he flew in the Air Force. "Oh, MQ9s." Wow! So when Nate came back I told him to chat with this guy because he flies drones. (Air Force prefers Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, BTW.) When Nate learned the truth the poor man couldn't eat his meal as he answered all of our questions. Just fantastic, only at Oshkosh. Next we walked over to Pioneer Field to watch the RC planes do their thing. We were both impressed.

We walked back to the camp grounds and stopped at the Country Store. I looked up and saw a two plane formation, F4U in trail of a P51. We sat at the picnic table drinking a gallon jug of ice water and a few beers. We talked about all things aviation and nothing about real world troubles. Then a short walk to "Camp Dads" for another sound sleep.

Wednesday 7/27: Nate donated the camp gear to a church group camping just behind us. After another bus ride in, we stopped for the traditional coffee and donuts. Then signed up for a simulator ride at the EAA Pilot Center. During the hour or so wait we checked out the Bose booth, a few more LSA displays and watched airplanes of all types making low passes down the runway. The simulator instructors were a bit overwhelmed, so while it was interesting, the event didn't live up to its potential. A few more stops before we exited the main gate and looked for the shuttle back to Fon du Lac.

Wrap Up: Flying Magazine
"EAA CEO and Chairman Jack Pelton agrees. With more than 14,300 aircraft movements, 553,000 visitors and a boisterous mood among visitors and thousands of EAA volunteers, Pelton called AirVenture 2016 an “unbelievably successful” event."
Plane and Pilot
"From our point of view, there were, scientifically speaking, a boatload of planes at Wittman Field, with parking filling up by the first day of the show, Monday, and staying very full even through the usual getaway days of Thursday and Friday and through the penultimate day, Saturday, as well.

Opinion: I was asked what I liked most about the show? The airplanes are great. The technology is truly amazing. The size and scope of this event is incomprehensible. An uneducated guess would be that I saw about 33% of the event. Definitely worth another trip. But the most impressive part of the show is the people. We had wonderful conversations with very interesting people. Pilots are just great people to be around.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Flight to Oshkosh 2016

I was probably about fourteen years old when I first heard about it. Oshkosh. My Mom thought it had something to do with kid's clothes. I had made myself a promise that some year I would fly there in my own airplane. However life gets in the way sometimes and while I always intended to keep my promise, I never thought it would take me fifty years. Never, ever in all that time did I think there would be a bonus, that my son would make the trip with me.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sunday 7/24: After a breakfast at WaWa we drove out to the airport to begin the preflight. Weight is always a concern when flying an LSA. We eliminated all non-essential bags, clutter, plugs an covers. We kept the pitot static cover, a bottle of oil, tie down ropes and the "Claw" tie down hooks. We opted for a can of canopy cleaner and a few rags. All of that went into the left wing locker. My small travel bag went into the right wing locker. Nate's clothing was in a small backpack and went into the space behind the seats with a small box of snacks. We would fly with about 20 gallons of fuel, my "bingo" target is 6 gallons (3 on each side). Fuel burn is less than 6 gal/hr. 

KVDF: We took off about 0730. Weather was not a factor. Light headwinds.

KTMA: En route we practiced a few standard rate turns, discussed IFR terminology and reviewed some approach charts. Nate did his first ILS. We took off about 1030. Weather was not a factor. Light headwinds.

KRYY: More IFR discussions including the different types of approach procedures and memory aids (6T's). Clouds had turned from few to scattered to broken and the bottoms were dropping to 3500'. We asked for clearance through the Class B and were granted but at 4500'. Instead we flew under the "shelf" to the west of Atlanta and enjoyed seeing familiar terrain and landmarks.  The area around the airport has changed significantly with a longer runway and many new buildings. I had biscuits and gravy at the Elevation Chophouse and Skybar, he had some kind of healthy salad. We took off about 1300. Weather was becoming a factor with Cumulus building in all sectors. 8-10kt headwinds.

KBWG: We climbed out to the north and looked for ways to fly around the build ups. We asked for 4500' the 6500' and finally 8500'. That seemed to be a good level so we stayed there and set up for cruise. Surprisingly smooth air and the GPS reported "LT" winds on the nose. Nate tried on the "Foggles" and we discussed "Power + Pitch = Performance". I occasionally gave him heading changes to avoid the clouds building in front of us. XM weather began showing some yellow and red cells off in the distance, and ATC was getting busy diverting the commercial jets around the weather. We began a descent just north of Chattanooga to get beneath the cloud decks. 3500' worked out fine as we had a much better view of the heavy rain to see and avoid. Nate took the Foggles off and made a nice transition for the visual approach into Bowling Green. Just a fuel stop. We took off about 1600. The CU's were still in the area but becoming more scattered as they dissipated. 12-14kt headwinds.

KDNV: We still had some cells to avoid but the storms were becoming a non factor. Headwinds picked up to 20-24kts but still smooth air. My fuel checks weren't looking good. We could make our overnight destination but it would be tight. Already tired from a long day of flying, it was not a good time to question my personal limits on fuel remaining so we scheduled an intermediate stop. As we pulled a line captain said that there was a problem with the fuel truck and would take him a few minutes to get it fixed. (Oh no, this could be awhile.) But he fixed it quickly and we were ready to go. "Want to see something cool?" He took us into a hangar to show us the wing skin of a BF109 recently pulled out of a Russian lake. FLAC holes still evident, he explained that this is the home of a restoration company. He took us into another hangar with a magnificent P51 being restored with amazing detail. My first P51 of the trip! These are the kinds of stops that make GA amazing. We took off about 1900, weather was not a factor. 8-10kts headwind.

KIKK:  Uneventful trip at 2500'. Very hazy summertime weather and there were storms predicted for the evening. We secured Sally, borrowed the crew car and went to the Holiday Inn Express.

Monday 7/25: We arrived at the airport just as they opened at 0700. Nate pointed out that the nose tire was a bit low so we ordered an air bottle. I leaned on the tail so he could rotate the tire stem into the tiny notch on the wheel pant. It only need a few pounds, but that could make a big difference taxiing on the campsite turf at Oshkosh. We took off by 0800. Weather was not a factor. Strong headwinds at 22-26kts.


Video Notes : Fon Du Lac Adventure


Cleared to Land