Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sun 'n Fun 2021

 Reference: Plane & Pilot  Avweb

The Aerospace Center for Excellence

"The order of the day was, do whatever you want. Which is fine for folks who have been vaccinated, but really risky for those who haven’t been." ~Plane&Pilot. I disagree. If you feel it is too risky don't participate. What I find interesting is the different "cultures" that attended this event. Florida is not locked down and promotes an individual responsibility philosophy. Other states promote community responsibility and expect more of a homogenous adherence to standards. I'm old and fat with a number of comorbidities. I wore my mask in the hangars but walked free and fearless in the open air out among the aircraft displays. I felt safe and would (will) do it again. My body, my choice. 

The crowds seemed lighter than in previous shows. Perhaps the pandemic or uncertainty about how the event would be handled. Certus and I enjoyed seeing what was new in aviation technology. There was about 90% occupancy in the hangars. Some of the vendors had decided to do virtual demonstrations, or like Dynon, a hybrid approach with some people physically attending while others spoke on the computer link. 

Outside, most of the big players were there. Piper, Tecnam, Cubcrafters and Bristell, and many others had their full displays out. SportCruiser failed to attend. (Ominous). It was so good to see familiar faces and find out how they fared in the new world of Pandemic America. ALL are optimistic. 2021 is going to be a good year.

I got tired from the amount of walking. I'm clearly not getting enough exercise by staying in the house. It was so good to be out walking in the Florida sun. 

We went back in the afternoon to enjoy the airshow. Nobody does it better than the Blue Angels!

Simply Beautiful.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Albert Whitted for Lunch

 Video: Albert with Mike

The Albert Whitted Airport is located just blocks away from hotels, restaurants, museums, shopping and more. This district features some of St. Petersburg’s most fashionable dining and shopping destinations as well as independent galleries and museums.  Anchored by the Salvador Dali Museum, Mahaffey Theater  and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, the district is bounded by St. Petersburg’s sparkling waterfront park system and includes the St. Petersburg Museum of History and the Museum of Fine Arts. We ate at "The Hangar Restaurant & Flight Lounge" on the airport. (My Turkey BLT had fried green tomatoes and was excellent.) 

"Welcome to the new St. Pete Pier! This gleaming new attraction on the city’s picturesque waterfront promises limitless fun for everyone, from first-time visitors to long-time residents. Its 26 beautiful acres seamlessly combine the peaceful blue waters of Tampa Bay with the vibrant greenery of downtown St. Petersburg’s parks, creating the ultimate place to stroll, bike, dine, drink, shop, swim, take in a concert and more. So get together with your family and friends and visit. It’s time to soak up some fun under the warm Florida sun!" ~

It was on Mike's bucket list. The only question was what route to take from KVDF to get there. We couldn't fly direct as that would take us through Class B airspace and right over MacDill AFB. We could call Tampa for permission but doubtful that route would be approved. We could ask to take the "Bridge Transition" to fly directly over KTPA and out to the beach, or we could stay east of I75 and make our turn at Ruskin and fly over the bay. We did the latter.

The weather was very good, light winds, morning convection gave us a little chop but overall a very comfortable flight. I love the Tower folks manning KSPG. They are always very friendly and helpful. When we told ground we were there for lunch you could almost hear the smile on his face as he welcomed us to his airport. Landing fee was $5 since we didn't need any services. We sat in the shade out on the veranda overlooking palm trees and watching airplanes land. Paradise.

During the preflight prior to departure my ADSB returned a 1090ES fault. Not good. This means that ADSB was down and unless I got a waiver we could not leave the airport. Mike shut her down and got out and I scrunched under the pilot side panel to search for loose wires. The coax from the GPS antenna was loose. It never fit snugly and now it became an issue. After some jiggling and a few prayers the box finally passed its system check. We were good to go.

The next stop was Airport Manatee. Mike had never landed on grass before and I wanted him to have that experience. The first challenge is to find the airport. Even with GPS, a turf field looks just like another patch of grass from a distance. It's not until you see the hangars that you really get a feel for the runway environment. The next challenge is to fly a standard traffic pattern. Without runway reference markings its a bit difficult to tell when to turn and what to use for an aim point. Winds here were variable and gusty and it turns out we probably landed with a tailwind. But Mike did well. After looking at the sock we decided to take off in the opposite direction and head for home.

It was a great adventure.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Ridge Landing Airpark 4FL5 & South Lakeland Airport X49

X49 Video.

Ridge Landing Airpark (FAA LID: 4FL5), also known as Ridge Landing Airport, is a private use airpark located four nautical miles (7 km) west of the central business district of Frostproof, a city in Polk County, Florida, United States.

1+ acre lots – Custom Built Airpark Homes – Top Builders In Florida – Fly in Fly Out

"Ridge Landing Airpark in Frostproof, Florida, is an aviation community that sells real estate property for custom home builds and custom built Airpark Homes. Pilots, find your dream home, Search through our homes and property for sale that are near landing strips, airports, and perfect for pilots and aviation enthusiasts. Live where you fly. Homes can be built with private hangars in a safe gated community, located near some of Florida’s main attractions. Purchase your very own piece of airpark real estate in Ridge Landing Airpark!"


South Lakeland Airport (FAA LID: X49) is a public airport located 13.5 miles south of the central business district (CBD) of Lakeland, a city in Polk County, Florida, United States. The airport covers 32 acres and has one runway. The airport is also home to a regional skydiving company, Skydive Tampa Bay, Inc.

Low pass at Ridge Landing Airpark.
While scrolling through Facebook I came upon a post announcing the Ridge Landing Airpark was holding a fly-in this month. The pictures showed a few planes parked near tents with people enjoying a light lunch. You know, it seems like forever since we went to a fly-in so I decided to take the 30 minute flight to find this place to see just where it was located. 

The flight down was pretty uneventful, although we did get an "OBSTICAL" alert on a monstrous cell tower about midway on the flight plan. The chart says 825' but it seemed much taller than that. Sally and I decided to divert a bit to the north just in case the chart was wrong.

The airpark is a private field with no frequencies for CTAF or AWOS. Landing is by permission only so I just made a low pass to see what was there. It might be nice to go back for lunch but I'm a little wary of getting a real-estate sales pitch.

South Lakeland is a grass strip that occupies the cutout in the Lakeland Class C airspace.

Dimensions: 2412 x 100 feet / 735 x 30 meters, Surface: Turf in Good Condition

There was one bi-wing ultra light taking off when I arrived and she was downwind by the time I was on short final. I decided on a low approach. Sally is still pretty clean from her bath and I didn't want to have to clean weeds off the the underside of the wings and wheel pants.

Just one pass and we were done. Time to go home.

KVDF just announced that their repairs will take longer than expected. Maybe they'll be done by mid-April.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Arcadia X06

 Video Arcadia

According to The Atlas of Florida, "The Rev. James Madison ("Boss") Hendry (1839–1922) named the town in honor of Arcadia Albritton (1861–1932), a daughter of Thomas H. and Fannie (Waldron) Albritton, pioneer settlers. Arcadia had baked him a cake for his birthday and he appreciated it so much that he named the city after her."

Turning downwind X06 RWY06

From 1917 to 1922, Arcadia was the home of Carlstrom Field, a grass airfield of the U.S. Army Air Service named for deceased aviation pioneer Victor Carlstrom. Carlstrom Field was used for pilot training both during and after World War I. In May 1941 the site again became an airfield for military primary flight training, operated by the Embry–Riddle Aeronautical Institute (now Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University). Carlstrom Field, one of several satellite fields in the Fort Myers area, also trained pilots for the Royal Air Force until its closing in 1945. Arcadia Municipal Airport is a public-use airport located 1 mile (1.6 km) southeast of the central business district. The City of Arcadia operates the day-to-day operations of the airport. It is leading the State in low fuel prices and has a nice Fly-In & Camp Out facility called Aviation City. It is becoming locally famous for weekly fly-in Taco Tuesdays.

Arcadia and other areas of Florida have a rich history of cattle-raising, which means it also had – and continues to have – a large contingent of cowboys, known locally as Florida Crackers (for the sound made by their whips). Located just one hour east of Sarasota and Bradenton and one hour north of Fort Myers, Arcadia sits in the middle of Florida cowboy country and it is a place where the Old West meets the Old South. Rodeos and other competitions in Arcadia are common, and the town also hosts the De Soto County Fair in January and the Watermelon Festival in May. 

Sally looked good when I opened the hangar doors. Still clean from her bath, the sun shined on the spinner as I began the preflight.  Nose tire was a bit under pressure so I put about 5 lbs. of air in the tire. I also marked the spot where the stem comes out with a silver Sharpie. The wheel pant makes this a bit difficult to find. The rest of the checks were good. 

Citation taking off on RWY18

The weather looked good for the 30 minute flight. The temperatures are in the mid 70°s and we're under a low pressure system.  Light winds  and haze. The farmers are burning their winter weeds so there is a lot of smoke is in the air. 

Runway 5-23 is closed at KVDF for improvements. It won't be open again till the end of March so all traffic is forced to use 18-36. Only a slight inconvenience for me since my hangar is just off this runway. It does mean a significant increase in traffic. I got an airshow today as a Citation took off on RWY18 as I taxied out of my ramp area. I waited a few extra minutes for wake turbulence to clear prior to to taxi. 

The flight plan was pretty routine except for one thing, my "nightmare towers". These are a group of monstrous cell phone towers with long ugly arms that reach up out the ground trying to grab unsuspecting pilots on smoky, hazy days. I looked for them as soon as I crossed over I75 and kept well clear to the east. Sally took us up to 2,700' and we stayed there with a few burbles in the air for most of the trip. A few orange groves and a lot of pasture were the only sights to see along our route. Florida is pretty flat.

On final RWY06 at X06
The engine is performing very well. Prior to the flight I took the remaining tape off the oil cooler and I may have done it too soon. Temperature stayed in the 180°F range and I would prefer it get up to 200°F. I'll add a strip next time. The prop repitch is a success. TAS was 118kts for cruise at 5300RPM (about 5.5GPS). That's about 5kts faster than before the adjustment. Takeoff is at 4950RPM and climb out (80kts) is about 5180RPM. I'm happy with all of those numbers.

Arcadia only had a few visitors. None were in the pattern when I got there. It's a nice, well maintained airport. I'll plan on going back for some tacos. A touch and go and I was on my way home. I decided to climb above the smoke and leveled at 6,500ft. There was smoother air but still smoky. The Tampa class B was coming up so we went back down again, just in time to fly over my house. The development is expanding to the north and the sandy soil stood out from the rest of the green lawns.

The landing pattern was a little busy with student pilots at KVDF. I was number 3 on the downwind and someone was turning crosswind behind me. But the spacing was all good and I made an uneventful full stop landing.

Uneventful is always good.

*Question from a reader about smoke: 

Smoke from local burns at about 5000'.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Paying your Debts

 Video Introduction Flight

I was browsing Facebook and read a post about young man offering to wash airplanes for an airplane ride. I made an appointment almost immediately for the next available Saturday morning. It turned out to be a cold but sunny Florida winter's day. 

I taxied over to the wash area and waited just a few minutes before he and his mom arrived in their car. They introduced themselves and quickly got their equipment out and began to work. I brought along a beach chair and sat down to watch. I was impressed. Attention to detail. They assessed the trouble spots on the belly and decided how to coordinate their efforts to get the job done. Constant communication. 

It had been awhile since I did this so the airplane was dirty. Some areas are harder to get to, even on a creeper, but they never slowed down. Their clothes got soaked as they laid in the puddles to get the dirt off the brakes. I was amazed when he cleaned the top of the vertical stabilizer without using a ladder. Teamwork.

After about 2 hours they finished up. The best the airplane had looked in a long time.

This past Saturday was my turn to pay up. When I left home the weather was marginal. Foggy mist was breaking up and low clouds were forming. Winds were still light but getting stronger. The forecast was good and I hoped it would be right for a change. It was chilly for Florida, low to mid 40°s. I asked them to dress warmly. They arrived on time.

I briefed them both in the FBO break room. We chatted briefly about objectives and expectations. Then I talked about the airplane, emergency procedures and what I planned for each flight. He went first. After an hour we returned and gave her a chance. Not quite as long but it was her very first time to control an airplane. Both had smiles on their faces during the debrief in the break room. 

He is 14, just starting his adventure. She is a manager at the airport and for the first time saw a traffic pattern from the cockpit. The debt I owe aviation is huge. I was so happy to give just a little bit back. It was a very good day.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Plant City KPCM

Video: Plant City

Located between Tampa and Lakeland Plant City is known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World and hosts the annual Florida Strawberry Festival. Stretching back more than 80 years, this Plant City festival bursts with midway hilarity, on-stage entertainment (much of it free), livestock and, of course, plenty of ways to eat strawberries. Usually in February or early March it is attended by people from all over the United States as well as many people from around the world. Despite many thinking it was named for flora grown at plant nurseries (especially vegetables and fruits, as well as tropical houseplants) in its tropical Gulf Coast climate, it was named after prominent railroad developer Henry B. Plant. 

The Plant City Municipal Airport was founded in 1948 to ship strawberries. Runway 09/27 was lengthened in 1999 and redesignated 10/28. In 2000, a new terminal was constructed, along with two new hangars (E and F) and a new Jet-A fuel tank. PCM is a public-use airport located two nautical miles (4 km) southwest of the central business district of Plant City in Hillsborough County, Florida, United States. The airport is publicly owned by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which also operates Tampa International Airport. ~Wikipedia

Me and my shadow at KPCM RWY28.
The pickers are busy getting ready for the festival. As I drive the local roads, bands of workers with various colored team shirts work the early mornings and afternoons harvesting the winter crop of sweet strawberries. Hard work.

The cold fronts come pushing through like waves on the beach. The air gets churned and is often very gusty, but unlike northern cold fronts these do not bring snow. Florida temperatures vary greatly throughout the day making typical attire shorts and jackets (mid 30's) in the morning then peeling back to t-shirts (mid 70's) in the afternoon. It was calm early in the morning but the local TAFS said to expect gusts into high teens by mid-day. I got out to the airport early.

During my system checks on preflight the ADSB-out transponder failed with a 1090es fault. I found the coax from the GPS antenna was loose. I was able to reach under the panel to tighten it but will need to investigate just how it happened.

I taxied out with new databases and updated software (version 5.60). I had to unlatch the GPS unit from the plane and bring it home to my office and attach it to my computer with a cable. Garmin Express recognized it and installed all of the updates. This is a process change from my 696 when I could leave the unit in the plane and do this using an SD card.

The TAFS were right this time. The winds were getting "sporty" so after three landings at KPCM  I headed for home. 

Sally is running very well. It was a fun flight, but I need more landing practice.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Cedar Key (KCDK)

Cedar Key derives its name from a 1542 Spanish map that identified the area as “Las Islas Sabines,” meaning “The Cedar Islands.” Although the island on which this town is located is called North Key, the “Cedar Islands” reference applied to the abundant growth of cedar trees that formerly covered all of a group of islands located in the area. The Town of Cedar Key was established during the Civil War (circa 1840) on Atseena Otie, the Creek Indian name for Cedar Island. Lumber was the primary industry, although fishing and cotton shipping were also important, and sawmills and pencil factories dominated the town in the 1880s. The pencil plants closed down when the cedar was depleted. Shipping by rail and sea made Cedar Key an important port city until 1886, when the port of Tampa began to draw shipping away from Cedar Key. The old-fashioned fishing village is now a tourist center with several regionally famous seafood restaurants. The village holds two festivals a year, the Spring Sidewalk Art Festival and the Fall Seafood Festival, that each attract thousands of visitors to the area. ~ City of Cedar Key 

★ George T Lewis Airport is named in honor of Petty Officer First Class Lewis. He was a World War II Era casualty on October 25, 1944 during The Battle of Leyte Gulf. ★ He served with honor in the United States Navy. ★ Remembered by the people of Georgia ★ May his example inspire us to be strong and responsible global citizens. We can do great things. Together.★ 

Video: Cedar Key

Certus had come down to do some work for a few Florida customers and by Thursday we were ready for a break. I wanted him to fly Sally to see if he would notice any maintenance issues that I may have overlooked. We decided to fly up to Cedar Key. The airport is located about 75 miles northwest of Tamps, but to avoid a long leg over water we stayed "feet dry" flying up the gulf coast past Crystal River then headed out over the water for the last 30 miles of the trip.

I called at 10 miles to announce our arrival and a sweet voice responded by asking if we required transportation into the village. Sure! She said she would send a car to meet us. We couldn't see the airport. The runway is short - the shortest paved public runway in Florida and surrounded by trees. At 5 miles I thought I saw the runway through breaks in the tress and soon after we entered a left base for RWY23. Certus made a great landing right on the numbers.

Judy came by in a van to pick us up to take us into town. $20 roundtrip with a restaurant discount if we ate at "Steamers".  The grouper sandwiches were great. We asked her to come back for us at 1:00pm and when the minute hand was straight up she came rolling down the street. She gave a locals history of the town during our trips and we enjoyed the conversation very much.

As we did our preflight for departure I saw a bald eagle land on a small tree near the end of the runway. Just beautiful.

After takeoff we flew down the coastline to get another look at Cedar Key. I'm convinced I'll be back. It might make a good destination for a SportCruiser Fly-in!

I added some more tape to my oil cooler inlet before leaving Tampa Exec. I want to get the temperature up to approximately 200°F during cruise. I have more than 2/3 covered now and she is finally running hot enough to burn off any moisture in the oil.

Now having flown Sally, Certus has some ideas to improve performance even more. Stay tuned.