Thursday, August 30, 2012


No Wind
The weather changed. Suddenly the skies turned blue, the clouds departed and the winds died down.

I went out after work to try my hand at an ILS. It has been a looong time. I studied the chart at home to insure I knew all of the fixes and altitudes and frequencies, then printed out the chart and headed over to 7N8. Chester County is about 20 minutes south. I tuned in the CTAF on the primary and put Philly Approach on standby and enabled the monitor function. A Skycatcher was in the pattern, but departed before I rolled onto the final approach course. A Tiger asked for a radio check and waited patiently at the hold short line as I made my way down to a low approach.

I did a few. Experimented using the autopilot to fly down to Decision Height and found that 85 kts seemed to work well for an approach speed. Pleased with that work I did two on my own just to knock some rust off. The Dynon display provides a nice instrument  environment. The scan is substantially different due to the glass panel, but the instruments are easy to read and interpret.

I got up early today to test the clear blue morning sky. Less than an hour just wandering about, enjoying just being there. And I made some very pretty landings at home. What a great way to start the day!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Great Debate: is the LSA rule a failure?

Reference: Air Facts

...or is it a success?

This discussion has had some very interesting comments made on both sides of the argument. I break it down into these categories:
  • Maximum Take Off Weight limit (1320#) is too limiting. If it were only slightly higher (1500#) it could include legacy aircraft like C140, C150, etc
  • The light weight makes LSA less safe and harder to fly.
  • The rule was only put in place so that pilots don't need a medical exam from an FAA approved Medical Examiner. (special issuance medical not needed) This allows older less able pilots to fly. Medically able pilots shouldn't bother with the Sport Pilot Rating.
  • The LSA rule was supposed to make flying affordable. Why would anyone buy an LSA when you can pick up a C-150s for much less money? Only the rich can buy these toys (I can find hundreds of used Cessna 172s for under $50K)
  • Except for the Cessna Skycatcher, flight schools have not adopted LSA and few aircraft are available for training.
  • Experimental equipment (avionics and instruments) is far superior and far less expensive than certified equipment.
 My thoughts:
  1. I wish I could take more stuff. When Kathy & I take a trip I'm always looking closely at the weight to insure we don't exceed the Max Take Off Weight (MTOW). It means she packs lighter and we NEVER have full gas tanks. I usually plan enough gas for two hour (5 gals/hour) legs with reserve. On the other hand, most of the time I fly solo. So MY utilization is good as it meets MOST of my weight requirements. (BTW, I'm also on a diet program)
  2. I don't fly on windy days. I have a personal wind gust limit and if the forecast goes above that I stay on the ground. So I am grounded on some days that other pilots might fly. (I also don't fly in IMC any more, a personal choice.) I don't believe that LSA is less safe, but one must understand their own personal limitations and the decision making can be more critical.
  3. I still fly with a medical, without any special issuance. If this allows more pilots to fly then I say it is a good thing. I don't know of any LSA accidents attributed to pilot incapacitation.
  4. Flying is expensive, period. Like any other avocation you can spend what you want to and then some. It is unreasonable to think that you can buy a new product at the same price as an old one. I have found my operating costs to be lower than what I would have spent on an older airplane.
  5. This is somewhat of a "Chicken & Egg" story. Flight schools want students, students want new airplanes, but flight schools won't buy new airplanes until they have students. Sally draws a crowd wherever we go. I think having an attractive new airplane on a flight line would be a great draw for new students, as long as the hourly rental costs were set properly.
  6. It has been a long transition, but I like glass over steam gauges. If it weren't for LSA I wouldn't own a plane with a glass panel, autopilot, BRS system or other modern innovations. The technology is simply fantastic.
So check out the reference link, read through the comments and decide for yourself. LSA has been successful...for me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

One point One

It was not the crystal clear blue sky kind of day I had hoped for. Instead I saw deep red glowing beneath the overcast as the sun started to peek above the ridge to the east. "Red sky in morning..."

Coffee started, I sat down at the computer to check the weather pages. Forecast stunk. The METAR dots spread across the weather map were primarily blue, a sprinkling of red and a mix of green. Blue means marginal VFR, and in this case it was due to poor visibility. Mist or fog or both were causing visibility to be less than 5 miles and in some cases (red dots) less than 3 miles. However the ceilings (or the bottom of the overcast) were way up there and not a factor. I decided to drink my coffee and see if daytime warming would improve the conditions. No bothersome TFRs today, the campaign must be somewhere else.

The 8:00am weather conditions had improved, at least good enough for some local flying. A line of green and yellow NEXRAD composite returns blocked my travel to the southeast but it looked relatively good to the west. At least good enough to give it a try. I poured some coffee into a Chinet cup and headed over to Butter Valley.

To my surprise there was a tent set up on "my" taxi way! And a volleyball net! Closer inspection showed that I could get past if I altered my normal path just a bit, but not too far or I would be sideways on wet grass crossing a rather steep hill. Sure that my path was clear I went over to the hangar to start my preflight.

All ground operations were normal and the taxi turned out to be a non-issue. After the run up I looked across the turf to see a flock of brown geese eating their breakfast. There was no wind so I had my choice of runways and decided to take off to the north. Once airborne I found the weather to be calm, ceilings high but visibility restricted to less than 10 miles. So I stayed low and headed south toward N47. When we were coming home from a day trip last week we had wondered about a fork in the road and where it went. At 1500' it was easy to see where it split off from Rt100 and wandered into Pottstown.

I made a 180 to fly back to the north. I stayed clear of N47 and KPTW airspace and chose a track toward Quakertown. Smooth calm air, to travel over the Pennsylvania countryside, not even a burble in the air. I started checking terrain alerts with visual identification against what Sally was calling out. I picked out obstructions at about 5 miles, Sally alerted me at about 3 miles. Good system.

Passing Rt309 I decided to follow that south for awhile. I tuned in the CTAF and used the monitor function as I passed KCKZ.  It's fun to follow a well known path to see landmarks from the air. After awhile I decided to let Sally fly and punched the Direct button to make our way back to 7N8.

But it was too nice to call it quits. I overflew the airport and continued in a generally northwest direction taking me directly over Bally Spring Farm. Sally told me to switch tanks...45 minutes already. There was a cell phone tower off to my right and Sally called it for me (as well as the smaller one to the left). We crossed the ridge and entered the Lehigh Valley. With 3 gallons in the right, 5 gallons in the left, it was time to go home.

A flight of two Citabias had entered the pattern at 7N8. I came in from the 45 and gave them both time to land and back taxi before I called final. A very nice landing today. I back taxied and cut across the lawn in front of the tent, crept past the volleyball net and gunned it to get up the hill. I shut her down with 1:06 on the flight clock.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I looked up from my computer to see a flight of three ultra lights flying northbound. We listened on the handheld radio to the variety of traffic calls (and missed calls) so decided we might need a closer look. Kathy and I went over to Butter Valley on Aviation Day to see what was going on. We found an interesting mix of airplanes and were pleased to see the parking two deep on the east side of the parking area. Our own little (unannounced) Fly-in! The restaurant was crowded, even for a Sunday. A good day at 7n8. 
Thunderstorms swept through the area in the evening and kept up all day Monday. The cold front pushed through and left us with a misty foggy morning with temperatures in the low 60's. By lunchtime the visibility had improved enough to do some local flying.

Harry's hangar door was open so I stopped by to say hello. A Cheetah was doing his run up. He didn't like something because it was taking him a long time to prepare for the take off. Finally, after a long idle he took the runway, added power and departed to the west. I still like the Grumman product line.

Normal preflight (57 pulls), taxi and run up. There really wasn't any wind so I had my choice of runways. I took off to  he north and departed to the east.  A Cessna was off my right wing slightly below as I continued my climb to 2500'. It looked like he might be heading into  Quakertown, my plan was to go over to Pennridge. I thought it might be fun to stop in and see the airport manager who had shown an interest in LSA. However, the CTAF at KCKZ is not 122.8 and the voice I had recognized was on that frequency. Then I remembered he always used Perkiomen in his announcement. I selected the nearest function  on my 696 to find another airport and pulled up N10 at Collegeville.

I flew over at 2000' to check for winds and decided to use rwy 9. I entered downwind all alone and turned base a little deep to allow me to make adjustments if necessary. There is a BIG tree on final and I added a bit of power to insure I didn't get any leaves caught in my brakes. Otherwise a normal landing followed by a back taxi and take off. 

I departed to the north and climbed back to the west on course to Butter Valley. I picked out the airport at about 7 miles (it is a little airport) and decided to enter on a downwind for rwy 16. Sally doesn't like to descend close to the ridges on the far side of Rt100 (or the power lines close by) and kept reminding me of the terrain.  I made a nice approach and landed on the grass just north of the asphalt and taxied straight ahead to go back to the barn.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stick & Rudder Exercises

I attended an EAA Webinar last night entitled "Stick & Rudder Exercises".  I didn't think it was very good, but it did make me think about doing some high work. I regularly practice stalls, and do the Practice Power-off Emergency Landing (PPEL) exercise every so often, but it has been a long time since I tried some Dutch Rolls or a Chandelle.

I like this site.

All ground operations were normal. I took some extra time to preflight the nose gear as there have been some incidents reported for PiperSports about nose gear failure. It looks normal to me, but I did talk to Harry about it and we will put it on our list for the 200 hour inspection. I took off to the north, turned  east, climbed to 3500' and headed over to the farmland south of KUKT to practice. First I did some clearing turns at 30 degrees angle of bank to insure I was really alone in the airspace. Then I found a prominent landmark, the cooling towers at Limerick, and trimmed for straight and level flight at cruise speed (95Kts).

Dutch roll is easy. Keep the nose on the horizon while banking the airplane left or right. It is good practice for slips (uncoordinated flight) and provides a good feel for the use of the rudder.

Chandelles were challenging. This is a coordination maneuver (see the video) which is a decelerating climbing turn for 180 degrees. The problem is that Sally has really slow Vs1 and when you end the maneuver you should be within 5 kts of stall speed. I was always fast. This probably means I need a steeper climb angle. I guess more practice is in order.

I returned to Butter Valley to find a Cessna in the pattern. I took interval on him and called number 2 to land when established on downwind. The Cessna landed and cleared the runway by parking on the grass at the north end, giving me plenty of room. I landed then added power to climb the hill and told him I would follow him for the back taxi. He crossed the cart path, parked on the grass and shut down while I went back to the barn to put Sally away. As I was putting the covers on the two pilots from the Cessna approached with lots of questions about LSA. (I was glad to have some information post cards) I recognized the voice, he was the jump pilot from Pennridge. Turns out he is the airport manager and has been interested in LSA for awhile. I was glad to offer some information, and he invited me to stop by his airport to help others understand the pros and cons of LSA flying.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Left side panel

Butter Valley to York is 67 miles according to the AOPA Flight Planner. Mild winds enroute, the planner said it should take about 45 minutes to get there and I chose 4500 feet. My path would take me directly over Lancaster and some of the most beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch country side you could ever imagine. The mighty Susquehanna was busy with boat traffic and I could see Harrisburg Capital City up the river.

It was a bit bumpy under the clouds and Sally was working hard to keep us at altitude, so i descended 1000' after we crossed the river. Approaching York we went down to pattern altitude made our call and listened for traffic.

Center panel
York has a nice restaurant so I thought it would be busy on a beautiful Sunday morning, but while there was traffic it was spaced well apart and I was very comfortable making a crosswind entry for runway 35.  A Cessna followed me on downwind and another entered behind him, so I just did a touch and got on my way.  As I was departing I heard one of the pilots asked for parking directions for lunch. It might just be worth a return trip.

The unicom frequency for York is the same as Wings and it sounded like they were busy over there with a Citation and some Cirri in the pattern, which was being disrupted by a Citbria entering on a 45. I decided to head over that way and programmed the 696 to go direct to KLOM. The skies were clearer to the south and it gave me a chance to overfly some different landscapes. We climbed to 5500' where it was smooth as could be.  Once clear of KLNS I selected 7N8 using the 'pan' function, hit enter and added my new way point to the Flight Plan. I really like my 696.
Right side panel

This course took me right over Morgantown and as I looked down I could see a glider being towed out of the airport there. I looks like a very nice grass strip, definitely worth a visit.

I began my descent just north of N47 and made my call at about 10 miles out. The frequency was very busy with everyone trying to enjoy the beautiful flying weather. Still a little high, we circled over Home Plate and saw Kathy out in the yard doing some gardening. That was fun.

Then back home for a nice quiet landing at 7N8. ( A lot of golfers, not any airplanes.)

The past two weekends have been weathered out. Poughkeepsie had a "Show & Tell" and yesterday was the Smoketown Fly-in. I wish they had postponed that until today.

Planning: (Airnav) Approximately 400 mile legs, 8 hours a day, about 3 (good weather) days.

7N8 - KHOC (or I69) - KMYJ - KMDF- KAEG - KSDL

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    Fuel Flow Sender

    Fuel Lines disconnected
    I looked down at the instruments to set power, first to the RPM (less than 5000) then to the Fuel Flow (less than 5 gal/hr.) The fuel flow read 0.0, she is good on gas but not that good. I ordered a new part from Dynon and had Harry install it.

    The electrical connection consisted of three locked spade connectors which did not want to release. Harry persuaded them with a few pairs of pliers, screw drivers and 'specialty tools'.  The fuel lines came off easily after releasing the hose clamps. Two bolts hold the device to the bracket on the firewall. I didn't notice any contamination, and the rotor seemed to rotate freely in the housing as I moved it around in my hand. Dynon suggested that others have had success reinstalling the unit after a light cleaning. (Its a one year warranty on sensors.) I'll use the old one as a spare. Re-installation was pretty straightforward.

    I was happy to see a reading after I started her up. Harry checked for leaks before I shut her down and put the cowling back on. Run-up and pre-Take-off readings all looked normal. Two laps in the pattern confirmed we were back in business.  It really feels good to look at the panel with everything working.

    I added some gas last evening and re-calibrated the on-board computer. Time for a flight (if the weather will let me go.)

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    When you Fly

    As I entered the house my wife and son were talking on the phone. She told him I had just come back from a flight as I picked up:
    "How was your flight?"

    "I took off in no wind, passed the bottoms of the broken cumulus layer at 3,700', the haze layer at 7,500' and finally got on top at 8,500', but climbed up to 95 to stay clear. It took me about 30 minutes to get there and the temperature went from 30C on the ground down to about 12C at altitude."

    " was a good flight?"
    Ask someone for the time and they tell you how to build a watch.

    I like this song.

    I always have a good flight. I took a 'localization' flight for about an hour just to fly low and slow over the surrounding neighborhood. I flew up the valley just to the west of us, north of Reading but kept out of KABE airspace. Cut back across the ridge with Sally warning me about obstacles the whole time. (Thank you Sally).

    I typically set my power by watching the fuel flow. When just wandering around I like to keep it less than 5.0 gals/hr. When I looked at the gauge it was reading 0.0, ... that can't be good. All other indications were normal. Turning on/off the electric pump had no effect. Throttle position didn't cause any change in Fuel Pressure. Everything else looked good.  But still...

    Took a close look at the sender during the next preflight. Nothing apparent, all connections looked good. I checked my EMS settings to make sure I hadn't inadvertently turned one of the computer bits off, but that was also normal. (You can change the gauge from text to dial, but that didn't improve the situation any.) I'm not qualified to start taking fuel lines off so decided to wait for Harry.

    So I made another 'test' flight. Stayed in the pattern for about an hour practicing landings. I had developed some bad habits (too fast) so the workout was good for me. The fuel flow stayed at 0.0.

    I ordered a new sender from Dynon. I suspect some ethanol residue may have gummed something up. I spoke with Harry when he returned from Oskosh and asked his opinion. After a grilling interview he was satisfied that nothing else seemed to be wrong. I got on his busy schedule and we should trouble shoot this problem next week.

    Since I often fly from the right seat I wanted to set up my EMS as an EFIS. So I went into the books to find that it is a simple setting to adjust what screens can be displayed on either side of the cockpit. Beware of unintended consequences! On the takeoff roll I looked down for speed and RPM...which wasn't there anymore, or any of the other indicators I check for to make that final go/no go decision. Fortunately I did have the pilot's side set up properly and could just look over there. I'll have to reconsider my screen rotation (and probably just use the full EFIS on the right side for cruise.)

    My autopilot slow speed limit is set for 60Kts. This gets to be a bit nose high, especially near top of climb and I'm considering changing it. On the other hand it might be nice to have the autopilot maintain a 60kt glide in an emergency. I'll ponder that some more.

    I'm stating to consider a cross country flight. AOPA Summit is in Palm Springs in October. There is also a great LSA Fly-in in Page AZ shortly after that.  AND, my son recently moved to Scottsdale. It would be a long flight for a PiperSport but a lot of fun.  hmmm, more pondering....