Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 Lehigh Valley Airshow

We did our first airshow this weekend participating as a static display. "We" included my wife, daughter & son-in-law, and Sally and me. It was a real adventure and quite a lot of fun.

On Saturday we had an "open cockpit" to allow people to sit inside. The biggest draw (and by far the most amount of work) were parents taking pictures of their young children sitting in the pilots seat. My daughter sat in the co-pilots seat guarding errant hands while her husband and my wife helped kids in and out. I worked the crowd talking about LSA. Art was there from Queen City with his plane and another LSA (Sky Jeep) was also on display. ( I was told more than once that Sally was the prettiest girl there )

We kept the cockpit closed on Sunday.

There is a LOT of bad information out there, mostly about what you can't do with LSA. I spent a lot of time explaining my trip to Phoenix last year, and won a few arguments about the merits of a Rotax engine. Just a few wanted to argue, most were very interested and respectful. I had to tell just a few "extra sized" folks that LSA was not a good fit for them. I spoke to a lot of people that look like me. But I also spoke to quite a few young people, late teens early twenties. Hopefully we planted some good seeds.

I was fortunate to do a TV interview with the local cable company, and the local newspaper took a few pics of kids in the cockpit. It was the first airshow at this airport in 16 years and overall I believe it was a huge success. After two days of standing on my feet and non-stop talking we are all worn out. My dermatologist would go nutz if she saw my sunburn. It was really hard work and I would do things differently next time, but I would definitely do it again.

If your community has an airshow, sign up. It will put a smile on your face.

Note: I was #1 holding short to depart Sunday evening. Panchito (B25) took off right in front of me. WOW!

Note 2: Finishing one of our conversations about LSA a fellow walked up to me with a beautiful T-Shirt with a T-28 on it. I remarked that I liked it and he thanked me saying he had designed it. I told him I had flown them during my advanced Navy training in Corpus Christi. He explained that he was the owner of one of the T-28's doing the aerial demonstrations and had he known would have given me a ride. 2x WOW!

Sequestration didn't stop this airshow. These guys were awesome!

*Note: Excerpt from Service Electric video is here.

Friday, August 16, 2013


The second day in a row. The morning skies were clear of clouds, winds calm and visibility was close to infinity. I just couldn't let another day like this go by without flying. I took a vacation day.

The plan was to fly out to Gettysburg. The planner said it was ~90 miles over some beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch countryside. While there were no NOTAMs or TFRs, the airport was directly underneath the red circle of the Washington DC SFRA (VFR Speed limit restriction). I wouldn't want to drift any further south than absolutely necessary.

All preflight checks were good and engine start was normal. However I did get a DSAB error. The Dynon Smart Avionics Bus allows all of the avionics to talk to each other. A failure meant that I still had flight instruments and engine instruments, but the normal interactions were broken. As an example, I typically set my altimeter with the HS34 control box. Without DSAB this doesn't work. (It could be set using menu functions on the Flight Management System.) I pushed the button to find the setup function, then paged through screens to find the DASB configuration function and pushed the buttons. That worked.

By now the oil was warmed up so I taxied to the runup area, completed my ground checks and finished the ground checklists. No wind, I used the preferred northern runway and departed to the west. It really was a beautiful morning. A little mist clung to the rivers and low areas making the farms look sleepy, even though I knew there were hard working farmers down there. Climb checks complete, I pushed on the autopilot and got nothing. Cycled the switch, checked breakers, did all the normal stuff to no avail. I did another DSAB configuration but it didn't help. OK Sally, I'll just fly this one myself.

I wasn't using Flight Following so south of Reading we climbed up to 4500' to go over Lancaster's airspace then turned more southerly to pass clear of the TRSA around Harrisburg. Then we descended to 2500' and overflew York before lining up with Gettysburg. I hit the CAT about 10 miles out. Clear Air Turbulence. Sally sank and pulled hard left while I countered to keep on course. Only that one 'pot hole' but enough to wake this pilot up. Other than this one event the air had been smooth as glass. Don't get complacent.

W05 charges a landing fee so I settled for a low pass and started my trip home. I did pick out some monuments, some cemeteries and could see some of the battlefields to the south. I think this will make a great day trip for us.

East is odd, we climbed to 3500'. Passing over the Susquehanna River I heard Paul making position calls in the training area south of Lockhaven. Impressive radio reception today.  We overflew Smoketown and adjusted course to the north. A scattered layer of little cumulus clouds were building right at our level and I was tempted to punch through some 'just for fun'. I didn't, we are restricted to VFR only. Morgantown went by the right wing and I took a bearing off the towers at Limerick.  A few minutes later we entered the pattern  at Butter Valley. Sweet landing.

I back taxied over to the runup area and did an autopilot calibration. Another DSAB configuration and everything checked out. I got a "Autopilot Disconnect" from Sally validating my efforts and drove her back to the barn. What a great way to spend the morning.

Note: The diner has gone to a new kind of potato chip - Sweet Maui Onion. Try 'em if you can find 'em. Good stuff.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

S37 - 2013

"Rex, you gotta get an LSA!"
Community. Camaraderie. Fellowship. Friendship.

It was an early start. Kathy's alarm went off before 6:00am, too early. But the early morning light was streaming in the bedroom window encouraging me to get up and play. I made my way down to the computer to see if we had "Go" weather. All the charts and graphs, NOTAMS and TFRS said: yes. We got ourselves ready to go fly.

I had done a thorough preflight the night before so we did cursory checks now. Kathy did the checklist and the engine start. I taxied around the barn and chased some waddling geese as we got to run up area. All the ground checks were good. We were airborne a little after 8:00am. As we climbed we monitored the RV Flight frequency to see if they had departed KPTW. They were about 10 miles ahead of us so we leveled at 2500', set the autopilot, and completed the cruise checks. Pennsylvania looked pretty good this morning.

Ten miles out I switched to Smoketown's CTAF to listen for traffic. Very busy. So as we spotted traffic and listened for position calls I was distracted enough not to see the airport until almost directly overhead. We flew outbound  about three miles before reversing course to enter on the 45. I saw two on downwind and took interval behind the second. There was also another making his base to final turn making us number 4. We did the landing checks, but I kept the speed up keeping my interval on a C172. When we turned final there were at least two more behind us. I was requested to land long, complied and expeditiously got off the busy runway. (I hope Kathy didn't wave to the photographer this time.)

The ground support was OUTSTANDING! I felt very comfortable as we were directed to our parking spot. Kathy shut her down and we both took a minute to catch our breath. The RV group had already landed and David came over to welcome us.

A little after 8:30am and already good attendance. David counted 80 - 100 planes with at least 13 LSA's. After picking up my FREE T-shirt we got in line for a very good pancake/egg/ham/donut breakfast. As we ate Rex came by and we talked about airplanes and freedom and all of the stuff pilots talk about. I think we sparked his interest in LSA's and when David showed him his beautiful RV the poor man was hooked.

So after a lot more talk and looking at a lot of gorgeous airplanes we climbed back into Sally and prepared to leave. Once again Kathy did the checklist and the start. It was an easy takeoff and departure to the north, the weather still nice with a high overcast to keep the sun from getting us too warm. After awhile I clicked off the autopilot and let Kathy get a feel for the controls. We talked about airspeed, and trim and...airspeed. She did quite well.

So after awhile I took the controls and descended down to enter the pattern at 7N8. Yucky landing.

We buttoned everything up and went over to the Runway Grille for lunch. This was already a very good day and it wasn't quite 12:00pm.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pulse Oximeter

Roku. I got this streaming device for Christmas and have really started to enjoy it. In addition to playing Angry Birds I've been making the time to watch AOPA Live. One of the features has an AME discussing various medial topics and common problems pilots might see. He recently did a segment on oxygen deficiency and recommended the use of a pulse oximeter.

I took off today in beautiful weather. Clear blue cool skies with a scattered layer of little puffy clouds. I flew over home plate and got a request to "rock your wings". Fun. First event was to play in the pattern at KPTW (Heritage Field). Interesting because the westward runway uses right hand turns and since I hadn't practiced them in awhile I wanted to refresh that sight picture. The entry lap was a bit close but subsequent circuits smoothed out nicely. The actual landings were all above average...I was in the groove.

I departed to the north, switched frequencies and listened to a Citabria make his calls at Pottstown Muni. Just a beautiful day. During the climb I took a break and did some steep turns (add rudder going to the right, almost none to the left) then continued up to 6500'. Smooth air, I set the autopilot to roughly north, scanned for traffic and reached for my new device. It doesn't do well in bright sunlight so I adjusted heading to put us in the shade. I did see a decrease in O2 level after 10 minutes. Nothing dramatic, but still as expected a slight effect. My thought is that for long cross country flights at altitude, landing at night, it might be a good idea to take a reading and maybe a shot of O2. (Especially for old guys and those flying IFR.)

Back to Butter Valley. All the Sunday fliers were out so it was difficult to fit in my position calls. Talk fast and get off the frequency! I descended too fast at idle and let the oil temp get down to 120°. Sally told me about it as I advanced the throttle during my level off. I must remember to monitor that more closely. By the time I entered the pattern the temp was back up so I could use my normal power settings. Two more laps and we were done for the day.

I hope the August weather stays this way. Beautiful.