Monday, June 15, 2015

An RV takes us to Rockabilly



As much fun as I've had with the RV-7A since its first flight three years ago Saturday, I haven't been able to share it as much as I would like with my wife.

She's not much of a flier. She's been game a few times -- a hop to Madeline Island, a picnic on Lake Superior, chili in Rushford, and a Trampled by Turtles concert in Mankato -- but that's pretty much it. She doesn't have her "sea legs" where flying is concerned and I'm not one to force her. I thought of that as I flew back to Massachusetts a few weeks ago. It was pretty rough over Ohio. For some reason it's always rough over Ohio.

I was alone; she had taken a commercial flight the day before, and I kept thinking, "if anyone was with me right now, they'd never fly again."

For many spouses, the joy of flying isn't shared, so we have to remember that at its basic reason to exist -- an RV airplane gets you somewhere.

Last Friday, "somewhere" was Redwood Falls, Minn., which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. But there's a casino there -- Jackpot Junction -- and when our favorite -- Brian Setzer -- and George Thorogood teamed up for a summer tour, I quickly bought tickets last February and ended up center stage, fourth row on the aisle.



Because we both had to work on Friday, driving was out of the question. It would be three hours and the concert started at 8. Besides, I have this airplane, you know.

I waited too long to reserve motel rooms but was able to find one at the cheapest joint in town, which also happens to be right next to the airport.

The flight out was bumpy, as befits an 80-degree day in Minnesota. Some noise on the radio, which first surfaced when I was giving airplane rides in North Adams, Mass., a few weeks ago returned, much to both of our consternation.

We took off at 5:30 and landed at 6:15, walking about a mile to the motel -- maybe less so as there's no fence around the airport so we cut through the farm implements dealer's lot.

No room.

The motel never got our reservation, or said he never got the reservation. And there were no rooms because the bird flu epidemic has brought dozens of workers into the region to fight it.

But he let us drop our luggage and we hopped a casino shuttle. Shortly, we were living the good life.

Brian Setzer, then George Thorogood. Awesome, magic carpet!



The concert ended around 11 or so, so we hopped the shuttle back to the motel, picked up the suitcase we'd planned for our overnight, and hoofed it back to the airport. It was a nice warm night and a pleasant walk.

We were both pretty tired but I filed for a 12:40 a.m. takeoff, pulled up the tie-downs, and patrolled the runway for deer.



I wasn't happy at all with the run-up; the mag drop was more than I'm comfortable with. I got it down to about a 70 RPM drop and that would have to do. There was no moon, but I was comfortable I'd be able to maintain something of a horizon, especially with the Tru Trak autopilot.

It's a big, black hole between the outskirts of Minneapolis, with a few towns in between. A loss of an engine would be bad news; I couldn't even pick out a highway.



I couldn't get the cylinder head temperature below 390, no matter how much I leaned. But the engine was otherwise performing fine and I considered asking Minneapolis Approach for permission to enter Class B and go over the top of the big airport. Why not? There was nobody else in the air and nobody on the radio. But I didn't, landing back at South St. Paul around 1:30, my wife actually clapping as I settled onto the runway. Yahtzee!

We were back at the house by 2, a whirlwind tour that reinforced the value of an RV airplane.

Post script: On Saturday, I diagnosed the problem as coming from the passenger headset. I swapped out another pair and the noise disappeared. What was going on inside there, I don't know. But I've wanted to give the passenger the same comfort I have, so I've ordered another set of Lightspeed 2 headsets.

On Sunday, I monitored the GRT EIS 4000 and saw something odd. The EGT (exhaust gas temperature) on the #3 cylinder would be much lower at idle, although it would come back to a proper level once the throttle was pushed in.



Is this a problem? I don't know. I've sent the data off to Savvy Analysis to see if this is at all indicative of the early stages of a stuck valve. I'll let you know.

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