Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Goodbye, DC-9

Farewell, DC-9's. The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal says Delta is retiring the fleet of the aircraft it got when it bought Northwest Airlines.

The last flight will be January 6th. The last of the DC-9's flown by a major carrier will leave Minneapolis St. Paul for Atlanta, one last takeoff for the plane that was the biggest noisemaker of all of the planes that have flown into MSP, and no fun for passengers sitting in the last rows of the plane.

The average age of the remaining DC-9s in the fleet is 35 years. They looked their age:

The particular plane in this video was retired six weeks ago.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How planes land at wrong airports

(Cross posted from the day job)

A few years ago, I took an MPR News website producer for a ride in an airplane to show him his colleague's outstanding airmanship.

This is our approach to the airport in South St. Paul at the time. As we approach the Wakota Bridge, the speed is good, the engine is performing normally, seat belts secured, and it looks like this will be an uneventful landing. There's just one slight problem...

That's not the airport in South St. Paul. That's the downtown Saint Paul airport five miles away. The actual airport -- the runways point in roughly the same direction as most runways in Minnesota do -- is just off our left wing. I had, obviously, mistaken the two airports.

It happens, although usually not with a 747 cargo jet, like the one that landed by mistake at Wichita's Jabara Airport last night. It was supposed to land at McConnell Air Force Base, just a few miles away. The runways face the same direction. Stop me if you've heard this story before.

Here's the sectional map of Wichita that pilots refer to:

The goal of a flight crew is to match -- in the dark -- the lights below (on the map, the yellow indicates the pattern of the lights of Wichita) and the flickering lights of a runway (which can be extremely difficult to pick out when you're flying at night) and select the right one. They selected incorrectly, obviously.

There's no tower at the airport they landed at so there was no one to ask for permission to land and no one to say "you're at the wrong airport."

Sure, there are instruments that the pilots could've used -- and probably even an autopilot -- to land the jet at the right airport, but sometimes pilots like to fly the old fashioned way: by themselves. And, afterall, wasn't the news just talking about the problem of pilots being too dependent on computers?

There's not much you can do after landing at the wrong airport but say "whoops" and check the job listings.

The early news stories made a bigger deal out of the "problem" of getting the jet out. CBS, for example, said the plane was stranded because the runway is too short:

A Dreamlifter is supposed to need a runway 9,199 feet long to take off at maximum takeoff weight, and 7,000 feet to land at maximum landing weight. The runway at Jabara is 6,101 feet long.

That's an easy one to solve. Don't be at maximum takeoff weight. Take everything out (we don't even know if was carrying anything), point the thing in the right direction, and takeoff. They might have already done it by the time you read this.

The incident is similar to one last year when an Air Force cargo plane landed near Tampa, at a small airport half the size of the one in Wichita.

It took a few days to strip the plane of much of its weight.

"There's no way" they'll get the plane off the ground again, the person who took the video said.


Planes are built to fly; they don't know they're in the wrong spot.

Dbag plane buyer stories

Because I've discovered this last-ditch procedure that the FAA might -- might -- look favorably upon, I won't be selling the plane in the next few months; not until I find out whether this works (the procedure is scheduled on 12/4) and the FAA gives me a special issuance. It would be insane not to wait to see if it pays off.

I mentioned that last night to a really nice gentleman who called from Des Moines and has been looking at RVs. I mentioned the situation but said I'm still showing the plane because it might have to go. That didn't disappoint him at all and I'm hoping he can fly up to see it in the not-too-distant future. Having the plane go to a good home, if it has to go, is very important to me and you can tell a lot about a fellow-aviator in a hurry. I like him and wouldn't have a problem handing off the plane to him.

You can also tell the other kind of potential buyers in a hurry too and I'm realizing that I need a place to collect their stories, so I might as well do so here.

There are people who just want something for nothing. Granted, I'm asking a lot for the plane, but it's an airplane, a great airplane. An affordable airplane and I'll get pretty close to what I'm asking or we'll negotiate a lower price. It's worth pointing out that the plane is going into the paint shop at April 15 and that when it's done, the price won't go up. That's just the way I roll.

The first conversation you have with a buyer shouldn't be about how much you'll pay, although it does help to weed out the people you'd never want to sell your plane to.

The full listing for the plane is here. Unfortunately, Trade A Plane doesn't let you put URLs in your print ads, I guess. The print version came out this week.

2012 RV-7A, 100 TT, IO-360M1B, FP, VFR, Polished. Fiberglass unpainted but ready. D100. EIS4000, VP-50, $83,900. bcollinsrv7a@comcast.net 1712730

There's not a lot of information there, you may have noticed, so a logical first contact with a seller might include the phrase, "tell me more."

The e-mail I got yesterday didn't bother going there:
"I have a budget of $75,000. Your plane looks very nice but needs paint and cs prop. Let's discuss."

It was a pretty short discussion:

"I can't help you. You probably need to be looking for a $75,000 plane with paint and cs prop."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Remembering Alex Cuellar

(Courtesy of Alejandro Cuellar)

We were all enriched last week with the story of Bat Kid, the five-year-old who beat cancer and wanted to be a superhero. So San Francisco turned out last Friday to make Bat Kid a superhero. Nice story. If only they all ended that way.

Alex Cuellar of Colorado dreamed of becoming a pilot; he mowed lawns to raise money for a ride at the local airport. But then he was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. He didn't lose his love of flying and while visiting a man who was building his own plane, he mentioned he'd like to visit Oshkosh someday, the largest gathering of pilots and planes in the world. The airplane builder put out a call for help and within a few weeks had raised enough money to take him and his father to Oshkosh.

He sent his Van's Air Force friends this note after the week-long endeavor:

Going to Oshkosh was a lot of fun; I sat in Johnny Depp's seat on the Tri-motor, got to fly in the one of a kind B-29, saw George Lucas with the Tuskeegee Airmen, and got see so many great Airplanes. The coolest part of the trip was the B-29 ride, because it had such a great view from the gunners position on the top and in the back, and you could feel the history of such an aircraft. It was the type of plane that is terrifying and peacemaking at the same time.

You all made this trip so Amazing and you will forever be in my heart.

I was hosting a daily talk show in Oshkosh and pulled him, his dad, and two RV pals who organized the effort in for a chat.

On Saturday, a memorial service was held for Alex; he died on November 9. A group of Denver-area pilots organized a fly-by in the missing man formation in the young man's honor.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Go around!

Although we're taught that the decision to 'go around' during a landing as a matter of basic flight training, somewhere along the line it is embedded in our consciousness that this is a sign of failure: You blew the landing. Because we are human -- and quite often, I surmise, because we are (mostly) men, we don't want to "go around" and acknowledge our failure any more than we want to pull over and ask directions.

But our fellow pilots -- and us if we're not careful -- are dying unnecessarily because of this.

This morning, the NTSB released the report on a Cirrus crash last month in Illinois. It's only the preliminary information, but see if you can determine where the fate was sealed:

On September 25, 2013, about 1715 central daylight time, a Cirrus SR20 airplane, N406DC, impacted terrain after executing a go-around near Bolingbrook’s Clow International Airport, (1C5), Bolingbrook, Illinois. The pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to GDK International LLC and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan. The flight originated from Georgetown Scott County Airport (27K), Georgetown, Kentucky about 1500 and was destined for 1C5.

The airplane was captured on 1C5 airport surveillance cameras while attempting to land. A review of the video showed that the airplane touched down multiple times about half way down the runway. The airplane was observed making a left turn after takeoff, descending, and then proceeding out of camera view.

Witnesses reported seeing the airplane depart the runway and make a left turn at a low altitude. The airplane continued to descend, struck a tree and a light pole before impacting a parking lot and sidewalk. A post impact fire ensued and consumed most of the airplane.

The automated weather reporting station at Lewis University Airport which was 5 miles south of the accident site reported at 1715: wind from 070 degrees at 8 knots, 10 miles visibility, clear sky, temperature 21 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 9 degrees C, and a barometric pressure 29.94 inches of mercury.

During the on-scene examination investigators confirmed flight control continuity and that the flaps were in the retracted position. The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) rocket and parachute were found in the main wreckage. The position of the CAPS activation handle could not be verified due to thermal damage. The parachute was found in a packed state and received thermal damage. The CAPS activation cable was examined and no stretching was found.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

They were so young

Chris Henry at EAA has spent this year reuniting old-timers with a B-17. If you follow him on Facebook, you've perhaps seen some of the individual stories brought to life by a ride on Aluminum Overcast.

Today he uploaded this.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chair flying update

I have a safety pilot or two now who allows me to fly with N614EF again when I'm up to it, which is most of the time these days. I couldn't this weekend, so Joe, one of my new pals who's volunteered to take her out for exercise, took her out for exercise. I have to admit it's a little bit thrilling to see a plane you built flown by someone else, especially when "someone else" really seems to like it. In all the daydreaming I did in the 11 years of building, that's a scenario I never imagined.

In the meantime, the initial shock of losing my medical has worn off and I'm starting to get a feel for the post-PIC world. EAA last week announced it's accepting early purchases of Oshkosh '14 tickets and I'm inclined to buy a few, even though I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to get over there.

The plane has a date in the paint shop up in Hibbing. The particulars of the design have to be worked out, but that won't take place until around March. The quoted price is between $5,000 and $8,000. I suspect it'll be on the lower end because the paint scheme isn't really very complicated.

As far as the medical update is concerned, a friend on Van's Air Force was kind enough to send me a link to a 2007 FAA medical bulletin with a case study of someone with Meniere's Disease, involving what's known as a partial ablation using an antibiotic known as Gentamicin, which is said to stop vertigo in 60 to 80 percent of patients. It comes with risks, hearing can be further affected, which isn't a problem for me since there's very little hearing left in that ear. The alternative is a full ablation, which uses surgery to basically wipe out your inner ear, including hearing. I'm not sure what the prospects are for people with hearing in only one ear.

But, based on the FAA case study, it seems to introduce the possibility of flying again, although recovery time is quite long as you have to learn balance skills using one ear. That suggests a few weeks of discomfort (as in nausea). The flying season for '14 is probably out of the question under the best scenarios, however. We'll see. My next appointment with the neurotologist is November 13th.

I try not to get my hopes up, but flying an RV as PIC is the underpinning of most every aviation-related thought I've had for so long -- places to go, people to go with, people to meet while there. It's a hard thing to give up.

Initially, it was hard for me to even look up at an airplane flying overhead, but I'm past that now.

And speaking of that, this is a pretty neat video on flying that someone posted on VAF today. Enjoy. I was able to.

WIGY TV - Falling or Flying from Pitts Artist on Vimeo.

You'll notice in that video, by the way, the lipstick camera on the pilot's helmet is reversed. Not sure why that is.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The flyover

If you're an RV pilot, you've probably seen a lot of videos about the fabulous flyover at the Kansas City Chiefs game last weekend. I think this one provides the best perspective.

I'm not a formation guy. As a friend said, "the view only changes for the guy in front." But I certainly recognize the skill involved here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

And then what happens?

Just a quick post to update things after my letter of denial for a medical recertification  to fly. Things got a bit worse. The Meniere's problems returned in September and have been consistent enough since that I realize it's pointless to consider flying anymore. But, in the last two weeks, I've also been unable to work for a living.

There's an oddity there. When people would ask, "what do you do?", I'd say, "I fly, and I pay for it by (at least for now) writing a blog." I had great dreams of retiring soon and spending it flying here to there, maybe building Habitat houses along the way.

At the moment, I guess being able to vacuum the carpet in the living room would be a boost. Funny how things work out sometime.

I don't know how things are going to go at work. I've filed for a short-term disability which I may or may not need; we'll see at my next doctor's appointment in a week.  The place is changing, the old timers are leaving at a quickening pace,  and I can't say I've changed much with it and it's hard to imagine much of a future for someone who can't remain upright very long.

"And then what?" I find myself asking myself.

I don't have an answer.

I just know that it happened awfully fast.

I've been putting out calls for people to help "exercise" the plane in my absence. My friend, Brad, has been kind enough to fly with me last month when I was able to go up but that's not possible, at least right now. Insurance demands people with the same number of hours I've got -- about 100 -- or more and apparently people are skittish about volunteering to fly someone else's airplane, even when covered by insurance, and even when I'm paying for the gasoline. That one surprises me and reconfirms that the decision to just put the plane up for sale was probably the right one and that all the suggestions of safety pilots and volunteers to fly it while things are getting resolved are more theory than reality.

Reality bites.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Time to privatize air traffic control?

(From the day job)

Those favoring less government may be about to land a big one in their campaign. The government reportedly is considering getting out of the air traffic control business and turning it over to private industry.

The sequester, the budget failure that led to across-the-board cuts, apparently has given former opponents of privatization of the air transportation control system a reason to consider it, Bloomberg reports today.

The FAA cut $637 million from its $16 billion budget and faces more cuts next week and some people want to isolate funding air safety from politicians.

“It makes sense to examine the alternatives for operating and funding the nation’s air-traffic control system,” Craig Fuller, who stepped down as president of the Frederick, Md.-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association earlier this month, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg.

That’s a pretty big statement, considering that privatizing air traffic control services most certainly would come with user fees, which Fuller’s organization has vehemently opposed for years.

The model for privatizing would likely be Canada, where every flight is charged based on its weight. “After years of success, it is clear that the privatized Canadian and British systems work,” Joshua L. Schank, president and chief executive of the Eno Center for Transportation, wrote in April:

No international travelers think they should avoid British or Canadian airspace for safety reasons. Union leaders concerned about the specter of lost jobs might consider that jobs are getting hit with today’s budget cuts.

Perhaps the sequester can have a positive impact on air travel if it gets us moving toward better organization of the FAA, air traffic control and air traffic safety regulation.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Own this airplane

Update: I'm going to have some surgery on December 4 in a last-ditch effort to get a special issuance and keep flying. I don't know if it will work; some FAA contacts have suggested they may look favorably upon that. For that reason, I'm not going to sell the plane until I know it didn't work (or that it did). However, I still would be happy to show it to you so that we can expedite things in the event it has to go.

People who may/may not be interested in purchasing N614EF have asked for some more photos, so I'm happy to comply here. A few words about the plane: She will do whatever you ask it to do. She will do it without hesitation. She will make you think the wings are strapped to your body. She will go fast. She will go slow. She will be dependable. She will return more love than what you invest.

Because of this, she will only go to a home who'll respect her and appreciate the dedication and care that created her. Yes, there are dings here, and stuff that could be better there. If you're looking for a perfect airplane, she probably isn't it. If you're looking for a great airplane, this is it.

Now then, a few pictures.

Here's the interior. Gray and maroon. It was my old high school's colors. The upholstery was done by Abby at Flight Interiors.I didn't spare a lot of expense on comfort. The seat cores are Oregon Aero (they cost about $800) I think. They won't let your tush down. The seat belts are top of the line Hooker Harness five-point straps.

Here's the back of the baggage bulkhead. I've used velcro to keep it in place, although I do have the original screws and covers if you would rather go that route.

Here's an example of the kind of minor modification to enhance comfort. Underneath the carpeting in the forward fuselage are two thick layers of soundproofing foam under .063 aluminum floorboards. This eliminates any heat and vibration and creates a very solid "feel" under your feet. By the way, with all of these pictures, just click on them to see the original very large image. Oh, here also you can see I've added springs to the master cylinders. The "pucks" on the Cleveland brakes don't retreat as much as I'd like them to and  early on it felt like they were dragging a bit. The springs helped.

And here's the carpet reinstalled. Note the coverings of the gear leg towers.

It's a beautiful day to fly in Flyover Country and you could tell she'd like to. The ELT antenna is on the top, as you can probably tell. I've always like the look of an antenna stack. The bottom features a rod transponder antenna and a comm antenna that cost way too much because of the name on it.

As you can also tell, I polish it. The rest of it hasn't been painted yet, but....

This is my inspiration and plan, a classic old design with a few updates (a metallic paint, for example).

I saw that at Oshkosh a couple of years ago and headed straight for the Nuvite booth where I bought $900 worth of supplies. I would consider throwing them into a deal if you saw fit to polish. If you don't, you deny yourself some mighty inexpensive therapy.

Update: It's going into the paint shop on April 15. I decided that if I have to sell the plane, I want it to be "finished." I have no yet worked with the designers on the paint scheme, but as I indicated, it's based on the classic old Cessna design, updated to be a little jazzy, we hope. This will not affect the price of the airplane.

See the yellow spot on the wing tips. That's some filler I put in. The wing tips, at least the one on the right, is reinforced inside with some dowels epoxied into the tip. I did this after a friend reported having his wing tips damaged when someone tried to push on the wing tips. Anyway, there was a slight depression where I weighted one of the dowels, so I filled it in and smoothed it over. The paint shop will have no problem with this.

Also note the side skirts. I didn't like the Van's design that much because it leaves a gap between the canopy frame and the side step so although it's not noticeable from the outside, from the inside you can see daylight. I didn't like that so I used carbon fiber to bring the side of the canopy over the side of the fuselage. On the other side,  I also embedded the "lift" piece into the glass for a smoother appearance.

That guy in the Bonanza? He wants an RV. He never told me that, but when you fly an RV, you can tell.

Here you can see an area I built up (with balsa and fiberglass) on the top skin to get it to look better with the canopy frame. There is a gap between the two (and you can see some cracking in the old windscreen fairing, which is easily taken care of with a little sanding and some flox. It's on my list). The cabin is quite comfortable. I only have on heater unit installed so on the very coldest days in Minnesota, you want to bundle up inside. But the greenhouse effect of the canopy  makes it fairly toasty.

I used a Fairings Inc., upper intersection fairing  on the nose gear, but found the Van's fairings fit better on the upper intersection main gears. The bottom fairing on the main wheels are from Cleaveland (made in South Africa, I believe). They're bonded into the wheelpants.

One thing I did after one split last winter is I created a "lip" on the aft part of the intersection fairing to fit under the front fairing and provide more stability. On my list for winter work is to clean up the "split" a little bit and make it even tighter.

Update 10/13/13 - Completed. A little sandpaper to straighten out the seam just a tad  but otherwise, you can see the difference.

This is the panel, which VFR. It's a push-button start (to the left of the backup airspeed indicator) and backup altimeter. Above it is a warning light for the EIS 4000. I use it primarily to blink during warm up and go off when the oil temp hits 110 degrees, which means it's time to go flying. The Dynon D100 sits above the GRT EIS. To the right of that the lower toggle switches are master, flaps, on/off for the EIS (I can't recall why I did it that way) and the boost pump which can slave to either the Vertical Power (top middle) or off ship power directly. Above that is the single axis TruTrak autopilot, next to that is a fuel indicator (the GRT also has one). Above the autopilot is a toggle... the left is the mag and the right is the electronic ignition. I start it on the EI and then add the mag. Above that is the Vertical Power 50. Here's a video of that installation. To the right of that is the GPS 296 in an AirGizmo dock. Below that is an Icom A210 and below that is the Garmin 327 transponder. There's a PS Engineering 1000 intercom with a music input for an iPod (or whatever). To the right of that is the ELT remote switch and a cigarette lighter-style power supply, which I'm presently using for the Zaon traffic alert system that's atop the glare shield. A wet compass is in there only because the DAR loves wet compasses.

Did I mention it's a tip-up? And also that's she beautiful? Because of that, getting to the wiring and plumbing is super easy. There's a serial port here that  I use to update the Dynon. There's also a serial connector to log stuff coming out of the EIS 4000. Wires I'm not using (some dimmer connections, for example), I've just coiled up for future use. Oh, there is a dimmer down near the ELT remote. I put in a small LED baggage area light, and that can expand for additional lighting. Nothing fancy. In fact, there's nothing about this plane that I would call "fancy."

But, it's solid, and it's all about safety. I don't do aerobatics, but the RV-7A is structurally built to allow it. I have a lot of features  that are targeted for situational awareness. I have top of the line Hooker Harnesses.

For comfort, the cores of the seats are top of the line Oregon Aero foam for comfort.

I've also run the wire from the right wingtip where my intention has been to install an APRS tracker (one of the holes in the toggle switches stack would turn it in). I have the unit that interfaces with a GPS and I have an antenna. But since I don't have the Ham Technician Class license, I haven't put it in.

This is the latest addition. Using Mel Asbery's excellent suggestion, I made an angle of attack probe and bonded to the regular pitot, ran new plumbing to the Dynon D100 which has an optional AOL (chevron style) warning system. I don't have the audio hooked up to warn because I don't need it. It's on full display. We took it up last week to calibrate and it works fantastic!

How does it fly? You tell me.

Here's the full listing of the plane:

RV7A, N614EF, VFR panel, Tip Up, FP (Plumbing in place for conversion to CS)
S/N: 70240
Location: South Saint Paul, MN
For sale by builder/owner: Asking Price: $83,900.
Many pictures for email, build logs available (pdf) by request. A scattering of videos all over the Internet, several articles about the long process involved. Plenty of stories that can be retold.

Selling because of lost medical
TTAE: 100
First flight date: June 3, 2012

Polished. Fiberglass unpainted but would be happy to share the paint design inspiration with you. (interior grey with maroon accents via Flightline Interiors)

Engine: Mattituck (Lycoming) IO-360M1B (Injected 180HP), 100, One Slick Magneto (left side) and 1 Lightspeed EI, Skytec Starter, Vetterman Crossover Exhaust. More information on the engine is here.

Prop: Sensenich FP 85 pitch (Van's recommendation). Prop has been balanced.

Electric Flaps, manual trim (elev and aileron) as God intended, Whelen 3-point strobes, Duckworks landing lights with wigwag

Avionics: Icom A210 comm, Garmin 327 transponder (to GPS), Dynon D100. Installing AOA plumbing now, Garmin 296. TruTrak Digitrack (to GPS), VP-50 power management. 406 ELT (May 2014 battery). Zaon MRX traffic detector. Backup steam gauge airspeed and altimeter. GRT EIS 4000 with fuel flow indicator and fuel gauge. Backup (or primary if you want) EI Fuel gauge. ARTEX 406 ELT (new antenna).

Interior: Upholstery and carpets, grey/maroon by Flightline Interiors. Hooker 5-point harnesses. Portable Airox oxygen installed.

Tires/wheels: Desser Monsters (just installed) retread. New brake pads installed. Nosewheel has Matco mod. I had that fairly common "groan" when applying the left brake for awhile (you can hear it in the Oshkosh departure video). I took the caliper off and put some Disc Brake Quiet on the back of the pad holder assembly where it contacts the metal "puck" that's activated when you press the brakes. It's quiet now as the experts on VAF told me it would be.

General info: Fully loaded, it cruises at 148 ktas at 6,500 (determined on way home from Oshkosh). It's never been higher than that so I can't give you better information. Full logs and install/owner's manuals for all avionics, cockpit cover (Cleveland), and towbar. Fiberglass wheelpants, leg fairings, intersection fairings completed (some cosmetic work necessary on upper intersection fairings) but not painted. It's a pretty stock build as I learned long ago to follow instructions.

Stall speed: Flaps 48 kts, No flaps 51 kts.

Empty weight: 1121 (2 pounds over the Van's sample)

Wiring run for APRS system. APRS equipment and antenna included.

Date last annual: May 2013. Flown regularly while I could but it's never had a flight longer than about an hour and a half (to Oshkosh this year, and Madeline Island last year). Sadly, it never made it to Cleveland or New England. Everything else has been local, the equivalent of a little old lady only taking it out on Sundays.

Insurance: Presently through NationAir, with 100 hours of RV time and 300 hours of total time, I pay about $1,400 for full coverage at $80,000. YMMV.

Things I intend to do before selling: It doesn't need it but I want to change the oil again and remove the quick drain I have in there now because while tightening it last time, I crimped the safety wire holes. So I'll buy a new one and install. I also want to put a new crush gasket on the oil strainer plug. It uses very little oil but it weeps there slightly. I may connect the APRS, I want to work on the fiberglass intersection fairings a little more, and if nobody's buying, I'll be polishing anyway.

Various performance data: I don't have a great deal of nerdy data because we haven't been on a lot of long flights. Generally at about 4500 feet I lean out to about 7.5 gph, doing 146 knots (give or take) indicated at about 2400 RPM. I climb out at about 95 or 100 knots  because to go any slower means I've got the nose high and I like to be able to see things in front of me.  Slowing down an RV with a FP isn't as bad as some people like to make it as long as you've read Stick and Rudder and understand power and pitch. It's that simple. With this plane, you'll feel like you're wearing wings. Trust me on this.

The terrific Tom Berge did several inspections during construction, did the final inspection before I had DAR Tim Mahoney do that, and Tom did the first flight and said, "congratulations, you've got a fine airplane." Tom doesn't lie about these things and he's got high standards. The flight test data you can find here. Tom would make an excellent pre-buy inspector, and can also provide you with outstanding transition training.  It's in nobody's interest that you not feel completely comfortable in this aircraft.

I'm not going to lie to you; I don't want to sell this plane. She and I have been together through some good and challenging times. There are pieces of people all over her (and here). I can't tell you how much she means to me and how much I want her to mean to the next owner. If that happens to be you, I sure would appreciate your stopping by every now and again and let me go for a ride.

Also, if you're in the Twin Cities area and would be interested in a fractional ownership, I don't really know how they work but would be willing to investigate and consider it.

Contact Info: Bob Collins, bcollinsrv7a@comcast.net, c: 651-470-6371

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The FAA lowers the boom

Five months after my FAA medical renewal exam, and having jumped through all the subsequent hoops, the Federal Aviation Administration sent me a letter today saying my request was denied. My flying days are over.

I can reapply in six months, but there's nothing in the FAA decision that gives me any hope. The FAA surgeon's opinion of not having any underlying medical condition now or in the future extinguishes that. I have Meniere's Disease and although the FAA gave me a medical renewal two years ago knowing that, this time they didn't. There's no cure for Meniere's, you have it. I recently started using a Medtronic device which is said to control symptoms, but from what I gathered from today's letter is that even using the device suggests symptoms and, hence, there's no qualification to fly.

I think I can accept that. I think I can go through with the process of selling N614EF OK, if I can find a buyer. Curiously, the one thing I find most difficult to accept is that me, five or six years from retirement, who's been looking forward to retiring for years, has nothing, really, to look forward to in retirement.

I don't have another recreational passion besides aviation. I guess I need to find one.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Slick does it again

I'm not sure I'm ever going to get around to writing up my Oshkosh trip report; on the whole, my experience wasn't much different than others, other than I flew into the dogfight orderly flow at Ripon for the first time.

So maybe we'll just do what we've done in previous years, and let Slick Hutto put the exclamation point on Oshkosh. Because he's done it again.

Update: And now, the "10 minutes of AirVenture" series begins:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The ballooner

One of the neat moments I had at Oshkosh this year was meeting Noah Forden of Rhode Island. As it so happened, he was camping just a short way from us in the homebuilt-camping section.

Noah is a ballooner and also owns an RV-7. But a big balloon doesn't fit in an RV, so he built a smaller balloon.

So you get cool views like this (pictures courtesy of Noah):

And this:

All from this:

RV Aerobatics at Oshkosh

But not by me, of course.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Home from Oshkosh

I think every pilot has a common theme: To one day fly into Oshkosh.

Thanks to my pal, Brad Benson, that happened for me on Thursday when we flew in. I will be putting together a long post on the days we spent there soon but one of the benefits of doing this -- especially with someone in the right seat who's done it before -- it it provides a great confidence boost.

We left this morning. Sunday is pretty abandoned at Oshkosh so you'll just have to imagine about 50 times as many planes floating around as what you see here, but this is a good tour of the taxi from homebuilt camping down to Runway 18.

Tomorrow I have another doctor's appointment and some new gizmo has arrived from Medtronic. I'm feeling great and I'm ready to get to work giving the FAA what they need to get my renewal.

I just flew into the busiest airport in the world; I can fly anywhere.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is your aircraft talking to you?

The NTSB today released the first of four videos aimed at general aviation pilots, each centering on a particular source of problems encountered by GA pilots.

In the one released today, the NTSB suggests we get a little better at taking indications from the plane more seriously.

Friday, July 5, 2013

King of the GA hill? The experimental aviator

Great article by Ron Rapp worth passing along. The key section:

If the trend continues, the Van’s line alone will be producing more flying aircraft each year than all the other GA manufacturers combined. Think about that: general aviation, saved by an army of Davids.

The kits are getting faster and easier to build, there’s a large resale market, and the range of modifications and upgrades is too long to list. You can get a 200 mph fully aerobatic cross-country cruiser for $35,000. Already built, no less. Agile handling, sporty looking, yet extremely conventional in construction and material. So conventional, in fact, that it’s really a misnomer to refer to them as “experimental” at all.

The RV series may be what most people think of when they hear “home-built”, but there are designs out there from dozens of designers ranging from powered parachutes to composite turboprops and jets.

The overall message is clear. Want to fly? Build your magic carpet! No matter what size. Even an RC.

Go fly!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Advanced engine leaning techniques

On July 3, 2013, Mike Busch of Savvy Aviator fame, held an EAA webinar on engine leaning techniques, following up several other leaning sessions which are still available on the EAA website.

These are my notes from his talk, the most significant portion of which (to me) was his assertion that Lycoming now recommends mag timing at 20 degrees top dead center, rather than the 25 degrees recommended on -- in my case -- the data plate on the engine and the owners guide. My engine was purchased in 2008. We might be hearing more on this. Perhaps not.

The biggest impact on the way I've been leaning my engine, however, is I am now implored to stop using exhaust gas temperature to determine the peak. I've been making a big mistake. See the notes at the link for more.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Lark of Duluth flies again

The Lark of Duluth is going to fly again. It was the first commercial airliner. The Federal Aviation Administration has given an airworthiness certificate to the floating biplane, culminating the work of a group of people who've been building it, the Duluth News Tribune reports. It will fly again on July 12th, its 100th anniversary.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Medical update

If you're scoring at home -- or even if you're alone -- it has now been 5 weeks since my medical exam and still no word back from Oklahoma City requesting information that's keeping my renewal at bay.

At this time I'd like to thank the nation's politicians for the sequester and wish each of them a painful death.

Disclaimer for the NSA: You, too.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Following up on my last post about the delay in getting a new medical, I'm afraid I have bad news.

My ENT guy sent all of his clinical notes to the AME, who had requested a letter clarifying why I was prescribed a diuretic to treat the hearing loss in my Meniere's Disease. That's a bad thing. Never give the FAA more than they're asking for.

Unfortunately, that should reveal a trip to the emergency room in March that I forgot to write down on the renewal application. The application asks if you've had any hospital admissions and an ER visit isn't an admission. But I didn't add it to the list of clinic visits, which included the trip to the ENT to investigate the hearing loss. The problem on the evening of the visit to the ER was primarily dehydration from nausea.

This will kick the whole thing to Oklahoma City for review, which means they'll be getting back to me again as they did four years ago for an entire medical history. But, because they require everything that's supplied by an evaluation within the last 90 days, it means I get to repeat everything and that'll probably need to include an MRI, which went for a nifty $1,500 the last time.

I'm tired of roadblocks. I'm tired. The freedom to fly doesn't feel unrestricted and free when you have to run this gauntlet again and again and again.

There's a pretty good chance this time the FAA will simply deny the request, and that will be the end of that.

These are the day I'm willing to concede that I wasn't meant to fly.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Grounded again

Well, I'm sitting and waiting on the FAA again.

For the third time in the eight times I've asked for an FAA medical certificate renewal, I'm sitting and waiting for some faceless person to decide whether it's safe for me to fly.

The problem is the Meniere's Disease, which I acquired, apparently sometime around 2008, when I was over at Oshkosh for a seminar on avionics. I woke up in the motel and the room was spinning. And it stayed spinning for 24 hours.

I didn't know it at the time, but it was Meniere's, which is a buildup of fluid in the inner ear, which sends different signals to your brain about balance than the ones your eyes -- and other body parts -- are sending. The brain's response to the conflicting signals is usually, "whoa, I'm outta here; you're all on your own."

It also comes with a loss of hearing and the feeling of a lot of pressure in the ears.

That put me on the beach for about nine months, but the FAA finally allowed me to fly again, as long as I wasn't experiencing vertigo. This isn't a hard thing. Pilots have no vested interest in flying when they're not feeling well, and Meniere's sends plenty of advance signals.

In February this year, however, some symptoms returned. My "good ear" suddenly went bad and my "bad ear" got worse. For the most part, vertigo wasn't an issue, just the hearing.

A couple of trips to the audiologist resulted in me being prescribed a diuretic, which was intended to help keep excess fluid in check. It is not, however, a banned substance by the FAA, so I didn't think much of it when I put on the medical certificate renewal form that I had been prescribed the stuff for two months.

But, as it turned out, it was a red flag.

I had gone back to re-read the letter the FAA sent me years ago when sending me a new certificate despite having Meniere's. It said that I was prohibited from flying "when symptoms change." I read that to mean that I was allowed to fly again when symptoms disappeared. Fair enough.

The problem is I didn't read -- or at least understand -- the rest of the photograph. It also stated that I was prohibited from flying "when medication changes."

In fact, I hadn't been on any medication until I was prescribed the diuretic. So, technically, my medication changed. Ergo, I was now prohibited from flying, a fact I called attention to in my discussion with the AME.

And that was that.

I had passed the hearing check (my hearing is much better of late), and the rest of the physical. I do have a constant ringing in the ear which sounds like a 24-hour light sabre battle, but "we all have some ringing," the AME assured me, "and I see no reason why you shouldn't be allowed to fly."

But that didn't mean he was about to give me a medical certificate. He's asked for a letter from the audiologist to explain the prescription of the diuretic. And then, presuming I'm able to actually get such a letter (his office didn't return calls and I have an appointment for follow-up next week), it apparently will all go back to Oklahoma City which can either issue a certificate or decide to ask for more information, a process that could take months what with the usual bureaucracy and the added problems from the phony sequester cutbacks.

Until the end of the month, I have a valid medical certificate and I don't have a problem not taking the diuretic (I was only supposed to be on them for two months anyway) and, thus, eliminating the "change" in medication. But after May 31 (my birthday), I'm done flying.

That would wipe out a planned trip my youngest son and I had wanted to make to Cleveland in June, a trip to Massachusetts to see my mother and family, and, probably, Oshkosh -- where I'd hoped to be able to do another radio show for EAA Radio.

Sure, I could fly with a certificated pilot, but this is a two-seat airplane and, frankly, I don't want to go to Oshkosh, or Massachusetts, or Cleveland with any other people but the ones I intended to go to Oshkosh, or Massachusetts, or Cleveland with.

Someday, maybe, the FAA might approve the AOPA and EAA request to allow pilots to self-certify and self-evaluate. But I'm not holding my breath this is going to happen in my flying lifetime.

I'm just hoping my flying lifetime extends beyond 17 days from now.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Videos that make you want to fly somewhere

One of these days I'm going to install a Go Pro camera in the RV-7A, although I don't know if I have the editing skills that some RVers have. Some videos just stand out and make you want to hop in the plane and fly somewhere.

Like this one.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The annual condition inspection

I took this week off from work and I'm doing the first annual condition inspection. It's been a lot of little things, none of which have added up to any great discoveries, which is good.

One of the things I've decided to do is a better job of organizing all of the various data -- like torque values -- that are needed in the course of starting at one end of the plane and working their way to the other. I'd save a lot of time with one master sheet instead of separate documents stored... somewhere.

It's amazing to me, for example, how difficult it is to find a simple torque value for spark plugs, let alone tips for installing and removing them.

Fortunately, I found this presentation this morning.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

For the love of aviation

You know, if you read the various online forums -- especially those concerning homebuilding -- there are a lot of people trying to divide aviators, by claiming that some other aspect of aviation isn't real aviation, or even grassroots aviation; that homebuilders are their own type of people.

That's nonsense. Utter nonsense.

Some videos make this point clear. Love of aviation is the only category that should matter.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Forget the ()&@*$ flaps!

Ugh. This is the sort of thing you hate to see.

It happened in North Carolina, the Salisbury Post reports, when a pilot was practicing touch and go's. The RV-9 flipped over. Fortunately, no fire.

“He was telling people there was something going wrong with flight controls. He had issues with his flaps. He said either they stuck or he had some problems with them,” the city's emergency services director said.

Maybe. We'll see.

But stuck flaps don't cause planes to crash or flip. And if you look at the above position, the flaps are evenly deployed, so they didn't separate, something that would have caused a crash.

In my transition training with Tom Berge, we had to do a go-around because of one of my botched approaches. Since I was use to flying either a Cessna 172 and a Warrior II, I was as concerned about bringing my flaps up as I was providing power and quickly adjusting trim to get back in the air. When I was first learning to fly, my CFI had said to me on a go-around, "you're not going to get out of this without raising your flaps."

But this is an RV and that's not at all the case.

As I concerned myself more with the flaps -- Tom had a switch on the stick to raise/lower flaps, which confused me badly -- we were drifting closer and closer to the trees on the side of the runway when he made perfectly clear, "don't worry about the flaps."

We landed, and went back to the runway and this time he had me take off with full flaps. We did. It was a non-event. His goal was to show me that it doesn't matter what position the flaps are in on takeoff; an RV is perfectly capable of climbing well into the traffic pattern no matter how they're set. Granted, that's not to say full flaps is at all idea for a go-around, but it is to say that your flap positioning is not something you should worry about or cause you to be distracted from flying the airplane.

I don't know what happened here. Whatever it is, it wasn't likely the flaps were the point of failure.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The regret of the 'no go' decision

Sometimes, I think I'm too risk-averse to be a pilot.

For the past six weeks, I've been planning a trip to Arizona with my youngest (25) son. We're both big Cleveland Indians fans and wanted to spend a couple of days watching the Tribe. My friend, Darwin Barrie, offered to put the RV-7A up at his airpark and give us his truck for the week to use.

And so began weeks of planning for the trip, which -- for me -- consists of six weeks of worrying, playing "what if?". I pored over the charts and established the best route. I consulted with Darwin on the best approach into Phoenix' airspace. I'd go to sleep at night thinking of the approach and memorizing every mile of the route, the fuel stops, and the time.

Last fall, I met a gentleman who was kayaking from the Northwest Angle of Minnesota to Key West. Daniel Alvarez started in June and hoped to reach Key West on New Year's Eve. He actually reached it last week. But when I talked to him at the time, I was planning a trip to Massachusetts. "I'm a little nervous about it," I admitted to him.

"If you're not a little nervous," he said, "you're not going far enough."

As I prepared for this trip, I heard his words. Constantly. The nervousness was fine, I told myself, because I'm going far enough. It's good.

About two weeks ago, the weather discussions at the National Weather Service regional sites (they reallyare very interesting and informative reads) began to encompass the departure weather -- today -- and more "worrying" as the "what ifs" grew to encompass every section of the route, weatherwise. What are my limits? What are my alternates? How prepared am I to make the no-go decision?

Of course, it's impossible to know for sure that far out what the weather will be, which necessitates more "what ifs."

Although a blizzard came through Minnesota yesterday, I was fairly confident we'd be able to get out of here this morning. (I'd already scrapped a Monday departure last week on the basis of the the weather data I'd been gathering for a week and analyzing every four or five hours). The gusty winds were to die down to about 20 knots this morning, I checked the airport yesterday and they'd done a good and quick job removing the blowing snow, and the sky was supposed to be scattered clouds at 2500 feet. It would be cold, but I was fairly sure we'd survive the three-hour trip in high headwinds to Lexington, Nebraska, our first fuel stop, and be able to get out of there before the winds were forecast to pick up there. The rest of the trip looked weather-good. I started dreaming about being one of those people who posts trip pictures on Van's Air Force.

I'd earlier been concerned about getting Patrick home in time for a shift he had scheduled on Sunday, and a test at school (he's in the nursing program) for Monday. So I bought a $550 refundable one-way ticket on Southwest from Phoenix to Minneapolis for Saturday for him, and figured if need be, I could stay in Phoenix for a few extra days and fly back alone. But at least he'd be back in time.

Otherwise, we'd plan to fly back on Friday, maybe Saturday if the weather was good from there to here.

He was excited for the trip, especially with temperatures here 20-30 degrees below normal for this time of year. All of Minnesota is experiencing seasonal disorder, as is custom, and a couple days of watching baseball was the perfect antidote. It would have been a fabulous flight down and a great experience between father and son to remember forever.
This is why I built an airplane.

I spent yesterday on final preparations for the plane, plugging in the engine heater, organizing what's staying and what's going, and trying to figure out how close to gross weight we'd be. As it turns out, I learned just how quickly two 170-pound pilots and baggage can exceed the 1800-pound limit on an RV-7A with a full load of fuel. It'd be close.

Late last evening, flight plans filed, plane ready, peanut-butter sandwiches and water packed, I made one last weather check before a go-no go decision, only to discover the weather discussions from the National Weather Service sites from the Texas panhandle (Dalhart, TX was a fuel stop) all the way to Minneapolis began mentioning precipitation and clouds for Thursday into the weekend, where they had mentioned none previously.

But it's impossible to know at this early stage what sorts of clouds and what kind of precipitation. Steady rain? Showers? Low clouds? High clouds? Clouds I can snake around or clouds that keep me on the ground? Clouds that might entice me to fly scud? There was no way to know for sure. Then I read that the two main computer models -- one from the U.S. and one from Europe -- disagreed on what might happen. The European model was suggesting the system would stall over the Dakotas through Monday. The U.S. model was suggesting it might not.

Now I had to make a decision: Which one to believe? In previous analysis of weather discussions, I felt the European computer models were more accurate, so I chose to believe them.

Then I thought about trying to fly home, and running into ice, or low clouds and not being able to find a way through. I started to think about Get Home-itis, when the urge to get home forces pilots to make bad decisions. I thought about forcing Patrick to get in a plane on Friday to try to make it home before things (maybe) got bad -- and then getting stranded in Kansas, with him missing his work shift and his test -- rather than waiting a day and putting him safely on an airliner, and I thought about me sitting in Phoenix waiting for springtime weather to be good from Phoenix to Minneapolis, paying for a motel, not getting back to work on time at a place that isn't as excited about what I do as it once seemed to be.

And then I called the trip off.

I called Patrick and told him. "It's OK," he said, although I knew it wasn't. He's already scheduled the days off. He'd already given his car away to his girlfriend to use because hers is on a bad tire. He'd already packed. He was looking forward to the experience, and somewhere along the trip, I was going to teach him the ins and outs of flying.

His goal on the trip was to play catch with his father on the hill beyond the right field at the Indians' park in Goodyear (even though they'd be on the road for the two games we'd watch, but the Reds play at the same park). "Don't forget to pack your glove and ball," he said a few days ago.

The day this morning dawned bright and sunny, though cold and windy. But it's a beautiful day to fly. "All that worry, and for what?" I said to myself as I set one foot out of the bed, and then another. My back was aching from yesterday's snow shoveling. I read the paper then sat in the rocking chair by the front window, bathing in the sun, and found myself thinking, "I'd be landing in Lexington right now."

And that's my punishment for the next few days. I'll watch the Indians game tomorrow and think "I'd be there right now," and even worse, I know my son will be doing that too. I will spend them wondering if I made a bad call.

Although I'm hoping a blizzard comes flying through the Plains on Friday on into Monday, it wouldn't surprise me if the weather turns out to be flyable, which will be an even greater punishment -- the knowledge that we could've done the trip and we missed out on a great experience. Together.

We're taught early in our flight training to use good judgment, and that many pilots have regretted trying to fly when they shouldn't.

But they don't tell you about the other kind of regret. The regret that maybe I was too cautious.

The regret that I missed one more game of catch with my son.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Planning the great escape

We are in the middle of snow-boarding season up here in flyover country. It's waterboarding, basically, with snow. Every day, we get about an inch of snow -- which doesn't melt -- and suddenly you look out the window and realize there's two feet of snow on the ground and we've not had a single big storm. It's like death by a thousand paper cuts and it only serves to make winter longer than it really is. It makes you confess to crimes you didn't commit, if only to make it stop.

The ice and snow around the hangar is preventing N614EF from getting outside. I'm still working on getting the wheelpants gussied up now that the intersection fairings have been strengthened and improved. The engine preheating system has been installed, although now I wonder if it was worth it if I can't get the plane out to fly, and what I believe was a bad #1 EGT probe from Grand Rapids Technology has now been replaced ($36), but I can't start the engine to see if it's fixed the problem.

I still need to get up in the air to take video of the Tru Trak wing leveler to send to TT to figure out why it won't track the flight plan in the Garmin 296, but apparently that will have to wait.

So what does an RV pilot do during these times? Plans an escape.

My son, Patrick, and I -- both big Cleveland Indians fans, are planning a trip to the Phoenix area to watch the Tribe play some spring baseball.

I've never flown a plane outside Minnesota. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever flown a plane for more than 2 or 3 hours, so this is a big deal for us.

My pal, Darwin Barrie, has offered to put the plane up at his airpark in Chandler, so this week I gathered all the charts and books to begin planning the trip. It appears the first refueling stop will be in Lexington, Nebraska (on the Kansas border), the second will be in Dalhart, TX, and then we'll try to put some air underneath us to get up over the mountains, probably stopping for a load of fuel in Saint John's Industrial, about an hour outside of Phoenix.

Assuming good VFR weather, none of that bothers me too much -- except for the question of whether we'll have enough oxygen in the bottle . But Phoenix airspace? Man, it looks difficult.

First, you've got mountains to the East to get over, and then you've got to drop altitude -- a lot of altitude -- to get under the Class B. It's obviously doable, but should be a challenge, and I'm not sure all the examining of charts really prepares you as much as one should be prepared.

Here, for example, is the Phoenix VFR flyway map.

It doesn't look simple, but it looks manageable.

Here's what it looks like in real life:

It'd be a lot easier, Phoenix, if you'd paint a big blue stripe across yourself.

I'll be on the phone with Darwin this week looking for advice.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Maybe I don't really have an airplane

In the January 2013 issue of EAA's Sport Aviation magazine, Budd Davisson wrote a really nice piece about my struggle to build the RV-7A.

But in the process, a picture of the wrong airplane slipped through (I failed to catch it when Budd sent me a list of pictures they were considering for the article) and, instead, a picture of Gary Speketer's very nice RV-10 ran instead.

In this week's February issue, the problem was rectified by publishing yet another picture of Gary's airplane.

It's a good issue, though, as usual. Find it here. Just select February 2013.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Preventing RV intersection fairing calamity

A few days ago, I posted this picture:

The lower intersection fairing -- the back half -- on the right side had ripped away from the wheel pant fairing. It was a fairly violent destruction because further inspection revealed it didn't rip off along the bonded portion -- that is: a delamination -- it ripped clean across the fairing (these are the fairings sold by Cleaveland Tools).

What caused it? My RV friend, Ted Chang, figured it out and it makes perfect sense. The rear half sits up slightly from front half (it's pushed out a little by the shape of the gear leg fairing) and the 170 mph breeze caught it and ripped it. That makes perfect sense, though I'm surprised it didn't happen on the left side first because that side was set up worse than the right side.

See, the problem is you can't secure the fairing to the gear leg fairing. I'd actually put a nutplate in the gear leg fairing to screw the intersection fairing down to keep this from happening. But then I realized that the gear leg fairing needs to move inside the intersection fairing because the gear leg fairing is clamped at the top of the gear leg and with the flex of the leg on takeoffs and landings, attaching it at the bottom puts pressure on the top. So the clamp would either break the fairing or -- more likely -- it would pull down and chafe against the gear leg. The gear leg fairing has to be allowed to move.

What to do? Ted provided the perfect solution with this drawing he sent me on Facebook.

His "slot" will hold the front and back together.

So I've attached the wheel pants together, put some packing tape along the inside of the front part of the fairing, and laid up several layers of fiberglass.

When the epoxy cures (it cured enough to allow me to take the front half of the wheelpant off), I'll trim the "clip" (basically, a beveled edge, similar to how the wheelpants are held together) to about 1/4 to 1/2 inches. I don't think I'll need to do the same thing to the top of the fairing because (a) it mates much better as is and (b) the top of the fairing -- because it's shorter -- is much more rigid than the bottom.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

RV crash cause determined: Bird avoidance

The National Transportation has released a probable cause of an accident that killed Randolph Flores of Palominas, Arizona in Jordan, UT in September 2011.

According to the NTSB, the RV-6A pilot was probably trying to avoid birds when he entered the traffic pattern to land.

While approaching the airport at the conclusion of a 4-hour flight, the pilot announced his intention over the common traffic frequency to join the traffic pattern. A short time later, an undiscernible distress transmission was made over the frequency. A few seconds later, the airplane was observed spiraling to the ground. Global positioning system data recovered from the airplane revealed that it was traveling at an appropriate airspeed for entry into the downwind leg of the traffic pattern with a sufficient margin above the stall speed to maintain flight. It then made an abrupt left turn, resulting in a spiral dive, which progressed into a spin. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

No evidence of a bird-strike was found, and review of radar data did not reveal the presence of other aircraft in the vicinity just prior to the accident. However, radar data did reveal that the airplane passed through a cluster of primary targets (with no altitude information) at the time of the accident. Such primary targets could potentially be radar system anomalies, thermal air currents, or bird reflections. According to a bird mitigation specialist, large birds, or flocks of smaller birds, are often present at that time of year, and such birds typically fly circling patterns in thermal air currents at traffic pattern altitudes.

The pilot’s abrupt maneuver during the approach was consistent with an avoidance maneuver. The maneuver, which was calculated to be a 65-degree angle of bank to the left, most likely placed the airplane into an accelerated stall condition, which developed into a spin.

The airplane was loaded toward its aft center of gravity limit, which could have increased its pitch sensitivity, thereby exacerbating the turn. A successful recovery from an unintentional stall-spin at pattern altitude is extremely unlikely.

This crash was particularly noteworthy at the time because it almost hit an elementary school.

This is a good time to consider stalls and load factor:

Monday, January 21, 2013

An airplane's little mysteries

Now that I've gotten the Reiff preheater system installed, I went flying yesterday even though the temperature was -12C. I wanted to do some cold weather testing and find out how cold it can get before the pilot of N614EF needs to land and warm up.

I also wanted to see if changing a configuration setting on the Garmin 296 would fix the problem I'm having with my TruTrack Digiflight (single-axis). It doesn't want to follow the Garmin flight plan, even though it's getting solid data. Bottom line: It didn't.

I also wanted to do some TAS checking and found that at 5,000 feet yesterday, I was getting about 150 knots (173 mph) at about 65-70% power.

After I landed, I noticed this...

The rear part of the lower, right-side intersection fairing ripped off. I'm not exactly sure why. Before bonding them to the wheelpants, the intersection fairing was screwed into place after applying epoxy.

I did notice recently that the rear seamline had started to split. I think the gear leg fairing was being pushed into it and so it was acting like a putty knife. I'm not sure that accounts for the ripping off the fairing. I did, as you can see, split the wheel pants along the seam, but the rear part of the intersection fairing was not sitting proud and, thus, exposed to the airstream. Ironically, the left side intersection fairing is sitting in that fashion.

It's -6 (F) this morning, so I'm going to pull everything off and bring it home to a warm house for evaluation.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The day EAA put a warbirds owner in his place

Over on the EAA forums (which are good,by the way), the monthly "we want the EAA the way it used to be thread) had broken out again, as it usually does every month when Sport Aviation arrives in the mail and every single article doesn't appeal to some member.

But, hey, can we get a little love for EAA over here. And some for Jack Pelton, the interim president.

A warbird owner has been rebuffed by EAA in his attempt to have EAA pay him to bring his plane to Oshkosh, a perfectly abysmal precedent and the fastest possible way to ruin AirVenture.

has the whole story.
Pelton was commenting on a decision by Fighter Factory President Jerry Yagen to have his exceptionally rare Second World War demonstration aircraft steer clear of the big show this year. Yagen is now lining up dates for his recently completed Mosquito fighter bomber and a new-build version of an Me. 262 jet fighter but he says he won't bring them to Oshkosh unless EAA pays him to do so. Yagen told AVweb he believes other warbird owners feel the same as he does and some will also boycott the show. "Sorry to say that the days of bringing such expensive airplanes all across the countryside for free will most likely not happen again," Yagen said. He said he thinks there has already been a perceptible decrease in the number of warbirds at AirVenture and that it will escalate. He also said he doesn't think AirVenture should pay for all warbirds to attend but that there should be compensation for aircraft like the Mosquito and Me. 262 that will be major drawing cards to the event. Pelton said Yagen's request is not only financially impractical, it would require EAA staff to perform the impossible task of determining which aircraft warrant funding.

We'll get along just fine without you, sir.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Baby, it's cold outside!

When I was renting airplanes, I didn't give two rips about starting an engine in sub-freezing temperatures. It wasn't my engine.

Now that I'm flying my own airplane, and now that I've had to relocate to an unheated hangar, I care. A lot.

So other than a circuit around the pattern prior to moving the airplane from the old hangar to the new one, I haven't flown much, and I don't want to start the engine until it's equipped with a preheating system.

I tried to rig up a cheap one, but you can't find a good functional ceramic heater anymore with a metal shell. All the ones today are plastic shells and they're also tapered and sleek, lousy for screwing on a duct adapter and some ductwork to pipe into the exhaust opening of the cowling for preheat.

After some investigating, I ordered a system from Reiff Preheat Systems. It consists of four bands which, using worm clamps, clamp around each cylinder, and a heated element that is bonded onto the bottom of the oil sump.

Today I set about installing it.

The cylinder bands went on fine, but it's a bit of a struggle to get the system to fit if you have a Lightspeed coil on the top of the engine, as well as a fuel injector spider sitting up there, too. The heating element wire from the #4 cylinder is going to be too short. Drat!

The harness goes along the top of the engine block, which is a problem because of the Lightspeed coils, which I removed for a little elbow room. I'll try to clamp it to the case bolts with offsets and Adel clamps, but it's going to have to take a sharp turn to avoid the coils and, more important, the stainless lines coming off the fuel spider. I'm not crazy about it.

Meanwhile, work progressed on the oil sump. I used paint removing, a scraper, and some stainless steel to remove and prep all the paint on the bottom of the sump.

Then I mixed up the supplied epoxy -- it looks like a JB Weld type of product -- and attached the heater element, the wire from which will snake up the back side along the engine mount, through the baffle and attach to the harness.

Now it has to cure, which is a problem because, well, it's cold. It takes 24-48 hours at 75 degrees and goodness knows how long it'll take at 30 or so degrees in an unheated hangar.

But, it's not as if there isn't more work to do. The wheelpants all need to come off because snow is packed up inside them from taxiing over to the new hangar.

I don't know when I'll fly again.
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