Sunday, December 31, 2006

PS3 Run

Momma Nature did not cooperate and allow the IFR Pilot to complete the night solo requirement for his commercial license. Fog, haze, and mist all blew into Northeast Ohio last night and caused the flight to be scrubbed while driving to dinner.

But, stopping along the way at Circuit City to examine a new camera, the cell phone rang. The conversation went like this:

IFRP: "Hello?"

MS: "Dude, can you fly to Pontiac tomorrow?"

IFRP: "Sure, what's in Pontiac?"

MS: "A PlayStation 3 I just bought on eBay."

IFRP: "Umm, OK. But the sign right here at Circuit City says them have them in stock."

They did indeed have them in stock -- well, they had one in stock -- but MS didn't want it, convinced that he had a better deal waiting for him in Pontiac. So, the pimply-faced, angst-ridden teenage sales drone (if you've been to Circuit City lately, you know what I'm talking about) was told to return the last PS3 to inventory. Not five minutes later, MS calls back. His brother wants the PS3. Sorry, so sad, it just walked out the front door with another customer.

Anyway, we convene at the Home Base early this morning. The IFR Pilot takes the opportunity to experiment with his brand-new Olympus EVOLT 500 SLR camera (yes, I beat the sales drone up pretty good and got a great deal, so look for lots more pictures here soon!!!):

Sunrise at The Home Base #1

Sunrise at The Home Base #2

Our old faithful steed, N3978S, parked outside (gasp, the horror of it!)

After filling the tanks with 100LL priced at the bargain-basement price of $2.80 per gallon, we blasted off for Pontiac. Cleveland offered us direct LLEEO, but from The Home Base, that's a bit too much time overwater outside gliding distance, so we asked for and go SKY, LLEEO, radar vectors to Pontiac. The weather was VFR until just after crossing over Pelee Island. After that, we were on top at 6000.

Handed off to Detroit Approach, we were told to descend to 4000. On the way down, we noticed the top of what looked liked a TV antenna sticking through the tops. Yikes, that must be one tall tower (we estimated the tops at about 2500 MSL).

[Safely at home, and examining the sectional, it appears that our estimates were off. It appears we encountered one of the six towers near the bottom of this excerpt, all of which top out at about 1750 MSL.]

Vectored for the VOR approach to Runway 9R at PTK, which we had backed up with the GPS 9R as well, we plunged down into the dark cotton below us. We broke out at minimums, 1500, just as Pontiac Tower advised that Detroit had given a low alert warning. As we struggled to find the airport (it's an offset arrival by about 25 degrees), the IFR Pilot had a lapse of concentration. When the airport didn't appear soon, he initiated a missed. Probably a bit prematurely. MS was firmly saying, "continue, we have 2 miles to go." But, no futzing around here, let's get this right and my head's not in it.

So we went missed and were vectored back for another try. This time, the IFR Pilot kept his head in the game. We dove to the MDA and then drove for the airport, the IFR Pilot doing the flying and MS looking for the runway. Even though they had the lights up on high, it wasn't obvious. (Too bad the MALSR was OTS.)

Then suddenly, there it was, literally right below us. We cut the power and dove for the runway. It was a bit dicey, but we only had about 500 feet of altitude and the runway was about 6000 feet, so we can get down pronto. And we did.

And with that 1.5 hours, the IFR Pilot reaches 500.2 for his career total. That's also the first non-precision approach to minimums.

To prove that we had done it right, as we were walking to the FBO, we watched some kind of transport jet do just what we did - bust out of the clouds at 500 AGL, turn 25 degrees to the runway, and drop it like a rock. (Next time, I'll wait for the ILS to be returned to service....)

MS flew us home, which, other than the headwinds, was a complete non-event, culminating in a visual to The Home Base.

N72MH, Ready for Takeoff, Runway 9R at Pontiac

In the clag, on the way home.

Happy 2007 one and all!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Nipping at 500

The forecasts called for today to be an absolutely gorgeous day in Northeast Ohio. See what I mean?

With little being done in the legal world on the last business day of 2006, the IFR Pilot played hookey and went to meet MS at the Home Base for a little morning IFR workout. Plus, greasy breakfast. Who can ask for more on a day off?

Nearing the half-way point in the drive to our beloved little airpark, MS called. Plans have changed, he can't go until about 1:00 p.m. Hmmm, now what? Turn around and go home? Nah, laziness would strike and nothing would get done. Better choice is to head to the Home Base, talk to some CFI's about getting the commercial done and putz around the hangar. Yeah, that's the ticket. A much better plan!

Except that the CFI's weren't to be found. Instead, let's hang around the maintenance hangar with the A&P. When he got tired of answering the IFR Pilot's inane questions about the 182 he was working on, he decided it was time for breakfast. That's an outstanding plan. So we grabbed the airport owner and headed out -- via motorway, not airway -- to the Huddle House.

An hour or so later, with our bellies sufficiently full, and our arteries on their way to complete hardness, we were back at the airport. Time to be productive. Since the ambient temperature is averaging below 50 degrees F, it was time to install the restrictor plate on the oil cooler intake. So, the IFR Pilot popped the cowl (for the record, Piper has the bomb design on the upper cowl -- no screws to mess with, just four quarter turn pins, pop the latches, and voila! top cowl is off) and did the deed.

OK, so the A&P had to come help, as the POH was a bit less than clear on where to install this thing. It is clear it had never been installed before, as the screw holding it on the storage bracket was a PITA to remove. While we were in there, we had to repair a piece of the baffling that had cracked. And replace a rivet that had popped off one of the baffle seals. A productive trip inside the cowl.

With still more time to spare, and the lovely weather outside, the IFR Pilot then cleaned the bug goo off the wings -- always a crummy job. And with that done, the rest of the plane needed a sprucing up, the IFR Pilot gave Mike Hotel a complete dry wash with Wash Wax All spray. Took about an hour and a half, and that didn't include the unfinished jobs of cleaning the stabilator (no ladder to get up there, darn T-tail) and the underside of the fuselage (no degreaser in the hangar).

FINALLY, with all that nonsense done, MS arrived. Just in time, as usual. We blasted off moments later, bound for Mansfield's ILS. The plan was 2 ILS's into Runway 32, a hold at the MFD VORTAC, then the GPS 14, and then lunch.

The ILS's were a bit challenging, given the rust factor that the IFR Pilot brought to the left seat, combined with the fact that the winds were favoring 14 and there were numerous other aircraft in the vicinity. The approach controller seemed a bit overwhelmed, having trouble giving instructions to the various airplanes. A few minutes after acknowledging that we could have the ILS 32, he advised us to "maintain VFR and report the airport in sight."

Umm, hey, how about that approach we wanted? "Oh, right. Forgot about that. Fly heading 230, maintain 3000."

We then got a bit 360 degree trip while he dealt with the Citation, Stationair, and Skyhawk, all inbound for Runway 14. MS and I discussed breaking it off, as we didn't want to complicate everyone's lives by flying the ILS. But we elected to continue and see what happened.

Eventually, we got cleared for the approach. The IFR Pilot experimented with letting the autopilot fly the localizer, but when it got almost full scale right deflection, it was time to shut the autopilot off and hand fly. A couple of S-turns across the localizer and we were back on it. Unfortunately, the IFR Pilot left the power setting a little high and so never quite captured the glide slope.

Back to the south and vectored back for another trip down the ILS. This one was substantially better, although there was no reason to be flying it at 120 knots. Need to work on this a bit more.

We flew the published missed and held over the VORTAC at 4000 for a couple trips around. We then got the GPS 14 day, the approach. It's a bit of a slam dunk, with the VORTAC only 3.5 miles away from the threshold and the MDA at 1620. We pulled it off, even though -- on a perfect CAVUGX-50 alerted: "Abort approach. RAIM failure." WTF?

Anyhoo, with another 1.1 hours in the logbook, the IFR Pilot now stands at 498.7 hours. If Momma Nature remains cooperative, the weather tomorrow night will allow for completion of the remaining 1.4 hours of night flight needed for the commercial. And that will put your trusty narrator right over the wonderful total of 500 hours total time. That'll be a very nice way to end 2006, dontcha think?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Calling Graphic Designers

Time to step this blog up a notch. A logo is needed. Badly.

Unfortunately, the IFR Pilot's art skills are zero. In fact, they are worse than his singing skills, which -- for those in the know -- are completely horrid.

Accordingly, who wants to step up the plate and design something that will enliven these stock pages???

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bored At Work

Struggling to remain focused at work, the IFR Pilot strayed off-task and updated the map of states in which he has piloted aircraft:

Looks like there's some states that need to be visited soon!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ignominous Death

Death in an airplane accident -- no matter the particular cause -- is a horrible way to perish. But this article describes what has to be a particularly putrid accident in which a Beeachcraft Travel Air twin crashed into a raw sewage tank.

Just in case you don't believe the story, they even had pictures to prove it (taken, of course, after the entire tank was drained):

Blogroll Update

Stuck at home waiting for the washing machine repairman to show, the IFR Pilot spent some time overhauling the list of Crew Members a/k/a fellow aviation bloggers. A couple of goodies that are no longer active have been designated "RIP."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Squeezing It In

Saturday saw the IFR Pilot taking advantage of the CAVU weather to knock off the VFR cross-country flight required for the commerical ticket. One of the points of landing was Elkins, WV.

As you can see from the sectional, Elkins lies in a valley between two ranges of mountains/hills/whatever you want to call them:

The sectional, however, just doesn't do this area justice in educating you about how tight the approach is going to be. Although it still doesn't convey all of the detail, the Google Earth view sheds a bit more light on what's going to be going on as you fly into Elkins:

The valley into which this airport is sandwiched is only perhaps 3.5 to 4 miles wide.

Coming in from the northwest, the IFR Pilot was at 5000 feet, in order to ensure sufficient clearance over the western ridge. Having cleared the ridge, however, there was no way to drop the 3300 or so feet to pattern altitude for runway 23, which was in use. Even after giving it the old college try, Mike Hotel was 1000 feet above pattern altitude while on short final. Two words:

Go. Around.

Which is just what your faithful narrator did, and then set up for a left downwind to runway 32. Even then, things were a bit dicey.

I suppose that much of this is attributable to the fact that the vast, vast majority of the time in my logbook is in the flatlands of the Midwest. Even the Great Alaska Adventure involved flying into airports that were in well-defined valleys. Bush Pilot, I am not.

So, for the record, Elkins is definitely OFF the list of "Places That The IFR Pilot Will Fly Into During Actual IFR Conditions (tm)."

Night y'all.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Commercial Pilot Flight Experience Requirements -- Another Update

Current as of 12/17/2006 (bold = done, red=working on it):
  • At least 250 hours of flight time as a pilot that consists of at least:
    • 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in airplanes
    • 100 hours as pilot in command flight time, which includes at least:
      • 50 hours in airplanes
      • 50 hours in cross-country flight of which at least 10 hours must be in airplanes

  • 20 hours of training in the areas of operation listed below, including at least:
    • 10 hours of instrument training of which at least 5 hours must be in a single-engine airplane
    • 10 hours of training in an airplane that has a retractable landing gear, flaps, and controllable pitch propeller, or is turbine-powered
    • One cross-country flight of at least 2 hours in a single-engine airplane in day-VFR conditions, consisting of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 NM from the original point of departure
    • One cross-country flight of at least 2 hours in a single-engine airplane in night-VFR conditions, consisting of a straight-line distance of more than 100 NM from the original point of departure
    • 3 hours in a single-engine airplane in preparation for the practical test within the 60 days preceding the test

  • 10 hours of solo flight in a single-engine airplane training in the areas of operation required for a single-engine rating, which includes at least:
    • One cross-country flight of not less than 300 NM total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 NM from the original departure point
    • 5 hours in night-VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower
      • Current total night solo hours: 3.6 hours
        • 1/26/06 - .4 hours
        • 3/29/06 - .7 hours
        • 4/10/06 - 1.4 hours
        • 10/2/06 - 1.1 hours
      • Current total night solo takeoffs and landings at controlled airport: 11
        • 3/29/06 - 3 takeoffs and landings at CAK
        • 4/10/05 - 3 takeoffs and landings at MFD and 3 at CAK
        • 10/2/06 - 2 takeoffs and landings at CAK

Friday, December 15, 2006

Piper POH Performance Graphs

The POH for Mike Hotel contains the standard Piper graphs for a variety of performance
characteristics, such as ground roll, takeoff distance, landing distance, and the like. Here's an example, taken from the FAA's Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge:

These graphs completely irritate the IFR Pilot, and have done so since they were introduced in ground school for the private ticket.

First, they are fairly small. There's a lot of information that has to be taken into consideration in performing these calculations, and the small scale of these charts compounds the difficulty of following the various lines.

Second, the print isn't all that crisp. This is both a function of the amount of data just discussed, and the loss of clarity inherent in a multi-generational copy (such as that contained in the POH copy I purchased from Essco Aircraft).

Third, they just aren't that intuitive -- at least for me. Maybe it's all a question of what
you learn (or how you learn, for that matter), but ever since my private training in the venerable Cessna 152s and 172s, I have had a much greater affinity for the columnar charts found in their POHs. Sure, it requires a bit of interpolation, but what the heck, that's a
better mental exercise than following a bunch of lines across the page, isn't it?

My question to you all is this: Has anyone figured out how to convert those various graphs into something that you can load into Excel? We have a nifty little file that does W&B calculations,
including graphing the CG, that we use to avoid crunching those numbers. It would be nice to be able to do the same for takeoff and landing calculations.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Visions of New Orleans, Part 3

Morning of Day 3 saw us up before sunrise. Returning from NOLA to the Home Base results in losing an hour, so if you want to get home in the early afternoon, as we did, you got to get an early start. For the record, 5:00 a.m. is WAY early. Especially for MS, who spent the night with toilet tissue plugged in his ears. The IFR Pilot denies that his alleged snoring had anything to do with that!

Our takeoff from New Orleans Lakefront Airport at 6:45 a.m. was without incident. There was a fair bit of precipitation that New Orleans Approach called out to us. But we had it on the XM and diverted around it.

Soon enough, we had some company on the east side of our route:

The IFR Pilot, deeply concentrating on aviating:

We passed just east of the Naval Airstation in Meridian, Mississippi (KNMM). It has one of the strangest layouts ever (read strange to mean: big waste of space). See here:

The inefficient use of space may be clearer from the airport diagram:

I'm sure that someone has a rational explanation for why you set an airport up this way, but it's not apparent to moi.

Anyway, the next major sight of interest was near Huntsville, Alabama. In what looks like a highway rest stop, we saw this lovely little rocket:

Not too long after that, we were back in Shelbyville, TN for cheap 100LL. This time, we snagged the crew car and feasted on the finest fast food offerings available in Shelbyville -- Burger King. There's a little bit of terrain about Shelbyville, but all in all it seems like a nice little place. We'll be stopping there during future trips to the South Central USA.

Inbound traffic at KSYI (my picture taking skills are improving!):

MS had the flying chores for the rest of the trip, during which we tried vainly to get the 396 to display the compass arc on the moving map page. After we tried just about everything and the IFR Pilot took a nap, MS figured it out. (Good job scanning for traffic, dork! Keep your eyes outside the cockpit, would ya?)

Just 2.8 hours later, we were down on the ground at the Home Base and headed home.

And so ends the story of our second adventure in New Orleans. Around 12 hours total flight time, all VFR, which afforded a pleasant break from the radio work and monitoring associated with IFR flight. We gave the XM and the iPods a workout listening to tunes. We'll get plenty of IFR radio work this winter!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Visions of New Orleans, Part 2

Day 2 of our adventure in New Orleans found us taking an early morning stroll to the Riverwalk in search of brunch and goodies for the folks at home. Riverwalk is a mall converted from space used in connection with the 1984 World's Fair held along the banks of the Mississippi. There's a lovely little outdoor balcony that affords stunning views like this:

After gorging ourselves and spending money on gifts, MS and the IFR Pilot parted for the afternoon. The IFR Pilot spent the afternoon with his old boss and getting a tour of some of Katrina's effects. The Old Boss lives in a posh neighborhood of Jefferson Parish. Even there you can still see some of the effects of the storm:

The water line is much more apparent in this close up:

Nearby was this classic scene -- a posh home undergoing construction, with a FEMA trailer parked on the lawn next to matching Jaguars. Only in Old Metairie:

Dinner was some homecooked BBQ shrimp. The IFR Pilot was presented with a cooler full of goodies to bring home, including more BBQ shrimp, shrimp dip, shrimp creole, gumbo, packages of cleaned crawfish tails, crawfish with angel hair pasta, jambalaya, and more. Yummy!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Visions of New Orleans, Part 1

A little late in writing this up, but, hey, it's been busy around the homestead.

As previously reported, Mother Nature foiled our original plan to head to New Orleans on Thursday. There was a huge snowfall, probably 6 inches or more. A classic lake effect event.

Friday dawned early and looked promising. If we could get about 30 miles south of the Home Base, it looked like we would be home free for the entire trip. The IFR Pilot packed up and headed out after pulling down a computer weather briefing. After stopping to grab a refill of the propane tank, and being harassed by MS due to running late (gasp! MS instead of the IFR Pilot actually had to preheat the airplane!!!), the IFR Pilot arrived at the Home Base.

The snow had slowed pretty significantly during the 35 mile drive, and was down to mostly intermittent flakes. The airport, however, still had the accumulation from the prior day's storm. Fortunately, we had called in a favor with the mechanics who also handle the snow plow duties and they had the runway, taxiway, fueling area, and even our hangar ramp mostly free of snow.

After dragging Mike Hotel out and topping off the tanks, we climbed in for leg #1. Destination: Sporty's, for some needed supplies. MS lost the coin toss and was charged with Pilot Flying duties on leg #1. This, of course, meant doing a short field takeoff from a slightly contaminated runway. Regrettably, for the sake of complete disclosure, your trusted author must admit that he did a dandy job. We were off before the yellow line that marks the mid-point of the runway, due in part to only using 10 degrees of flaps and the enhanced performance resulting from the 20o F temperature. If I recall correctly, we were seeing something like 29" of manifold pressure!

Within the expected 15 minutes, we were clear of the crummy weather and, for the just the briefest of times, VFR on top.

Before I knew it, we were on the ground at I69. Hal stole some of our money in exchange for a nifty little flashlight and some charts. Charts that MS had already purchased at the Home Base, but had "forgot" in the back of his car!

Since it was Friday, Hal didn't have any free brats for us, so we skipped lunch and blasted off for Shelbyville, TN. Shelbyville is pretty much the halfway point of the trip, so it's logical to stop there. Even more important, they practically five away 100LL. OK, not quite, but $3.09 is way less than what we pay at the Home Base, which is usually among the cheapest places around.

We tried to borrow the crew car to grab a bite to eat, but some jacka** didn't understand the "1 hour only" limitation on the signout sheet. Even though he had taken the car at 10:45 and it was now 1:15, he was only "just sitting down to lunch," or so he told the line boy, who tracked him down on his cell phone. So, we did what professional freight dogs do, we fed quarters into the vending machine and took off to enjoy our in-flight cuisine.

The IFR Pilot had the Pilot Flying duties this leg. MS, exhausted from having to actually do some work earlier in the morning, plugged his Bose headset into the iPod, covered his face with his jacket, and promptly went to sleep. (Modesty and decorum prohibit your narrator from describing what he was caught doing at one point during his nap....)

Before you could shake a stick, we were on the verge of Lake Pontchartrain. You can just see it in this photo:

Drawing closer, we got a great view of the wetlands on the North Shore:

It only takes a few minutes to cross the lake, and we entered a left downwind for Runway 36L:

Here's a view of University of New Orleans, which took a wallop from Katrina, but because of its relatively "high" location (the rim of a bowl doesn't have as much water as the middle of the basin), didn't suffer flooding like other parts of the city:

On short final for 36L:

And, 3.1 hours after leaving Shelbyville, we were on the ground at New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

More to come...

Friday, December 08, 2006

En Route

The lads are on the ground in Shelbyville, TN, awaiting return of the crew car so they can get some lunch. This puts us halfway to the Big Easy. Can taste that Hurricane already!!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Not Looking So Good

By this time tomorrow, MS and the IFR Pilot should be safely in the French Quarter, sipping a hurricane from Pat O'Brien's and contemplating whether we should dine at Mr. B's Bistro, Palace Cafe, or Bacco -- in other words, you pick which Brennan family restaurant would be best.

But, the forecast suggests otherwise:

It's not looking so hot (groan, bad, bad pun) for us to leave tomorrow. Maybe Friday will be better:

Damn Great Lakes and lake effect snow!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mike Hotel Annual Reconciliation

For the sake of posterity, here's the breakdown of what we spent for the first annual of Mike Hotel:
  • Replacement gascolator: $240
  • Replacement fuel pump and strobe power supply: $660
  • Second replacement fuel pump: $240 (but we got a credit for that, so it's a wash)
  • Mechanic's time, plus oil and air filters and new oil: $888.
So, that's $1788 for the annual. Overall, probably not too bad considering this was our first annual of a complex aircraft. Certainly there are more systems than in a 172, the annuals for which we had down to a virtual science.

What made the annual of Mike Hotel a bit of a bitter pill to swallow was that we also had the ELT serviced in the same month ($95) and the standby electric attitude indicator installed ($200). Combined with the alternator replacement last month (total cost of $600, mostly because we had to have someone fly it in the same day), it's been an expensive couple months, aviation-wise.

Thankfully, winter's here, so the decreased flight time should give our wallets some breathing room.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Two Months to the Day

Well, it's been a while since the IFR Pilot has updated this little on-line journal. Worse yet, it's been two months since the IFR Pilot has actually done any flying. (The sim session at the local American Flyers doesn't count.) With the exception of last year's flying interrupting on account of the whole bleeding ulcer, this has been the longest that the IFR Pilot has gone without flying since obtaining his private ticket.

So, after hounding MS for ages, the IFR Pilot talked him into riding along while the IFR Pilot climbed back into the saddle. As befits any mid-Saturday flying adventure, this one involved food.

We blasted off from the Home Base experimenting with a more aggressive short-field takeoff technique than we had been using in the past, this one more closely tracking what's in the POH. An aggressive tug back on the yoke got us off the ground right at 60 knots. Then an almost-equally aggressive push forward kept us in ground effect. Wheels up, and we had an aggressive climb out at 80 knots. What was particularly impressive about this was that we were (according to MS, who was the official observer) off the ground before the Yellow Line -- the runway midpoint marker at the Home Base. Usually, we are several hundred feet past the yellow line before we see 70 knots and rotate. So, this may be our new takeoff technique.

Turning southeast, we headed for New Philly, home of the Perfect Landing restaurant. The trip was a total non-event, other than the spirited debate we had about how we were going to enter the pattern for runway 14. MS argued for a left base entry, whereas the IFR Pilot advocated for a short right-base entry based on our projected arrival path. It grew so spirited that MS put on his ersatz CFI hat and drew a picture. (I'd reproduce it here, but it got lost on the trip home....)

Anyway, the debate turned out to be for naught because the prevailing winds were favoring runway 32, and so we simply joined the downwind. Note that this allowed us to avoid overflying the graveyard that's on short final to runway 14 at PHD, which is always rather ominous! Somewhat surprisingly, the IFR Pilot made a nice landing, including having the stall horn go off just before the mains touched down. MS's criticism was that the IFR Pilot was moving the yoke back and forth too much during the flare. His patented and colorful criticism: "No masturbating with the yoke!" As if...

Lunch was a tasty spinach and artichoke dip for the both of us, with the IFR Pilot following up with 10 BBQ chicken wings and MS opting for the more-healthy grilled chicken wrap (hold the tomatoes and cheese) and rice pilaf.

Afterwards, we tried to locate Ben, the avionics guy at ProAv Aircraft, to pick his brain about why the brightness on the MS-20 was so-not-very-bright. He was up flying, so we had to settle for checking out a brand new Super King Air 200 that arrived while we were wandering around (N95LM). The airworthiness certificate was issued in late September, the leather still had that new million-dollar plane smell to it, and the aisle carpet still had its protective plastic in place. Oh, how the better half live. Despite our best pleas, we couldn't persuade the pilot to "take us around the patch just once."

Our departure from PHD had some excitement. The new short-field technique worked like a charm, but we both heard some what sounded like some strange surging from engine. The gauges seemed rock solid, so we simply climbed over the top of the airport while we troubleshot. Everything appeared normal, even after we reduced power, so we headed toward home.

We sidestepped to BJJ, which has a longer runway to do some further tests. We did a series of fast taxis, and came to two conclusions. First, the manifold pressure seemed somewhat higher than either of us could recall it being, around 28". Not sure if that assessment is accurate, and still need to do some research. Second, the surging appeared to dissipate if the throttle was very gradually increased to maximum, as opposed to a smooth, yet single step, movement to maximum. Not sure what this means, so we will continue to monitor.

MS flew us home, and made a nice landing in a fairly breezy crosswind.

Thursday, it's time for Boys Weekend, Part Deux: The Boys Hit New Orleans. We were there about six months before Katrina, so we figured it was a good place to go visit again. Hopefully, the local weather patterns will cooperate.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Test Flight

MS and the IFR Pilot met at the hangar early this morning. The plan was to test fly Mike Hotel following the 2006 Annual-From-Youknowwhere. That plan was modified after the A&P bravely volunteered to stand behind his work and accompany MS on the first flight.

Worked like a charm. A couple of landings later, including one with the IFR Pilot, and the 2006 Annual has been brought to a close.

Well, almost. We've got three follow-up items, which are being recorded here so they are not forgotten and the A&P can be harassed to actually get them done.

First, the upper white position light on the rudder needs to be replaced.

Second, the front strut needs a nitrogen boost.

Third, the gascolator drain needs to be extended so that it is outside the lower cowl.

Once these items are safely done, the IFR Pilot will be taking Mike Hotel for a litle trip to New Orleans. Time to visit some friends and colleagues post-Katrina.

Friday, November 17, 2006

2006 Annual -- It's Done

Just spoke to the A&P. The replacement pump arrived. He yanked off the left mag, had a helper assist him in making sure the cam was in the full up position before the new pump was inserted, and installed the pump. Lo and behold, it all works! Jammin' kids, looks like Mike Hotel has been restored to flight status. All we need are the logbook endorsements.

And the bill. :-(

Monday afternoon will be spent getting a free hour or so of dual instruction in the flight sim at American Flyers. The plan is approaches and instrument failures. We're taking suggestions as to good, challenging approaches that will test the IFR Pilot's approach plate sight-reading skills. Let's hear your suggestions!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kudos to Aero Accessories

As Chief Aircraft demanded, the IFR Pilot contacted Aero Accessories, manufacturer of the Tempest fuel pump that isn't working. The gentleman on the other end, Neal, listened to my whining with much patience.

Then, to my surprise, he said something along the lines of the following:

"We will send you a new pump, no problem. We'll make it right. But, just from your description, and obviously sight unseen, check to make sure the cam arm is in the full up position before the pump is installed."

A couple hours later, they called to say that they didn't have a new pump to ship, only an overhauled one. I nicely said I didn't want an overhauled pump because I have to send back the one from Chief, which was new. So I'd get stuck with the price difference. After a bit more whining, they said, OK, we'll build you a new pump today, but it won't ship until tomorrow (Friday). I said, fine, that'll do.

In the meantime, we ordered another pump from a different supplier on Wednesday evening, which should arrive on Friday. Our A&P is going to remove the left magneto to make sure that the cam is in the full-up position before the pump is installed. And he says he'll buy the other fuel pump from us, so we don't have to negotiate with one of the vendors for a full-price return.

What a pain in the behind. When will the annual ever end??? The annual we did earlier this year on 78S was so much smoother (and cheaper) in comparison to this one!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mysteries Abound; The Annual Continues

On the way home from rural Licking County today (read: 5+ hours travel time for a 12 minute conference with the judge; yes, I would have flow if the plane wasn't AOG, thankyouverymuch), the IFR Pilot swung by the airport to check on the progress of Mike Hotel's much-extended annual. The new fuel pump and strobe power supply had arrived earlier that morning, and we were hoping against hope that everything might have been buttoned back-up and Mike Hotel returned to the flight line.

Looked like Lady Luck was shining on us. The mechanics had replaced the power supply, which had rapidly cured the problem of the intermittent strobes. And they were just getting ready to pull Mike Hotel out of the hangar for a test run with the new fuel pump. So the IFR Pilot jumped in and "helped," by which I mean "try to stay out of the way and not drive up the hourly bill."

We pulled Mike Hotel from the hangar and started him up. Or at least we tried.

The first attempt failed after the IFR Pilot neglected to return the fuel selector to a position other than "Off." Doggone it.

The second attempt went much better. A little primer from the electric pump and the engine turned over and caught.

But then just as quickly it went out again. Okay, not enough fuel. Let's try that again.

On the third try, the engine caught right away, ran for about 3 seconds, and then started to die. We threw on the boost pump and everything smoothed out right away.

Hmmm, this is interesting.

Kill the boost pump, engine dies. Keep the boost pump on, engine purrs, but the fuel pressure gauge isn't even reaching the bottom of the green range. Something just isn't right here.

So Mike Hotel is returned to the hangar and the pump removed. Which is no small task. We check the cam on the accessory case, and by turning the prop, we can confirm that the cam is working just fine. We examine the pump and the cam lever appears to be a bit out of alignment. That's cured via a quick trip to the vise.

The pump gets installed, and we haul the plane out of the hangar again for more engine tests.

Same story. No boost pump, no pressure, engine dies. But keep the boost pump on and everything's OK (but still the fuel pressure isn't registering).

Clearly, this pump isn't working. Did I mentioned that we splurged and bought a new, not rebuilt, pump?

We yank the pump off again. The cam lever is again out of alignment. So the cam seems to be beating on it, but the lever isn't actuating, it's just getting bent out of shape.

Time to call the supplier.

You've seen this coming, right?

They are not much help. They indicated they've never had this kind of complaint before, and we need to call the manufacturer to see if they can help us troubleshoot the problem. Of course, the appropriate person has left for the day, but "do feel free to call back in the morning."

Plan B: Order another pump from a different supplier. So we do that, at a cost of another $250. It'll be here Friday, and the mechanics will try installing that.

In the meantime, the IFR Pilot will argue with tech support at Aero Accessories (at least I won't be transferred to someone in India, I'm willing to bet) and Customer Service at Chief Aircraft. Our mechanic had just happened to have lunch with a rep from the manufacturer today, so he's going to make contact, report our difficulties, and see if the rep can help smooth things over with Chief to help us get our money back.

Bottom line: Aircraft still on the ground. The annual continues. The balance on the VISA continues to climb.

Stay tuned for more updates from the front line of Mike Hotel's Legendary 2006 Annual TM.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Random Photos

Out at the hangar tonight to run down the part number for replacing the power supply to the strobes, the IFR Pilot took some random photos for the sake of posterity.

First, here's the panel proudly sporting the new electric standby attitude indicator. Sweet!

Second, here's our brand new gascolator. The mechanic still has a minor bit of reconfiguring to do with the drain so that it will poke out the bottom of the cowl. He's leaving that for after the fuel pump gets installed and he buttons the cowl back up. But at least he bent the cotter pin after I harassed him about that on Saturday...

Third, here's a couple shots of our lovely Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 sans its engine-drive fuel pump (part number LW15473 , AC41234), which the IFR Pilot has to order tomorrow. Cheapest source for a new one appears to be Chief Aircraft at $239.

Fourth, here's the tailcone. Notice the excellent zinc chromate primer throughout. No corrison for us, baby!

Fifth, here's that power supply - a Whelen A413A HDA-DF-14. Look carefully and you'll see that the date of manufacture was October 1978, when the IFR Pilot was 10 years old. Guess we can't complain that the power supply lasted "only" 28 years. Chief Aircraft again looks to have the best price on this at $379.75.

Lastly, and relatedly, here's the stobe lights themselves. Whelen part number A427, 12 volt, 3 pin connector (not three separate blade-style connectors).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Mike Hotel Annual Update

Well, the annual on Mike Hotel is just about done. All compressions were acceptable (lowest 72, rest were 75+), oil looked good, tires only needed routine servicing, landing gear retraction test were normal.

MS experienced some surging of the fuel flow (pressure remained steady) during his last flight before the annual. It smoothed out when he turned on the electric boost pump, so we initially thought we needed a new fuel pump.

When our A&P pulled the cowl, however, he ran across something else that he thought was causing the problem: a fuel leak. Seems that the gascolator on the Arrow is a piece-of-junk design. Apparently it got jostled (probably when the alternator was replaced), and was leaking. He convinced us to replace it with an STC-PMA approved new design. Only $195 from our good friends at Aircraft Spruce, plus $40 to the rats at UPS for overnight shipping.

He installed it in good order, and it's a beauty.

But it didn't solve the surging problem. So now we'll return to the original plan, and replace the engine-driven fuel pump.

The only other item of note is the strobes. We're going to try replacing the bulbs to see if they are past their useful life, but if that doesn't solve the problem, we'll be doing some electrical work replacing the power supply.

All in all, not too bad. We'll keep our fingers crossed to see what the final damage is to our wallets.

Oh, the bill for the garage door repair came in at just under $200. And the co-pilot ate the mini-blinds in my son's room. He's grounded until further notice.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Mike Hotel Update

The hangar door's fixed and we're operational again.

In the last month, however, Mike Hotel has been grumbling and our wallets have been hurting. In no particular order, we have had the following repairs and improvements performed:

1. Replacement of the alternator. MS was in the clag when the alternator went Tango Uniform. He landed without incident, thanks to some help from a King Air on the ground with TCAS (the airport is in a non-radar environment), at near minima via the VOR approach. Guess I have to give him props for all the MSFS'ing he does. Anyway, to get the plane back operational, we had to locate an alternator and bribe one of the local pilots to fly to Pittsburgh to get it, fly the alternator to the airport where Mike Hotel was stranded, and then fly home. The damage wasn't too bad -- except for the plane rental.

2. Installation of the Standby AI. We submitted to the wallet-gouging otherwise known as Sporty's, and purchased an electric standby AI. The original plan for its installation involved moving the engine analyzer to an open spot near the throttle quadrant and installing the standby AI to the left of the turn coordinator. However, contemporaneous with failure of the alternator, the TC also went TU. Since the standby AI is TSO'd as a replacement for the turn coordinator, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out what we did: Ripped out to the TC and installed the standby AI in its place. Because nothing is cheap in aviation, however, it's installation, at the recommendation of the avionics guy who was at the airport that day, involved replacing the wiring from the circuit breaker. Five hours and $200 later, we now have no TC, but do have redundancy in the event that the vacuum system fails.

3. Servicing of the ELT. The ELT in 3978S was a thing of beauty when it came to servicing. Take out the old batteries and replace them with new ones. Four Duracell "D" batteries. (Sorry, Energizer batteries won't cut it, for whatever reason.) Relatively cheap on the wallet. The ELT in Mike Hotel, however, is of some other variant, and its replacement cost $55, plus an hour of the mechanic's time.

On Friday, MS reported that the engine-driven fuel pump may be OTS. Reports of engine surging that disappeared when he switched on the electric fuel pump. Since the annual is due this month, we moved it from the end of the month to this week. No sense having the mechanic crawling around the engine now, only to do it again in a couple of weeks.

Hopefully, we'll come out of the annual with a minimum of additional repairs. We have no other known squawks or deferred maintenance issue, with the possible exception of the strobes. Either the bulbs are shot, or the power pack(s) may need to be replaced.

On the other side of the ledger, however, the IFR Pilot attended a seminar on Saturday at the local branch of American Flyers. Co-sponsored by the FAA, the subject was "Advanced Navigation." Didn't really learn too much that wasn't already stored somewhere in the aviation trap of my mind, with the exception of a little VOR interpretation trick (determine where you are relative to the VOR by looking at the opposite side of the TO/FROM indicator and the opposite side of the needle -- slick indeed). The real motivation, however, was that every attendee received two complimentary hours in their FTD, including instructor time. This will prove great during the days where real flying is impossible due to winter WX conditions. A couple of hours shooting approaches, with some systems failures thrown in will be great! Thanks, American Flyers, for your loss-leader marketing!!! (Oh, but Mr. Instructor, that town in Columbia you were referring to is pronounced "Bow-gahtaa," not "BO-gata." Instant credibility sapper.)

And now, I need to go work, to make the money sufficient to pay for all of the foregoing.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Rejoinder / Accident of the Week

Someone recently left the following comment:
Based on your profile, commenting on an incident/accident involving 135 ops on the Y-K Delta is in poor form. If you want to post facts, fine. But why not leave the coulda-shoulda speculation out of it. I have hundreds of hours in the accident a/c and about 100 landings at Tunt, sometimes in very poor visibility or with howling crosswinds. And even with my perspective, I refuse to second-guess the pilot. You weren't there, you don't know the circumstances, and I would suggest you stick to commenting on accidents/incidents involving flying which more closely resembles your knowledge base.
To the anonymous commenter: Perhaps I did say more than normal about this accident, or more specifically, about actions that could have been taken to avoid the accident (with the admitted benefit of hindsight). But I stand by my observation that holding would have prevented this accident and allowed the pilot to land in VFR conditions soon after.

Isn't the entire purpose of reading and analyzing accident reports that we learn from them and consider alternative courses of action should we ever face similar circumstances? It certainly is for me. That's why I read them and write about them, and sometimes opine about alternatives to avoid becoming the subject of an NTSB report. I can't tell you the number of times I've analyzed a situation by saying, "How would the NTSB describe this in an accident report?"

And if I offer only the perspective of a 500-hour instrument-rated private pilot flying most of the time in the Midwest of the United States, fine. That's what I am, and that's the perspective I bring to my flying and my aeronautical decision-making. Anyone is free to choose not to read my blog if they think I'm full of crap.

With that, I offer this week's Accident of the Week:
NTSB Identification: ATL07FA002
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, October 06, 2006 in Stockbridge, GA
Aircraft: Cessna 177, registration: N2320Y
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On October 6, 2006, at 0945 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 177, N2320Y, registered to and operated by a private owner, as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, collided with a power line during climb out at Berry Hill Airport, Stockbridge, Georgia. The airplane was destroyed by post-impact fire. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The private pilot, and three passengers were fatally injured. The flight was originating from the Berry Hill Airport, at the time of the accident.

A witness reported that the pilot conducted a preflight inspection of the airplane prior to his departure. The pilot told the witness that he was planning to fly over to St. Simons Island for a day trip, and returning that evening. The witness reported that the pilot checked his fuel tanks, and reported that he had "over 3/4 tanks full of fuel". After the airplane was boarded the pilot conducted a run-up, and taxied to runway 29. During takeoff roll, the airplane did not get airborne until after approximately 2,000 feet down the runway. The airplane barely cleared a tree at the departure end of the runway, and continued to climb "slowly". As the witness watch the airplane climb at an extreme nose high attitude, stalled, and clipped a tree. Seconds later two explosions were heard, and the witness drove to the accident scene.

Examination of the accident scene by NTSB showed that the airplane was located 509 feet from the departure end of runway 29, and came to rest inverted on the front lawn of a private residence.
Based on the description of the departure point and slow climb rate, one is lead immediately to question whether the aircraft was operating beyond its maximum gross weight. You'll find some comments about operating the Cardinal at high and beyond max gross weight here.

Not noted in the preliminary report, but likely to be discussed in the final NTSB report, is that runway 29 at Berry Hill (4A0) is only 3000 feet long. If the airplane didn't reach takeoff speed until it was, according to the eyewitness, 2000 feet down the runway, there isn't much room for error.

However, the 3000' foot descriptor may not tell the entire story. Using Google Maps, we can see that there are displaced thresholds at the end of each runway, attributable to trees located in the approach path of both runways and a fence in the approach path of runway 11:

Although the full 3000' feet is available for takeoffs, the existence of the displaced threshold on the opposite runway implies the existence of an obstacle that interferes with the normal approach path. So, if there's something big and tall that messes with your landing to the opposite runway, there's a pretty good chance that the same big and tall object may be in your departure path. Plan accordingly.

Also, if you zoom out and examine the area to the west of the departure end of Runway 29, you will find it to be densely populated with residential housing. Not a lot of suitable emergency landing sites if you have an anemic climb rate and then suffer an engine failure (although there's no indication of that in the preliminary report).

This accident serves to remind us that we should always perform a full weight and balance calculation, double check our takeoff and landing distance calculations, and assume that the engine will fail shortly after takeoff and therefore have thought through the actions that we will take in the event of such an emergency.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Co-Pilot Hired

It's been a little too quiet around the IFR Pilot's homefront these days. After returning from officiating in completely horrible weather on Sunday night to an empty home where there was no one to complain to about the conditions at the soccer field, the decision was made that it was time to start sharing the residence.

Meet my new co-pilot:

Capt. Brutus Maximus, formerly in residence at the Animal Protective League.

We haven't yet made it to the Home Base, but we will soon. For those in the know, how do I best protect the lad's hearing while in flight?