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?

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