Van's RV-9A in Aurora

The Big Picture

The Big Picture
Flying! 8/28/2011

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Working on RFI issues with the AeroLEDs nav/strobes. 
On 12/22 I flew the day cross country required by 61.129 with John P.   We were having trouble hearing Austin approach on 119.0,  which usually works just fine.   We also had trouble picking up Houston Center later in the flight.  I demonstrated how the nav radio has always been weak, not picking up Centex until about 3000' over Lakeway.
We talked about this after the flight and agreed it needs fixing.  
On the way home from San Marcos, I ran a simple test - turn off the navs.   I always have these on, and it never occurred to me that they might be an issue.  Turning off just the strobes made no difference.  But sure enough, turning off the nav lights, I was able to pick up Centex.  Turn the lights on, Centex drops.  100% positive correlation. 
A little research on VAF shows that this is a known issue that I somehow missed.  It was discussed in detail in 2013, and a set of recommendations was supplied by AeroLEDs.

The weather was going to be bad for a few days so I took the wing tips and lower rudder fairing off  to do part of the recommended fix.  I'll see if this helps, but may have tear out the existing wiring and add shielded wire runs.  If so, that will wait until I do the annual.

As an aside, flew three approaches on the x-country with John, so I'm technically/legally current again for IFR.

12/23 - 12/27
Flew Southwest to Albuquerque and drove a rental car to Durango for skiing.  We were there over Christmas with my sister and her family.  The weather behaved perfectly.  It was clear for the driving, started snowing Christmas morning before skiing, and snowed all day.  The skiing was great, no lines and fresh snow.  My first time at Purgatory, it has plenty of good blue runs to keep me busy for a few days.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Googling my tail number, ran across this story.  The number belonged to a Cessna 207 that suffered an engine failure in Alaska.

Also, this picture of my plane.  As near as I can tell this was at Calhoun county, KPKV.  Lynne and I flew down to the coast for the day.

I've been flying a lot working on the commercial tasks.  N77WE has been down for maintenance so I'm still stuck at 8.3 hours.  I need 10 hours before insurance will cover me to fly solo.
In the meantime I fly the RV-9A every chance I get to practice the maneuvers, even if they don't all transfer to the Arrow.

I knocked out the night cross country (in my plane) with another instructor on 12/15, the route was KAUS, KCLL, KINJ, KAUS.  Got in two approaches. 

Also flew with my boss in his Archer and he let me fly one approach in actuals.

Flat tire at 3R9

Saturday, 12/20
Drove to Spicewood and fired up the RV.  At Lakeway I intended to refuel and tie down and run some errands with the truck.  But just as I had the fuel pump all ready to go and was about to fill the right tank, I noticed that the right main tire was really low.

Holy cow, my first flat tire....

I decided not to add any more weight and shut down the pump.  Collected the receipt for $0.00 and tried to pull the plane away from the pump and over to a tie down.  No such luck, it was not budging.  I could turn around the flat tire, but that wheel was not turning.  Great, stuck at the gas pump.   By now the tire was completely flat and the wheel fairing was flat on the ground.  The bad part about this that it is now almost impossible to remove the two bottom screws to remove the fairing.  Really stuck.

Fortunately Wayne answered the phone and was able to help me get a jack and an air tank.  Got the wheel high enough to finish removing the fairing, and aired up the tire.  It held air just long enough to taxi to his hangar so I could work on it there. 

At Wayne's house, I had a bit of help from Jeff Klass and Keith Durio.  We jacked up the plane again and removed the wheel.  We never did find anything wrong with the tire.   It was time to rotate the tire again, and they need replacing at annual, but there was no puncture that we could find.   It looked like the inner tube failed at a seam.  Maybe I had it just a bit low and a sharp turn at the gas pump tore it.  It's a mystery.  Fortunately Keith had a spare inner tube and I was able get it installed fairly quickly.  After that I aired up the other two tires for good measure.  Two weeks later and all three wheels are still happy.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

1st Birthday!

Sage's 1st party was yesterday. What a great baby she's been. Cute, lots of fun, and rarely complains. We really look forward to visiting days and when she stays over for the night.
We had a nice turn out for the party. These are the first pictures of our condo that we're renting. It's a very comfortable place. Lynne did great job putting the party together.

Left to Right: Daughter, Son-in-law, Mom, Sister, Wife

Also, I've been filling in some long needed posts for the year. Be sure to check last several posts, I'm actively adding content to fill in the missing time. Not all flying related, but planes are rarely too far away!

Commercial Pilot training

I've been thinking about it for a couple of years.  And now I've stopped thinking and started doing something about it.  I'm officially working on my Commercial Pilot certificate.
As part of this, I have to have 20 hours of instruction, including 10 hours in a "complex" airplane.  That's defined as a plane with retractable gear and a constant speed prop.  My go-to rental outfit, Above and Beyond Aviation, has a Piper Arrow, N77WE, that I can use.  As it turns out, I need 10 hours of instruction in this airplane to meet the insurance requirements needed for solo flight.  So I've been flying with John Prickett and have accumulated 8.3 hrs as of this writing. 
Most of the work we do is flying what are called performance maneuvers:  Chandelles, Lazy-8's, steep turns and steep spirals, power off accuracy landings and turns on Pylons.  Some of this I can practice in my plane, but a lot of it is muscle memory kind of stuff, and the Arrow handles very different from the RV.  When I cut power in the RV, it glides very nicely at 85 knots.  I can almost fly a normal traffic pattern with the power off.  In fact, if I don't stretch it a little, I'll overshoot the field.  In the Arrow, when you cut power, you better be starting your base turn.  The plane is going down!  I'm trying to simulate this in my RV by slowing to 80 knots and adding full flaps at the numbers on downwind.  But it's still not quite the same.
Another difference is Chandelles.  In the Arrow, I can pitch at about 15 degrees and finish the turn at a slow enough airspeed.  But in the RV, I really have to pull on the stick.  The RV will happily climb at 70 knots at 15 degrees of pitch, and that's too fast for the finish of the Chandelle.
The other big difference is Lazy 8's.  In the RV I can fly nice even lobes to the maneuver because I can hear my airspeed as the fixed pitch prop drives engine RPM.  But in the Arrow, the engine always sounds the same (the constant speed prop keeps engine RPM the same).  So I have to look at the airspeed indicator more often, distracting from what is supposed to be a visual maneuver.

I don't plan to quit my day job to become a professional pilot, but this gives me good training, meets the needs of the Biennial flight review, and gives me more options.  I can do ferry flights, for instance, and get paid.  Besides, I like the way it sounds:  Instrument rated commercial pilot.

Nov 23, 2014
As I mentioned on my return from Virginia  post, my fuel flow reading has been unreliable.  Actually it had stopped working completely.  I tried re-crimping and even replacing the connectors.   No joy.  I finally broke down and ordered a new Red Cube fuel flow sensor from Dynon and installed it.  That fixed the problem.  That was with 3 years and 390 hours on the old sensor.

October 31, Halloween
I took a few pictures of the pet cemetery.  My brother in law sets this up every year.  The collection grows every year. They are all real stories.

Oct 25, 2014
So I'm at Spicewood pulling up to the fuel pump and there is another RV. He moves out of the way and I pull in and shutdown. We get to talking. RV'ers will recognize Daryl Tolliver. He's just passing through. The world is small when you have an RV. I often meet people I know from the forums. It was a pleasure to meet you Daryl!


I decided to get a TSA precheck status since I might be on commercial airplanes a bit more often. I looked at the web page and the closest processing center appeared to be in Victoria. Seems kind of silly that there isn't one in Austin, but I couldn't find one if there is.  That's OK, it gives me a good excuse to use the airplane for something besides just burning fossil fuels!
So I planned a round trip from 88R to KVCT.   It's a nice 50 minute cross country. I had the appointment scheduled for 11, so took off, got flight following from Austin approach, and was soon enjoying a great tailwind and glass smooth air.

The fun part went way too fast. On the ramp at Victoria were all sorts of Navy and Coast Guard training aircraft. Apparently they create enough traffic to justify a control tower.   It's kinda funny.  I'm oohing and aahing over all the various high performance hardware I see on ramps.  At the same time, the crews are ogling the RV, waving, and giving me the thumb's up, like I'm the one flying something special!

I started the courtesy car adventure which wasn't too bad - except the drivers window would not go down and it was a beautiful day). Got to the appointment, gave the feds my fingerprint collection, and got back to the airport.

The flight home was not fun. Strong headwind, bumpy as hell. Oh well, at least it was good VFR. I did get a couple of good pictures of the construction across Southwest Parkway from AMD's offices. They've been working on it for at least a year.

There will be a new HEB somewhere in there, but it's hard to tell where from this picture.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Home again, home again

The first major cold front of the fall tore through the country on Thursday and Friday night.  It rained just enough in Front Royal to give Cav a much needed bath.
But the corollary of a cold front is gusty north winds the next day.  And there was a strong jet loop that was in just the wrong place.  That meant strong north west winds over the Appalachians, and strong headwinds along any route back to Texas.  The only good news was good VFR the whole way.

So I flight planned a southern route for the trip home, modified to get away from the mountains and the turbulence they can generate.  kfrr kbuy kdcm keet ktcl kier 88r
As soon as I left the ground in Front Royal, it started.  I got tossed around for the entire time I was in the air.   Just as soon as I was downwind of the mountains I earned a really good jolt, banging my head and rearranging a few loose items.  Fortunately my tactic of fleeing the vicinity of the mountains paid off, and that was the worst of the jolts for while.

The #4 EGT probe has been a bit unreliable.  I've proven that it's a connector issue since wiggling the wires makes the problem go away.  It worked great on the trip out, but stopped working as soon as I departed Front Royal.  But now there's another glitch, this one more problematic:  The fuel flow pickup is dropping out.  The bad news is this takes out my fuel totalizer that gives me range, time left on the remaining fuel, and lots of other useful numbers.  Not critical, but useful.  More problematic is the actual fuel flow number itself.  This is used for leaning the engine, and the % power is derived from it.  So I didn't have usable data for this.  Again not critical, since I can effectively lean by ear and with the remaining 3 EGT values.  But it does need to be fixed.  Early research points to possible connector issues.  I wonder if the rain on Friday night has anything to do with it...

Chester Catawba  (KDCM) was a hotbed of jumping.

A fancy rest stop in Georgia.

On final to KTCL, Alabama stadium.  Fortunately they were in Mississippi.

I took off from Shelby County, Alabama (KEET), and Birmingham Approach gave us all an Airmet update for Alabama.   I'd been relentlessly hammered for 5 and a half hours, it was late and I was beginning to doubt I could beat sunset, so I called it quits.  A nice Class Delta was off my right wing, so I informed Approach of my diversion and landed.  It turned out to be Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Crimson Tide.  My hotel was across the street from the practice fields.   If they had been in town, no way would I have gotten a hotel.

Cav got a room for the night too!

The Alabama game was on lots of TVs.  It was on at Shelby County also.

What do ya know, the hotel van takes me right past the stadium.


Vicksburg, MS.

Hobbs total: 8.8 hrs, the same as outbound.  Interesting.

Harvest time

Pictures of the 2014 harvest.
Lots of grapes

TollGate Farm. The old cabin dates from about 1730.

The spring house.

Dad checking on the Viogner.

That's about an acre of Viogner.

Cabernet Franc.

I got a little bit of tractor time!

Petite Verdot, with bird netting.

Today's bonus picture.
This was taken at night, with a flash of course. I walked out in the yard near where the tractor is and the ground had all these little glowing lights. I managed to extract this little critter. It was glowing in my hand. I have not yet identified it.

I have a candidate ID on this little critter: Pyractomena.  It grows up to be a different kind of firefly beetle.

To Virginia again.

September/October means that grapes are ready to harvest, so I had booked vacation days for the last weekend of September to be at Dad's place.
I bought seats on Southwest to be safe, but the weather shaped up to be acceptable for the trip out.

If a flight starts with a rainbow, it must be a good flight, right?

I flight planned for Eldorado, Livingston, and then Front Royal.  That plan at least happened without any glitches.  I did make a couple extra stops.   An early in-flight defueling operation ended up less than satisfactory, so I decided to just land instead.

Leaving Texas again.

I had to contend with lower clouds, these prevented me from climbing for the first half of the trip.
But then I was able to get up above and into nice, smooth cruising.  I did have mild headwinds the whole way.

One of the stops. I forget where this was.

Like I said, headwinds

Crossing the Mississippi has always fascinated me.  I can't help but take lots of pictures.

There were scattered clouds, but they left me a lot of options.

The land is pretty rugged.

The first hint of fall in the leaves.

Radio telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.  There's an airstrip, WV52.

The Shenandoah River.

Safely arrived at KFRR.

Dad was there waiting for me, we unloaded the plane and closed out that episode of cross country.
Hobbs total: 8.8hrs