Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rides

Yes, it has been awhile. It's not that I haven't been flying, for I have, but while the kind of flying I've been doing is great fun for me, it isn't the kind that generates an interesting story. 

I've been giving rides. It may seem odd, but one of the most gratifying things I do with the airplane is to share the experience with people that have never been in a small plane, much less having taken control of an airplane in flight and experienced the absolutely unique feeling of being able to control a thousand pounds of metal in three dimensions with no more effort than it takes to stir cream into coffee.  It never fails to elicit the type of uncontrollable smile they haven't felt since they first cuddled with a puppy. Seeing and hearing the utter joy and exuberance in their voices revitalizes my love of flying like nothing else.

Seriously, I challenge you to look at that face and tell me I am exaggerating! 


I'm not going to tell you her real name - we're going to have a little contest to see if you can figure it out for yourself. There are two clues that should lead you to the exact answer. For now, I'll say just that she is a business relationship from the day job that has not only never ridden in a small plane, but also had never visited the Island-Based Frat Party of Put-in-Bay.

She did a fairly decent job of flying us in the general direction of north, but her real value came after landing when she spared my aging back the effort of pushing the plane back into a parking spot.  I'm not kidding: she insisted on it!




I swear, if I couldn't have an airplane I would have to consider something like this boat.



Between it being a Friday and the last weekend before the summer crowds, it was a great day to be on the island if, like me, you don't enjoy the madding crowds. The restaurants were all open, but there were no long lines of hungry people waiting to be seated.  It was a pretty warm day and we had a long, hot, bumpy, and slow (22 knot headwind) ride back waiting for us at the other side of lunch, so we opted for light salads. Well, that and the fact that I'm starting to lose my boyish figure to the ravages of age and, in no small part, a potato chip addiction.

Her? She just likes salad.


If you weren't able to guess her name, just hit the 'Play' button:



The next flight was with a temporary contractor at work. Dave is one of those guys that, again much like me, has struggled to keep up with the not inconsiderable expenses of earning a pilot's license. He saw the pictures of airplanes in my office (in the area I call 'Keurig Corner' chased me down to introduce himself. Having heard his plight, I couldn't help but invite him out for a ride.

It was one of my more routine rides - Urbana for a meal and a quick tour of the B-17 restoration - but he sure did enjoy it. If nothing else, I sure know how to show a guy a good time!

Oh, wait.  Phrasing. Gotta be careful where I say things like that!

One of the coolest things about the B-17 hangar is that they'll let you climb up into the C-47 and pretend to be a real pilot.



The Norden bombsite and Sperry gyroscopic mount are irresistible to me:


Dave was intrigued by the old fella that flew in B-17s in the war. He was describing a unique feature of the B-17 that they're rebuilding. This particular plane was one of only a handful that was equipped with a belly camera - it was used to take back photos of the target to help assess the damage inflicted on the raid.


The machine guns look authentic, but they're actually reproductions built by the guys working on the restoration.


This is the 'before' tail.


It seemingly was deemed easier to just build a new one.


These are the drawings being used to build to replica guns:



There is a Life Flight helicopter based at Urbana too. They carelessly left the doors hanging open and unattended.  Fancy!!


We flew over this field on the way back - I've never seen this before. I have no idea what they're doing, but it sure looked great from the air!


In something of a change of pace, I actually took a ride myself!  I was invited by co-worker to ride over to Indiana to attend the Indianapolis 500, something I've never done before.  Why? Well, madding crowds, that's why. 

It wasn't too bad going in...


We parked in a neighborhood adjacent to the track where nearly all of the homeowners were charging $20 to park in their yard.  We got a bonus at the house we parked at, though: we got to autograph the back of their garage! My name is in there somewhere, as is that of one of my hostess's brothers-in-law.


There were three brothers-in-law in addition to her husband and, as brothers will, there was plenty of lighthearted back and forth. We were in a car following them to the track when the hubby started grousing that they had missed the 30th St. exit. They then proceeded right on past 38th St. too, which did not go without another comment. Finally recognizing their error, they exited at Lafayette St. to head back to 38th.

I mention it only because it set me up perfectly for something that happened later. We were up in our seat in the Turn 3 grandstands waiting for the race to start when the PA announcer called our attention to the approach of the Red Bull Flight Team, who were going to make a flyby. We all dutifully looked out past the short chute between turns 3 and 4, and sure enough, there they were.... turning around and heading back to whence they came, well before accomplishing anything remotely like a flyby.

I simply couldn't help myself: "THEY GOT OFF ON %&(#* LAFAYETTE!!"

Bwahahaha!  I'm still laughing at that one!


Jim Nabors no longer sings Back Home Again in Indiana," but they still release the balloons.


The race got off to a slow start, what with one of the female drivers rear-ending the eventual winner on the pace lap and another car falling victim to an oil fire. It was ten laps before they got down to real racing.



Racing is a lot more fun to watch if you have someone to root for. I had two. One was a rookie whose name I was given as part of a betting pool run by the people at whose house we parked, the other was my old racing buddy, Oriol Servia.

Sure, it was just a video game race, but still...


He seemed to enjoy it, even though he was only able to beat me by a few seconds!


Here he is racing a real car:


It didn't take long for my raffle driver to fall to the wayside.



You know you have good seats if you're sitting by the spotters!


Oriol let me down too. Why he couldn't have done that while I was racing him....


Remember that it was easy to get in? Yeah, not so much on the way out. This was only the start of a two hour trek during which we moved somewhere on the order of ten feet. Oh well, it was sure worth it!!


Here's a little snipped of what it looks like from the bleachers:



All in all, it's been a damn good May.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Wounded Goose

Another week, another restaurant. Having failed to make it to The Wounded Goose on a previous attempt, and with a day of good flying weather laid out for us like an expansive buffet, we decided to try again, albeit with an earlier arrival time that would hopefully find the airport courtesy car sitting there waiting for us.

As this trip would involve landing at Gallipolis, and with trainee John having expressed great interest in flying again, and as he grew up in Gallipolis, well, I thought this would be a great trip for him to ride along on.  We agreed to meet at the hangar at 8:00 in the morning and try to be in the air by 8:30. I wanted to set aside enough time for a leisurely preflight, and my having mistaken late April as a temperate month, get there early enough for the oil preheater to get at least a little heat in the 26 degree oil.

Yes, 26 degrees.

Fahrenheit.

The preflight and subsequent departure went off without a hitch. The air at our cruising altitude was glass smooth, so I went against my normal policy of me flying the easy leg and letting the guest wrestle with the afternoon bumpiness and let John fly us down south. He again did a simple amazing job of it. He says he's still a little overwhelmed and hasn't yet developed a comfortable scan of the goings-on outside the windows balanced with the plethora of gauges and dials on the Dynon, but I couldn't tell. The autopilot couldn't have given us a smoother ride.


We made use of the easy flying conditions to work on his comprehension of how the round gauges and needles indicated both our direction through the air and our track across the ground.  The concept that those are not always the same thing takes awhile to internalize, and the depiction on the screen also takes some time to fully understand. I just took a few comparisons with the GPS ground track versus something fixed on the ground such as roads or railroad tracks to clear that up.

His big sticking point right now is figuring out pattern entries. That's no surprise; there are licensed, experienced pilots that sometimes seem weak on the subject. It's fairly complicated.

As I was explaining the way the shared unicom frequencies work as pilots self-announce their positions and intentions, I couldn't help getting up on the high horse I ride when it comes to the subject of people that 1) wait until the last minute to dial up the unicom frequency and then just ask everyone in or near the pattern to bring them up to speed, or 2) don't talk to or respond to other planes in the pattern; they figure telling us where they are is enough and we can just work around them.

The winds were calm, too, which gave me occasion to explain the dangers of a calm wind day with regards to uncontrolled airports. With no wind to indicate the preferred runway, it's anyone's guess as to what other pilots are going to decide. As we were coming from the north and the runway is oriented northeast - southwest, a midfield entry into a left downwind for runway five suited us the best.

I told John that we were going to announce "Gallia-Meigs traffic, Experimental two eight four delta golf is eight miles north, inbound left traffic runway five," but that it was pretty unlikely that there would be anyone there to hear it.

Wrong!

"Experimental approaching Gallia-Meigs, we use runway two three when the winds are calm, we're running up for departure on two three, and a NORDO Champ just departed two three."

Well then.

"Okay, four delta golf will make a midfield crosswind to the left downwind, runway two three."

That exchange turned out to be a perfectly timed lesson on the subject of how it should be done. The guy in the Cessna getting ready to depart did everything he could do to make sure everyone knew what was going on.

Kyle arrived a quarter hour later and we loaded up in the courtesy car for our trip to nearby Bidwell, home of The Wounded Goose, a car towing business, and nothing else at all.


I freely admit that I selected this restaurant on the basis of nothing more than its name, I think I would like to have a restaurant of my own simply so that I can name it.  As we were waiting for them to open, I started working on a list of possible names in the same spirit as The Wounded Goose:

  - The Gangrenous Gander
  - The Spastic Sloth
  - The Inflamed Zebra
  - The Ruptured Raccoon
  - The Dinged-up Duck
  - The Limping Leopard
  - The Cramped Cobra

Seriously, I could come up with dozens of those.

Once inside, I noticed a Chinese restaurant cat in hiding.

  - The Felonious Feline


They even have their own glassware. It was a surprisingly nice place.


The special was a cheeseburger made from local Ohio beef, and it was incredibly good!  The fries and chips are homemade.


After lunch, we stopped by at a local gun store.


Mixed in with all of the rifles against the back wall, I saw one that looked very familiar. I thought I had it figured out - it looked very much like the Thompson machine gun that I used so much in the early WWII Call of Duty video games. I called Kyle over to see if he agreed. Sure enough, he also thought it looked a lot like a Tommy gun, although it didn't have the drum magazine made infamous by Chicago Prohibition-era gangsters,

The resemblance was no accident.  It was this gun:

Auto Ordnance T1

Thompson 1927A-1 "Deluxe Semi-Auto"
MSRP: $1,461.00

Shipped with one 30 round stick magazine


I want one.  It's $1,200, but I WANT ONE!

And they not only sell a variant with the drum magazine, but they also sell a violin case to carry it in!



As Kyle said, all we would need is Fedoras, and I happen to already have one!

Being a gun shop, they also had targets, I particularly enjoyed this one - note how the lover is like three time larger than the brain. I figure that's pretty much every Budweiser drinker I've ever met. [rimshot]

(Joking!! Keep your angry letters to yourselves.)


There was also a nearby antique shop, so that was the next stop for the trusty courtesy car,


There wasn't much in the shop of interest, although this very frightening clown stopped me in my tracks:


Climbing back out of Gallipolis is always scenic, but this time was one of the better occasions:


We stopped by Jackson, where Kyle helped me with tightening the nut that provides resistance to the swiveling of the nosewheel. I've been getting what feels like a shimmy on landing - I had hoped the tighter nut would help.

It did not.

I'm starting to think that I was right in the first place when I thought I had damaged the wheel bearing again. I have one in stock, so I'll likely just swap out the old for the new and see if that helps.


This Kildeer was nesting in the construction area around the new FBO building that's going up. She was very protective of her eggs - she would fan out her tail and squawk blue murder if we got close. John commented that behavior like that was abnormal; they usually pretend to have a broken wing. I'm not sure how that would dissuade a predator, though. Maybe they relish the challenge,

In any event, I finally settled on a name for my restaurant: The Defensive Kildeer

Notice how well the eggs are camouflaged:


That got me wondering...
The killdeer is a medium-sized plover.
The adults have a brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with two black bands. The rump is tawny orange. The face and cap are brown with a white forehead. The eyering is orange-red. The chicks are patterned almost identically to the adults, and are precocial — able to move around immediately after hatching. The killdeer frequently uses a "broken wing act" to distract predators from the nest.
The range of the killdeer spreads across the Western Hemisphere. In the summer, killdeer live as far north as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Quebec, as well as the southern parts of the U.S. state of Alaska. Killdeer hold a year-round presence across the southern half of the United States and parts of Peru. The killdeer winters throughout Central America. 
Although killdeer are considered shorebirds, they often live far from water. They live in grassland habitats such as fields, meadows, and pastures. The nest itself is merely a shallow depression or bowl in the ground, fringed by some stones and blades of grass. The nest is well camouflaged, as the spots of the eggs disguise them as stones, and the simple structure of the nest resembles its surroundings.
On the "broken wing act":
Distraction displays, also known as deflection display, diversionary display or paratrepsis, are anti-predator behaviours used to attract the attention of an enemy away from an object, typically the nest or young, that is being protected. They are particularly well known in birds but noted also in fish. Distraction displays are, however, not very well defined and the definition has been the subject of much debate. They are sometimes classed more generically under "nest protection behaviours" along with aggressive displays such as mobbing. 
It has been suggested that distraction displays exist mainly in birds, since they have the ability to escape at the last moment out of reach of ground predators. Displays are used mainly for ground predators, and are rarely used against avian predators. 
False brooding is an approach used by plovers. The bird moves away from the nest site and crouches on the ground so as to appear to be sitting at a nest and allows the predator to approach close before escaping. 
Injury feigning is one of the more common forms of distraction. The broken-wing display is particularly well known in nesting waders and plovers and doves such as the mourning dove. Birds that are at the nest walk away from the nest with one wing hung low and dragging on the ground so as to appear as an easy target for a predator. 
Well, there ya go.  Learn something new every day, and something actually useful on a semi-monthly basis.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Over-Performing Myday Afternoon

I work hard for the first four days of the week in order to have one extra day on the weekend which, as many of you already know, I refer to as 'Myday.'  Sure, every now and then a portion of a Myday gets devoted to mundane things like medical appointments and the like, but as I plan those medical professional visits six months in advance, I can usually schedule them for the early morning.

That does not always go to plan, and this most recent Myday was a case in point: a 9:30 am dentist appointment was cancelled at their behest, and re-scheduled for a far less convenient 11:00 am. I was not especially happy about this as a matter of general principle, but when the day dawned clear and sunny and carried with it a forecast of exemplary flying conditions, I rounded the corner from mildly miffed to exceedingly put out.

Note that this is not a great mood with which to embark on a dental cleaning. Nor was it particularly helpful to arrive at the establishment and be greeted with the rank odor of raw sewage, apparently caused by the failure of the sump pump down in the older structure's basement.  Still, I like the pretty lady that cleans my teeth and despite the sharp tools moving around inside my mouth, we still find a way to banter, albeit with the both of us having to settle for mumbling out a pithy comment or retort now and then.

Having lost half of the day, I needed to find something to do that would fit into an afternoon. Luckily, someone that has graced these pages, and those of the blog superseded by this one, has recovered to a condition that will allow him to climb up into the airplane. As a short re-introduction, John is a guy that grew up just like me, which is to say that he has been fascinated with airplanes from a very young age. Unlike me, he had never managed to get a ride in an airplane of any type.

We fixed that little problem a few years ago when I was still flying the RV-6.

He also helped out on the day that we installed the landing gear on the 12. Not long after that, he was in a very severe car accident that left him facing a couple of years in and out of the hospital. He did manage to get out to the hangar now and then, but was limited to performing in a more managerial role, by which I mean sitting around watching the others work.


He's well enough recovered now that he was able to ride a motorcycle a few weeks ago, so I figured that would translate into being able to get into the 12.

You may remember that I spent a few hours introducing a novice to flying last spring/summer as I pretended to be an instructor with my friend Jeff. I thought John might be interested in trying that too.

Not at all surprisingly, he was.

I thought we could spend a few hours working through some of the things we would be doing such as a preflight, pattern entries, tower communications, etc. which would probably be pretty fruitful as he has already completed a ground school and will have at least been introduced to some of these. All we would have to do is try to marry the book learning with the specifics of an actual airplane. That idea fell by the wayside (well, much like my Sherlock-esque theory of Humpty-Dumpty's so-called accident actually being an attempted homicide, it was actually pushed) when I received a last minute call from Kyle, Corporate Aircraft Fueler for The Jackson Two,

As it turns out, he was sitting on the ground at Delaware Co. (KDLZ) getting some work done on his airplane and had belatedly noticed the lack of a fuel cap on his airplane. Knowing that I had a spare (which I acquired when I left mine behind at an airport where I buy gas now and then and later recovered), he wondered if I could fly it up to him. As I was planning on flying around from airport to airport with John to get him exposed to the full gamut of RV-12 flight, I could see no reason to not make that out first stop.

All I would have to do is 1) find the spare fuel cap in whatever "so I won't forget where it is" location, now long forgotten, spot that I had stored it in, and 2) cut short the planned ground instruction. The former proved harder than the latter, with the end result being the eventual finding of a spare fuel cap that was camouflaged in the best (yet ultimately most frustrating) way: by hiding in plain sight.

As it was only a twenty minute flight, I did the flying (if pressing the button that turns on the autopilot counts as "flying") while John acclimated himself to the new airplane. Knowing that we will have ample time to go over things again in greater depth, I spent most of the time feeding him way too much information way too quickly. There's a reason that you don't fill a Dixie Cup with a fire hose - most of it will end up spilled on the floor. But... not all of it. The only goal on an early flight like this is to introduce the big picture. We'll flesh out the details as we go. He did get his first homework assignment, though, which is to learn the phonetic alphabet.

Which, as it turns out, has many names, none of which I have ever heard being used in a conversation between humans:

The NATO phonetic alphabet, more accurately known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet and also called the ICAO phonetic or The NATO phonetic alphabet, more accurately known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet and also called the ICAO phonetic orICAO spelling alphabet, as well as the ITU phonetic alphabet,, as well as the ITU phonetic alphabet...

It sounds far more ominous than it is, but it is still an extremely essential aspect of flying.  You may not realize it, but you're almost certainly heard it in use:

We got there in plenty of time to see a carburetor balancing done the sissy-way, by which I mean opposite to the way I do it: I usually try to time it so as to allow me to stand in the propeller blast in the dead of winter. You know, for the frostbite that's in it.  Actually it just seems to happen that way. I need to put a late September date on my calendar to get it done this year before it gets cold.


Staying as far away from that as possible lest I somehow get recruited to participate, I wandered around the maintenance hangar, wherein I discovered something I had never seen, which is a Rotax missing its reduction gearbox.  The gear thingy there in the bottom of the horse collar is the end of the crankshaft. Also, the thingy with the orange hoses attached to it is the oil pump. The little shaft protruding from it rides on a cam in the gear box - the in and out motion is what drives the oil pump to, well... pump oil.


The airport tug sports what surely must be an after-market shifter knob:


With the maintenance finished and a fuel cap in place, the question of "what next?" came up. Me? I was all for heading somewhere for lunch. Being more or less on the way home for both groups, we decided on Urbana-Grimes (I74).

John flew that leg and did an extremely fine job of holding both heading an altitude. Given that he's still sitting on the right side until such time as I can practice a few takeoffs and landings from over there, he had to maintain those two dimensions mostly by maintaining a sight picture, something that takes awhile to develop. Nicely done!

Urbana is interesting because you just never know what will show up.  Just after lunch, while we were getting ready to mount up and fly out, a T-34 landed and taxied in.


The Beechcraft T-34 Mentor is a propeller-driven, single-engined, military trainer aircraft derived from the Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza. The earlier versions of the T-34, dating from around the late 1940s to the 1950s, were piston-engined. These were eventually succeeded by the upgraded T-34C Turbo-Mentor, powered by a turboprop engine. The T-34 remains in service more than six decades after it was first designed.

As an aside, there is an effort underway in Congress to legislate away the requirement for a third-class FAA medical. My way of escaping the requirement for medical was to build an LSA airplane, but doing so constrains me from flying "normal" airplanes. To be honest, I haven't considered it to be much of a loss; when I think of what I would rather own than the 12, I come up dry. But... I think I could get excited about owning a T-34.  It is classified as a warbird, and that would be very, very cool. The downside of a warbird, though, is cost. Cost of purchase, cost of maintenance, cost of fuel.

Collectively, those can be extreme. I will provide an example shortly. In the case of a T-36, however, the costs are roughly similar to those of a Beechcraft Bonanza, which isn't all that surprising considering their shared heritage. To a large degree, they're the same thing.

A purchase cost of a T-34 on the used market (there is no "new" market, so "used" is implied) can run from a low of $150k up to $400k, depending on condition and equipment. Operating costs would be nearly identical to the aforementioned Bonanza, burning 12 - 14 gallons per hour.







I would be quite satisfied even at the bottom of today's market.

Close on the heels of the T-34, one of the most beloved of WWII fighters arrived. This particular plane is a P-51B, as indicated by the "razorback" canopy and the replacement of the Allison engine with the more powerful Rolls-Royce engine that made the P-51 the rock star of WWII fighters. Less than 2,000 B models were built, The far more common version (8,000+), the P-51D, has a bubble canopy and the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin.

To see an actual P-51B is a rare treat indeed. This one, the Old Crow, is owned by Jack Roush.


I had always thought the thing mounted behind where the pilot's head would be was a cushion. It is, of a sort, but is also a first aid kit. The rear view mirror is a nice touch - the D models didn't have them.





This B-25 Mitchell is a permanent resident at Urbana, but it is usually hangared in with the B-17 that's being restored/rebuilt. I was nice to see it out in the sun. 




It was even better to see them start the engines. I suspect that it been awhile...


This A-26 (I think) has been on the going-to-be-restored list for as long as I can remember.



At this point, I figured the afternoon had more than made up for the loss of the morning, but this turned out to be the Myday that kept on giving.

I had no sooner gotten home when I answered the phone to find that The Judge wanted to return the carburetor balancing gauges I had loaned him a week ago, and he was going to deliver the gauges in his newest car. The Judge (which I nicknamed him primarily because, and this is probably obvious, he is one) has an RV-12 that he bought already flying, so he hasn't had time to gather up the unique tools required for a Rotax 912. As such, I've been helping out when and where I can.

This is the car he arrived in - a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.





He asked if I wanted to drive.

Not at all surprisingly, I was.

I had occasion to think my undeserved reputation of being an, uh, enthusiastic driver had reached his ears at some point. He was holding on for dear life and I hadn't even gotten it out of Park yet.


I live on the very edge of town, so it's not too hard to find some lightly patrolled roads to use to get the feel for a 460 hp car.  So what did I find? Well, as I told The Judge, "I never really wanted a Corvette.... until ten minutes ago."  The power is immense, immediate, and invigorating, while the handling belies the 3,300 lb. weight. It does 0 - 60 in 3.8 seconds, while my Mercedes can only manage around six seconds at a nearly identical curb weight.  The cost is roughly the same at "only" the low- to mid-50's, although either can be optioned up to even more stratospheric levels.  It sounds expensive, but I believe this Stingray can be fairly compared to cars like Ferraris that cost four to five times as much, assuming you can get the Ferrari dealers to deign to sell you one.

Even at that, it's cheaper than a T-34.

Needless to say, I had quite the grin when we finally got back to my driveway.


All in all, I ended the Myday that had sputtered reluctantly to a start with a very over-achieving afternoon!


Note: all photos and video was taken with an iPhone 6.  I think they look great, unless I try to crop too tight. It's making me wonder if I need to carry around the Lumix anymore.