Saturday, May 13, 2017

Breaking Down a Barrier

Every pilot has at least one reason to fly. In fact, I would hazard that the majority have more than one reason that they were initially drawn to flying. I know I do.

I get the question a lot from curious folks: "What attracted you to flying?"  Others will answer along the lines of "more efficient travel," "it's my job," or "I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull and I was hooked,"but in the interest of concision I have distilled my response down to a minimalist answer: "I like airplanes."

It's short, sweet, and has the benefit of being utterly honest. I developed a fascination with airplanes when I was six years old. Not "flying," mind you, but "airplanes."  It was part and parcel with an interest in operating machinery.

I recently came across a little book my mother used to keep for each of her children, of which I was the middle of three. I found in that book that when I was five or six years old, my career goals were recorded as "Astronaut" or "Gas station attendant." Honest truth!

Why astronaut??

Ha, kidding. That one is obvious. The thing about the gas station attendant, though, was that even at that age I was smitten with operating equipment. I just wanted to run the gas pump! That career path was, as we all know now, rendered moot soon thereafter. Ironically, I now hate pumping gas.

I provide this snippet of autobiographical data to set the stage for the remainder of this story.

The wife and I are considering buying a winter home in Florida, but one potential drawback of being down south during the inclement months is that it would be difficult to visit my father. I was relating that concern to a friend of mine and was describing the budgeting process I had gone through to determine the monthly airline and rental car costs associated with making visits.

His response was along the lines of "Why would you want to do that??"

While I was trying to understand why visiting my father would be a questionable activity, he said, "Why wouldn't you just fly your plane?"

That left me just as speechless as his first comment. Why? Because the though had never crossed my mind! 

I fly because I like flying the airplane, not because it's (sometimes) a more efficient way to travel. Sure, I make day trips and give lots of rides, but I have never thought of the airplane as a travelling machine.

I decided to give it a try. The friend that woke me to the idea of Ohio-to-Florida happens to live in Florida and has often offered to host me for as long as I want if I ever travel down that way, so I decided that would be the perfect way to introduce myself to long-distance (well, 600nm) flying. 

Given that my longest flight ever, across almost four decades of flying, was a trip to Oshkosh in my RV-6 more than a decade ago, and the furthest I had gone in the RV-12 that replaced the -6 was a 100nm day trip, this was no mean feat to consider.

The thing about about flying any appreciable distance in a small plane is that it is NOT just a collection of 100nm flights taken contiguously; it's not a question of enduring the distance, it's a question of dealing with a potential six (or more) different weather systems. Considering that weather is my personal #1 challenge/fear in flying, this is no small thing to consider.

I have found that a strong tonic for personal trepidation is planning - lot's and lot's of planning. The first decision to make was fuel stops: how many, and where? Deciding the "how many" was the first order of business. I could make three 200nm legs, or two 300nm legs. That's a pretty straightforward napkin-math equation: the most likely fuel burn, as provided in the Van's performance charts, is 4.0 gph at 5,000 rpm and 5,000' density altitude. That does not, however, account for the fuel used for the takeoff, climb, descent, or reserve. At 5,500 rpm, the projected burn rate rises to 5.0 gph.  The projected airspeeds at those values range from 101 - 114 knots (TAS). 

For my planning, I used 100 knots and 6 gph to make the math easier. I also selected these values as a reflection of the conservatism I adopt when faced with the relative unknown. It's not that I don't trust Van's calculations, mind you, it's more that I don't trust myself to do everything correctly and as efficiently as theoretically possible. And, of course, the weather gets a say in that matter too.  Burning six gallons per hour would take 18 of the 20 available gallons for a 300 mile leg, but would leave me with less than the mandated 30 minute reserve, which I conservatively bump to 45 minutes.

The one-stop plan would have to wait until I become more comfortable with this kind of planning/flying.

With the two-stop decision made, I used airnav.com's fuel planner to find a route: KTZR → KBYL → KCTJ → 2R4.

Most of the rest of the preparation was making sure I brought everything that I thought I might need and adding a couple of alternates for my chosen stops. The last bullet item is Decalin, because it was likely that I would have to use 100LL instead of the Rotax-preferred 93 octane Mogas :


"Pee bottle" was a last minute addition, and took the form of a couple of Travel John packs, just in case the fuel capacity exceeded my bladder capacity.

With the things I can control taken care of, it was then a matter of waiting for the perfect weather, which in this case I defined as "CAVU the whole way."  When that day arrived, I went.

Crossing the Ohio River

The first leg would have been as easy as pie, had I not run into a difficult decision: about 20 minutes out from KBYL, I had to decide whether one of the Travel John packs was going to finally achieve its career goal, or whether the operation would be so constrained by the tight quarters of the RV-12 to the degree that I'd be just as well off waiting.  I chose to wait. About ten minutes later, when the options had dried up (so to speak) and the FBO building was the only recourse, I remembered that it was early on a Sunday morning and the FBO building might be locked.

It wasn't.

One tank emptied, one to be filled

The second leg was notable only for altitude flown (8,500') and a tailwind that ranged from 20 to 35 knots. As happy as I was for the tailwind, I could only wonder how bad it would be as a headwind on the return flight. But that was days away, so I didn't spend too much time thinking about it.  The fueling at West Georgia went easily, and had the benefit of being Mogas. I wish more airports would get it.

Ground speed 146 knots! It peaked at 148.

The third leg would include the arrival into Peter Prince (2R4) which is somewhat complicated by the surfeit of restricted airspace, large MOAs, crazy amounts of student traffic, and an airport sitting in a two-mile diameter notch in the Whiting NAS Class C space. As a final wrinkle, 2R4 has left traffic for runway 36, and right traffic for 18. I would have to be careful in how I managed the landing pattern.

Studying the sectional, I decided that the most conservative approach would be to utilize the channel that runs between the restricted area on the east side and the MOA on the west side and make sure to stay below the 1,400' shelf of the outer ring of the Class C around Whiting.


Once mostly south of the Whiting Class C, I would just have to shoot the two mile wide gap between the inner ring of the Class C and the restricted area. Yes, I could have contacted Pensacola Approach, but local knowledge gleaned from interviews with local residents indicated that I would end up with the same kind of "skirting" approach, but with the additional stress of knowing someone was actually watching.


In the event, the Dynon Skyview, for the umpteenth time, earned its keep.  Just flying the little airplane between the lines was no more difficult that playing a simple game on my iPhone.  It did make me wonder, though, how we were able to do things like this in the pre-GPS era.

I spent a couple of days in Florida, the highlight of which was a trip to Pensacola NAS to watch the Blue Angels practice and to visit the terrific Naval Aviation Museum. As much I love the USAF museum in Dayton, the naval air museum wins hands down: no cordons around the airplanes, and much better lighting.

































After just a couple of days there, the weather looked favorable for the return trip, so I decided to head back. Note that by "favorable," I do not mean "perfect."  It was time to add a little bit more challenge, which came in the form of a less-than-perfect forecast for Ohio.

The first two legs were just as easy as those of the trip down to the south, but the last leg from Kentucky to Central Ohio required some decision making. Most of the salient portions of the state of Ohio were reporting VFR, but there were a couple of airports, conveniently directly on my preferred route, that were steadfastly refusing to go from IFR to VFR.

Again, the Skyview was a great enabler. While sitting on the ground in Kentucky, I was able to check the most recent conditions at every airport that mattered, and determined that if my preferred route didn't work, I could detour to the east or west to get past the areas in question.  I hadn't been in flight long before the recalcitrant airports went from IFR to LIFR to Marginal VFR to good-enough VFR. As I flew over the hills of southern Ohio, I had a few minutes where good-enough VFR had me flying at a lower altitude than I would have preferred, but I was still legal in the eyes of the FAA and made comfortable by the fact that I could see well into the distance. It wasn't pretty, but it didn't need to be.

The final tally was 5.5 flying hours down, and 6.1 coming back. I got back faster than I had thought I would: not only did I fly a 600nm trip for the first time ever, I also had another notable happening: I had tailwinds BOTH WAYS!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Working for THIS man!

So, as mentioned previously, I have shaken off the shackles that go in concert with working for The Man.

What to do now?

Work for this Man!  Or, in other words, me.

It's not like I forgot how to build programs, after all.

To understand this undertaking, there are a few things to know:

  - the RV-12 airframe and the Rotax 912 engine both have scheduled maintenance items, which fall under the broad categories of coming due based on calendar time ('do this once after 36 months in operation' versus 'do this every 200 flying hours')
  - it requires constant attention to make sure you don't miss any
  - there are also Service Bulletins from the factories that need to be addressed. Some of these require periodic scheduled inspections too.
  - the Dynon Skyview, which is the central flight computer in the airplane, can be configured to capture data logs every time the plane is flown.
  - these data logs include both the most current Hobbs and Tach times.  If you don't want to read that short article, just read this snippet from it:

"Tach time is the preferred method for logging engine time for maintenance purposes."

This is misleading - for the Rotax 912, Rotax stipulates that Hobbs time is a better (and mandated) measure of the aggregate working time of the Rotax engine.  Tach time was (and still is, I suppose) the choice for the older, more traditional aircraft engines like the Lycomings in my previous plane, but with the Rotax, time spent idling is still considered to be working time, primarily because of the RPM reduction gearbox. Hobbs time runs faster than Tach time on average, so the extra effort of idling through the gearbox on the Rotax forces us to manage maintenance on the engine using Hobbs time to account for the extra effort required by the gearbox.

So,  I intend to make use of the Hobbs time recorded and reported by the Skyview to track maintenance requirements on the engine. That's a bit of a simplification (I'll do a lot more, including using the calendar date to find the "n number of months" inspection/replacement schedules too), but I'm sure you get the point.

Where this all ends up (personal use only vs. a for-profit service) is up in the air, so to speak, but it sounds like an intriguing project, and that's all I need these days.

Now, I don't expect you to sit through all of this video - I present it only because it is the flight for which I gave the data logs to work with:



A short recap of the flight for people with better things to do with an hour and twenty minutes:

  • I flew an IFR approach into Madison Co. (KUYF) using the Skyview. I remained VFR at all times.
  • I then flew a 2nd IFR approach into Urbana (I74) - I had initially intended to use a navigation waypoint on the far side of the runway, but shifted to a closer one before I got there.
  • The approach I flew was to runway 20, but the wind slightly favored runway 2, so I had to circle around.
  • I didn't get the plane low enough on the first try, so had to go around for another try.
  • I stopped for lunch at Urbana, then flew back to Bolton (KTZR)
I started on the program (which will take a few weeks to build) this morning. I selected "read the data log file" as the first step.

Here are the results:


As long as I was reading the data to present it in that list (there are approximately 127 columns of data, two of which are latitude and longitude, so I exported those two plus altitude into a new file, correctly formatted for display in Google Earth (3D) or Google Maps (2D).

This is the 3D representation of the flight - you will note that the altitude I can get from the data is MSL (above sea level), not AGL (above ground level) and I don' know how to translate twixt the two, so the plane never seems to touch the ground.

This is the entire flight:


This is the 2D representation of the taxi out and back in at KTZR:


This shows the go-around at I74:



It's a good start, and not bad for three hours of work!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

So..... I'm back!

I was going to say "Back by popular demand," but.... that would be something of an exaggeration.

Well, not really an exaggeration, more like a bald-faced lie.

And, just to treat you to some of the impetuous, spur-of-the-moment research you've come to know and love....
Q From Michael Benson: A friend of mine recently posed the question as to whether the proper form was bald-faced lie or boldfaced lie. Naturally, I thought of looking to your site for the answer, but having found none, I figure it’s the perfect opportunity to ask. Which is the proper phrase?
A This one confuses people a lot. To increase your own confusion, the original is actually neither of the two versions you quote, but is instead barefaced lie. The first example I’ve come across is this: 
"How dare you try to falsify my person? You are discovered in a barefaced lie, and now want to bully it out."
            -- The adventures of William Ramble Esq., by John Trusler, 1793.
This is still the usual form in Britain and to a lesser extent in Canada. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Americans started to use bald-faced lie instead, which has become the most common form in today’s US newspapers. An early example: 
"No one of ordinary intelligence is, of course, expected to believe the statement, and every one who is capable of putting it into readable English knows it to be a bald-faced lie." 
  -- The Newark Daily Advocate (Ohio), 12 Jul. 1883. 
Both forms are based on colloquial uses from the seventeenth century. Someone bare-faced originally had the face uncovered, and hence was figuratively acting in an unconcealed or open way (Shakespeare is the first known user of both literal and figurative senses). From the latter part of the seventeenth century onwards, it took on a sense of something or someone who was audacious, shameless or impudent, so that a barefaced lie was one in which the speaker made no attempt to disguise it as truth.
So, there ya go. It was a boldfaced lie.

As a bonus:
Q What is the origination of the phrase spur of the moment

A Spur of the moment is in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) along with other definitions of the word "spur". The first recorded usage was in 1801. Spur also means at haste so perhaps spur of the moment - something done impromptu or without deliberation grew out of spur in that sense, as in a quick decision. 
Something in the moment (the brief period of time when a decision is made or an action is begun) acts as a spur-an incentive, an impetus-much as the literal spurs impel a horse to go. What motivates a "spur of the moment" decision arises quickly, as opposed to long forethought.
You're still here??

Well, if you were willing to sit through that, you might have the patience for a bit of an explanation as to what's going on with yours truly with regards to this blog which, by extension, is also going to be an update on my absolute favorite subject: me.

Or did you think I was going to say "flying?"

For most of my life those two have been so tightly integrated as to offer nothing but a thread-thin gap between the two.

Such may or may not still be the case.  The jury is still out on that decision.

Why? What has changed?

Good question.  And the unsatisfying answer is "a whole hella lot of things have changed. Most for the positive; some not so much."

Fundamentally, this blog started out as a way to document and share the experiences and lessons learned through the building of a Van's RV-12, but for better or worse it has always been something of a personal diary as well. Once the plane was flying, it obviously became far more of the latter than the former. At that point I found it easier just to record flights and post them on YouTube.

Easier, but far less gratifying. But...

You might want to skip this next bit, but I think moving forward the content is going to get far more eclectic, and a relatively short autobiography might help to explain why the subjects are bound to be so far ranging.

I once came across a little book my mother used to keep for each of her children, of which I was the middle of three. An older brother and a younger sister. Making me the middle child.  With a bullying and dominating older brother. When I was five or six years old, my career goals were recorded as "Astronaut" or "Gas station attendant."  Honest truth!

Why astronaut??

Ha, kidding. The thing about the gas station attendant was that even at that age I was smitten with operating equipment.  I just wanted to run the gas pump!  That career path was, as we all know, rendered moot soon thereafter. Ironically, I hate pumping gas.

Astronaut was the same, albeit with a bit more ego gratification for all involved.  It was the technology, not the idea of being in Space, that grabbed my interest.

I am endowed with a quirky sense of humor. I consider myself to be above average on the 'funny' scale, but I am a little too self-myopic to spend much time pondering where I fall on the 'laugh with' vs. 'laugh at' continuum.

I do now and then dwell on the subject. I have a theory.

I am, and always have been, what people have referred to as "scrawny."

In my presence.

Being small has rarely served me well. When I was pulled out of three years of parochial school and dumped into the Cincinnati public school system to fend for myself, it proved to be a far more hostile environment.  Luckily, I was already pretty used to being bullied, although the cast on my right arm and a couple of weeks on crutches after being pounced on in the school hallways was a new experience.

This is probably just self-serving psycho-babble, but I believe that my caustic/sarcastic/scalpel-sharp sense of humor was developed, at least partially, as not so much a defense mechanism (because it often acted in exactly the opposite way) but as a way of punching back.  My dad nicknamed me "flip lip" for a reason!

Far from being the last chosen for any sporting event (the 'last' actually gets chosen; I was simply excluded), I naturally turned to books.  I was a voracious reader. By the time 'Treasure Island' was assigned as a term project in the 7th grade, I had already read it three times.  You would think that would garner an easy A, but that would be to ignore my inherent tendency towards procrastination. I finally outgrew that, but it certainly caused me a lot of grief before I did.

Much of that reading was non-fiction. I was fascinated with books about WWI aviation, WWII U-boats, and just about anything in between.  POW escape stories were popular with me as well - there's a reason that I thing Stalag 17 is one of the best movies ever made. The Blue Max, The Great Waldo Pepper - those were my faves.

Fast forward to more than a quarter century ago when I was first introduced to my girlfriend's uncle, a former WWII naval aviator, when I asked him what he flew in the war.

"Hmmph. Kid like you wouldn't know what they were anyway."

"Try me."

Which he did, somewhat to his embarrassment.  Of course I knew them all! I had since I was six years old!

Middle child side note: my older brother, who didn't know the difference between a P-51 and an F-4, got to go to the USAF museum in Dayton.

I did not.  It's odd, the tidbits you remember. Ah well, it all works out. I go as often as I want to now, and that's fairly often.  There is an airplane that I worked on housed in that museum - it's nice to be able to visit.

When I was 14, I was introduced to another deep and abiding interest. At the time, if you could get permission from the principal, you could spend your lunch hour dialed in (via acoustic modem) to the mainframe downtown. It didn't matter that the modem was slow; the teletype was even slower!



 
Using that, I was able to teach myself to do simple programming in BASIC.

Trust me, this is all leading somewhere.

In parallel with all of this, I pretty much always had a paying job, starting in the 5th grade when I volunteered to work in the kitchen prepping dirty dishes for the dishwasher. In return, they gave me a free lunch, a 35¢ value. My mother started a little 'bank book' for me since she figured I deserved to keep the money. You'd be surprised at how $1.75 a week adds up when you have no living expenses. And keep in mind, that would be $10 a week today.  That's probably nothing to today's 11 year olds, but back then, at least in our house, there were no allowances.

That was followed by a $1.55 an hour job delivering drugs (the legal kind) and running the cash register for a local pharmacy while I was in Jr. High.  I did that until I was old enough for a minimum wage job.  I spent every one of my high school years cooking pizza for 25-30 hours a week.

Why??? Well, it's not like I was turning down a lot of dates.

But I had hobbies.  Adult hobbies, and thus expensive hobbies, by 1970's standards.

A lot of that money went towards R/C airplanes, but I saved quite a bit as well, which is how I was able to buy a Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I the year they came out.

By my math, that makes me one of the first 1,000 people on this planet to have had a store bought home computer. Naturally I used it to program simple games, and to fly the earliest precursor to what eventually became the Microsoft Flight Simulator.





So, we have a deep interest in aviation, a deep interest in building flying models, and a deep interest in computer programming.

Do you see where I'm headed with this?

I didn't at the time,

After very disastrously unsuccessful attempt at college, I had a very successful 5-year stint in the USAF, where I was privileged to work on the CAPRE system on the venerable SR-71, and as a side job I also loaded the map projectors. The upshot of the latter is that I knew where they were going, and how high/fast they would be flying.  There weren't many people that knew that, at the time.

Heady stuff for a 19 year old.


Being SAC, though, the shop was way overstaffed for the amount of work there was to do. I didn't join because I was looking for long hours and low pay, I joined because I wanted to work on airplanes!

I got bored, so after a little more than a year I volunteered to be sent anywhere, worldwide.  In the recon world, that meant TAC, and that meant Korea. The only other suitable bases were in West Germany and Texas, but Korea was automatic for a single, enlisted guy. It was a remote assignment, which meant married guys had to go alone.  It was a year long assignment, but that's a pretty long haul for a guy with a family, so they were always on the lookout for unmarried volunteers. Of which there were many, because the availability of cheap booze and a roaring economy in other areas made it all a great nighttime playground.

I worked the night shift. I got more time on the flightline that way.

Choices.

One of the bennies of getting an assignment to Osan AB was that you got to pick your follow-on assignment. I requested Germany, but with only a year left in my four-year term, they didn't want to foot the bill. Fortunately, all I needed to do was extend my enlistment by one year, not another four.

I lived off base in Germany for a couple of years. I had car, so I got to see quite a bit of Europe. I even got to cross the channel on a hovercraft.

In both Korea and Germany, I worked on the RF-4C Tactical Recon jet. The tactical recon of the RF-4 was very different from the strategic recon of the SR-71. The strategic recon needed to be wide ranging - it was what the generals used to decide what to target. The tactical recon was far more tightly focused - it was what the generals used to see if the target could be approached, how it should be attacked, and what was left of it after the attack.

In other words, SAC flew two flights a day. On weekdays.

TAC flew all day, every day.

This is one of the planes I worked on in Germany:


Being TAC, there was plenty of work to keep me busy. My primary function was to perform both the flightline and the shop work maintaining the AN/AAD-5D infrared recon system, although I voluntarily cross-trained into the optical cameras too.

The IR system was used for night recon and scanned horizon-to-horizon.  They were pretty reliable, for the most part. I did once track down a problem that had plagued a certain jet since the day I had arrived. I had the weekend standby, and rather than just sit around killing time in the shop, I decided to have another look at it.

Long story short (HA! We crossed that line five minutes ago), there had been a wiring error made at the factory. I fixed it.

I got a 3-day pass for that. I didn't even know they still did that.

That also led to me being selected as an alternate team member for the summer of '86 Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB.  I desperately wanted to go to Red Flag... but only an alternate. So close!!  I guess being selected as an alternate was better than the choosing of players for team sports had ever been, but still.

One of the primaries took leave and went to Denmark. He apparently never got the memo that going to Denmark (or Amsterdam) was the same as pounding on the door of the med center insisting to be drug tested.

He was. He had. I went. He didn't.

Because we were going to be shipped over from Germany, it was for more than just the normal two-week gig at Nellis.  We first did a two-week competition at Hurlburt Field, then did three back-to-back-to-back Red Flag exercises.

Red Flag was the experience of a lifetime. It was six weeks of twelve hour shifts.  My part was initially limited to the operations and maintenance of the cameras (the IR systems all broke during the first couple of weeks), but I also spent a lot of time hanging around with the crew chiefs. It should come as no surprise that I wanted to know how everything worked and asked a lot of questions.

They had never seen a 'specialist' that was in any way interested in their line of work, and they adopted me into their fold. By the end of the sixth week, I was out on the flightline launching jets! It's not as dramatic as that guy that signals the catapult operator on aircraft carriers, but the starting on an F-4 is still a fluid and highly-choreographed process.


 I got a medal out of that. A good one. Just for doing something I wanted to do.  Life can be like that.

After the military, I returned to Ohio and used my veterans benefits, tuition assistance from the Ohio Air National Guard (another six years of military!), and money earned from menial part-time jobs to get as far as my senior year at THE Ohio $tate University, where I was working on an engineering degree in (not what you would guess, although I actually DID start as an aeronautical engineer) Information Technology.

That led to a series of two-year IT jobs as a I sought a place where I thought I could have a career. Through happenstance, I landed at a small outfit with looming IT needs - it was very much like getting in with a dot-com startup.  I spent more than sixteen years there.

Fairly early on, we were acquired by what was last year a Fortune Five corporation. I don't really know or care where they are this year.

As the sole IT guy, and with only a background in software development, I pretty much built the place as far as the systems go.  And there were a lot of them!  It ended up being a much broader business than we had expected.  There were 17 of us in the company after the acquisition - today there are 70+.

Minus me.

I retired March 31st.

Which brings us to today.

It was a high satisfaction and very high stress job, and it paid well. I married just as well - she kept us well within our income to the degree that at age 55 we have the house, cars, and airplane all paid off.

And.... notable savings. Years of paying double mortgage on the house and maxing out my 401k contributions, and banking any annual windfalls in the form of bonuses, inheritance, or the like, built up a nice nest egg. Diverting so much into savings kept our standard-of-living comfortable but not ostentatious.

Well, other than owning my own airplane.  That's kinda showy.

But if I was really rich, I wouldn't have had to build it myself. So there is that.

Anyway, I figure I need just enough to get me to the age where all I'm going to need is a big TV, a comfy chair, and good speakers.

I look at it as buying the most expensive of all commodities: time. It's expensive, and often can't be purchased for any price. When a chance comes up to buy some, you really ought to do it.

And you should get good value.  I think I'll get more bang for the buck from ages 55 to 65 than I will from ages 75 to 85.

If I even get that far.

Believe it or not, I have always valued time over money, although my time usually needed to be filled with relatively expensive toys, so I tended to be on the position of having to trade more time for money than I would really want. But I never went in for 60 - 70 hour work weeks, and I avoided travel for work.

Not surprisingly, my lifelong goal was to someday have enough money to support the owning and operating of an airplane.  Not a low bar, that. And you need to definitely consider both costs: owning and operating. I could probably afford to buy a T-6, but I couldn't afford the fuel, oil, maintenance, and insurance costs.  It would eat me out of house and home.



Flying can and does require a financial commitment, and there are significant barriers to entry in training costs, etc.,  but it is more attainable than people imagine. I can walk around my block and find a dozen cars that cost more than a Cherokee 140. Or boats.


You get the point.

It's all about choices. Some, while momentous, are very easy.

I chose to retire from a lucrative career. At age 55. It was an easy decision.

The funny thing is, there are those that say that I retired too young and that I will ultimately find myself bored.

I refer to those people as "strangers," because they clearly know nothing about me.

They plaintively and, I suppose, hypothetically, ask "What will you do??"

Wrong question.

The correct question is "What will you do first?"

I have no shortage of options.

One of them, and the most topical at this very instant in time, is to bring back this blog, albeit with a far broader focus.

So, I'm back.  For better or worse.

PS - There is one thing I would like to see happen with this blog: please comment!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Traveling as a Group

There are a lot of benefits accrued through the building of an airplane, and one of the longer lasting is the friendships built in concert with the plane itself. In the case of any airplane in the Van's Aircraft fleet, this is even more common due to the popularity of the designs. In my case, I was building an RV-12, which is probably the fastest selling model in the fleet.

The first co-builder to emerge was Kyle; he and his father had been considering building a twelve and asked if they could stop by one evening to see if it appeared to be something achievable for them. I was always willing to have people stop by, although a cold winter night with temperatures in the twenties wasn't the most conducive environment. It turned out well - I was at a stage that was going to require a few hundred rivets to be pulled, and that is a very easy thing to teach. I showed them how to use the pneumatic puller, then I mostly just sat in front of the propane heater (which I had taken to calling "The Cone of Comfort") while they riveted the skins onto the entire tail cone. 

Tom Sawyer has nothing on me when it comes to getting other people to do my  work.

Having enjoyed the always riveting experience of, well... riveting, they ordered a kit soon after that and were actually done with their build and in the air long before I was.

The second to show was Jan. He was one of those guys that already had a plane at the airport, but was intrigued by the twelve. He wasn't all that interested in building one, but he liked the economics of flying at 115-ish knots with a fuel burn less than six gallons per hour. He eventually came across a partially completed kit which be bought. My plane was done by then, so we paired up for the next 18 months in getting his plane finished, with an occasional assist from Kyle.

Now that we all three have our own airplanes to fly, it's a simple matter to get the group together for day trips. The most recent trip was to a small town on the eastern side of Ohio. Cambridge is near a county airport (KCDI) that has at least one courtesy car, and Kyle knew of a fine diner in town. Knowing my affinity for diners, he thought (correctly) that it would be a nice place to go for lunch.

With Jan and I being co-located, we had the option of pairing up in one or the other of our planes, but that would have defeated the purpose - flying out in loose formation would be a lot more fun. Kyle would just meet us at the airport.

The trip was uneventful and we were soon headed out the door of the FBO in search of the courtesy car. As with many of Ohio's county airports, KCDI has a retired military bird on a pedestal out front.  


Here's the line-up of RV-12s - quite the disparity in paint designs, eh?




If you ever find yourself at KCDI with the keys to a courtesy car in hand, and those keys fit anything other than the black Vibe, and especially if they fit the silver mini-van, go back inside and get the other keys. We were halfway downtown when we got called back to the airport to exchange cars. Apparently the van isn't road worthy; we hadn't noticed anything amiss, but truth be told with your typical airport courtesy car it can be hard to tell the difference. 

The Vibe was pretty nice, though,


The focal point of downtown Cambridge is the clock tower sitting atop what I guessed to be the district courthouse:





Our lunch destination was Theo's Restaurant, which quite gratifyingly had exactly the kind of menu items you hope to see in a family-owned diner.



I opted for the Cabbage Rolls, which I found to be quite satisfying.


Just across the street in an antique shop called The Penny Corner, probably due to to fact that the building began life as a JC Penney store.

I'm always on the hunt for quirky things and this slumbering cat caught my eye; I couldn't figure out it was being marketed as food or as an appliance.


I would have never thought of crafting a fish out of a bull's horn.


Honest truth, I momentarily thought the title of this book was "The Art of the Comb-over," probably because I'm of the age where that kind of scalp coverage strategy is becoming personally pertinent.


Very close by the antique store was a small art gallery, where we found an artist at work. Or evidence thereof, more accurately.



This store front caught my eye as we walked by - they might want to consider either a name change, or a somewhat more cohesive product mix.


Back at the (presumed) courthouse, I took a closer look at the artillery piece located in the front lawn.


Specifically, I couldn't help noticing the tires on the US--made gun: Vorwerk is a German company.

Ironic, that.


Our 2015 winter was relatively benign, but it's still quite refreshing to see the colors coming back into the trees.


This truly was the classic car dealer - the showroom was on the first floor of one of the buildings downtown - no mega lots here!


The next stop was at the local bakery.


The original plan was to fly back home, but KCDI is only 11nm from I10, the county airport for Noble County, Ohio. It's an airport in a beautiful location - the runway sits between the two prongs of a lake. It's just a short walk from the runway down to the lake.  The weather was gorgeous, so... why not?

I've never understood this sign - if this made any sense, we wouldn't fly over an altitude of 10' - if the first 10' doesn't get ya, the other 3,490' won't either.



The departure out of I10 was the opposite of uneventful. Just after rotation, the Rotax 912 that powers my RV-12 started running rough, and the unmistakable smell of gasoline started emanating from the other side of the firewall. I knew a number of things immediately:

  - this was indicative of a carburetor float no longer floating
  - there were no suitable areas in front of me to land on should the engine pack it in for the day
  - even partial power is better than no power, and the roughness had pretty much gone away anyway,
  - so the most expedient thing to do was to fly the pattern back to the departure runway.

Once safely back on the ramp, I got out my emergency tools and Tom Sawyer-ed Kyle into removing the top cowl.

Old habits die hard.


The offending carb was easy to find - it incriminated itself by spraying gas out of its overflow tube.


The carbs are due to be disassembled and inspected at 200 hours and my bird was clocking in at just over 181 hours at this point, so it occurred to us that the problem was likely to be a little bit of stickiness on one of the floats. Removing the floats and cleaning them off a bit was easily accomplished and the ensuing engine run-up indicated that the problem was solved, at least for now.

The return flight was again uneventful, but it looks like that 200 hour inspection is going to happen 18 hours early.


It helped a great deal to have Kyle there with me - had we not been able to diagnose and fix the problem, having a ride home sure would have come in handy!

Also, this served to prove yet again that travelling in groups can have enormous benefits.