Sunday, April 8, 2012

Good Intentions, Deflected

What's the opposite of a rain check? You know, like you were going to be baseball game but it was rained out - what's the antonym to that? I ask because, well, that's what happened yesterday. I had planned all week to have Pete come by on Saturday to help me with the fitting of the bottom cowling half. I had prepared for the big job by getting the hinges and corresponding pins cut to size, but more on that later. Those plans were cast aside like my pre-teen aspirations for winning an Olympic gold medal for the clean & jerk once I realized that I was destined to be more physically attuned to something more along the lines Olympic curling.

As a sweeper, that is. Those rocks look heavy.

So what could have so egregiously deflected me from the straight and narrow path of diligence to the build? Well, as any Ohio-based pilot will tell you, there are maybe five perfect flying days a year around here, and you sure don't want to miss out on them, especially considering that they most commonly occur on the Monday following a rainy weekend. To see the makings of a splendidly clear, calm, and comfortable day early on a Saturday morning is a clarion call that cannot with clear conscience be cast aside in favor of any contemplated competing calling.

I had to fly!

Which, if I tell the truth, actually fit in nicely with my plans to visit The Farm sometime in the next few weeks.

The period between decision and departure was something like fifteen minutes. A quick check on the internet answered the three most important questions: was the weather forecast to remain good all day, were either of the two airports I would be using closed, and were either of the current White House occupants going to close our airspace with a campaign visit? The answers were, as hoped, yes, no, and NO!

Arriving at the airport, I was left wondering whether I had gotten any of those answers wrong; there was no one else to be seen. That turned out to be illusory; by the time I got the plane out, preflighted, and let the engine idle for a few minutes to clear out whatever congestion it may have developed after sitting unused for a few weeks, I ended up second in a line of four airplanes at the end of the runway waiting to takeoff.

Climbing out to the west, I crossed over one of my favorite scenic landmarks, the enclosed training track at what used to be the Darby Dan Farms racing stables.
Darby Dan Farm is a produce, livestock, and thoroughbred horse breeding and training farm founded in 1935 near the Darby Creek in Galloway, Ohio by businessman John W. Galbreath. Named for the creek and for Galbreath's son, Daniel M. Galbreath (1928-1995), it was expanded from an original 85-acre farm into a 4,000 acre estate.
Part of the estate, including the unique training track, has been sold to the City of Columbus (or to the county; I don't know which) as park land. There's a very nice hiking/biking trail that runs a few miles along the river and ends at the track.

Just a few miles later, it turned out to be lucky that I had the camera warmed up and ready to go as I came across this farm field, apparently owned by a farmer with a great deal of spare time on his hands. Or, I suppose, a farmer that has planted something that creates an abnormal pattern on the field.

Every now and then I grab a new picture to use for Facebook and/or the employee directory at the paying gig.

A brief half hour flight later, I was lined up to land on runway 9 at KVES. As is often the case, the county life squad was parked there in their big ambulance. I used to take that personally, chalking it up to an extreme lack of faith in my piloting abilities, but over time I've just decided that they find it to be a nice place to waste away the day when their services aren't currently needed. And in this case, they most certainly weren't; one of the nice things about a calm-air landing is that they present an opportunity to really grease one on, and I availed myself of said opportunity quite nicely. There was a little bump that lifted the right wing as I was just about to flare over the runway (and also foreshadowed a bumpy flight home later in the day), but I recovered nicely and finished up the landing with one of those arrivals where the tires just start to brush the runway and the final transition from flier to groundling is nearly imperceptible.

I usually like to check in with my brother at 8105 Limited Racing and see how things are going with the Schmetterling Aviation-sponsored race team. The car is looking good this year, although I'm not sure yet whether or not I like their marketing department's edgy new look for my logo.

One of my favorite things to do while I'm at The Farm is to take a walk around the lower field. This particular field is bordered by a wooded strip, which itself is bordered on it opposite side by the Greenville Creek. It's a nice walk that has plenty of scenic flora and fauna, especially in the spring.

That big (Sycamore, I think) has been there forever, at least as measured by my span on the planet.

There's a constantly varying collection of resting race horses there, some of whom are quite personable.

And no shortage of pampered farm cats as well. This one goes by "Domino." She was rescued from the race track at the Darke County Fairgrounds where she was running wild. She's got it pretty good now!

Three or four hours later, we returned to the airport where the alert and ever-ready ambulance crew were.... sound asleep.

Sometimes I like to circle back around The Farm on my way home.

The return trip was, in fact, bumpy as the sun had warmed up the bare fields considerably - the rising warm air acts as a infinite series of speed bumps. In July or August, there would have been no escape from it, but this early in the year I was able to climb into smooth air at 5,500'. As I was approaching Bolton and monitoring the tower frequency as is my wont, I heard a call from another plane:

"Bolton Tower, Cessna something-or-other, student pilot, nine miles north inbound for touch and goes."

This prompted an immediate look at the GPS to see how far out I was.

Sixteen miles.

I had hoped that I was closer because of my past experiences with student pilots planning on doing touch and goes: they fly a very wide, very long pattern, and they do it slowly. I strongly prefer to be in front of them, whenever possible, and not for the reason that you might expect. It's not (completely) a matter of my innate impatience, believe it or not. No, the problem is that if I get slotted in behind them, I have to fly low and slow for much longer than I'm comfortable with. Absent both altitude and airspeed, I'm left with very few options in the event of an engine failure.

Normally a seven mile deficit would be hard to surmount, but I had something going for me: that extra 3,500 feet could be converted into airspeed quite easily. That's an exchange rate that doesn't vary on the strength of the dollar. So, rather than throttling back and descending down to pattern altitude as I usually do, I kept the throttle in and pushed the nose over. I usually call the tower as I cross over the grain elevator at Lilly Chapel, but this time I called a mile or two early since the 170 knots I was carrying would allow me to blaze across the remaining eight or nine miles right quickly. The time that the tower would expect me to take would be the same as usual.

I knew that my call to the tower would garner the usual "report two mile left base for runway four" in response and that with the other plane being north of the runway and therefore having an extra mile to go before they'd be in a position to call for landing clearance, that I had a pretty good chance of getting to my reporting point before they got to their's. The way this game works is that the first to report is the first to land. Now, I'm not saying that I may have made my "two mile" report from a location slightly further out than that (hypothetically, say, 3.5 miles), but even if I had, I still would have been making my turn off of the runway at right about the time the Cessna called from their reporting point.

I'm going to miss that kind of thing in the -12.

After having moved the -6 from one side of the row of hangars to the other when the -12 got too big to share a hangar, I worried that someday I would taxi back to the old hangar out of habit, somewhat like a trail horse that knows his way back to the barn. I haven't done that yet, but yesterday I found that I couldn't get my hangar key to unlock the door. I looked at it to confirm that I was using the right one. Yep. there's the six, big as life. What could be wrong?? A belated glance at the door solved the mystery.


Yeah, no wonder '6' wasn't working!

Those ambulance drivers might be onto something.

So that's why the cowling parts are still resting on the hangar floor. But when I do get around to fitting them to their hinges, the hinges are ready.

As they are with the -6, the hinges that bow across the top of the airframe mightily resist having their pins pushed through. The plans have us file a bevel into the bottoms of the hinge hoops where the hinges curve. My hope was that the bevel would make the pins slide through more easily, but alas, that apparently demonstrably is not the reason; I now believe it is to keep the hoops from breaking off due to the pressure exerted against them from the bent hinge pin.


Anonymous said...

Enjoy your writings.
With regard to filing the hinge pins... I think Vans intend that you file to taper the inside edge of the hinge pin so as to guide the pin into the bore of the hinge. If I miss-interpret please disregard this as an incompetent comment.

Al from Florida

Anonymous said...

I Got that backwards. It's the inside of the hinge bore which should be filed (chamfered sp?), not the pin.

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