Tuesday, April 23, 2013

To The Farm!


As has been detailed in these pages lo these many days, I have been trying to make a trip out west to visit the home offices of Schmetterling Aviation, finding my way blocked by various impediments, the most pernicious of which has been the Spring weather. At long last, the skies cleared and the winds abated sufficiently this past Sunday to allow for the record-setting and devil-taunting 66.6 nm flight.

Not only were the skies clear, they were by far the smoothest that I have flown in yet. When you consider the light weight and copious wing area of the RV-12, to be able to set the autopilot and just relax through a smooth, jostle-free flight of forty or so minutes indicates an air mass that is "stable" on the same sense as a fish lying on a bed of ice at your local fishmonger's retail establishment. Rare indeed is a flight during which I could have shaved with a straight razor, had such an inexplicable urge beset me.

I took advantage of the clement conditions by spending some time learning more about the autopilot and the GPS mapping system. I have typically been entering a single direct-to waypoint in the system and allowing the autopilot to fly us directly to the destination, although on a couple of my trips to Portsmouth I have actually entered a mid-trip waypoint to the flight plan whilst sitting on the ground waiting for the oil to reach an appropriate temperature.  In this case, I was attempting to add a new waypoint while already flying. It's not hard to add a waypoint to the active flight plan, I found, but it can be tricky to convince the Skyview, and by extension, that this new waypoint should become the current target.

I also learned that my attempt to smooth out the engine by tightening the tolerance between the angles of the two prop blades was successful, albeit at the cost of ten knots lost from my cruise speed. I found that the easiest way to get the prop blades set to a nearly identical angle was to adjust them such that each was hard against the stops in the prop hub. That had the unfortunate consequence of pitching the blades too shallowly - while the plane now climbs like a banshee with the hounds of hell chasing it, it cruises a bit slower. I'm inclined to live with it for now - I'm seldom in enough of a hurry to lament the loss of speed. Next time I have the spinner off, though...

The landing at Darke Co. was into a wind only ten degrees directionally displaced from being right down the runway so I was unable to ascertain the degree of crosswind ground control attained through the lessening of  the nose wheel break out torque, but it seemed easier to steer in all other modes so I am calling this one a win.

The highly amenable weather continued throughout the day, so the trip back to home base was just as nice as the trip away, albeit somewhat slower due to a headwind. So yeah, I lied: I missed those ten lost knots in cruise speed.

The weather stayed nice for another day, allowing an evening flight with a former co-worker under the auspices of refilling the fuel tank.   You might remember this guy from a previous flight in the RV-6. It was this flight that prompted me to relate the following:
When we reached a sufficient altitude, I offered JT the opportunity to take the controls for a little while but he declined. That happens now and then and it's just fine with me. I never insist on doing anything in the airplane that might make a passenger nervous or uncomfortable (with the notable exceptions of things Ihave to do like turn, or land) and I have had plenty of people turn down the chance to fly, but it always saddens me a little. I figure that letting someone fly an airplane, even if only for a few brief moments, is one of the most incredible things I can share with a person. To me, it is a gift of unimaginable magnitude to allow someone to do something that only a vanishingly small percentage of people throughout history have ever been able to do. To give people the opportunity to be able to say for the rest of their lives that they flew an airplane once, well, that's the single most sublime and meaningful gift I can give.
This time was different. I did the takeoff, of course, but once we got out away from the airport I let him take over. I coached him through the thirty-some miles down south to Circleville and didn't take over until we got down to pattern altitude. It was another great evening to fly.

No comments:

Post a Comment