Tuesday, October 29, 2013

From the Mail Bag

Jean-Pierre Bernoux said...
Hi Dave, I am curious to know where the feature on exchanging frequencies between radio and Skyview is described. This is an awesome feature and I want it!

Jean-Pierre is right - I did gloss over what I was doing it and why I was doing it when I installed the missing wire the would complete the communication path between the Dynon Skyview and the Garmin SL-40.

Many of you will no doubt remember that I was one of the group that got caught up in the delays arising from the shift from the older Dynon D-180 to the newfangled Skyview. This is perhaps nostalgia talking, but I also remember being as patient as I can be, thinking that surely the ongoing improvements to the Skyview would make the wait well worthwhile. Well, it was true. I think I'm on the third major version of the Skyview firmware in less than a year after installation. It was either this most recent version or the one just before it that introduced the concept of using the frequency data stored in (and displayed on) the Skyview to 'push' frequencies to the Comm radio.

Unfortunately, for one reason or another (and trust me, this was exhaustively debated on the RV forum) one of the wires that would enable this capability was excluded from the wire bundle supplied by Van's. A lot of work went into figuring out which wire was needed and where it needed to be installed, and as is the laudable norm in that particular forum, the results were shared with the rest of us. It all looked somewhat complicated to me, and I didn't consider the feature to be worth a dive below the avionics cover. At some point, though, someone on the forum mentioned that Van's had begun to include the wire as part of the avionics kit.  As it was more than just a simple wire (it's shielded and has a grounding terminal spliced into it), I decided to order one. The part number is WH-F1102 and I can't provide a price because Van's did not charge me for it.  The revision page that details its installation can be found here: http://www.vansaircraft.com/pdf/revisions/RV-12/42K.pdf

Operation is pretty simple, albeit not as simple as just dialing in the frequency manually. You just navigate the Skyview to the airport info page and select the COMS tab:

Then you just select the frequency you want using the right side joystick and press 'TUNE COM'.

The Skyview will push the selected frequency into the standby frequency in the SL-40.

As they say in the orchestra, Viola!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall Colors and Other Misconceptions

Let's start with "other." There seems to me that there must be some kind of misconception over the topic of annual flu shots. They make me sick. Each and every year, I feel lousy after getting a flu shot. This is NOT to say that I believe the shot has given me the flu!  Yet every time I mention being sick as a result of the shot, I get lectured that "dead flu cells can't give you the flu!"  Never said that they could, did I?  

Why so huffy about it? Well, because I just had another miserable four days after getting my flu shot. And insult to injury, the girl that gave me the shot also managed to give me a bruise that I still have a week later.

I often wonder if it might be better to just roll the dice on getting the flu.... at least there is some chance that I won't.

This is also the time of year when people ask me if the fall colors are spectacular from the air. Intuitively it must seem so, but in reality, not so much. First of all, the trees don't all change at once. It is very rare to see vast expanses of fall colors; it's nearly always a mix of green, brown/orange/red, and barren deadness.  Second, there is almost always haze in the air that deadens the ground colors when viewed from above.

Every now and then, though, we get a few super clear, cool days. Case in point:

I flew over to Urbana for breakfast with a group of other pilots, mostly to give me a chance to test the new position/mount for the standby GPS. I was quite please with it:

Another hallmark of fall flying is morning fog. It was light and well spread out:

The breakfast we well attended. I have nothing but admiration for the guy that flew a Pietenpol Air Camper in the briskly cold weather. Open cockpit with temps in the high 30's?  Huh. I wouldn't do it.

Nice looking bird, though. I wouldn't mind having one for summer evenings.

Being as I was already halfway there, I continued on out to the farm. Conditions were perfect for giving the Schmetterling CEO a quick ride in the newly painted plane. We just flew down south from the airport and circled the ranch.

The timing was perfect; the air was still glass smooth and the temps were just about perfect for not-too-hot, not-too-cold.  By the time I left for home, it was a completely different story. The winds had picked up and the air was choppy all the way up to 5,500'.  Still, with the clear air and bright sky, it was a nice enough ride.  By the time I landed, I had completely forgotten that the sickness-that-cannot-exist wasn't bothering me anymore.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Behind the Panel

There hasn't been much going on around here in general, and even less when it comes to the airplane. With the days getting ever shorter, I find that my hibernation genes are starting to secrete whatever it is that makes me tired by 3:00 pm and in bed by 8:30, with very little energy ready and willing to be expended in the brief interim between the two.


There were three things that I wanted to do on the plane that would involve the removal of the avionics cover, a task that I used to think would be easy to do whenever the urge struck, but I am now learning is a royal pain.  I think it all comes down to a predefined progression of doing things that would look something like 'Remove these specific screws, position the canopy thusly, remove this other set of specific screws, etc.', if only I could remember it. Instead, we get this:

I (yet again!!) managed to get it in a state that necessitated the removal of the canopy, and this time also resulted in scratches in the new paint.  Argh!

Once inside, I noticed that the installation of the intercom was less robust than one might hope - it's not supposed to sag like that, one would think.

There. Fixed.

For now.

Job one was a more robust installation of the iFly GPS that I bought to act as a backup to the Skyview. Holes needed to be drilled and little itty-bitty nuts needed to be put in place with surgical precision:

It didn't take long at all, and I'm quite happy with the result.

Next was the installation of a single data wire that runs from the Skyview to the Garmin Comm radio. This wire wasn't included in my avionics kit, so I had to request it from Van's post-install. It required the removal of the radio tray which, if I'm honest, is a gigantic ouchy in the derriere.  It's so much more painful to retrofit than it would have been to install with the rest of the stuff that Van's sent it to me free-of-charge, presumably out of a well-earned sense of abject guilt.  Or they just forgot to charge me.


Once the tray is out, it's a simple matter of shoving the pin into the connector and adding another grounding terminal to the tiny little easy-to-lose screw in the bottom of the tray.

Viola!, as they say in the orchestra.

Van's included simple directions for telling the Skyview that there was a new member of the team to consider when calling audibles, but they were wrong.

Figuring that they might have simply been sitting in the wrong pew but in the right church, I checked neighboring menus and quickly found the right one.



As they say.  Now the Skyview can push frequencies into the Comm radio as I pick them out of the onboard airport database. It's a handy little feature!

The third thing I wanted to fix involved removing a big connector from the junction box and swapping a couple of pin locations. Pulling pins out of those connectors is one of my most hated things. The swap didn't fix the problem, so they had to be pulled out again and put back where they were in the first place.

The less said about that, the better.

It's all put back together now, so now I'm just back to waiting for a nice day to fly.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Big Day Out

Poor Co-pilot Egg. She loves her living quarters away off to the east where she's going to college except for one thing: fair week. her little house is right next to the fairgrounds and the noise is bothersome to say the least.  Loud bands, even louder tractor pulls, and don't even get her started on the two nights of demolition derbies.

I can sympathize with her plight after a couple of years of living in a far worse place that was also adjacent to the fairgrounds; in my case, it was the Ohio State Fairgrounds. I remember quite vividly being awakened by someone pounding on my back door at some ridiculous time like 2:30 am. I groggily opened the door to find a large female police officer. 

"Sir, it looks like a carney has broken into your car. Could you please come out and verify that it is, in fact, your car?"

"Uh, sure," I muttered as I began the long walk through the back yard to the alley, where I had had to park because fair traffic had completely parked-up the road in front of the house where I usually parked.

"Sir? SIR!  Could you please put some clothes on first?"

So, yeah. I get what it means to have to live with fair week.

So, I thought it might be nice to use one of my few remaining vacation days to go visit her and walk over to see what the fair was all about.  The Co-owner accepted the invite to go with. We got an early start by having breakfast at Egg's favorite diner, which she is quite proud to have discovered on her own.  

The fairgrounds are very well kept, and I am intrigued by the oddly shaped livestock barn.

They have a neat little gift shop, too.

The midway is the typical collection of flim-flammery.  Toss a ping pong ball, win a soon-to-be-dead goldfish.

In addition to the gold fish disposal game, I also remember this one from back in the day. Air-powered BB machine guns: that's what this country used to be about. I'm more than a little surprised to see that it's still legal.  I remember one other thing about this game: it's might daggone hard to get every single piece of red off of that card!  The only reliable way to do it is to just shoot a line horizontally across the card to cut the bottom part off, but they are fully aware of that tactic and have banned it, as can be seen the rule posted on the far left.

I'm not sure I trusted the mechanical stuff even back in my more credulous days.

Everyone loves fair food, and I particularly like the specialized things like deep-fried cheese curds. There were lines at those places, but the we-do-it-all Walmart-of-Fair-Food place was wide open.

This is what I mean by specialization - I really, REALLY like it when they also have a motif:

I'm always amazed at the tremendous breadth of competitions they have.  Dried beans? Corn on the ear? Potatoes??

They even had a category for the most mutated potatoes!

The peppers provide a colorful display. I remain unclear as to what the judging criteria is, though:

We used to call this Indian Corn. Chances are it is now known as something less incendiary, now that it takes next to nothing to getting agitators worked up into a self-righteous lather:

Egg made another little piece of clutter for her house:

I didn't stop to see what constitutes a 'Hobo Steak," but given the means of your typical Hobo, I had to assume it isn't what we would normally refer to as "steak."  I was, as it turns out, quite wrong.

Ha ha ha, that little lamb wears glasses!

Egg is a huge fan of little pigs, which could have a lot to do with her blatant sigh of disgust when I said that it looked like they were practicing to be bacon:

It's amazing how county fairs bring back childhood memories. We had one of these on the farm when I was a kid. I'm not likely to ever forget the day I drove it off of a 6' bank into the creek. It took a Holmes 750 tow truck to yank it back out of there.

I don't think I've ever seen a cow so enjoying being groomed:

That was it for the fair, and we still had plenty of time to get home before I had to depart to the east for a chore that had cropped up unexpectedly for later in the day. Which was good, because we had passed a place on the way that I wanted to stop in and check out.

The deal with this is that I am starting to think about retirement. It's still pretty far over the horizon, but it's never too early to start trying to decide what to do with the second half of your life. My current thinking is that I want to move out of Ohio, mostly because I value novelty over the same-old same-old. I need a new playground, in other words. This is nothing spur-of-the-moment - we have made a couple of trips out west to see if there's anyplace out there that would work for us. 

My current thinking, however, is to move to Tennessee, where we would buy a condo. I'm thinking that somewhere in the Knoxville area would be good.  Athens, TN is a front-runner at this point. From there, we would only be five or six hours from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the Carolina coast, and the Mississippi River region.  And, of course, the Cumberland area and/or the Smokey Mountains.

Perfect travel distance for something like a nice 5th wheel.  The only problem was that I wasn't really very familiar with the quality of life to be had in a travel trailer, and I am somewhat accustomed to my luxuries. And the Co-owner would need to be fully on board with the idea, too. So, I thought, maybe we could pop in to the RV dealer we had drive past and check out what these trailers are like.

It went well, to say the least. As we stepped into our first trailer, the Co-owner could only say, "Wow!"

As to be expected, it didn't take long for a sales guy to come out and talk with us. His name was Jess, and he was the perfect mix of knowledge, willingness to listen to our neophyte questions, and no pressure at all to make an immediate sale. At some point mention was made of my airplane (seriously, I could work it into a conversation with a funeral director) and he asked if I would consider taking him for a ride. Well, sure!  I can't remember ever turning down a request for a ride - gives me an excuse to burn some gas!

The first trailer we looked at was fabulous, but it was also right up at the very top of the cost and weight chart. High weight means more expensive tow vehicle, and high cost means... high cost. Jess led us to a lower-cost (about half!!) trailer that we also liked quite a bit, mostly because of the more open floor plan.  It also had a pair of doors to block off the little living room from the rest of the trailer - togetherness flourishes when there can also be moments of privacy. I grabbed some pictures of this particular trailer from the dealer's web site:

It sure gave us something to think about!

We made it back in time to meet Kyle, Chief Charter Pilot for The Jackson Two, to give me a lift to Cadiz to pick up my plane from the paint shop.  I couldn't have timed a day off of work any better, as it turns out. What luck for the plane to be done on a day I had already scheduled off, and with such amazingly good weather!

I had seen a low-quality picture of the finished paint job, but it was ever so much better in person!

All I had to do was remember how to fly it after two months. It wasn't too bad.  The benign weather helped.

The only problem arose on the way back into Bolton. I called the tower when I was directly over Rickenbacker, which is about 10 miles east-ish from Bolton.

"Report two mile right base for runway four."

Piece of cake!  All I had to do was angle off slightly to the south so I would reach the airport at the base leg, rather than at midfield.

When I was five miles out, a Cessna that was doing touch & goes was turning left base. We would be going nose-to-nose.  I fully expected a call from the tower to ask for an update on my position, and sure enough....

"Four Delta Golf, say your position."

I figured he really just needed the distance since he should already have a pretty good idea of where I was headed, having given me the directions himself, so I just said, "Five miles east."

"Four Delta Golf, enter a midfield right downwind runway four."

Huh?  My mind went blank as I tried to visualize what he wanted me to do.  As I've said before, the flying skills deteriorate a little after a long gap in flying, but the ATC skills plummet.  Meanwhile, he gave the Cessna clearance to land. He came back to me.

"Four Delta Golf, did you hear my request?"

It finally came to me that he wanted me to go back up to the north a little bit, then turn left into a downwind to bring me back down to where I already was. He was trying to make space between me and the Cessna.

I keyed the mike, "Four Delta Golf copies: head north to enter a midfield right downwind, runway four."

He was testy. I had heard him struggling with a student pilot just a few minutes before - his patience was, it would seem, worn pretty thin.

"Four Delta Golf, if you are where you said you are, you would not need to go north for a midfield entry. Are you east, or are you south east?"

Not wanting to get into a discussion of being a mile or so south (or, in other words, being precisely where he instructed me to be) I just told him "I can make midfield easily."

Dripping with disgust: "Well, if you're already southwest, just report a two mile right base."

Fine.  Do what you told me to do in the first place. Got it.  Although what actually went our over the air was "Wilco."

At least the landing was good.

Oh, and this ain't nuthin': I HAVE MY AIRPLANE BACK!!