Saturday, February 22, 2014

Why, February, WHY??

February. The worst month of my life. Zero redeeming qualities. The opposite, in fact: some kind of deep-seated inferiority complex, probably due to being the shortest month in the litter. The runt, as it were. When has anyone ever been obtuse enough to "hope we have an easy February?"  Never, that's when. Because what's the point? That's a fool's dream. Can't happen, won't happen.

Thursday. The worst day of my week.  Tired to the bone; this is the fourth day in a row for me to claw my way out of a warm, comfortable (pillow-top, for cryin' out loud, on BOTH sides!) bed at 4:45 am in order to beat the terrible rush of other similarly fatigued drones making their way to the various and sundry places of energy-draining employment at which they will spend more than two-thirds of their day.

I have it better than most, I freely admit, but still: they call it work for a reason.

So, there I was, facing the prospect of a February Thursday. More tired than usual after a longer than normal workday on Wednesday that had more than offset the relaxation gained from a Monday holiday. The commute was nearly done - just a mile left to go in the set of thirty-five. Just off the highway, accelerating out of the turn, when WHAM!! 

A pothole.  And no slouch of one, either. Big as a great white whale, it 'twer.  Shook me very bones, it did, and caused me to instantly regret having rushed the season (but hey, it was going to be an impossibly "easy" February day, highs in low fifties in the forecast - what was I to do??) and made the last second decision to drive my favorite car.

Not long after, not long at all, I started to feel the telltale slouching of a car with a broken spirit and at least one, if not two, ruptured tires. Knowing that the damage to a tire mangled in that way is terminal, I saw no reason to strand myself at the side of the road, especially since, while mortally wounded, my faithful mount was still capable of finishing the trek, albeit at a vastly reduced pace.

In the end, it was two flat tires.

That requires a special, and as it turns out, more expensive, type of towing service.

It was two days, three new tires, and $600+ before I would get her back home.

February, seemingly having realized that this time he has gone too far, is now trying to get back in my good graces.  Today we had clear skies and more of the unseasonably temperate weather that started this whole mess, which was nice, and the morning was only slightly marred by a little more wind and choppiness than one would wish for when embarking on the first flight in almost two months. One forgets things in that amount of time, and one hopes for a gentle re-entry into the world of things like gusty crosswinds.

One doesn't always get that.

Still, you have to get back in the saddle sometime, and it is not likely that there will be many more days like this for awhile, particularly those coincident with my being free of the work week obligations.

I headed south, towards Jackson Ohio, where Kyle, apprentice magician for The Jackson Two, is working on a project that will create some type of oil-based cloaking screen for his airplane while in flight. Or something. There's smoke involved, is all I know. I remain unclear as to the value of such a device, but who am I to judge? If it's good enough for the USAF Thunderbirds, it's good enough for me.

My personal theory is that he forgot to get a Valentines Day card, and wants to attempt to make amends by doing something like this:

I didn't want to be the one to tell him that based on my past experiences with botched Valentines Days, that isn't going to be nearly enough. In any event, it was one of those days when it's nice to have a destination, and when he suggested that we could go back to Arch and Eddies for lunch, all I could say was "what time?"

I had stopped at the airport on my way home from work yesterday to have gas put in the plane just in case it turned out to be a good flying day. When I opened the canopy this morning, I was pleased to note that I didn't smell gas, indicating that no leaks had been introduced by my molestation of the fuel tank while complying with Vans' latest service bulletin on that somewhat troublesome part of the plane.  I had leak tested it previously, of course, but in the intervening period it had undergone the relatively rough process of being replaced in the airplane.  And I had not tested it with a full twenty gallons of fuel.

It was odd, then, that I smelled a whiff of fuel whilst taxiing down to the runway for takeoff. It didn't concern me all that much, really, but it got me to thinking about why it would smell now, but not before.  We went ahead and took flight.

It wasn't too very far to the south that I discovered where all of the snow and ice had gone. Just a bit of flooding going on there, eh?

It also started getting a little bumpy. Bumpy enough, in fact, that I started smelling fuel again.  Using my keen sense of logic, I realized that the most likely cause of this would be leakage around the new mechanical gauge. I remembered that I had been somewhat surprised at the lack of a gasket, or failing that, a Van's-directed application of their most commonly used method of doing anything that can't be done using a screw or a rivet: ProSeal.

Sure enough, I was able to feel a very light film of fuel on the top of the fuel tank, just in front of the new gauge. Being well on my way, I saw no reason to turn around - just a slight opening of the air vent cleared the air.

More interesting was just how much of a crosswind I was dealing with. The winds on the ground were less than 10 knots, but in the air?

Forty-plus knots!!

It took a twenty degree correction to stay on course.

All went well with the remainder of the flight, including the culmination, which was notable for the quality of the landing, if nothing else.  Soon enough we were off to lunch.  Today's special was Tex Mex Pulled Pork served with Sausage and Peppers, on a Bed of Wild Rice.

Was it good?  Oh yes. Yes it was!

As should be obvious, these fly-away lunches never come with beer as a complementary beverage, but that didn't stop me from noticing some subtext on the beer menu that warmed the cockles of this airplane builder's heart: a revision date!

After lunch, we stopped at a local aviation supply store, oddly enough named 'Advance Auto' for some completely off-the-wall reason. In any event, the establishment was well stocked with options for putting a seal around the permeable fuel gauge, which is pretty much the only way of fixing it without again removing the fuel tank from the airplane and again breaking it open, the very thing that got me in this pickle in the first place.

I chose this one. It sets up in just a few minutes, and it is reportedly 'resistant' to the deleterious effects of fuel. Which I couldn't help noticing is not the same as 'impervious', but would likely be good enough to get me home.

I found a convenient place top hang my jacket and got to work.

It was easy to apply, and if my nose is any kind of judge, it worked.

 Whether I had missed a directive in the plans that stipulated some other form of sealing method would remain an open question until I got home.  I wanted to give the stuff some time to cure, so we wandered around looking at the soon-to-be-demolished old airport building. It would seem that Jackson prides itself on its annual Apple Festival.  I'll have to remember that, come September. I hope it will be an easy September...

I could not help noticing the sad state of their national flag. Kyle thought it to be somewhat lacking in respect as well, so decided to take it down.

I thought it looked at awful lot like the infamous picture of our flag being raised on Iwo Jima.  Except in reverse, of course, but you can't tell from the picture.

I settled into my seat and buckled up for the trip home. And then... the worst thing you could hope for. A stray dog. Probably heading over to lay down for a nap under the airplane.

Which he did. I had to pop the canopy open and holler at him for awhile to get him to move along.

Not long after that (that's a tiny little lie - it was fifteen minutes of waiting for the oil to warm up!!) I was in the air and turning back towards the north.  There wasn't even the tiniest hint of gas smell, much to my relief.

I flew right over the town of Jackson. You can see the water tower painted to look like an apple, presumably in furtherance of their reputation as the Apple Festival Capital of Central Southern Ohio.

Some of the lakes in the hills are still frozen over.

The autopilot leaves me with plenty of time to engage in narcissism.

Gee, do you think Circleville might have an annual pumpkin festival?


And in case you're wondering, the answer to the big question is "No."  There are no directions for placing a gasket or ProSeal barrier in the plans.

You're off the hook on this one, February.  This one belongs to Van's.

Monday, February 10, 2014


This has been one of worst winters in recent memory, and has forced me into a deeper hibernation than usual. At least when I was still building, I was motivated enough to go to the hangar any time the temperature was 15F or above. These days, I won't stir until I see at least 28F.  We have also had a higher than normal frequency of what passes for snow in Central Ohio - it is typically more ice than snow. They call it a "Wintery Mix."

I won't tell you what I call it.

The most recent event was the most egregious example of malicious weather that I have seen in years. It started with a quarter inch of rough ice, followed with six to eight inches of snow, and was then capped of with another layer of ice, albeit thinner and smoother than the first layer. This is apparently such a rare combination that it positively befuddled the snow blower.  The top layer of ice required that I provide a constant lifting force on the handles to keep enough weight on the front of the blower to convince it to dig into the ice, and the bottom layer of ice was left behind for me to slip and slide on. The light snow layer in between was perfect for the wind to blow right back into my exposed face, seemingly from all angles. So much work was required to move the snow blower around that I found myself sweating in my Walmartts.

It took more than two hours to clear the driveway.

There were two possible and not mutually-exclusive outcomes from this: I could be laid up for days with a sore back, or I could be laid up for days with a hideously bad cold.

Pass me a Kleenex, please...

I'm staying home from work today as I endure the third day of this terrible cold, and deploring the sad state of 21st century pharmacological science. I suppose I would feel worse without the panoply of over-the-counter snake oil "medicines" coursing through my system, but that is not to imply that I am not miserable with the stuffy head, periodically alleviated with a runny nose, all punctuated with hoarse coughing.

At least I have some time to work towards my two Instructor written tests. I'm three fourths of the way through the Sportys videos, and I'm starting to look at test prep software.

While work on the plane has been sporadic at best, I have managed to get through the annual inspection. There was only one glaring fault found - the rest of the was limited to filing down areas that were interfering with the paint and routine maintenance. The fault I found was a loose jam nut on the autopilot pitch servo.

I also got the newly bifurcated baggage bulkhead back in place. It appears that I could have spent another few seconds looking for the correct can of spray paint at Walmart.

Unless the tank has developed a leak that didn't show up in the post-SB leak test, that should be the last time that it has to come out of the airplane for a long, long time.

Once the weather and my head clear up sufficiently, I have another project. I'm going to replace the new brake lines with even newer brake lines - these are the final production length and will get rid of the big "bumps" in the lines I have now. They are also protected by a clear transparent coating instead of back - if I'm going to have something as fancy as braided steel brake lines, I want to show them off. The other lines in the box will replace the plastic crossover lines that tie the two sets of brake pedals together.

Off to the right is a consolidated checklist that I wrote up in a word processor and laminated with some DIY laminating sheets from the Office Supplies aisle at Walmart.

I'm about done here for now; a headache has arrived to join in the Festival of Misery going on inside my head. I'm heading back to my TV where I'm watching The Red Baron on Netflix.