Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Over-Performing Myday Afternoon

I work hard for the first four days of the week in order to have one extra day on the weekend which, as many of you already know, I refer to as 'Myday.'  Sure, every now and then a portion of a Myday gets devoted to mundane things like medical appointments and the like, but as I plan those medical professional visits six months in advance, I can usually schedule them for the early morning.

That does not always go to plan, and this most recent Myday was a case in point: a 9:30 am dentist appointment was cancelled at their behest, and re-scheduled for a far less convenient 11:00 am. I was not especially happy about this as a matter of general principle, but when the day dawned clear and sunny and carried with it a forecast of exemplary flying conditions, I rounded the corner from mildly miffed to exceedingly put out.

Note that this is not a great mood with which to embark on a dental cleaning. Nor was it particularly helpful to arrive at the establishment and be greeted with the rank odor of raw sewage, apparently caused by the failure of the sump pump down in the older structure's basement.  Still, I like the pretty lady that cleans my teeth and despite the sharp tools moving around inside my mouth, we still find a way to banter, albeit with the both of us having to settle for mumbling out a pithy comment or retort now and then.

Having lost half of the day, I needed to find something to do that would fit into an afternoon. Luckily, someone that has graced these pages, and those of the blog superseded by this one, has recovered to a condition that will allow him to climb up into the airplane. As a short re-introduction, John is a guy that grew up just like me, which is to say that he has been fascinated with airplanes from a very young age. Unlike me, he had never managed to get a ride in an airplane of any type.

We fixed that little problem a few years ago when I was still flying the RV-6.

He also helped out on the day that we installed the landing gear on the 12. Not long after that, he was in a very severe car accident that left him facing a couple of years in and out of the hospital. He did manage to get out to the hangar now and then, but was limited to performing in a more managerial role, by which I mean sitting around watching the others work.

He's well enough recovered now that he was able to ride a motorcycle a few weeks ago, so I figured that would translate into being able to get into the 12.

You may remember that I spent a few hours introducing a novice to flying last spring/summer as I pretended to be an instructor with my friend Jeff. I thought John might be interested in trying that too.

Not at all surprisingly, he was.

I thought we could spend a few hours working through some of the things we would be doing such as a preflight, pattern entries, tower communications, etc. which would probably be pretty fruitful as he has already completed a ground school and will have at least been introduced to some of these. All we would have to do is try to marry the book learning with the specifics of an actual airplane. That idea fell by the wayside (well, much like my Sherlock-esque theory of Humpty-Dumpty's so-called accident actually being an attempted homicide, it was actually pushed) when I received a last minute call from Kyle, Corporate Aircraft Fueler for The Jackson Two,

As it turns out, he was sitting on the ground at Delaware Co. (KDLZ) getting some work done on his airplane and had belatedly noticed the lack of a fuel cap on his airplane. Knowing that I had a spare (which I acquired when I left mine behind at an airport where I buy gas now and then and later recovered), he wondered if I could fly it up to him. As I was planning on flying around from airport to airport with John to get him exposed to the full gamut of RV-12 flight, I could see no reason to not make that out first stop.

All I would have to do is 1) find the spare fuel cap in whatever "so I won't forget where it is" location, now long forgotten, spot that I had stored it in, and 2) cut short the planned ground instruction. The former proved harder than the latter, with the end result being the eventual finding of a spare fuel cap that was camouflaged in the best (yet ultimately most frustrating) way: by hiding in plain sight.

As it was only a twenty minute flight, I did the flying (if pressing the button that turns on the autopilot counts as "flying") while John acclimated himself to the new airplane. Knowing that we will have ample time to go over things again in greater depth, I spent most of the time feeding him way too much information way too quickly. There's a reason that you don't fill a Dixie Cup with a fire hose - most of it will end up spilled on the floor. But... not all of it. The only goal on an early flight like this is to introduce the big picture. We'll flesh out the details as we go. He did get his first homework assignment, though, which is to learn the phonetic alphabet.

Which, as it turns out, has many names, none of which I have ever heard being used in a conversation between humans:

The NATO phonetic alphabet, more accurately known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet and also called the ICAO phonetic or The NATO phonetic alphabet, more accurately known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet and also called the ICAO phonetic orICAO spelling alphabet, as well as the ITU phonetic alphabet,, as well as the ITU phonetic alphabet...

It sounds far more ominous than it is, but it is still an extremely essential aspect of flying.  You may not realize it, but you're almost certainly heard it in use:

We got there in plenty of time to see a carburetor balancing done the sissy-way, by which I mean opposite to the way I do it: I usually try to time it so as to allow me to stand in the propeller blast in the dead of winter. You know, for the frostbite that's in it.  Actually it just seems to happen that way. I need to put a late September date on my calendar to get it done this year before it gets cold.

Staying as far away from that as possible lest I somehow get recruited to participate, I wandered around the maintenance hangar, wherein I discovered something I had never seen, which is a Rotax missing its reduction gearbox.  The gear thingy there in the bottom of the horse collar is the end of the crankshaft. Also, the thingy with the orange hoses attached to it is the oil pump. The little shaft protruding from it rides on a cam in the gear box - the in and out motion is what drives the oil pump to, well... pump oil.

The airport tug sports what surely must be an after-market shifter knob:

With the maintenance finished and a fuel cap in place, the question of "what next?" came up. Me? I was all for heading somewhere for lunch. Being more or less on the way home for both groups, we decided on Urbana-Grimes (I74).

John flew that leg and did an extremely fine job of holding both heading an altitude. Given that he's still sitting on the right side until such time as I can practice a few takeoffs and landings from over there, he had to maintain those two dimensions mostly by maintaining a sight picture, something that takes awhile to develop. Nicely done!

Urbana is interesting because you just never know what will show up.  Just after lunch, while we were getting ready to mount up and fly out, a T-34 landed and taxied in.

The Beechcraft T-34 Mentor is a propeller-driven, single-engined, military trainer aircraft derived from the Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza. The earlier versions of the T-34, dating from around the late 1940s to the 1950s, were piston-engined. These were eventually succeeded by the upgraded T-34C Turbo-Mentor, powered by a turboprop engine. The T-34 remains in service more than six decades after it was first designed.

As an aside, there is an effort underway in Congress to legislate away the requirement for a third-class FAA medical. My way of escaping the requirement for medical was to build an LSA airplane, but doing so constrains me from flying "normal" airplanes. To be honest, I haven't considered it to be much of a loss; when I think of what I would rather own than the 12, I come up dry. But... I think I could get excited about owning a T-34.  It is classified as a warbird, and that would be very, very cool. The downside of a warbird, though, is cost. Cost of purchase, cost of maintenance, cost of fuel.

Collectively, those can be extreme. I will provide an example shortly. In the case of a T-36, however, the costs are roughly similar to those of a Beechcraft Bonanza, which isn't all that surprising considering their shared heritage. To a large degree, they're the same thing.

A purchase cost of a T-34 on the used market (there is no "new" market, so "used" is implied) can run from a low of $150k up to $400k, depending on condition and equipment. Operating costs would be nearly identical to the aforementioned Bonanza, burning 12 - 14 gallons per hour.

I would be quite satisfied even at the bottom of today's market.

Close on the heels of the T-34, one of the most beloved of WWII fighters arrived. This particular plane is a P-51B, as indicated by the "razorback" canopy and the replacement of the Allison engine with the more powerful Rolls-Royce engine that made the P-51 the rock star of WWII fighters. Less than 2,000 B models were built, The far more common version (8,000+), the P-51D, has a bubble canopy and the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin.

To see an actual P-51B is a rare treat indeed. This one, the Old Crow, is owned by Jack Roush.

I had always thought the thing mounted behind where the pilot's head would be was a cushion. It is, of a sort, but is also a first aid kit. The rear view mirror is a nice touch - the D models didn't have them.

This B-25 Mitchell is a permanent resident at Urbana, but it is usually hangared in with the B-17 that's being restored/rebuilt. I was nice to see it out in the sun. 

It was even better to see them start the engines. I suspect that it been awhile...

This A-26 (I think) has been on the going-to-be-restored list for as long as I can remember.

At this point, I figured the afternoon had more than made up for the loss of the morning, but this turned out to be the Myday that kept on giving.

I had no sooner gotten home when I answered the phone to find that The Judge wanted to return the carburetor balancing gauges I had loaned him a week ago, and he was going to deliver the gauges in his newest car. The Judge (which I nicknamed him primarily because, and this is probably obvious, he is one) has an RV-12 that he bought already flying, so he hasn't had time to gather up the unique tools required for a Rotax 912. As such, I've been helping out when and where I can.

This is the car he arrived in - a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

He asked if I wanted to drive.

Not at all surprisingly, I was.

I had occasion to think my undeserved reputation of being an, uh, enthusiastic driver had reached his ears at some point. He was holding on for dear life and I hadn't even gotten it out of Park yet.

I live on the very edge of town, so it's not too hard to find some lightly patrolled roads to use to get the feel for a 460 hp car.  So what did I find? Well, as I told The Judge, "I never really wanted a Corvette.... until ten minutes ago."  The power is immense, immediate, and invigorating, while the handling belies the 3,300 lb. weight. It does 0 - 60 in 3.8 seconds, while my Mercedes can only manage around six seconds at a nearly identical curb weight.  The cost is roughly the same at "only" the low- to mid-50's, although either can be optioned up to even more stratospheric levels.  It sounds expensive, but I believe this Stingray can be fairly compared to cars like Ferraris that cost four to five times as much, assuming you can get the Ferrari dealers to deign to sell you one.

Even at that, it's cheaper than a T-34.

Needless to say, I had quite the grin when we finally got back to my driveway.

All in all, I ended the Myday that had sputtered reluctantly to a start with a very over-achieving afternoon!

Note: all photos and video was taken with an iPhone 6.  I think they look great, unless I try to crop too tight. It's making me wonder if I need to carry around the Lumix anymore.

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