Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lessons from an Antique

After a hundred hour in the Chief I had some time to think about what I’ve learned so far. Here, in no particular order, is an incomplete list:

  • Oil changes are easy and non-messy, now that I’ve figured out exactly where to put the catch bucket, and to cover the bucket with a paper towel just in case the oil-covered drain plug slips out of my fingers (don’t ask me how I learned that). I’ve also revived my long-dormant safety-wiring skills.
  • Preflight in a seventy year-old, fabric covered airplane takes on a whole new meaning. First of all, no one else flies it – so if I don’t spot a problem, no one else will. Also, the mix of dissimilar materials means feeling and listening take on a whole new meaning – it’s important to thump the fabric and feel the underside and smell the engine compartment – you can’t always see trouble, but you might hear it or smell it or feel it.
  • There’s a distinct odor of fabric, gas, oil, dirt, and old grass that will signal trouble if it changes.
  • You learn to judge flying wire tension by sound – they’ll make a certain pitch twang when struck with an index finger. Any change in that tone spells trouble. Reach and try to move each tail wire mounting bracket – if it moves, also trouble – lose a wire brace, lose the elevator.
  • Safety is enhanced by a regular sequence of actions. For example, when hand propping, I follow the exact same routine:
Check fuel on, mags off, put gloves on, place chocks in front of both mains, secure tailwheel with stake and rope, check mags off, prime 4 times, walk to front, check airplane can’t move forward, cycle prop through 6 times, walk around strut, check fuel on mags on primer in throttle in ½”, walk to front, throw prop – if starts, walk around strut, sit inside while engine warms at 800-1000RPM, watch oil pressure and temp, once warm, reduce to idle (5-600 RPM), walk to back, loosen tail wheel restraint, walk front, hold onto strut while pulling long rope on chocks to remove from mains, climb aboard, RPM back to 900 or so…
  • A regular pattern helps me stay on task, and when I notice that things are out of order, I stop and think – always a good thing when dealing with a swinging meat cleaver.
  • A lightweight tailwheel airplane is really easy to maneuver back into the hangar once you figure out that a rope around the tailspring will let you pull the airplane exactly where you want it to go.
  • GE Double Life 100w light bulbs and a mechanic's trouble lamp is the best engine pre-heater going. Stack up U-Haul moving blankets on the engine cowling, stuff cut up foam mat in the openings, and the engine will be toasty but not hot the next morning when it’s time to fly.
  • I’ve seen the red bottles and cans of Marvel Mystery Oil in auto sections for years, and always laughed at the idea that a product could have “mystery” in its name and still sell. But I’ve learned that MMO is just about the handiest product made on the planet – I’ve yet to be mauled by a tiger or crushed by an elephant.
  • A low-powered airplane will really force you to understand the effects of density altitude on aerodynamic performance. In more modern trainers, you may see a slight difference in climb gradient and runway length, but hardly enough to really impress upon you the need to account for temperature, humidity, elevation, and winds. I’ve learned it’s no problem to takeoff in the morning with a full 12 gallon fuel tank, but may not work as well on a hot, still afternoon.
  • You don’t need a checklist – just eyeballs. Start at the left and work right: That aileron flaps as expected, and elevator does the uppy-downy thing, door closed, seatbelt on, primer in, carb heat off, mags both, fuel on, oil press/temp green, trim takeoff, door closed, that aileron aileroning.
  • Runup: Hold brakes but make sure there’s room to drift, RPM 1700, mags left, both, right, both, carb heat, oil good, idle – still running? Go.
  • Old taildraggers were not designed for paved runways. The prop is out of the dirt as you taxi around, the grass helps bump the bird upward as it gains flying speed, the grass allows the tires to slide just enough to rescue a landing with drift, and a grass landing – properly done – can make a landing very “cushiony” according to my daughter.
  • Landing on pavement is like root canal –necessary, but not actively sought-after.
  • Flying 500-1000 feet above the ground, you see the ground in a whole new way, still a part of it, yet with a different perspective. Typical GA VFR flight happens several thousand feet above the ground (and should, in very congested areas). But out here where the living is “rural,” I see more gas wells, cows, and trees than houses, so I keep it low and slow, following a river here, a mountain valley there, or the course of some ancient Indian path converted to a lightly traveled road.
  • A good habit on final is to wiggle your feet and feel the rudder move. This ensures you have a foot on each rudder pedal.
  • If your heels are on the floor, you can’t actuate the heel brakes. This is generally good.
  • With this old bird, the instruments are more advice than rules. The altimeter says 2000, and “looks about right from here” is close enough – We’re not flying IFR, so don’t need a “sensitive” altimeter. The airspeed indicator simply what I can hear and feel – getting slow? Noise is reduced, controls get sloppy. Going faster? More noise, responsive controls. Really quiet but responsive controls? Time to land. Probably the only panel gauge that gets a regular look-see is the oil pressure gauge.
  • In a Chief, you lead turns with your feet – contrary to all training. That’s the way it is, so get used to it – just use less when turning left – it already wants to go that way.
  • You don’t need a plan, and you don’t need objectives. Most pilots and aircraft owners are mission-focused. This trait provided the income required to own an airplane. That’s fine, but you don’t need a mission when it’s costing twenty bucks an hour to fly (“fixed costs” like hangar rent and taxes and the rest are annual dues to the club – they don’t count towards flying time). So go to the airport, open the hangar doors, do a leisurely preflight, pull the bird out, prop it, taxi, takeoff and then fly around. Resist the urge to lay out a training schedule – unless, of course, you really want to. But likely you’ll practice turns about a point, coordinated turns, chandelles, wingovers --maybe even a Lazy 8 or two all while you’re just out flying.
  • Mornings are the best times to fly – it’s usually still, cooler, and the sky isn’t too busy or bumpy. Even on days when the forecast warns of winds and rain, you can usually sneak out a bit before the weather wakes up.
  • Late evenings, just before sunset is second-best, though you usually have to share the air with other airplanes in the pattern. Out of the pattern, they’re no longer a factor, since they fly above you.
  • Don't shut the fuel off until you've made the last turn and you can see no one’s blocking your way to your hangar. Shut it off sooner, and you may have to do a hot restart within 100 feet of where you’d be shutting down.
  • Never take a prop from a guy named Lefty
  • The smaller the field, the more welcome you’ll be
  • There actually is a time and place for a ground loop – during an emergency landing in a back yard. Keep this in mind.
  • Most people simply don’t get your affinity for this old, lightweight, under powered antique. This should make you happy. If everyone wanted one prices would go up.
  • As soon as you think you’ve figured out wheel landings, you’ll be proven wrong.
  • As soon as you think you’ve figured out three point landings, you’ll be proven wrong.
  • As soon as you think you’ve figured out landings, you’ll be proven wrong.
  • Only one thing matters on landing – keep it straight. Well that, and don’t stall it in. And don’t hit the taxiway lights on the crossing taxiway. And don’t ground loop. And avoid the storm drain. Otherwise, it’s very simple.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

1940 Aeronca Chief


1940 Aeronca Chief 65-LA

Rebuilt in 1979, covered in Stitts PolyFiber, with Pre-war instruments, no starter or electric.

NOTE: The original Lycoming Serial Number O-145-B2 engine case is no longer airworthy, so the engine will be sold for parts. You will need to provide an engine or you can repair this engine (I will add it to the sale).
Maintenance: Logbooks back to January, 1940. All ADS complied with (there were very few on this airframe/engine). Complete engine dis-assembly, inspection, and replacement of all engine gaskets September 2011. New windscreen, tires, refinished interior and cowling, new custom ACS ignition harness, Tempest Plugs, whip antenna for handheld radio (as good as a panel mount).

This is a 65-LA, not an 11AC (the 11 series has several ADs. The 65-LA has 5, 3 of which don't apply to this airplane. In compliance with other 2).

This airplane qualifies as Light Sport (LSA). It has 275 SMOH, burns 3.8 GPH (100LL/Ethanol-Free MOGAS mix), 85 MPH cruise at 2500 RPM.

It flies straight, performs to book specs, and is the best way to spend a quiet Saturday morning.


Sunday, April 22, 2012


...for abandoning this blog for a few weeks. I've been in the midst of a job change and the Chief has been grounded due to a blown cylinder seal.

I have the parts -- now have to find the A&P and the time.

I've been doing some LSA flight instruction and enjoying it. It's nice to see folks progress from anxious to confident!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Great Idea! (Tie downs)

Found this link on the AOPA Board: http://newlangsyne.com/brl/convention.htm#Tiedowns

Home-made tie downs that are just as secure as any of those sold at a premium price!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


This weekend I stopped by the hangar and started the tedious task or removing the cylinder.
I ordered replacement gaskets ($43 each for the metal gaskets, $45 for the Asbestos center gasket) from Henry at El Reno Air Parts.

I'll try to get back t the hangar and finish the removal job this week...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cylinder gaskets (!)

I planned on flying the Chief early this morning, so I arrived at the airport before 7, did a through preflight, pulled it out, started (eventually -- it took several tries), and taxied out.

Everything sounded fine and runup revealed no issues. I lined up on 10 and held brakes, added full power -- everything good. Release and roll. I was airborne before the first taxiway and climbing strong eastbound. I turned south at about 500' AGL and climbed to 1400 when I sensed a change in tone. There was also an unusual odor -- faint, but different.

I didn't wait for power loss -- I did a 180 and headed back to the airport. There are plenty of open farm fields underneath but a return to the airport would be best.

I maintained full power and started to notice the RPM dropping a bit -- not much, maybe 200-400 RPM. Yet something was definitely wrong. I maintained altitude until two miles out then reduced power, slipped aggressively, lined up alongside 26 on the grass, slipped some more, reduced power to idle, and touched down gently.

At reduced power I could hear a clear miss in one cylinder very similar to the sound when I lost a plug. I taxied back to the hangar, shut off the fuel and switched off mags.

Once I pulled it back in and removed the cowling the problem was all too easy to spot -- the gasket that seals the cylinder head to the base had failed:

Failed #3 Cylinder Gasket (Exhaust blew out this hole)

Two of the nuts that hold down the head (studs come out of the head) were loose. I checked them all about 5 flying hours ago, so I'm not sure if they worked loose in that short a time or...? The hole caused the cylinder to lose all compression. In a barely 65 HP engine the loss of one cylinder is significant. The hot exhaust was also burning up the carb heat SCAT tubing.

Parts ordered and repairs to come...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Morning (3/2/12)

After leaving without the hangar key I finally got settled and headed east. Sunrise is getting early so by 7:30 the sun was up and the air warm. It felt good to push the airplane out and get ready to fly -- it feels like months but my last flight in 24286 was 20 days ago.

Tie down, prime, check controls, rotate prop, mags to left, throttle cracked, throw prop. On second throw she caught and ran strong. Flip mags to both and set idle for 1100 RPM.

After two minutes I reduced power to idle (600 RPM and untied the tail. Back up to 1000 for a minute, then to idle, remove chocks, climb in.

Flight controls free and correct, trim set, taxi to -- where?

Winds aloft were light from the east. The airport was quiet. A takeoff on 10 makes more sense -- downhill, with a wide open field off the departure end. Runup, idle check, one last review, taxi to centerline, hold brakes, apply full power -- good. Release and soon we're flying.

Pitch for 60 and watch the earth shrink below, the engine sounds good and temps and pressures look good. It's a bit noisier than the SportStar but is still familiar. I depart to the south and then west.

The air is smooth and mostly clear, the sky bright with the sun higher than it's been in a while. The engine sounds strong and indicators are as expected. I point the nose west towards the ridge that parallels Route 30 between Lancaster and York.

I do the usual fly-by over Mount Joy, then head south towards the Susquehanna. The River is full after recent rains. I follow it through the ancient gorge by Chickie's Rock, then overfly McGinness Airfield. Back out over the river I decide against flying too low -- Geese, ducks, and gulls are everywhere.

Willow Valley resorts, Willow Street, PA

Main Street, Mount Joy, PA

Mount Joy

New School building under construction south of Mount Joy

Haze over farmland. Winter Wheat adds welcome green to the overwhelming brown palette

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What it Takes (Money)

    • $109 + state and local taxes = $115.54
    • Instructor fee = $48
    • Total = $163.54 per hour dual instruction
      The sport pilot certificate requires a minimum of 20 hours of flight training (15 dual instruction and five supervised solo).
        • 15 * 163.54 = $ 2453.10
        • 5 * 115.54 = $ 577.70
        • Total = $ 3030.18
          That's the cost at minimum time. Figure a more likely total of 30-35 hours (5 more dual, 5 more solo)

          The private pilot certificate requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight training (20 dual instruction and 20 supervised solo). You can earn your private certificate at Adventure in the SportStar.

          Frequent flying pays -- If you fly two or three times a week you’ll earn your certificate in fewer hours than if you fly less often.

          You will need to study for, then pass, the FAA knowledge exam on a dedicated computer terminal and costs $150. Preparation can be done in a formal ground school, through self-study, or self-study supplemented by ground lessons with your instructor.

          The Practical Examination ("checkride") is a two-hour oral exam followed by a one-hour flight test. The examination fee is $300.

          Monday, February 27, 2012

          Historical METAR

          Here's a great resource for pulling up past METARS (in case you forgot and want to add in a logbook entry, for example): http://weather.uwyo.edu/surface/meteogram/

          Sport Pilot Summary

          Here's an excellent resource for people interested in becoming a Sport Pilot (http://www.sportpilot.org)

          A PDF summary: http://www.sportpilot.org/resources/sourcebook.pdf

          SportStar Checkout (part 2)

          Yesterday (Saturday) was no day to be flying LSA:

          KLNS 251553Z 28020G32KT 10SM SCT047 OVC055 04/M06 A2974 RMK AO2 PK WND 27037/1510 SLP074

           But Sunday was forecast to be very nice with steady winds from the west and clear skies. After a morning at church and an early afternoon watching the Pittsburgh Penguins dominate the hapless Columbus Blue Jackets I packed up my headset and drove to to the Lancaster airport.

          Adventure Flight was busy with folks and I slipped in, grabbed the keys, and headed out to preflight. N711EV sat outside in the sun. I pushed it to the fuel truck, added 8 gallons total (premium MOGAS) and we were ready to go.

          Before we started I wanted to review what the book recommended and what John used teaching students. 60 KIAS seems to be the magic number -- best rate is 58, best angle is 53, and target airspeed on final is 60. Easy and matches the Chief (60 MPH).

          "Line up and wait on 31
          Winds were 280@7 and no factor. The climb angle at 60 is steep and precludes straight-ahead sight so I pitched for 70 KIAS. Two up with 1/2 tanks of fuel and we were still climbing out at 1000 FPM.

          Takeoffs are straightforward. I ignored the ASI and just felt for the airplane to get light on its feet and then rotated. It takes a definite pull on the stick or we'd roll along the runway at 80 until it ended. Once the air gets under those wings she lifts off nicely. I have to get used to using flaps on every takeoff, but it won't hurt to release them once rate of climb is established (usually by 50' AGL) and quite frankly doesn't need them to get airborne.

          Simple panel with EFIS and Garmin 496. Trim indicator is on far left side.
          John and I flew the pattern a while as I got used to the best techniques and the airplane's trim. Soon I was touching down gently and using my tailwheel method of pulling back as soon as she touched.

          When our power failed (simulated) I turned towards the runway. we were high but that didn't matter. 15 then 30 degrees of flaps, stable at 57 KIAS, then 50 degrees with the runway made and we touched down just past the numbers -- easy.

          By now I was wearing the airplane  and John climbed out and sent me on my way to get acquainted. Takeoff was even more impressive solo and I headed south in the fading afternoon light. Sky clear I did some steep turns (really steep -- 60-80 degree bank) , slow flight, stalls, and then a chandelle and a steep spiral. She handles very nicely for a trainer -- with no hint of the sluggish roll rate built into the Cessna 150/170/180 series. Control was positive and solid. I played at altitude for about a half hour, then decided to head back before dark.

          A nice touchdown on 31 and back to the roost. I'm going to enjoy teaching in this airplane!

          As of today (Monday, February 26th) I'm on the roster as a resource on the Adventure reservation system.

          Always a great view -- rolling down the runway

          A great day to fly!

          Lancaster glowing in the sunset

          Saturday, February 25, 2012

          What Does it Take?

          When co-workers and other acquaintances learn I fly they are momentarily speechless. The question runs like a parade across the front lobe of their brains: "How do you do that?" and the corollary, "You don't look the type..." (the "type" in mind drawn from movie scripts and various images spliced together over a lifetime)

          Ted Williams was a pilot...
          After a short conversation the distinction between private, recreational flying and airline career becomes clear. About a quarter wistfully say, "I've always wanted to do that..."

          So do I begin the sell or just say, "It's well worth the effort..." and move on?

          As in all things aviation, it depends. While the good folks at AOPA won't like me admitting it, not everyone is able to be a pilot. It takes a certain combination of characteristics to succeed in aviation. The good news is these qualities are fairly well distributed and none are required in heroic proportions.

          So here's my list of qualities that help determine whether someone should start flight training (and whether he/she will succeed as a pilot):

          The aspiring pilot has to be able to acquire and retain knowledge. There will be a knowledge exam, a verbal exam, and the constant need to refer to memorized items while in flight. Flying is one of the few activities in which complete mastery is forever out of reach. The best pilots are able to constantly grade themselves against the high bar of perfection. The only way to know where that bar is is constant increase in knowledge -- what you "know"-- and compare that to what you do.
          • If you can read a book, absorb facts, and relate those facts to other situations you have the ability to acquire, retain, and apply knowledge.

          The person has to be able to acquire and execute a set of motor coordination skills. This means they must be able to react with correct physical responses without prompting or thought before the action (for example, a baseball player can't think "Swing!" and then swing) -- the stroke must be reaction based on sensory perception.
          • If you can safely drive a car and carry on a conversation you likely have all the motor coordination required for ordinary flight.

          The person needs to be able to weigh alternatives, consider impacts, and be able to decide among contradictory and equally painful choices. While a great emphasis is placed on Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) during training, it is simply a refinement of the ability to judge that a person either has or doesn't. People who lack the ability to assess and predict the consequences of their actions can't be expected to do well as Pilot in Command. People who cannot make a decision or constantly backtrack on existing decisions will also have difficulty. Sadly, for many folks flight training is the first activity they've ever engaged in that has absolute "must do's." Some thrive as they adapt to the hard rules of physics. Others continue to apply the "It's not fair"model with disappointing results. (This may be why celebrities come to grief in airplanes -- they've never had to deal with a firm "no"). Flight training can be a great school for those who haven't yet honed the ability to decide or judge between equally compelling alternatives, but it must be understood going in that learning judgement is part of the training curriculum, and often there are multiple correct answers.
          • If you have a history of bad judgement (DUIs, legal and relationship problems, constant money problems) you are not a good candidate for flight training.

          Physical condition
          Here's where the news is surprising for most folks: 20-20 vision, super reflexes, and nerves of steel are not prerequisites! For the private certificate you need to pass a Third Class medical (Class one and two are for vocational flying). The Sport pilot only needs a state driver's license (and no history of failing previous exams). There's plenty more information available in the resources linked below, but the bottom line is that most healthy people can fly. Even people with significant disabilities can fly. Here's one amazing case: Tammy Duckworth
          • If you plan to fly professionally, get a good evaluation by a Physician who understands Flight Physical requirements. It's far better to learn you have something that will prevent you being issued a Class 1 medical before you spend thousands of dollars. If there is an issue you are aware of, seek a respected Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). Find them here. More on the different class medical certificates here.

          Funds (Money)

          Ask any airplane owner "What keeps an airplane in the air?"and the response will be "money." Despite what your uncle told you, flying has never been "cheap." It's always required money to fly -- fuel, maintenance, parts, fees, taxes, instruction, hangars -- all add up. Those of us that own airplanes know it's not "cost effective," but we do it anyway. Flight school have to at least make a pretense of being fiscally responsible, so the charge per hour has to at least cover costs.

          And there are many, many costs.

          Consider that an older but good condition Cessna 152 costs $25,000. If the purchase price was financed, figure $400 for month for payments. If the airplane flies 20 hours per month, $20 per hour goes towards paying for the airplane. Fuel burn will be 4-6 gallons per hour at $5.50 (or more) per gallon for $27.50 per hour with another 2.50 an hour for aviation oil.

          Add in hangar and office rent per month at $15-20 per hour, plus insurance at $3500/year for a flight school airplane which works out to about $15 per hour.

          We still haven't covered the cost of parts or maintenance labor which can range from $60 (change oil) to $20,000 (overhaul engine). Parts for certificated airplanes must be approved (an expensive and bureaucratic process) or owner-produced to the same standards (unlikely for most unless the owner has a fully-equipped machine shop).

          So that's the flight school's costs, but the selling price per hour will need to be competitive with other flight schools in the area (which might be cutting corners on insurance or maintenance in order to be sustain low prices). So the "going local rate" is usually what you'll pay, and these days there's not much available for less than $100 per hour.
          NOTE: There is no requirement that you learn to fly in a rented airplane! In fact you may even save money buying your own airplane for training. There are also flying clubs that permit flight training (though precious few permit primary training as it's very hard on the aircraft). I'll explore those options more fully in another post.

          You also need to pay for instruction. Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) must have commercial certificates and instrument ratings, maintain instructional currency, and fly often enough to demonstrate all maneuvers with skill and recover from student mistakes. Very few CFIs actually fly (and are paid for) 8 hours each day. Most CFIs instruct part time as few people have the means or stamina to live on $12,000 a year for long.

          Don't forget to add the cost of books, flight computers, charts (maps), and tests. You don't have to buy everything and in fact most students buy too much -- your instructor can probably save you several hours worth of flying by limiting your shopping spree.

          Here are the costs at Adventure Flight Training

          But you need to count the cost ahead of time and decide if you are willing --and able -- to foot the bill.
          • Talk to flight schools and get realistic estimates for the total costs and then either save or set aside the needed money to start and continue your training. Nothing delays progress like gaps in training due to insufficient funds.
          • Most Americans with full time professional jobs can fly -- but there may be sacrifices. Bumper sticker often seen at airports:

          Flying takes time. You'll need to study before and after lessons, drive to and from the airport, prepare for the knowledge exam, and schedule around work and other priorities in life. The best progress is made when you schedule a minimum of two lessons a week (I flew at least twice a week when I started and earned my Private Pilot in a little over three months). So be sure you have the "free" time before committing to aviation (reducing television viewing will open up many new hours).
          • Most people have plenty of "free time." The problem is allocation. If you want to fly, dedicate the time required to train consistently and frequently.

          The key factor to success is desire. Flying isn't easy (if it was, everybody would be a pilot). You'll need internal motivation to get through the tough times, the disappointments, and the frustrations. For many successful people flying is the first activity encountered that isn't easily mastered. Even after you "get it," you'll botch a landing, forget a checkpoint, or wonder where that airport is. Every pilot has felt at some point that she's forgotten how to land, how to handle a crosswind, or how she got into this life threatening predicament.

          Yet you'll know you have sufficient desire on that day when it's cold and windy and everyone else is home, you're out practicing crosswind landings. It takes desire to earn the certificate, but some would say it takes even more after the  goal is achieved.

          Many pilots achieve the Private Pilot's Certificate only to leave aviation after giving rides to friends and flying over the house gets old. This is when the new pilot needs to learn how to create her own goals and challenges, and work towards them. This is the only way to stay in aviation over the long haul. Some pilots keep up the challenge by participating in mission-based organizations such as the Civil Air Patrol, Veterans Airlift Command, Animal Rescue Flights, or Angel Flight. Some seek further ratings. All who stay active have desire that see past immediate goals into something deeper -- the will to fly.
          • You have to want this -- you'll lose interest or be unable to persevere when it's tough.

          So that's what you need to fly:
          • Knowledge
          • Skill
          • Judgement
          • Physical ability
          • Money
          • Time
          • Desire
          Many people have learned to fly despite great physical, financial, or other challenges. But a weakness in one area means an extra commitment in another (if you're really not into it bring lots of money. If you will do this no matter what you'll find the money. And so on...)

          One truth is certain -- if you never try, you'll never know.


          Most people new to recreational flying should start with the Sport Pilot program which lets you meet a milestone using lighter, less expensive airplanes that will still provide all the training and good habits needed to fly heavier or certificated airplanes. Nice brochure here.

          The FAA has put together a nice New Pilot's Guide that will answer more detailed questions.

          Thursday, February 23, 2012

          SportStar Checkout

          After a recent bout with flu I recovered enough to do an early morning check ride in the SportStar before I can start giving dual instruction (flying lessons). I met John Calla at Adventure Flight training at 0725.

          The hangar was chilly so we stuffed a hair dryer into the oil access slot and tossed a blanket over the cowling while we completed the preflight and moved airplanes. The day was sunny bright with calm to light winds which promised to pick up by noon to 20 knots.
          N711EV, Evektor SportStar
          Preflight is straightforward, with a few differences required by the low wing and engine. The Rotax 912ULS uses a dry oil sump which means a correct oil reading requires the prop be cycled a few times until a distinct "burp" is heard, indicating oil has been pushed into the sump. This airplane uses motorcycle oil, NGK spark plugs, and 91 or better octane auto gas (ethanol permitted !). This has me mentally calculating the saved few dozen dollars ...

          Other preflight notes:
          • Check the flaps after you drain the sumps or you won't be able to reach the sumps. 
          • The WoodKomp prop wiggles a bit. It's fine.
          • De-lamination of the composite prop is the only grounding issue.
          • It's light and easy to push around - no towbars needed.
          • Prop speed has to exceed 284 RPM to hand start. We won't be hand propping.
          • The tires are standard 6x6 and the gear looks stout. This airplane will handle student arrivals.
          We climbed in one at a time to avoid tipping the airplane back on its tail. The rudder pedals were adjusted for a tall person (I'm 6'1") and I had plenty of leg room! The sports-car style seat was comfortable and the 4-point harness provided security. We dropped the canopy and it quickly fogged up.

          Simple but modern VFR panel. Center display is a Dynon EFIS
          Startup is simple: Brakes APPLIED, Fuel tank to LEFT, Everything OFF, Master ON, Choke ON, fuel pump ON, Throttle IDLE, switch to ON. She started up instantly -- no three or four blades and then catch. It starts faster than my Honda Accord.

          Brakes are high up on the pedals and require positive movement up -- a good thing with students who often ride the brakes. Nosewheel steering is positive and almost too good. More on that later.

          Canopy and view of interior
          Runup is standard. 15 degrees of flaps, steady application of throttle, soon we're rolling. This is the closest to the ground I've ever been while taking off in an airplane. Even the Chief has the seat higher above the ground. It feels a bit like a well-made go cart as it rolls. at 60I lifted the nose (which requires positive pull back -- this is no tailwheel). Once in nose up attitude the airplane suddenly leaps into the air and now we're climbing at 80 MPH and over 1000 FPM. Best rate is 60 MPH but the nose is so high you can't see forward.

          We were climbing fast -- this is outstanding  performance in any GA Single, yet this one only has a 100 HP engine! The visibility is the next "holy cow" moment -- I have never flown in an airplane with this much visibility. It's truly as if you're sitting on top of the airplane as opposed to in the airplane (even though the seating position is most definitely sports car "in").

          I didn't take any in-flight pictures as I was focused on the checkout and John was busy doing the CFI demo. I flew some shallow then steep turns and it was very responsive. The stick is in a natural position and once airflow reaches flight speed remains centered. Pushrods are directly connected between the stick and ailerons, helping  establish immediate feedback between pilot and airplane.

          The trim will take some getting used to -- I've been spoiled with very tactile trim the last couple of years (C205 trim wheel and Chief trim crank, both directly connected to the elevator). Even in the A36 I only used electric trim for "gross" trim and manual trim wheel for fine adjustments. This airplane only has electric so I'll need to get a feel for the range, effort, and  indications (a small display on the left side of the panel, very hard to see from the right side).

          The engine instruments were in front of me (right side of panel) and it still took some adjusting to see RPMs above 4000 (redline is 5800 with the Rotax 912). Nevertheless, it was amazingly quiet. I had my normal David Clark 10-year-old headset, but the overall noise level was far quieter than any other airplane I'd been in.

          We headed south a bit for some slow flight and stalls. Speed control is as basic as it comes: reduce RPM, trim up, add flaps.Flap application imposes a definite pitch forward. This is opposite of most Cessna trainers and is obviously a function of the design (split flaps) and location.We slowed from 90 to 70 to 60, then I pulled the nose up for some 40 KIAS flying -- solid.

          There is no stall horn but so what? With power reduced to idle and the nose picked up a bit the tail buffets enough that I could almost hear the airplane telling me "I'm fixin' to quit flyin.'' I think this is far more effective than a stall horn, which usually provides an uncomfortable background noise to (for some students) and uncomfortable situation. Better the aspiring aviator learn to feel a stall than rely on a gimmick. But it's not my turn to run the FAA.

          A little more slow flight and another power off stall (38 KIAS or so) and then power on (departure) stalls. These are almost silly -- who would ever climb out this steep and let this happen? oh, wait -- lots of folks, as evidenced by the NTSB database.

          Anyway, with full power the airplane felt like it was point straight up. The stall break was definite and it really didn't take much to get the airplane flying again -- we had nosed over enough that it resumed flying on its own. Nice.

          We had limited time so we flew back to Lancaster. I'm a pro on the radio but it's always weird to have someone else with you who is used to prompting students. I smiled to myself, made the calls, and we were given a right base to runway 13. So we wouldn't fly a normal pattern this time which make it a bit difficult to get a handle on the normal approach picture. I still didn't have the trim figured out and speed control was not good. I landed a bit long and with some drift - I chalk that up to a new to me seating position (I need to figure out what my straight guides will be -- edge of nose? tip of spinner? oil access door line? something...).

          It's not an airplane you'll want to land flat and fast -- the nosewheel steering is sensitive and it would be easy to over control.

          We taxied back and shut down. When you switch OFF the whole thing stops, NOW. There is no putt-putt-pffft....

          0.8 in the log and we'll fly one more time so I can get more time in the pattern and get an overall feel for this airplane. It's quite a shift from my LSA Chief, but all in the right direction. If general Aviation is going to survive, it will be because of these airplanes.

          Here's another blog post about the SportStar

          Some other airplanes in the hangar:

          Bristrell SLA

          Grobosh LSA

          Wednesday, February 22, 2012

          Thoughts on Desktop Flight Simulators

          (I'm working on an essay about my checkout in the Evektor SportStar but not quite done. In the meantime, here are some thoughts about desktop flight simulators (Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane, etc):
          • Don't use any desktop flight sim to practice landing, ever. The kinesthetic aural, and visual feedback required for landing are missing and you will learn to rely on the wrong cues. Even if you can transfer the flight sim practice to real world application, you may be suppressing better cues because those you rely on in the sim have "always worked." So Forget it. It won't help and in fact will make you worse.
          • Don't crash. This sounds silly but if you are going to use the sim as a training device you need to train yourself to fly and survive. That means not crashing. It also means not breaking up in-flight (you do have the sim set to full realism, don't you?).
          • Don't fly the Extra 300 if you're going to be learning in a Cessna 152. The excess power in the Extra can get you out of all sorts of trouble.

          I've "flown" MSFS for years (before it was Microsoft and was Bruce Artwick's FSII for the Atari 800) before I learned to fly in 2002 at age 40. I had lots of bad habits (many have already been mentioned) but some good: facility with VOR nav, airport and flight environment, relationship between pitch, power, attitude, and configuration, and more.

          I used MSFS2004 to supplement my IR training. I took the practical with 40.3 hours and passed. I would fly the previous lesson a couple of times and try to duplicate the good and eradicate the bad.

          I dropped MSFS for the Comm and CFI and didn't fly it much except to learn the G430 and G1000. I still use it from time to time to supplement my instrument proficiency, but use a real airplane for currency.

          www.BruceAir.com is the best single source of information on using flight sims to support and augment flight training and currency.

          Thursday, February 16, 2012

          Flying Videos on YouTube

          I posted my one (and only) video up on YouTube last week. My purpose for posting was to make it easier to share with family and friends (and readers of this blog!)

          But while there I did some browsing for flying videos. There are tens of thousands of videos with airplanes, flight, or flying in the description.

          -------------Curmudgeon alert--------------------------

          This is great, but there's a problem -- most are really, really dull. Worse, too many have the poster's favorite music playing with the video. While you may think of Danger Zone while flying your Aeronca Champ down a river, not all of us connect a terrible 1980s movie soundtrack with 65 horsepower flying.

          -----------End of Curmudgeon Rant------------------

          Here are a few neat ones I've come across.

          The B-52 is only a model but what a model!

          Tuesday, February 14, 2012

          Sunday, February 12, 2012

          New CFI at KLNS

          I just signed on as a Part Time Flight Instructor for Adventure Flight Training at the Lancaster Airport (KLNS).

          Adventure uses Light Sport aircraft that are every bit as capable as the typical flight school Cessna 152. These airplanes climb quicker, fly faster, and perform better on 30-40% less fuel (and MOGAS, at that!).

          I'll be scheduling a checkout in the Evektor SportStar EVSS in the next week or so, and then will be scheduling students as time permits.

          Saturday, February 11, 2012

          Friday Morning Flight

          A stunning day with a bit of ground haze. Smooth, still air, clear, blue skies, and a nice early start before the work day!

          Early morning drive east to the airport

          Moon over hangars

          Westbound and climbing

          Lancaster, PA

          Downtown Lancaster

          Mount Joy, PA (looking west)

          The Crest at Elm Tree complex

          Where we live

          Farmland north of Mount Joy

          Snow geese near Palmyra, PA

          Morning haze over Elizabeth, PA

          Heading Southeast

          Lampeter-Strasburg Schools