Saturday, August 27, 2005

Tampico Gone!

The ferry pilot was at the plane at 8:30 when I drove by on the way to the hangar to work on Papa Golf. I stopped to see how things were going. He was waiting on another pilot he had asked to fly out to LA with him to show up, and they'd be on their way. It didn't work out that way, though. By 9:00 the weather hadn't improved at all, and actually looked like it would get worse before it would get better. That turned out to be exactly what happened.

They sat around the FBO watching the radar and checking the weather. I worked on the RV and made another trip to Lowes to buy some shelving, a workbench, a bench grinder, and a vise. The workbench is going to take hours to assemble, so I got started on that. At about 4:30 I heard an engine start. and ran down to the end of the hangars to see if it was the Tampico. It was. They took off and headed west at about 4:30.

Now it's just a matter of waiting a few days for the check to show up.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Put-in-Bay, the long way around

The weather was forecast to be pretty nice today, so I decided to burn one of the vacation days I would have spent flying the Tampico to California and fly somewhere with my dad. He'd expressed an interest in going to a waterfront restaurant to have seafood, and I couldn't think of an easier way of satisfying that than a trip back to Put-in-Bay, my third this year.

The morning weather was clear skies and 100 miles visibility, and the forecast for the rest of the day was the same. No significant winds were forecast either, so it looked like the perfect day. The first leg was to MadCo for gas. I had a nice landing there, a chat with the gas guy about RVs, and took off. Another 20 minutes or so of flying got me to Versailles/Darke Co. airport where I had arranged to pick him up. Another good landing there, a few minutes of familiarizing him with how to get in and buckle up, and off we went. It's actually easier to get into the RV-6 than it was the Tampico because the back of the wing sits so low. There's no step to climb up - you can just step onto the back of the wing. The seatbelts are a bit more effort, though, since it's a four belt system, as opposed to the car-like system in the Tampico.

En route to Put-in-Bay, we climbed to 5,500' and found it to be smooth sailing. Visibility was about what you'd expect in August: hazy. It took about 50 minutes to get up there with a cruise speed in the 150s. The airport people reported winds calm and runway 21 preferred, so we descended from cruise directly into a left downwind for 21. I've never landed on 21, and it turns out that I didn't like it. It has a displaced threshold (an area of runway you can use for takeoff, but cannot land on) for the first quarter of the length of an already short-ish runway, with a stand of trees at the end. The landing was very good, considering.

We spent a few hours walking around the island, and went back to the Boardwalk for more of their awesome lobster bisque. This time I went for the large size in the sourdough bread bowl. Yuummmm!

You gonna eat all that bisque?

While walking back to the airport, I noticed a plane sitting on the end of the runway. He just sat there and sat there, and didn't seem to be in any hurry to takeoff. Then I noticed the huge yellow X on the end of the runway. Click! The lightbulb went on over my head and I realized that the runway was closed because the plane sitting on it was skewed off to the side and had pieces laying around it. Sure enough, when we got to the terminal we were told that the runway was closed while the local police, the highway patrol, and who knows who else took statements from the pilot and his passenger. We were also told that the FAA was on the way from Cleveland, but that it would be awhile.

Runway Closed

A couple of other pilots sitting there waiting to leave told us that the plane had taken off, climbed to 100', had some kind of problem and was forced to land. No one was hurt, but the plane had a collapsed landing gear leg. They eventually gave up on the FAA guy showing up anytime soon and took a golf cart out to the stranded plane and dragged it off of the runway so we could leave.

The flight home was a little bumpier than it had been in the morning, but climbing to 6,500' got us out of the bumpy stuff. I had another nice landing back at Darke Co., bought some gas, and headed home. As I entered the pattern back at Bolton, I was cleared to land number two behind a student on a solo flight. I had trouble getting a visual on him, so I kept the plane at pattern altitude longer than I usually do. This left me way high on final, so I came down in a pretty steep descent. This is something the RV is particularly good at, but it seems to always screw up my landing. You guessed it: huge bounce. Just when I thought I had the bouncing problem beat, too. I think when I put my name on the side of the plane, I'm going to go with Pilot: Dave "Tigger" Gamble. Why? Well, because bouncing is what Tiggers do best!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tampico - The Last Dance

Well, the last dance wasn't mine, as it turns out.

Last Thursday, I flew the Tampico up to Ohio State for its two year IFR check. The weather was marginal VFR, which is the FAA's way of saying, "is this trip really necessary?" The clouds were overcast at 1200 ft., so I knew I'd be flying up a a relatively low. but legal, altitude. There were also some nasty looking dark clouds coming up from the southeast. So, hoping to get the plane up there before the weather became unflyable, I rushed to the airport after work. To no avail. It wouldn't start. It wouldn't even crank. Some sort of electrical problem, I surmised. After a half hour of the mechanics fiddling with it, though, I was ready to go. It turned out to simply be a loose connector, so no big deal.

It was a pretty smooth flight, although I did have to fly through a little rain. It's been awhile since I've flown into Don Scott, but everything was right where I left it so I had no trouble finding the shop.

This afternoon I needed to go back up to OSU and bring the plane back to Bolton for its final preparations prior to departure for the left coast. My daughter wanted to ride along - she's been depressed over its sale and wanted a last ride. We stopped by Bolton on the way to OSU to pick up our headsets, and ran into the guy that's going to fly the plane to LA. That was fortuituous since I thought he might like to ride along and get some flying time in before launching off to cross the country. So, I rode right seat. Erika rode in the back and cried most of the way home. It was pretty weird being a passenger after four years of sitting in the left seat, and even more so for it to be my during last time in the plane.

So, some time in the next couple of days the plane will head to LA. I won't be on hand for the departure, so one day soon I'll come home from work and it will be gone, off to see the sights of California.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The right side of the fence

Seven RV's from around central Ohio used Bolton as their meeting point this morning. They needed a spot to go through the group formation preflight briefing before going over to the fly-in/air show at Lancaster, the airport southeast of Columbus and the former home of Papa Golf. I had been planning on flying to Newark to be there by 9:00 to meet up with these guys for breakfast, so having them land at Bolton made that even easier. Amongst those scheduled to arrive was 'Dogg,' the guy that gave me my first-ever RV ride. They were scheduled to arrive at Bolton at 9:00, so there was no point in going to Newark any earlier than that.

The weather was kinda cruddy with only 1.5 miles visibility. I heard them call the tower over my scanner and heard the tower tell them it was IFR. There was a pause while they ingested that, and eventually someone got around to asking for what's called a 'special VFR' clearance. With a special, all you need is 1 mile visibility and remain clear of clouds to legally land VFR. Larger airports won't usually do it, but a smaller airport like Bolton will usually allow it. If I remember correctly, the tower can only approve a request for it, not offer it.

They taxied in and we chatted a bit. I mostly stay out of the way on these things since they need to get their briefing done, and that is a very serious and formal affair. There's no room for distractions or side conversations.


They finished their briefing and were getting ready to head off to the airshow, so Rick and I saddled up for a quick ride to Urbana for breakfast. It was already getting pretty hot and bumpy, so I'm glad I had decided to get some flying in early since it will only get worse this afternoon. I had a crappy landing at Urbana after flaring too high and holding it off too long which resulted in a huge bounce when it finally dropped to the runway, all dutifully recorded on video tape by Rick. After breakfast we stood around the RV talking across the fence to some guys that were interested in homebuilts. They're always impressed when I tell them that the plane cruises at 155 knots on 150 hp, they always tell me how good looking it is. Ahh, music to my ears.

Next stop was Madison Co. for gas. Rick taped another abominable landing there. As long as we were there, I took the opportunity to remove the Tampico For Sale sign from the bulletin board. The winds really started picking up while we were there, so I had a fun takeoff to look forward to as well with a 10 - 12 knot crosswind. It ended up not being horrible, but not being particularly good either.

Back at Bolton, the winds were 9 knots directly down the runway. Most days, having a direct headwind usually makes the landing a bit easier, and today was one those days. It was a very nice and smooth wheel landing, having little to no bounce.

Rick didn't tape that one.

Driving home, I got to thinking about how many fences I had been on the right side of today. I've always been big on being on the right side of the fence, or in other words, being a 'doer' rather than a 'watcher.' I was on the right side of the fence when a group of RVs flew into Bolton this morning, an event rare enough that it prompted a "Cool" from the control tower. I was on the right side of the fence at Urbana, while talking to all of the folks that came over to see the RV. I was even on the right side of the fence at Madison Co. buying gas and petting the airport dog Roscoe.

Friday, August 19, 2005

More Garmin ranting

I sent this to Garmin in reply to the woefully inadequate tech support I received:

Nice try. $250 for you to press the top secret reset code? Thank goodness for the internet, where I was able to find someone willing to take 10 seconds to point out the existence of these apparently secret codes, which surprisingly do not appear anywhere on A simple reset code fixed the problem and saved me from a $250 waste of money. I am forced to believe that this was a deliberate attempt on the part of Garmin to collect repair money for problems they have seen before and know that there is a trivial fix for. What a disgusting way to run a business.

Unfortunately, this experience has completely turned me off from ever buying a Garmin unit again. I will not spend thousands of dollars on equipment that doesn't come with even the remotest attempt at customer support.

I also intend to share this deplorable support experience with anyone that will listen or read the postings I will be putting on internet groups. Other GPS options are emerging on the market - you will quickly lose your market share when people find out that they will get zero support from Garmin unless they are willing to pay $250 for even minimal service.

A very dissatisfied customer,
Dave Gamble

This morning I had this waiting for me in my inbox:

I'm sorry I did not know if full detail what was wrong with your unit yes there is a master rest for that unit which is to hold the quit and the route button and then turn the unit on and then release the buttons. That will reset the unit.

Refraining from criticisms regarding punctuation, I replied thusly:

For future reference, most, if not all, people would prefer to at least try the reset before spending $250 and a couple of weeks sending the unit in. Perhaps Garmin should consider putting the reset codes and the typical symptoms that point to using the reset code on the web site. Otherwise, I guarantee you that people like me that find out through other means about these codes are going to assume that Garmin simply cares more about collecting $250 than it does about helping its customers.

Dave Gamble

I doubt if anything will come of this, of course, but at least one "Aviation Support Specialist" may put forth a wee bit more effort in the future.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Tampico in contract!!

I should be getting a signed contract and a deposit check from FedEx today from a buyer in Los Angeles. He's a student pilot, currently flying a Cessna 150. He's sure going to love that Tampico! I know I'm a biased source, but he's getting a hell of a good deal.

The only fly in the ointment was that he needed the plane delivered to him in Los Angeles, and it looked like I was going to have to fly it out there. I have no objection to flying out west - I've wanted to do it for years. The problem is, I'm very spoiled by the RV-6 now, and the idea of dragging a 100 knot airplane all the way out there doesn't appeal to me anymore. Best case scenario is 17+ hours of flight time. With weather and winds, that could take 3 or 4 days. Precious vacation time would have to be used. Well, I was talking to my mechanic about that, and he popped up with the news that the FBO had just bought a Cessna 172 that's out in LA, and they were going to send a ferry pilot out there to get it. "Why don't you have him take the Tampico out for you?" Great idea!! So, if everything works out, I won't have to deliver the plane after all. That will be a big relief!

In a case of feast or famine, I got a phone call last night from a prospective buyer that I had talked to a couple of weeks ago. At the time, he was unable to secure financing for the amount I wanted for the plane. He said he'd check with other banks. I've heard that many times now, and at this point I simply discount it as a negotiating ploy. I had never actually heard back from one of these guys. Well, this particular one apparently managed to get financing from another source, although he was still almost $1000 below my price. When I told him that he was too late and that I had sold the plane to a buyer that was paying my price and had sent a deposit check, he got a little steamed. He apparently thought I was going to refuse all other potential buyers until such time as he could secure financing. This, to me anyway, is a ludicrous expectation, but it still bothers me that he hung up on me. I don't see what I could have done differently, but I never like having people pissed off at me if I can help it. Oh well, nothing to be done about it, and I'm very, very happy that the Tampico sold, especially to someone I think will take good care of it.

OIl change done, ready to get back to flying!

The quick drain plug didn't come in yet, but I went ahead and finished the oil change anyway. A potential RV builder and a friend of his flew down from Lima to take a look at the plane, and as long as I had those extra hands around I decided to enlist their help in getting the cowls back on. There's a breakfast fly-in coming up on Saturday, and I didn't want to miss it just because the quick drain valve wasn't in yet.

The cowls were a bit of a pain to get back on, but nothing as bad as they were back in March. There are a total of 10 wires that hold the cowls on. Some go in easy, others not so much. The two top wires have demonstrated a consistent desire to back themselves out an inch or so after even the shortest of flights, so I decided to try to fix that while I was replacing the cowls. I looped a couple of pieces of safety wire through one of the end hoops on each side, then twisted it around the ends of the wires to hold them in place.

Once that was all done, I took the potential builder for a quick ride. One of the great things about the RV community is the willingness to spend time and answer questions for people looking to either buy or build an RV. There were a lot of guys that gave me rides and answered questions back when I was first thinking about trading the Tampico for the RV, and it really felt good to continue the tradition.

Here's a snippet from the email I received from the passenger:

When I got home, my wife was on the phone with someone and she must've saw my grin. She told the person on the other line, "Well, it's all over. You should see his face." SWEEET! (So, I took a photo of my RV grin.)

I know the feeling!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Attempted rape by Garmin

I'm a little pissed off right now, although the story has a happy ending.

On Sunday, I flew out to MadCo to buy a case of oil in preparation for the still on-going oil change. Taxiing out for takeoff, I noticed that the Garmin GPS 295 wasn't on. Sure that I had turned it on, I was a little confused, but just went ahead and turned it on again. I clicked to the moving map page, and -click- off it went again. Once I got it home (which I can fortunately find almost blindfolded) I took it out of the plane and tried new batteries, even though the GPS is hooked up to aircraft power. Same problem.

Yesterday I sent an email to Garmin tech support giving explicit details of the symptoms I was seeing. Here's what I got back:

Thank you for contacting GARMIN International.

From what you describe, it would appear that your unit is not operating correctly
(to which I said "DUH!"), and should be returned to the factory for service.

The flat rate of repair for your unit is $250.00, however this would be covered under warranty if it is less than one year from the date of purchase.

Well, that wasn't very helpful. Rather than blindly sending them $250 and the unit for repair, I asked on the Socata owners web site if anyone knew of another repair shop I could try. One of the replies I received was this:


With the unit off, press and hold the OUT+QUIT+NRST buttons. Tap the POWER button once for about .5 - 1 second. (The unit will beep on the release of the power button, but the screen will stay blank.) Continue holding the OUT+QUIT+NRST buttons for about 10 seconds and then release. The unit will beep again and then power on. It should now function properly.

If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Best Regards

Quentin Deck
Product Support Specialist
Garmin International

Hmm, I wonder why I didn't get a response like that! So, I tried the codes, but it didn't work. So I googled something like "Garmin GPS 295 master reset" and found a page that listed quite a number of reset codes, including the Garmin 295. The reset code for the 295 is QUIT+ROUTE+ON. The entire list is here.

Interestingly, the list was not on the web site, nor have I been able to find it there since. Garmin would apparently rather get $250 for 10 seconds of work than provide the codes necessary to reset their product.

Garmin makes a fantastic product. They caught Bendix/King asleep at the wheel a few years ago by developing a product that was far superior to what was available at the time. Pilots were fed up with the arrogant attitude of Bendix/King when it came to sales and support, so willingly flocked to Garmin.

It appears now that Garmin is the new 800 lb gorilla, and is behaving in much the same manner as Bendix/King before them.

Oil Change

I'd been putting it off, but the weather this week is a bit yucky, and I had put 25 hours on the plane in one month, so I thought I had better get busy on the oil change.

I had been putting it off because I remembered what a struggle it was to get the cowls off during the annual condition inspection in March. The cowls on the RV are held onto the plane very differently than they are on the Tampico. Taking the top cowl off of the Tampico is a simple matter of releasing 12 airlock fasteners and lifting it off. The bottom cowl can stay on during an oil change because the quick drain valve can be reached through a cooling outlet in the cowl. The RV cowls are held on with 10 pieces of piano wire. Each piece threads through an interlocked series of 'tubes' on the edges of the pieces to be joined.

I remembered it being very difficult to get the wires out, and even more difficult to get them back in. As it turned out, though, it was very easy to get them out. The difference may come down to the 25 hours of recent flight. The vibration probably keeps them loose; the previous owner hardly flew the plane, so the wires were pretty set in place.

Once the cowls were off, I took a look to see how things were holding up. Other than a broken exhaust hanger, easily fixed, everything looks great. I'm taking the opportunity to replace the oil drain plug with a quick drain valve like the one I had on the Tampico. It won't relieve the burden of having to remove the bottom cowl, but it should remove the hassle of trying to get the drain plug loose. That bugger was really, really tight! Round the edges trying to get it off and you're screwed. Cross thread it when putting it back in and you're royally screwed. So, install the quick drain.

I dread trying to get the cowls back on, but maybe that too will turn out to be a lot easier than last time.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

You can never go home

The Tampico hadn't been flown for a month, and I really hate to let it sit that long. I decided to take it over to MadCo and gas it up.

Weird. It felt like going from a Miata to an SUV. I'm so used to sitting down low in the cockpit and stretching to see over the cowl that sitting up high and having unrestricted forward visibility on the ground was almost luxurious. Engine start felt much different too. The engine is further forward and there is a layer of sound reducing material in the Tampico, whereas with the RV-6 there's nothing between me and the engine but a couple of slices of bare aluminum. It's a completely different feeling. I always thought the Tampico vibrated a lot, but after 20 hours in the RV it felt like sitting on a couch. I've become so accustomed to the noises and movements of the RV that the Tamico felt completely foreign.

The other big difference was after takeoff. With the RV, once the nose comes up during the takeoff roll that's pretty much the last you see of it. Even in climb, it stays out of your way so you can see over it. The Tampico is the opposite. Once you rotate on takeoff, forward visibility is blocked by that big nose until you reach cruise altitude.

The Tamipco, while heavier, has a lower wing loading (weight supported in flight per square foot of wing). This makes it more susceptible to thermal up and down drafts. The RV treats turbulence like sharp speedbumps, while the Tampico gets blown around by them. That makes the Tampico a bit harder to control on a hot summer afternoon, especially considering that its controls are far less responsive than the RVs.

The final thing I noticed was that on final to land, I ended up too high with the engine at idle, thinking I might have to actually slip it down. What happened is that I'm now used to the RV, which drops like a brick at idle throttle and full flaps. In the RV, I carry a relatively high amount of power right into the flare. In the Tampico, it takes far less throttle, and forgetting that caused me to end up way too high on final.

It's a darn nice plane, though. For a store bought.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Landings, again

The weather conditions were great for practicing landings: cloudy so it wouldn't be so hot, and hardly any wind. No wind, no excuses.

None needed. While I still got a kind of chattering bounce while braking, for the most part there were no bounces. I'm still holding full back stick once I get it on the ground, so that might be keeping the mains light and letting them bouce a bit under braking. I thought of that too late - it'll have to wait until the next time to try less back pressure on roll out.

That hour took me over the minimum requirements for carrying passengers, so I took my daughter for a ride later in the afternoon. She really enjoyed it, although I'm going to have to bring a booster cushion for her next time. She gave me a barely passing grade on the landing - good thing I practiced in the morning!

Her favorite feature seemed to be the 12V power adaptor. She thinks she'll be able to plug her portable DVD player into it and watch movies on long trips. I haven't asked her yet how well she thinks she'll be able to hear the movie....

Friday, August 05, 2005

Landings, landings, landings

I didn't talk much about my landings going to and returning from Oshkosh. One of them I simply don't remember - the entire approach and landing process at Oshkosh was so fraught with peril that I don't even remember the actual touch down.

The rest sucked.

I can't put my finger on what exactly I'm doing wrong, but the symptom is obvious and apparent: bounce bounce bounce.

The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow. I think I need to task myself with at least an hours worth of stop & goes. I'm going to try more of a wheel landing style that a full stall 3-point style. I've been trying to hold off on flare until I get the full stall, but that seems to invariably lead to a tailwheel first touchdown and a resulting bouncefest. I'd like to try just getting into a nose high attitude, letting it settle on, then releasing just a smidgen of back stick to put a bit more weight on the wheels. This may not work, of course, but it seems worth a try.

I've tried thinking back to the RV rides I had before I started flying my own, but can't remember anything about the landings other than that they didn't suck like mine. That's more depressing that helpful.

I console myself with the fact that those guys had 100s of hours in their planes - I have 19. And 9 of that 19 were on cross country flights, so there were relatively few landings involved. I think (and hope) that it's just a case of needing practice, practice, practice. Of course, it helps that practice is fun in this case!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Still thinking about nose art


Or, maybe something like this...