Saturday, December 31, 2005

Intersting chat with The Builder

One of the attractive, yet intangible benefits of buying N466PG was that the builder lives right here in Ohio. My thinking was that I would be sure to have questions regarding how it was built, and possibly questions as to correct operation and past maintenance issues. As is my wont, I dragged my feet on contacting him until just a couple of days ago when I sat down and wrote a quick letter and sent it to the address on the most recent registration card in the plane. Last night I received a phone call from the builder, and we had a nice chat during which I was able to clear up a few questions that had been nagging at me for awhile.

First, I was curious about his history with F-86 tail number FU-466. There are typically two people that get emotionally bound to a single plane in a squadron: pilots and crew chiefs. My theory had been that he was a pilot, and FU-466 was the plane in the squadron with his name painted on it, and that is indeed the case. He flew the F-86 in the mid-50's, based in Toule, France. Other famous pilots that have been stationed there include Eddie Rickenbacker and Gen. Chuck Yeager.

This allowed me to test another of my pet theories: that RVs are attractive to current and retired fighter pilots because they have similar flying qualities to military fighter planes. His response: "If you want to know what it feels like to fly an F-86, get an RV." Well now, how cool is that?? I HAVE always wondered how those planes felt on the controls. I was 50-50 between them being a little heavier on the controls due to the speed they fly and the immense pressures on the control surfaces, but my alternate theory about that pressure being overcome by boosted controls was the correct one, as it turns out. Of course, there are still significant differences between the two planes, mostly having to do with climb rate and cruise speed.

I also had a few questions about the plane and some of the things I've noticed about it. First, the tires and brakes that I recently replaced were the originals, which indicates that I should be able to get 200 hours out of a set. That's good because that will likely be two years worth of flying. Keep in mind that most of my flights are short, so I do more landings per hour than someone that is taking long trips. Every other year to replace tires and brakes is fine by me.

I also asked about the landing light switch on the instrument panel, which has been intriguing to me since there are no landing lights installed. I'd like to install at least one, but I didn't know if any wiring had been run out inside the wing. It turns out that there is wire run out to each wing tip, so I could install a landing/taxi light on each side. That's the best possible answer since I really like the wig-wag lights, and have found that they greatly increase the visibility of the plane for both other planes and the control tower. It's GOOD to be seen! Now it's just a matter of working up the self confidence to cut a pair of holes into a perfectly good wing!

I had done a little poking around inside the aileron bellcrank inspection hole looking for wire conduits out to the wingtips and noted that the internal wing bays were primered. Not all builders primer all of the parts because it is expensive and time consuming, and since my plane is hangared I could live with it either way, but my experience with the Tampico, which was fully primered and 100% corrosion free after spending years in a coastal, salt water environment, led me to believe that full primer is desireable. I now know for sure that Papa Golf is fully primered, through and through.

I wanted to know a few things about instrument indications I'm seeing in flight. First, I was curious about the ammeter which has never had a steady reading. The needle flickers from 0 to 1 about twice a second. The voltmeter is reading over 14 volts (it would read 12 if the alternator wasn't working) and the battery is always strong, so I have no concerns as to whether the alternator is working or not, but I've always wondered why the indicator won't settle. I've done all the normal things like turning off the stobe lights and transponder (two electrical items that only make periodic demands from the electrical system), but to no effect. Apparently it has always behaved that way, so for this one I'm going with "no harm, no foul."

Another strange indication is more sporadic - I only see it now and then. This one is the fuel pressure reading high. I tried replacing the transducer, and that seemed to clear it up for awhile, but I've seen it starting to creep up again. My theory was that I was having a problem with the ground wire to the indicator, but I couldn't prove it. The symptoms were very familiar to the builder: "I thought I had that fixed." He suggested getting up behind the panel and putting a little pressure on the wires to make sure they are firmly in contact with the indicator. He went through all the trouble of having the fuel pump checked out with a mechanical pressure gauge, and eventually traced the problem to the indicator itself. Again, this is good news! I was pretty sure this was the case, but it's always nice to know for sure, particularly with something as critical as fuel flow to the engine.

Another of my theories was proven true when I asked about the conical engine mount. I had been concerned about the level of vibration from the engine, finding it to be far more than what I was used to from the Tampico and other planes I've flown. I recently noticed that the engine was mounted using a conical mount, rather than the more vibration daming dynafocal model. The only reason I could think of to use a conical would be if the builder came across a bargain priced engine that just happened to be set up for the conical mount, and that is exactly what happened. This one was more of a curiosity satisfier than something I really needed to know.

He had a few questions for me, too. He asked how the King KLN-89b GPS was working out for me, and I told him that I seldom used it since I mounted the Garmin 295 to the canopy glare shield. I told him that I consider this plane day-VFR, and that's why I'm not concerned about the flaky vacuum pump. While the vacuum pump works, it doesn't seem overly trustworthy in that it takes a good burst of power on start-up to get it to work. It's no problem for the kind of flying I do, and it works well enough in the air that I would be able to use it to get myself back out of a cloud should I ever unintentionally get myself into one. Still, I've been curious about it. He told me that he had had similar problems with it, and at one point removed the vacuum pump for repair. The problem turned out to be that for some reason, oil had gotten into the pump. I'm still thinking about how that could have happened, and of course I'm wondering if it has happened again. Something to look at someday when I get further into the A&P program.

There were a few other details back and forth, and I have to say that it was a very satisfying conversation. Of course, I should have written much sooner. One of my questions had to do with how to get matching paint. Well, until a week ago he could have sent me the extra paint he's had lying around for ten years, but he just cleaned out his shop and decided he didn't need it anymore.

I'm looking forward to nicer weather so I can fly out to Mad River and have an in-person visit. That should be fun!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Another GIMP masterpiece

I was thinking about a Pitts painted to look like the Peashooter shown here in previous posts, and go to wondering if I could model it using the GIMP software I use to try out various ideas on the RV.

I started with this picture:

I can't do much about the positioning and style of the stripes (yet), but I was able to do a fairly good job of changing the colors:

It's enough to get an idea, anyway.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I decided I like this one too

I cropped another of the pictures I took at the Air Force Museum yesterday. This one is the prop and engine of the P-26 Peashooter:

It Fits!!

When I sold my 4 seat Tampico in order to buy the RV-6, I pretty much thought I was giving up my dream of someday having a folding bicycle that would fit in the plane. I have been looking at them on the internet for years, finding prices ranging from around $200 for a spindly looking thing with tiny wheels to more than $600 for one that looked like a real bike. I've always thought the Montague bikes looked the best, and had the price been more in range with what I willing to spend, I'd have gotten one.

Sometime earlier this year, Sam's Club started selling the Hummer, a folding mountain bike made by Montague in a promotional arrangement with GM. I've studied it closely every time we've gone to Sam's, noting the high quality of the brakes and shifter stuff. It's light, too, weighing in at 26 pounds. Still, if I remember correctly it was priced at over $300, which was a bargain compared to the normal street price of nearly $800, but still a bit too dear for me. Today, while browsing down the aisle just to get another glance, I noticed that the price was down to $199. Yow! At that price I decided to buy one whether it fits in the plane or not! I've been riding the same cheap Huffy that I bought ten years ago to carry Co-pilot Egg in a baby seat. That activity, by the way, lasted only as long as it took her to realize that she could sit back there and give Daddy wedgies.

Still, I was hoping I could find a way to load the Hummer into the RV. There are just tons of places that I haven't gone to or only go to rarely because there's nothing to do or see within walking distance. Being able to bring a full-size bike along will be fabulous!

And it really is a full-size bike. Here's what it looks like ready to ride:

This is a close-up of the front brake, which I think is indicative of the quality of the various components:

To fold the bake, you remove the front wheel, which only takes a few seconds. Then you use this quick release to release the center joint:

Here it is folded up just before my first attempt to get it in the plane:

I was able to get it in there like that, but it was tough and I worried about scratching the paint or dinging up the fancy gears on the bike. I had a heck of a time getting it back out of there - it was like a barbed fish hook. Once it was in, it wasn't coming back out! I finally managed to get it back out of there, and went ahead and removed the seat, pedals, and rear wheel. None of that was particularly hard to do, and it made it much easier to get everything into the plane. Here it is snuggled into the baggage area:

It's fairly secure back there, but I'm worried that rough air could cause it to fly up and bang against the plexiglass, so I'm going to find a way to hold it in place with a bungee cord, or even better, a tie-down strap. I'm guessing that it will take about 5 minutes to get the bike out of the plane and reassembled. Once I get good at it, I think it will be pretty easy to do. For now, though, it's a bit of trial and error.

I haven't actually ridden the bike yet, so I can't comment on the ride. Maybe tomorrow if this dismal weather clears up enough.


I pulled the bike out of the plane this morning and had it ready to ride in less than 5 minutes. Most of that time was putting the rear wheel back on. If you were just folding it and tossing it in your car/boat, it would take less than a minute for folding and unfolding. It's light, too, so it's easy to move around, although it's bulky and unless you grip it right (or wrap it in a bungee like I've tahen to doing) it will try to unfold at the most inconvenient times.

I tossed it in the back of the Subie and took it home for a ride around the neighborhood. It rides great! There's a little gear-jumping, but I haven't tried to adjust it yet. The rear brake is very effective, and the front disc brake is much gentler. The seat is as comfortable as all bike seats seem to be these days, which is to say it's pretty hard and is going to hurt after a few miles.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Air Force Museum

An incredible bargain, and I just can't get enough of it. Co-pilot Egg and I went out to the Air Force Museum near Dayton today. Open 363 days a year, free admission and parking, and an unbelievable collection of airplanes, missles, and all things Air Force and air history.

I took the new camera to see how it would do in the hostile lighting of the museum. It's darn hard to get a good picture in there - I've been trying for years with little to no success. This time, though, I got a few that I thought were worth sharing.

One goal I had was to get some pictures of F-86 gunports, still thinking I might want to try to decorate the nose of the RV with a nice set of simulated ports. I chuckled when I found them - they have the soot stains that I finally ended up deciding lookes too fake:

That made me chuckle, but this next picture made me laugh out loud! This is a reconaissance version of the F-86 which I've never seen or heard about before. Look at the gun ports:

They're decals!! I got a real kick out of that since that's what I'll be trying to do. I hope I can get them better looking than that, though.

I also saw these four "flight lesson" posters for the first time, and really liked them:

I've always liked the paint job on this P-26 Peashooter. I'd like to paint a plane to look like this someday:

I also got a pretty good shot of the Curtiss P-6E that I thought would make a good paint scheme for a restored Pitts:

This one is a crop that I think turned out pretty well. The original shot was nothing special, but I was fooling around seeing how much detail I could pull out of the 8 megapixels, and like the result:

They had a temporary exhibit going showing the Disney art that was used as nose art. As I was setting up to take a picture, I was approached by a docent who wanted to confirm that I was not a professional photographer. The new camera must have prompted the question since I didn't see any of the other people with cameras being so queried. I told her that I had never been accused of that before, and wondered why it mattered. I never found out. Anyway, this turned out pretty well. It's just about the only one that didn't need a lot of touchup on the computer:

Boy, I really like German engines! This is a Bf109 WWII German fighter:

The weather cleared up on the way back home, so I was even able to get the RV-6 out for a quick flight. I took a friend of the wife's that had never been in a small plabe for a lap of Columbus. The air was glass smooth, and the visibility under clear skies was a good 10 miles. I think he enjoyed the ride - he says he's always thought he might want to learn to fly, and now he's sure of it! That RV grin is sure contagious!

Winds were 170 @ 11 knots, which is a quartering headwind from the left. No problem on takeoff or landing, although the takeoff did have a left swerve when the tailwheel lifted, just like last time I flew. I need to get out and do some stop and goes as soon as I get another chance. Also of note, the winds at 5000' had us doing 185 knots in level cruise, and 120 when we turned around and came back. I think 185 is a new level flight speed record for me. We also reached a bit of an anniversary: the tach went from 199 hours to 200 hours sometime while we were flying.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Another hare-brained scheme

I haven't even had the first session of the first class in the collection of 20+ classes required to earn an FAA Airframe & Powerplant certificate, but I'm already thinking about some of the opportunities that would arise from having it.

I went through a fairly lengthy internal debate about how aviation fits in with my current life, and how I want it to fit in with my future. This actually started a few years ago, and led directly to the swap from a 4-seat 100 knot "store bought" plane to the 2-seat, 150 knot RV-6. Over the years, it had become abundantly apparent that I don't do a lot of point A to point B flying, and when I do, it is often alone. Rather, I like to do day trips, or simply fly around the local area just enjoying the sensation of flight and the incumbent respite from the pressures of dealing with other people. When I really think deeply about what attracts me to flying, it seems to be a combination of mastering a relatively complex machine in a challenging environment with the ability to get myself away from the cloying aspects of city life. My favorite trips seem to be to places where can take a nice, quiet walk away from cars, people, etc.

What does this have to do with the A & P program? Nothing, yet. I'm still working up to that. As part of the self-analysis that led to the airplane swap, I remembered back to my early days of aviation interest, back when I was still a pre-teen. When I think back to the planes that I was truly fascinated with, I remember that most were either homebuilts or classics. I had dreamed of having a plane like the Mitchell U-2, or the even more unattainable RV-4. Even as recently as a decade ago, I wanted an RV-4. Prior to buying the Tampico, I kicked around the idea of buying an already built RV-4, but back then in pre-Google days, I wasn't able to research issues around the insurability and maintainability of already-built Experimentals. Between that and the fact that I still believed I needed more than a 2 seat airplane, I bought the Tampico.

Obviously, post-Google research was enough to demonstrate that there are no real problems with owning an Experimental if you aren't the builder and/or holder of the Repairman's Certificate (which allows the holder to do any type of work on the specific airplane for which it was assigned) and insurance, at least for planes as safe and popular as the Van's series, is easily available. That said, in lieu of the Repairman's Certificate, the owner of an already-built Experimental lives in a bit of a gray area in the regs. This, plus the fact that I live one mile from the school, got me to thinking about getting the A&P.

That, in and of itself, was not enough reason to enter a 3-5 year curriculum. I had to take a step back again and consider where I am in my career, and how I could leverage my interest in all things aviation into some kind of semi-retirement career change over the next 5-10 years. I can't do what I do now for too much longer - the kind of work I do is more of a younger guy's gig, and the positions that it morphs into for aging geeks are pretty unappealing. I'm finding that more and more, my job is to beg other, younger people to do the work that I would prefer to be doing myself. I'm realizing that I'm a hands-on guy, and I can't stand sitting on the sidelines coaching.

I had always thought I would move into something like flight instruction. I finally got serious about doing some analysis on that idea, and didn't like what I found. First, it would take tens of thousands of dollars to get the required ratings. It would also require the ability to spend a solid month at a time away from home/work to get the training at a reputable academy. One completed, my choices would be to either try to go it alone and train in a plane I own, or enter a relationship with an FBO and use their planes. In the former case, insurance would wipe out any potential profit; in the latter, competition from other instructors would drive my hourly rate down to $15-20. There are also currency requirements that have to be met, and I would have to get flight physicals twice as often as I do now. But what really changed my mind was the reaction of the CFI that I used for transition training in the RV to a flight he had scheduled after our lesson one day. To put it simply, he didn't want to do it. He had enjoyed flying in the RV so much, he couldn't bear the idea of spending another 2 hours in a tiny Cessna 152. I made a conscious decision 15 years ago that I didn't want flying to be my "work." There is a difference between flying because you want to and flying because you have to. I saw a lot of this back when I worked for NetJets - a lot of those pilots had the love of flying beaten out of them by 14 hour days, flying for unappreciative passengers, in weather you wouldn't want to be out in at all if you had any choice.

Part of owning the RV that I've enjoyed more than I expected to is working on it. I'm always leery of certain aspects of maintenance, though, for two reasons: first, I don't know as much as I'd like to about maintenance best-practices and standards, and second, there are regulatory issues around some of the things I might need to do that would require either an A&P or a Repairman's Certificate. The path to the Repairman's Certificate is to build your own plane, and even then you are limited to working on only the plane you built. The A&P program would take the same amount of time, and far less dollars, as building a plane, and it also would enable me to work on any airplane. Additionally, there are no currency or medical requirements; I'd be able to work on planes for the rest of my life.

Ok, that's nice but the reality is that there is no shortage of A&Ps, so it's not the case that I could open a shop and make a mint or walk into a job at another shop and get a high hourly wage. Nor would I want to. The day-to-day grind of working for someone else is what I'm hoping to escape.

No, the thing to do would be to specialize. Specifically, I would like to specialize in restoration of classic factory-builts, or classic-like Experimentals. The type of older planes I'm thinking about are typically steel tube fuselage, wood wings, and fabric covering. There is no shortage of fabric covered planes out there that could benefit from removing the old covering, fixing whatever problems have been hidden under wraps for years, and replacing the old covering with more modern fabrics and paint. There are also a lot of updates that can be made to the old engine to modernize it with newer, more efficient and reliable components.

This is all well and good, but it seems to me that book learning is only going to get me so far. Here's where the hare-brained idea comes in. I'm thinking that some time after the first year or so of A&P classes, I want to find a fixer-upper that could serve as my own on-going lab exercise, and hopefully at some point, also serve as a resume of sorts to convince other owners that I'm the guy they're looking for to update/restore their plane.

I've kicked around quite a few ideas as to what type of plane I'd be looking for, where I would be able to store it/work on it, and how much budget I should put into it. For now, the leading candidate is a Pitt's S1C. The S1C was a very early model of the venerable Pitts biplane line that went on to dominate international aerobatics competition before the highly muscular monoplanes came along and changed the nature of aerobatic competition. The S1C is extremely simple compared to the later evolutions, and by definition is an Experimental. As an Experimental, I could work on it before I complete the A&P program.

It is also quite small, and dissassembled should fit easily into the same hangar as the RV. It's construction is very simple and straightforward, basically being nothing more than wood and steel tube covered with fabric. Thousands were built, and many of those are gathering dust in the back of a hangar somewhere.

I would be looking for an unmolested plane; in other words, one that had not undergone a plethora of possibly ill-thought modifications. I wouldn't be looking for an absolute basket case, though. The best bet would be a plane that has been flying, but simply worn out the covering and the engine. I would estimate a plane like that would cost between $5-10k. Fabric and paint would cost $3-$4,000 to do it really well, and the engine could be overhauled for under $10k if I did the work myself. I have no idea what the resulting restored plane would bring on the market, but I'm also not sure I'd want to sell it. The Pitts is another of the planes I've dreamed about for most of my life. Fully assembled, it's possible that it might fit in the hangar with the RV. Of course, all of this is a few years down the road at least, so for now I'm just worried about whether I will have enough room in the hangar to work on it.

Interestingly, I was browsing to try to get a feel for the feasibility of this idea when I came across an ad very similar to what I've been thinking. The ad was run by a local guy, just graduated from Columbus State A&P program, looking for a $5,000 project that he could restore and sell. I dropped him an email to compare notes and goals. His idea is to rebuild the plane and log the hours he spends on it to further his pursuit of the IA authorization. The IA is required to be able to sign-off on major maintenance items. It's kind of a post-graduate program for A&Ps. This, to some degee, served to validate my idea, albeit with a somewhat different goal in mind.

Winter: not much else to do other than come up with schemes like this.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


We finally got enough warm weather to melt the ice dam that has been blocking my hangar entrance for weeks now. I was able to get out to the practice area west of Bolton for about a half hour this morning - just long enough to heat the oil and charge the battery. Even after a couple of weeks of bitter cold weather, I still had a strong battery, and with two shots of prime the engine started on the second blade. This is soooo much better than what the Tampico was like in the winter. I also ended up turning off the heat in the RV this morning because I was too hot; that never happened in the frigid Tampico.

The fields are all still covered with snow/ice, and small Lake Madison looks like it's still frozen:

Having fun, though:

The apron in front of the hangar was still pretty icy, so taxiing out was a bit more challenging that usual when I hot ice patches and the tailwheel refused to provide assistance. Byt the time I got back, though, it was mostly melted. I had been worried that I wouldn't be able to push the plane back into the hangar if the ice hadn't melted, and there were a couple of icy places on the pavement that required me to push on a different part of the plane that usual just to get better footing.

Takeoff was a little shabby at first, but the landing was fine. I find it interesting that a technique that I've been practicing on the Microsoft flight simulator on my computer actually worked when I tried it in the RV today. Practicing on the computer seems to have helped me with one type of the different bouncing problems I have on landing, although it's probably too soon to tell for sure.

I have the week off between Xmas and New Years, so hopefully the nice weather will continue and I can get a longer flight in.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I Hate Winter!

I sure wish this crap would melt. It's been weeks...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The soot looks kinda dumb

Here it is without the soot:

This is what I meant by 3D gun ports

A better stripe?

I'd have to find a way of drawing more 3D looking gun ports, and the stars would have to be bigger.

Still noodling nose art

I haven't had any response to my information requests re: getting a vinyl decal made from the pirate picture, so I'm still considering alternatives for the overly bland nose on the RV.

I thought of trying to head in the direction of adding more F-86 like details. Here's a picture of an F-86 I took while I was up at Oshkosh:

I spent a few hours hacking around in Gimp and came up with this:

Pardon my poor artistic skills, please. The elllipses are supposed to look like the machine gun ports on the actual Sabre. I had thought I'd like to just paint the NACA ducts black and just have one simulated port, but that didn't look right, so I added the blacks ellipses. I don't like the location, though. I think I'd move them closer to the front of the plane. The black airbrush effect behind them is intended to simulate gun smoke stains. I saved them on top of the only image I had with the new red stripe added, so it's too late to move them without having to re-draw the red stripe. You'll just have to imagine it. The stripe may be exactly the right choice as neither Co-pilot Egg or her mother even noticed it at first. I think that means it looks "right," although I think if needs to move towards the back by a few inches.

Two Reviews

I'll now provide two reviews concerning items mentioned in the Breakfast Flight post immediately below.

First, the new Harry Potter movie:

Best Potter movie yet! Back when we were reading the books the day they came out, there was a discernable difference in tone when the fourth book came out. In fact, one of the more amusing memories of it was when a former neighbor came to our door to warn us that it was much darker than the previous three, and as one of the Hogwart's students gets killed, we might not want to let Co-pilot Egg read it. I found that amusing since Co-pilot Egg has always had an extremely good ability to separate reality from fiction, and had in fact already seen Scar through Mufasa over a cliff to his death countless times without any obvious damage to her psyche.

The movie follows the book pretty faithfully, particularly in that even down to the lighting, sets, and overall tone, Hogwarts is no longer a fun, joyful place. War clouds are looming, and the kids are dealing with ever greater and more dangerous events, including dealing with the opposite sex. In tone, this movie is more like the Lord of the Ring movies than the previous Potter movies. The special effects are, ase usual, spectacular. Nothing makes me want a flying broom more than watching a Harry Potter movie does!

I also wanted to mention how well the heater worked in the RV yesterday. It was 20 degrees or below at altitude, and 24 on the ground. Because an airplane engine is typically air-cooled, it doesn't have the hot radiator water coming through the firewall and into a heater coil like you have in a car. Rather, it has a cuff strapped onto an exhaust pipe, and provides heat by blowing air across the exhaust pipe and into the cockpit. This makes two very large differences between a car heater and the airplane heater.

First, since you're pushing air across the exhaust and from there straight into the cockpit, you have to be very sure that you don't have any exhaust leaks. If you did, there would be a very real chance of filling the cabin with carbon monoxide. That's a bad thing. I mitigate that risk through periodic inspection of the exhaust pipe, and the installation of a throw-away CO detector.

The hose on the right is incoming air, and the one on the left delivers toasty warm, albeit possibly toxic, air to the cockpit. At least that's the way I remember the hoses being configured - I'm going to take a closer look next time the cowls are off.

The second difference is, and I'm going to invent a phrase here, is in the thermal inertia. The dry air heat from the exhaust is much "lighter" than the heated water type of heater in that it warms up far more quickly, but cools off equally fast. As you can imagine, the exhaust pipe gets warm almost immediately after starting the engine, and the faster the engine is running, the hotter it gets. As you pull the throttle back for descent, though, the pipe cools quickly and the heat drops off. Still, there was plenty of heat and I don't think I'll wear the big, bulky bomber jacket next time. Probably the best thing to wear to get a good compromise between thermal protection while prepping the plane for flight and not being too bulky in the cockpit would be my Carhartt-clone overalls that I use for snow removal jobs and letting Hogarth's inner Husky enjoy romping in the snow.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Breakfast Flight

The forecast for the weekend was for "good enough" early in the day, degrading to "oh crap, I don't even want to drive" throughout Saturday. I really wanted to get some flying in since it's been a few weeks, and that kind of lay-off isn't good for the plane or for the pilot. The forecast for degrading weather also triggered a promise to Co-pilot Egg that we'd go to the new Harry Potter movie on the next cruddy day, so an early morning breakfast mission to Urbana-Grimes seemed a great idea for getting some flying in early.

Co-pilot Egg was saddled with a ton of homework that she had to have done as a precondition to the HP movie, so I asked Rick if he'd like to ride along. Surprisingly he agreed, apparently thinking that by now my landings would have improved. That worked out well because this was my first chance to get into the air with my new camera and he surely wouldn't decline my request to drive the plane for awhile.

By the way, here's how the new cowl hinge pins look:

It really isn't as clean looking as it was, but getting rid of the dread I used to feel when I had to take the cowls off made it worth the price.

I plugged in the pre-heater last week when I saw we were going to get prolonged cold weather, so the engine cranked right up. It started on the first blade, which is actually half a rotation better than usual. Man, I LOVE a 200 hour engine! I also immediately noticed that I've gained another inch in height. I know that's hard to believe, but I was back to bumping my head on the canopy again. I was wearing a pretty bulky coat (it was only 24 deg. out, after all, and I didn't know how well the heat worked in the plane when it's that cold), so that may have been the reason, I suppose. Anyway, it reminded me that I really want to do something about the seat cushions. They're beautifully made, but they're just too darned over-stuffed for me. I don't want to spend $800 to have a set made, either. It seems to me that it would be pretty easy to cut out the foam pieces I need to make the seat, but I'd have zero idea as to how to make the fabric covering. I suppose I could just take the cushions to an upholstery shop for an estimate and see if it comes in below $800 or not.

Once we got to a decent altitude, I asked Rick to drive for awhile while I played with the new camera. A lot of my shots are one-handed hail mary's, so even though I could use both hands I left the camera in the full Auto mode and took a couple of quick shots out the window.

You can see from the lighting that the sun was rising behind us, and you can almost feel the bite of the cold air when you see the white frost tint on the fields. Also of note is the airspeed, which is indicating just shy of 150 mph, with the engine practically loafing at 2250 rpm:

Off to the south you can see the remnants of yesterday's bluer skies:

Now that I have 8 megapixels, I'd thought I'd see what I can get out of a really tight crop:

While eating breakfast, I decided to humor my fetish for pictures of my plane taken though interior windows:

I'm sure there's some deeply rooted psychological reason for why I'm intrigued by that particular framing, but I fear what else I would find if I were to start self-analysis. You never know what's down that slippery slope.

It's been a few weeks since I've flown, so a takeoff and landing quality report might be justified. The departure from Bolton was pretty good, but then again there was very little wind. The landing at Urbana also went well, with just a few of the baby bounces I get if I let it touch down at anything over 60mph. I considered it a good landing. You know, the kind I don't get when Rick has his video camera. The takeoff from Urbana was ok, but I think that's the one where I got a little of the tire chatter I get when there's a crosswind and the plane is trying to convince me that it's ready to fly before I'm convinced that I agree. I just take a quick look down at the airspeed (which used to really screw me up when I did it back in my transition training, but doesn't anymore) at if it's 60mph or more, I'll go ahead and let it fly up into the ground effect cushion. The ground effect is a region of air right over the runway where the air flowing across the bottom of the wing is close enough to runway to add a little more lift. The height of the ground effect is related to the wingspan of the plane. With the relatively stubby wings of the RV, that's a pretty short ground effect, so I have to keep it relatively low to the runway until I get up to at least 70mph. That only takes a couple of seconds, though, so the whole process is hardly noticable. I think I had a few bounces at Madison Co., where stopped to gas up. The takeoff from Madison was noteworthy in that it was a case where the right rudder needed to counteract the torque of the engine was completely negated by the left rudder that would have been needed to resist the right turning tendancy arising from the right crosswind. Purty cool. Landing back at Bolton was pretty bad - it was one of those where for some reason I don't get the throttle fully closed in the flare. Even 100 extra rpm makes a big difference with a light plane like the RV. It usually causes a big bounce, and it did again today.

At least that's the way I remember it. I'm usually concentrating so much during a landing that there's no extra brain capacity left for making notes.