Sunday, October 28, 2007

Put-in-Bay after the tourists are gone

Late Fall, and the recipe is usually for dreary, cloudy, windy days or bright, sunny, windy days. Today we got two out of three: bright and sunny, but not much wind. Brave Sir Hogarth was clamoring to get out there and fertilize his little patch of lawn fairly early this morning, but the reward for being the guy to put him out was this promise of a great flying day:

Click on the picture for a larger view, and you can still see the moon high in the western sky:

The forecast had predicted this very thing, and against all odds it actually turned out to be right. Just in case the unthinkable occurred and we really did get the weather that was promised, I had checked in with Co-pilot Rick to see if he was interested in sharing a hop to Urbana for watery coffee and a filling breakfast. After setting that up, I ran the numbers for a follow-on trip up to Put-in-Bay, just in case he was amenable to a trip up there.

We had agreed on an 0830 go time, and the ambient temps at 0800 were best described as brisk gusting frigid, so I bundled up in a long sleeve T-shirt, the very comfy Ohio Valley RVAtors hoody sweatshirt, and an Ohio State jacket that would not only keep me warm but celebrate the decisive victory over Joe Pa's Nittany Lions Saturday night. Gloves and a hat completed the ensemble.

I hadn't had the plane in the air since I flew it out to MadCo for gas nearly three weeks ago, so a pretty detailed pre-flight was in order. That completed, the equally garbed co-pilot and I struggled to fit our bulked up selves into the tight confines of Papa. Chilly, it was, and anxious we were to get the canopy down. I was a little concerned that I might not be able to get him started, but yet again that consideration was mooted by a three-blade start. I just love having primer tubes going to all four cylinders!

Engine cranked and running, radios and avionics juiced up and ready for my commands, and the canopy starting to fog up: it was time to get rolling!

Me: "Bolton Ground, Experimental four six six papa golf, T hangars, ready to taxi."

Tower, apparently poised at the mike just awaiting my call: "Experimental four six six papa golf, altimeter three-zero-five-two, winds calm, cleared to taxi to runway two two."

Me: Add a bit of throttle, start to roll.

Co-pilot Rick: "Aren't you going to close the hangar door?"

Me: "[expletive deleted]"

Me: "Bolton Ground, six papa golf, cancel that, we're going to need a couple of minutes."

Tower: "Roger, let me know when you're ready to go."

Me: Grumble, grumble, shut everything down, grumble, unbuckle, open canopy, grumble, go close hangar door. Wiggle back in. Wrench every muscle in my neck and back getting strapped in again. Get everything started again.

Me: "Bolton Ground, six papa golf, even more ready to taxi."

Sigh. Sometimes being out of practice exhibits itself in the most embarrassing ways!

The takeoff went well, though. The lack of wind makes it pretty easy, as do the fancy new flying shoes. There's always a potential fly in the ointment, though. When it's cold and calm like this, there's always a good chance for ground fog in the low lying areas. Sure enough, just off of Bolton we could see fog over the rivers and small valleys:

If you click on this one for the larger view, you can see a hot air balloon down there just over the trees:

The fog is scenic as all get-out, of course, but experience has taught me that it will nearly always be the case that there is fog at the destination, no matter where it is that I'm going. Sure enough, as we approached Grimes/Urbana I heard a Luscombe in the pattern. A Cessna called a few miles west, intending to follow the Luscombe in. The Luscombe pilot said something about having "to keep it in tight," and I was afraid that might be an allusion to reduced visibility at the airport. I had no idea:

Even at the 45 mph landing speed of a Luscombe, I can't believe he landed in that. Really, their coffee is horrible, and really not worth the risk. One of the traps I've read about in the flying mags is that you might be able to see down through a thin layer of fog, but you probably won't be able to see through it when you're in it and looking through it horizontally. You end up blind in the flare, and that's not a good situation in an RV, particularly on your first landing in three weeks. We gave Urbana a miss, and diverted to P-i-B.

It's normally only a 40 minute ride up there from Urbana, but we had a headwind on the way up that held us down to 137 knots. Still, 45 minutes is a bargain. It was severe clear up on the lake, so there would be no problem with the landing, at least with regards to visibility:

I opted to land on runway 3, which faces northeast, for a number of reasons. First, the approach to the opposite direction (runway 21) requires flying over a bunch of trees, and their proximity to the end of the runway means you lose access to about one-third of the overall runway length. Second, continuing north past the airport and coming back in a right downwind gives the co-pilot a great opportunity to take pictures of the town and the Perry monument. Third, the headwind from the north that had cost us 6 or 7 knots on the way up should be a headwind on landing, which would keep our ground speed slow while approaching the relatively short runway.

That plan almost worked. The only thing that didn't go according to plan was that for some reason that I still cannot fathom, we ended up with a tailwind on landing. We had a lot of gusty breeze and an inconvenient area of lift on short final that resulted in a little more speed in the flare that I would have hoped for, and the small tailwind exacerbated all of that. We got Papa stopped on the runway ok, but I wasn't keen on using any additional bursts of power to smooth out the bumps that are the normal side effect of a three week layoff. In other words, it was a pretty firm arrival, albeit safe.

This could be the textbook photo for displaced thresholds:

Landing photos by Co-pilot Rick, since I was too busy.

You can see the dotted-line pattern that we flew on this picture of the GPS that I took at the end of the rollout on the runway:

I paid the $10 landing fee (used to be $8, but even at $10 much cheaper than the ferry) and we walked the mile to town. There's a $1 bus that seems to always be going in the direction opposite to my needs, and there are taxis that will take you anywhere on the island for $2.50 per rider, but it was a nice day for a walk and I can use the exercise: breakfast at the Golden Corral yesterday (I do what I call the 'Meat Medley' when I breakfast at buffets: ham, sausage links, sausage patties, polish sausage, bacon, corned beef hash, chipped beef, and a slice of bacon quiche) needed to be worked off.

Just outside of town, they have a nifty little hardware store:

I'm a coffee addict, which means that if I miss my morning vig to the Columbian Coffee Gang Lord, Juan Valdez, he sends his goons to give me a massive headache. Mission One, then, was to find a restaurant that hadn't closed for the season yet. We found one, but there was to be no meat medley. The list of things that they were out of was longer than the list of things that they still had. Sausage gravy on top of hash browns was good enough for me, especially considering that their coffee was very hot and very good. The waitress was a real cutey too, not that I notice things like that.

After getting my blood caffeine levels back to normal, we took a walk along the dock area:

I knew this guy would fly away if I tried to get too close. He gave me plenty of warning as he got increasingly skittish, so I was able to at least get this:

These guys I don't understand at all. Usually you can't chase them away with a shotgun and a "Hillary for President" poster, but today they were very anti-social:

I like pictures of old gears. I can't explain why, though:

These two were alert and on duty, but I have to confess to feeling a distinct lack of intimidation, despite their best efforts:

This is a very good place for seafood, and I highly recommend the lobster bisque. When they're open, that is, which they weren't:

Walking back down the waterfront takes you to the Perry Peace Memorial, which commemorates a naval battle in the War of 1812, I believe:

The monument has a fence around it now, and I didn't know why. I was unaware of this until I looked it up on Wiki:

The Memorial had been closed for most of the summer of 2006 after a 500-pound piece of granite broke off of the southeast face of the observation deck, falling 315 feet and leaving a crater in the plaza in June. No one was injured. Following a structural assessment that deemed it safe for visitors, the memorial reopened on August 26, 2006, with a fence surrounding it. A comprehensive study is planned and the results will be used to determine what repairs are necessary and how much the work will cost.

I was wondering if I'd be able to get this picture to turn out well. It's hard to shoot into the sun:

The ride home was faster at 160 knots, which of course was indicative of winds from the north. I still can't figure out how I got a tailwind landing to the north. Geez. It was a bit bumpier than I had expected - it wasn't very windy and the sun didn't seem hot enough to be generating a lot of thermals. It was a quick ride - right around 48 minutes. The scenery was nice, and there were some big puffy clouds a thousand feet or so above us to give us a sense of speed:

I snapped a shot of downtown Columbus as we went by:

The landing back at Bolton wasn't horrible, but it wasn't very good either. The winds were out of the north at 6 knots, which agrees mathematically with the cruise speed I saw on the GPS. Still, how did I end up with a tailwind on runway 3 at Put-in-Bay??

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What? Passing on a Harbor Freight trip?

The plans for the kayak suggest using a router with a 3/8" round down bit to make a nice, curved edge on the inside of the coaming. The router is an intriguing tool, primarily because I haven't got one. You can do all kinds of neat things with a router, but they aren't the neat kind of things that I commonly do. Still... an opportunity for a new power tool... well, it's nasty and rainy out, so I'll pass.

Instead, I grabbed one of the three rasps that came in the $2.49 set that I bought at HF to cut a notch in the side of the hull by the hatch covers. The notch is a half-circle that lets me get a finger under the edge of the flush hatch covers to remove them. I needed a half round rasp, but using half of the full round rasp that came in the set was mathematically equivalent. For the coaming edge, I used the flat rasp. It makes a very rough cut and a very annoying sound (one could almost describe it as 'raspy,' if one was willing to make such a gawdawful pun), but it cut away the wood more quickly than the trip to HF would have taken.

Going back over the edge with 100 grit sandpaper smoothed it down nicely. Now I have to cover it up with fiberglass cloth and epoxy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Flying? Nope, not me.

Here's this morning's forecast:

8am EDT (12Z): wind 150° at 5 knots, visibility greater than 6 miles, sky clear, wind shear from surface to 2,000 feet AGL: at 2,000 feet, wind 220° at 40 knots

10:00am EDT (1400Z): wind 180° at 12 knots gusting to 20 knots, visibility greater than 6 miles, sky clear

And the bad news is, this has the best that it's been for the last five days, which as it turns out, were vacation days. Now, 12 gusting 20 is getting pretty close to something I'd consider, but this is the only day of the 5 that is spoken for by the family. No problem that, mind you; a good time will be had my all as we celebrate my father-in-law's 90th birthday in grand style:

Dr. Donald E. McGinnis, Director of Bands Emeritus and cherished OSU Faculty Member from 1941-1981, will be honored with a special 90th birthday celebration by the OSU School of Music. The celebration will feature a performance by the OSU Wind Symphony and distinguished guest artists.

McGinnis taught flute and clarinet at OSU for 38 years, was chairman of the performance division and acting director of the School of Music (1973-74). He helped found the Faculty Woodwind Quintet, and conducted the OSU Concert Band for 27 years. McGinnis has been a guest conductor, soloist and clinician in 45 states and many countries. Beginning in 1941, he was principal clarinetist with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, principal flutist for 10 years and assistant conductor 1974-1982.


3pm Free Concert featuring the OSU Wind Symphony, Russel Mikkelson, conductor
Flute and Clarinet students of Dr. McGinnis to be featured...find music on the osu band website as of September 19, (Rehearsal probably around 1:30 pm the day of the concert)

5pm Reception (cash bar) OSU Faculty Club

6PM Dinner

What could be better? Well, I suppose that parenthetical "cash bar" could be improved upon... just kidding.

Despite the lack of decent flying weather, the kayak project has filled the vacation hours nicely. Frankly, I don't know what I'm going to do when it's done! I enjoy the work, but it's going to run out eventually. I'll miss it.

There is apparently a de rigeur photo required when building a kayak and reaching the point where the hull is fully glassed, and the cockpit coaming is clamped in place:

This is the first, and so far only, step where I didn't completely follow the manual. The coaming is built up of three layers of shaped wood, and the instructions would have had me trying to get all three layers aligned and clamped all at once. I opted to do a layer at a time. The only cost to that was waiting 6 or so hours between layers, but I'm not in any hurry.

Now that the coaming is on, the next step will be to fiberglass it. After that, there are only a few more pieces-parts to install, then it is just a matter of sanding, sanding, sanding, interspersed with occasional applications of varnish. The only thing left to do after that is hope that it floats!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gassed and Glassed

Not too many yard mows left to do this year, and I got one of them out of the way first thing this morning. I've been getting some mowing assistance from Co-pilot Egg, but she had a science assignment that needed done, so I was solo. Papa needed gas, so once the mowing was done we headed over to MadCo to buy a few gallons. I checked the AirNav price, and it looked favorable. I noticed that KUYF was also listed as one of the new 'AirBoss' airports, and was promising a dollar less a gallon. I knew, having had experience with the reality of AirNav, that the guy pumping the gas would have no idea whatsoever about it if I asked him, and before the short story can become long, he didn't. That's normal for AirNav: lots of promise (and promises), but weak on the implementation. They'll get there, though. I love the concept, and I'm hoping that they can smooth out the wrinkles and make it work.

Anticipating that I might do some Advanced Aerial Maneuvering on the short ride between Bolton and Ugly Young Farmers (UYF), I made sure to secure the passenger side belts to avoid them flying around and potentially making a nuisance of themselves, but they had already been secured by the previous user. Man, is he a good co-pilot!

With the relatively high ambient pressure and the light weight of me as the sole human inhabitant of the cockpit, Papa was really feeling his oats and we had a good time cavorting about the sky. I dialed in the UYF unicom as I approached the field, and heard a Twin Comanche heading in from the west. I got behind a Beech Baron in the gas line once, and waited for what seemed like an hour for 100+ gallons to be pumped into his cavernous tanks. Once bitten, twice shy, I keyed-up and asked the Comanche if he too would be buying in large quantities. If so, I wouldn't head in to land quite yet, you see. Well, he said he was only looking for 30 gallons, so in we went.

There wasn't much wind, and that usually gives me a fair shot at a nice landing. I did pretty good, but darned if I didn't miss the first turn-off. Drat.

Once I got back home, it was straight to the Boat Works to get a second coat of epoxy on the top deck glass that I layed on last night. The second coat is a lot easier to apply, but it's also easier to get runs down the sides. I put some making tape in place to try to catch any runs that happened hours later after I'd finished. That's the tricky thing about them: they're slow motion runs. You think you got them all, and the next morning you're surprised to see new ones. I promised an updated picture yesterday, so here it is:

I'll put on a third coat of epoxy tomorrow, which should fill in the rest of the weave.

Here's the view from the driver's seat:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A 50 year history of Formula 1

Just a little movie I put together while Oregon St. was doing everything in their power to keep the Bucks out of the #1 slot by handing the game to Cal. Thankfully for us, the Cal QB didn't want the win either.

Photo Op

Just minutes in the air this morning, just long enough to get a new air-to-air shot:

The rest of the day was spent working on the kayak, despite the wonderful weather outside. I've been delaying putting on the top layer of glass for a few weeks, knowing full well that it was going to be a lengthy, messy job. And it was. I'll add another coat of epoxy to it tomorrow to fill in the weave a bit, then post a picture.

Somewhat disconcertingly, this was the last major application of the fiberglass cloth, and I've been paranoid all along about running out after seeing a builder's blog for the exact same boat complain of coming up short despite being very careful not to waste any. The disconcerting part comes from the fact that I had a ton left over. I can't imagine where I could have missed putting cloth on any parts of the boat. All I can figure is that I've been even more frugal than that other guy was. I guess I'll find out eventually when I put the thing in the water for the first time!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Old school racing

One of the coolest and by far the most economical racing sims I own is rFactor. Out of the box, the tracks and cars that it contains are made-up, rather than being virtual models of real world places and machines. But... it's wide open to third parties to create what are called 'Mods.' These mods, be they tracks or cars, are available as free downloads from the internet. They vary widely in quality, but many are very, very good. They cover all gamuts of racing, too, so there's something for just about everyone. I've even seen (but didn't download) a lawnmower racing mod!

Two new mods hit the virtual shelf this week, and both model mid-50s racing. One is a complete set of Indy cars, while the other is single make of a 1955 Formula One car. New additions to the set will be released one by one as they are completed.

I tried the Indy cars out at a present day rendition of Indianapolis:

I had trouble keeping up. These cars are incredibly difficult to drive, and require a smoothness that the aerodynamically winged cars of today don't. Even trying to make a very slight adjustment in course on the long straights often led to loss of control.

The F1 car was more suited to a nice vintage 1979 Silverstone:

These cars were easier to control, but again were very different in driving style from the winged cars we see today. It took a lot more braking to slow for the turns because there was no downforce to assist in keeping the tires from skidding. The tires themselves had a much smaller contact patch because they were so narrow, so there was far less mechanical grip in the turns.

Man, is this fun!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Racing Sim review is up

Over at

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The ends of the spectrum

There are, of course, as many types of flying as there are fish in the sea. It's neat sometimes to break from your norm and dip your tows in a different pool now and then. Through the miracle of modern communications, I've given rides to people that only live a few miles away, but found me through the videos I put up on YouTube. In a similar situation, I met a guy that is a flight instructor at one of my previous places of employment, NetJets, Inc. He has been building a Wheeler for the last two decades with his father, and as the project nears completion he is look for a follow on project. Having had his fill of working with fiberglass composites, he is strongly considering an RV. Of course, a decision of that import should be well researched, and part of that research should always include flying in one.

That's where I come in. I was in the same boat not too long ago, albeit as I was considering buying one already built and forgoing the pleasure of constructing it myself. I found RVers to be very generous with rides, and swore that I would be as well. So, after a few delays, Mike was able to join me for a ride this evening. As mentioned, he is a flight instructor for the employee flight school over at NetJets, and periodically has to fly a few hours on his own to maintain currency. Nothing says that the takeoff following a practice landing has to occur immediately apparently, so he arrived in high style flying one of the company trainers:

This is a pretty cool benefit of working at The Jet - the employees can take lessons in this plane for around $150/hr. I didn't ask if that includes the CFI or not, but either, way that's a very generous rate.

We hopped into PapaGolf after a quick walk around to familiarize him with the workings of the plane, and headed out west to the practice area. I gave him some stick time so he could get the feel of the controls, and as with most people (including me!) that first fly an RV came away impressed with the light forces and the overall balance of the controls. I have never met anyone that didn't really like the way RVs fly.

I took the opportunity offered by the time flying back to Bolton to make my pre-excuses for what I knew would be a bounced landing. The winds was dead calm, and those are usually greasers, but there's something about the extra weight of a passenger that virtually guarantees a bounce. Part of it is certainly the extra 5 mph that I carry into the flare, and part of it is probably to do with the extra weight. None of that matters, of course, because I wasn't wearing my flying shoes and that is a built in excuse in and of itself. Good thing, too, because I did in fact bounce the landing. Not horribly, but still. You always hope to grease it in when you have a witness along for the ride.

Having enjoyed the ride, Mike offered to reciprocate with a quick ride in the big Cessna. I pretended to ponder the offer for a few moments, but of course there was only one possible answer. I ran back to the hangar to get me camera (don't leave home without it!) while he did a preflight. As an instructor, he's in the habit of flying in the right seat, I suppose, because for some reason he offered the left to me. Again, who am I to turn down an offer like that?

I settled in while Mike pulled out a checklist that appeared to be only a few tenths of an inch thinner that the New York phone book. I was able to squeeze in a few seconds to get a picture of the 2 acre panel arrayed before me in a panorama of stunning complexity. I know what all of those things do, of course, but it was still a lot like snorkeling in a Caribbean ocean: I've seen all of the fish in aquariums before, but never in such large quantities. There were only a few switches he couldn't reach from the south 40, so I flipped them up, down, or sideways on demand.

The honor of starting the big 350 hp Continentals fell to me, and I botched it in my own inimitable style. They'd kick and sputter, and I'd let off the starter button only to watch them sigh to a stop. This went one for as long as Mike was willing to politely watch me struggle, but he eventually had to take over. Stubborn bastards to get going, but once up and running they purred like contented lions.

I reminded myself that I was not flying as "Experimental 466 Papa Golf," and keyed the mike to contact Bolton ground for taxi clearance. That done, I moved the throttles a wee bit forward and was surprised at how easy it was to get the big crate moving. I was equally surprised at how much pedal travel it took to get the nosewheel to turn to follow the yellow taxi line. The RV is very sensitive to the slightest press on the pedals, while the big Cessna apparently had its doubts as to whether or not I really wanted to turn. It took quite a bit on convincing on the matter. The brakes were nice and light, though, and as with most nosewheel planes it turned very easily if differential braking was used.

We finally lumbered out to the end of 22, with the time involved in the slow taxi spent moving Mike's pre-takeoff briefing expeditiously into my right ear and directly out of my left. There was a lot of stuff about directional problems on takeoff being handled my stopping on the runway, unless we were already in the air but with gear still down in which case we'd land back on whatever runway was left, but if the gear was up we'd climb out on one engine.

Or something like that. Frankly, I was so overwhelmed at the idea of taxiing that huge airplane that I finally responded with a briefing of my own: "If anything like that happens, you deal with it." To be honest, I suspect that was his plan all along. It certainly would have been mine had the roles been reversed. Well, now that I reflect on it, they recently had been, hadn't they?

At the end of the runway, we took care of the mag checks and the cycling of the props. These were exactly like I had always done back in my Mooney days, except multiplied by two. I called the tower for takeoff clearance and received same. Lined up on the runway, I started feeding in power. And feeding. And feeding. And feeding. Those throttles seem to go forever! With each inch I added, the pressure of the acceleration increased. RVs get off the runway quickly, but at least in the case of my 150 hp plane, they don't do it with quiet the fury. Nor do they eat up anywhere near as much concrete.

At 85 knots, (it may have been mph, and I probably knew at the time, but I'm not clear on that anymore) I was supposed to gently rotate into the climb attitude. I suppose a 20 pound pull on the yoke can be done gently, but it seemed like a lot of tug to me. In any event, rotate we did and left the runway. Similar to the way I do takeoffs in Papa, I kept the nose down to let the speed build up to the 130 (I'm not providing units - it was either knots or mph) for a cruise climb. We climbed to about 500 feet, and pulled the power back to the top of the green arc on the manifold pressure gauge. Well, actually I just pulled back until Mike told me to stop. With the sun out of the west, I couldn't actually see the green because of the glare.

Lots of switches and stuff got moved around, and at some point I'm pretty sure the wheels got sucked into the wells, but sensory overload was becoming a serious factor for me. I was still flying the plane, but when you consider that my normal post-takeoff clean up requires one switch and one knob be moved, all of this system management was more than I could keep up with. The flying part wasn't much of a challenge, either, so that really isn't much of a crutch to fall back on. With the calm winds and the weight and inherent stability of the airplane, 'flying' it was pretty much a matter of not somehow finding a way to fall out of it.

As we got away from the airport, I tried a few steep turns. There is a whole lot of weight to get moving to roll this airplane, and an equally large amount to get stopped when you want to stop the roll. It also takes a lot more muscle to do it. This trait is exactly what you want in an airplane like this, so I mention it merely as an observation. I think that once you can get your head around all of the cockpit management chores, this would actually be a great airplane to fly in instrument conditions. Assuming you were cool with the 30+ gallons of gas it burns every hour, that is.

That burn rate being what it is, I didn't want to dally around too long and wear out my welcome, so I suggested a return to the airport. Now you'd think a guy that flies in this area all the time, and does it at 150 knots, and makes a lot of turns and such when he does it, would be able to find his way back to his home airport after only a few minutes of flying. You'd be wrong. I was totally disoriented and had only a general idea of where the airport was. Nice big highway under me, but was it 70 or 71? Argh. Do I really want to admit that I'm lost?? Ah, he has the GPS on, and there's TZR right there off to the right. My goodness, how did it get so far away?? I guess that's the difference between 150 knots and 180 knots!

Mike called the tower (because he knew where we were - otherwise I would have) and got approach instructions. I flew a much, much wider pattern than usual. In fact, I flew the 747 pattern that student pilots fly, which normally drives me bonkers when I'm stuck behind them. There was no one else around, though, so I didn't feel too bad about it.

It takes awhile to slow the big plane down, and I re-learned something that I had forgotten: with the constant speed props, you can't sense engine power from the sound. I felt conflicted on when to come down and how far. I didn't want to end up too high, but for some reason I was extremely ground shy. Something about the size of the plane made me reluctant to get it down close to the ground. Once we got aligned with the runway and could see the VASI lights, it became much easier to determine the right glideslope. With the landing gear and flaps down, controlling the speed was pretty easy too.

As we continued down a long final at 120, I asked what we would slow down to for the short approach. What? We keep 120 the whole way? Eeek! The runway was coming at me at a terrifying clip at this point, and Mike's admonition to more or less fly the plane onto the runway sans flare followed the pre-takeoff briefing's path: in one ear, out the other. I heard him, I understood him, my brain agreed with him, but my hands refused to listen. I couldn't not flare. It's just not in my DNA. So, as much as I'd like to say I landed that plane, I think I only accounted for about 30% of the total effort. That said, of the entire experience, I think the landing is the one thing I could adjust too pretty quickly. I'd be nailing it after three or four, I'm sure. Getting used to getting all of that weight slowed down on the runway might take a little longer, though. Wow, does that thing want to keep going!

The taxi back to the ramp was easy. I pulled back into the parking spot like a pro, and Mike undid all of the work of getting the pistons moving with a few deft movements of levers and switches. Everything went quiet except for the residual spinning of the gyros, as we dismounted to the ramp.

At this point, there were only two remaining tasks: having dinner at JPs, and arguing about which of us got more out of our respective dips in each others pool. We agreed to disagree on that, and frankly, what difference does it make? It was a way cool evening.

Update: Feedback on the article from Oshkosh-Buddy Lisa, who spent quite a few hours in this plane:


You can't believe how misty I got reading that. I LOVED that plane. And I flew mostly with Dan who's about the nicest guy you could ever meet. All in all... some of the happiest flying I've ever done. And that thing was so easy to land! Set the power and leave it. Props full forward on short final and when over the numbers chop the power and muscle back the yoke. Always followed by a solid "thunk". Not a bone jarring "uh-oh did I break something?" thunk, but a nice satisfying "here we are" thunk.

Yep, I think that captures the landing behavior pretty nicely.

What a tool!

No, not a metaphorical tool like Urban Meyer and his recent example of just-shy-of-egregiously-bad-sportsmanship in the manner in which he called a last second time out as Auburn was kicking a field goal to close the deal on a well-deserved win, although that's pretty much how I feel about him. No, I mean a real tool.

I've been struggling with what to do about the sloppy areas on the side of the kayak where poorly cut layers of fiberglass cloth caused unsightly ridges and threads in the epoxy coating. I tried smoothing them out with the power sander, but it was too much tool for the job and sanded all the way through to bare wood in seconds. Hand sanding wasn't much better, although it took a second or two longer to achieve the identical undesirable result. The builders manual hinted that a lot of builders have found a carbide scraper to be useful for clearing up those edges. Having never heard of such a tool, I resorted to Google. Easily found, but priced at $11 or so, with $8 shipping.

I thought that I might be able to avoid the shipping charge by finding one at Sears, and that actually worked out. Very well, in fact, because Sears only wanted $3.99 for it. Sweet! It works, too, although the blade dulls very quickly.

Today's job was to remove the masking tape that I used to keep epoxy from dripping down the sides of the hull and running onto the deck. It worked, but in some places the epoxy actually glued the tape to the hull:

The scraper did a great job of removing the pieces of tape that I couldn't pull off:

Larger areas were easier to do with the razor knife:

Once the tape was all off, the hand sander was used to smooth out the edge where the deck layer of glass will overlay it:

It's now ready for the top cover of glass:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Breaking in the flying shoes

It's been a couple of weeks since I've flown, but this extremely odd October weather presented an opportunity to get back in the air. I couldn't get the early start that I prefer, though. I thought it might be a good thing to get Co-pilot Egg involved in some sort of volunteer work now that she is a teenager, but everything I looked at required an adult companion due to her relatively low age. Well, if I'm going to be doing it to, there's only one place to go: we will be volunteering some time at the same humane society where we got Hogarth.

As usual, that kind of thing is easier said than done. While you'd think that dog walking or cat socialization would be things that could be assumed to be second nature to people that, you know, already have a dog and a cat, lawyers (and, to be fair, get-rich-quick litigants) have created a nice little cocoon of cradle-to-grave liability concern for any organization involving more than one person that requires everything to be covered in minute and legally-binding detail. Consider the litany of warnings that make up 90% of the paper that accompanies even the most benign products these days. Today we had to attend an hour long orientation session to prepare us for the hour and a half orientation session that will prepare us for our first exposure to the dangerous and unpredictable domesticated house cat.

After completing that and a couple of honey-do tack-ons ("While you're out, could you....") and grabbing half of a sandwich, it was finally time to start thinking about flying somewhere. I poked around the internet for awhile looking for ideas, and finally came up with Beaver Falls International (KBVI), home of the Air Heritage Museum. I think they have a grand total of seven airplanes, many of which are still being restored. When you think about it in comparison to something like the Air Force Museum an hour's drive away at Wright-Patterson, it doesn't seem like it's really worth an hour's flight, until you break it down to a comparison of the words "drive" and "flight." Then it all becomes obvious why I'd select the seven plane museum over the 400+ airplane museum.

A quick call to Co-pilot Rick (note the recent promotion to Co-pilot, earned today for a reason that we'll get to soon) to see if he was interested in riding along, and it was quickly determined that we'd meet at the airport at 1230 hours. That left ample time to make the rounds between the various web-based flight planning aids that I use, and to print off the briefing materials that I'd carry in the plane. Armed with six pages of data, it was off to the airport!

I had hoped for a non-stop flight to Beaver Falls International, and had also hoped that I wouldn't need to refuel there. I had forgotten that I burned a lot of gas the last time I flew, though, so preflight inspection of the current fuel state axed that plan. Loath to pay the premium price demanded at Bolton, but equally loath to fly in the wrong direction to MadCo where I usually tank up, I took a look at the en route map I had included in my ream of planning materials. Lo and behold, there was Richard Downing Airport (I40) right along the way. Well, I40 is known far and wide as the lowest cost place to buy fuel in the entire state of Ohio, so I decided to take advantage of the fortuitous routing right over it to buy gas at a miserly $4.00 per.

Me, and just about everyone else, as it turned out. Before learning about that, however, I had to get through my first landing using the new flying shoes. It wasn't bad, but we did catch a very unexpected (and I mean VERY unexpected as there was very little wind to contend with all day) gust in the flare that lifted the right wing in an extremely disconcerting manner at an equally extremely disconcerting point in the flare. Well recovered, though, and I give total credit to the shoes.

So, back to the crowd at the airport. Richard Downing Airport was hosting an event:

While we arrived too late to have any chili (and I'm not convinced it would have been a good idea anyway - chili and hot, bumpy flying don't always mix, and low-cost chili is only a bargain if you can keep it down until dinner), we were in plenty of time to wait for what seemed like every single airplane on the airport to be fueled before us. It took well over an hour for us to get fueled up and paid up, and by that time I was beginning to wonder if the museum would still be open. It's a $10 landing fee at Beaver Falls, and it seemed a shame to spend that only to find the seven airplanes locked away for the day.

Luckily, there's nothing preventing ad hoc adjustment to the planned destination, so another quick perusal of the charts was undertaken and a decision arrived at. Ah, a mere 22 miles away was Harry Clever Field (KPHD), just outside of New Philadelphia. I've been there a number of times, and know it to have a very good restaurant right on the field. What with the wonderful Native American Summer (nee Indian Summer, pre-rampant political correctness) weather we're having, it didn't seem to matter very much where we went, as long as we were flying:

With the new destination plugged into the Garmin, it was a short hop up to PHD. Harry Clever is another one of those airports that can at times be horribly difficult to find, even with the Garmin saying "it's right there, you blind fool."

Sure enough, the Garmin was convinced that we were only 1.2 miles away, but all I could see were highways and Wal-Marts. Just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel and clear the area to the east to make another try from a different direction, Passenger Rick caught sight of the airport and pointed me in the right direction. Rick has been in line for promotion to Co-pilot Rick for quite awhile now, particularly as he proved his mettle in the aborted approach to Mansfield during the MERFI debacle. Having pulled the proverbial bacon out of the fire today, I decided that it was time to make it official.

The restaurant at New Philly is known for their $.99 hamburgers (but few know that adding a slice of cheese, as about 99% of people do, raises the price to $3.99) and that was Rick's choice. Just kidding about the cheese, by the way. I had a big basket of some of the best onion rings I've ever had and a smoked sausage sandwich. I'm going to need an FAA ruling on the beer batter onion rings, though. Is there an "8 hours from rings to wings" rule to mirror the "8 hours from bottle to throttle" rule?

On the way out of the restaurant, I was momentarily confused as to how to navigate my way through the chain link fence back to the airplane. Unfortunately, a couple of ladies were sitting out there and witnessed my brief befuddlement. Trying to retain some measure of esteem, I openly wondered "how to get out of here?" so they wouldn't think that I always walk around looking like I just walked out of the Cuckoo's nest.

"Depends on whether you drove in or flew in," was the response.

"Well, I drove in, but I'm thinking of flying out. Looks easy enough." With that, I went through the airplane gate.

On the way back to Bolton, I dialed Appleton VOR into the GPS and decided I'd call Columbus Approach on the way back. I couldn't get high enough to just go over their airspace because of the clouds, but I thought maybe they'd cut a few miles off of the trip around their space if I contacted them and let them vector me around. Sometimes they keep me completely outside their Class C, but sometimes they let me cut down through the alley between CMH and OSU, which not only saves a few miles, but presents the opportunity to take some pictures of local landmarks. It also let's them tell me if there is any traffic to worry about. I'll let the next series of photos show you how that turned out:

Approach called United 496 as traffic, my 2:00, 500' above. He wasn't hard to find! The Co-pilot grabbed a picture as he zoomed by.

The Ohio State University, home of The Buckeyes.

Downtown Columbus.

Having Approach vector me through the Class C rather than going around probably shaved 5 - 10 miles off the trip. That's not that big of a deal, but it's also good practice.

Bolton Tower gave me a straight in approach to 22, which while expedient, seems to always cause me problems. It's not a normal approach for me, and I always struggle to get slowed down in time. I thought I had done pretty good today, but I still nearly went past my planned turn-off on Alpha 3. I'm going to have to re-think the aim point that I've been using - I seem to be landing longer than I usually do lately. Today might have been more a factor of the momentum of the heavier airplane, but still... I shouldn't be needing quite that much braking to make my turn off.

I wonder if it's the shoes...