Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Aw, c'mon New York...

You're not still touchy about that whole 9/11 thing, are ya?

Seriously, though, that took me all of 10 minutes with GIMP. Did they really have to terrorize the entire city with that arrogant and thoughtless stunt??

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The AirPigz Video

This is the video resulting from Saturday's trip to Warsaw (Indiana, not Poland):

AirPigz and Dave Gamble's AarrrrV-6! from AirPigz on Vimeo.

We did that interview unrehearsed and in one take. I think that was beneficial - if I had had too much time to stew about it, I don't think it would have gone as well.

Monday, April 20, 2009

There are two sides to every story

This is the story from the other side of the ride that Papa and I took with Lynda from Girls With Wings:


It's a rare treat for me to see how things looked from the other point-of-view. As they say, a good time was had by all!

I left a comment on Lynda's story:

"Was he laughing at me?"

No, empathizing. The same thing happens to me now and then. I've just learned to recognize the signs - not everyone will confess to how they're feeling for some reason - so I keep an eye on how're they're looking.

One of my life dreams was to fly in a Pitts Special biplane. When I finally got to do it, I had to ask to go back to the airport after only 20 minutes. I felt horrible, but that part is all a distant memory. What I do remember far more clearly is the flight itself, how the airplane felt in my hands, just how uncomfortable 5 negative Gs is, and what an awesome experience it was. Oh, and how hard it is to see out the front of a Pitts, even in the air.

I've been thinking all weekend about what you said as we were flying over my house: I truly am lucky. One of the best aspects of giving rides in an RV is how the wide smiles people wear serve to remind me just how incredibly special it is that we have the freedom to fly the way we do, and how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful machine to do it in.

Maybe we can get a do-over on the Mexican food next time you're in town, or grab some of those ribs at the airport. It's super easy to get me to go to either of those places.

The freedom to fly where and when we want to is truly one of our more precious freedoms. And there are few better ways to do it than sharing the experience in a Van's RV!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Warsaw? That's in Poland, right?

I've mentioned before how the internet has been the vehicle through which I have met many new and interesting people. You may have heard of a new(ish) internet-based social networking phenomenon called Twitter. People that haven't used it (and many that have) profess to not understand what it's used for, editorial cartoonists and stand-up comics mock it, and millions of people are addicted to it. Wikipedia (I have to assume that you already know what that is or we'll be here all night) yet again fulfills its apparent raison d'etre of using a whole lot of words to deliver absolutely no meaningful definition:

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users' updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length which are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (known as followers). Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, allow anybody to access them. Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications.

Yeah, and the Sun is a big burning orb of gas, but why should I care? The definition of what Twitter is is technically correct, but most people will not read that and have any inkling at all what function it provides. Unfortunately, there's no single correct answer to that question. It's similar to a hammer. Sure, you can drive nails with it. But is that to say that using it to crack walnuts is somehow wrong? Of course not!

At the end of the day, Twitter is what you make of it. To me, Twitter is a way to share my incredibly witty and insightful observations of life to an audience that could not care less about them. You know, kind of like a blog but with the added benefit of a 140 character limit that at least precludes my normal long windedness. The thing is, though, that every now and then someone will inexplicably find something I say to be at least minimally interesting and select my Twitter name to 'follow', presumably under the mistaken assumption that I will someday deliver yet another interesting thought. They then show up in a list of people that follow me, and I will usually go take a look at their tweets and see if I am interested in the types of things they say. Tweets can be replied to, and through time there emerges a list of fellow Twitterers that you begin to have conversations with. Through twitter, I have met people like @ou_flyer, @GirlsWithWings, and @AirPigz.

Which (after much ado) brings us to the topic of Warsaw. @AirPigz, whose real name is Martt, maintains what he calls a Blogizine at www.AirPigz.com. It's an apt term describing a web site that is part blog, part magazine. In furtherance of the magazine aspect of AirPigz.com, Martt had invited me to fly to Warsaw, Indiana in order to make a short video about Papa Golf and RV airplanes in general. I pushed that idea onto the stack of destinations waiting for a day that would provide the good flying conditions and bright light that would provide just what was needed for making a good video. As you can see from the Weather-out-the-Window&trade forecast for this morning, we had a strong indication that today might be that day. The worst weather of the day was forecast to be a scattered layer of clouds at 7,000' later in the afternoon. So, with that benign prognostication working in our favor, Co-pilot Rick and I decided to make the trip. Well, to be perfectly honest, I never got a chance to fully explain to Rick why we were going. Like me, for him it was enough just to know that we were going to go flying somewhere - the destination is usually only a secondary concern for either of us. We agreed to an 0830 departure which according my detailed and analytical flight planning equated to a 1000 arrival in Warsaw.

The one in Indiana, not the one in Poland.

We almost made it one time, too. Two things that I had failed to enter into my equations were the headwinds we found lurking in the azure morning sky at our cruising altitude of 6,500' and the fact that I have not yet reinstalled the wheel pants that I removed for the annual inspection. My story is that I'm still monitoring the right brake caliper for fluid leakage, but it's at least equally true that I'm just too darn lazy. With those factors working against us, we ended up with GPS-reported speeds across the ground ranging from the high 120's to the low 130's. That added a few minutes to the flight and made us a few minutes late on our arrival, but those are simply trivialities. No, the real cost came about because I had failed in yet one more aspect of my flight preparation: getting my caffeine fix via low-volume, bladder-friendly espresso instead of accident-waiting-to-happen coffee. Some lessons just need to be learned, re-learned, and re-re-learned, I guess.

As we landed and taxied around the fairly good-sized airport looking high and low for the terminal building (the location most likely to have a restroom), I had ample time to rue my dereliction of my duty to caffeinate wisely. After what had to have been at least two hours (as measured in Eastern Full Bladder Time, which is about 30 seconds in clock time) we eventually caught sight of a small sign pointing in the direction of the terminal and proceeded down the correct taxiway. As we pulled into the ramp in front of the terminal building we were met by two video cameras pointing our way, so we were fairly sure we had found Martt. We just weren't sure which one was him. That was all quickly sorted out (20 minutes EFBT) with introductions and, after a quick potty break, we got down to business.

If there's anything I like more than being the center of attention, it's Papa being the center of attention. Martt and his fellow videographer Tim paid ample (and appropriate, even if it's me that's saying it) attention to Papa. Once they had their fill of him, it was my turn. Martt did a very professional interview with me, allowing me to stammer my way through the story of how and where I found the airplane, some of the benefits and challenges of owning and maintaining an RV, and some of the unique operational aspects of flying with such a low aspect ratio wing. It was kind of fun - I've never done anything like that before. As usual, I probably talked too much and too fast, but surely not nearly as badly as I would have had I been fueled by espresso. So there is that, anyway.

The next step was obvious: Martt and I saddled up for a ride. Martt has been surrounded by airplanes for his entire life as you can see in this very touching tribute to his recently deceased father. Still, there's just something about an RV that is incomparable to any other airplane. Don't believe me? Well, look at this RV grin and tell me that this man has not just returned from a unique experience.

With the flying done (at least for awhile), our thoughts turned to lunch. Well, at least everyone else's did. I wasn't particularly hungry yet, but I figured I could still have something small to munch on. We went into Warsaw to eat at Mad Anthony's, an Indiana-based chain of micro-brewery restaurants. Good old Mad Anthony had a couple of very intriguing menus, but with a flight home still in the offing, I was only able to seriously consider ordering from one of them:

There were at least a dozen things on each menu that I wanted to try, but neither spicy, heavy food nor alcoholic drinks were deemed to be conducive to a safe and/or comfortable flight home. Even with that, I took a little stroll on the wild side. All pilots know the "8 hours from bottle to throttle rule," and years ago I instituted my own rule regarding beer batter onion rings ("2 hours from rings to wings"), but nothing has prepared me for making a decision on this menu item:

Bavarian Pretzels
Two jumbo soft baked pretzels served with pale ale mustard and jalapeño beer cheese – perfect with one of our handcrafted ales or lagers!

Ok, I'm pretty clear on that last part about the handcrafted ales or lagers. Those are right out, no question about it. But pale ale mustard? Jalapeño beer cheese? Who knows! Having failed to come up with a nicely rhyming rule, I threw caution to the wind and had a pretzel dipped in the beer cheese. In my defense, I was clever enough to at least make sure that I avoided the jalapeños.

After a quick but fruitless stop at Wal-Mart to pick up some of the local brew that I found particularly appealing (they were out of it) , we made our way back to the airport to head home. As far as the War Bird beer goes, I have a new potential destination on my list of places to fly. I'm going to see of the War Bird brewery offers tours.

Ok, that was quick. It's amazing that I still sometimes manage to underestimate just how much the Google Oracle knows:

Warbird Brewing Co. tours: http://www.warbirdbrewing.com/tour/tour_home.htm

Granted, that's just a virtual tour, but I'm still going to fly to Indiana and bring back some non-virtual beer.

The wind had picked up a bit and we were starting to see some clouds in the sky as we climbed out of Warsaw and set course to Bolton Field. Those are the conditions that point to a bumpy ride home, and that can only mean one thing: it's Rick's turn to fly. It's amazing how it always seems to work out that way, isn't it? With nothing to do but look out the window and fiddle with the radio, I whiled away the miles, well, looking out the window and fiddling with the radio. It is thusly that we found ourselves tuned into Bolton tower while still 35 miles out, and it is thusly that we heard a kerfuffle going on between the tower and another airplane. More accurately, we could only hear one side of the story, but it wasn't pretty. There were questions regarding whether or not it was possible that something had fallen off of the airplane, and more concerning questions (to us - we were heading straight at the place at 168 knots, after all) related to whether or not the airplane in question was still on the runway. As it turns out, the answer was "No."

Plane Lands Off Runway At Bolton Field

Saturday, April 18, 2009 1:54 PM
Updated: Saturday, April 18, 2009 2:39 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Investigators were called to Bolton Field on Saturday afternoon after a small airplane experienced a problem with its landing gear, causing it to land off the edge of the runway.

The landing occurred shortly after 2 p.m.

David Whitaker, vice president of business development and communications for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, said the pilot was the only person on board the aircraft, 10TV News reported.

The pilot was not injured during the landing, Whitaker said.

Whitaker described the plane as a general aviation recreational aircraft, 10TV News reported.

Whitaker also said that the airfield would follow protocol and close to commercial traffic until an investigation was completed.

And to think that Rick and I had just been commenting on the idea that we could pack so much into a day and still be home before 3:00. That clearly wasn't going to be the case. In fact, the best that the tower could tell me was that the runway was closed and that they had no idea when it would re-open. As luck would have it, I had just programmed the tower phone number into my cell phone on Friday, so at least I would be able to call them for updates from wherever we ended up landing. They didn't seem keen on that idea when I confirmed the phone number with them, but that was probably because they were still in the throes of their incident response activities.

Rick and I figured we had two choices: Darby Dan or Madison Co. I decided on MadCo, figuring that they'd have better magazines than Darby Dan which really hasn't got much more than a hangar. For some reason, I never even thought of the grass strip at Columbus Southwest. Probably because with it being only 2.5 miles from my house, it wasn't nearly inconvenient enough. That's water under the bridge, though. We landed at MadCo. After a couple hours of relatively entertaining conversations with some of the MadCo denizens, another stranded Bolton-based pilot, and completely uninformative calls to the tower, I decided that we couldn't be sure that the runway was going to be returned to service at all. I made arrangements for a temporary home for Papa with the always helpful folks in the airport office and called home to have the Co-owner make the half hour drive to come pick us up. Regular readers of The Chronicles have probably already seen this coming: with my inherent sense of ironic timing, I called the tower again when the co-owner was about five minutes from arriving to give us a ride home.

The runway was open.

She pulled into the parking lot two minutes later.

All told, we spent almost three hours waiting at MadCo, but I figure that's just part of flying. We pride ourselves on being able to respond to ever-changing situations and solve unexpected problems. And after all, there are certainly worse places to spend a few idle hours than at a county airport on a fine spring day!

For Better or Worse

The vows you make when you acquire an airplane are very similar to those you make when you get married, with the notable exception of the promise of faithfulness and monogamy. You can still fly other airplanes without having a detrimental effect on your relationship, although there are still issues that may arise with the Finance Dept. if you incur flying costs in addition to the expense of those already associated with your own airplane. But that monogamy thing aside, the vow that really cuts to the heart of the relationship with your airplane is the whole 'for better or worse' thing.

You see, the vows are not the only similarities between marriage and airplane ownership. Many of the challenges that go with marriage are also present in your relationship with your airplane. The biggest of those challenges is Winter. Every Winter, your airplane becomes cold and distant. The good times of the previous flying season are easily forgotten as you find yourself spending less and less quality time together. At times you wonder why you even bother any more. The expenses are always there, there is always work that needs to be done, and that work is often done in cold and uncomfortable conditions. You try to deal with all of that, but it seems that all you receive in return are brief and relatively rare conjugal visits on those rare occasions when the winter weather allows a fleeting (rather than the more common sleeting) opportunity to engage in the intimacy of flight that comes so easily in the better months of the year.

Just as you start to think it is well and truly over, that your differences are irreconcilable, that there is no love left in the relationship at all, Spring arrives. With Spring comes the better weather, the revitalization of the passion that formed the basis of your relationship in the first place. With Spring comes the realization that you two were made for each other, and that better times are right around the corner. With the arrival of Spring, the tribulations of the Winter are instantly forgotten. The 'Better' part has finally, at long last, arrived.

Spring arrived on Friday.

Well, to be honest, Spring actually arrived on Thursday, but I had mowing to do and the airplane had to wait. Just one more day, just one more day, just one more day...

For Friday, I had arranged for one of my favorite things to do with Papa: we were going to give a ride to a guest. Lynda, the founder of Girls With Wings and a Citation X pilot at one of my previous employers, was in town for training and we had arranged for her to have an RV ride. I love giving rides to everyone that expresses an interest, but there are a few categories of rider that I especially enjoy: kids, people that have never flown before, and professional pilots.

The first two of those are enjoyable for obvious reasons, but the last might not be quite as easily understood. The thing is, I've found that a lot of professional pilots have either forgotten or never really new the freedom of unencumbered flying in a sporty airplane. Often times their aviation background is in military flying or the very regimented training flying of a college aviation program. They have never experienced the combined joys of a responsive and eager airplane being flown without regard to destination, time, or demanding passengers/instructors.

Certainly a military fighter pilot knows the merits of a nimble aircraft quite well, but seldom are they offered the chance to just jump in and fly simply for the joy that's in it. Commercial pilots may periodically be released from the tight constraints of time and passenger demands while making ferry flights, but they are still strapped into a relatively sedate machine that is primarily operated via interaction with an autopilot and is still beholden to the restrictions and demands of Air Traffic Control. As such, their introduction to the RV grin can be every bit as gratifying to me as the one on the face of a person that has never experienced the awe of flight at all.

In Lynda's case, it seems that she became a pilot almost by accident. Rather than having had the burning passion to fly from a very young age that I had, she was introduced to flying when she was recruited into applying for an Army helicopter slot when she was in ROTC during her college years. That led to 400-some hours flying the venerable Huey helicopter, followed by a transition into the fixed-wing King Air. From there she progressed through various flying jobs, leading to her current position at NetJets. Her only experience in single-engine piston airplanes was 40 or so hours in Cessna 182s. An RV-6 is so foreign to any of those airplanes that to an appreciable degree, our flight would be like something she had never experienced before.

As much as I enjoy flights like these, they bring a different kind of tension to me. After all, these people usually have thousands of flight hours, making my 700+ look pretty low by comparison. They operate aircraft having the complexity of the space shuttle. They fly at altitudes and in weather that are inconceivable to those of us that ply the skies in nice weather and seldom over 10,000'. In Lynda's case, she also flies at .92 mach, making her one of the fastest non-military pilots in the world. It's simply the case that an amateur recreational pilot like would like to make a good impression on a professional, and failing that, at least not make a horribly negative impression. Don't get me wrong; I have never found a professional pilot that has flown with me to be judgmental in any way, shape, or form. It's just a subtle undercurrent of stress that I (needlessly and possibly unnecessarily) impose on myself for some reason. Call it foolish pride, if you must. It more than likely is exactly that. Which changes nothing: it is what it is.

As has always been the case, there was no reason at all to have had even the slightest worry about her not enjoying the flight. Papa showed off in his usual way by starting up with no reluctance whatsoever, the skies were crystal clear and the winds were simply non-existent. Basically, we had perfect conditions for a smooth, fun flight. I made the take off and climbed to about 3,000 feet before handing her the stick (metaphorically, of course, as there was already a stick over there on her side) and letting her fly for awhile. She adapted quickly to the light touch that is required for an RV, probably because her experience with helicopters had ingrained the need for small, precise inputs rather than larger, more abrupt movements. Having never flown a Huey, I'm just guessing about this, but it seems plausible.

Lynda described herself as a "timid" pilot but was willing (and trusting enough) to allow me to demonstrate some of the more advanced air work possible in an RV. I described and then performed a couple of maneuvers, which were then followed by a couple more at her request. During the second set she committed herself to actually keeping her eyes open, but I was unable to verify that she actually did. When we had finished those, I could tell that it was time to head back to base by the way she was adjusting the air vent to get more cool air blowing on her. That's nearly always a sign that there might be a little queasiness coming on, and that it might be best to head back to the airport as smoothly and as expeditiously as possible. Fortunately, the skies were very calm and provided us with a comfortable ride back.

And all of a sudden, there it was: the test that all pilots judge each other by. I'm speaking, of course, of the landing. As I've oft mentioned here before, if I am ever going to grease a landing, I want it to be with a witness aboard. And if I could grease one with a 5000+ hour professional pilot bearing witness? Well, all the better, right? Conditions were perfect, too. Very little wind and calm skies are the necessary ingredients for the type of landing that makes a passenger ask if we've touched down yet, and that's exactly what we had. Sadly enough, though, while the actual landing was just fine, it narrowly missed the perfection that I had been hoping for. Ah well, lost opportunity there, but by no means even the slightest blight on what had been a wonderful flight.

That cold, brutal, emotionally unsatisfying Winter? Immediately forgotten. My love for my airplane had blossomed again like Spring tulips. And as perfect as that was, it was even more perfect that I had had the chance to share it with someone else.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My recently developed hatred of high school biology

Having had the great fortune (or misfortune - opinions will vary) of never having had a single class in Biology during my entire scholastic career, it is with a cringing feeling of trepidation that I respond to the periodic "Egg has a biology project due." It invariably means that 1) she needs my help, and 2) the deadline is looming just over the horizon. Sure, I should welcome the opportunity to share in these projects with my beloved child, and I suppose I would if it were the case that I knew even the most rudimentary aspects of the science in question. But I don't. When faced with Biology projects, I endure the same sense of humiliating ignorance and befuddlement that poor Sir Hogarth suffers when I tax his limited mental acumen with such arcane commandments as "Don't eat the cat food!" and "Quit licking yourself."

So, as I'm sure you have already discerned, another project made its way over the threshold and was ungraciously plopped onto my shoulders a few days ago. I believe that it was Tuesday, a day that I still remember as having been not all that great to begin with, that I was unceremoniously informed that Egg and I would be availing ourselves of the mutual and unexpected opportunity to build a model of a double helix DNA strand. If you just thought (or said out loud) "A what??", you are in good company. That was my exact response. My second response, following only a second after the first, has been ingrained into my very being: "When is it due?"

Friday. Good. We have a couple of days to work on it. That was the good news. The bad news was that this looked to be far more difficult than the model of a cell that we had constructed just a few months ago. As always, my first response to these types of disasters is to see what the all-knowing Google can tell me:

The DNA-Helix

The sugar-phosphate backbone is on the outside and the four different bases are on the inside of the DNA molecule.

The two strands of the double helix are anti-parallel, which means that they run in opposite directions.

The sugar-phosphate backbone is on the outside of the helix, and the bases are on the inside. The backbone can be thought of as the sides of a ladder, whereas the bases in the middle form the rungs of the ladder.

Each rung is composed of two base pairs. Either an adenine-thymine pair that form a two-hydrogen bond together, or a cytosine-guanine pair that form a three-hydrogen bond. The base pairing is thus restricted.

Yeah, right. And to think that that is a simplified explanation. The unsimplified article on Wikipedia might has well have been written on Cyrillic Latin. In fact, I'm not convinced that it wasn't. Well, pictures being worth 1000 words and all, I hoped that graphic imagery would come to my aid. Huh, you be the judge:

Yeah. Not so much. Well, if I learned nothing at all from the cell project (and to be brutally honest, I didn't) I learned that I don't really have to understand the science to assist in building the model. The secret is that Google also has an Image search. All I needed to do was determine how other Dad's had mastered this crisis. Here's how that turned out:





Yes! Good news: easily made out of on-hand supplies from the pantry. Bad news: it was delicious!

Having failed with our attempt at having Google allow us to benefit from the labors of others, there was nothing left to do but go to Plan B: walk the aisles of Hobby Lobby looking for inspiration and the accompanying raw materials. I had a pretty good idea that the helix frame could be constructed out of dowel sticks, with a thick stick being drilling through around its circumference and smaller dowels being pushed through the holes to model those pesky base pairs. (What do you mean, "What are base pairs?" You did read the science stuff that I provided, right? You didn't just skim past that, did you?) What had be flummoxed was the question of how exactly we would model the sugar-phosphate backbone. (Oh, for crying out loud. Just go back and read it, why don't ya?) I was very concerned about how (and from what) we would cut out a helix and how it would be attached to the ends of the little dowels. That's some pretty tricky work!

Well, Egg solved that part of the problem. Her suggestion (and it was pure genius!) was to use pipe cleaners. The dowel sticks were easily found, the pipe cleaners took a little longer but were eventually located, and we found nice, cheap paint and brushes to use to differentiate the various pieces/parts of the DNA. Unlike the cell project, this one came in pretty cheap. I think it was slightly less than $8. I think the cell ended up costing more like $28.

From there it was all pretty easy. Egg did the measuring and cutting of the thin dowels, I did the cutting and drilling for the big dowel, and she took over from there. All in all, I think it turned out very well. She even made the painting part look pretty fun:

Now that is the definitive face of concentration, isn't it?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thoughts on Karma and the Retributive Justice Aspects Thereof

Well, I'm a believer. If I hadn't been in the past, the events of the last few days have made me a firm believer in the concept of Karma. I don't know if this is the only thing that Buddha had right or not, but I cannot now help but believe that Karma, the law of moral causation, has a definite grounding in reality. What events have transpired to force me into this conclusion?

Well, let's start with last Thursday. Co-pilot Egg was on Spring Break and we decided to make a family trip to visit my sister and her family in Columbiana County. This is a trip that I usually prefer to fly, but as we had 50% too many people involved to fit into the 2-seat RV-6 and it was a trip involving two overnight stays with the accompanying risks of weather complications, we decided to drive. It's a three hour drive, but most of it is on four lane highways. Only the last hour is on the scenic, winding two-lane roads that carry the risk of getting stuck behind a very slow truck or even slower Buick.

We actually made very good time, and arrived with plenty of time to get in some nice quad ATV riding on the trails that connect my sister's property with their neighbors. Land is (relatively) dirt cheap out there, so they have plenty of it. It's a coal mining region, and the land they own has already been mined. There are plenty of wooded hills and valleys to ride through, and I always enjoy it.

Anyway, as we were pulling into their driveway, one of their golden retrievers came limping out to meet us. His name is Casper, and he was limping because he had broken his front right leg. My sister, ever the do-it-yourselfer, had set the break and crafted a cast for him made out of a half pipe of PVC and duct tape. Now, I don't know about you, but that struck me as being quite funny.

I immediately re-named the dog as Caster for the remainder of the stay. I might have gotten away with that in the Karmic sense, but I apparently went a little too far when I taunted her other male dog about the DIY veterinarian he was living with. Mookie is, to put it delicately, still a full male. My suggestion to him was that he pray to whatever Higher Authority that dogs pray to that my sister never gets it into her head that he needs to be neutered.

Well, I thought it was funny.

Karma felt differently.

We had been on the road for maybe half an hour Saturday morning when I hit something on the road and completely blew out the sidewall of one of my tires. This marked my third flat tire in less that a year. So, which tire was it? Right front, of course. And what did I have to do about it? Well obviously I had to put on the spare, which is one of those "bike tire" things that are lawyer-limited to 150 mph. We were still 130 miles from home. In other words, it was going to take two and a half hours for us to limp home. Caster Casper would have had a good laugh over that, I suspect.

Oh, and do you know who passed us as we finally got onto I-70 South and plodded along at the posted 65 mph speed limit (I figured that the lawyers built in a 10 mph liability buffer) for two hours?

EVERYONE! Every.Single.Car.

And truck.

And Granny in a Buick.

Sunday was Easter, as we all know. What we all don't know is that in years past we have always hidden a batch of plastic easter eggs around the house for Co-pilot Egg to hunt for. When she was just a wee little 'un, the hiding places were for the most part very easy to find. As she grew older, the hiding places became more challenging. So challenging, in fact, that we were never sure that she had found them all. We took to counting the number of eggs as they were being positioned so that we could ascertain at the end of the day whether or not all had been retrieved.

Egg is fifteen now, and we didn't bother to hide any eggs for her this year, and we thought (mistakenly, as it turns out) that she would no longer be interested in hunting for eggs. As she emerged from her room on Sunday morning, I was suddenly hit with an uncontrollable impulse. I told her, "There are 32 eggs hidden around the house this year, and because you've gotten so good at finding them I made the hiding spots really, really challenging."

I didn't think that she'd, you know, actually look for them. Ok, we only let her embark on a fruitless search for a few minutes, but with my recent Karmic record being what it was, I was clearly asking for retributive justice.

The very Karmic justice that I received this morning when I returned to work, as it turns out. As I started work on a new database that I am building, I was informed by a heartless, soulless Windows error box that I did not have access to my database. In other words, it had been hidden from me. And the guy that knows how to fix it? Well, he's on vacation this week.

So, having a little time to spare, I thought I'd share this experience with you. You will have to forgive any typos or misspellings in it, though. Why? Because I can't see my own blog! Something has gone awry in my browser settings or on my laptop that makes my blog think that I am a virus when I try to view it. I can make postings, but I can't see them. In other words, my blog is hidden from me.

That Buddha was one sharp dude, but I really think in this case that he's overdoing it a little bit.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Flying with the daughter

Not me, this time. This is a tale of a trip undertaken by a recently retired F-18 pilot and his daughter, banging around California in a rented Cessna 172.

Here's just a taste:

Beat the weather with a good half hour to spare. Filed for our old hometown at Hanford, but ended up stopping for gas at Bakersfield Meadows, having tried and failed to land at the muni airport on the south side of town after working the fuel/distance math and realizing we could make the last leg home undramatic. Winds 130 at 17 gusting to 30 at the muni, and not quite sure we wouldn’t crash on the first attempt. Discretion being the better part of valor with precious cargo, we retraced our steps and found the runway at Meadows more nearly into the wind. It’s alarming how much a light aircraft can get beat around.

Courtesy car for lunch, a quick turn on the ramp and we were on our way.

It turns out that the Sierras stab straight through the direct course from Fresno to Los Angeles. Which is something I’d never quite noticed before, from 27,000 feet. Climbed all the way to 9500 feet (!) before finding that we couldn’t stay up there until we’d burned some fuel down. Took a hard look at the hard terrain in every direction. Got the hell beat out of us crossing the mountains, what with all that high pressure air rushing to fill the low pressure boundary to the north. Told my daughter to cinch up her seat belts, it was about to get rough. She did, and promptly fell asleep.

That’s trust. Or innocence, maybe.

Read the whole thing:

Part 1
Part 2

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

My next airplane might be.... a car!

As many of you are aware, a lot of the places that I fly to are selected based on the availability of local transportation or attractions within walking distance of the airport. Sure, now and then I can score the usage of a "courtesy car" or crew van, but it isn't a good idea to count on that.

Of course, I'm old enough to have spent decades fruitlessly waiting on the boffins to deliver on their promises of jet packs and flying cars, so I had pretty much given up on ever seeing either of those futuristic conveyances. But this one, well, it looks ever so plausible that I find myself thinking that maybe, just maybe, I will live long enough to see the idea of a flyable/drivable vehicle come to fruition:

There are far more details available here.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Know when (not) to go

The Weather-out-the-Window™ yesterday looked pretty good and, in fact, it was. My RV friend Ted had mentioned on Friday that he and his wife would be flying up to Put-in-Bay for a visit, and I generously invited myself and Co-pilot Egg to join them. I warned him that any commitments along those lines on my end were tentative at best because it is hard to predict how any number of critical decision-making elements will turn out:

- will she still want to go?
- will she get out of bed before noon?
- will the weather be calm enough? Note that I have much tighter weather criteria when flying EOB (Egg On Board) than usual.

As it transpired, two out of the three elements were met, and the third (the weather) was OK in the local area, but it looked like it would be cold and breezy on the island. Both of those things matter: the island is inhospitably cold when the temps are in the mid 30s, and the small runway is as threatening as a Doberman with a painful hang nail when it's windy. I made the decision to stay home, and after reading about the results of the trip on Ted's blog, I think I made the right decision:

The headwind was strong at 27 kts. We stayed at 5,500' to get above turbulence and less headwind. When we arrived at Put in Bay, I tuned to Port Clinton AWOS. It reported wind 300 at 14 gust 19, both runways 3 and 21 gets 90 degree cross wind. I decided to circle all islands in a clockwise pattern, that brings me to right downwind runway 3. Air was bumpy at this time. By the time I was on short final I noticed that I had to fight very hard to keep my airplane lined up with the runway center line and on the glide slope. My landing was the worst I ever had in my RV. After my left main touched down it bounced a little and wobbled down the runway. Fortunately, I got positive control of the airplane and exited the runway at around 1,500'. The lady worked at the counter told me that the pilot of a commuter flight that morning complained about the wind too. The wind was different than the one reported at Port Clinton. Landing on runway 3 I had shifting tail wind gust to 23 kts. She said that if I could land today I could land any day there.

And, like I said, that runway is never a particularly easy target in the best of weather:

Photo courtesy (Presumably. I didn't actually ask!) of Ted Chang

Having decided not to fly, we managed to still get outside and enjoy the weather by taking a family walk and nearby Prairie Oaks Metro Park:

The Co-Pilot, Co-Owner, and Brave Sir Hogarth

I had hoped to get any flying that I wanted to do done on Saturday under the threat of really nasty weather on Sunday. As these things often work out, the Weather-out-the-Window&trade on Sunday morning was every bit as nice as the preceding day's had been, albeit with the promise of somewhat stronger winds in the afternoon. Feeling that I still owed Egg a flying lesson, we started casting about for a destination.

Back when I was just getting started in flying, the big deal was to fly to Bluffton (5G7) for Denny's. The Denny's was in an adjoining parking lot, so it was a simple matter to land and walk on over. That Denny's went out of business years ago, but every now and then someone will buy the place and try again. Google showed that the most recent was a place called the Eagle's Nest, but we all know that one of the less positive traits of Google is that it never forgets anything. In other words, just because Google remembers a restaurant being there does not mean that a restaurant is still there. Still, it was a nice distance for a flight and since Egg had covered her bases by eating some Eggo's prior to departure, it was a safe enough bet.

We took off from Bolton with a nice crosswind from the right. The wind from the right was at just the right strength to counteract the normal left turning tendency on takeoff, so the only rudder required was to adjust for the varying speeds. It wasn't a steady wind, you see. It was something along the lines of 8 gusting 12. One over achiever of a gust hit us just as the tail lifted which necessitated an enthusiastic correction with the rudder, but that was not unexpected and was handled with aplomb by my caffeine-enhanced foot reactions.

I climbed us up to 3,500 and pointed us in the general direction of Bluffton before handing the reins over to Co-pilot Egg. I gave her some quick reminders concerning how to keep the GPS aligned and to make sure to keep an active scan of instruments/GPS/airspace going. The air was smooth, albeit with some mild bumps and up/down drafts, so after just a few minutes I was able to fly us along the course while I diddled with maps and the camcorder. We had a quartering tail wind, so we were making 152 knots across the ground at 2,300 rpm. She has a suitably light touch on the stick and has gotten over her initial desire to get back to our altitude with a big yank or shove on the stick. I'm pretty sure we never drifted any more than 150' high or low during her entire time at the controls. Very good! And I think she enjoyed it, too:

When we were a few miles out from the destination, I took over and made the descent into the landing pattern. The winds were favoring runway 5, so we crossed over the airport to enter the standard left downwind. From our perch just above the airport, I could see that the restaurant was deserted. While we still held the advantage of the high ground, we searched for alternatives and found a bevy of fast food places just across the highway. With that observation, I elected to continue the landing. It was a 10 gusting 13 crosswind from the right, which is just strong enough to be considered good practice. The touchdown was smooth, with just one little bounce resulting from the extra 5 mph that I carried into the flare.

After we had parked by the FBO and were walking in, a nice young lady came out to inquire as to our needs. Feigning a complete lack of knowledge about, and desire to use, a crew car, I adopted my Bambi-face and asked how difficult the walk across the highway bridge would be. She replied, "Well, would you like to use our crew van? I can walk over and get it for you." It's slightly possible that I over-played the thinking-about-it pause before answering in the affirmative, but I think the chances are good that I got it just right. See, if you accept too fast, it becomes really, really obvious that the whole 'walking' question was really just an un-subtle beg for use of the car. There's an art to these things, after all.

The crew van turned out to be a very nice example of that type of car. You may remember, for example, the car we borrowed down in Ashland that was so nasty that it called into question just how much 'courtesy' there really is in the term 'courtesy car' sometimes. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's just more of an observation on the wide spectrum of the loaner cars various airports make available to visiting pilots.

It was less than a mile from the airport to the row of restaurants, and I let Egg choose our destination from a list of restaurants including a McDonalds, Arbys, Burger King, Subway, and Taco Bell. She decided on Subway, where we split a footlong BMT and a bag of chips.

On the way out, I had her ask for change for a $10 bill so I'd have a fiver to tip the airport girl with. I taxied over to the pumps and she came out and pumped the gas for me. I didn't really need any, but at $3.42/gallon I figured that I'd go ahead and fill up. As she was running the Visa card through back in the office, I slipped the five under the crew van keys on the desk. Sometimes they get all "Oh, you don't need to do that!" on me, so I just avoid the argument and put it someplace that they're sure to find it.

Egg's current career plans involve nursing. Granted, her interest is currently in neo-natal, but I haven't given up on trying to get her interested in Life Flight. The local Life Flight operation is based at Bluffton, so we snuck over to their ramp to sneak a picture:

There were cars in their parking lot that indicated that there might be people on-duty, but the skies were clouding up with the precursors of tomorrow's bad weather and the winds were starting to pick up, so I decided that rather then pestering them, we would just head home. It was bumpier heading back, and even at 2,500 rpm we were only making 140 knots across the ground. As we approached Bolton from the north, we reported in over Darby Dan and were requested to report entering mid-field left downwind to runway four.

Just a minute or so later, a Skyhawk reported in over Lilly Chapel, which is eight miles west. We were descending down to pattern altitude and I still had most of the throttle in, so I figured that the resulting 170 mph on the speedometer would get us to the runway far quicker than the Cessna. The tower wasn't quite as sure, but that's simply because he has no way of knowing how fast I'm going. He thought it might be a good idea to figure out who was going to get there first, so he queried our position, which was three miles north. The Cessna responded to his query as "still more than five miles out." RV-6, for the win!

The winds were a bit stronger by that time, but Bolton has a nice, wide runway and it's pretty easy to find a spot to land in it under just about any conditions. It was a nice enough landing, considering. I taxied back to the hangar and started going through the steps of bedding down Papa. At one point, it struck me that I wasn't getting much help from the co-pilot. Well, as it turns out, this piloting business is tiring work:

Still, she's enjoying flying with her old man these days every bit as much as she did years and years ago when she wrote this: