Thursday, May 06, 2010

I'm not flying enough

"I'm not flying enough."

There. I said it. It's not an uncommon thing to hear, but it's more commonly heard from people that don't have 24/7/365 access to their own airplane. It's more understandable when you're renting or in a crowded partnership, but in my situation I don't have any built-in excuses for not flying more than I have been.

That's not to say that there aren't reasons, but the reasons that I have are such thin gruel that they border on being excuses. Sure, the weekend weather has been either grungy with threats of rain or too windy to consider flying a taildragger. But I have to admit that while most of them have been questionable, there have been some that were good enough. And there have certainly been ample opportunities in the evenings.

So why am I not flying? I'm not sure. Partially it's because I'm tired in the evenings. Very, very tired. I get up at 0515 during the week and the fatigue from that starts to set in as early as Tuesday. Sure, I can take a short nap after work and often do, but that causes a restless sleep during the night and I wake up even more tired that I was before. It's a vicious cycle that culminates in my being too tired to do much of anything by Thursday. Lately, I've found it to be just as satisfying to spend an hour or so working on the RV-12. Keep in mind that there is a 3:2 ratio between working on the plane and writing about the work I did, so even an hour directly working on the plane is more than an hour and a half taken out of my few, short disposable hours on a weekday.

Another thing working against me is that over the last two years, I've gotten in the habit of needing a reason to fly. With the cost of gas being over $4/gallon and the O-320 being a somewhat thirsty beast I've found myself feeling guilty about flying around with no destination or goal in mind. Sure, between hangar, insurance, maintenance, and general capital depreciation, gas is the cheapest thing that I put into the airplane. That said, it is also the most immediate and recognizable cost as it doesn't blend into the forest of routine monthly bills. The problem is that I have run out of destinations.

Even with a destination in mind, though, I now feel like I have to have someone with me. That too has been difficult. In a few more months I will be able to take my new dog Cabot with me, but that has to wait until he's a little more mature. I'm going to need to buy a set of MuttMuffs for him and at $60, I only want to buy them once. I'm waiting for his head to get as big as it's going to get. The smaller ones are cheaper, so I am deliberately withholding any kind of praise - I don't want him getting a bigger head!

I will grant you this: $60 is pretty cheap if only to get a picture like this:

Note: that is not Cabot. This is Cabot:

He weighs in at over 30 pounds now, all of it pure, rippling idiot. He'll only get up to 45 or 50 pounds, so I suppose I could go ahead and order him a set of Mediums. If he won't wear them, I will. He and Hogarth bark at each other a lot.


Having recognized the problem of insufficient flying, I strove to address it this week. The first night I flew, I used the goal of re-learning how to land as my rationale for the fuel expenditure. It was good that I did - the first landing was so bad that I had to be extra cautious on my second landing lest I run over any pieces of the airplane that I may have left behind on the runway. A set of four landings got me back to where I was making fairly decent arrivals.

The second night was intended only to heat the oil prior to draining it out for an oil change. I also wanted to get the cowls off in order to attempt to paint over the repair area from the rivets I had to replace over the winter. This will be my first ever attempt at HVLP painting and I fully expect to make a bollocks of it.

As long as I was flying and the weather was conducive, I thought I'd do a "two birds, one stone" thing and climb over the CMH Class C to get some pictures of downtown and THE Ohio $tate University:

It's hard to get good pictures from 5,500' and a couple of miles slant range. From that distance, it doesn't take much for the focus to be horrid. I try to compensate for the weak autofocus (which I use because I'm also busy flying the airplane) by using a smaller f-stop. The way I remember f-stop is that the larger the number, the more things will be in focus. Less intuitive is that the larger the f-stop number, the less light is admitted through the lens. That means that the camera has to compensate with a longer shutter speed. I try to get the f-stop number as high as I can (which, again counter-intuitively, equates to a smaller f-stop) with no more than a 1/125 shutter speed. In this case, that came out to be around an f-stop of 9.

That's about normal for a regular fully automatic picture, so I was still going to end up with a lot of pictures out of focus. But, the benefit of being way up high is that the scenery below is moving by pretty slowly. That means that I will be able to take a lot of shots, especially if I turn on the "just keep clicking until I tell you to stop" mode on the camera. With dozens of pictures, I hope for get a handful that turn out good enough to use. That handful is on display above. Keep in mind that I had to crop very, very tightly; those pictures above are akin to 2" x 2.5" out of an 8" x 10".

Back on the ground, I drained the oil. I'm always surprised at how much oil is trapped in the filter:

Before I removed the vacuum pump, I would never have been able to get that out of there! As it is, I was reminded about a few traits of hot oil:

- it's HOT. Ouch!
- it's thin and will spill quite readily.
- it's slippery, and even slipperier when a thin film gets on the edges of, say, a plastic water bottle.
- it's a good idea to have some cat litter handy in case some gets spilled.

With those lessons in mind, I'll leave it to you to guess how well the draining went with regards to not spilling any oil.


  1. That sounds like my fun time changing my car's oil last week. Let's just say I didn't align the catch pan with the oil stream's trajectory right off the bat.

    Have you ever landed the RV on grass? You should pop into Stewart sometime if you've never been - let me know and I'll come say hello. What about Muncie - been to the new restaurant there yet?

  2. Yes, I've landed on grass, but I have learned the hard way not to do it with the wheel pants on. I broke one landing on the grass runway at Urbana. As it turns out, though, I have the pants off of the plane right now. I think Stewart would be a good idea. Maybe I can pick you up and ride up to Muncie - I wasn't aware that their was a restaurant there!

  3. Well I certainly wouldn't object to such a proposal! :)

    It seems like there's a new restaurant at MIE every few years - at least from what I've gathered from other pilots. PIREPs on the current one (which opened within the last year) have been positive.

    Definitely let me know if you'll be out this way - I have to go to the UK for work next week (back the 20th) but otherwise I'm usually around.