Saturday, September 18, 2010

Miami University - Middletown Campus

I'm sure I'm not the first parent to go through this, nor will I be the last. I'm assured in my knowledge that I'm not the first because I put my parents through the same thing. When I was co-pilot Egg's age, I too had no idea where I wanted to go to college, or to be totally honest, whether I wanted to go at all. At that age it seems like you have done nothing but go to school; the prospect of even more doesn't really garner excitement. As with my father and me, I am the one pushing her to start planning for where she will matriculate next and what she wants to do with her life once forcibly ejected from the warm nest of public high school. When pressed, she vacillates between nursing, physical or mental therapy, and going pro on Facebook.

I think the latter is her preference.

I figure for at least the first two years of a four year program, there's not much difference between the core classes required for nursing or therapy. Anatomy, ethics, chemistry, and classes in managing third-party or government payers are foundational to both. With that in mind, I've been looking at nursing programs on her behalf. One of the locations I'm looking at is Miami University. To begin with, it satisfies the number one requirement: it's not THE Ohio $tate University. Egg has what I have taken to calling a Higher Education Donut Hole.  Much as with the "donut hole" more commonly referred to in reference to the Medicare Part D program, it refers to areas where coverage is available. It's actually an inverse donut hole: she has to go somewhere outside of Columbus but inside Ohio. Note that when I say "has to" that it's just like when I say she "has to" help mow the lawn; it by no means conveys any type of actual authority on my part to enforce such a command.


I flew out and visited the Miami University campus in Oxford Ohio last year and found it to be quite pleasant. Very collegiate, architecturally appropriate, and a few nice restaurants. I was more or less sold on the idea but further research showed that the nursing program is only offered at two regional campuses, one of which is in Middletown. I initially balked at that idea, thinking that there was no way we would pay that level of tuition only to have her attending classes miles from the town of Oxford. Once I looked a little further into it, though, I discovered that the tuition is commensurately lower at the regional campus.

Well then. Now you're talking my language!

Parallel to my thinking that I'd visit the campus this weekend, I was also trying to track down an outfit that offers dual instruction in a Stearman. Having lunched with Dr. Stan last week and gotten the idea into my head that I'd like to fly one at some point, I poked around on the internet for awhile trying to see where I'd have to go and what I'd have to pay to try it out.

At first it looked like I'd have to travel as far as Florida or Maryland and pay over $300 an hour for the experience (and that's not happening!!) but I eventually came across a link to Red Stewart airport. They have a Stearman that they offer dual in for around $200 an hour, including the instructor. Better yet, I could get a shorter ride for $80. That seemed perfect! Now I've been around the internet long enough to know that while web pages may last forever, the things offered on them may not. I first had to verify that they still had the Stearman. I happen to know of a flying blogger that does all of his flying out of Red Stewart and figured that surely he would have mentioned that Stearman at some point on his blog if it was still there. He had, and it is.

Red Stewart Airport is close to Middletown, so I thought I could combine a trip to Red Stewart for a flight in the Stearman with the flight to Middletown to visit the campus. Unfortunately, I had waited too long. When I called to book my flight in the Stearman, I was informed that the schedule was already full. Not to worry - they told me that they will fly on any day when the temps are over 45 degrees. I still have time to get it done.

Without the Red Stewart stop, I was able to fly direct to Middletown. That meant that I could take a flying buddy with me. There'd be a lot of walking (Google maps reported a walking distance of 2.2 miles each way from the airport to the campus) but I knew just the guy that would be thrilled to take a walk that long.

Middletown is southwest of Columbus, and our route took us directly over KilKare raceway where my brother races his Nascar Modified.

It was perfect flying weather. High pressure and reasonably low temperatures make the engine and the wings happy, and the clear, smooth skies and calm air make the pilot happy. These conditions are perfect for flying, but they do present a challenge. With no wind to speak of, uncontrolled airports become difficult to operate in and out of because there is no clear deciding factor regarding which runway to use. That, and they bring out a lot of traffic.

To make matters worse, Middletown is in a region that I don't much like flying through anyway; there are quite a few airports in the area, both large and small. Traffic becomes a big issue in that area no matter what the weather. Middletown also presents its own unique challenge in that they use left traffic for runway 5, but right traffic for runway 23. What that means is that pilots flying the right downwind for 23 are on the same side of the airport and heading directly at pilots flying the left downwind for runway 5. With the winds being reported as "calm," there is a very real risk of a head on collision on downwind if two pilots choose differently on the question of which runway is preferred.

And if that's not enough, there is a high-end sky diving outfit that operates there. They're up and down all day in a pair of Cessna Caravans, dropping jumpers right on the middle of the airport. The end result of all this is that Cabot and I would have to be on the lookout for large jets, airplanes headed right at us on downwind (and, by extension, on the runway), and falling human bodies. Wow! That's a lot of responsibility for a nine month old puppy!

As we were approaching the airport a twin Cessna reported something or the other having to do with runway 23, which was concerning given that we were entering the downwind to runway 5. The Unicom was a nightmare of the high pitched squeals of two radios transmitting at once and a long-winded individual telling his life's story as he worked his way laboriously through a landing at Blue Ash, so the second half of the Cessna's transmission was lost to me.  I tried to get the guy to answer my "What did you say???" calls, but he was oblivious. It all worked out and the landing was uneventful other than being a bit bouncy.

I blame Cabot. He stares at me. It's discomfiting.

 Just after we landed, some of the parachuters did too.

The walk to the campus had been planned for me by Google Maps, which has a "find a way for me to get there by foot" function.

I had used the Google StreetView feature to determine that there were sidewalks the entire way. I've often found that what looked like an easy walk on the map is anything but because it ends up being on a narrow, busy road with no sidewalks. This walk was 90% through residential neighborhoods. Cabot was very well behaved on the leash.

As we walked, I evaluated the neighborhood as a place for Egg to live. The regional campus does not have dorms; if she elected to go to school there, she would have to have a place to live. That might work out well; I saw this well-groomed house for sale.

They're asking $82,500 for it. Buy it with a 20% downpayment on a 30 year fixed and the payment is $350 per month, plus insurance and the like. A roommate could halve that cost. Four years down the road, sell it. Would that be cheaper that living in an apartment or a dorm at some other school? Maybe. It seemed worth thinking about, and that's exactly what I was doing until I was distracted by this sign.

Really?? "Your juvenile judge?" We haven't got enough juveniles in government already?

It was a pretty long walk, so it came as a great relief when I finally saw this sign. Cabot was equally thrilled when I read it to him.

The walk was up a fairly steep hill at that time, and at the crest of the hill we found our goal.

Our climb up the hill was wasted; the campus road heads right back down. The first sign of being on a campus was this statue.

How was that statue an indication that we were on a college campus? Easy, it was there because the subject was a rich man that gave huge amounts of money and/or land to the university. Had we been in a public park, it would have been a politician that had done the same, albeit with someone else's money.

We worked our way down the hill and past the university buildings.

When we reached the bottom of the hill, I realized two things. First, in twenty-first century America our civilization has advanced to the degree that we no longer provide publicly-accessible water fountains. Cabot was panting up a storm and seemed very, very thirsty. I had brought a plastic bag with me to fill with water to give him a drink, but had come across no source of water. My second realization was that we had reached a dead end.

The prospect of retracing our steps to the top of the hill was not pleasant. I decided to keep going on a gravel path that continued on past the end of the paved road and see if it looped back around to where we had come it. Luckily, by doing so I discovered water!

I ran some water into the bag for Cabot to drink from, but he refused to do it. Nothing but tap water will do for him, I suppose.


We kept going and soon found a trail that looked like it headed back up to the road we had climbed earlier.

It did, and a little more than half an hour later we were back at the airport. I had packed a fabric fold-up water bowl for Cabot and a bottle of tap water to pour into it. He was much more receptive of that! Spoiled rotten, I figure.

Oh, and I was taunted about my failure to get a ride in a Stearman. For the second time in as many weeks, I was sharing the ramp with one.

He didn't share the panache that Dr. Stan had. Somehow blue hearing protectors just aren't the same as a leather helmet and jacket. Still, it sure looks like fun!

Cabot was one tired puppy, but he stayed awake long enough to enjoy the flight home.

Once we got home, though, there was only one place he wanted to be.

I soon joined him.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kacy J's

The MERFI fly-in was this weekend over in Urbana. I went last year, but this year I decided to find something else to do. I'm getting more and more afraid of things that I used to do without a second thought, much like Brave Sir Hogarth is as he too advances in age. For him, the new thing is the child gate that we've been using to restrict the movements of the as yet not-proven-worthy-of-trust Puppy Cabot. Hogarth won't go near it. For me, it's large groups of planes converging on uncontrolled airports. Besides that, there's very little there to attract me. Last year it was nice to go over and meet the guy that built my airplane, and this year it would have been fun to visit Lynda at her Girls With Wings booth, but it's getting late in the year and I still had not made it to Kacy J's, the new restaurant at the airport in Muncie, Indiana.

I think the original attempt at Kacy J's was back at the beginning of summer on or around Fathers Day. I was going to land at KVES (Darke Co. - Versailles airport) and pick up my dad for a ride over to Muncie. Airport restaurants have come and gone at Muncie, and the most recently departed of the bunch didn't have a very good reputation, but word-of-mouth had it that the new establishment, Kacy J's, was worth the trip. A perusal of their online menu showed that there was something there that would be worth the trip: the Indiana Classic,their name for a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. I'm not sure where I heard it (maybe Man Vs. Food, a ridiculous but surprisingly enjoyable show on the Travel Channel) , but the pork tenderloin sandwich is reportedly an Indiana specialty and I wanted to try one.

The first trip fell through when my preflight planning showed that the Darke Co. airport was closed. A few weeks later after Darke Co. was re-opened and I wanted to try again, Muncie was closed to all traffic except helicopters.  One thing led to another and before I knew it was counting the days until the end of the traditional flying season. As it is, today was plan B. I had hoped to fly out on Saturday but the final weather forecast check in the morning showed the strong possibility of rain and low ceilings. Today was better, although the wind was expected to pick up to as high as 15 knots in the afternoon. I'll fly with a forecast for 15 knot winds, but it's right on my borderline. Had the prediction been 15 gusting to anything, I would have probably canceled again.

The flight out to KVES was okay, but it was already starting to get bumpy. I could tell that it wasn't going to be smooth sailing coming back later in the day - it was only going to get worse. It was the kind of bumpy you get when the sun heating the farm fields and causing updrafts combines with the turmoil of wind-addled air to make it hard to even press buttons and turn knobs on the avionics. You reach for a button just as you hit a bump in the air and your hand goes shooting off in unpredictable directions. It is precisely that type of air that has convinced me that I will never give up my avionics that have real buttons in favor of the ill-advised move to touch screens. No, no, no, NO! I will NOT GO!

I tuned into 122.7 as I flew south of Urbana and mentally patted myself on the back for deciding not to get into that mess. There were no less than five planes trying to sort themselves into a reasonable line for the left downwind when some yahoo called that he was planning a straight in approach.  Good luck with that, fella. That's rude on a normal Urbana breakfast Sunday. You gotta be kidding if you think that's going to fly during a high attendance event like MERFI. I didn't hang around on frequency long enough to see how that turned out - I wanted to get over to Darke Co's ASOS and see what the winds were doing. 320 at 7. Not bad at all! I made a pretty decent landing, although I didn't get stopped as short as I'd have liked to and rolled about 10 feet past the first taxiway. A quick 180 on the runway fixed that.

I wanted to get out and stretch a little bit before jumping right back into the plane for the short 40 mile hop over the Muncie. While I was out walking around, I came across the coolest canopy cover I've ever seen.

While I was taking pictures of the Piper, my dad was approached by one of the uniformed pilots of the big Cessna Citation 7 I had parked next to. He was looking for someplace to get some coffee and donuts for his expected passengers. Unfortunately he hadn't realized that KVES is a very rural airport and there's not much of anything nearby. In fact, that Citation was the largest jet I've ever seen there. The past competition was small for that honor though, as I don't think I have ever seen a jet there. As he wandered off to find the airport manager, my dad told me that the corporate pilot had asked what kind of plane I was flying, and suggested that he thought it might be a trainer of some sort. As if!! I explained to my dad that it's not uncommon for the guys that fly business and commercial jets to not know much about the smaller planes you'll find out in the boonies. They live and fly in a very different world. I think, though, that at least some level they envy us for our type of flying as much as we envy them for theirs. The grass? It's always greener, isn't it?

The ride over to Muncie was all too short. Before I knew it we were dialing in the ATIS and learning that the moderate winds were pointed right down runway 32. As we were approaching from the east, I figured we'd either get cleared for a pattern entry into a right base for runway 32 or into a right downwind for the same runway. I was hoping for the right base entry so we wouldn't have to fly up north to meet with the midfield downwind or, I suppose, try to negotiate for the entry I wanted. Muncie Tower responded as I had hoped and we were cleared to enter on the right base. Just before we got to the pattern, I heard another plane being cleared to land. It was a Stearman. That was lucky - I thought my dad would be interested in seeing a venerable old workhorse like that. And an actual trainer, no less! Albeit a trainer for WWII military pilots.

The landing was accomplished with no more that a light bounce and a gentle scuffing of the tires on the wide, wide runway. I easily made the first turn off to the ramp. And there it was: the beautiful Stearman was right there in front of the restaurant. I parked nearby.

My dad wanted to go take a look at it but seemed wary. I told him to go on over - other pilots are usually fine with people walking around and looking at their planes as long as there are no hands or feet involved. Look, but don't touch. They aren't Braille, after all. You can see just fine without climbing all over them or smearing your hands all over the canopy trying to look inside. Can you tell I have a little experience with this? It's another of the reasons I don't do many fly-ins anymore.

Note the lack of a GPS. I think he was flying via pilotage and a sectional chart: old school!

While I was doing my best to act as a Stearman tour guide, the owner/pilot returned. He was working his way back from someplace down south back up to his home in Wisconsin. That's a pretty long trip in a Stearman! He mentioned over lunch that he usually takes his T-6 (!!!) on the longer trips. A Stearman and a T-6? Wow!  As I've always said, when it comes to airplanes you need at least two but no more than five. I often entertain myself on my long drive to and from work trying to decide what my five would be, and a Stearman or a T-6 always make the list. I probably wouldn't do one of each, though. I can tell you this: it would be mighty hard to decide between the two! I love them both.

We headed into the restaurant where we were greeted by the owner(?)/manager. The place was not at all crowded which came as something of a surprise to me. Muncie has a huge GA ramp, big runways, a friendly tower, and very little traffic. It seems perfect for a weekend lunch stop, but there was hardly anyone there. It makes me wonder if they're having trouble getting the word out that there's a new restaurant there and that it's not affiliated with the former place that had gotten such a bad reputation. It's clearly a pilot-friendly outfit - just look at the decorations:

The owner(?)/manager was particularly proud of the light on this corner table. The airport had recently replaced their runway lights with LED models and he was able to get ahold of one of the old lights. He had to find a fixture for it and step the voltage down from what it was expecting (3000 volts, I think he said), and his first choice of bulb, a 100 watt halogen, was far too bright, but he finally got it working. I wish I had thought to ask him if he could build another for me!

As we were working our way through our Indiana Classics (which, by the way, were every bit as enjoyable as the conversation with Dr. Stan)...

...  another military retiree landed.

That one is a T-34 Mentor.

Dr. Stan hasn't got one of those.


Awww, come on. I'm allowed to be just a little bit jealous, aren't I?

Kidding aside, I'll bet he's tempted. They're wonderful airplanes, despite their AD history. Use them appropriately and they're fine.

After lunch we headed to our respective planes. I suggested to my dad that we stick around long enough to hear the Stearman's engine start. They make a wonderful sound and I can't get enough of them. They kind of stumble into life, as opposed to the immediate blast of noise from something like my Lycoming. The restaurant owner(?)/manager, himself a pilot and owner of two airplanes (what is it with these guys???!? I had no idea that I wasn't alone in my "at least two" thinking, Harrison Ford notwithstanding) apparently agreed since he too came out for the show.

By the time we hopped into Papa for the short flight back to KVES, the wind had whipped itself into the type of frenzy normally associated with Puppy Cabot when he hears bacon coming out of the fridge. If the flight to Muncie had seemed short, the flight back was going to be no more than a chip shot. The ASOS at KVES unemotionally shared the bad news: winds were 320 at 15 gusting 18. That was going to be a treat! We hit the left downwind with 120 knots showing on the speedo, but 145 showing on the GPS. Nothing for it but to man up and work my way through it. It actually didn't turn out too badly, although I must have looked like I was simultaneously trying to churn butter and squash grapes while I wrestled our way through the landing flare and touchdown. One decent bounce and a lot of aileron and rudder work had us down and rolling on the runway, but there was no hope of making the first turn off this time.

I didn't mind. I was just happy to have it over with.

The trip back to Bolton was equally brief, at least relative to the normal ride. I was cruising at an indicated 140 knots, but the GPS was showing 168 knots across the ground. As I called Bolton Tower over Lilly Chapel (a reporting point 8 miles west of the airport), I was again showing 120 on the airspeed and 145 on the GPS. Now I've heard a lot of real whoppers this year ("It'll bend the cost curve down." and "Gee Dad, I don't know how that dent got in my car." and "He'll calm down once he's neutered.") but none of them hold a candle to this:

"Four six six papa golf, report two mile left base runway four, winds three zero zero at five."

Five? As in five knots?? Are you serious??? When I'm doing 145 knots across the ground and showing 120 knots on the speedometer, there is no way I'm facing 5 knot winds on the runway. It had to be at least 12 to 14 knots.

It was. Gusty, too. But again, it wasn't a horrible landing. Practice seems to be helping!

There was quite a bit of clean up to do in the hangar. It's late in the summer and the bugs are fat. I think the updrafts help to carry them up high enough for me to hit them, too. There were at least three smears on the windshield that had to come from bugs close to the size of sparrows. I wonder what happens when a bug like that hits an open cockpit Stearman. I shudder to think....

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Worst. Landing. Ever!

Well, with you having heard the punchline already I don't suppose there's any reason to tell the story, but I will anyway.

I've spent the last few days working on both of the airplanes. The RV-12 is ready for interior paint and the fuselage and will soon be joined with the ever-patient tail cone that has spent the better part of the year lying fallow in the back of the hangar. The RV-6 also needs some work. Last week it was reluctant to turn more than one blade when starting because the resistance at the top of the first compression stroke was more than the old battery could overcome. I've been putting off buying a new battery for months, mostly as a matter of cost rather than hassle of installation. They're $183 plus shipping; installation takes 15 minutes. I needed to order some parts for the installation of the Dynon, though, so I glommed it all together into a big Aircraft Spruce order.

Finding the battery that I needed was easy, but finding the fittings needed to plumb the Dynon into the existing pitot/static system on Spruce's massive web catalog was a real chore. It didn't help that I've never done any work with the plastic hoses and fittings that comprise such a system, of course. I didn't even know what the parts are called. I eventually tracked everything down by starting with the hose. In the description of the hose, the web site said something like "and you'll probably need some of this other krep too."  That helped.

I elected to have the stuff delivered by a herd of FedEx hump back turtles, that being the cheapest method and me not being in any particular hurry. The package arrived in two days. Good on ya, FedEx!

I installed the battery right away. I had no idea if new batteries come with a charge on them or not and I wanted some time to get the thing charged up if it needed it - good weather was in the offing and I didn't want to go out to the airport all primed and ready to fly only to be shot down by a flat battery. I need not have worried. That new battery has so much oooomph that I think I could taxi the plane just by running the starter.

With the pitot/static fittings and a partially built (funny how they didn't mention that I would need to assemble on of the connectors my self - grrr!) wiring harness in hand, I finally have to take some time to figure out how to install it. I know that I'm going to have to install a 'T' fitting in the both the pitot and the lines. I also know that there's not a great deal of room to do it in. The pitot line is the one that already has a 'T' fitting in it:

I'll have to find a spot a little lower in the line. The static line is way back behind the panel where you can't see it in the picture. The Vertical Speed Indicator has an elbow fitting for the static line going into it - it should be relatively easy to replace it with a 'T'.

The actual physical installation of the Dynon unit will be a breeze.

The D-6 has a remote compass module that has to be mounted somewhere. I still haven't figured out where I'm going to put it. It has to be in an area where it won't be exposed to stray magnetic forces, so the most convenient place (behind the panel) is out of the question, as is another very attractive location on top of the battery box.

That will have to wait, though. With a new battery and unbelievably great weather today, I couldn't sit around in the hangar scratching my head figuring out where to mount the remote compass. I had to fly! I called  ab initio co-pilot trainee John to see if he'd like to ride down to Portsmouth for brunch, and then hop a few miles east to visit the Jackson Two.  Naturally, he was ready to go!  The morning was perfect for flying, so I did exactly that.  Co-pilot training was pushed aside in my own self-interest. 

The winds were light out of the south, so it looked like a great opportunity to use the new left traffic pattern at Portsmouth. Left traffic is standard at almost all airports , but for some reason Portsmouth had elected to use a right traffic pattern for runway 18. True to the story of my life, I had finally gotten over not being able to remember that when they changed it. Now I have to remember not to remember that it's not left traffic to 18. We were set up for a nice overhead break into a left downwind, but there was another RV approaching from the south east. He was perfectly positioned for an entry into the left downwind too, so I told him to proceed and we would extend down the centerline of the runway and fall in behind him. 

That would have worked perfectly, but just as I was yanking and banking into a nice trail position behind him, he called that he was entering a crosswind leg while he turned directly across the runway. That confused me. We then ended up parallel to each other on our respective downwind legs with him over on the west side and me on the east (and correct, I might add) side. He called that he was turning base.

Me: "Hey, are you flying right traffic?"

Him: "Of course."

Me: "Oh, Portsmouth uses left traffic on 18 now."

Him: "Oh, ok."  After which he called right base again and proceeded to land in front of me.

Me, in a little mini-snit at being relegated to landing #2 behind the guy that's on the wrong side of the runway, but not showing it in my voice: "six papa golf, left base, number two."

No use getting in an air rage incident over it, and it's not like I could feel all morally superior about it - I only know about the change because Wingman Ted mentioned it to me. I also saw it in the NOTAMs before I left, but only because I was looking for it. If Ted had told me about it, chances are excellent that I would have flown right traffic too.

We had a nice breakfast, bought gas (and I learned that the special Sunday fuel discount is a cash-only deal - good thing co-pilot trainee John had a couple of twenties he could loan me!) and headed for Jackson. Sitting at the end of the runway waiting for takeoff, a Cessna Skylane called in from the south. He was planning right traffic to runway 18.  


The visit with the Jackson Two was fun. It was interesting to see where they're at on their RV-12. They started months after me, but they're at almost exactly the same stage as I am on the fuselage. The big difference is that they already have their wings done.  They'll be done long before me at the rate they're going.

This biplane landed while we were getting ready to head back. Is this the Worst. Landing. Ever?? 

Nope, we're getting to that.

The flight back was a little bumpy as we passed through the various up- and down-drafts you get on a warm sunny day. In fact, I could feel a big updraft as we were left base on runway 22 back at Bolton. The bottom fell out of it as we were coming down the final approach. Over the runway and in the middle of the landing flare, I felt another lifting surge, almost as if the hot air rising off of the sun-baked runway was keeping the plane from settling. I eventually ran out of airspeed and dropped the plane ignominiously onto the runway from a foot or two in the air. The bounce was predictably horrendous. It was bad enough that we porpoised down the runway for a good half a dozen bounces. It was, by far, the worst landing I've made in years.

Now here's the interesting thing about a nice Sunday afternoon at Bolton: there are scads of people sitting at JP's BBQ watching the planes land. In other words, there were dozens of witnesses. And there was no option left to me by the tower's taxi clearance; I'd have to taxi right by the crowd.  There was only one thing I could do as we went by.

I pointed at co-pilot trainee John.