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.

1 comment:

  1. Portsmouth 18 was right pattern because there was a grass field (Knore) less than 1/2 mile north of the field. Although it was closed decades ago only this year they agreed to sign off the paper for FAA to remove them, thus the right hand pattern for 18. The pattern change message is appended to the end of the AWOS broadcast. While it was RH we got a few guys flying LH (I corrected quite a few). Now it is LH, some people are flying RH. I do notice many pilots don't listen to AWOS. Frequently pilots call UNICOM asking for wind and active runway info. Most of the time there was no one at UNICOM!

    Yesterday I was at KEYE. The wind was almost down runway 21 at 7 kts. However, two guys were using runway 3 and an airplane coming from the north called for 21. The guys on 3 landed and we took off on 21. Later when we were almost turning base for 21 another guy called 3 mile final straight in. When we got to short final a Cessna decided to taxi to the active for take off. We had to remind him not to. Too many pilots don't pay attention. You really have to watch out (like defensive driving).