Monday, April 27, 2009

Flying in the Clouds

Flight Date: 19 April 2008

Equipment: Mooney Acclaim Type S
WX: wind 370@8 ; Ceiling 1000ft ; Temp 45 F

Flight Rules: IFR
Airports: Flying Cloud ; Crystal

I took a ride in the clouds with my potential CFI. I have been speaking with him about flight training. I had desired an in person meeting so that we could ensure it was a a good fit. He offered to take me for a quick ride in a plane that he needed to move from Flying Cloud airport to Crystal.

We took off from runway 36 with a departure of 300 degrees. The conditions where IFR and being that he has all the proper training this was not an issue. Although it was a little rainy and cloudy the winds where relatively calm- the flight was very smooth.

Being that this was not a trainer airplane it was not appropriate for me to fly it as if it where a lesson. However, I did learn quite a lot and was able to do a few tasks. As an example, I called the tower for our take off clearance- my first call to the tower!

We took off and fairly quickly we where in the clouds. My instructor told be that in these conditions it is important to keep your attention "mostly inside the plane" on the instruments. From then on, he worked the radio and since this was a pretty quick flight there was a lot of action. We transitioned from Flying Cloud tower to Minneapolis departure to Minneapolis arrival and then Crystal Tower. ATC fed us the vectors and I watched as my instructor entered the vectors and altitudes into the Garmin G1000.

I was pretty amazed at all the information that is at your fingertips with the G1000. I learned a great deal by watching him fly. I also gained a new respect for all that it takes to fly in these conditions and I also must admit It motivated me a little stretch my goal to an instrument rating.
After about 15-20 minutes in the air we started our final approach. My instructor showed me how the glides slope dislpays on the G1000 as we where lining up on the final approach line. Before long we descended below the clouds and we could easily see the airport, and Minneapolis, directly ahead of us. We circled the field and landed on runway 32 R.

This was another great experience in a "small" aircraft, although this plane was a little upscale from the Cessna 172 and the Diamond DA20. It proved to be a motivating and valuable experience and once again illustrated the importance of a good instructor.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Almost a Perfect Week in R.C.

Flight Dates: 16,18,19 April 2009

This last week I gained about 1.2 hours of stick time between the T-28 and SC 2.0. Only 20 minutes was on the SC.

It was almost a perfect week of flying. The modifications I had mad to the T-28 landing gear are holding up great and my landings are getting better too. The T-28 is such a joy to fly. It is very predictable and easy to control. The only thing I am still working on are the landings and occasional control mess-ups (more on that).

A few things of note from this week.

1.) I got to test extended range on the Spektrum Electronics. I have found a huge soccer complex that is still vacant at times. This complex has got to have 20 fields in it. I am flying in an area with 4. I was able to fly out at least 1200 feet and turn back in. It is out far enough that it is hard to tell what direction the plane is going. I don't like to do that much as it is too easy to loose orientation and that can only lead to bad things. That said it gives me even more confidence in the Spektrum system to see the plan out that far and still being controlled as expected.

2.) I flew in the Drizzle today. It was a good opportunity as the fields behind my home had not filled up with others practicing sports. No impact from the drizzle on the T-28 but it was a little chilly.

3.) The old SC 2.0 feels a little mushy in the controls after flying the T-28 for the last 3 weeks. I flew her today and it felt like I had to move the sticks much more to get the plane to respond. Part of this was just getting used to a different plane. I still enjoy the SC, but it is in some ways harder to fly with my aileron modification than the T-28. I think in part because it is easy to loose airspeed and harder to gain back. Ironic that the characteristics that make it easy to fly in the beginning make it a little harder once you gain a few skills and get used to a plane that is so controllable at low and high speeds like the T-28.

Back to my 1 goof. During my drizzled flight of the T-28, I had a great landing at the end of about 8 minutes. I was going to call it good as it was getting cold. However, I thought "why not go for one more". Let me pause and just say that it seems bad things always happen when I "go for just one more". Anyway, I tossed the T-28 and took one loop around the field- turned downwind, turned to base and then final... what wait she's coming right at me let me just correct a little and ...oops that's the direction of the fence. Let me just power out of this and .... bang, into the ground. It seems I had picked up an audience at the school across the road. As the plane struck the ground, I heard a loud "aaaaahhwwww". So much for looking like a pro.

Well the wing did separate from the fuselage and the canopy popped off, so it looked spectacular. It is nothing 10-15 minutes and a little epoxy can't heal. It's just unfortunate because, man was I looking cool you should have seen the landing just before I thought "let's go for one more...."


T-28 Wing- minor damage to attachment mechanism

SC 1.0 Cumulative Flights: 15
SC 2.0 Cumulative Flights:
Total: 34
Cumulative Hrs: 7.8
successful Landings: 70
SC Maintenance / Repairs* ~$54.5

T-28 Cumulative flights 17
Cumulative Hrs: 4.8
successful Landings: 35
T-28 Trojan
Maintenance / Repairs* ~$7

*Cost to replace items broken in flight

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunset Landing Cessna 172

Last week I was fortunate to be able to take a ride in a Cessna 172. This was part 2 in my quest to know what is it like to fly in a general aviation airplane and also my 2nd pass at answering the question every man struggles with at some time in his life, "should I earn my wings?"

A colleague from work (I'll call him Steve) offered to take me up with him and he proved to be most gracious in the care he took to explain the workings of the airplane as well as everything that lead up to and occurred during the flight.

We departed from KANE in Anoka, MN. The weather and the evening was perfect for flying. The near-full moon was watching over us. The wind was calm and the temperature around 50 degrees. In MN we call it "spring" whereas everywhere else it is just called the end of winter.

Prior to departure Steve took me through the pre-flight checklist. He encouraged me to do the checklist with him. I tested the fuel and various other parts of the airplane. For the last step, I double checked that the engine was still there through the peak hole in the front cowel- it was! We did a quick weather check at the FBO and then we were off.

I did get a feel for a few uniquenesses in aircraft control. The whole steering with you feet in and of itself isn't too much of a stretch. However I will need to get it in my brain that I am not piloting a wagon. That is, you don't push with the right foot to go left. You push with the right foot to go right.

We taxied to runway 27, did the run-up and took to the skies. What a surreal feeling to lift off the ground in a 1600 pound aluminum can with wings. We climbed out to the north at around 80 Knts to 3,000 feet.

The air was smooth. I enjoyed flying in the 172 about as much as the DA20. While the DA20 does have an incredible unobstructed view, the 172 was not bad either!

It feels more stable to be to be climbing. When the plane is leveled out I get that “top of the roller coaster feeling” like we are about to take a dive. After a while I was getting used to it.

Steve allowed me to take the yoke and I made a some turns. For me it was actually just fantastic to get a taste of how the plane flies. Not only did he allow me to try out the controls, he explained everything very well- so I actually learned something!

We passed over the Saint Croix river and landed on runway 28 at the Osceola Airport just inside of Wisconsin. This is an uncontrolled airport, so I was able to see the differences in the radio communication and approach. Steve took a very deliberate downwind, base and final approach- of course calling out position as one does. The landing was nice.

We soon took off from Osceola and then headed back to Anoka. On the way back you could see the Twin Cities in the background and the sun was on its way to the other side of the earth. I had a great time flying through the air and seeing the world around me from a totally different vantage point. MN is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, once airborne I could see why. Little pools of water are everywhere. The sunset landing at Anoka was exceptional putting an exclamation point on a perfect flight experience.

I have done a lot of on-line reading to ascertain the ideal trainer airplane for someone interested in learning to fly- just in case. What my first two flights have taught me is that it is not that important what plane you learn to fly in- taking as an assumption that it is a well maintained safe airplane. What is most important is who is sitting beside you while you are learning! This also is not just about skill, but about the repore and style of the person and how they fit with what you are looking for. I am sure it works the other way as well.

T-28 Front Landing Gear Repair

Flight Date: 4 April 2009

Equipment: (T-28 Trojan)

WX: ~5 mph, Temp ~50 F
Ground Conditions: grass
Field: (#2 )

This was a great flight up until the last “landing”. I had made 4 nice landings on this relatively low-wind day. However, I unconsciously developed a bad habit of immediately reversing the direction of the plane just after it takes to the air. Toward the end I ended up reversing and flying into the ground fairly hard. The front landing gear took the brunt, breaking a plastic piece that holds the gear in place. I used some CA glue back a the hanger to fix it but it was not as secure as from the factory.

Flight Date: 7 April 2009

Equipment: (T-28 Trojan)
WX: ~18 mph, Temp ~50 F

Ground Conditions: grass
Field: (#3 )

This was a quick flight and unfortunately I should have called it before I took flight. The wind gusts were too great to fly the T-28. I confirmed what I knew pre-flight once the plane was in the air. It was too gusty to realize steady, controlled flight. I brought the plane down after just a few minutes. Unfortunately, the landing was poor and ended up nose down on the front landing gear. The quick-fix that I had applied from the last flight came un-glued so to speak.

I ended up trying some new experimental repair procedures back at the hanger using spray foam- great stuff. Below are a few pictures of the process. It didnt go as originally planned as the great stuff did not cure as hard as I would have liked. So, I ended up adding some reinforcing spars to the front gear. I have used these spars on other fixes and you may have also heard them called Popsicle sticks elsewhere.

Steps as show above:

1.) wood sticks used to keep foam from expanding into the area of the landing gear push rod

2.) foam allowed to expand and sticks removed (less than gracefully)

3.) trimmed foam down flush and found it was a little too soft

4.) cut out recessed area to receive to reinforcing spars*

*I like to use the word spars when discussing aircraft repair techniques

This more thorough fix worked out well and held up well on the next 2 flights.

Flight Date: 14 April 2009

Equipment: (T-28 Trojan)
WX: ~10 mph, Temp ~50 F
Ground Conditions: grass
Field: (#4 )

These were 2 good flights in a very large soccer complex. I also had my first over water flight as there was a small lagoon adjacent to the fields. It was a little gusty at times, but the T-28 handled it fine. Both landings where decent and the new an improved front gear worked well. On the 2nd landing I flared too much too soon and the plane gained a couple feet and the lost airspeed resulting in a less than stellar landing and the front gear took a little abuse. The good news is that the gear held up.

T-28 Front Gear- fixed with spray foam / glue ~$7

SC 1.0 Cumulative Flights: 15
SC 2.0 Cumulative Flights:
Total: 33
Cumulative Hrs: 7.6
successful Landings: 68
SC Maintenance / Repairs* ~$54.5

T-28 Cumulative flights 13
Cumulative Hrs: 3.6
successful Landings: 22
T-28 Trojan
Maintenance / Repairs* ~$7

*Cost to replace items broken in flight

Monday, April 6, 2009

DA-20 Demo Ride

Last Friday, I took my first ever flight in a general aviation airplane. This was a demo flight and my mission was to see what it is like to fly in a small airplane. The above picture shows what the cockpit looks like in the Diamond DA-20 Eclipse that I flew. I guess it is technically accurate to say I flew it since I did control the stick for about 3 minutes and I made a shallow left hand banking turn. However, for the most part I was a passenger- in the left seat. The picture below shows the frontal view out of the actual plane from my seat.

Overall this was a fun experience and it did give me a good feel for what a GA flight is like in a small 2-seater. The conditions where clear and about 45 degrees. I was told it was bumpy up to about 3,500 ft. and we never went above that level. It was a little bumpy and at times unsettling- but I became comfortable with it rather quickly. I kept reminding myself that there has not been one US fatality in the DA-20 since it was introduced in the late 1980's..... "Wait what website was it that I read that on again, I think it had frames... when did Al invent the Internet again...I hope that is still true" moving on.

The flight initiated at Flying Cloud Airport (KFCM) in Eden Prairie, MN from runway "28R with golf" we ascended briskly to about 1500 feet leveled off and head
ed out about 10NM. We then circled around at level altitude over the area of Lake Minnetonka at ~100 knots. The view was fantastic! As I have read from others, flying in the DA-20 is almost like having the plane strapped to you.

Before I knew it, the time was up and we were headed back toward the airport. The CFI called the tower and we were cleared to land- again on 28R- with a right pattern from the west. The landing was a fun experience and smooth.

I can see why the DA-20 is highly regarded as a flight tr
ainer. The plane is simple, comfortable (once you relax) and has fantastic visibility. The space inside is tight but ample once underway with your intended purpose- flight.

I had to overcome a little bit of the "what the hell are you doing anyway" that was going on in my mind as we closed the hatch. "I mean you just met this young fellow 20 minutes ago and now your strapped in this plastic tube with an engine on it and we just
closed the lid." I felt trapped and constrained for just a few minutes- committed as it were. However, once we got the engine running and started moving through the check list items, I was fine. This was not unlike the feeling I had when I descended the first 10 feet during my first ocean dive in SCUBA training. I look at it as my mind gently asking the question- "are you sure you know what you are doing?"

This reminds me of a colleague at work that toured a cave on vacation and found herself in the bellows of said cave with too many people, only enough room to crawl, and nothing but battery powered torch light. About the time it was way too late to turn back without spoiling everyone's fun, she realized that her own mind was screaming at her to get the hell out of there! It is both interesting and remarkable that sometimes the one thing most difficult for the mind to overcome is itself. You have to rely on what is deeper and closer to you than you own mind to get through these situations. She gained control and made it out fine. For my brief SCUBA career that has so far come to an end after 10 magnificent dives in the GBR of Australia, it is the fact that I overcame my own mind while descending the first 10 feet of my first ocean dive of the coast of Sydney, that I hold most dear some 6 years later. The incredible feelings and scenes underwater come in a very close 2nd :)

The pictures bellow show the view from the cockpit but don't come close the real experience!