Posts tagged ‘Airplanes’

POH Kneeboard 2.0

New POH Kneeboard with write-on surface
New POH Kneeboard with write-on surface

A little less than two years ago, I wrote about creating a combination pilot operations handbook (POH) and kneeboard.

One aspect of the implementation bothered me from the very start – the metal front and back covers could be hazardous in an accident. The military use a polyethylene plastic material which is somewhat flexible and less likely to injure.

A separate problem surfaced when I used the kneeboard – my scratch paper would move around and curl. A fellow pilot had described using an arm band – like [US] football quarterbacks use – and a grease pencil.

I decided I’d address both issues with an update to the kneeboard.

The flexible translucent PE plastic is 1/16″ thick. It has a smooth side and a slightly textured side. Normally the smooth side would be considered back. Since I plan to write directly on the cover, I used the smooth side as the face. This makes it easy to wipe it clean.

Garmin understands amateur aircraft builders

For anyone who has worked with Garmin’s prior generation of aircraft avionics, they are all too aware of the challenges of wiring high density D-Sub pin connectors, threading back-shells, and conforming to old standards. So I keep being amazed by the small changes Garmin has made with their latest generation of avionics targeting the amateur home built aircraft community.

I’m very grateful for the switch to standard D-Sub pins and the open top connectors makes the assembly much easier. And here is another example of Garmin thinking like a builder rather than an engineer – mounts which can be switched from the ends to the sides of their new remote mounted radio.

When building a kit plane, everything is up to the builder and this means every airplane is a bit different with hundreds of decisions.

In my RV-8, finding a location for the remote radio was becoming a challenge of compromises. I finally located a suitable space but the radio mounting tabs were in the wrong place to make it work. I was about to concede and build new mounting tabs but when I removed the factory tabs I discovered Garmin had anticipated my need!

With the factory installed mounting tabs at each end of the radio, it can be mounted horizontally or vertically with ease. In my case, the problem was that I needed to mount it across between the RV-8’s forward baggage bulkhead and the Z-brace. Ideally, I wanted those tabs to be on the sides of the radio rather than the ends. Thankfully, Garmin attached the mounting tabs with screws. When I unscrewed the tabs I was delighted to see that Garmin had designed the tabs’ screw locations and the radio’s screw holes (two extra ones hidden under the tabs in their original locations) to rotate 90 degrees and re-attach! All I had to do was unscrew the tabs, turn them 90 degrees and there were nut plates already installed for the alternate orientation.

Garmin had designed the radio to give the builder multiple choices for how to install their radio.

This truly is an example of designing for their end user!

GTR-20 with adjustable mounting rails
GTR-20 with adjustable mounting rails

A 6PDT push button for COMM1/COMM2 radio switching

switch stereo audio, mic, and signals
switch stereo audio, mic, and signals

Traditional aircraft used an audio panel in the avionics stack to handle multiple radios, audio sources, and intercom between the occupant headsets. This was logical when there were so many audio sources which needed to be monitored for different segments of flight – two radios, identifying VORs and NDBs, listening for the outer marker signal, etc.

With the growing availability of GPS for all segments of flight including precision landing, some aircraft have done away with an ADF and even NAV radios. My plane is one of these. There are pros/cons to this configuration but for a lot of domestic flying, it’s safe and complete.

Many newer radios incorporate the intercom and even have alert and auxiliary audio inputs. With all of he capabilities of these modern radios, most of the audio panel capabilities are redundant. The exception is supporting two radios.

Two radios are handy since one radio should always be setup to talk to the airport or to air traffic control. The second radio can handle things like checking weather at the departure or arrival airport. It can also be helpful when you know you will be changing frequencies multiple times in a short period – eg: weather, clearance, ground, tower, then departure control.

Having two radios doesn’t dictate an audio panel. Switching frequencies has become much easier with database integrated radios and EFIS/GPS connected radios. With these systems, a frequency change is often a press of a button.

This leaves the listening to weather and the “convenience cases” when you want to load up clearance and ground to a second radio. The “listen” to the second radio can be handled through an auxiliary input on the primary radio. Now we have only one case to solve – temporarily switching to the second radio.

In a side-by-side airplane, both occupants have access to the panel but in a tandem (or solo) only the pilot can reach the panel. Only the pilot really needs access to both radios. My airplane is a tandem and I fly 99% solo.

A pilot headset has a MIC, a push-to-transmit, mono or L/R headphones, and the ground wire. That’s 5 connections. A switch can handle toggling all 5 wires at once between two radios.

The sixth switch lets us listen to the second radio while connected to the first.

Below a video of the switch. The switch has both solder lugs and PCB pins. The pins can be cut off when using the solder lugs. The push button switch “latches” when pressed and releases when pressed again. It has a mechanical colored indicator that is visible when pressed to the “latched” position.

6PDT Push Button Switch

Simple DIY “remove before flight” covers

1.5 inch red ribbon
1.5 inch red ribbon

For safety reasons it a very good idea to have covers the the various tubes sticking out of an aircraft. It helps keep bugs and debris from clogging vital systems like the pitot tube and the fuel tank vents.

You can buy very clear cover-flags for $10 to $20. Or, you can make about a dozen for less than $4.

You need a sewing machine (or the patience to do a bunch of hand stitching) and you need a roll of 1.5″ or 2″ ribbon.

I cut pieces about 12″ long. I used a lighter to singe the fray ends. Next I folded the long way and stitched about 4-6″. That’s it. They fit perfect over the 1/4″ tubing. For a full sized pitot tube you cut two pieces of ribbon – one at 12″ and one at 6″ and stitch then face-to-face.

Greasing hinges 16 feet in the air

Every year (or so) I need to grease the hinge pins which hold the 4000 lb door in place. It's not the most enjoyable task given my strong sense of self preservation and fear of heights.

Thankfully BARRETT helps out. You may recall BARRETT from July 2010 when I added “remote control“.

 

VA to ME and back without refueling

950nm round trip
950nm round trip, 7 flight hous

I’m just back from this year’s Chicken-Palooza event in. Maine. I took lots of pictures and video and will put together a “documental” on the event over the next week.

In the mean time I thought someone might be interested in the performance of the auxiliary fuel tank in the RV-8. This trip was a perfect example of the type of trip it was designed for long trip with no fuel at the destination.

I won’t know my fuel totals until I fill up tomorrow but the AUX tank worked as advertised. I flew a total of 950nm with no useful tailwind (2-4kts head wind up and +/- 1kts tailwind home).I think I’ve got at least 10 gallons left but won’t know for sure until I go get more gas.

I made it from the Eastern Shore of VA past Concord, NH on the north bound leg before the AUX was dry. I used less than 5 gallons of fuel from the main tanks for the trip up. That left more than 35 gallons of fuel to get home. A typical one-way flight is 24-28 gallons.

The Devastator is a serious long range bomber now!