Posts tagged ‘Flying’

Another runway morning

RWY03 at 6AM
RWY03 at 6AM

Maintaining a grass runway is a lot of work but sometimes, just the ability to look at it, makes it all worth while.

A swimming hole in Freehold NY (1I5)

IMG_3236I wanted to go fly and the weather was looking good for some “leg stretching” so I decided I’d equip the Devastator for a long range bombing run with 62 gallons of fuel and head north! The destination is a little airport in Freehold New York, just south of Albany. It’s a public airport that doesn’t see too many visitors these days. It sits right near a ridge line so it does Glider training when the occasional student drops in. The trip is just 300 nautical miles from home. That’s easily in range of the RV-8 but since the fields does not sell fuel, it would be 600 nautical miles round trip. I was going to be pushing the total trip time so the option to avoid a fuel stop somewhere along the way was a good enough excuse to put the new AUX tank to use. I packed the plane, tossed in swimming trunks and a towel and set out for the 2hr flight … yes, 300 nautical miles in about 2 hours – RV’s a very capable airplanes ! The trip was uneventful and after a bit of a bumpy decent after the small mountain ridge, I was on final for 1I5 (Freehold Airport). I opted for the deteriorating paved runway because I could not tell how soft or long the turf was. It was a good call because the turf had not been mowed for a week or so and was long. I guess the local group was already planning to do some flying because about as soon as I landed, they mowing tractor pulled out to start cutting the turf runway. The Devastator was safely on the other side of the runway, near the “soaring shack”.

P1000563 P1000564  P1000565 IMG_3230

After chatting with Randal and the other soaring staff, It was time to get down to the task of swimming. I caught a ride in one of the golf carts over to the easiest access to the river. After a quick change into the proper clothing – Randall said they occasionally have “clothing optional” swimmers take advantage of the river – I carefully made my way down river a bit. They’ve had a lot of rain so the river has swollen and was moving pretty quick. Turns out that made the requisite “photographic proof” easy !


There I am ! …  and again, and again, and …

  After the swim, and while I warmed up – the water was COLD! – I had a quick box lunch (all they way from the jungle).

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Erik’s smoked lamb sandwich – yum!

Well, Nick was waiting patiently at home so there was no more time to be spent on the ground. I did my pre-flight, run-up, and was soon back in the air … using the newly mowed turn runway ! A little more than two hours later and I was on short final for the home field. An easy flight. A cold swim. And a great way to burn up about 30 gallons of gas!

Pilots Visit 53VG for the Airport Bum’s 50th

I wont go into a lot of details for now but I wanted to post several pictures of airplanes … because what better way to celebrate turning 50 than to have a bunch of guys fly in, eat food, and tell tall tales !


Six line up for their photo!



A fly-by, hello, and happy birthday on the radio, but could not stay



Ralph starts the arrivals



Bruce helps control mosquitos



Bill’s co-pilot is ready with a camera



Agent Orange









Jack, all the way from the west coast (but not just for the party) …



Vlad, waive for the camera


Wrong view for the camera !



"you grab ahold, like this and then …"



Sunrise … but the overnight pilots seem to have missed it for some reason …



I earned my Russian 50 year wings !

Thanks to all the pilots who made the day so much fun. Thanks also to all of my local friends who came out for a night of great food and wonderful conversation. I pretty nice way to celebrate turning 50 !

the White ‘crete of Dover … Air Force Base

KDOV, more widely known as Dover Air Force Base is a prominent land mark at the north end of the Eastern Shore. It is home to some very big aircraft. It is also a military base so it’s not found in most general aviation pilots’ log books. That changed for me on Saturday.

The base hosted its first MACA (mid-air collision avoidance) safety seminar and fly-in. The opened the event to 25 airplanes. Thankfully, a fried or a friend emailed me the details and I was certain to get my paperwork in as quick as possible.

The event was organized with military precision. I was issued flight instructions and an arrival window of 07:46 to 08:01 ! I was worried about being late so I made sure to take off with plenty of time. Too much time in fact. Good thing the RV-8 can fly slow … 80kts slow!

Rather than lots of words, here are some highlights of the day in pictures …


06:40 preflight and ready to launch – woohoo!

up, up and away … pretty quiet on the radio.

A quick pass to see the recent wind damage to the barley crop. The wind damage looks like someone clawing at styrofoam.

Turns out I’m not alone – wave hello to Carter who is already at work, spraying.

after an hour of SLOOWWWW flight, I have the airport in sight

waiting … waiting … waiting for the runway to arrive

on the numbers … I hope 12,903′ is enough runway


Once on the ground, we were escorted to the safety seminar. It was packed with lots of good information about the airspace, their flight operations, and and what their controllers need to deal with. It was interesting to visualize that the Washington DC SFRA and the Philadelphia Class B airspace create a funnel of GA traffic aimed right at Dover’s training area.

After the safety session, we had a series of tours including the tower and TRACON facility, a C17 and C5 (inside and out), and Dover’s cargo handling capabilities. These guys and gals MOVE FREIGHT – lots of freight!

On the various tours, there was a lot of hand signals mixed in with the briefs. I don’t recall what this signal means but it was right before the bathrooms.

Time to go up in the tower .. this one has an elevator (the old one didn’t)

The tower has the best view ! On this day, identical twins were supervising.

I didn’t even notice the rubber duckies until I saw Vlad’s post ! .. I have one in my plane but you’ll have to wait to find out why.

A tower view of the flight line.

An a C17 is cleared for takeoff. It didn’t need much runway – wow!

They needed a bigger hanger – this one is movable ? Backing the hangar away from the plane.

I’m a lot older than the guy who usually occupies this seat.

You could build an airplane inside this C17!

You could build an even bigger airplane in this C5!

If you are wondering, we are looking up at all of the control cables that run fore and aft in the C5. But the really interesting bit is what is above those cables – the cockpit, sleeping berths for 12, a galley, head, eating area, and then coach class style seating for 78 !

Inside the cockpit of the C5 – Who said military aircraft are bland? Bright happy colors?

Under the C5 – This guy makes landing gear exciting !

The C5 landing gear is amazing. In normal operations, the main gear retracts, folds, and slides sideways into storage. For loading operations, both front and main gear can be configured to let the airplane “kneel”!

Back at the museum, there are my favorite engines – ROUND … and lots of them.

… a Stearman and a very un-aerodynamic glider.

The day is wrapping up and time to launch. “cleared on course” and right over the flight line !

Less than an hour later and I’m on short final for home.

What a great day – thanks KDOV !

Indeed, the entire staff that organized, hosted, and presented were great. They really were happy to have us visit. I got a lot out of it. They say they want this to be an annual event so watch for the announcement for 2015!

I’m a pilot and no one calls me Smokeboy

This is a journal entry from 11-December-1996. I hope, by now, the parental statute of limitations has expired …

WELL … it’s 1630 and I’m back from my solo x-country but without the plane. 45 minutes into my flight to Alice Intl. via Corpus Christi, I started to smell smoke. It was like burning electrical wire and insulation. Within 15 seconds, smoke was visible through the instrument panel and then a balloon puff of black smoke wafted out from under the panel followed by a lesser amount of gray/white smoke. The engine gauges were out.

I immediately shut down all electrical (turned off the Master switch). While my ground school has taught me the engine does not require the electrical system to stay running, there was a moment of surprise followed by relief. I then did my best to clear the smoke through the vents. I turned all the switches off and then brought the master back followed by tentatively turning one of the radios back on. The smoke didn’t continue so I called the last radio contact, Valley Departure, and announced the situation. “valley departure, Cameron 11. I have an situation – an electrical fire with smoke in the cabin”. “Are you declaring an emergency?”. What seemed like a long pause but likely a fraction of a second, “yes”. They requested intentions. I indicated my intent to attempt a landing at Port Mansfield, a small narrow single uncontrolled runway. Departure requested aircraft identification, number of person on board, aircraft colors. They then gave me a vector to the airport, approximately 360 and 2 miles. I had the strip in sight and they approved a frequency change so I could announce intent to any local traffic.

I had a go-a-round as I realized I would have a strong crosswind landing, in excess of anything I had attempted before and the the Tomahawke wanted to float on the landing. (I later realized that it was in excess of the aircraft limit of 15kts.) It didn’t add any margin of error that the runway was 3200ft and only 40ft wide oriented 12-30 and the winds were at about 200/15G18KTS. I had a little bit of bounce but I kept in on the runway and brought it to a stop.

After taxiing to a park space, I shut down and contacted SWFTS. They were already aware of the situation and had dispatched someone to get me. Within 5 minutes, two sheriff, state, local, an unmarked, and EMT were on the scene with fire enroute. They cancelled fire and ambulance. I gave a statement to the sheriff and shortly there after, the area had cleared out. One of the EMTs, about 38, raggy haired, bushy beard man wearing sandals (a nice man, pleasant helpful ‘local’ kind of guy), chatted for a few minutes and then gave me a ride up to a local store so I could get a soda. I then called FSS to close my flight plan. I had already called SWFTS and asked that they contact tower and advise that I was on the ground. In about 15 minutes after returning to the plane, I saw an aircraft overhead. It did the same change of approach I had, deciding on runway 12.

After landing, out stepped my instructor, Brad – a chief flight instructor, and Eddie – one of the mechanics. Brad’s comments were of surprise that I put it down on the runway and managed to keep it on the asphalt. He also was surprised by the amount of crosswind I held. Adam was skeptical about the smoke until Eddie opened the aircraft and Adam smelled smoke from the tail area. Everyone debated the problem and Eddie finally found that the panel light switch had burned, along with the circuit breaker and the under voltage switch, then the voltage regulator and finally the alternator. We couldn’t get the plane restarted so after contacting SWFTS maintenance, they sent up another mechanic with parts. Brad and I took off with the Warrior for Brownsville.

On the way back, Brad let me fly and had me do some interesting maneuvers. He had me fly heading and altitude with only the rudder and throttle. I had to maintain altitude and vary heading. It was a good exercise. All too soon we were back at KBRO.

As I am writing this, I can still smell the electrical smoke; it’s in my clothing. There were a bunch of funny moments. Shortly before takeoff, Adam instructed me that if I landed at any other airport, I had to inform him, since I was only endorsed for the ones on my flight plan and T31. Also, he said I should never allow smoking in an aircraft. When I got back, dispatch was calling me Smokeboy. My name was already changed on the dispatch board. They had made a magnet namecard (usually reserved for the instructors).

It’s now 17:50 and I’m finally starting to wind down. A slight head ache is setting in and I’m expecting to feel completely wiped within an hour. Adam wants a night flight but I’m feeling that by the time we’re ready to fly, I won’t be in any shape for it.

I won’t be able to write much about it but I wanted to note that it seems somehow strange, bizarre, and ironic that I am at flight school and I am watching a series on “the learning channel” called “Survival in the Sky”, all about flight accidents – pilot error, equipment failure, and weather. Imagine, watching a series on so many horrific accidents associated with a skill in which you are being trained. A little dimented wouldn’t you say …

Pilot physiology – flying cross country

When it comes to pilot physiology If you do everything right, you start the day at 100%. Everything you do from that point on will be a deduction. The goal is to make the deductions as small as possible and as few as possible. What follows is how I completed a recent cross country flight with that goal in mind.

Let’s start with the handy mnemonic for pilot assessment – IMSAFE

  • Illness – Is the pilot suffering from any illness or symptom of an illness which might affect them in flight
  • Medication – Is the pilot currently taking any drugs (prescription or over-the-counter)
  • Stress – Psychological or emotional factors which might affect the pilot’s performance
  • Alcohol – Although legal limits vary by jurisdiction (20 mg/mL blood in the UK,[2] one quarter that for driving), the pilot might want to consider their alcohol consumption within the last 8 to 24 hours
  • Fatigue – Has the pilot had sufficient sleep and rest in the recent past
  • Eating – Is the pilot sufficiently nourished?

While I love to read the posts on VAF about fly-outs and cross country adventures, this is a trip write-up with a different purpose. Throughout what follows, I will label which of the above apply to my experience. In most cases, the label will refer to what I was attempted to minimize – for example, all of the planning helped to reduce "stress".

My most recent trip was nothing unique and there were not lots of inspirational pictures. So, I thought I’d make this trip write-up about safety – specifically about pilot physiology.

My trip was to cover a couple thousand miles in three days. I knew I would have head winds on the first day and tail winds on the second and third days. My plan was for manage the winds as best as possible. [Stress]

A few days out I started to watch the weather. The headwinds would make the first day a long one and I had a limited number of daylight hours. [Stress]

I planned the longest day to be first and each subsequent day to be shorter. I knew I would not completely recharge each night being that I would be in a new place and would likely spend time catching up with people. [Stress, Fatigue]


The night before, I did my first pre-flight of the airplane and fueled up. This was a good plan since I noticed the tires were a little low from the current cold spell. I tested out a makeshift pre-heat solution. My hangar was at 40 degrees, and while I could sit on the ground waiting for the oil to warm, getting things up to 80 while in the hangar would save me 10 minutes. [Stress, Fatigue]

During the evening pre-flight, I also took the opportunity to replace the piece of foam weather strip on the RV-8 canopy. The sliding canopy has a nasty draft and I wanted the cockpit to be comfortable. Pilot comfort is a safety task. You want to start the day at 100% and everything subtracts from that number – the fewer deductions, the better. [Fatigue]

I also started the pre-flight of the pilot. This included planning a normal and definitely not late bedtime; skipping my usual glass of wine with dinner; and insuring the meal was something safe – I did not want there to be any risk of adding an extra stop just. I also set out various snacks and liquids for the flight. [Alcohol, Fatigue, Eating]

In the morning, I loaded the airplane and then turned on the engine heater while I had breakfast and dropped the dog off for boarding. [Fatigue]

I completed a full preflight, pulled the plane out, closed the hangar, and finished the checklist for engine start and taxi. I used the last bit of time – while the oil warmed up – to load the full day’s flight plan into the GPS (it was already loaded into both my phone and tablet which would serve as my backup EFB). [Stress]

There are a few things I keep in the airplane at all times – a backup hand-held radio, camera, light weight gloves, hat, a water bottle, a pulse oximeter, and TravelJohn disposable bags. These last two are definitely safety items.

oximeter traveljohn

Any time I am flying above 8000′ I will pull out the pulse oximeter and periodically check. The FAA does not require oxygen below 12,500. That is not to say that the body is unaffected. Altitude flying is another of those things that makes a deduction from that 100%. For me, it is not large, but spending multiple hours at altitude does made a deduction. It’s easy enough to measure and the solution is to fly a lower altitude. Over the three days, I would not be above 9,500′ and each time I checked it was 95 or 96 (with a 92 in there to make me double check I had the finger sensor on correctly). [Illness, Fatigue]

I fully understand the affect of being under hydrated. The problem is that drinking sufficient fluids results in two possibilities – you either drink too little or you need to eliminate liquid. My body much prefers being well hydrated. The TravelJohn disposable bags work as advertised. Knowing I can pee whenever I need to means I never am "distracted" when it comes time for my approach to an airport, landing , and taxiing. I’d bet that any pilot "in a hurry to get down" will make decisions differently than if they had no "pressure" to get to a bathroom. Just consider the decision of a troublesome landing – whether it be a gust of wind, a poorly established approach, a little bounce on landing – most of these are easily resolved with a go-around. But the "need to pee" is definitely weighing into the decision. I really don’t care how graphic this may seem. It’s a simple matter of this pilot’s physiology. [Stress, Fatigue]

As I mentioned, the first day was a log one and there were a limited number of daylight hours. I had several options planned out. First was my flight plan – I had two fuel stops for the 960nm flight – one at KDVK and the other at KPOF. Each stop would add time on the ground. I preferred a single stop at 2M0. [Stress, Fatigue]

Winds are only accurate as they are occurring so there was no guarantee that the "plan" for one fuel stop would be possible. My solution was to flight plan both a single stop and two stops AND to identify multiple options for fuel between (the white markers in the map image).

I watched both my fuel flow and my tank levels as I proceeded. The head wind was very close to forecast. I continually calibrate my fuel flow instrument with each trip and keep it about 5% pessimistic. As I approached my "one of two" fuel stop, I calculated my fuel remaining if I were to continue to my "one of one" stop. It was above my personal minimum (which in turn is above the FAA minimum). I wanted all of my available fuel in one tank (rather than have a small unknown amount in one tank). I used a stretch of sequential airports to run the tank down to zero and then another 20nm until my fuel flow indicated the tank was about to be empty. I then switched tanks. This confirmed both my calculations and that of the fuel computer. It also confirmed I had my personal minimums for fuel to make it to my "one of one" stop. Even still, I kept my flight plan over several alternate airports in case the winds changed. [Stress, Fatigue]

By the time I landed at Princeton Caldwell County airport, I had been in the air for 4 hours and 45 minutes. The only way that was possible was planning, backup plans, constant attention to the airplane, constant attention to the pilot, food, water, a TravelJohn, good clothing, and a comfortable cockpit. The landing was relaxed, unstressed, and uneventful – even with some gusty winds and a bit of ice on the runway. [Fatigue]

With the longest leg done, the plane fueled, a pilot break, and a call to check in, I was back in the air after only 25 minutes on the ground. And for the record, that "call to check in" was another safety task. I had my lunch early into the second leg. [Fatigue, Eating]

The second leg of the day was easier – it was shorter, the winds let up so my progress was quicker, I’d have plenty of daylight, and my destination was a bigger, and better maintained airport.

All day long, there were several people tracking my progress from my APRS tracker. While it is not designed as an emergency system, it does mean that individuals at both ends of my trip were aware of my location nearly every minute. This was helpful given my altitude was 2500′ for most of the trip and while flight following could maintain radio contact most of the time, there was not reliable radar contact. [Stress]

The rest of the trip was a lot less of the above. The legs were shorter times (even if one leg was 560nm) thanks to the tail winds. Each day was a single leg and only a few hours.

The one thing I deducted from that 100% was that my back was not thrilled by the RV-8 seat after that first long leg on day one. My tolerance did not come back to 100% for the rest of the trip. In the past, I’ve never had a day of more than 4 hours. The RV-8 does not give you many options for moving around. This is one issue I will need to be experiment to find a solution. [Fatigue]