A Weekend Flight to Washington

by on August 21, 2014


SPOT Messenger flight track to Spokane and back.

As most of you already know, AOPA has changed to a series of Regional Convertions/Fly-ins this year rather than one large event. Their thinking is that they will reach more people by going to them instead of requiring them to travel to AOPA. This month the regional event was in Spokane, WA, at Felts Field. In September the regional event is at the Chino, CA airport in the LA Basin.

Chino is about a half hour shorter flight than going to Spokane but the airspace around Felts Field is a good 10 orders of magnitude less complicated.  I have flown into Chino a few times and I decided I really didn’t want to do it again with 300-400 other planes headed the same direction.


Laird Commercial biplane in front of the only flying Boeing Model 40.

The flight up to Spokane took 3.6 hours engine start to stop. It was a non-stop flight that ended with the fuel totalizer saying I still had 15 gallons remaining, a conservative hour of flight at low altitude. There were VFR arrival procedures published for the convention but when I arrived on Friday just before noon I wasn’t able to comply with the instructions because of weather. I flew the depicted route, but not at the designated altitude. The airport was reporting 2200′ scattered and 6000′ broken when I arrived. About 2 hours after I landed all the clouds decided to get together and have a party – it rained off and on for 2-3 hours.


Gee Bee Q.E.D – a huge airplane with a 1425 H.P. Wright Radial engine

1931 Bellanca J-300 Miss Veedol (Replica). See http://www.spiritofwenatchee.org/

1931 Bellanca J-300 Miss Veedol (Replica). See http://www.spiritofwenatchee.org/

There were plenty of volunteers around to direct me to my parking spot, but I wasn’t too impressed with the parking arrangement. If I had been King I would have started parking arrivals in front of the convention area first and then as available spots filled, progressively move new arrivals farther away from the main area. That would have provided the greatest number of aircraft within the public viewing area for the longest time, would have rewarded early arrivals with parking close to show center and provided closer parking for the arrivals who would be staying the longest and had the most baggage to lug to/from the plane. Obviously, that was not the way it worked. I’ll only say that there were maybe 4 planes parked farther from the convention area than me.

I had never been to an AOPA event, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  About 4-5 days before the event I decided to help out and put my name in as a volunteer.

Rod Machado - Thinking Small to Avoid Big Mistakes

Rod Machado – Thinking Small to Avoid Big Mistakes

I chose to work Saturday 6am to 11am and was assigned to the air side of the operations – the aircraft parking areas rather than the street side auto parking/directing operations. I ended up on a multi-person crew directing aircraft to their parking area and then, if necessary, pushing the plane into place. There were also individuals assigned as greeters for the arriving pilots and others assigned to take fuel orders and deliver them to the FBO representative.  It was a fairly efficient operation. During my shift we were allowed to take some time out for the pancake breakfast. I had prepaid the $5 fee before I signed up as a volunteer. Volunteers were given a free breakfast. The afternoon crew came on at 10:30 to have a half hour overlap to see how things were working. At eleven I headed out to my rental car and changed my shirt – volunteers were all given a lime-green shirt and AOPA hat to make it obvious that we were on a working crew. We were asked to take the shirt off after our shift. If the organizers needed a runner or someone to accomplish a task on short notice they would look for a volunteer shirt in the crowd.

Mark Baker AOPA President/CEO during his Town Hall/ Q & A session.

Mark Baker AOPA President/CEO during his Town Hall/ Q & A session.

The west end of the convention area had a display of aircraft of various types. I’m not sure how you are invited to display there or if you pay for the privilege – I’m sure that the manufacturers pay as I remember seeing something on the website about reserving display area. There were a few unique aircraft there owned by individuals, though. I imagine they were included by invitation.

After I returned from the rental car I got into line for lunch. Event registration includes lunch and a drink for all attendees. (yes, there is a free lunch.). Food was selected from a variety of Food Trucks parked east of the convention area. You had a choice of  Thai food, burgers, hot dogs/brats, pizza, BBQ and most things in between. I went with the BBQ and had a great tri-tip sandwich. After lunch I attended Rod Machado’s talk on Thinking Small to Avoid Big Mistakes.  As usual, it was a great talk – humorous, fast-moving and efficient in getting the point across to the audience.  The next speaker on the schedule was Mark Baker, the President/CEO of AOPA. He started with an overview of the current efforts/programs in which AOPA is involved – the Third Class Medical, Flying Clubs, the refurbished Cessna trainers, user fees, etc. He then spent about an hour answering questions from the audience. As an aside, both Baker and Machado could be seen talking to small groups of people in various places around the convention area – easily approachable and willing to talk. That is what is making these Regional events much more effective in connecting the AOPA leadership with the AOPA members.

Everything wound down by about 4:30 on Saturday. Rather than trying to get the plane packed and fight my way to the runway for departure with 3/4 of the rest of the attendees I decided to spend Saturday night and leave early Sunday morning. The cafe in the Felts Field terminal opened at 7 am so that is when I got to the airport. I had a nice breakfast, turned in the rental car and made my way to the Swift. I was airborne at about 8:15 and was back in my hangar at Stead by 12:45 with a stop in Burns, OR for fuel. Each leg was 2 hours, so I made sure I had at leas 3 hours of fuel on board for each leg. The second leg was a bit hot and bumpy, but nothing more than occasional moderate. About what I would expect for a high desert afternoon in the summer.

If you have the chance to attend one of the three remaining regional conventions I would highly recommend it. I met a lot of friendly aviation people, learned some things and had an enjoyable weekend of flying and airplanes. What more could you want?

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A Nice Day of Flying

by on August 10, 2014

1948 Temco Swift GC-1B (Modified)

1948 Temco Swift GC-1B (Modified)

My last update was in mid-June. I have flown a couple of times since then, but it has been a sparse summer. Time(Life) seems to get away from you sometimes. The weather up here in Reno this summer has been a bit on the warm side and we seem to be in an unusual string of thunderstorm days. Last night one built right over the house – REALLY noisy.  Fortunately the plane was safely tucked away in its hangar by then.

Yesterday morning the Carson City EAA Chapter (403) had it’s monthly Young Eagles event. I got up early and drove a half hour north so that I could fly a half hour south and be a ground volunteer. It actually would have been quicker to drive to the Carson Airport (KCXP) but what fun is that?  I helped with the computer set-up, printing out First Flight Certificates and general things that needed to be done. The chapter flew 13 kids so it was a successful event.

A few of us were considering attending a BBQ lunch at an airport about an hour NE of Carson City – Winnemucca, NV (KWMC) but by the time we had cleaned up from the Young Eagles event the latest TAF for the airport included rain showers and thunderstorms. Suddenly BBQ didn’t sound that good.

We ended up flying all the way to the South Lake Tahoe Airport (KTVL). If you could fly there in a straight line it’s about 25 nm from Carson City. That would take something with a much better climb capability than I have. There were three planes: I was in the Swift, two other members were in a Cherokee 180 and a fourth was in a Cessna 172. There is a 2-story operations building on the south end of the ramp (the helicopter parking area)  that has a restaurant on the second floor. The Flight Deck has mostly glass walls facing the runway and outside balcony seating that provides excellent airplane watching.  Lots of bizjet traffic. Just in the time we were eating three Citations (including a Citation X), a PC-12 and a Gulfstream landed as well as a handful of upscale piston types (upscale meaning manufactured after 2000). Since it is Lake Tahoe and factoring in the casinos and entertainment venues I imagine there is a fairly steady flow of jet charters and personal jets in and out of the airport.

We had a nice lunch while watching the traffic, then headed back out to our respective planes. I taxied out past two of the jet charter crews and waved as I went by – neither responded. Oh well.  The take-off went fine even with the AWOS reminding you that the density altitude was 8400′. I took off on runway 36 toward the lake and turned east at the shoreline. I continued to climb as I followed the shore around to the area west of Incline Village on the north shore and crossed the ridgeline while looking straight down runway 11 at Truckee (KTRK). From there I turned north, stayed west of the ridgelines and went through the gap between the two 8300’+ peaks and headed back to Stead (KRTS). When I finally could receive the AWOS the winds were from 110 deg at 8 kts, so I maneuvered for landing on Runway 14. By the time I got around to the runway they were from 130 and 8 gusting to 13. As the days heat up around here the winds pick up and when they decide to start blowing it doesn’t take long to become a significant factor in your landing decisions. I chose to use a no-flap landing.  I can use the airplane again so I consider it successful.

It was an overall fun day. A bit warm and the last leg got pretty bumpy around all the ridgelines, but not so bad as to take the fun out of the flying. I logged 1.8 hours, three landings and had a good lunch. I need more of those days…


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An Aviation Weekend

by on June 17, 2014

The taxiway leading to the Dye hangar/home.

The taxiway leading to the Dye hangar/home.

Saturday I attended a ‘hangar-warming’ at the Dayton, NV airport, an airport community just to the east of Carson City. New Carson City EAA Chapter (EAA403.org) members Paul & Louise Dye recently had a home and hangar built there and were gracious enough to invite the chapter to their get-together.

Paul's RV-3 parked in front of their hangar.

Paul’s RV-3 parked in front of their hangar.

Paul worked for NASA at the Johnson Space Center and was NASA’s lead flight director for three Phase 1 missions: STS-79, STS-86 and STS-91. With the termination of the shuttle program he retired and moved on. He is now Editor in Chief of Kitplanes Magazine.

The event turned out to be pretty much an RV fly-in – 4s, 6s, 7s a 10, a Rocket or two and Paul’s RV-3.  They were even nice enough to ‘let’ a Piper and a Cessna attend.

It was a great BBQ and a chance to make new friends and say hi to old friends. Paul and Louise – thanks for the great hospitality! Welcome to the high desert – just a bit different than Houston…

I chose to drive in rather than fly. Stead was still under a TFR for the Pylon Racing School. There were 15-minute periods 4-5 times through the day for local arrivals and departures and the no-prop line was in effect. That would have required towing my plane to the edge of the ramp, chocking it, taking the golf cart tow vehicle back to hangar and locking up, then walking back to wherever I left the plane and starting the published departure procedures. Then I would either have to wait until after 5 pm to return or be restricted to one of the allowable time periods.  Yeah, I’m a whimp…

Quincy, CA ramp for their 2014 Father's Day Fly-in

Quincy, CA ramp for their 2014 Father’s Day Fly-in

Pietenpol Air Camper built from plans buy the same person who built the Wittman Tailwind parked next to it. You can see my Swift just past the Tailwind.

Pietenpol Air Camper built from plans buy the same person who built the Wittman Tailwind parked next to it. You can see my Swift just past the Tailwind.

On Sunday I pulled the Swift out and flew over to the Quincy, CA airport (2O1) for their Father’s Day Fly-in and pancake breakfast.

They had a really good turnout for a small aircraft located in a mountain valley. One strong incentive for attendance was their decision to sell 100LL at their cost during the event. I took advantage of the 30-cent reduction in price and put 30 gallons in the plane.

After a nice breakfast I walked around with a few of the Carson City EAA Chapter members who also flew in. There was a good cross-section of general aviation planes in attendance and everyone seemed to be having a good time. It appeared that they had a good turnout from the local residents, too.

There was a very nice looking Stearman sticking out of one of the hangars down the ramp, so I made my way there to take a look.

Engine build-up room at Holloway Engineering in Quincy, CA.

Engine build-up room at Holloway Engineering in Quincy, CA.

It was a very good restoration, but even more interesting was the hangar and all that was in it.

I had managed to come across Al Holloway’s radial engine rebuilding business. He had all types of radials in various degrees of rebuild and even an old Menasco sitting on a pallet waiting it’s turn. In talking with him we found that he is currently the only engine rebuilder in the country working on the Warner family of radial engines.

Al is a really nice guy and took quite a while to give us a detailed tour of his facility and a little of the history behind how he got into the business.

It is shops like this that keep the older aircraft flying and it is really sad to see them closing. Sooner or later we all reach a point where we can’t do the things that we once could. When that day comes who will take over and continue the work?  Who will preserve the art of the radial engine rebuild? If you are mechanically inclined, love doing things with your hands and take pride in your work then getting an apprentice position in one of these shops may be a viable option. You may never be a millionaire but you can become an expert in a field that is becoming dangerously narrow.

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Past Time for an Update

by on June 10, 2014

Collings Foundation B-17

Collings Foundation B-17 The Foundation bombers (and P-51) were in residence at Reno-Stead last week.

I knew it had been a while since I last wrote and article, but a had no idea it had been almost a month four months. Ugly.

Ok, what has happened since the last update?  Bear with me, as you get older just recalling what you had for breakfast yesterday can be a test of will…

Collings Foundation B-24

Collings Foundation B-24

That last update was on February 11th. My logbook says I flew down to Minden (KMEV) on February 23rd. I had a really nice $150 plate of spaghetti with a friend of mine who lives near there. Obviously, I topped off the tanks before I flew back to Stead. That was the last nice weather in February that I was available to fly. The plane was running great on that flight but it really didn’t matter as far as the FAA is concerned, because the annual inspection ran out on March 1st.

The weather in Reno in March and April was unsettled at best. It seemed that every time I was able to clear some time to work on the plane a cold front would come through and drop the temperatures below my 40-degree threshold for working in the unheated hangar. I managed to work in spurts of time, starting the inspection from the tail and working toward the front of the plane.

When I got to the landing gear I decided it was time to do a re-seal operation on all of the hydraulics. The struts were seeping hydraulic fluid as was one of the actuators. So, everything came out of the wheel wells. I had the local Swift mechanic in Gardnerville, NV re-seal the struts and pressure-check them to make sure that they were sealed well. Meanwhile I placed all new seals in both actuators and downlocks. While I was at it I replaced all four of the position microswitches. The ones installed were the original parts from 1948 and were really looking their age.

When I got the struts back i started the re-installation and rigging – to make sure the micro-switches were located just right to turn off the hydraulic pump when both gear were either fully up or down.

Once all that was completed and the landing gear recurring ADs were checked I moved to the aircraft belly and removed.re-sealed the flap actuator. It had a small seep and, since I was already covered with hydraulic fluid…

I finally finished all of my checks and then scheduled a time with the IA to complete the annual and paperwork. The last check was of the operational pressures in the fuel injection system. All were in the middle of the acceptable range, so the annual was officially completed – on June 1st. Ugh. That took way too long.

A couple of days later I got back into the air for the first time since February. I flew around for a while and made sure that everything was still working as it should – sometimes I wonder whether taking things apart every year does more harm than just flying it until you notice something out of whack. Oh well.

Last weekend I flew down to Paso Robles for the weekend – logged 2:10 each way. It was good to get the plane out and about. The big engine makes it a nice cross-country machine.

This week PRS in going on at Stead (Pylon Racing School), so a TFR goes into place tomorrow through Saturday. If a tenant needs to fly they can get a PPR number and can work out a time to slip out and then back in – between training sessions or before/after the training day. But, in general, it’s a pain when you’re used to coming and going at will. There is a Father’s Day fly-in at one of my favorite breakfast destination (Quincy, CA  – 2O1). The TFR will have expired by then so I may try to make it there for some pancakes.


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