My logbook says that I haven’t had the Swift in the air since April 12th. That’s not something I like to do, but I made the choices to not when I could have at least flown the pattern a few times. I spent 2-3 of my free weekends polishing the plane – sort of a Spring cleaning. The idea was to have it looking nice for the AOPA regional fly-in this past weekend in Salinas, CA (KSNS). Best laid plans.

By Wednesday of last week it was obvious that it would not be a good time to go flying from here to there. I cancelled my rental car and decided to drive down. It took me about 5.5 hours each way – I drive at the posted speed limit and make everybody else drive around me. On the way down to Salinas I drove through rain, then snow with 1/2 mile visibility as I got to the top of Donner Pass on I-80. On the way back home it was just rain, heavy at times, as I cleared the pass eastbound.

The weather at Salinas was generally overcast to broken and varying from 1500′ to 2800′ for most of the weekend. Around 11 am or so on Saturday it broke up enough to let quite a few planes in VFR. I would guess that even with the low clouds they had 100-150 planes fly in but I don’t think many of them made it for the pancake breakfast that ended at 10am.

All in all it was a fun weekend with seminars, good food and a large tent of vendors. The Friday night BBQ was a nice addition.  I highly recommend that you see Brian Terwilliger’s new movie Living in the Age of Airplanes. It is an excellent film that reminds you just how special flight in any type of airplane really is – something that the majority of us, pilots and non-pilots, tend to take for granted. Consider this…

The first revenue flight of a Boeing 747 (Pan Am) was Jan 22, 1970. Assume that it took 5 years for the 747 to be in wide use by airlines around the world. Then there is a very good chance that if you were born after 1975 there has been a 747 in the air somewhere around the world every minute that you have been alive.

There were a lot of other planes at Salinas that probably deserved their own photos, but I only took three – looking at them now they span a pretty long period of aviation.

It was a fun event, as was the one I attended last year. Again, I recommend that if there is an AOPA Regional event near you, try to attend. You’ll learn something, meet a lot of aviators from your area and have a chance to talk on-on-one with people like Rod Machado, Mark Baker, Tom Haines, Melissa Rudinger and your AOPA Regional representative.

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Still Here and Flying Around

by on April 13, 2015


Looking Southward toward Reno from just NE of Stead (KRTS).

I know it’s been a while since I last posted. Wow, I just checked and didn’t realize it had been 2 months. Life happens.

According to Logbook Pro I have flown 4 times since then, including yesterday when this photo was taken. There is still snow on the top of Mt Rose but nothing anywhere else.

During the break in writing I have changed hosting providers so maybe you will notice quicker page load times than you were getting. The change will also give me more capabilities with my website development business – which pays for my flying habit.

During that 2-month period I also helped an EAA friend/flight instructor conduct a Private Pilot (PPL) test prep ground school. It was an interesting exercise in remembering all those things that the FAA considers important to new pilots. It had been years since I had even picked up an E-6B much less worked a wind problem with one. The same could also be said for the plotter and determining a Magnetic Heading to fly after drawing a line on a sectional chart and measuring the True Course. All the GPS units available and the online flight planning software has made us lazy – like losing your hand-flying skills if all you do is turn on the autopilot after takeoff.

There were 9 students in the class, of which 7 made it through to the end (7 weeks, two nights per week). It was a quick trip through the text and test-prep book (both ASA products).  In order to receive a course completion certificate which would enable the student to take the FAA written exam, the instructor set a requirement to pass one of the available practice tests with a score of at least 80.  The tests were available on the ASA website as a benefit of purchasing the course materials from ASA.  Unfortunately, only one of the seven who stayed through the entire course had taken any practice tests and met the instructor’s minimum score.

The instructor is starting a new session of the course next week and has invited all the students to attend again at no charge to get ready for the test. A nice gesture. The amount of material to be covered and the time allowed meant that if you ever got behind with the study assignment it was almost impossible to catch up – especially if you had a life outside of class.



I saw this guy/gal land in the back yard the other day. Not something that you expect to see in a residential area of Reno – at 5000′ MSL.

Most of the lakes in the area are severely low. Washoe Lake, just a few miles south of us is almost completely evaporated. I imagine Mr/Ms Duck was looking for something green and our backyard appeared pretty inviting.

On tap next – this-coming Saturday is a pancake Breakfast – but since it’s only two hangars away from me I doubt I’ll fly to it. It will be a good reason to get out to the airport early. Then I can grab a plate and, hopefully, spend the rest of the day trying to finish the Spring polishing on the plane. I have the top of both wings and one side of the tail finished so far.  Have to look good for fly-in season, right?

I’m planning on making the AOPA regional fly-in again this year. This time it is a 2-hour flight to Salinas, CA (KSNS). It should be a fun time.

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A Short Flight on a Nice Day

by on February 16, 2015

Le Rhone Rotary Engine

Le Rhone Rotary Engine

Just a short note to cover a couple of topics.

I managed to get into the air for two short flights this past weekend. They were direct flights to and from the Carson City Airport (KCXP). The Carson City (Sierra Chapter 403) conducted a Young Eagles event. I work as part of the ground crew for their events – primarily in the technology support area. For their events Chapter 403 takes a photo of each group of kids getting a flight, taken with their pilot and the airplane they use. That is printed out and coupled with a Young Eagles flight certificate as souvenirs of the event. They also have available (for a fee) custom mugs that can include the same photo. The Chapter flew 31 kids during the event. Definitely a successful day for promoting aviation.

Anyway, the flight was nice – about a half hour each way. It was good to see that Washoe Lake (on the route between the two airports) has significantly more water in it than it did a month ago. Unfortunately it still has a long way to go to look ‘normal.’


There has not been a whole lot of discussion on this site about the things that I post – there are a couple of you who comment once in a while but it’s generally pretty quiet. On the other hand, I am getting roughly 2000 spam comments per week. These are usually one-word comments to obscure posts or attachment pages which have the intent only to provide a link back to the spammers website for search engine purposes. As a result, I have turned off commenting for my articles.

I have added a menu item at the top of the header just in case you feel the need to contact me. Thanks for understanding.

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Off the Injured List

by on February 10, 2015

ACK A-30 Altitude Encoder

ACK A-30 Altitude Encoder

My last post described my encounter with NORCAL Approach and a problem with the altitude reading they were receiving from my transponder/encoder.

I had, with the help of the local avionics shop (Aviation Classics), investigated the malfunction to the point where the altitude encoder appeared to be the most likely culprit. I had three options at that point and chose to send the unit back to the manufacturer, ACK Technologies in San Jose, CA.

I had talked with ACK about the problem before I shipped it off and found that they would test and repair the unit for a $100 fee plus the shipping cost ($12) to send it back. So, off it went. The ‘excellent’ timing put the unit in their hands the Friday before a 3-day weekend. So, I waited until Wednesday morning of the following week to call and see what they found.

I talked with their encoder guru (José) and found that they had been running it for 3 days and had found no errors in it’s output. He suggested that perhaps it was a wiring issue between the unit and the transponder. Hmm. When Aviation Classics came out for the initial troubleshooting they had with them an identical replacement unit that, when plugged into my system,  provided a correct altitude signal to the transponder.  Great. Now what? José gave me the option of sending the unit back to me at no charge or paying the service fee and he would put in a new  circuit board.

There was a possibility that the only problem was a poor connection between the plug and the encoder that was corrected when the avionics tech plugged in the replacement unit but there was no way to know if that was the problem or the unit was becoming intermittent after working for 6 years. I dug out my bank card and told José to replace the circuit board.

I had a box from ACK the next day. Apparently I finished the call just before their daily package pick-up. Rather than take the extra time to put a new card in my unit, the great folks at ACK just grabbed a new unit off the shelf and sent it to me. You can’t beat service like that.

The next day I went out to the airport, installed the new unit and took it for a short flight. I climbed up to 9000′ north of Stead and called NORCAL Approach asking if they had time for a transponder check. They gave me a squawk code, I plugged it in and they said everything looked fine.

A couple of days later I had the folks at Aviation Classics come out again and do a VFR transponder/encoder certification. The tech adjusted the altitude output by 100′ but everything else worked fine. So the transponder/encoder are legal to go for another 2 years. Of course, all this time the weather had been beautiful and we had been setting high temperature records.

The weather since then has been unsuitable for enjoyable flying. A few days ago we were recording winds at the airport gusting to 50 knots and gusts at the top of Slide Mountain (which I can see from my house) at 120 knots.  Then rain the past week has raised the water level of Lake Tahoe by 4″ – much needed but not really VFR weather.  It would really be nice to be getting snow like they are in the eastern U.S. – maybe next winter it will be our turn.

All that has cleared out now and the weekend is supposed to be nice so I’ll do my best to get up in the air again.

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