Paying it Forward

by on January 16, 2018

Anyone who has any experience with the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) has heard of their Young Eagle Program. It introduces kids aged 8-17 to the world of aviation with a Stem-oriented briefing that covers the very basics of flying, the Young Eagle Program itself and flight line safety. Then they are given a an orientation flight. All this is provided at no cost to the child or his/her parents. The printed materials are provided by EAA and the flights are provided by volunteer EAA members. There are also follow-on benefits for kids who pursue their aviation education.

The response to the Young Eagle program continues to be very positive and, as expected, some parents watching the program in action have asked how they can get the same type of experience.  Enter EAA’s Eagle Flight Program.

Eagle Flights are available for individuals over the age of 17 who are seriously interested in aviation and learning to fly. It is designed to introduce a prospective pilot to aviation, what it takes to obtain a pilot certificate, where the training can be obtained and what their next step might be in the process. An introductory flight is also included. Again, for those who continue in their pursuit of a pilot certificate there are follow-on benefits.

If you are serious about flying and are interested in an Eagle Flight contact your local EAA Chapter and arrange one. Our Local Reno Chapter 1361 can be contacted at eagleflights@eaa1361.org.

I conducted an Eagle Flight yesterday. The individual was sincerely interested in obtaining a pilot certificate and is in the position in his life now where he can accomplish his goals. He has a pilot or two in his extended family and has always been curious about the process.

Preflight briefing before a flight at Reno-Stead Airport.

Preflight Briefing

We spent quite a bit of time going over the local airport diagram, what it showed with all of its annotations and what that meant to our ability to move around the airport. Then we looked at the local area sectional and what some of the airspace is around the area and a bit about traffic pattern operations. From there we moved to the hangar and did a thorough preflight of the aircraft, pulled it out, got strapped in and went through the instrument panel layout and switches.

Then it was off to the run-up area and into the air. We flew north of the airport, leveled off at about 2500′ agl and I turned the plane over to him. We talked about the horizon line position in the windshield, making turns, use of the pitch trim system and the use of pressure on the controls rather than control movements. For a first time at the controls of an aircraft he did a great job, especially considering how easy it is to over-control a Swift. It is very light on the controls.

We flew back into the pattern with the need to coordinate with another aircraft practicing landings – another good experience. After landing we stopped at the fuel island and filled all the fuel tanks, then put the plane back into the hangar.

To top off the experience we visited the local airport restaurant hangout and had lunch while we continued our discussion.

It was a fun day for both of us. It had been a while since I did any instructing and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Back Flying Again

by on January 8, 2018

That was a long dry spell there… both flying and writing.

It all started with an extended annual inspection on the Swift. Just as I was about to get it all finished I made a dumb mistake that required sending my prop out to be inspected. That resulted in the need for a new hub for the prop. By the time all that was completed we had entered into the winter of 2016-17 which was one of the wettest we had experienced in decades. It was great for the skiers and filled all our reservoirs to capacity…but it made it hard to get over the Sierras and pick up the prop from the San Francisco bay area.

Well, I finally got it all back and the plane back flyable again. But by then both my medical and flight review had expired. I wrote about all that back in June.

So, I finally got back into the air and regained my landing currency on the first flight. There was definitely some rust knocked off during the flight but that was expected after a 1-year layoff from flying the plane.

My next flight was to give a friend a ride. That didn’t go so well. Unfortunately the next landing resulted in an off-pavement excursion and a bent airplane. Luckily I had very good insurance coverage – the active work being ‘had’.  The insurance company I had been using refused to re-insure me after I filed a claim – the rejection reason was stated as ‘claim history.’ The first claim in 49 years of flying.

I won’t get into the incident details other than to say that there was sheet metal damage that had to be repaired, the engine was torn down and inspected and a new prop was purchased. The ‘good’ news is that while the plane was down being repaired I worked with the maintenance facility to do the work needed to replace the instrument panel in the cockpit while the exterior repairs were being accomplished. I had a blank panel on hand, decided where I wanted all the instruments and cut the metal.  I pretty much just re-arranged the instruments I had and put them into a more logical (six-pack) order with a center radio stack and added instrument lights (Nulite LED).

A new instrument panel, of course, means new electrical wiring to the panel. These sorts of projects never seem to stop. There is always a “While it’s apart why don’t I…” staring at you that gets on the list of things to do…. instrument lights, turn coordinator, ADS-B, engine analyzer, etc., etc., etc.

Making a really long story short, I got the plane back in my hangar in mid-December. I had a new transponder check done by the local avionics shop – passed first try. Then I went for a flight and got my landing currency back…again. The next flight I motored around the Reno Class C airspace for 45 minutes. After the flight I queried the FAA website for an ADS-B performance check. The new installation passed all their checks and I now have an ADS-B certified airplane.

For those of you who are interested, I went with the Appareo ESGi installation for an ADS-B solution. It includes their ADS-B transponder with built-in WAAS GPS for the ‘out’ portion and a Stratus 2i receiver for the ‘in.’ The 2i sits behind the instrument panel on a shelf next to my altitude encoder. The 2i does not have a battery or GPS. It is connected directly to the transponder and receives its power and position information from the transponder. It automatically powers up whenever the transponder is turned on.

With the 2i installation I now only have my small battery-powered SPOT tracker velcroed to the aircraft glareshield – much cleaner and no visible cables other than the lighting cable for my iPad connected to the aux power outlet behind the seats.

I flew a couple more times when we had good weather in the end of December and then made a trip down to the California valley to Willows (KWLW) for breakfast on January 1st. The Corning, CA EAA Chapter (1148) had a New Year’s Day fly-out for breakfast so I tagged along. Probably had 8 planes from Corning and two from our chapter (1361) in Reno. One of our members with a beautiful RV-7 came down, too.

Anyway, that is what has happened in the last 18 months. A lot of frustrating, non-flying time but in the end the Swift is in better shape than when it started. I still have a short list of minor things to do (always) but the plane is flyable. Right now we’re in the middle of a pretty wet storm system but everything ought to clear out by the weekend. Unlike the rest of the country our temperatures are still getting up to the low 50s so there is some flying planned for this weekend.

Fly safe.

Patience

by on June 12, 2017

I’m finally legal to fly again. Last week I completed my flight review, the last step in the process. I’m legal, but not current…

The flight review was sort of a catch-22 type of thing. Once it expired I could not fly as pilot in command. That meant that I couldn’t do my flight review in my own aircraft. Why? None of the flight instructors near me are qualified to fly my Swift. Oh, one or two have a tailwheel endorsement, but none of them have the required 15 hrs of PIC in a Swift to qualify for insurance coverage. That meant that I had to rent a plane and instructor for the review. I really admire those of you who rent planes to feed your flying habit. Maybe it’s the lump-sum payment the day of the flight, I don’t know. Owning your own plane and hangar are certainly not inexpensive but the costs are sort of hidden when you go fly. The only outlay is at the fuel island which is bad enough for sure but rarely involves 3 digits before the decimal point.

Reno is now down to two flight schools – one at each airport (KRNO and KRTS).  The school at KRNO has two aircraft, a Cessna Skycatcher and a G-1000 Cessna C-172 (180HP). The school at KRTS has two aircraft, a Diamond DA-20 and a Diamond DA-40.

While the Diamonds look interesting I decided I’d get some experience with the G-1000 C-172. Both are equipped with the G-1000 but I have flown the C-172 quite a bit so I would just be learning the instrument panel rather than the panel and a new aircraft model.

I read through Garmin’s online operating manual for the G-1000 and found that it has many of the same functions as the ‘big’ glass I flew before I retired. The buttons and knobs were new, of course, and really take hands-on practice to become proficient. Once the instructor was confident that I had retained enough information from the three Flight Review courses I had taken in the last 60 days we went to the aircraft, plugged in a power cart and went over the operation of the G-1000 screens.

If you have never used the G-1000 system you will not become proficient with an hour or two of instruction, even with hands-on time. But the instructor eventually felt that I was capable of doing everything that a VFR flight review would require (radio and transponder operation and flight plan insertion/activation) and we headed for the runway.

The flight went well and my landings were acceptable – even with the nosewheel and an airplane with an actual glide ratio. The Swift comes out of the air like a crowbar so the landing patterns took a bit more planning for the descent.

We flew for 1.4 hours and by the end of our time together the instructor felt that I was safe to fly and signed my logbook with a satisfactory flight review completion.

That made me legal to fly a nosewheel plane with passengers but I still needed landing currency in my taildragger.  We had a TFR in place at Stead last week for the annual Pylon Racing School so I did some more waiting. By the time that PRS was completed we had a cold front with 30-40 MPH winds move in. It’s still blowing today, raining, snowing in the mountains (in June) and Stead has a 2200′ ceiling. Still waiting.

The weather is forecast to move out of the area throughout the day and be nice the rest of the week with temps up into the 90s by the end of the week. If that really happens, this week I WILL become current in my airplane again. I hate to admit it but today marks exactly one year since I last flew my Swift.

I’m sure that you have noticed that the last article I published here was at the end of January. Unfortunately I still haven’t had the Swift back in the air. According to my logbook the last flight I had in the Swift was June 12th of last year. Even without looking at the regs I believe I’m safe in saying that my landing currency has expired.

I have been up a couple of times in a Piper PA-28-180, logged some time (20 minutes) at the controls of EAA’s Ford Trimotor and about a half hour in an AATD but that has been the extent of my flying.

I mentioned the weather here in Reno in that last article – no change. It was the most precipitation ever recorded up here. All of our lakes and reservoirs are full and we have a lake or two where there were none in decades. This weekend we have flood watches on a couple of local rivers because the higher temperatures are no melting our record snowfalls. The snow-melt runoff is causing the rivers to run way higher and faster than normal.

In the Swift department, I finally got my overhauled prop installed on the plane in early March. The biggest hold-up was finding a break in the weather when I could drive over the Sierras and back to go get the prop. I have never see Interstate 80 closed so many different times in one winter. Then on one of the last checks of the fuel system to complete the annual the fuel pump developed a major leak. That required taking the pump off and having it overhauled. That is back on and checked and about two weeks ago, after setting the fuel injection pressures on the re-installed pump, the annual inspection was finally completed.

That made the plane airworthy and I moved to the next project – getting me airworthy. My FAA Class III physical had expired. I had elected not to renew it since I didn’t have a plane to fly and I knew that BasicMed was going into effect soon. Now that the plane was ready and I had that medical renewal option. I chose to renew my medical through the BasicMed process. I no longer do any flying that would require a Class II or III, so I figured why not use a method that gets me qualified for four years instead of two? I completed that step earlier this week.

Now I am waiting for my CFI’s plane to get out of annual so I can renew my Flight Review – which also had expired during this extended down time.

So, we’re getting close.

EAA B-17 G "Aluminum Overcast"

EAA B-17 G “Aluminum Overcast”

In the meantime, last November(2016) our EAA Chapter hosted EAA’s Ford Trimotor at the Reno-Stead Airport (KRTS) and at the end of April we hosted EAA’s Boeing B-17G on it’s tour. Both were major efforts on the part of our small but growing Chapter and were hugely successful. In March we had a noted aviation historian and author give a presentation on the development of fighter warfare during WWI and in May we had the Director of Research and Development for Scaled Composites give a presentation on the programs they have completed and currently have in progress. In mid-June we will have our large Young Eagles event/pancake breakfast.

As Chapter president all these activities are keeping me busy even with the excellent group of Chapter volunteers that we have attracted.

Last month I made the trek (yeah, drove) down to Camarillo, CA (KCMO) and enjoyed the AOPA Regional Fly-in. On Friday I took their IFR Refresher to see what they had to say. In general it was a good review though the day started out a bit slow. After the first break the speakers were advised that the pace was a bit slow and they were sharp enough to change their planned presentation to meet the needs of the group. It was the first time that the all-day workshops had been presented so there was some learning taking place on both sides. I think that they expected the audience to be more of a Rusty Pilot group considering getting back into instrument flying. At my table of 8 pilots, the average flying experience was about 40 years and most were current and routinely flying in IMC. They were just looking for a good review and and update on any recent changes in IFR procedures.

The Saturday presentations that I attended were excellent as was the Town Hall meeting held by Mark Baker and his staff.

With a bit of luck and some concerted practice I’ll have some in-flight photos from the Swift to share soon. Now that the weather has turned nice there is a bit more urgency in completing this last step in the currency process.

A Long Dry Spell

January 31, 2017

I’m still not back in flying condition but there is light at the end of the tunnel…

Read the full article →