Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Author: Tracy (Page 4 of 112)

Winter in the Mountains

Windsock in a strong wind.This time of year the weather up here in the mountains is a bit “unsettled.” Fronts move through pretty fast and usually bring with them strong winds.

As I write this the AWOS at my home field (KRTS) is indicating winds 30 degrees off the runway heading at 29 G 49 knots.  That close to the runway heading you could probably make a successful take-off and possible get lucky with a landing between the gusts. It would not be a very fun flight.  The real problem would be getting to and from the runway – best accomplished with a heavy tow vehicle…

I had a problem like that once while ferrying an Aeronca Champ to Northern California. I stopped for gas at an airport that had it’s runway aligned with the wind and pretty much levitated down to the runway at the midfield turnoff. But that was it – I couldn’t get the plane to turn off the runway. Using power to help with rudder authority only resulted in the tail raising and the plane starting to lift off. I ended up shutting down the engine, getting out of the plane and draping my body across the upwind wing strut hoping that someone in the FBO would see me and come out to help wing-walk the plane to a tie-down spot. Luckily that is what happened. Three guys came out and we nursed the plane to a set of tie-down chains. I was very lucky – it was an uncontrolled airport and the Champ didn’t have a radio so one of those guys just happened to look out the window.

The temperatures are pretty nice today, about 60 Deg F, but along with the wind we have flood watches due to predicted heavy rain this afternoon(and 1-3 feet of snow above 7000 MSL). The high temperature tomorrow is supposed to be 30 degrees. Guess that makes it a cold front coming through – meeting up with a warm jetstream passing overhead coming straight from Hawaii.

Needless to say, there hasn’t been much flying going on lately. I have been talking with an instructor in the area who works as an independent contractor with a flying service in town. He and a partner are installing an AATD at the flying service facility and are looking for an additional instructor or two.  I may take them up on that and do some simulator instructing. They say the system should be operational after the first of the year. We’ll see….

AirVenture 2016

The iconic EAA Brown Arch, once the main entrance to the fly-in.

The iconic EAA Brown Arch, once the main entrance to the fly-in.

I mentioned in an earlier article that I drove to Oshkosh, WI this year to attend AirVenture. I had not been to Oshkosh since 1987. That year I flew my previous Swift (N3898K) the EAA Fly-in from Oklahoma where I was teaching AF pilots how to fly the Lockheed C-5. Why this year? I’m not sure. Making the pilgrimage  was just something that I felt it was time to do again. I wasn’t disappointed.

Why did I drive rather than fly?  I did a lot of number crunching. No matter how I got there I would need a room and a way to get around Oshkosh. By the time I made the decision it was too late to get a dorm room or much of anything else so public transportation/University shuttles wouldn’t work. I really didn’t want to have to factor in taxi or Uber transportation at unknown and varying rates. That left flying commercially or flying the Swift and renting a car or driving. Commercial was out of the question considering cost, time to get somewhere close and my desire to never experience commercial flying again. I looked at the cost of flying the Swift with overnight rooms enroute and a rental car while at AirVenture. That was compared to driving my truck and spending 4 more nights enroute (round trip) over those needed for the faster flight. The supply and demand cost of a rental car obtained at the event made flying the Swift a little more expensive than driving. Having my own vehicle there with the ability to easily carry home anything I bought tipped the scale farther to driving. The ideal situation was to tow our 5th Wheel and use it for housing. That would have made the driving decision a hands-down solution. In the end that didn’t work out so I went the hotel method.

For lodging in Oshkosh I investigated AirBnB and found a room in a house a block off Lake Winnebago. It was 10 minutes from the AirVenture front gate (depending upon the time of day you tried to get there), the host was a nice guy and all of the other guests were friendly. Most were also there for AirVenture. The accommodations were totally adequate for a place to shower and crash at night after wandering the AirVenture grounds all day.

How was the event after almost 30 years?  It was the same and it was different. Yes, a lot bigger with much more to take in but very familiar even after so many years. Everything was in pretty much the same place just more of everything. Well, the FlyMarket had been moved but that’s about it. One big and much appreciated change – benches for seating all around the grounds. My legs and feet give a resounding THANK-YOU!

I arrived in Oshkosh the Saturday before AirVenture opened (on Monday) and began wandering the grounds Saturday afternoon, re-familiarizing myself with the layout of the grounds. By Friday I was well into destroying my legs and their ability to take me any distance. Luckily I got most of Friday off from walking. A month or so before AirVenture I had seen something about the Honor Flight from Oshkosh to Washington, DC looking for Viet Nam veterans for the flight so I applied (on the last application day). A few days later I got a notice saying that I had been accepted and would be on the flight. I have to say that it was an excellent experience. I know a lot of veterans my age who are very reluctant to take the trip, I certainly was. All I can say is Give It A Try. You won’t be disappointed and you will feel appreciated for what you went through while serving your country.

I have no idea how many times I made the trek from one end of AirVenture to the other. I know I became really familiar with the tram routes. As I remember there were four, maybe five,  colored routes that span the entire length and breadth of the grounds – as with all AirVenture services, manned with volunteers.

One night I attended the Lifetime Members Dinner at the EAA Museum. An excellent event with a polished and proficient speaker who gave a presentation on the AF Global Hawk UAS program. I also had tickets to the Chapter President’s dinner but it was scheduled for the same night.

I attended the Vintage Division Dinner at the south end of the grounds in the Vintage Cafe and I toured the warbird area on the north end where I found a restored Fairchild C-123K like the one I flew in Viet Nam. I took in a TIG Welding workshop and all three levels of ForeFlight Seminars. I toured (more than once) all four of the large commercial vendor tents and talked to several product reps (and picked up a copy of the 2016 Aeroshell ‘Flying Cow’ poster). I wandered through most of the outdoor vendor areas and sat for a bit in the ‘Drone Zone’ tent watching some races and demo flights.

I spend most of two days in the Pilot Proficiency Center. One day was spent learning how to operate the Redbird and Crosswind simulators and the other was spend flying each of the available scenarios. I had applied to be one of the simulator instructors but was told that they had all the volunteers that they needed. I trained and was available as a fill-in just in case someone failed to make their scheduled period.  I was never called but it was a great opportunity to experience the Redbird training devices and what the Pilot Proficiency Center had to offer.

I spent some time with a friend who volunteers in the warbird judging office. We toured the WWII and Viet Nam reenactment areas and talked with some of the people living there. Of course, we also took in a lot of the beautiful restorations on display. I ran into another friend who had flown in a very unique twin engine plane. He was scheduled to fly an EAA photo shoot the next day and asked if I wanted to come along. I’m no dummy so I was up and at his door at 6 am the next morning. Unfortunately, as he walked up to my truck his phone rang telling him the shoot was cancelled due to weather – low clouds that were not scheduled to dissipate by takeoff time. Bummer.

John Parker and Mike Cummings from American Air Racing here at Reno-Stead were there manning the Reno Air Racing tent. We talked for a while and then went and toured the Lockheed C-5M that had arrived at the show. The M model is the latest iteration of the C-5A and B models that I flew. The M model has newer, bigger engines and a re-designed instrument panel with the latest technology that the AF could procure. (Nowhere near the capabilities they could find in the vendor area but a definite step up from the original configuration). I believe that all of the C-5s are now operated by AF Reserve or Guard units. This plane was from a unit at Travis AFB in CA with a pilot crew of airline pilots serving in the AF Reserve.

By Sunday afternoon most of the vendors were starting to pack up and a significant number of the show planes had left. I spent the afternoon at the EAA Museum taking in the exhibits there. I considered making the trek across the grass runway to Pioneer Airport to go through the hangars there but my legs were just not up to the round trip.

Even spending an entire week at AirVenture you cannot take in all that the event has to offer. I never made it to the seaplane base (though I did see the Martin Mars do water drops during the airshow), missed several seminars that I intended to attend, skipped some workshops I wanted to try and never made it to some of the social events that I had on put my tentative schedule.  And I never made it to a Theater in the Woods presentation. But I did get my t-shirt(s) so I can prove I was there.

Here are some photos (about 70) I took as additional proof… [click on any and get the larger version – back arrow to return]


Time Flies but I Haven’t

Propless Hangared Swift.

Yes, there is something missing.

I just looked at my logbook today (yes, I still log every flight that I make) and was really disappointed at what I found. The last time I wrote an article here I described a flight I had in June to take part in Swift World Domination Day.

Believe it or not, that was the last time I flew my Swift. I knew it had been a while but I had no idea it was going on 6 months. I flew a couple of times in August in a friend’s Piper PA-28-180 and I got about a half hour in the EAA Ford Trimotor (see below) but there is nothing else noted in my logbook.  Pretty sad.

That isn’t to say that I have not been involved in aviation – I just haven’t been up in the air.

In January of this year I was elected as president of the Reno-Stead EAA Chapter (Chapter 1361). Taking care of those duties has taken a lot more time than I anticipated. The Chapter has made tremendous progress in growth and visibility during the year under the guidance of our new officers and board but the progress has come with a large time commitment. With help from the chapter members I expect my work load to ease a bit.

In July I drove back to Oshkosh and experienced AirVenture for the first time in about 30 years. It was the same and it was different. I’ll write an article about that soon.

In August I started on the annual inspection on the Swift. I took my time and was considering replacing the instrument panel in the process while making room for some sort of ADS-B installation. I looked the prop over then decided to take it to a shop in the SF Bay area to have it inspected. While the flight time on the prop was minimal, it had been 16 years since it installed on the plane. I ended up telling the shop to overhaul the prop. That process is still ongoing.  The length of time that the overhaul is taking is not a function of the ability or professionalism of the prop shop, it is merely a result of the need to come up with an unexpected amount of funds to pay for the overhaul. I should have it back on the Swift in December – assuming I can get back and forth over the Sierras during a winter weather break.

In September the EAA Chapter provided volunteers to operate the people-mover shuttles during the National Championship Air Races. I’ll just say that it was an unexpected and very tiring experience trying to keep all the volunteers going in the right direction.

During the Air Races our EAA Chapter received an offer from EAA to host their Ford Trimotor Tour at our home airport. I polled the members of the Board about their feelings toward the event and then gave EAA a thumbs-up for a stop in November. So as soon as we had cleaned up everything from the Air Races we began getting ready for the Trimotor. That seems like a long time between events, but the Chapter had never hosted that type of event, had no history of local area public relations and needed to start the process of obtaining a use permit for the event from the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority. It was a true learning experience on all sorts of levels.

Back in November of last year (2015) the IMC-Club and EAA merged their efforts forming EAA IMC LLC, a subsidiary of EAA, Inc.,  to distribute IMC Club materials to any EAA Chapter that wants to establish a Club as part of their chapter. IMC Club is a guided discussion group of real-life IFR scenarios. The Scenarios are submitted by IMC Club members, massaged into an audiovisual presentation and provided to Club coordinators as discussion topics. Our EAA Chapter decided to form an IMC Club as a way to attract new Chapter members and to promote that EAA is not just about building airplanes. I took the club Coordinator training, found a meeting location and promoted the inaugural meeting.  We had ten people show up for the inaugural meeting, two joined our EAA chapter after the event and three more established Trial EAA memberships.

The Trimotor event went off in November as though we had been doing it for years. The weather was absolutely perfect for the entire 4 days – clear and winds no more than 10 knots. Rare for any time of year in Reno. The plane left for it’s next stop on Monday and Tuesday a front came through Reno with wind gusts to 60 kts., low ceilings and rain.  The Trimotor was a fun event, provided the airport users with another look at the activity of the EAA Chapter and brought in a few dollars for the Chapter (the hosting chapter shares in the ticket, merchandise and sponsor revenue). I ran the Chapter information table and signed up two more new members during the event.

And that finds us still trying to digest all the great Thanksgiving meals, trying to balance our checkbooks after the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and getting the snow plow in condition to handle the storm moving in tonight.

While I have had a real dry spell manipulating the controls of a physical airplane, I have been very aviation-active.

I will provide more frequent updates here whether I fly or not. I will also be publishing on our EAA Chapter website and am making a renewed effort to publish more frequently on my website design business website.

It is possible that I am spreading myself a bit thin but with a concerted effort at time management everything ought to work out.

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