Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Category: Sport Flying Page 2 of 33

Back Flying Again

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.

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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.

Flying is Still Fun, I Just Haven’t Been Doing Much Lately

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.

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