Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

It was a nice idea…

Last Monday we finally had a day that was supposed to have light winds so I got up in the air for a while. My intent was to fly around locally for a bit and then go over to the Beckwourth-Nervino (O02) airport, land and get gas.

The price for 100LL at Stead was posted at $7.13/gallon while ForeFlight was showing at Beckwourth it was $5.23.

By the time I took off the winds were out of the east at less than 10 kts, just as predicted. Not so much in the air…. Just as my last flight, flying around locally just wasn’t any fun. I tried a couple of different altitudes and found light to moderate chop everywhere I went.

So, off I went to Beckwourth. It’s a nice little airport and even though it’s only 24 NM from Stead I had never landed there. Their runway is also oriented E-W so, even though the winds were a bit stronger there they were pretty much down the runway. I made a reasonable landing, taxied back to the ramp and found the fuel island – a nice modern card reader set-up with 100LL or JP4.

As I was standing there reading the instructions for purchasing gas a guy with a clipboard walked up. Apparently they had received a new tanker truck of gas over the weekend and he was there to correct the fuel price in the pump system. The price of 100LL was to be $6.99/gallon.

I had done some calculating with fuel prices and burn rates at cruise before I planned the flight and found that even with the $7.13/$5.23 price difference and with reduced power I would need to buy 25+ gallons of fuel to break even – to save more money with the price difference than the cost of the gas used to fly there and back. That’s why I rarely fly somewhere just because the destination has cheaper fuel than my home airport. If I’m going there anyway for lunch or to meet someone it is a different situation,

So, I put 10 gallons into my main tanks and bumped my way back to Stead. Amazingly I only hit my head at the top of the cockpit once on the way back.

Yes, I could have topped off all my tanks since I was already there which would have saved maybe $4 but I’ve been trying to schedule some time to complete a couple of EAA Eagle Flights and have been trying to keep the plane light. Saving $1.90/gallon would have made it worth topping off than then getting a few solo flights in to burn some of it off before taking passengers.

This week tenants are pretty much grounded since Pylon Racing School (Seminar) is going on with its associated TFR. Oh, there are 15-minute windows throughout the day for tenants to get in and out if you have to but it just adds a level of complexity that most tenants will probably try to avoid. There is also a no-prop line in effect so in order to start your engine you have to be towed out to the north side of the ramp. If all that causes an undue hardship tenants have the option to relocate to the other airport (KRNO) for the week.

Swift flight on April 29, 2022

Yes, I’m Still Here

I received an email a few days ago asking if I was still around and flying since it has been so long since I last posted an article. I just looked and can’t believe it has been almost a year and a half. My apologies….

I did write an article during the first week in January but I never published it – I was concerned that the information I had put into it might encourage a non-mechanic Swift owner to take on a project that they were neither qualified nor capable of accomplishing correctly and would end up with an unairworthy airplane or worse.

That article was about my need to take at least one wing off my plane (I did both) to fix a main fuel tank leak. I had gone out to the airport to go flying and found a puddle of fuel on the hangar floor – not a good sign during your preflight.

It turns out that a crack had developed on the top rear of the right main fuel tank (my plane also has outer wing aux fuel tanks, an STC from Merlin Products). Fixing the leak required removing the outer wing panel, which in turn required disconnecting the aileron and removing the wing flap. That was followed by removing the end rib on the center section, disconnecting all of the fuel lines and vent lines to the tank and then removing the tank. Of course, draining all the fuel out of the tanks was the first step – and as expected, the tanks were full (52 gallons minus what was on the floor)

Since I only wanted to do this process once, I also removed the left main fuel tank using the same process – though that one included removing the fuel filler assembly.

I took both tanks to a fellow IA who had experience welding these tanks. He accomplished the repair and then we pressure tested both tanks to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I inspected the repair IAW AC 43.13 and wrote up the repair on an FAA Form 337 – Repairing fuel tanks is a major repair. (14 CFR Part 43, Appendix A (b)(xxviii))

I then reversed the process and put everything back together. I refilled the tanks over several days, checking each day for another puddle or leak but found none. I did a really thorough preflight and flight control check and made a successful test flight. I was back in business.

Of course, by then COVID was well established and the air quality here in Reno was absolutely terrible because of all the fires. That pretty much shut down my flying for the majority of the summer. I did manage to get in the air enough to complete a phase of the WINGS program which qualified as my Flight review.

Between the winter temperatures and the wild swings in weather we have been having I am just managing to keep my landing currency but not much else. The price of 100LL now isn’t helping either.

Swift flight on April 29, 2022

I managed to get into the air last Thursday for about an hour. The AWOS said the winds were variable at 4 kts but it sure wasn’t that at 8500′. My head hit the hatch twice as I flew around the area so I headed back to the airport, did a couple of patterns and called it a day. Turbulence in the mountains isn’t fun.

Today the AWOS says the winds are from 250 deg at 20G27 and tomorrow it is supposed to get windy with gusts in the 40-50 kt range, including LLWS, blowing dust, etc. Reasonable flying weather is supposed to be back in about 4 days.

The good news is the temperatures have been warm and we have no snow on the ground nor is there a forecast showing any appreciable snow or rain on the horizon. That is also the bad news. It looks like it could be another bad fire year out here in the west. The Reno-Stead tanker base is in operation waiting for their first call. With the forecasted dry winds I hope it’s not this weekend.

Over Pyramid Lake at 9500'

To Say that 2020 has been an Unusual Year is a Gross Understatement

Here’s hoping that 2021 erases at least some of the hardships we have all experienced this year. It has to be better, right?

Over Pyramid Lake at 9500'
Over the SW corner of Pyramid lake at 9500′

Let’s see, I flew on February 28, 2020 and then didn’t get back into the air until November 3rd. I may have been out to the hangar a few times during the Spring and Summer months but in general I tried to stay away from everyone and everything. [I am in the high risk group with respect to Covid-19 and have no desire to test what type of reaction that I would have to catching it.]

The annual inspection on the Swift ran out at the end of April so even if I had wanted to venture out, the airplane was not legal to fly.

I finally started driving out to the airport again in mid-September when my schedule would allow and started working on the annual. . By the first of November I had completed the annual inspection and its requisite paperwork and again had a flyable airplane. But not for long….

Reno from 10,500' MSL
Reno from 10,500′ MSL

I logged 3.5 hours of flying over November 3-5 and after the last flight topped off the tanks in preparation for a few days of non-flying while a winter storm blew through the area. [ For the calendar year 2020 I managed to log 10.5 hours in the air – not what I was hoping for at the start of the year. ]

Swift Right Wing Root with Fuel Stain
Swift right wing root area with fuel stain on the floor.

The next time I went to the hangar to fly I found a fuel stain, still wet, under the right wing root. After the expletives stopped reverberating in the hangar I started my search for the source of the leak.

Oh the joys of aircraft ownership – especially an antique/classic aircraft. At least as an A&P/IA I have the ability, training and certification to fix it myself.

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