Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

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A Beautiful Weekend for Flying

I finally couldn’t take it any more this weekend. Clear blue skies, hardly any wind and temperatures pushing 70 deg . I headed out to the airport around  9 am  Saturday and was in the air by 11:30. The time between was spent visiting with/helping my friend in the hangar across the taxiway from me – and letting my engine pre-heater do it’s work. The temperature may have pushed 70, but the day started out closer to 30 deg. Such is life in the high desert.

Willys Hot Rod

Willys Hot Rod

My friend, I have probably mentioned before, builds/rebuilds/works on Hot Rods. Here’s one he built that was back in the shop to get a water hose replaced.

I have probably had a photo of this one in an article before – this time it is sporting a different paint job – the metallic silver was added recently.


After talking with my friend for a while about his latest project I headed back to my hangar, completed the preflight and headed for the runway. There were plenty of planes out and about. I was in the run-up area with a Decathlon, a Diamond DA-40 and a Cherokee (with a student who was supposed  to solo that day). I finished my run-up and taxied onto the runway for take-off as an L-39 pulled up to the hold-short line.

It was lunch time so I decided to take the long way down to the Minden Airport (KMEV). They have a nice restaurant there that I have mentioned in the past (The Taildragger Café). The long way to Minden for me is to fly north from Stead to Pyramid Lake, then east to the next valley then south past Fallon, NV (N58) to Silver Springs (KSPZ). Then SE down the valley toward Carson City as far as Dayton Valley (A34) and from there to Minden. It’s a bit more fun than just going direct through the Reno-Tahoe Class C. The time from engine start to stop was right at an hour – plenty long enough to push oil around the inside of the engine.

Headed east while south of Minden, NV (KMEV).

Flying east while south of KMEV

Minden was busy as it usually is on any good weather day.  They have two main runways, 16-34 and 12-30. There is a very active glider operation on the field that was using runway 30 – two tow planes were operating, taking gliders up to about 1500’ and dropping them off for landing practice. Transient airplanes use runway 34 to stay out of their way. I took a wide  path around the east then south sides of the airport and then back north along the base of the mountains until I could turn in on a 45 deg entry to runway 34. I was number two of three on the downwind leg.

I parked in front of the café and as I walked in got out my phone and called a friend who lives south of the airport. He was available to visit and said he was on his way, so I spent the waiting time reading one of those CFI renewal lessons I need to finish this month.

We talked for about 3 hours – he has a shop on a dirt runway at his place (on Taildragger Lane).  Most of his work is accomplished rebuilding Swifts. He built up the plane I an now flying  – modifying it to the current configuration for the plane’s previous owner.  He is just finishing up another Swift – this one with a glass panel. As I remember, it has the two-panel Aspen display driven by dual Garmin 430s and an EI MVP-50 engine display. I believe it also has the Garmin transponder and audio panel. Yep, all it takes is a boatload of money…

Downtown Reno, NV

Downtown Reno, NV

After a nice meal and some great conversation I headed back to Stead – direct this time, logging another 0.6 hours.  I took this shot as I passed downtown Reno on the way back. You can see I-80 going through the area just north of the city with the University of Nevada-Reno north of the Interstate.  The route that the Truckee River takes on the way to Pyramid Lake is also clearly visible. The clear line through the middle of the city is a railroad right-of-way.


The traffic in the pattern at Stead was using runway 08, so I crossed mid-field well above pattern altitude, flew north and descended for a 45 degree entry to the pattern. As it turned out I entered the pattern behind the Cherokee with the student pilot completing his third solo landing. Congratulations were in order.

I put the Swift back in the hangar, but I didn’t cover it up as I usually do. On Sunday I took the time to fly around some more – this time just a sightseeing trip around the area.  Logged another hour.  Another really nice day to be in the air – at least in this part of the country.

But, my how times change – this is the METAR right now for Reno – the airport is about 4 miles north of me and about 500’ lower. KRNO 061659Z 32022G36KT 1/2SM -SN BLSN BKN015 OVC025 M02/M06 A2976 RMK AO2 PK WND 32036/1656 TWR VIS 1 1/2

The good news is that it’s supposed to be back up in the mid 60s again by the weekend.

A Flight with a Lesson

Today was a really beautiful day for flyingBalloon flying near Reno-Stead Airport. – clear, cool and light winds. I figured that I ought to take advantage of the nice day  while I could. When I got the the airport the temperature was 28 degrees(F) and there were already a couple of planes in the pattern.  There was also a balloon inflating out to the northeast of the runway. I stopped at the hangar and plugged in my home-made engine preheater, closed the hangar door and drove to a local Starbucks for some coffee while I sat there and read a magazine. I got back the hangar about an hour later to find the cowling feeling toasty warm.

The hangar across from me was open and my friend Paul was there and about to pull his 182 out to fly to breakfast. He had a friend with him who I had met before and they both asked if I was interested in coming along. C-182 enroute to KTVL. Sure – they were going to South Lake Tahoe Airport (KTVL) to meet more friends. We did a quick briefing on our plan for the flight and headed out to the runway.  It was a nice flight to the lake and then a jog to fly down the eastern shoreline to the airport on the south end of the lake.

Lake Tahoe is 22 miles north-south and 12 miles east-west with an average water surface level at 6200 MSL. There are five major peaks around the lake with elevations from  9700 MSL to 10,900 MSL.  Today the water was glass smooth with hardly a boater in sight. At breakfast we had a short discussion about the hazards associated with flying down the center of the lake – following the imaginary CA-NV state line.  The glide ratio of the aircraft has to be a major factor in the decision as well as the cruising altitude. The Swift has a glide ratio about the same as a crowbar – so venturing very far from shore at our 9000′ cruising altitude wasn’t advisable.  The water temperature at Tahoe today was somewhere between 45 and 50 degrees (F). That means you would have 30-60  minutes of treading water before you were either exhausted or lost consciousness and 1-3 hours until death if you could stay afloat. Drop the water temperature below 40 degrees and you cut those times in half.  Minimize Risk – fly the shoreline.

We had a nice breakfast at The Flight Deck Restaurant on the airport. Inactive control tower at South Lake Tahoe Airport (KTVL). We had a group of 9 people. Some were vacationing at the lake and others had flown in from a fly-in community near Carson City, NV. They were in a beautifully restored Cherokee 180.

It was a very nice meal with good friends and new acquaintances. Of course the conversation was centered mainly around flying. One of the other pilots currently flies a Cessna Citation for a company in Carson City.  Really nice guy who knows just how good a job he has.  Yeah, I’m envious.

After our meal we all adjourned the the ramp to look over the planes.Swift on the ramp at KTVL. The Swift always seems to draw a crowd when it is on the ramp. At most airports it is an unusual aircraft and the polish tends to draw people to “the shiny plane.”

It was a fun day with friends. What flying is all about.

I just received an email from my friend Paul – he took this on our way back to Stead. You can see how smooth the water was on Lake Tahoe.

Down Time Again

I haven’t had any actual flying posts lately because I haven’t been flying.  It’s the time of year that the Swift’s annual inspection is due – the end of October to be exact.  I started the inspection a couple of weeks ago and was promptly sidetracked by other projects at home.

So far I have completed the exterior of the tail and the inside of the aft fuselage. Panels are coming off and control bearing lubrication is underway. Lots of little things to do.

And now the transponder/encoder check has expired, so that’s on the list, too.  I’d much rather be flying, but heaven forbid if  all the boxes aren’t checked when I do.

A friend sent the link to this video today. I though I’d embed it in this post so you can watch it. Very well done.

The FE’s Lament by Balleka on Youtube.


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