Saturday, April 29, 2006

The endless, measured, plod of progress ...

From a couple of emails, written yesterday and today ... hope springs eternal when it comes to getting an airplane ready to fly after a long layoff ....

4/28/2006 - to Mike:

Bob and I fitted the cowlings today to see how the new oil filter would do and found that there was some interference with the upper cowl half … so we did a little cutting and reinforcing and now we have a cutout for the filter … I’m going to borrow some aircraft zinc chromate from the hangar in the morning to prime the rivets and exposed edges and Bob has some AN Orange Yellow to touch it up. Ill get some lacquer thinner to degrease and we should be in prime shape for Sunday. I guess if we can rig the carb heat with that bolt and 2 nuts and get the Adel clamps in place for the primer lines and cabin heat, we’ll be set to fit the exhaust and cut scat tubing to put this bad boy back together. It sure will be great to at least get the engine going again – and fly when it’s done!

4/29/2006 - to George:

We spent the last couple of days tweedling with the Cub cowling ... first of all, I decided that after spending my retirement on a major overhaul for the engine (ok, just some of it) I wanted to install an oil filter. There is an oil filter adapter for my C-85-12 and I bought it. 2 kinds, long and short ... long adapter and short, long filter and short ... I wanted both to be short. At the end, the filter still interfered with the upper cowling. So we carefully measured, measured again, and cut a circle in the cowling following a precision template (traced around the top of a caramel corn jug), reinforced it, and now we have a cowl that looks pretty good and works really well. Around the filter, anyway.

Problem 2.......the lower cowl doesn't quite fit right - bumps up against the front of the case... This is a mystery, since it's the same airplane and the same engine and the same cowling ... oops....almost the same ... Wag-Aero sent me AN7-41 bolts instead of AN7-40 so we added a washer to shim it out so we wouldn't run out of thread on the engine mounts. Maybe a mistake there. So tomorrow we're going to re-shim and take out the extra 1/8 of an inch of length and see if that helps any at all.

Tomorrow we look at the exhaust system and see what surprises await us ... if all goes well, I hope to be able to put oil in the motor, install the propellator and crank it by the end of the day. Flight and joyous celebration to follow.

Hopefully ..

News at 11 ...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A few more nuts and bolts - the Cub will fly

After too long just sitting around and twiddling my thumbs over the most arcane delimmae (is this too close to that on the new engine?) Bob as much as grabbed me by the throat and we commenced to get the Cub ready to fly. OK, so the eyebrow on the left side didn't fit .. Dremel tool, mallet, a buzz here a whack there and the damned thing fit just fine. I've just been too timid with this airplane. Gotta show it who's boss.

The exhaust system is next - that'll be tomorrow - and Mike should be out there to help with that. The tailpipe has to be indexed just right so it won't rub against the cowling (as it did before the engine came off). Then, check the fittings one last time, put some spiral wrap around some of the wires and leads, install the cowlings and .... we're ready for oil and prop. Only thing left after that is to fly.

Stu was there today and is making better progress with the Auster than I am with the Cub. No worries ... I'll still fly first.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

R.I.P. Scott Crossfield

The first really in-depth look at weather I read was Bob Buck's Weather Flying. You can probably still find a copy on Amazon or Alibris. No matter how much you read about weather flying, nothing truly prepares a pilot better than doing it.

I was lucky enough to get a baptism of weather flying when I flew low-level commuter aircraft in the Southeast with Sunbird Airlines back in the early '80s. We were in Cessna 402s and 404s and Beech 99s ... it doesn't get more intense weather-wise than that. The Southern states are thunderstorm-prone and the weather can change pretty quickly. On the other hand, unless the boomers line up into clusters and lines, they are pretty well isolated and it's easy enough to fly around them. Which brings me to the death of a legend, Scott Crossfield.

Crossfield died in the crash of his Cessna 210 in a north Georgia accident last Thursday, April 20th. The immediate verdict was weather -- there was a lot of thunderstorm activity in the area. It's hard to imagine an experienced pilot like Crossfield getting killed by a rookie mistake - pressing ahead into weather that he or the airplane just couldn't handle - but there are other instances of that very thing. Weather killed the World War II hero and actor Audie Murphy not too far from where Crossfield died. Weather is one of those things that smart pilots just don't take for granted.

Having just written what I just wrote, we flew back to New York from California today and landed in some really crappy rain and wind. Yep, it just gets that way from time to time. There seems to be a perpetual crosswind at White Plains (I am not a friend of White Plains) and when it is lousy outside, it is really lousy at HPN. Tonight the crosswind was from the east and the Citation ahead of us reported wind shear plus or minus 10 knots on final. Not too bad, but enough to get your attention. Plus, it was raining to beat the band. I hate weather like that. It begins to get your undivided attention. John did a great job and got the Gulfstream stopped in a relatively straight line and in a decent amount on runway. He's good. I like flying with John. He keeps me alive.

When the weather really turns to the nasty side of nasty, I like having the airplane myself. Rain, ice, wind, it's a challenge that any pilot worth his salt respects. I've done my share and can't think of a better airplane to joust with the elements than a Gulfstream. Mark and I once pulled a trip that brought us into HPN with a howling crosswind from the west ... ice on the runway was so bad we were slipping and sliding. I think we finished up a little sideways, but managed to clear the runway and taxi over to the apron using the thrust reversers to keep us from skating into the soft stuff. Not the first time I had done that. Ray and I once had to use the TRs just to maneuver on the taxiway .. brakes were useless. It was like maneuvering a boat. In the simulator once, the instructor had me land at Vancouver on an icy runway - braking action nil. I landed, used the TRs, we were about to depart the far end of the runway so I stowed one TR and spun the airplane around so we were moving backwards. Pushed the power up with the TRs stowed and came to a stop at the edge of the pavement, pointed straight down the runway from whence we came. Shut 'er down right there. . The instructor couldn't believe it. I passed (and won't do it again).

No need for fancy stuff tonight ... we hopped to the home field from HPN and the day was done.

Life goes on when you respect Mother Nature. Weather is nothing to play with. All the luck and all the skill goes out the window when you decide that bad weather is a ho-hum, non-event, and it will eat you alive. R.I.P. Scott Crossfield.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Jet trip

The Cub is a blast and I enjoy it. The jet is a blast and I enjoy it. Come to think of it, flying is a blast and I enjoy it.

John and I took off yesterday and after 5-plus hours landed at Monterey CA ... home of barking sea lions and the best seafood salad you'll find anywhere. We made the flight at Mach .80 - the boss likes to take it easy on the fuel - at FL430. Smooth as glass. Almost everybody down low was complaining about the ride. They might as well have complained about the headwinds ... at FL400 we had 70-plus knots on the nose and at FL430 we had only 36. True, we lost some TAS, but only about 11 knots. That's a fair trade.

The jet gives me a chance to nudge here and there to get better time or fuel mileage ... not so with the Cub ... I'm pretty well chained to Mach .012 and the gas runs through the Continental at pretty much the same rate no matter what I do. The skills are different, no two ways about it, but the treat is the same. I know how Tiger feels when he hits one just right.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Thoughts on Sun-n-Fun

Well, the Sun-n-Fun fly-in at Lakeland is in the record books for another year and from a visitor's point of view it was, again, a success. There were the usual displays and exhibitors - one of my favorites is Virginia Bader and her work to preserve and commemorate the men and women who fought the desperate fight to win World War II ... Virginia not only sells great aviation artwork, she organizes symposiums where mortals like you and me can hear and meet the people from that vanishing generation. She is also a cousin of the great English pilot, Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader who flew against the Nazis despite having lost his legs in a flying accident before the war. His life was chronicled in a wonderful book - the first I checked out of a library at the ripe old age of maybe 11 - entitled Reach for the Sky.

Reading about my heroes as a boy was one thing - actually joining the ranks of the people who fly was entirely another. It's the difference between dreamers and doers. As a young teenager, I'd ride my bike to the airport at Silver Springs, Florida, and listen to the talk , watch the airplanes and just generally hang around. Sometimes, when the weather was ugly, the pilots would sit in front of the old fireplace (that never drew quite right, so there was a perpetual haze of smoke against the open-raftered ceiling) and tell stories ... occasionally they'd let me go get them a beer, just like occasionally they'd let me wash their airplane. I loved it. When I got to be 16, I wanted to take flying lessons but the instructor wouldn't take me as a student without a note from my mother. That wasn't going to happen, so I kept on doing what I'd always done and stayed an inside-outsider for a long time.

But I digress ...

This year, the best part of Lakeland for me was the new crop of Light Sport Aircraft ... their displays were constantly busy and judging from the happy faces, sales were being made. This is very good news for the flying community. Sure, there are new rules (some of which are even reasonable) and gas prices continue to climb but the essential element of aviation - people who want to be doers and not just dreamers - is there and there in abundance. All any of us have to do to see it is look around.

A fellow I know from Clearwater, Florida - Peter Hunt - won Reserve Grand Champion, homebuilt, kitbuilt, for his beautiful RV-6. Congratulations, Peter. (My son and I sub-leased his hangar while Peter was building the RV in his living room).

All in all, the weather at Lakeland was perfect the whole week of the show and the crowds were manageable. I like Lakeland because it is smaller than Oshkosh and I don't have this feeling of drinking from a fire hose to try to take it all in. Plus it's close to home.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The First Good Flying Day of the Year

On Long Island, where I go to go to work, there is a little grass airport that is the last publicly owned grass runway on the island. This, in an area that was truly the cradle of aviation in the United States. There were airports every few miles on Long Island in the early years of the 20th century and a number of aircraft manufacturers were headquartered there. Companies like Grumman, Republic, Seversky, Bird, Vought, Fairchild and others employed thousands of workers in the aerospace industry; Lindbergh launched his trans-Atlantic flight from Roosevelt Field, now the site of a shopping mall. The remains of Mitchell Field can still be seen around a sports colisseum. There are other sites, some with broad historical value, others with a more local impact, that are scattered along the length and breadth of the island, but the last of the old time airports to survive is where I like to spend my spare time.

Bayport Aerodrome is known to aviators as 23N - that's the designation given it by New York state and the FAA. There are actually 2 runways side by side, running north-south. The Town of Islip owns the airport and alternates runways each year to minimize wear and tear on the grass surface. There is a Flight Instructor at the south end of the field who operates a pilot training school and a museum and preservation group that has 5 or 6 acres of hangars at the north end of the field. That's where I hang out and where I keep my Piper Cub.

Today was truly a remarkable April day. The winds were light and warm from the southwest and I was up for some flying! Bill and Steve and George and Bob and Harry were all there and pulling their airplanes out of their hangars ... The Cub is in the last stages of re-installing the engine after an overhaul over the winter, so it's not flying yet ... fortunately, Bob had an open seat so we launched along with everybody else to start the 2006 flying season. Bob gave me a couple of landings (which I was lucky enough to be proud of) and everybody had a good time.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and as an unofficial bachelor I volunteered to show some people around the airport in the afternoon ... we give semi-guided tours all the time. The airplanes are interesting and pretty much everybody who finds the way to the hangars likes what we have. It's hard to strike a balance between serious restoration work on old airplanes and giving tours but we manage.

I made the first entry on this blog almost 2 years ago - I guess the idea hadn't taken hold yet because here we are and this is only the second entry. Oh well, it's a medium without deadlines or other noxious external pressures and I'm just warming a bit more - maybe enough to share the Cub's first flight when all the parts are bolted on. In the meantime, Happy Flying and Happy Landings!