21 Feb 2012 A Great Saturday
 |  Category: Flying  | One Comment

Saturday morning I heard a North American T6 trainer flying over my house.  I said at the time that it was going to be a great day.

I was right:


As I was out flying with my friend Steve later in the day, we had a brief formation flight with another T6 that was in the area.

18 Nov 2011 27,778 Miles To Go
 |  Category: Cars, Fun  | Leave a Comment


I have a goal for Black Beauty, my 2001 Chrysler 300M, and of this morning, I’m 27,778 miles away. That is if whatever is causing the Check Engine light to be on doesn’t claim her first.

11 Jul 2011 You’re Never Going to Get That on the Airplane
 |  Category: Flying  | One Comment

I’m pretty sure I can fit this through there…

Or, maybe not.

Several years ago I watched a very old film called “Yours to Fly.”  It was a marketing film from the late 1940’s showing the benefits and utility of the North American Navion (if anyone has a copy of this, let me know.  I’ve lost mine).  One scene in the film showed very large, heavy machinery being placed inside the Navion for transport out to some remote oil mining operation.  So when an RV blows a tire in some very remote town in Iowa (aren’t they all??), the Navion is the perfect plane for the job.



With some determination, both tires eventually fit in the plane, although not through the luggage door.

As you can see, the back seat had to go, along with a considerable portion of the front seat leg room as well.  I’ve told friends before that I’m more than willing to put up with some personal discomfort if it means a chance to fly or learn something cool.  This was a chance for a night cross country flight.  Taking my shoes off gave me that last inch I needed to fit, but the lesson learned that evening did not happen in the air.

The plane, a Twin Navion, is fresh out of its annual inspection, and is a very, very nice plane.  We hopped into the plane and fired her right up to taxi down to the gas pumps.  As we fueled, it was getting later and later into the night, and I began thinking about the effects the lack of sleep might have on me at work the next day.  But, as a student pilot, I was excited, and I wanted to go.  I could always sleep later.  After fueling and some last minute logistics, it was time to go. 

Oh, but the battery did not want to go to Iowa that night. 

While Jamie went to get jumper cables, I had a chance to re-evaluate what we were about to do.  I realized that it was my eagerness that was fueling the mission.  If I wasn’t there, the flight would have already been delayed until the next day.  When Jamie returned, I confessed my ‘get-there-itis’ and we agreed to call it a night.  Well, after we jump-started the plane and taxied it back to the hangar, that is.

So, well-rested, I started another week at work, and the mission to deliver tires to the stranded RV would go on without me.  Jamie will just have to get the tires out of the plane by himself.  :D

(Thanks to Jen for the Kool-Aid, the photos, and the jump-start)

17 Jun 2011 Trying out the NFlightcam
 |  Category: Flying, Video  | 4 Comments

The great folks over at NFlightcam were kind enough to let me try out their cockpit video system, the Nflightcam1080P.  I have to admit, the first time I saw the Nflightcam in the Sporty’s catalog, I was skeptical and assumed it was another example of an otherwise available product marketed specifically to the aviation community, along with a hefty price increase.  I found that this was not the case with the Nflightcam.  

The folks at Nflightcam take a high definition camera made by Contour and add the necessary components and cabling necessary to record cockpit audio along with amazing 1080p video.  The result is a simple and very effective cockpit video system.

Here’s a couple videos I made using the system:

As a student pilot, I wish I had been using the Nflightcam from the very beginning of my training.  I wish I could keep on using it for the remainder of my training too.  The videos produced may not become viral sensations, but they are very helpful in reviewing and evaluating your flights.  There are elements of my flying that I do not always fully appreciate until I see it on video.  The landing sequence always seems to go fast for me, and that’s where I need the most work (you watched the videos, right?).  Reviewing these landings give me the opportunity to pick them apart so I can do a better job in the future.

If I could make one improvement to the Nflightcam system, it would be this: make the audio cable detachable and have the ability to use the original onboard microphone.  This camera is a considerable investment, and to be frugal, I would want to maximize the utility of it.  Even with this demo unit, I’ve been so tempted to mount the camera outside the airplane to capture some of those great perspectives I’ve seen done by others.  With the permanently attached cable I don’t think this camera would work well outside the cockpit (though others have done it).  I understand that you can custom order the Nflightcam with a detachable cable.

All in all, if you have a few hundred bucks to spare, I highly recommend it.  Just one hint: Even after you’ve used the nifty lasers to line up your shot, double check and make sure you’re not recording your video upside down.  If you do, you might need this link.

13 Jun 2011 The Wings Are On!!
 |  Category: Wings  | 3 Comments

Saturday we rolled the wings out of the paint booth and bolted them back on to ‘Emily’.  In a few weeks the annual inspection will finally be complete, and she’ll fly again!

10 Jun 2011 In the Paint Booth!
 |  Category: Wings  | 2 Comments

This past Monday the wings moved from the hangar to the spray booth.  Exciting, but a little sad too.  A lot of progress has been happening in the past few days, but most of it while I’m at work.  I’m missing the excitement!  Jamie has been spraying like crazy, and so far has put on two more coats of Poly Brush, and now three coats of Poly Spray.  These are the coatings that protect the wing fabric from water and harmful UV damage.  After a little wet sanding, the wings will soon be yellow again.  The Champ is only days away from flying again.  Hopefully that will happen before Jamie has to hit the road again for work. 

18 May 2011 Working on a video
 |  Category: Flying, Lessons  | One Comment

I know I haven’t written in awhile, but I am working on something.  The weather is finally starting to improve, and so I’m getting to fly more now.  I’m also reviewing a video camera system that I want to write about.  Here’s a screen cap from last night’s flight:

NFlightCam screencap

I’m putting this up not only as a teaser, but more importantly as a motivator to get the video editing done and posted.  Soon, I promise.

Thanks for sticking with me.

11 Apr 2011 An Update on the Wings
 |  Category: Flying, Wings  | 3 Comments

Yesterday my wife told me that she always thought I was a good writer, so that’s compelling me to actually write something today.  I have a few blog posts rattling around in my head, but I haven’t really had the time to pull those together and put them to words.  Free time is rare, especially when you’re involved in a project.  My friend Jamie is only home about one week a month, so we try to make as much progress recovering his airplane wings as possible during that time  Usually that means working most evenings and on the weekend too.  The way this schedule works out usually only gives us two or three hour a day to work on the wings.  If we were able to work on these full time, we would have been done long ago, but I’ve grown fond of having a day job.

We did have one set back that wiped out a week’s worth of work, which to us meant we lost a month (It turns out, though, that we were waiting on some back ordered parts, so we really didn’t lose that much time).  The set back came as we were applying the final shrink to the fabric.  Our instruction manual is very clear about the temperature settings we needed to achieve.  Following the book, we put the spurs to it, and then things started to bend.  Bending is bad.  First, some of the ribs started looking like S’s.  Then the ribs on the trailing edge inboard of the ailerons buckled.  We had to cut the fabric to relieve the tension.  After some deliberation we cut all the fabric off of both wings, and started over.

In  retrospect, the setback was a great learning opportunity.  After consulting the manufacture and some seasoned pros, we learned that this is more of an art than a science (in other words, the book isn’t always correct).  The second time around we have been much more efficient, and I think the end result will be greatly improved.

This past weekend as we were working on the wings I started getting excited as the list of things yet to do seems much smaller than the list of things we’ve already done.  Yesterday we started putting on the gussets and inspection ring covers.  Next comes the finishing tapes, and soon we’ll start spraying on the various coatings and paint.

Here’s some of the latest pictures.   You can see the entire collection of photos over on Flickr.

07 Mar 2011 Hey, What Have You Been Dewing?
 |  Category: Flying, Lessons, Wings  | 3 Comments

Wow, It’s been almost three months since I wrote anything for my blog.  I guess it’s time for some ‘blog CPR’, as I recently heard it called.

So, what have I been ‘Dewing’?

Unfortunately, not a lot of flying.  Learning to fly at a grass strip in the Midwest leaves you to the mercy of the weather.  When 20 inches of snow falls, you know it’s going to be awhile before the hangar door opens.  Frankly, when there’s that much snow, there’s not a lot of motivation to even leave the house, so in that sense the weather has helped ease my aviation cravings.  My last lesson was on January 8th.  Maggie and I flew up to Burlington, WI to introduce me to that airport and right-handed patterns.  I shot some video with my phone, and one of these days I’ll get around to editing it.  I also got a chance to redeem myself recently with the “So Simple Anyone Can Land It” Aircoupe, but that’s a story of its own.

I took advantage of this downtime to knock out the FAA Airman Knowledge Test.  Passing this ‘written exam’ (multiple choice, really) is just one of the requirements for the private pilot certification.  A passing score is 70%, but since my wife made some comment about not flying with a ‘C’ student, I put some effort into it and passed with a 97% (will you fly with me now, dear?).  Now the clock is running.  I have 23 months in which to pass my Practical Test otherwise I’ll have to take the written again.  I need the weather to start cooperating soon so I can get my flying back on track.

In the mean time, I’m keeping the aviation bug alive and well by helping out on Jamie’s wing project.  We’ve made quit a bit of headway during this past week while he’s been home.  We’re getting close to having all the fabric glued on and soon we’ll be ready to start shrinking it.  Here’s just a few of the pictures I’ve taken along the way  (the rest are here):

I’ve learned a lot about aircraft covering during this project and I tell Jamie often that I’m grateful to be able to live and learn vicariously through his wallet on this project.  I can see myself working on a project plane again in the future.  I can’t see myself building a plane from scratch, but I certainly can see restoring an old Cub.  I’d better start saving now…

10 Dec 2010 Take These Broken Wings, Mister
 |  Category: Flying, Wings  | 2 Comments

Or, “How I Spent a Snowy Thursday Evening”

Last night around rush hour, the snow started coming down, but thankfully it started late enough that my commute home wasn’t too unbearable.  The prudent thing to do on a Thursday evening would probably be to just stay at home where it’s warm, but there was aviating to do.  Well, sort of.

My friend has a 1946 Aeronca Champ that’s currently working its way through an annual inspection, and this year it’s going to take a little longer than normal to complete.  There is an Airworthiness Directive (“AD”) the FAA has issued that requires an inspection of the wing spar on the Champ.  The spars are the backbone of the wing (there’s two in each wing), and on the Champ, they’re made of wood.  An inspection must be made to ensure the wood is not cracked or damaged.  It’s probably a good thing to make sure a spar is not broken and and even better thing to find out on the ground than in the air.  The problem is that there are only two ways to inspect the spars: First, you could cut a series (read “boatload”) of inspection holes in the fabric on the top and bottom of the wing, or you can pull the wings off and strip the fabric completely off.

Wow, talk about being between a rock and a hard place, both choices really stink.  On one hand, you have the expedient choice that will get the plane flying again, but with a bunch of unsightly inspection covers (not to mention the fact that you can’t truly inspect the spars even with all those holes), and the other much more time consuming and expensive option, recovering the wings.  I’m glad it wasn’t my decision to make.

With the course laid out, we got to work.  I’m going to tell this part with pictures.

As with any project, you don’t know what you’ll find until you pull the covers back and get in there.  Along with the old wasp nests and the random dangling wire, there was evidence of some repairs and at least one hail storm sometime in the past 64 years.  The good news is that the spars (on this wing, anyway) look like they’ll pass inspection.

Now the real work will begin.