Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Florida Night Flight

What a crummy photo, huh? You'll have to imagine the beautiful lights stretching to the horizon (or at least to the beach... or the "Abyss" as my instructor calls the unpopulated hole to the NE...lol).

I hope to take my comm ride this fall and went through my logbook seeing what I had for the required time. One place I came up short was night. Somehow I managed 1000 hrs in Alaska over 25 years (don't do the math, it's pathetic...) with less than 15 hours in the dark. In my defense, for the first 19 years I had airplanes with no electric system. And, in Alaska, when it's dark... it's generally COLD!

So, since I won't have any spare time in AK until around May, when it will not be dark, I thought I'd get the night stuff out of the way here.

I needed a night dual X-country and, while I'm pretty sure I have the required 5 solo night hours (but will have to look back a couple logbooks to see if I can PROVE it...), I'm also pretty sure I didn't document the required solo night landings.

So, my flight instructor du jour, Ed "Mr. Ed" and I flew a very nice 172S from Sarasota to Ocala (108 nm awy) to cover the 2 hour, 100 nm distant night dual requirement. The original plan was to make a few T&Gs somewhere but the 30 mph headwind on the way back turned it into a 2.9 hour ride. He was a good guy to fly with and good company, the plane had a KLN-94 GPS to play with (I forgot to mess around with the auto pilot, darn) and it was clear, calm, warm and beautiful so an awesome night.

There is a lot of airspace around here - Ed said they don't file flightplans because you're usually under some control and I believe it... We were talking to someone or another the whole time. We flew through Tampa and I was worried enough about Class B that I called Tampa approach on the phone before I left and asked them what to do. They were completely cool, both on the phone and in the air, so it was no problem. They had to be prompted to say "cleared into the B" or whatever it was though, which was a good lesson for me... even though you're already talking to them, they have to say the words or you're flying into B without clearance.

The FBO at Ocala was crazy to an Alaskan. Lots of private jets and they fill your plane while you surf weather or watch big screen TV inside... or, like we did, talk to a couple European guys that were just touring the SE in a rented 172 which sounded like a lot of fun. No DC-3s, Beech-18s or DC-6s though :-)

Then tonight I rode with Ed again to convince him I really could get the 'autoland gear' 172 on the ground safely... OK, actually I asked him to ride with me so I could be sure I knew how to taxi and manage the 'big airport' environment. There were a lot of jets coming and going and I had to taxi across their runway and then use the cross runway so I was a little intimidated. Anyway, I made couple that didn't tear the gear off, so he jumped out and I did 10 more to fulfill the "night-VFR conditions ... 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower" requirement.

I also don't think I have the "solo" day VFR cross country. I've never flown the required distance completely alone... I have to look up the regs and see if having a 12 YO along counts as "solo"... ? Rats... FAR 61.51 (d) Logging of solo flight time. ..... a pilot may log as solo flight time only that flight time when the pilot is the sole occupant of the aircraft.

OK, I have to find somewhere 250 nm away to visit.... ALONE. Looks like Palmer to King Salmon will do it. (What a stupid rule). :-)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Iditarod 2009 and the Iditarod Airforce

My friend and fellow 180 driver Ernie is posting photos of his experience supporting the 2009 Iditarod with the Iditarod Air Force. Linked by permission. Thanks Ernie, be careful out there!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Girl Haired Cheesy Rider

When I sent Hanna (5 at the time) this photo she told her Brother "Dad has girl hair!".

Morro Bay, CA Circa 1983. I bought this non-running and painted green for some money (a grand?) and a 2 track reel-to-reel tape deck. It was pretty ugly. At the time I also thought it was widely believed that motorcycles should not be green because it was unlucky... ever heard of that?

It was a 1971 (I think) Sportster - one of the AMF years 'half-a-Harley'. One of the few years that was electric start only. While I had it, it didn't have a tach or speedometer. I don't remember it having any instrumentation actually.

It was already chopped so I hardtailed it and spruced it up. A school chum welded the 'bolt-on' hardtail for me and gave me a 1931 Rumley steam tractor leather seat for it. We welded a plain door hinge for the front seat pivot and let the rear ride on springs supported by vertical bolts welded to the frame. It had a 'Girder' front end that differed from a 'Springer' in the suspension mechanism somehow that I don't remember.

It never did have a front brake which in hindsight was a mistake... you can imagine. The only real braking problem I had was when, during hard braking in traffic, the rear (drum) brake support plate disintegrated and I had to swerve into the opposite lane to avoid hitting anyone. Of course I then drove it 100 miles to Santa Barbara with NO brakes to buy used brake parts... downshift and plan ahead man.

I painted everything with Krylon and polished and clear coated it and it came out fine. The parts that would fit in the oven I baked the paint on - I've done it quite a few times and it gives a hard finish - set the oven at 250. Makes the whole house smell like fresh paint... but that's fine with me! Oh... I probably wouldn't use a gas oven. :-)

I rebuilt the engine (really just the top end). Twice. The first time I forgot to turn the mechanical advance up when I timed it, so it was running about 22 degrees too advanced. Hard to start but ran GREAT.... for about 5 miles when it quit due to melted pistons shorting out the plugs.

When I graduated and left California I sold it to some whackjob... said he had just gotten out of prison in Detroit and before he got the state sponsored vacation had a chopped Sportster that was all pearl white with gold trim.

Then he dropped mine in the driveway trying to test drive it.

When he had the money together he called and I delivered it to him and a girlfriend- I rode it up a short flight of stairs and right into the living room of a run-down house with a sagging foundation. He handed me a pile of bills and some change... apologizing that they were 80 cents short because they had to buy a pack of cigarettes.

A few days later the girlfriend came by my house (Later I wondered how she knew where I lived because she hadn't been there and it was sort of out in the country). She had borrowed the money from her Dad and her boyfriend disappeared the day after I delivered the bike. He called me a week or so later asking why it wouldn't go into 1st gear (the shifter sometimes slipped on the un-splined shaft - AMF engineering, lol) and I told him she was looking for him, but I never saw or heard from either one of them after that.

I lived on a twisty road so it was fun dragging the pipe on the corners but it sounded good and was nicest in a straight line on the highway thumping over the expansion joints... Ahhhh. :-)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Airplanes Suck

When you can't live without one... that sucks, too.

This is a flap track. It's a $500 part.

But that seems reasonable considering the new style is beefed up where this one cracked. And it's aluminum (you know how expensive THAT stuff is...) and it's 12 inches long and weighs 13 ounces. So it's not REALLY 500 dollars... it's only $41.67 per inch. Or, even better... only $38.48 per ounce. Now that seems pretty cheap.... doesn't it?

I mean, Gold costs more. Silver is $14/oz today. Hey, Palladium (not even really Platinum!) is $214/oz. I feel a LOT better.

Uh Oh... ... Aluminum is 67 an ounce .... that's 67 cents.

This is the crack in the flap track.

Because of the Robertson STOL and Monarch tanks... it took 32 hours to replace.

I'm calling the suicide hotline now.