Friday, August 28, 2009


Today we did a VOR approach to Big Lake and some holds... (picture gets big if you click on it...)

Holding isn't "hard", but figuring out how to get into the hold (depends on which way you're coming from) can be. And you're fully engaged - you have to turn and time every minute so there's not really time to divert your attention.

One thing it took me a while to understand is when they tell you: "Hold Southwest of the VOR", they mean that the inbound course is SW of the VOR. I was confused for quite a while trying to keep the entire hold circuit on that side of the VOR (which in this case it is because I'm turning left, if I was making standard right turns it wouldn't be). Confused? Welcome to the club!

I didn't turn the GPS on until inbound on the procedure turn, so you see from the top left I was on course to the VOR and then flew the missed when about a mile from the airport. I got a little wonky flying back to the VOR... My instructor wants me to go direct to the VOR (as published) and I always want to intercept the outbound radial on the way, which is wrong but that's where we're going in the end anyway... lol. You can see where I was set up for the intercept when she said; "Where are you going?" so I turned right a bit and missed the fix. :-(

Then the holds mostly look pretty good. The last one we were looking for traffic and deciding what to do next while I wandered about, so it doesn't count, :-)

What I'm glad to see here is that I'm really not too far off - even the sloppy missed route back to the VOR is only off by 1/2 mile. So with a little more practice I should be able to stay on track.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alaskan Off Airport Operations Guide

The FAA came through with a pretty good publication in this one. There's the usual "Duh?" sort of stuff... fly light, don't land if you can't take off, etc., but there is also some good food for thought or discussion:
  • Practice at weight. I don't think a lot of us do this.... mostly because it's so much more fun to be light. But, I DO practice and I don't intentionally lighten the plane so that sort of counts, lol.
  • Fly recon from 3 levels: high to plan the route in and out, medium for length, rollout, rock size and a couple low to check the surface condition.
  • "Every recon pass should increase your comfort level", Art Warbelow. Goes without saying yes, but clearly articulated. How many times have you made another pass thinking "Man, I don't know?". Ideally, if you're not getting MORE comfortable (not just if you're getting LESS uncomfortable) you'd bail.
  • You need 70% takeoff speed in the first third to clear a 50 ft obstacle. Good to know. And you'd still have time to stop. The only problem for me is that the airspeed doesn't read until 40 MPH and my Robertson equipped Spam Can will lift off at 44 (by the book).
  • Chart for estimating runway length - good again, but all you have to remember is 70 MPH is 100ft/sec and scale from there.
  • No brakes on rollout. That doesn't work for me... Good advice to be ready to cram the throttle open and to keep the stick back though.
  • With a CS speed prop increase the runway length 12% per 1000 ft DA. That can really add up on a hot summer day at altitude and it's an easy rule-of-thumb I can remember.
I've got to thank the FAA for this one. It's worth looking at and they clearly listened to some real world experts and put some effort into it. Check it out - you'll take away some other information than I've mentioned, I'm sure.

Of course, the Fiddle Ass Association can't get everything right, so... since 3 of the 4 links in the publication for downloading this bulletin don't actually HAVE the bulletin and the fourth link is wrong... I've hosted it on my own site, Off Airport Operations. If you print it out landscape, you can put it together like the booklet.

I was unaware of this site which the booklet mentions and has some very good information: Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation.

Oh, does anyone know where that strip on the cover is?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Foundation Repair One

The inside wall has always been bowed, but I'd always thought the form had blown out on whoever poured it. In fact I put in an extended window sill (like a shelf) to hide the curvature.

This winter though, we had a cold snap and the sheetrock began to crack quite a bit. Our housesitter told me that the wall downstairs was cracked... so I told her not to worry - it had always been like that. But, when I got home it was pretty bad. The window glass was flexed and so stressed that I glued insulation to it and double layered plastic over it inside and out in preparation for it shattering (which it didn't). It looks like it's moved in about 3 inches so I began to realize that the wall had failed.

The pour is a piece of shit - there is very little steel and ribbons of unmixed aggregate run though it. Either they did it in a couple pours or, more likely, they didn't agitate it well.

This is the major fault where the footer is broken.

This part is not structural so I'm not very worried about it, although it LOOKS pretty bad.

Big hole for a little loader...

It took quite a while to dig out, not least because I had to fix the loader a couple times... Either 2 hoses were leaking simultaneously or I changed the wrong hose the first time. I think the second hose was the leaker but had jetted through the casing on the other hose - making it look like it leaked. It's hard to troubleshoot because of the pressure, sticking your hand in there to see where the fluid is coming from is not such a hot idea. In the past I've had to section the hydraulic compartment off with absorbent, run it and repeat a couple times to narrow down the leak location. Of course, you've got to open it up and put it back together on each try - very time consuming.

The repair plan is to epoxy rebar into the existing wall and pour a new one outside of the failed one. Then, I'll cut the framed wall loose from the existing concrete wall, bang it back out to where it's supposed to be, Hilti it down again and then fair out the wall inside (which will still be bent). I'll have to custom rip each stud or maybe I'll just come out far enough to build a proper wall, but that would make the window and door openings about 10 inches thick. I'll have to see what looks good.

I'll also improve the drainage somehow. The ground has a lot more clay that I expected. I know it's glacial moraine down there somewhere and had always thought it was gravel just a few feet down, but this is pretty solid stuff so far. I had planned to just backfill with gravel, but I think I'll need to excavate (with a backhoe this time) for a french drain.