Saturday, January 29, 2005

Rain and cold have me grounded!

Well, no flying this weekend. The "Deep South" has had a little cold spell. Raining with temperatures just above freezing. I won't be flying this weekend! I did have a chance to go last Friday, but it didn't work out. I drove all the way to the airport, a whopping 48 miles, met my instructor friend and his student, who were preflighting and getting ready to fly. I pulled out my plane and did a thorough preflight and I was ready! Then my wife called and told me of this crisis she was having (what the crisis was, I leave to your imagination. A hint...nothing to do with sex) and I had to put my plane back up and go. She told me I didn't need to come home, but I thought that I needed to be there. There will be other days to fly, soon I hope!

I still have my new wing wire set to install. This will lower the dihederal of the wings by half and should noticeably effect the flight characteristics of the old MX! I need to find time to put them on. I hope I'll be reporting soon on the difference it makes!

Monday, January 17, 2005

No flying this weekend...but....

Well, the weather was pretty decent this weekend...highs in the mid-50s. I wouldn't have had any problem going flying, but the winds were a bit too strong. 10-15 knots with gusts to 25, or at least that's what the forecast said.

On the brighter side, the fitting I need to relocate my radio antenna came on Friday. All I need to do is make a bracket out of aluminum and buy the right length cable to run from my radio to the antenna. Should be pretty easy.

My new "lowered dihedral" (dihedral is the upward angle the wings form with the plane of the ground) heavy-duty wire set is supposed to arrive today. I'm sure I'll find time next weekend to install them. If the winds cooperate, I'll be able to fly and test them out! The lowered dihedral is supposed to make the plane a bit less stable and penetrate the winds better. I know it sounds like "less stable" is not a good thing, but the term is a bit misleading. All it really means in this case is that the plane will not try to return itself to straight and level flight as much after initiating a bank. It takes more attention to fly, but it will become second nature after a while. When I get some time with them, I'll post what my impressions are.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A little joke that describes the company I work for!

A man was out flying his hot air balloon one day, when he became disoriented and lost. He sees a man on a tractor plowing a field below him and descends to ask the man where he was. “Excuse me…”, said the balloonist, “I’m a bit lost, can you tell me where I am?”, to which the man on the tractor replies, “You are about 30 feet above the ground over my field.” The man in the balloon replies back, “You are only a part time farmer…right? Your full time job is that of an engineer, correct? The man on the tractor was quite surprised and he said, “Why yes, how did you know that?” The balloonist said, “Because you just gave me information that I can’t do anything with." “Hmmm…”, said the man on the tractor. “You must be a manager!”. “Why yes, yes I am, how did you know that?”, The man on the tractor replied, “Because I just gave you exactly the information you asked for, and you still don’t know where you are or where you are going!”

I would imagine that you have guessed by now that I'm an engineer...right?

Monday, January 10, 2005

Flying to Prattville

My friend Don and I went flying on a short cross-country yesterday. I started the flight with a big oops! Don taxied out first and I followed. He stopped short on the line and I couldn't stop because I don't have brakes. I went for the mowed grass on the side of the entrance to the runway, but I wasn't stopping. I took a path far enough to the side that my wing would miss his, but it took me through some mud. I figured I could get out of the mud and turn back with my wings parallel to the taxiway, but I didn't notice the small tree right where the mowed area stopped. My wing hit the tree and swung me to the left. I really thought that the mud was the reason I moved to the left, so I hit the throttle a bit. Bad move. This put me even deeper in the water. I looked to my left and then saw the tree. After shutting the engine down, I pushed myself backwards to get out of the grass, water and mud. The water wasn't quite high enough to get over my shoes, but it seeped through the tongue opening. I also couldn't move the airplane back. I looked back at Don and I'm sure he was getting a kick out of all this. He was smiling and shaking his head. He probably let out a big belly laugh when he saw the whole thing unfold! I unstrapped, took my GPS off my leg and took off my headset and tiptoed through the water to the back of the plane and pushed like hell to the the plane out of the mud. I turned it around and looked at the wing where the tree hit it. No rips or bends, so I started back up and strapped in.

We were headed to Autauga County (Prattville) airport and the flight included a first for me. We had to fly under the outer layer of the class C airspace of the Montgomery Regional Airport. I was really watching for traffic as I was terribly paranoid about seeing and not being seen. Turns out that I really didn't see too much. I think on the way there I saw one plane. On the way back I saw one plane and one helicopter. I'll certainly continue to search when I fly. Never can be too careful.

The pictures below show some of the highlights of the flight. About 5 miles from Fort Deposit, Don suddenly starts descending. I start to believe he's had an engine failure, and the setup to land seems to be pretty poor. Then he starts circling at about 500 feet from what I can tell from my vantage point at 1200 feet. I keep circling to keep him in sight. Then he starts to climb and in a short time he's back with me. I find out when we get back on the ground that there was a train derailment the day before and he was taking shots of the aftermath. I don't know how I missed it! In my defense, the shadows were long and I was altitude!

The other picture is of the General Electric plastics plant at Burkeville, just off of US-80. We are looking to the east. If it were less hazy, you would be able to see Montgomery.

I'll add more pictures and descriptions of this flight as I download the images.

This is a train derailment north of Greenville that happened the day before. They already have the through track repaired. Photo courtesy of Don Addison. Posted by Hello

A shot looking toward the east and Montogomery. This is the GE plastics plant at Burkeville. Photo courtesy Don Addison. Posted by Hello

Friday, January 07, 2005

19 hours and counting!

The new 503 has performed flawlessly for 19 hours so far. This time has been accumulated about an hour at a time, sometimes more, over the past three months. The winters are mild in central Alabama, but it still can get pretty cold in a completely exposed cockpit flying at 40 MPH! About the coldest temperature I've flown at is right at 50 degrees, which was just barely tolerable. I fly with a lightweight snowmobile suit and thinsulate gloves. My earmuff style hearing protector or my radio headset keeps my ears warm. I usually wear tennis shoes and my feet stay relatively warm. I haven't worn a head cover yet, but obviously if I were to fly in more extreme conditions, other precautions would be required. I think 50 degrees is about my limit!

The Fort Deposit, Alabama airport, looking northward. Note my shadow at the bottom center. Posted by Hello

Next flying opportunity appears to be this Sunday...supposed to be up to 65 degrees or so with winds below 5 MPH! Looking Good!