Powered by Lycoming

About 80% of general aviation aircraft fly using Lycoming engines. Clearing the trees at the end of the runway. Leaving 4500ft for 6500ft. Maintaining airflow and generating lift across the wings. All are impossible without a reliable engine. Lycoming powers my training aircraft and so fuels my quest for a private pilot certificate. This blog is a record of my thoughts and experiences on life, flight, and learning.

31 August 2006

Superior Hiking

After the two days and three nights at Oshkosh, Beth and I headed up US42 through Green Bay, Iron Mountain, and finally ended up at Copper Harbor, MI for the second half of our vacation. It took us a little over 6 hours to make the trek across the UP, and it was a deserted drive. It really reminded me of the road between Sudbury, ON and Timmons, ON...nothing but some lakes, camps, and a few small villages connected by granite outcroppings and endless pine forests. Finally, we arrived in Copper Harbor on the Keeweenaw Peninsula. It is a collection of summer cottages and run-down motels, typical of that area. We stopped for some hot dogs at the general store in Copper Harbor and headed for our campground (Fort Wilkins State Park). The people at the ranger station were EXTREMELY discourteous and unprofessional and basically bit my head off when I questioned the reason for paying an $8 fee twice. Given that my night would be spent in a building of cloth construction, I figured that the prudent thing to do was to pay the $8 and forget about it. Beth & I wandered around the historic fort, which was remarkably well maintained and read all the plaques. Apparently in the 1870's, there was a small population of people up in the UP, even women! Beth had to agree that even Coshocton in the winter would not come close to Copper Harbor in the winter:). After hotdogs and showers, we headed out to find a laundrymat and to view the beautiful sunset on Superior.

The morning found us breaking camp and carefully packing our backpacks for the trip to Isle Royale. We made our way down M-26 to Calumet, where we ate lunch at the Michigan House Brewing Company, a really nice place to have a brew and a sandwich. It was hot (about 95 degrees) that afternoon, and we lugged all our gear over to the Houghton Int'l Airport terminal, to sit and wait for our seaplane ride to Isle Royale. At about 3:00PM, the pilot came out, looked at us and asked "What are your names?" I responded "Wiley". He looked astonished. "Where the heck were you this morning?" Apparently, a highe mixup and totally my fault, but for some reason I misread the boarding pass and showed up at the complete wrong time. Well, of course, there were absolutely no free spots on the airplane for the coming week, and I just felt sick inside. It wasn't cheap to fly, and we had planned this vacation around Isle Royale, and now we couldn't even get out there. Ugghhh... We waited around the airport until the end of the day, and the pilot came back and suggested that we try to book a ride on the NPS boat "Ranger III" that was leaving the next morning (Tuesday). We called to make sure that they weren't booked, and made plans to go out the next day. After all the tension and the heat (record 104°F) in Houghton that day, we decided to live it up and head for the Holiday Inn Express. I don't think that a swimming pool has felt quite that good in recent memory. (Well, there was that rooftop swimming pool at Charleston Place in SC with the cold Heinekeins that was pretty stinkin' awesome). We stayed the night in a really crappy bed, watched cable TV and slept well after Oshkosh.

It actually turned out okay, because the next day when we were boarding the RangerIII, we learned that there had been a fantastic T-storm the previous night, 70mph winds, torrential downpour, etc. All of our gear would've gotten soaked, and we would not have enjoyed our "roughing it" experience quite as much. The ride on the RangerIII out to Isle Royale is a whole-day experience. The 150ft boat tools along at about 15-16 knots and takes about 6 hours from departure to arrival at Rock Harbor in Isle Royale.

Upon disembarking the boat at 3PM, Beth & I loaded up our packs and started off down the trail. Given the spectrum of people on the boat (none of which we were super keen on sharing a campsite with), we thought it best to make haste and establish a camp soon. Given the proximity of Three Mile, we decided to head over the Greenstone Ridge and go to Lane Cove (about 7 miles away). After about three hours, we made it to Lane Cove and set up camp in the last campsite. A Backpacker's Pantry meal later, and we were fast asleep. The next morning, we awoke to a beautiful morning, and everybody else packed up camp and booked out early. Around 10AM, we explored the campsites and chose Site #2 (the best), which had a wonderful access to the pebble beach and was spacious and far away from other campsites. We liked it so much, that we just stayed there all day and decided to leave for Three Mile the next morning.

After going to bed that night, I was awakened by some loons calling out over the water early, early in the AM. I got up and looked out at the sky. It was just speckled with stars and texture and was one of the most amazing sights I have seen in recent memory. Periodically, meteors would streak across the sky and I got an awesome sense of God's greatness, and true wonderment at his creation, just how vast and awesome is our God, who made everything that I saw "ex nihilo" or out of nothing. Here I am, just a small man a speck on the face of this wondrous creation, and God cared so much for me that he sent his Son to die for my sins. Amazing love, how can it be? It was truly humbling and just puts the right mindset on my whole experience at Isle Royale.

The next morning, Beth & I awoke to our goal of getting out and establishing a new home at Three Mile before heading out the next day. We got on the trail by 8:15AM (awesome job, Beth!) and had hiked 4 miles by 10:15AM. We were hiking just as fast as the college kids right behind us. It made me feel good, that even though I'm approaching 30, I can kick it with those scrawny kids, but it also hurt. Beth was like a drill sergeant, pushing us along. We hiked 3.5miles south along the Greenstone Trail to Mount Ojibway, where we took a look off the observation tower there. Then it was 3.5 miles down to Daisy Farm, where we picked up fresh water. Daisy Farm was really a nice, not crowded campground. We decided that on a future trip, we would probably stay at Daisy Farm. After 15 minutes, Drill Sergeant Beth prodded us along the final 4.2-4.5 miles or so to Three Mile. We were both about ready to collapse at this point. What made matters even worse was that there were no available campsites! Crisis Time! I scouted around until I found a campsite where the residents had OVERSTAYED THEIR WELCOME! They were not scheduled for that site on their backcountry permit, so I figured that possession is 9/10ths and I squatted on their campsite. They got a little nervous and came over from their swim (I think that they were worried that someone was going to steal their stuff). Nope, we were just setting up our tent. It worked out very well, because they were a middle-aged couple that appreciated the fact that we were not rowdy teenagers, and we appreciated that same fact about them. After some Turkey Alfredo, Beth grabbed a handful of M&Ms, crunched them twice, opened her book and promptly fell alseep mid-munch. It was a long day and 11.5 miles with a pack was a tough day. Do I have a backpacking champ for a wife, or what?:)

The next day, we made our way over to RockHarbor, where Beth had a Diet Coke and we finished up our trail mix and waited for the seaplane to arrive and take us back to civilization. It was a fun trip, but perhaps the best part was to be able to finally share this backpacking adventure with my beautiful wife. It was a memory that I will treasure forever and hopefully we will have many more memories like this in the future. Now, we just need to get that Cessna 206 Amphibian on order....

15 August 2006


So, after 5 years away, I finally got back to Oshkosh, WI for the 2006 Airventure air show. Let me tell you, it seemed to be about 50% bigger and better than I had remembered, but perhaps that's just the 100LL talking. It was definitely a hot one this year, with temperatures hovering in the mid-90's until well after sunset. Let's just say that Camp Scholler should be re-named Camp Sweater. Our trip up was a pretty good one, as we cruised on I-80/I-90 all the way until we hit I-94 in Chicago. Apparently, they have decided to take the 12 lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway, and re-pave it, 6 lanes at a time. It doesn't take a traffic scientist very long to determine that the traffic saturation level is exceeded by about 1PM in the afternoon, which was when we hit Chicago, and began the very sceinic, 70-mile journey past the steel mills, over the bridge, and through the downtown at an average speed of 25 mph. This was 1PM. I can't imagine the nightmare that happens during REAL rush hour. I can see why people would want to pay $500,000 for a condo in downtown Chicago after driving that commute for a week.

We arrived at Oshkosh after a seriously bad thunderstorm on Thursday, and upon getting out of the car, I was greeted with non-stop aircraft departing from the Oshkosh airport. It was like heaven. Ooo! A P-51! Beth, beth...did you see C-47? Wow! Okay, my wife seriously gets the major brownie points for accompanying me, a certifiable aircraft freak, to Oshkosh, WI for more than one day, not to mention 3 nights of camping in the bare pasture that is called "Camp Scholler". Beth, you are an awesome woman:). She also took this picture of me, my typically really excited self for 2 straight days in front of the busiest control tower in the world for one week out of the year.

We usually wandered around in the morning, before the heat got too bad, looking at all the warbirds and super-neat airplanes that never land at Coshocton. Beth is rather into the history aspect of the aircraft, and while she still can't identify a C-47 in flight, she was really excited to see all of these aircraft that played such an important part of our military history. We took this picture together in front of Diamond Lil, a Consolidated B-24 that is very similar to the B-24's that her grandfather helped Henry Ford build at Willow Ridge, MI during WWII. Later on, I got to meet the pilot of this special aircraft after he accomplished the 4-bomber formation flying complete with missing man. Here's a short transcript of our conversation:

Dan - "So, how was the flying up there today? Did she handle okay?"

Crusty & Very Sweaty Old Pilot - "It was like flying a &$*# brick! That $%#* airplane was all over the sky and I was pushin' and pullin' and stompin' on those &$%# rudder pedals just to keep my &$%@ brick flying next to the other three bricks up there! I had a guy running the engines and another guy running the fuel and two crew members looking out the windows making sure we didn't hit anybody. It was $&^%$ hard!"

(Please see below photo for a pictoral depiction of said missing man maneuver)

It didn't look that hard from the ground below, but I guess nothing ever really looks that hard....even Gene Soucy thrashing his modified Ag-Cat all over the skies looked easy. I could totally do that in a C-172:).

I managed to get a look inside the cockpit of Diamond Lil, just so I could see these antique flight controls that had been flogged and strangled just moments earlier.

After a quick run to Target to get a cooler, some cheap drinks, and ice, we went over to the seaplane base, where parking cost us an additional $6 (ripoff if you ask me). I guess if you're into seaplanes, it's pretty cool, but I have a feeling that most of the people were over there because the seaplane base has more shade than all of the main Oshkosh display field. People were just sitting around, and it looked like they were waiting for things to happen...nothing much was going on, so we headed back.

Back at the main airshow, we were greeted with some skywriting, some warbirds, and some aerobatics. It was just incredible how many airplanes were up in the sky together. How many RARE airplanes were up in the air together. It was really fun, and a great experience to share with my beautiful wife. We'll be back soon, but I think that we'll have to spring for a hotel room with A/C next time.

I69 (Sporty's - Batavia, OH)

Well, since I've been on vacation, I'm catching up on some past events that are "blog-worthy", so I apologize to you, the reader, for the delayed postings. Let's just say that July was a busy month!:). On Tuesday, July 24th, before I went on vacation to Oshkosh, I managed to squeeze in a cross-country flight to Sporty's - I69 in Batavia, OH, with the senior member of our flying club, Ed. You can see a photo of Ed at the beginning of this blog. Ed is an 80-yr old pilot that is still cruising the skies. He was interested in flying to Sporty's to pick up a noise-cancelling headset, and I had wanted to hit Sporty's, just for the pure tourist value.

We had a beautiful day for flying, and held our course pretty well, I played around with the radios and the GPS to become more familiar with the flight planning tools. As a primary pilot, you don't get a lot of practice with the Garmin 430 during solo flight....you know aviate, then navigate...anyhoo, I welcome the chance to use all the neato functions and become more proficient with the 430. You can see from the inset photo, that our course took us very near KILN (Wilmington - Airborne Express headquarters). No traffic today, so we kept on cruising.

Approaching I69 from the Northeast, we circled the field, and entered the pattern for Runway 22, from the photo here you see our entry into the pattern. Landing at Sporty's was a slightly new experience, because there was a ramp worker that guided us into place! I've never experienced that before, but this guy gave us hand signals and everything else, and when the engine stopped and we got out, he asked if we needed fuel. What service! Well, I guess if you're charging $4.25/gal, you can afford to have a little service:). Of course, for $1/gal less, I'll just stick with the personalized service at I40, my home base. On the ground at Sporty's, I have to say that I was not super impressed with the store. It's more of a catalog store, instead of a retail store. They had a few display cases with some of their stuff strewn throughout, but didn't really have any items for sale that you coudl touch and feel. I don't know about you, but if I'm looking at spending $125 for a flight bag, I would like to be able to grab it off the shelf and open up all the pockets without having to find someone to unlock the display case. It's not jewlery, people! Sometimes, I feel like pilots have been left behind in the whole customer service consumer thing. It's like pilot gear is stuck in the 1980's, and the first person to catch on and give pilots some good quality stuff is going to make a mint. Anyways, I tried on a bunch of headsets and decided that the David Clark X11 is the best noise-canceling headset out there for weight, comfort, and sound quality. It's only $850, and that's $150 cheaper than the Bose headset, which I wasn't super-impressed with.

On the way back to Coshocton, OH, I flew past my brother & sister-in-law's house in Washington Courthouse, OH. Here's a neat aerial shot of their neighborhood...I can't wait until I have my private, and I can tak emy 5 year old nephew up for his first experience in an airplane. I need to get that kid indoctrinated early on that planes are cool, so that I can fly with him when he's a pilot someday. Thinkin' ahead for the future, that's me! Of course, he may choose to really like boats or jetskis or something else, which is okay...but not as cool as flying. The rest of the trip home to Coshocton was fairly uneventful with some light turbulence, but upon landing, we saw a Grumman Albatross sitting on the ramp at Coshocton, OH! After re-fueling, we got out and oooed and ahhhed at the airplane. Much bigger than most normal arrivals at Coshocton. They apparently had some trouble with an oil valve or something on the starboard engine. There was a lot of oil all over the ramp, and some rather grumpy mechanics crawling all over the wings. I enjoyed the aircraft, snapped a couple of photos, and was on my way back to work. Not a bad morning flight!

14 August 2006

DiamondStar DA40XL Demo!

When at Oshkosh, Beth & I got a demostration flight in a brand-new Diamond Star DA40XL. It's quite a change from the Cessna 172 that I normally climb into. I was cruising by the Diamond booth at Oshkosh, and expressed some interest in the DA40, because I've heard some much about it, and I was just interested to see it, climb in the cockpit, make some airplane noises (I did that a lot at Oshkosh). So, there I am going "Brrrrrr......wrrooowwwwwwwwvrrrrrmmmmm...." and asking the Diamond salesman what it's like the fly the DA40, when he says "Why don't you take it for a ride? We've got demonstration flights set up all day at Appleton. We'll run you up in a shuttle and you can see how you like it." I started to mumble that I didn't really have to fly it, he could just tell me how it flew, and before I knew it, we were signing up for a demo flight. That afternoon, we arrived at the Appleton airport, courtesy of a college student named Seth, who had driven over 2300miles shuttling people back and forth between Oshkosh and Appleton. Anyhoo...we met the instructor and climbed into the "new plane" smell of a DA40XL. It's really different to be sitting in a GA aircraft with the interior of a BMW instead of a VW campervan. What? No hydraulic fluid, musty carpet, zinc chromate primer smell? This can't really be an airplane.

After a brief preflight (not really too much to inspect prior to takeoff), we started the engine up and WOW. The IO-360 was S-M-O-O-T-H! Between the 3-blade constant speed prop and the new engine mounts on the Lycoming, it was effortless power! Just a slight bump of the throttle was all it took to taxi around the airport. It was just so smooth and powerful.

The cockpit had a really neat layout, with steam gages up at the top, and the main throttle, fuel, mixture, and cabin air controls right in the center console - all within easy reach. The main centerpiece of the dash was the two displays for the G1000, which was really an awesome flying tool. The amount of information that was available on the G1000, from key airspeeds for the aircraft (Vx, Vy, Vst) to accurate fuel levels, and a complete engine management package (cylinder temps, manifold pressure, exhaust temps). Add to that the real-time weather downlink, terrain avoidance, and charting capabilities, and you wondered why you'd ever need a paper chart again! The seats (did I mention they were comfortable?), reclined slightly and were extremely comfortable to sit in. They were fixed with the frame of the aircraft and certified to 26g's in accordance with european crash standards. Well, I guess you'd want to walk away from a crash in the DA40, but one nice feature was that they were fixed! That's right - no unsettling shift backwards during climbout when the seat pegs come loose from their track. In the DA40, the rudder pedals adjust, so you don't have to worry about seat adjustments. Did I mention they were comfortable?

Flying the DA40XL was also effortless. With a half-tank of gas and 3 people on board, the aircraft came off the ground quickly and climbed at over 1000ft/min on a 95°F day with high humidity. It was like a rocket ship compared to the C172 under similar conditions - I'd be surprised if we cleared 500ft/min in the Cessna. All that power translates to clearing the 50ft obstacle that much sooner! Visibility from the cockpit was awesome, like sitting on a park bench 5000ft in the air. We flew around Appleton and tested the autopilot, and some steep turns, and the slow flight characteristics, including a power-off stall. Even at 50kts indicated with the stall horn wailing away, it was rock solid and you could turn the aircraft back and forth without any adverse flight characteristics. The power-off stall was benign and recovery was quick. I would've liked to play around some more, but after about 30 minutes, we had to head back. It was harder than I thought to bring that airplane down. Flaps, and feathering the prop for deceleration were necessary as this bird really wanted to fly! I brought it down, but needed to keep the nose rather low, more low than a Cessna to maintain the airspeed and proper descent rate. My flare was pretty rough and we just kind of hit the runway, but I would've liked to try that again. Unfortunately, I'll have to find a rental or save my own pennies for the $290K price tag. Somehow, I think that I would prefer the DA40XL to a $290K house, boat, car, you name it. You could really fly all over the country in this airplane with only 8-9gph fuel consumption. As they say, you can sleep in your plane, but you can't fly your house. I liked it, and more importantly, Beth liked it!