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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.

30 April 2007

Cross-Country to Teterboro (KTEB)

On Monday, I flew to some BUSY airspace. From Coshocton, OH, which gets about 20-30 aircraft per day (on a good VFR day), I flew into Teterboro, NJ (KTEB), where it seems that the entire concentration of corporate jets in the continental US resides. According to AirNav, they average something close to 600 aircraft per day. Given 12 hours of daylight per day, that's about an average of 50 aircraft per hour, which means a launch or landing about every minute. If you go on a 24-hr day, it's still one operation every two minutes, which is pretty exciting for a small town airplane geek like me.

Dad & I flew out for a trade show, and since this one wasn't over the Rockies, we could reasonably fly out to NJ without taking days and days. I woke up bright and early at 4AM, to get to work, make some copies, and pour some samples prior to leaving for Teterboro, before the winds picked up too much. The TAFs forecasted 20-24kt winds, gusting to 30 kts, so we were a little worried and thought that maybe we should leave early, so as to arrive before 8 AM and avoid some of the nasty winds. So, I got up super-early, went to work to get a few things done before we left, and then Dad called at 4:30AM to say that the front we were looking at was dipping further in central PA and we would probably be better off waiting later in the day for the front to blow through. Well, that was just great. Here I have just drunk a couple of cups of coffee, and I could go back to bed for another 3 hours. Well, that wasn't going to happen, so I just came home and fixed a bang-up scrambled-eggs-n-bacon-n-toast breakfast for me and Beth. Since this was the beginning of her "hell week" with adminstering all the state testing, she appreciated it, and I got to watch the Drew Carey show early in the morning (on at 6:30AM on TBS). Good stuff:).

Well, we waited until the last possible minute to leave, so we finally headed up to the airport around 3PM, preflighted the aircraft, got topped off with fuel, and made our way west. At 9000ft, there was an AWESOME tailwind of 50kts, almost headed due east, which made the trip very enjoyable. It's really cool to see the countryside slip by as you're logging 180kts groundspeed. It felt like I was in Steve's RV-6! Well, except that I had a sweet GPS screen in front of me and more than 3 pairs of underwear packed behind me. I didn't get a picture of the 180kt groundspeed, since I was talking to Center at the times when I noted it, but the highest I saw was 183kts at 9500ft. It was a sweet, fast ride from Coshocton to Teterboro, only 2hrs 20mins to travel 367NM, which translates to an average speed of 157kts including take-off, climb-out, and all the pattern work at KTEB. The visibility enroute was simply amazing, 150+ mile visibility and virtually no turbulence. We experienced some clear air turbulence over State College, PA, and some during our descent over the Delaware Water Gap, but it was really smooth otherwise. The only real problem with the flight was that I only logged 2.6hrs on the hobbs because of the tailwind. Must....build....more.....time. The radio work was fairly stressful, but with Dad there to change frequencies, it made it totally manageable. It was a good introduction, because as you flew further towards NYC, the controllers talked faster and the traffic got more intense. At one point, the controller kept asking "Do you see the sob?" I'm sitting there thinking "What the heck is a sob - some kind of landmark?" when a SAAB 340 goes whizzing by about 1000ft off my wingtip. "We see the Diamond" I hear on the radio. Sheesh! I'll bet you do!
Powerplants on the Ohio River up at the WV bend

Hey dere, yinzers! Picksburgh from 9500ft - Go Stillers 'nat!

Over the Alleghenys in Central PA - CAVU!

Happy Valley, State College, PA - Go Nittany Lions!

A nice bluff overlooking the Susquehanna River, near Hazelton, PA

A gap in the Allegheny Moutains on I-80, near Wilkes-Barre

Delaware Water Gap, with Stroudsburg, PA in the foreground - That's where my ancestors settled!

Approaching NYC from the west, about 50NM out heading to the Sparta VOR (SAX)

About 6-8NM from Manhattan looking over Teterboro and the Meadowlands at NYC

Short final for Runway 1 at KTEB

Check out the jets! We were only one of 2 single-engine piston aircraft parked on the ramp. Ramp fees were $75/night!

Enjoying the sunshine after a successful trip!

Coshocton Flyin'

I woke up extra early on Saturday to go flying, only to be greeted by IMC and 200ft ceilings. Not a good combination for the VFR pilot. Anyhoo, I occupied myself by spreading mulch, mowing the yard and doing typical 'round the house things until the weather cleared and the blue, blue sky appeared between some poofy clouds. My cousin James had been bugging me for some time to go flying, and this was a perfect opportunity. We flew around Coshocton, and took another look at the growing Ethanol plant. Look how far they've come since March! Serious progress, and they've fixed that 1,000,000lb ethanol tank. We then flew over to Salt Fork Reservoir and cruised around, then headed west to Newark (VTA), where we made a touch and go, looked at the Longaberger Basket and headed for Coshocton. It was fun, and pretty nice weather - visibility was awesome!!

Coshocton Ethanol from 1000ft AGL
Coshocton Ethanol - they've fixed the collapsed tank! Looks like serious progress!

Poofy Clouds over Central Ohio.

29 April 2007

Laurel Highlands Trail

Last weekend, it was beautiful, clear, and calm VFR all across the midwest. Now, what would a pilot do with that kind of weather? Go flying, right? Well, normally, I would, but I had arranged many moons in advance to go backpacking on the Laurel Highlands Trail in southwestern PA. It's a 70-mile trail that runs along a mountain range near Ohiopyle and Ligonier, PA. I did not have the fortitude to hike that trail in a single weekend, and fortunately we were only planning to do two short sections totalling about 15 miles. Traveling with my co-worker, Metnick, we left early so as to get to our first campsite before the sun went down. We headed east on the PA turnpike, and promptly missed two exits, landing us 70 miles further east. Apparently, despite having grown up in the 'burgh, he couldn't find his way down the turnpike. Not entirely his fault though...somebody relabeled all the exits on the turnpike. Jagoffs. Well, after a short trip to the Altoona exit, we made our way to the shelter area on Route 30, near Laughlinton, PA. We met Ryen, one of Metnick's roommates from college, and Ryen's dad at the shelter, before hitting the sack for the night.
One nice thing about camping on the Laurel Highlands trail is that you don' t have to pack a tent. Extremely nice shelters with fireplaces are provided for the modest sum of $6/night! Super 8, take that! Also, you don't have to spend time breaking and gathering firewood when you arrive. The helpful rangers have provided cut and split firewood at every shelter area, which makes building a first-rate fire a piece of cake! We all agreed that the Laurel Highlands trail could be hiked by old men in roller skates. (of course, that was before we started hiking). Ryen's dad provided a hearty breakfast of eggs 'n bacon served on the tailgates of our trucks before we started on our trek. The trail follows a mountain ridge in PA, so at the beginning, there were small rises and some minor streams to cross, but nothing too strenuous. It really did feel like you could hike it in roller skates.
There were many airplanes crossing overhead, which was fun to try and pick them out between the trees. At about mile 44, we had stopped for a break, when 3 Apache AH-64 Longbows flew overhead at about 500ft AGL. One of them broke off and circled our position - I'm sure that he was tracking us with his FLIR, and it's good practice finding hikers in the woods - similar to finding insurgents in the Afghani mountains. We waved, and hoped that they weren't going to fire up their 30mm machine gun on us. Beam Rocks was our first view from the trail - we spent a couple of hours here, just enjoying the view, some sardines and beef jerky - YUM! We kept hiking and finally arrived at our second shelter after about 8 miles on the trail. My legs were TIRED and we were all beat - after Beam Rocks, the trail started to have a little more up-and-down. We sat around played with the fire, and I tried to make the Backpacker's Pantry meal of Potatoes Au Gratin boil down to what I thought it should look and taste like. No such luck. I think that potatoes were never intended to be dehydrated and re-heated on the trail. Next time, it's noodles n' sauce or Lasagna or something. Those meals usually reconstitute fairly well and taste pretty good.
Next morning, the sky was again perfectly clear, and I woke up early enough to catch a first-rate sunrise at the Turnpike Shelter area. We were about 1-1/2 miles from the PA turnpike, but it was absolutely quiet and still in the morning, and we really felt like we were miles and miles from civilization. Just think how much of the US you miss when you just travel the interstates, and don't get off the beaten path. In some cases, like I-94 through North Dakota, that may actually be a good thing:). Soon we reached the turnpike, and crossed the pedestrian bridge across I-70.
The next 5-6 miles were a series of rather strenuous 200-400ft climbs and descents as we made our way further south to the parking area. It was a beautiful weekend. Warm, but not hot, sunny and clear - and good times were had by all.

17 April 2007

Blue Skies

Flew out to KSGH (Springfield, OH) to give my in-laws a ride and do some sight-seeing. It was clear and beautiful. Winds at 6500ft on the way over were ~40-45kts out of the north, but things soon settled down. It was calm and peaceful on the way back, and I think that Beth likes night flying a lot better than slogging over the mountains in turbulent air. I agree - it's hard to beat that 70-80mile visibility, and rock-solid air at 3500ft.

16 April 2007

A Blustery Day

I kind of wanted to go flying today, but it was just too windy out! Winds today were between 18-20kts on the surface, gusting to 24-26kts. Crazy. Even tonight, when stuff usually calms down, it is crazy windy. Even at 6000ft, there is a 60+kt wind heading southeast, which would've been awesome if I was headed to the Outer Banks.
It was even stronger at 12,000ft - 65-70kts, which was making some serious turbulence over the Appalachians. Maybe it's not true Rocky Mountain Wave....maybe it's just Junior Mountain Wave.....I still don't think that I'd want to experience what these pilots reported. Moderate to severe at 8000-10,000!

15 April 2007

April Showers

Snow showers, that is! A big cold front and early spring storm has gone through Ohio this evening, but not before I got some hours in this morning. 1.2 hours in the DA40 under an 8000ft overcast. It was really clear and smooth, and this was the first time that I had flown with my Uncle, who is a student pilot. We worked the pattern, practiced some unfamiliar airports, practiced entering the patttern. It was fun. I think that I would like to be a CFI someday. Something to work for! I do have over 40 cross-country hours towards my commerical & instrument rating.

10 April 2007

Two Guys in a Plane (R-T-W!!)

This will make you want to fly around the world. Right now, these guys are in Bali, but the photos crossing the mountains in Turkey, Iran, and India were simply amazing. I suppose that it's a lot safer for a pilot of German extraction to fly around the world than a US citizen, but there are quite a few US pilots that make the trip as well. I wonder what 100LL costs in Khatmandu?

09 April 2007

Two guys in a plane

This makes me want to fly out west. You will too. Consider yourself warned.

O Death, where is thy sting?

Happy Easter - He is risen indeed!

USAF Museum

On Saturday, I made a trip with my in-laws (The Outlaws) to one of my favorite museums in the world, the USAF museum! It was a brisk 32°F outside, low ceilings, and the wind was blowing with typical Dayton ferocity - it was a long cold walk through the parking lot, but inside the museum, it was three hangars and 15 acres of wondrous flying machines under roof! Is there a better place to enjoy aircraft on a cold, blustery, IMC day? I think not. Where else can you see a B-1, a B-2, a B-58 Hustler, a B-47, an SR-71, and an AC-130 gunship in the same place, let alone in the same room! It was totally heaven for me. I especially enjoyed taking my 6 year old nephew around and telling him about the airplanes - not that he's going to remember exactly what I told him, but hopefully the excitement I tried to convey will stick a little. I snapped a photo of Beth with her mom & sister, just underneath the nose of the museum's B-17 "Shoo-Shoo"....I don't think that they realized they were in the same frame as the risque nose art! Har-har-har.....:) My nephew, Adam, enjoyed running all over the museum - most of all, he wanted to "get into the airplanes". Unfortunately, you can't get into too many of the airplanes, but there was an F-16 and an F-4 cockpit mockup that was kid-friendly. We sat in the cockpits and flipped switches, launched missiles, and made airplane noises, until the next middle-aged guy in line started to get uneasy and we knew it was time to let someone else have a turn. Rounding out the visit, we watched the IMAX movie: Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag, which was actually quite good. One of my biggest beefs with IMAX movies over the years has been a lack of sufficient "feels like flying" footage. This movie has TONS of cockpit and wing mounted cameras - very cool, and there were a couple of really cool sequences flying through some scattered clouds that reminded me of my recent flight over the Appalachians, albeit at 500kts:). The opening sequence of the film involves an F-15 pilot taking off, and rocketing through 10,000ft before leveling off in 10 seconds or something crazy. Beth leaned over to me and said "Honey, we need to climb like that, instead of bouncing along all day." You're not kidding! Now, I just need to figure out how to get a 1000fps climb out of the DA-40....I'm thinking twin-turbos, four-blade prop, and boring the cylinders. Does anybody offer a turbine conversion kit?

08 April 2007

50hr Checkup

About 3 weeks ago, I traveled to Youngstown, OH (KYNG) with Dad to drop the DA40 off at Winner Aviation for the 50-hr check and oil change. I'm pretty impressed with the warranty preventive maintenance service that Diamond does in support of their new aircraft. We had a 25-hr check, and are looking forward to the 100-hr check. Basically, it's just a once-over of critical engine components and to check hidden bolts for loosening, or any leaks that might cause problems later on down the road. I have never seen an engine as clean as this one....well, except for the zero-timed IO-320 that Steve installed in his RV-6.

Dennis, one of the mechanics at Winner, treated our DA40 with care, and gave us great service. I was really surprised when I walked into Winner, and they had so many turboprops sitting around. They are a Rockwell Commander service center, and they perform factory-authorized Mistubishi MU-2 repairs. Most importantly, they are the closest Diamond-authorized service center to I40.
No problems were found, but Dennis noted some minor wetness on the gasket from the prop governor control. So, that was replaced under warranty in 15 minutes, and then they began the job of fitting the cowling back on. It's pretty tight - there's not much spare room under this cowl. In comparison, the extra space in a C-172 cowling could serve as a secondary luggage compartment!

05 April 2007

DA50 First Flight!

I'm sooooo excited! The DA50 took its first flight today! Check out the press release from Diamond here. Check it out.....totally awesome! Columbia 400 and SR22 Turbo watch out! I'd like to reserve my spot for a kerosene burning model!

Okay, after reading this, I realized that I probably have too many exclamation points, but I'm not changing anything:)

02 April 2007

Ride Home

As forecasted, the front came through on Monday morning, and at about 11AM local time in Hickory, NC, the fog lifted and the clouds broke up to reveal a beautiful blue sky. Google earth sort of shows what the mountains north of Hickory (KHKY) looked like - just overlay poofy clouds and a little hazy inversion layer. Hickory was a nice place for a layover - wide selection of hotels, restaurants, and the FBO, Profile Aviation, was extremely professional, helpful, and friendly.

As we pulled up to the ramp to load our luggage into 470DS, I noticed two gleaming olive and white Sikorsky helicopters with "United States of America" emblazoned on their sides parked next to 470DS. A CitationX was spooling up on the ramp, and another one was taxiing out for departure. There were a whole butt-load of Marines and Marine aviators milling around the FBO and the ramp. The first thought that ran through my mind was "Oh crap. I've been waiting for the weather to clear, and now I'm going to get hit with a presidential TFR. We'll never get home." I went about my business and kept stealing glances over to the VH-3D helicopters and the tough-looking Marines that were daring any unlucky bird to poop on their shiny 'copters. After loading the luggage, I told Beth "I'm going over to find out who they were dropping off." So, I saunter across the ramp towards the aforementioned spit-shined helicopters.

Short, stocky version of Major Payne with 9MM gun on hip and arms and neck bigger than my waist: “Sir, please stay 30ft away from the helicopter!”

Pooping my pants, and quickly moving away - “Uhhh...sure....hey, what are you guys doing here? Who did you drop off?”

Sgt. Hooah - “Sir, we are just in transit.”

(At this point, I'm thinking....yeah right...you want me to believe that you are just out burning a couple hundred gallons of Jet A with 2 helicopters, and 20 Marine guys/gals in flight suits and that the people you crammed into two jets that just took off in a hurry were NOT related to a VIP transport)

Incredulous Dan with smelly, dirty, wet shorts and cracking voice - “Uhh...okay, I guess you can’t tell me....that’s really okay, you know, I’m just a pilot and never get to see cool helicopters like this. These things are sweet! Where are you guys based?”

Sgt. Hooah: “Quantico, Virginia, sir.”

At this point, I mumbled something about how cool the helicopters were and that I was proud of their service to our country and that I was going to go right back to my plane and preflight. I wished that I had taken some photos, but I thought that might result in me getting pushed to the pavement and my digital camera smashed in the process. I have to tell you, the DA40 looked freakin’ sweet sitting on the line next to two presidential transports, and you'll just have to take my word for it. I felt like a rock star.....or a VIP....whatever....I know that I beat those guys into the air...gave them the two finger salute/wave as I taxied past, and was climbing through 3000ft as they were leaving the field.

So, after that excitement, we cruised home over the Appalachians. After the previous attempt, it was a glorious day to fly! I was so excited, and just dialed in the KAP140 autopilot for 9500ft. Crossing the first line of mountains, the clouds were light and poofy, but they soon towered above me. I kept climbing up to about as high as I felt comfortable, which was 11,500ft. I had hydrated well, but I had also just finished reading Mountain Flying by Sparky Imeson so I was very conscious of the possibility of hypoxia at even intermediate altitudes. Up here, the air was smooth and the view was first rate. I leaned the engine back to 7.2gals/hr burn at 2400RPM and 19in MP, cruising along nicely at 107KIAS, and 129KTAS. However, it wasn't meant to last - the clouds continued to climb higher and higher, and so I started a descent through a nice hole in the clouds, getting down to 6500ft before bouncing along through the turbulent air over WV.

Chillin' @ 11,500ft....Outside Air Temp was 0°C. It felt good....

Beth catching up on her reading at 11,500ft.

Mountain ridges near the Glade Springs VOR...check out the cloud shadows!

Descending to 6500ft - low hanging clouds over the WV border mountains

R.D. Bailey Lake, just north of Justice, WV - Literally 100 miles from nowhere.

After about 50 minutes of bouncing along in the turbulent air over the coal country of WV, Beth was looking green and just about ready to spray those Bob Evans hotcakes all over the windscreen. So, I found a nice big hole in the clouds, and 720° of turns later, we had gained 5000ft in elevation and were back in the smooth air, just south of Charleston, WV. Shortly thereafter, the clouds cleared away and the air was crystal clear. Visibility was probably 100+ miles, and I know that I picked up Zanesville from at least 85miles away. Winds were strong (40kts), and at about 90° to my intended route of flight, so my crab angle at full speed was about 15degrees - pretty cool, huh?

The view from 11,500 over Point Pleasant, WV - looking northwest towards Columbus, OH

Beth snapped this shot from 8500ft over Zanesville, OH - See the "Y" Bridge? Still the only one of its kind in the world, according to Wikipedia. Amelia Earhart is reported to claim this as "the most recognizable city in the US" because of that little feature. Maybe in the 30's! It was like the "Gateway Arch" of its day.....Alas....it has been supplanted. I wonder how many pilots would recognize Zanesville, OH from the air today?

Landing at Richard Downing, I40, was an adventure. There was a 90° crosswind, and winds were 15 gusting to 21. I set up a very stabilized approach, left only one notch of flaps in, and held about 85KTS for the final approach speed. Everything was A-OK until the end of the runway when a wind eddy jostled the wings around. It settled down okay, and I was about 5 ft off the ground when I had another gust, but I was already home and on the pavement before that had a chance to mess me up. It was one of the most difficult landings that I have had to make to date....and I didn't break anything.

I logged 2.9hrs for this leg, and 16hrs overall for the entire trip down to FL and back. This brings my totals to 83hrs total time, and 41 hours of that is cross-country time, more than 50nm! Good times. Now, where to go next? I'm thinking Provincetown, Mass or Traverse City, MI this summer.......