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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.

23 May 2007

Saturday Golfin'

Saturday, we got up early and packed the golf stick into 470DS and headed for KSGH for a nice round of golf with my father-in-law. We had talked about it and talked about it, but this was our chance. The love of my life was gone away all day in Michigan at a baby shower, so the boys were free to go play! We took off over the mist that had settled into the Muskingum River valley and dialed in the Direct-To for Springfield, OH. A couple of minutes took us over the ol' homestead - the 260-acre farm where we lived for 17 years out in the countryside around Coshocton. Cut a lot of trees down...and cut a lot of grass out here!
Dad wanted to gain altitude, so we climbed to 6500ft to slip over Columbus Class Charlie Airspace. We called in, got our squawk code, and enjoyed the views on this clear, clear morning. Downtown Columbus was very nice, and visible from over 50NM away. We were vectored towards KOSU, and the northern part of Columbus to avoid the departing commercial flights from Runway 28. We had a nice view of KOSU Don Scott airport, and the old neighborhood in Columbus where we used to live years and years ago. I used to sit across the street from the OSU airport and watch C152's for HOURS. Now, I'm 6500ft above the ground! It was like a "flight down memory lane".....okay, it was just a good excuse to go flying.
We began our descent into KSGH about 35NM out, and just for kicks I turned the runway lights on. It was early enough in the morning, so they looked cool on final approach. Springfield is a nice airport, but the dude behind the counter at the FBO on Saturday wasn't very friendly. I tried to strike up a conversation with him, but he wasn't having anything to do with it. Oh well, his loss.
We landed, chocked the wheels, and headed over to Windy Knoll Golf Club, which was a very well-groomed and nicely challenging course. I didn't have such a great day - I shot 111 for 18, but I had a great time golfing with both of my fathers. Then we headed to Chipotle for a Fajita Burrito (my favorite). It was a fun day, and a great day to do some flying!

21 May 2007

Allegheny River Valley Flyin'

On Friday, 470DS was coming out of the 100-hr warranty service check, and I headed up to Winner Aviation at KYNG. While I was not impressed with the price for 100LL ($4.95/gal), I was impressed (again) with the service. Our DA40 was spotless! They washed all the bugs off and got the soot and grime off the bottom of 470DS! They had run the fuel down pretty far when testing the secondary static port that was installed to fix our KAP140 AutoPilot porpoising, so Dad called them up and asked for 15 gallons to be added. Well, I arrived, ready to fly, and I looked at the fuel situation, and just didn't feel too comfortable with only partial fuel on board. The nice thing about the G1000 is the great fuel reporting and instrumentation, but it's only as good as the last person who reset the gas gauge. When I powered up, the fuel gauge said "17gals", and I only had 15 put on. Hmmmm...not quite enough for 1.2hours, plus 30 minute reserves, and certainly not enough for enjoying the sunshine on this beautiful clear day. I decided to head east to KFKL (see the photo taken above on final for runway 4) to top off the tanks. They took 27.6 gals, so I was glad that I made the journey - there's no confidence like exactly knowing your fuel situation, and knowing that it's good!

There wasn't alot going on at FKL on the ramp, but the ramp worker came out promptly and fueled me up. I wandered inside and noted a POOL TABLE in the pilot's lounge! Sweet. Plus, this wasn't your ordinary FBO. The quiet exterior belied the busy internal atmosphere of a full service FBO and US Airways terminal, and Italian restaurant (Primo Barone's), which I'll have to try. The IFR Pilot didn't have an awesome meal there, but maybe he should've had the calzone. That's what I'll get when I go:) After I fueled up, I took off and headed south down the Allegheny River. In my college days (I sound like an old fogey talking like this:)), I spent many many days hiking, biking, camping, and generally exploring the woods and creeks and bluffs of the Allegheny River Valley between Emlenton and Franklin. It is a truly special, beautiful place, and this was my first time to see it from the air!
This is a photo of an old abandoned railroad bridge across the Allegheny, near Sandy Creek. This was a favorite place of mine to visit when the weather was nice and I needed a good excuse to skip class. This bridge is about 50-60ft above the river level, and is a pretty fun place to hang out for an afternoon. Also, hiking the riverbed back up Sandy Creek is pretty fun - There are a couple of other smaller bridges and a tunnel! There are quite a few empty tunnels along the Allegheny River, and some of them are over a mile long....a very fun alternative to Numerical Methods 224 with Dr. Cheng. Can anyone say "Runge-Kutta Method"?

Here is a view south, looking towards the plateau that the Grove City College Outing Club Cabin sits upon. There's a really sweet biking/hiking trail the runs along this ridgeline, and then dives towards the river. Primitive camping spots dot the riverbanks of the Allegheny - it's a wonderful place to spend a summer weekend. As I flew towards the area where I knew that the Cabin was, I kept looking at landmarks, and looking and looking, and finally I saw a small roof, peeking through the trees. It was a lot harder to see from the air than I thought. Here is the GCCOC Cabin, built in 1938, an old hunting lodge which afforded me many hours of escape from Campus, building fires, shooting potato guns, camping, hiking, chopping firewood, and generally having a wonderful time in God's creation.Here are two views of the small river village of Kennerdell, PA, down at where the mouth of Scrubgrass Creek empties into the Allegheny. There is a great view of the town from the bluffs on the western side of the river, especially at night. I spent many a night there with friends, listening to the stillness of the air, looking at the stars, and seeing the twinkling lights across the river. Now, I'm cruising 1000ft above the bluffs at 130mph with an even better view!

No blog entry would be complete without a little powerplant action. Kendall - do you like? Here's the Scrubgrass Power Station, which was the de-facto ASME club field trip in college. They take high-sulfur Bitumous "waste" coal here, pulverize it, and feed a fluidized bed box boiler to generate about 85MW of electricity.

After flying over my old haunts along the Allegheny River, I headed over to see what the Alma Mater looked like with leaves on the trees. I didn't realize it at the time, but I flew over just about 30 minutes prior to the 2007 Baccalaureate Service for graduation at Grove City College. There were umpteen hundred chairs set up on the QUAD! Where are those snipers? The sacrilige! I was verbally chastized by the Dean of Men once for cutting a corner across the sacred QUAD on my mountain bike. Now, they just let any old person walk across it? Well, that has done it for me....no donations this year, no matter how many pleading letters and glossy brochures I get in the mail! I circled a few times to let the parents know what they were missing, to give them something interesting to look at, and to see that I was burning 7.5gal/hr of BP's finest 100LL @ $3.95/gal instead of pouring it into GCC's coffers. I'm not bitter. Honest.

20 May 2007

Blog Crazy

One of my friends wrote this recently....

“I got up-to-date on the world or Aviation-Dan yesterday. You are blog crazy. Actually, I was thinking of making my own blog. It would showcase my life experiences and personal reflections while reading your blog. My wife wants in on this too, so she's going to start a blog of her own with her life experiences of reading my blog about your blog.”

Hilarous....Well, since you're reading, check out the sweet photo that I took on Saturday. It was one of those magical moments where the sun came peeking through the fog layers, and I had to pull over and try to capture it. Who says Coshocton ain't beee-you-tee-full?

09 May 2007

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

As we were preparing to leave Rock Hill on Monday, I looked at Dad and said "You wanna fly over the Smokies?" He started to get that homing look in his eyes. You know, the kind of look that a carrier pigeon gets when they get released, a determined steadfast look of "I want to go home" that only Lassie can truly acheive. I could tell he wanted to go home and play a round of golf before dinner. "You can see over 100miles...not a cloud in the sky....it probably won't be this good again for a while..." I let him nibble on that bait for a while, and then I set the hook. "It'll only take another 45 minutes, and I can't think of a better day to fly over the Smokies."

"Okay. Let's do it - you'll have to navigate."

No problem. I'll navigate to the freakin' rockies, just so long I get to fly!

We departed Rock Hill and bounced along in the surface winds, until we passed through the inversion layer at 6000ft, on our way to 8500ft. We were still about 100 miles from the Smokies, but the view was phenomenal. You could see the peaks of Clingman's Dome and the ridge of Mt. LeConte clearly just outside of Charlotte. We followed I-40 past Asheville and wheeled south over Cherokee and Lake Fontana before heading north over the mountains in the park. It was about 20 miles from the Smoky Mountains, that we started to experience some turbulence, so we traded up to 10,500. It was really amazing that looking at these 6500-6700ft peaks from 8500ft, you had the feeling of "are we high enough to clear?" The GPS terrain feature said so, but the eyes were afraid. Well, 4000ft of separation was plenty, and allowed for a nice altitude to take photos from. From this perch, the Smoky Mountains looked exactly like the plastic terrain/relief map of the park that I had studied again and again.

Mt. LeConte & Clingman's Dome from ~30NM away & 10,500ft MSL

Getting Closer - only about 10NM now!

Closeup of Mt. LeConte from ~10NM

Sunlight glinting off Lake Fontana, just south of the Park.

I snapped off megabyte after megabyte of digital memory as Dad banked the plane over and around Mt. LeConte. I don't know how many times we had hiked that mountain together - 8-10 times? It was really cool to be flying 4000ft above that mountain that has so many great memories for our family. I have so many memories of hiking up the Alum Cave Bluffs trail, racing my brothers up to the top, so that one of us could claim the title of "first to the top". Of course, this just meant that we arrived about 40 minutes before Mom & Dad, who were carrying the water or the food or something that we needed, but totally forgot in our race to the top.
The spiral observation deck on Clingman's Dome

LeConte Lodge, just 100ft from the summit of Mt. LeConte

Looking down the Roaring Fork Valley towards Chimney Tops

Lake near Knoxville, TN

Hills of Kentucky stretching as far as the eye can see, looking towards Hazard, KY

08 May 2007

Cross-Country to Rock Hill, SC (KUZA)

Yesterday was a phenomenal day for being outside. It was high pressure, low humidity, and clear, clear blue skies. What made it even more phenomenal was that instead of being stuck inside, I was visiting a potential supplier in Rock Hill, SC. Now, while the occasional business trip is a little fun, the occassional business trip that you fly yourself to being pilot-in-command at the controls is truly a wonderful thing. We left early in the morning, just after sunrise, and flying over the advection fog that settled over the creeks and rivers of eastern Ohio was positively beautiful as we climbed out to 5500ft and started our way south. In comparison to the last time I flew this route, the weather was beautiful and instead of slogging it out under an overcast at 3500ft over West Virginia, we were cruising in smooth air at a TAS of 135kts. Check out the winds blowing the smoke from these powerplants on the Muskingum River...pretty cool.....
As we got about 30 miles away from Charleston, WV Class C, we decided to climb up to 7500ft, to pick up some more favorable winds, and to clear the Class C airspace with room to spare. As we passed over, the CRW approach controller was amazed that a Citation inbound for landing 80 miles away already had the field in sight. "Not too many days like this", he commented. That's for sure. From our perch at 7500ft, we could see the distant ridgelines of the Appalachians peeking through the haze over 100miles in the distance. It was phenomenal visibility. Here's a photo of CRW from overhead, not a whole lot going on at 7:30AM in the morning. We did a few radio checks for the Elkin FSS and were on our way. The Kanawah River valley just south of Charleston was beautiful, with some fog and the lush green of the uninhabitable mountains contrasting with the packed houses and businesses in the river bottoms. Did I just say Charleston, WV was beautiful? Sheesh...what's wrong with me?
The Kanawah River Valley, over Charleston, WV looking south.

Welcome to the Desert of WV. Endless green hills and ravines speckled with coal strip mines as far as the eye can see. Beautiful, huh?

Mountain ridges at the WV/VA border. These ridges just stretched on into infinity...or at least hundreds of miles.

South Holston Lake, near Abingdon, VA with the high Appalachians stretching into the distance.
Ridgeline resort near Sugar Mountain, NC. The last mountain before we started our descent into Charlotte.

I love this view of mountains fading into the haze as far as the eye can see. This is reason enough to get in the air.

The ASOS was out upon our arrival into Rock Hill, SC, but it was definitely gusty. Winds were fairly easy over the mountains - 13-17kts at 7500ft, and as we descended through 4000ft, the surface winds really picked up to about 35kts. At the surface, the winds were gusting a lot, I'm guessing 15-18kts, gusting to 20-25kts. However, it didn't matter that much because they were pretty much straight down the runway. We pulled up next to a brand-new Cirrus SR22GTS, just to make them jealous of our good looks and lean fuel burn. Nice looking airplane, but I think that I was a little more interested in the PC-12 they had for sale out front. I logged 2.8 hours and we burned 26.6gals of fuel - 340NM total distance. 12.8MPG, but if I had driven, it would've taken about 7hours, and I would've burned about 20 gals of BP's finest 87 octane. Flying is sooooo cool.

07 May 2007

Bird Strike!

Behold the wonders of a composite airframe! Upon inspecting the DA40 in daylight, it appeared that we impacted some small bird on our trip back from New Jersey. Not only did we not notice it, but there is no dent in the leading edge! Now, just to clean off the blood and feathers. Poor little birdie!

05 May 2007

Return from The City

It was a disappointing Wednesday. I had just planned what promised to be a wonderful trip down the eastern seaboard, flying over Delaware, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Outer Banks, before heading west to Charlotte. I was headed to visit a customer down there, and we had hoped to stop at Dillon's Aviation, where our trusty C172K is undergoing open-heart surgery (or a 160HP engine & ehaust upgrade). Well, it was not to be. The wives were lonely, Dad was getting antsy, things at the office were piling up, and the weather for the flight back on Friday promised to be fairly sketchy. I was all about getting stranded somewhere, or having to fly "the long way" back. You know...part of the adventure, but it worked out best this way. I'm flying down Monday, Lord willing, down & back in one day. It promises to be clear and beautiful, so I'm actually pretty glad that I don't have to slog it out in turbulence under an overcast in the Appalachians. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Anyhoo, on to the subject at hand.

Flying out of Teterboro at 6PM is tough. The place is literally swarming with corporate jets, and the departure procedures were rather cryptic. We listened to ground, and it seemed that the controllers were asking for engine starts. We called a few times, telling the ground controller that we were ready for departure, awaiting taxi instructions, and you could hear crickets chirping as the controllers ignored us for the social elite in their G-IV's. We then switched over to Clerance Delivery, and still couldn't get anybody to respond. FINALLY, the lady on clearance delivery realized that we were VFR, and were NOT a corporate jet. I think they had been scouring the lists for our scheduled flight. Well, we didn't file a flight plan (probably should've to make things run more smoothly). We finally got clearance to taxi and hold short. Right behind a bunch of jets stacked up, waiting for departure as they burned through more fuel than I could possibly hold. (Note the Piaggio P-180 Avanti at the rear of the line - not a common sight!)
I was stoked because we were sitting at the departure end of runway 1, just sitting and watching jets takeoff. It was pretty cool, and some of those Gulfstreams just stood on their tail - I swear that they must've cleared 800-1000ft just off the end of the runway. We finally got our takeoff clearance, and we navigated our way back to Wilkes-Barre, where we hoped to find cheaper fuel. In addition to the $75/night ramp fees, Teterboro was asking $5-$6 for 100LL. I guess that's why no other piston aircraft were around. Since we were flying back late (after 5PM), we needed a stop with 24hr fuel, and the lights were always on at KAVP! We landed at Wilkes-Barre, which is a rather tricky approach - the airport is down in a valley, so you can't see it from the east or west, until you're about 6-10 miles away.
We followed a Beech 1900 in on final, and taxied to First Flight, where we enjoyed free coffee (with $150 fuel purchase), wireless internet, and a beautiful baseball game on their 32in flat screen. After relaxing a little bit, we got back in the DA40, and dialed in Coshocton, OH. You can see the joys of having XM Nexrad, and why it was nice to be flying in Pennsylvania, and not watching FOXNEWS in a hotel in North Carolina!
The sunset was amazing - my camera really couldn't capture it well. I tried taking other pictures during the flight from AVP to I40, but they didn't come out, even with a 30-second exposure in smooth air and a full moon. I was astounded at just how D-A-R-K north-central PA is - there were these vast segments of pitch black on the ground, and it wasn't until we got to about the Clarion/Emelonton area that lights from farms and small towns started peppering the landscape. I thought the area around Coshocton was dark at night! It was a smooth and uneventful flight back, and Dad got to log 4hrs. Lucky!