Name: Frank

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Web Site: http://www.airdorrin.com

Posts by fdorrin:

    Jul 19, 2019 – Overhaul Decision

    July 19th, 2019

    It is difficult to correlate myriad opinions, all of which you trust, when they disagree vehemently.

    Overhauling Engines: As you know from my previous writings, I have been running down a vibration problem in the engines that is annoying. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does happen, it is enough to get my attention.

    The prevailing professional advice has been to ignore it. Vibration is normal and the engines just need to be run. There is a chance that is true, so I continue to fly but I also continue to dig for evidence.

    I read Mike Busch’s book entitled ‘Mike Busch on Engines’, and found him to support the camp of running an engine until the condition dictates replacement. Like most others, I interpret his advice to be that I should keep going, but with more information. I decided to add an engine monitoring system to my airplane at the annual in February, and to immediately begin oil analysis with every oil change. I also ordered a bore scoping to be performed with every oil change. That will help me determine and track each cylinders condition.

    I also felt that it may be too late for these steps, however. Oil analysis and engine monitoring needs time and trending, and I know I already have a problem. The occasional vibration could mean an impending failure. Failing a valve in flight is definitely not the end of the world in a twin, but losing one on takeoff would be exciting.

    Meeting with Paul: My current A&P has been a proponent of running the engine and replacing parts as necessary. Many folks agree with him, and I started to get a headache listening to all of them. I found no middle ground with the opinions I sought out, so it became clear that I was the only one who would set the direction.

    I drove down to his shop yesterday. I could have flown down and back and been to work by noon. I decided to drive instead because of the oppressive heat wave we are in. I didn’t feel like getting sweaty or having the airplane stuck outside the hangar with a pop up storm. Paul and I sat down so I could talk about what I’ve learned and lay out a path forward that would give me more confidence in these engines.

    Redefining the problem. I am here to resolve the vibration problem. Period. Finding and fixing that issue will uncover any other issues the engines might have at this point. Focusing on the vibration negates the arguments anyone might have on how long to run an engine, etc. Fix the vibration now and I’ll be comfortable with continued trending. How do we do that, then?

    I explained that the prop and engine balancing confirmed that there is a vibration, that it is combustion related and not the props, and that it is of a serious magnitude. It confirmed what I already knew, but I did learned some specifics about Lycoming engines. My engines could be experiencing ‘Morning Sickness’, which is due to build up on the valve guides that cause them to stick when they are cold (vibration that comes and goes). Couple that with the one oil analysis result that called out potential valve guide wear. Evidence is building that a problem exists.

    So I sat Paul down to determine if he had the time to work with me in building a plan. I wanted a positive action plan for determining just what the issues are that is causing the vibration. Fix the vibration, and the engine issues resolve themselves.

    We talked about disassembly and the wobble test to get a hard look inside. We talked about top overhauls on both sides, and he wasn’t against that. It was a good discussion where I laid out the mitigating factors I’d identified.

    • I need to do something now, either here or elsewhere if your schedule doesn’t work out. I am not willing to wait until the February annual. I am not waiting.
    • The #2 cylinder I replaced on the right engine had serious valve guide wear and would not run. Matt, my A&P at the time, posited that the remaining cylinders could or would look the same in terms of wear. That made sense to me, but others discounted that assertion readily. I think Matt will be proved correct in the end.
    • Performing a step-by-step diagnostic will take time and money.  I have two engines that need it. This process could be expensive (time and money) in itself, and end up with an overhaul decision at the end.
    • I’m leaving in a few weeks to train on a new jet. I’ll be traveling allot over the next 6 months. Whatever work is to be done should take advantage of this down time. Please. No more extended down time.
    • If the problem is just one more cylinder that needs replacement, let’s do that. If the cost of analyzing the cylinder to determine its condition is prohibitive, just replace all of them and try that.
    • I’m 61 years old. What is the point of eeeking out another 5 years on old engines if I’ll just have to do this overhaul then anyway? It makes more sense for me to overhaul now and enjoy a more reliable airplane for the rest of my life.
    • I’m earning money from FSI right now, and getting this expense behind me gives me freedom to retire again without a significant known future expense over my head. I don’t have to retire, but I can whenever I want to.
    • Wherever the work is done, it is imperative that the airplane be kept indoors from start to finish. My hangar, your hangar, I don’t care.

    So I came down to assert myself and see if Paul’s schedule could accommodate what i wanted to do. It is my preference to have the work done here at this shop. It is local, I know the players, and Paul will coordinate well with all the other vendors. The project will be managed.

    We talked through the options and the resistance to my conclusion was gone. I’ve raised this issue before with him, and today his position came up differently. Paul is now in the same place with his PA30 and with his work life. My thought process make sense to him now, so we concluded readily that the engines would be both overhauled. So that is what I’m doing. We are overhauling both engines!

    The really great news is that we are doing it right now!  I’m leaving in another week, and won’t fly the airplane for the entire time I’m gone. That month won’t be wasted, and I couldn’t be more excited about that. Excited and now motivated to study the G280.

    I’ll fly N833DF to 33N next week, and the overhaul process will begin. Firewall forward restoration on both sides; adding an EDM 760 to the panel with fuel flow; adding a battery trickle charger; and adding electronic ignition in place of the right magnetos on these new engines. The engines will be overhauled by Penn Yan to new limits.

    The philosophy of doing the overhaul now while I’m working is also sound. If I have any questions in my mind, it is whether putting this much money into a 1967 airplane is prudent. I put that to bed realizing that if you want to play, you have to pay. This will be a solid machine on the other side. I will have an amazing airplane that would cost you $1M to replace new. I’ll be dead in 30 years anyway.

    I am excited by the prospect of having a completely overhauled fast machine that runs smooth when I get back from the G280 training. Next year Bev may be free and we’ll have a new machine to travel with. It works. The timing works. Beverly supports what I’m doing and is an amazing partner. I’m living life to the fullest, and after we can move around again, fullerest.

    Finally, what my friend Mike B said the other day struck gold. Having this behind me, I will be able to better focus on the G280 training coming up. I’ll be able to look forward to coming home to a new airplane, and won’t have the worry of engine diagnostics and scheduling continued maintenance visits during the times I’m home. Focus on the new jet and when that process is over – I’ll have a new airplane to play with.

    Working with FSI helped me build the cash reserve to deal with this, without touching my retirement funds. I’m happy it worked out this way. It kept me busy while Bev was otherwise committed, and gave me a challenge I needed to fill my days. Soon to be depleted reserves will give me a reason to stay a little longer. I’ll get to see where the G280 takes me, and that could be fun. After a year or two I’ll have rebuilt my reserves and be free to retire again whenever I choose to. That gives me 2 years with a better attitude and focus.

    Blah, Blah, Blah. I’ll get to fly a new airplane when I get it back in December. That will be just too damn much fun!

    Fly safe! I appreciate your interest.

    Frank

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    Jul 9, 2019 – Balancing Act

    July 12th, 2019
    I’ve been experiencing vibration from my engines dating back to 2015, just before the long downtime to deal with the gear bulkhead issue. I first became aware of it when the GoPro that was suspended from the ceiling could no longer filter out the movement, and video quality suffered. The problem is still there since the aircraft has returned to service, and I want it gone. The aircraft is too nice to put up with this nonsense, and I believe the engines are talking to me. I need to listen.
    Trouble is, I’m getting advice from Paul (my current A&P) to not do anything. He believes that the engines should be run to TBO, and only replaced on condition. Additionally, he fells that the vibration I’m feeling is normal and I should not be concerned. Paul is not alone, and is in fact, among the majority. I have about 550 hours remaining to TBO, and most think I should just truck on until a problem surfaces. These engines that were overhauled in 1991, however, and that was 28 years ago!
    I believer that Matt, my previous A&P,  would be most comfortable overhauling or replacing the engines now. He has said that the cylinder we replaced on the right engine is indicative of the wear that most likely exists on the other cylinders as well. That particular cylinder was cracked, and had significantly worn valve guides. Matt found all that on the return to service in December, which caused a months further delay on that project. He has a valid point.
    Moving forward: The airplane is flying again now, and the current plan is actually a compromise. I am ready to overhaul them both, but I don’t want to waste money either. I listened to the prevailing opinions, but decided to hedge my bets and gather more data while I’m running the engines. The resources I’ve spoken to are all very confident and adamant in their opinions. Only the owner makes the decision though, and I am pretty confident that further action is required.
    What that action will be is not clear, but a direction is forming. To find out more about what is going on inside of these engines, and to formulate a more effective action, I am taking the following steps:
    • Perform a BlackStone oil analysis with each oil change going forward
    • Purchase an EDM 760 engine analyzer during the Oshkosh show pricing, and install it at the next annual in February. I would prefer the EDM 790, but don’t have the room for it.
    • Perform a bore scoping of all cylinders each oil change.
    • Perform a prop balance on both sides to eliminate that as a source of vibration
    Prop Balancing: I actually scheduled my prop balancing three times before I made it happen on the fourth attempt. I had been planning to use the Sensenich shop in Lancaster, and that was my first attempt. It rained that day, and you can’t do this work in the rain. Before I could reschedule, I struck up a conversation with long time Comanche advocate CJ Stumpf. She recommended using Mitch out at Gull Wing Aviation in Reedsville, PA. I scheduled him on the next two attempts. Both of those were also canceled due to rain, but I didn’t give up.
    On July 9th, I went to the airport and prepared for the short flight to Reedsville, PA from my home base at KILG – Wilmington, Delaware.  It had been raining for days and weeks prior so there was moisture available in the region.
    The weather forecast called for low IFR in the morning, clearing to VFR by 10am. I arrived at my hangar around 8am to preflight and get the airplane ready. Then I sat on the wing until about 9:15am when I started to see the ceilings come up. First 100′, then finally 200′. I had plenty of gas to come home or hold if need be, so I fired up the engines and taxied out.
    Climbing out I felt the vibration strongly today. Wouldn’t it be nice if all this was caused by the props being unbalanced. I did see the removal of spinner weights during the last annual, so it may be that simple.
    The Twin Comanche is a fast airplane and about halfway there I could see that the weather wasn’t coming up as fast as the forecast had predicted. Once transferred to New York approach, I asked them for direct OCPUC on the GPS24, where I’d hold until the weather came up enough to fly the approach. They granted my request, and I held. I actually held for a full hour before the ceilings were reported above legal limits. The autopilot is freakin’ fantastic – thanks to Lancaster Avionics!
    Around 11am now I descended in the hold and flew the GPS 24 into Reedsville. Down below the ridges on either side of me and into the murk. The approach ended up being easy and less than dramatic, which made me wonder if I should have flown it much earlier (ignoring the ASOS weather). No – I think I did it the right way and will continue to do the same thing.
    I met a number of people there, and they looked over my airplane approvingly. I admit that I enjoyed the attention, and appreciated the way Mitch treated my machine. The prop balance showed that both props were already within specs, and that East Coast Propellers had done nice work. He did confirm, however that significant vibration was present, but it was combustion related. Mitch could tell this by the frequency of the vibration, and said it could be Lycoming Morning Sickness, or simply sticky valves. The right side was worse than the left, but they both had it.
    Reaching out: I have sent out a few emails to the resources I use, and to my A&P. I am determined to find the source of the problem and address it. Since I’m going away for months on this G280 project, I want to get whatever work this entails done between now and next spring.
    The first step will be to find out how to access the valve guides and valves on the right side. Does my A&P have borescope experience? His unit was new and he couldn’t get it working at my last oil change, so i missed that opportunity. I’ll talk with him on that, and we can decide how best to assess the remaining cylinders (1 is newly rebuilt).
    It may be that the cost of accessing the condition of the right side cylinders means just ordering 3 new or rebuilt ones makes more sense. If that is the case – let’s do that and replace them at annual or even before. I don’t know what is normally done, but need to figure that out.
    It will be interesting to see where this goes. I’ll continue to build my war chest in the meantime, and hopefully have enough to two new engines when the time comes. Regardless – I’ll get them done.
    Fly Safe!
    Frank

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    Jul 7, 2019 – Instrument Approaches

    July 8th, 2019

    Synopsis: Deferred camera work; Autopilot repairs yield some unexpected benefits; and Inadequate flows cause holding troubles.

    Suck it up, buttercup:  The weather lately has been hot and humid, with constant cloud cover and the perpetual chance for thunderstorms. It hasn’t stopped raining in forever. I’ve been in kind of a funk lately; lacking the motivation to eat right, exercise, and study for the new jet. This morning I reminded myself that I have nothing to complain about. It was time to get myself moving and launch on a mental health day. When it finally stopped raining for a few minutes, I decided to ride the Harley over to the airport to do some flying.

    I made an effort to make good on a promise to give friends an airplane ride. I wasn’t able to connect with anyone last minute, so I continued solo. I enjoy going over to the hangar and being at the airport in general. It buoyed my mood and focused my thoughts. Today I would exercise the two onboard weather resources (ADS-B and XM), capture video footage I could use in this blog and on YouTube, and practice approach automation flows while flying approaches at Delaware Coastal (KGED). After 2 or 3 approaches,  I’d land there and top off the tanks for Tuesdays trip to central PA.

    The plan to capture additional video for this blog fell apart fairly quickly. I had taken all the camera equipment home in an attempt to organize and update it.  I even ordered several new mounts for the two cameras that would expand how I could use them. All that equipment was in my car at the moment, however, so I grabbed what I needed and headed out. In transferring the camera equipment from my car to my motorcycle, I’d left behind key components of the mounting system. There’d be no video today.

    Delaware Coastal Approaches: Both engines started up nicely. I taxied out for Runway 1 this morning, where I’d hold for maybe 10 minutes awaiting release. I didn’t want to launch VFR with 1800′ ceilings as the idea of blasting along with slower airplanes squeezed under a cloud layer did not appeal.

    The time came and I launched into the cloud layer talking to Philly. The ride was surprisingly smooth in the thick air you find flying low in summer. It was hot and humid in the cockpit, but I knew that I’d have to climb to at least 6000′ to get some cool air going today.

    When the hot weather first arrived, I actually thought I had a problem with the ventilation system, or that it hadn’t been put back together correctly. I couldn’t seem to get the airplane to cool down. Later, it dawned on me that the majority of my flying since the return had been down low –  around 3,000′. I hadn’t been traveling away from home much, and therefore hadn’t been climbing out of the heat. All better now – it was 22o C at 6000′ today, or 71o F. Nice and comfortable.

    I was also above the cloud tops at 6000′ and could see where the buildups were. Were I to have been traveling today, I’d have climbed to 10000′ and used onboard weather to circumnavigate the building cumulus. For today’s flight down to the south end of Delaware and back there’d be no problem other than the cloud bumps and occasional rain. I don’t expect ceilings lower than 1500′.

    I had about four hours of fuel onboard, and followed procedure to work off the auxiliary tanks as soon as I had leveled off. In contact with Dover approach, I told them about the plan I had envisioned. The KGED VOR22to a low approach, followed by the KGED VOR4 to another low approach. After that, I’d do a KGED GPS22 to a full stop and get fuel. It would be back and forth across the airport several times until I finally landed.

    There was a possibility that Dover would be too busy to handle these approaches, or there’d be a conflict and I’d have to do them VFR suddenly. If that ended up being the case, I knew that the VOR4 as published would take me into Salisbury’s Class Delta. I planned to be at 3000′ for that approach to prepare for that, but Dover must have had the same thought.
    Once cleared for the VOR 22 approach, they asked if I could accept a modified missed approach, given what I wanted to do. ‘Absolutely’, I said, and then suggested 3000′ direct WEBIX. Dover countered with runway heading to 3000′. They ended up clearing me to WEBIX after they reestablished contact.

    All good. Even though I retained my IFR clearance, flying the approach at 3000′ would keeping me clear of any scud runners or VFR traffic down under the clouds. I’d use the 3 to 1 rule to manage my descent from 3 instead of 2, and it’d work out fine.

    First complication. Since the plan had been for me to fly automated approached and practice the button pushing I needed to be doing (my flows), I had intended to let the autopilot make all the turns. Dover cleared me ‘straight in’ from WATERLOO, however, which gave me my first challenge.

    Cleared for the VOR 22 approach from ATR with a straight in approach meant telling the Garmin 530W that it didn’t have to do the hold. Nope. Can’t go to the flight plan page and modify the approach that way, so I’d have to activate the leg from ATR to OTBAE instead. The VOR is the FAF, so that meant no vertical guidance since the autopilot won’t sequence unless you are established on the final approach course prior to the FAF.

    I was only a few miles from ATR when the clearance came in, approaching from the north, so I went to heading mode and did the turn and the descent manually. This is precisely what I’m practicing – translating approach clearance nuances into 1967 automation. If I needed the added safety margin of the autopilot, I’d have refused the straight in clearance and done a turn in the hold. That would have enabled turn anticipation and a coupled descent.

    Now for the missed – a slight left turn to align with the runway and then a climb to 3000′. The VOR 4 is next, and includes my next challenge. I properly re-engage the autopilot and select heading mode. The climb is done manually until intercept because I do a better job than the autopilot in managing the climb. Everything appears to be working fine and I’m cleared direct WEBIX, maintain 3000′ until established, cleared for the VOR4 approach into Delaware Coastal.

    I make it to WEBIX just fine, and look forward to letting the autopilot do the turn for me. I pick up a deviation in my expected path – the airplane doesn’t seem to be making the turn. Something is wrong, the bank angle is far too shallow and I switch to heading mode to fly it around. The airplane is turning a little, but still not quickly enough. I am behind the airplane and heading outside of the protected area on the approach – not good. I manually get back on course and all this took longer than either ATC or I expected. Conflicting traffic now required Dover to cancel my approach clearance for spacing, and have me do another turn in the hold at the last minute.

    Since the GPS had already sequenced beyond the hold, I re-selected the hold and again tried heading mode to get the turn done. Nothing seemed to be working, and then I realized what I had done wrong. Way back there on the missed approach from VOR 22, I had neglected to return the Mode Selector to HDG from LOC. That meant GPSS roll steering will not work, and this is the result. My flows had failed me and my scan had also. The GPSS mode will not work with that selector mode in LOC, but it needs to be set in that mode for the glideslope coupler to work.

    The learning is that  I need to ensure that I include the mode selector in my flows and my scan. On an inbound coupled approach, I typically disconnect the autopilot at 500′ agl by resetting all four switches on the Altimatic IIIB control head to OFF. What I need to do is to move the mode selector to HDG at the same time. Both of my VOR 4 holds were messed up as a result of this misstep.

    Most of the flight went very well today. I included the image below showing the entire flight path. It was hot and humid on the ground, but cool and smooth in small buildups most of the flight. I did have a bit of trouble getting the left engine going after the refueling, but the hot start approach eventually worked. Next time it’s this hot I’ll try a start without prime and with the mixture full first.

     

    Autopilot Improvements: I was pleasantly surprised to note a change in autopilot behavior since the system was overhauled in February/March of this year. It used to be that the autopilot could not function below 130 mph, and that had been true since I’d owned the airplane. Get below that airspeed and the pitch would oscillate and then you’d know you were getting slow. I compensated by flying automated approaches at 130 mph, and manual ones at 120. Note that the flap speed is 125, so I would not use flaps on a coupled precision approach as a result.

    Today I find out that the autopilot now operates quite nicely below 130, so I flew one coupled approaches with vertical guidance at 120mph and flaps, and another at 110mph with 2/3 flaps. I now have more options should I decide to include flaps in my approaches. An interesting twist to explore on the next flight.

    Fly safe!

    Frank

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    Jun 23, 2019 – PA30 Flying!! Just what I needed

    July 4th, 2019

    You already know I didn’t fly to Canada, but you didn’t know I had a friend, Mike, coming to town for his Flight Review the very next day I was to go. Mike hadn’t flown for a few years since he moved up to Boston, and wanted to get back in the saddle for a little bit this weekend. He is a strong pilot and flight instructor, and has been hitting the books on my airplane for this event.

    I have had some frustrations lately, and was really happy to have a valuable project to work on with the airplane and my friend Mike. What a good time.

    Mike and I did three flights together to get him up to speed. The one depicted at right was done after a warm-up flight, and included most of the multi-engine maneuvers. Slow flight, Vmc Demo, Power on and Power Off stalls, Emergency descents, and single engine work using simulated feather.

    I haven’t done allot of multi-engine instruction in my career, so Mike and I made sure we briefed all of the maneuvers before we executed them. The single engine work was all done effectively, in that Mike really got the feel for the maneuvers, and I kept things in a safe envelop. I did make one mistake, however.

    During a simulated engine failure on takeoff, I let Mike build the airspeed to about 60-70 mph before I closed a throttle on him to simulate an engine failure before rotation. My allowing the airspeed to be this high reduced our margin for error, and increased the chance for a loss of control accident. The maneuver turned out fine, but I had let me guard down a little and could have done a better job with that. In retrospect, I think my mistake came from the jet instruction I deliver. I routinely train V1 cuts just before and right at V1, so sailing at high speed down the runway is normal. Jet training doesn’t translate well to training in light twins.

    Embedding Video into this blog: The GoPro has been in the case since the aircraft returned to service in January, so there is no video of the flight review. It would have been interesting watching Mike and I work our way through all the multi-engine maneuvers and landing, but I hadn’t taken the time to prep the cameras. It has been my observation that having cameras aboard takes attention away from other tasks, and getting a heavily maintained airplane flying again required all of my attention. I intentionally put that off.

    Now that I’ve flown 50 hours and am getting back into the groove, I will be re-introducing the cameras going forward. I figured out how to embed video clips into these blogs like I’ve seen Gary do in his flying blog. I like the effect, and it keeps things interesting. Below is one of my favorite clips. You can find them all on YouTube by searching for AirDorrin or N833DF. I’ll be putting more of these together as time permits.

    Fly Safe!

    Frank

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    Jun 20, 2019 – Canada Deferred

    July 1st, 2019

    Please Note: The events I describe may not all be in the correct order, and the details not exactly as described. That is what happens when time marches on and only memory is relied on. For example, there may have been only 3 attempts to have me evaluated as a TCE instead of 4. I did my best to be accurate.

    My readers know I have been broadcasting my desire to fly up to Nova Scotia. I did not make the trip on the appointed day, and at this point have not rescheduled it either. I canceled the trip the night before I was to go. This after realizing I could not get back in the country at a convenient time. Admittedly, I was so busy that I only thought about it on the way home from work the day before the trip.

    I screwed up by assuming the operational hours of customs here and not verifying any of this until the last minute. It turns out that Customs (CBP) at my home airport closes at 3:15 pm. That meant I needed to land somewhere closer to the border up north instead. I’d have to modify the trip to accommodate a customs stop other than home base, while could mean as much as 11 hours of flying in one day. All that to include a late return in weather.

    I put an awful lot of pressure on myself to get this self-appointed goal accomplished. As it turned out, I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway. The ceilings and visibilities all along my route left me no options were I to have an emergency. The only higher ceilings available to me were west – toward an incoming front that promised thunderstorms. Those conditions were beyond my current capabilities in this airplane. Visibilities were very low along the route as well, which would have delayed departure until maybe noon.

    I’m glad I’ve done all the prep work and am still ready to go at this point. I’d like to go up and back at least once this year, even if just for the day. Achieve the goal, as it were. Exercise my retirement to the fullest.

    Self induced stress can wear you down and come from a variety of sources. In my current situation, irregular schedules at work are making it impossible to get quality time off to do the Canada trip or anything social. I ended up reserving ONE DAY to get this done, and that ended up being a mistake. I’d already tried twice to get my props balanced before the trip (as a one day event), and had to cancel that twice because the day I’d picked there was rain. You can’t do prop balancing in the rain as the lasers used in the process bounce off of it.

    Failure to accomplish the mission for a good reason doesn’t mean you feel good about it.

    Two things are exacerbating my stress level. I love that word – exacerbating. Round the clock senior care in our home which I’ve already discussed, and this drive at work to make me an examiner using unreliable equipment.

    Senior Care you’ve heard about already. Readers may know that my wife takes care of her Mom with the help and guidance of Home Hospice (awesome people). I won’t go into additional detail beyond this paragraph, since I’ve talked about all this before. We have been going through the process with both her Mom and Dad for the last two years. Her Dad passed away in February. Mom is declining slowly, requires constant care, and I don’t expect the process has much longer to play out. In the meantime, Bev and I have absolutely no social life. Scheduling even the most simple of appointments requires maddening coordination. Base level stress.

    The history behind the attempts at making me a TCE began with the Westwind jet last year. As you may know, I’ve been working as an instructor in the Westwind / Astra program for the last 2 years. FlightSafety is trying hard to make me an examiner (Training Center Evaluator – TCE) before I leave for the G280 program in August. It would be advantageous to them to have me become an examiner now, and avoid having to build another 100 hours of experience in the new G280 before I get scheduled again. It is also easier to add the new jet rating to an existing TCE, I am told, rather than to do an initial check in a complicated jet. I get it.

    About a year ago, I took the time to research what my first TCE book should look like. I built my initial Plan of Action for performing progressive checks in the Westwind that was based on the ATP PTS (Practical Test Standards). The book was evaluated internally before the FAA would see it, requiring several iterations to get it right. There were no good examples available for these older jets, since the experienced instructors knew the drill in their heads.  I, on the other hand, would be required to work from a TCE book. I get it.

    Before I could be evaluated, I needed to accumulate 100 hours in the Westwind Simulator as quickly as possible, That meant being on the schedule more to make that happen. Ok, I’m in. Let’s get this done.

    We are operating the two oldest simulators in the facility, so the plot gets complicated when they start showing their age. Reliability has been one of our biggest challenges, and it seems to be getting worse. Scheduled sessions become longer to accommodate maintenance delays. Some sessions are outright canceled. Long days turn into late nights. Time drags on and existing TCEs need the sim for their own recurrent checks.

    I attainted the 100 hour SIM training experience in the Westwind and had my initial check-ride scheduled with the FAA. Reliability of the sim was on a slow decline, and one of the recurrent evaluations for an instructor was unsuccessful. He would required a recheck, and that meant that my own evaluation would be bumped. I was bumped again after that due to a maintenance issue, and then finally the simulator became so unreliable that it was retired. The drive for 100 hours; TCE book development; checkride preparation; and associated pre-checkride stress was all for naught.

    But the Astra is still alive!  The focus shifts to getting me evaluated in that airplane, which again meant accumulating 100 hours in the Astra. They would like this done before I leave for the G280 program. It’s back to pushing the schedule and developing an entirely new book for a different jet, under a different set of standards. The Astra evaluation is scheduled for June 30th, precisely 2 days after the new ATP ACS (Airmen Certification Standards) goes into effect, replacing the ATP PTS (Practical Test Standards). Now I have to read the ACS and incorporate that into my book. Nice. I’ll be evaluated on an entirely new approach for the first time I ever give a checkride. Nice.

    I will be evaluated as I give the checkride to an internal SIC who is familiar with the jet. We have one scheduled session together for his training, enabling us to practice what the ride might look like under the new ACS. I have other sessions scheduled with a new hire as well, that will also enable me to practice instructing and evaluating.

    The scheduled sessions don’t go very well. The Astra simulator cannot seem to stay alive for an entire session without either have to land and reset it internally, or come off motion and get the techs involved. My first session with the new hire was terminated after the simulator died multiple times in the first 1/2 hour of motion. The first session with the SIC client was also terminated after hours of start / stop operation, dealing with multiple failures. We rescheduled the session for the next day and I reported the simulator as having a moderate maintenance issue. It had to be fixed before it was used again.

    FSI maintenance is reactive, from my perspective. We don’t seem to do predictive maintenance at all. When something breaks we simply reset it rather than repair it. This is particularly true for the older simulators, for which there are few spare parts remaining. I don’t see any signs that anyone is trending how many times an instructor station is reset, or the same fix is applied repeatedly. I don’t think overall reliability is a key performance indicator they track.

    The rescheduled second session with my SIC client was also terminated. He really needs to practice the maneuvers that have changed for the ACS, and I really need to vet the scenarios I developed and get some practice giving a ride. Neither of us can do that with a simulator failing this much. I stopped the session, notified my program manager, and marked the simulator down hard. I stated that it was not suited for use in training or checking anyone until it could survive an entire simulator session without failing.

    The next day I found that the simulator maintenance issues were cleared, indicating it had been repaired. My SIC client was scheduled with someone else that day, and their session was terminated when the simulator failed repeatedly. At this point, I felt I was being set up for failure and complained at having the FAA evaluate me in this simulator. The process moves on, but the point is that all this was happening while I was trying to prepare for a supposedly relaxing trip to Canada.

    On a good note, my new Astra TCE book looks really good. I’m starting to understand the process more deeply, and am better prepared for the ride. The workload is considerably increased having to work around the sim failures, however. Any one of these failures we’ve been seeing could or should stop the ride. The situation is ungood, as Lloyd would say.

    In retrospect, I am trying to live a normal life in the midst of external influences on my schedule. Once the senior care is over and I’m back home with a new G280 rating, I’ll re-evaluate my schedule and determine if adjustments are needed. 2020 will be all about Quality of Life.

    So – I didn’t go and feel just a little like I let myself down. I’ll get over it.

    Fly safe!!

    Frank

     

     

    Comments Off on Jun 20, 2019 – Canada Deferred

    Jun 19, 2018 – Canada Trip

    June 19th, 2019

    Here is only the details I’ll need. The trip is jeopardy at the moment. I’m having trouble connecting with CBP for re-entry into the US. Just thought to check the operating hours here and Wilmington, and they require that I land prior to 3:15pm. I have a call into Bangor, Maine now, and hope to be able to re-enter there. Otherwise, I’ll need to reschedule this into a two day event.

    Thank you Michelle, one of my readers, for taking the time to correct a few things and add value and safety to the trip. Still don’t know at this late hour if it will be tomorrow, but whenever it happens, I am better informed.

    Michelle’s comments include:

    • Your documents and customs lists are correct.  Be prepared for a 10 minute wait when calling CANPASS.
    • [modified in the notes below as well] I think 866-WX-BRIEF can only be used when calling from a Canadian phone number!  You might have problems calling from an American mobile phone number.  Just in case, the direct number for the east coast is 519-452-4040, 1-866-541-4104.
    • There’s no Flight Services on 122.2.  You need the Halifax FIC FISE RCO map (included below) of the Flight Information Centres frequencies to get enroute weather reports, modify your flight plan etc.
    • When flying uncontrolled, we use 126.7 MHz to give aircraft position reports.
    • All our flight plans are filed with an assumed departure time.  You don’t have to “activate” them.  (But if you don’t depart as planned, you have to call to modify it or cancel.)  Foreflight works with a Canadian subscription, but if you prefer, flight plans can be filed on-line, and weather briefing is available here.
    • 45 degree entries to the pattern (we call it “the circuit”) at uncontrolled aerodromes are not permitted  (and are a potential accident when American pilots unknowingly do them because most Canadian pilots don’t know were to look for a conflict.)  Please study Figure 4.6 page 244 for the standard left hand-circuit pattern in the Aeronautical Information Manual.

    Canada Checklist – Updated

    First thing I had to do was to become familiar with the Canadian Provinces. I need to know that so that I can ensure I have updated charts for the regions I’ll be using, and don’t load up charts I don’t need.

    Documents for the aircraft:

    • Standard airworthiness certificate
    • Permanent registration certificate (no temporary certificates)
    • Radio station license
    • Operating limitations and weight and balance information
    • ID date plate
    • Transponder with Mode C or a TSA waiver if the aircraft is not so equipped
    • Either a 121.5 or a 406 MHz ELT
    • Current charts
    • Insurance for flight into Canada: Private aircraft must be covered with liability insurance and proof of coverage must be carried onboard. 
    • User Fee Decal: Customs and Borders Protection requires an annual user fee decal ($27.50) – allow a few weeks for delivery. You can buy decals online. For decal questions, call CBP at (317)-298-1245 or send an email to [email protected].

    Documents for the Pilot:

    • Current passport
    • Medical certificate
    • Restricted radiotelephone operators permit: Note that this is in addition to a station license for the airplane!
    • Pilot certificate with an English proficient endorsement

    Documents Passengers will need:

    • Current passport

    Entry into Canada

    • There is no need to contact U.S. customs on departure – eAPIS filing is sufficient.
    • FILE eAPIS: File an eAPIS (CBP’s Electronic Advance Passenger Information System) passenger manifest with CBP when departing from and arriving back in the U.S. Manifests must be filed at least one hour before departing from or arriving in the United States, but pilots can file as far in advance as they wish, giving the option to provide information for the return trip via the Internet before leaving home.
    • CALL PRIOR TO ARRIVAL: Provide advance notification to CBSA by calling 1-888/CAN-PASS (226-7277). You must provide notification no less than two (2) hours but no more than 48 hours prior to your arrival.
      • The pilot will be given an ID number that must be provided upon arrival.
      • You will be required to provide the customs office with information about yourself, passengers, and your flight.
      • A filed and activated flight plan is required for border crossing, and your first landing in Canada must be at an airport of entry. Following are a list of airports of entry near my planned destination, for use as alternates:
        • YARMOUTH
        • HALIFAX
        • CHARLOTTETOWN
        • FREDERICTON
        • SAINT JOHN
        • GREATER MONCTON
    • UPON ARRIVAL: If there is no customs officer present, immediately contact the Canadian CANPASS office again at the same number and receive an arrival report number or be advised to wait for a customs inspection.

    Phone Numbers:

      • CANPASS: (888) 226-7277 or (204) 983-3500,
      • Canadian Flight Service: 866/WX-BRIEF (992-7433) *** Weather and file flight plans.  This telephone number can only be used within the borders of Canada. More specific flight services and local weather advisories can be obtained by contacting the individual Flight Information Centres within each Canadian province. The numbers are shown in the graphic below.
        *** Michelle says: I think 866-WX-BRIEF can only be used when calling from a Canadian phone number!  You might have problems calling from an American mobile phone number.  Just in case, the direct number for the east coast is 519-452-4040, 1-866-541-4104. 

    Returning from Canada

    • The first landing in the U.S. must be at a designated airport of entry with a customs office. See this list
      • KILG – Wilmington, DE (302) 326-0600
      • Burlington VT (802) 864-5181
      • Morristown, NJ (973) 267-0302
      • Harrisburg, PA    (215) 597-4606
    • Prior to departure, make direct telephone contact with the customs office at the U.S. destination airport, and notify of ETA at least one hour before and no more than 23 hours before the ETA. (Do not rely on entry of “ADCUS” in the flight plan.)
    • After landing at the U.S. airport, taxi to customs office and wait in or next to the airplane for customs officers to inspect airplane prior to exiting the plane or immediate tie-down area.

    Comments Off on Jun 19, 2018 – Canada Trip

    Jun 18, 2019 – UPDATED: Prop Balancing/Thunderstorms

    June 18th, 2019

    NOPE – NOT GONNA HAPPEN TODAY: I called Mitch and told him I could be out there by 10:30, from the looks of the weather. He told me that at the time it was raining hard out there (I knew that), and that we could not do the work if there was any rain at all. It screws up the laser he uses. Given that I am already delayed getting there; there would most likely be some form of rain all day; and my departure time would be challenged by expected storms; I canceled the work today. It is on me to reschedule with him. Damn – I wanted this done!

    So now I’ll work on my TCE stuff for an hour or so, and think about maybe biking down the trail to the Grain for a beer or two. Then I’ll pedal back and prepare for my buddy Mike’s flight review.

    Original post continues…….

    Weather isn’t cooperating: I am lowering my personal mins to 800′ today, but will hedge that bet by ensuring that the Wilmington forecast stays above 1000’ as my alternate. I will not hesitate to reschedule the flight until after the TCE ride if I don’t go today. In the event I have to cancel, I’ll use the day to work on further TCE prep; to prepare for the Canada flight; and to prepare to do a flight review with my friend Mike. No surprises; brief everything; review ACS and current regs.

    This will be my second shot at getting my props balanced, and the second time the weather didn’t cooperate. I was on the schedule with Sensenich in Lancaster last week, but I canceled due to heavy rain cells and my fear of hail. I also didn’t want my nacelle panels on the tarmac while seriously high winds developed.Todays weather pattern has been here for the last few days and will remain through Friday. There is a stalled front lowering the visibilities and brewing thunderstorms in the afternoon. Widespread ceilings and visibilities are below my minimums this morning, but forecast to improve around 10am. That improvement won’t last long, so I’ll have to get home before 4pm to avoid afternoon storms.

    I amended my flight plan this morning to reflect a later departure, around 10am, and to add Wilmington as an alternate. Delaware Airpark, to the south will be my unofficial third choice, with Atlantic City and Dover AFB as my unofficial emergency plan. I loaded 7 hours of fuel on the airplane yesterday afternoon.

    I would very much like to see how prop balancing makes this airplane even better, but I won’t push hard to get there today. I am making better risk decisions as I get older, in my opinion. Asking myself if I really need to do the flight today, and avoiding just doing it to prove to myself that I can. I balance that with the fact that I enjoy doing it and I like to practice.

    Fact is that the Nova Scotia flight on Thursday may be a wash for me this week as well. I’ll get it done eventually. Either in July before I go to training, or in September/October while I’m home and need to relax.

    Have a great day. Fly Safe!

    Frank

    Comments Off on Jun 18, 2019 – UPDATED: Prop Balancing/Thunderstorms

    Jun 13, 2019 – Preparing for Canada

    June 15th, 2019

    Very sorry folks. I’m embarrassed that somehow a number bullet format got all over this very important post.  Cleaning it up as we speak. Go figure that this would be the one that drew several great ideas and positive feedback.

    ***  Here we go for another try…..

    If you can add something here I’ve missed – please let me know. This is a work in progress, and I’m using it to figure out the customs process on both ends.

    Read through the charting and money discussion at the start of this blog and you’ll see the details about preparing for travel into Nova Scotia from Delaware. I’m not blazing any trails here, but interpreting what others have done and preparing to describe the experience.

    I’m spending money preparing for the trip to Nova Scotia on the 20th. $380/ year on Jepp USA and Canada; $270 for Jepp Garmin chart data for USA and Canada on the 530W navigator in my airplane. I also paid $70 for an FCC Restricted Radio Operators permit. The later being a pointless government money grab – accomplishing precisely zero for my money.

    As for electronic charting, up to now I’ve occasionally been using the company iPad for Jepp and Canada charts.The company iPad model is an older one. It is heavy, short on memory, and beset with security features that make it a pain in the ass to use. It does not have ForeFlight, so I’d be forced to rely on the Jeppesen FliteDeck app instead. I’m retired and don’t like being forced to use something I really don’t care for.

    The end result is that I’ve been leaving the company iPad turned off and simply using my own iPad with ForeFlight and NOS. My life is simpler and more enjoyable, but it can cause confusion discussing approaches with clients that have Jepp plates.

    Doing the right thing: I was talking with my friend Tom B the other day. He is a Gulfstream instructor in my office. Tom mentioned that he recently purchased the USA Jepp charts for his iPad for the same reasons I mentioned. Now he has Jepp in ForeFlight for both personal flying and works, and doesn’t have to suffer with FlightDeck or company iPads. What the hell am I doing saving a few dollars when this is something I use everyday! Done!  I paid the money and feel like I should have done this last year.

    Forget getting the company to update iPads and transition to ForeFlight. Crusades like that exceed my level of interest, and have little chance of success.

    Canada Checklist

    First thing I had to do was to become familiar with the Canadian Provinces. I need to know that so that I can ensure I have updated charts for the regions I’ll be using, and don’t load up charts I don’t need.

    Documents for the aircraft:

    • Standard airworthiness certificate
    • Permanent registration certificate (no temporary certificates)
    • Radio station license
    • Operating limitations and weight and balance information
    • ID date plate
    • Transponder with Mode C or a TSA waiver if the aircraft is not so equipped
    • Either a 121.5 or a 406 MHz ELT
    • Current charts
    • Insurance for flight into Canada: Private aircraft must be covered with liability insurance and proof of coverage must be carried onboard. 
    • User Fee Decal: Customs and Borders Protection requires an annual user fee decal ($27.50) – allow a few weeks for delivery. You can buy decals online. For decal questions, call CBP at (317)-298-1245 or send an email to [email protected].

    Documents for the Pilot:

    • Current passport
    • Medical certificate
    • Restricted radiotelephone operators permit: Note that this is in addition to a station license for the airplane!
    • Pilot certificate with an English proficient endorsement

    Documents Passengers will need:

    • Current passport

    Entry into Canada

    • There is no need to contact U.S. customs on departure – eAPIS filing is sufficient.
    • FILE eAPIS: File an eAPIS (CBP’s Electronic Advance Passenger Information System) passenger manifest with CBP when departing from and arriving back in the U.S. Manifests must be filed at least one hour before departing from or arriving in the United States, but pilots can file as far in advance as they wish, giving the option to provide information for the return trip via the Internet before leaving home.
    • CALL PRIOR TO ARRIVAL: Provide advance notification to CBSA by calling 1-888/CAN-PASS (226-7277). You must provide notification no less than two (2) hours but no more than 48 hours prior to your arrival.
      • The pilot will be given an ID number that must be provided upon arrival.
      • You will be required to provide the customs office with information about yourself, passengers, and your flight.
      • A filed and activated flight plan is required for border crossing, and your first landing in Canada must be at an airport of entry. Following are a list of airports of entry near my planned destination, for use as alternates:
        • YARMOUTH
        • HALIFAX
        • CHARLOTTETOWN
        • FREDERICTON
        • SAINT JOHN
        • GREATER MONCTON
    • UPON ARRIVAL: If there is no customs officer present, immediately contact the Canadian CANPASS office again at the same number and receive an arrival report number or be advised to wait for a customs inspection.

    Phone Numbers:

      • CANPASS: (888) 226-7277 or (204) 983-3500,
      • Canadian Flight Service: 866/WX-BRIEF (992-7433) Weather and file flight plans.  This telephone number can only be used within the borders of Canada. More specific flight services and local weather advisories can be obtained by contacting the individual Flight Information Centres within each Canadian province. The numbers are shown in the graphic below.

    Returning from Canada

    • The first landing in the U.S. must be at a designated airport of entry with a customs office. See this list
      • KILG – Wilmington, DE (302) 326-0600
      • Burlington VT (802) 864-5181
      • Morristown, NJ (973) 267-0302
      • Harrisburg, PA    (215) 597-4606
    • Prior to departure, make direct telephone contact with the customs office at the U.S. destination airport, and notify of ETA at least one hour before and no more than 23 hours before the ETA. (Do not rely on entry of “ADCUS” in the flight plan.)
    • After landing at the U.S. airport, taxi to customs office and wait in or next to the airplane for customs officers to inspect airplane prior to exiting the plane or immediate tie-down area.

    Comments Off on Jun 13, 2019 – Preparing for Canada

    Jun 11, 2019 – Flying and Soaring Moods…

    June 13th, 2019

    Retraining last week: I had intended to do an entire blog around a client I had last week. He had failed his check-ride while I was on vacation and I had the opportunity to re-train him and get him through it. I was his instructor in the morning and his co-pilot for the check-ride later in the day. It was a long day for him and the training was intense.

    The purpose of the intended blog was to discuss the kind of support I should give during an event like this. It is not the first time I provided solid support, but also moral support during the ride. One example would be giving clear direction like ‘Climb! Climb! Climb to 3000′ RIGHT NOW; Turn right to 360; Bank Angle! 30 degrees please!’. Those comments pronounced in a strong voice at the right time have saved the day more than once. I justify my actions because that is exactly what I’d do in the actual jet, and be ready to take the controls as well. I never do the later in the sim since that might prompt a failure.

    I came to the conclusion that his previous failure would not have happed had he had strong right seat support. In my opinion, this client thought he was good enough to pull a long retired friend out of retirement and teach him while learning this new jet at the same time. I helped convince him that this simply wasn’t the case, and wasn’t a good idea. This client is the one that needed support while learning the jet. He was competent, but needed support while he learned. That meant a strong right seat, and that meant that his friend would have to wait.

    Anyway – too much time has passed to remember other interesting details, but I can say that I went home with a deep sense of satisfaction and he went home with a type rating. He had a great attitude and left with a better understanding of where he stood on the experience and proficiency ladder.

    Susquehanna Motorcycle Ride: On Friday of last week, my friend Vince and I paired up and rode our motorcycles up the east side of the Susquehanna through every twisty road we could find. Neither Vince nor I generally ride with anyone else, but agreed to sync our schedules for this ride. The views were amazing and Vince led the way for the two of us. His pace was definitely more casual than mine typically is, but I enjoyed it very much. After lunch, we crossed the river and came down the west side.  It was a full day of riding, and one that I hope to repeat soon.

    Update on our next ride. We tried to find a common date twice already, and Vince called last night to try again. Between his social schedule and vacation and my work schedule and G280 training, we have a few weeks to fit one or two rides in by mid to late July. I’m starting to remember why I ride alone.

    Tuesday was Aircraft Maintenance Day. N833DF was back to PhillAir at 33N for oil change, engine inspections, AD updates, and a few minor squawks. My original plan was to help Paul with the work he was doing, but he already has Ralph helping him. Good thing too, because I watched these guys work and I wouldn’t have been much help. Phil knows the airplane type and my particular airplane, and Ralph is meticulous in his work. I was very pleased with how they cared for my airplane. Very pleased.

    I made it clear that the engines have never ever started this smoothly. Please don’t change that. Either the settings are just right, or I’ve finally figured out a starting method that works in all conditions. Whatever the case – be careful what you change about that. I love the way things are working now. My squawk list going included:

    1. Battery Charger: The motorcycle battery LOVES its trickle charger, and I want one for my airplane. Confirm connections required, battery type, and order battery charger for my hangar. COMPLETE.  I ordered the correct charger from Aircraft Spruce, and Paul will install it on the next oil change visit. The motorcycle connector will be in the nose wheel well, so it isn’t the most convenient connection, but that will do.
    2. AD Compliance: I have repetitive airworthiness directives to be accomplished every 50 flight hours. I time them with an oil change, and those are COMPLETE.
    3. Engine Maintenance: I’ve been very focused on what to do with my engines in the long term. I have two or three trusted resources that believe I should replace the engines right away, and five or so that recommend replace on condition. I’m ready to do either, but if I’m going to do engines, I want the work done while I’m doing all this training.

    For today, we are doing a third inspection within the 50 hour return to flight to ensure the engines are in good shape after sitting for two years. Here is what I’ve done:
    – Collect Oil for analysis and send it in. COMPLETE. This is the first time I’ve ever bothered with having the oil analyzed, and I plan to make this routine now.
    – Compression check each cylinder: all were squarely in the 70’s and doing well.
    – Clean plugs (as per your normal procedures): didn’t have to this time. They were all clean and properly gapped, since I only had 17 hours on the oil since the last inspection. I know I am being anal retentive, but maintenance is cheap compared to flight incident. DEFERRED
    – Bore scope each cylinder: Paul purchased a new bore scope, but was unable to make it work with an iPhone. He’ll have to bore scope next time. DEFERRED
    – Oil Filter Inspection: No metal – looking good. COMPLETE
    – Visual Inspection: COMPLETE. Engine was clean, if not a little dusty.
    4. Lubricate Left engine mixture control (binding). Consider lubricating all of the cables. Paul and Ralph lubricated the cable with a can of ‘pink stuff’ that is no longer available. COMPLETE. I could tell it made a difference immediately, and it continued to improve during the ride home and shutdown.
    5. Adjust left mixture controls. I was not getting full travel or equal fuel flow on takeoff as a result of the binding. Control levers are not in sync.They confirmed what I already knew, that the left mixture control was not achieving full travel. During their inspection, the control arm on the left engine mixture control snapped off. Ralph and Paul replaced it, and kept moving.
    6. Nose cowl 1/4 turn screw repair. Fix or replace those that won’t latch. I went in thinking this was the easiest thing to fix, but it ended up being the most challenging. Paul drilled out rivets and installed back plates. He recommended removing all of the quarter turn screws and replacing them with back plates and screws. Today we did six of those, and the rest will be done at the next oil change. COMPLETE
    7. Heater tripped but reset. Is there a simple check we can do to ensure that second fan you talked about is working? Obviously not a rush, I used defrost the other day and it worked. Paul verified that the heater is in working order. COMPLETE
    8. Missing screw pilots side ball vent: Replaced. COMPLETE
    9. Evaluate panel. I’d really like a 790 in there at the annual. Paul and I talked it over and determined that I’d really have to change the panel around to fit in the 790. I just don’t want to change my panel at this point – it really works for me. Instead I’ll install the 760 engine analyzer. It has the same functions, but isn’t as snazzy. I spend my time in the lobby researching this and ordering the battery charger. COMPLETE
    10. Evaluate left flap play. COMPLETE. There is more play there, but nothing to be concerned about. I’ll have him check the rollers and see if we can’t tighten it up on annual. COMPLETE
    11. Small areas on leading edges need IMRON touch up. Is that something you can do at the annual? DEFERRED. I’ll probably get touch up paint from the paint shop, or just get them to do it next year.

    Throughout the day we saw various local pilots on the field come through to say hello. All of them complimented me on my airplane, and that certainly felt good. Both mechanics treated the aircraft very well, and I watch Ralph clean all the fingerprints off and make the aircraft shine. He told me he appreciated working on a clean airplane, but did tell me the aft belly needed to be cleaned. I’ll make a special effort to keep her clean going forward. It’s really looking sharp at the moment.

    Logistics are a bitch when your wife and best friend can’t leave the house. I am reluctant to rely on friends to drop me off and pick me up, since this is really a long term issue. I decided to wait for the airplane all day, which did put some pressure on Paul. I’ll work to avoid that next time, and suck it up on the transportation side.

    At one point in the day, it looked like repairing the nose bonnet screws would keep the work from getting done. I had arranged an ’emergency’ ride with my brother in-law and started him driving to get me. After only 15 minutes, Paul had knocked out two of the six nut plates, so we decided to turn Tony around as I’d be able to fly home. I was incredibly happy with that.

    Life is good. The airplane is all ready for prop balancing on Thursday and 50 hours of run time.

    Fly Safe!

    Frank

    Comments Off on Jun 11, 2019 – Flying and Soaring Moods…

    May 28, 2019 – Busy Week

    June 5th, 2019

    Returning from vacation, the most pressing issue on my mind was mulling over my options and deciding what to do with my current avocation. Read the previous blog if you don’t recall which options I had developed for myself, but I was forecasting a sea change in direction. The week itself ended up being incredibly productive and relaxing for me.

    Memorial Day Monday came and I had arrived at the conclusion that I would be backing out of the G280 program. I decided that being away from home for three entire months – 4 weeks away at a time – was more than I thought I should or could endure. I figured that by the start of the second month away, I’d get tired of being away and become home sick or just sick of being in a hotel. My wife carries a considerable burden with her Mom, and while she assures me that she has this and I needn’t worry, I’d like being around to help. Finally – I have some wonderful toys and don’t want to have them sitting up here while I’m aging down there.

    I would like a better balance that will keep me happy and productive. I planned to work towards that by talking with the new program manager (Mike) the existing PM (Scott). I emailed Scott about a number of scheduling issues first, and added a note that I’d be talking about a change with Mike the very next day. I promised to update him on the outcome of that discussion. Then I scheduled a meeting with Mike for the following day.

    Now that I’d signaled my intent to both of them, It was a beautiful Monday and I intended to get out there and enjoy it. Building on all the walking I’d just done on vacation, it was time to get the bicycle back on the trail and try to burn off a few calories. My weight has been creeping up, and I gave back all the ground I’d gained last fall. Bicycling is my current favorite form of exercise.

    The first few miles on my Cannondale were difficult. I could feel muscle soreness but pressed on through it. I managed my ego and my pace by letting other cyclists pass by without trying to match their speed. I surprised myself by making it over the hills and all the way to the Grain H20 Restaurant and Bar. It was too early for a beer or two (they weren’t open), so I’ll look forward to coming back on another day for those. Hell of an exercise plan, really, and I’m looking forward to the next visit. I headed home and was reminded that the wind can make it so much easier when it’s behind you, and a force to be reckoned with when it’s in your face. Felt good to get it done.

    Tuesday morning had me up early, ready to resolve the G280 scheduling issue and then get my airplane out of the hangar. I was wide awake by 5 am, and decided to get myself moving early so I could used what remained of the day to squeeze another activity in there. I wasn’t sure what that might be, but I’m loving the warmer weather.

    I checked in with a few friends to see if they were available to go fly, but didn’t get any takers. Tom B would like to have gone with me, but was working today. He did suggest that the storms coming in might hold me up anyway. These storms have been developing over the last few days, including significant lightning and strong downpours. I told him that I was aware of the new ones coming in, and had planned my flying day to start after they’d moved through. This was to be a fun flight to keep the engines lubed and experiment with the newly overhauled autopilot and FlightStream. Using my toys.

    With the storms coming in, I left the Harley in the garage at home and drove in to see the G280 PM, Mike. I found him talking with Jenn in the hallway near his office and the three of us enjoyed a chat about vacation and bike riding. Jenn asked me when I was going away for training, and my response was that I’d update her after Mike and I talked. At that point, the conversation ended and Mike and I went to his office to talk about it.

    When I told him my concerns were around the schedule. Beverly could manage Mom, and while that wasn’t going to be easy for her, she wasn’t the reason for my re-thinking my joining the G280 program. I emphasized that the concerns were mine. I simply thought I’d get discouraged being away so long, and just didn’t want to do it the way it was scheduled. At that point he pretty much told me that I had control of my schedule, and to tell him what I needed. I responded that I’d give him the entire month of August to get started and typed. Thereafter lets keep the time away to 2 weeks where we can, and 3 weeks where we must.

    I highlighted the dates I thought were problem areas, and he promised so send me a new schedule. Mike told me ‘You are really gonna like this jet‘. That was the right thing to say to me at just the right time. So I surprised myself and didn’t change course. Instead I left for my hangar, so that I could go visit my friend Gary.

    Gary met me at the FBO. We had touched base earlier when I was looking for a flying destination for the day, As luck would have it, he was available and could fly down to see his new Commander 112A. Gary was chomping at the bit to start flying it, but was having some challenges getting an instructor lined up that had experience in this particular type.

    Before we went into the hangar, I decided to have the fuel truck top me off, and we supervised that process first. All 6 tanks were filled before we headed to the hangar on the west side of the field.

    I didn’t take any pictures during the visit, and I regret that as I write this. It is a beautiful specimen with an updated panel that looks damn near exactly like mine. The airplane has two doors versus the one door design you see on Pipers. This was one feature Gary had been looking for. You can see plenty of pictures of the Commander and read about Gary’s journey on Gary’s Flight Journal. After reading his blog, I’m going to steal some of his techniques around embedded video and effective video editing. I like what he has done and he turns it around quickly.

    Gary and I sat in his airplane and talked about avionics, life limited parts, long term engine management philosophies, and all things aviation. I am working hard to refine my maintenance and upgrade philosophy for my own airplane, and used Gary as a sounding board to vet various ideas. By the time we were ready to leave the hangar, the question of lunch arose. I was enjoying myself, and decided to do that. Life is short and I was enjoying myself. Today I’d spend my entire day playing with the airplane. I’m looking forward to getting a flight with him once he gets himself signed off. That will happen shortly. The process is underway as I write this in early June.

    The flight home was excellent. I’m glad I left when I did. Big thunderstorms kicked up that dropped hail on my hangar a few hours after the doors were closed, and the last thing I need is to go through that again. People I work with had their cars damaged, so I know the actual threat was real.

    I closed up the hangar and checked my email. The G280 PM had sent me a new schedule after our discussion. I replied that I’d check it when I got home and had time to really consider it. Then I rode the Harley home and did just that.

    The revised schedule came out much better than I’d hoped and has some unexpected potential benefits. After the first full month I spend down there getting typed, the shorter 2 or 3 week stints are spread out a bit. That means I may well be able to fly myself to DFW rather than commute. I’d get to use my airplane, have a little fun, and get around the lack of a hangar down there. I am more likely to leave my airplane outside down there for the shorter periods during the winter months. This might actually bump up the fun factor.

    So I am staying in the G280 program. The Westwind is now officially retired, but I’m still current and available for contract flying. I’m instructing in the Astra and still working on getting my first contract flight in that, and will start studying G280 again this week.

    Full Speed ahead –

    Fly safe!

    Frank

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