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Posts by fdorrin:
It’s Thursday morning and I went into work early. The plan was to leave after lunch to go put another two hours on the airplane at full power. I’m feeling a little crunched on time – given what I have left to do. I need to practice the G280 classroom instruction and read; burn off the 10 hours of flying no later than Tuesday; arrange an oil change between Wednesday and Friday (and the logistics around that); work at FlightSafety; and do a jet trip this weekend.
Let’s think that through after this flight. For now I need to be focused on not making any mistakes.
No video again today. I won’t add that distraction until I can do everything automatically again; not forget anything; and be smooth in my operation. I’m not there yet.
Starting out from the hangar, I sought to minimize the ground run time. Both engines fired right up and I taxied out to Echo for the call to ground. Ground cleared me to runway 32, but I came back to them requesting Runway 9. I explained I had new engines; needed to minimize ground time; and they granted Runway 9 with the winds at 320/4. Tower got me right out too!
Got the gear up on time, but the fuel pumps were left on for two minutes. Still working on getting my groove back. I did notice that the left prop didn’t come up to 2650 on the roll. It finally did by the time I reached 1000′. I did not want to abort for that.
Lycoming guidance on oil temps was to keep them 180 to 220. With the cold air and cowls open, I haven’t gotten above 160 degrees on these flights. I was nervous about closing the flaps, but did so partially during the flight. Still unable to get to 180 degrees.
Power was maintained throughout at 26 squared. Smooth operation and a pleasing sound, though it’s hard to be pushing this investment so hard. You gotta do what you gotta do though, so I’ll head out and do it again tomorrow. I had to reduce power occasionally as I was topping out on airspeed – well into the yellow arc.
CHTs on the #4 cylinder of the left engine are now under 400 degrees, from as high as 420. Temp came down on the hottest cylinder to under 400 in the second hour. Limiting factor was airspeed – top of the yellow at times
I still have not mastered the EDM 760. It is still doing whatever it wants and I can only generally influence it. I’ll do a training video on that once things are normal.
About 10 minutes into the flight I realized that I had forgotten just how to get the autopilot into NAV tracking mode. All the new stuff I’d learned on other airplanes pushed that penguin right off my iceberg. It took me another 5 minutes to remember that heading mode is the default, and you hit GNSS on the Aspen PFD to engage NAV. How could I have forgotten that?!
Wow. What else have I forgotten? Am I really ready for a surprise instrument approach in this machine that cruises at 172 kts? Maybe not.
So now I realize that Paul did not disturb anything at all related to the autopilot. The NAV mode works fine, but it is the Pitch mode that doesn’t work again. It may come back on it’s own, but I’ll take it up to Lancaster Avionics in the spring. Lack of use kills it I think.
I’m stepping back and slowing down now. Looking at the time remaining, I can’t see how I can get this flight time in and arrange the logistics around an oil change before I leave for Savannah on the first. Remember – I have to study and prepare on top of everything else. Weather has to cooperate. Travel plans have to be secured.
I did see that XM weather is working and the FlightStream 210 also works well. The traffic display on the Garmin and on the iPad was invaluable today; particularly around Delaware Airpark.
The route I followed was based on the Smyrna VOR (ENO) and several waypoints that generally defined an area south of the C&D canal and north of Dover AFB. I requested flight following from Dover when I crossed the canal. I should mention that Wilmington tower had set me up with Philly when they heard what I was doing, but I declined thinking that it would be easier just talking with Dover.
As it turns out, the area I chose had me switching from Dover to Potomac to Philly for flight following. I was inconveniencing everyone as I went around. After heading back to Dover, I canceled flight following with Philly and just let Dover know I was in the area listening, but did not want further flight following. That seemed to work well, giving me another set of eyes in busy airspace. He did call me out as traffic to the SP Helicopter, and i chimed in that I had a visual on him. Worked fine.
I put my airplane away with the heaters and the battery minder, and then went home to prepare for Savannah. After dinner, I talked about the planned flight with Bev and voiced my concerns over time pressure and my inability to do any practice approaches before I left. I would only be doing full power VFR runs up to that point.
I convinced myself that the airplane might be ready, but I am not. I’m either going to take the Harley to KSAV, fly commercial, or drive. I’m happy to have my airplane home, but I’m working to hard on too many things to do any of them well.
Todays Flight: The new engines are so very cool! I talked with Paul about the low oil temps, and he tells me to fly it like I normally would. The cowl flaps will be closed today, and I’ll do full power runs and watch CHTs and OIL.
I do a jet trip over the weekend, and then it’s all Savannah prep next week. I can’t come up short down there. Nope.
When I get home I’ll be able to start doing practice approaches. Looking forward to getting back in the grove in N833DF.
Comments Off on Feb 20, 2020 – Successful 2nd Flight!
Last night I went over all my notes and summarized my plan of attack for the next day. This summary was just for me, but I’ll share some of it with you.
Paul sent me instructions on how to do the mag check; what to expect; and what not to do. I now had an instruction sheet to take with me for this unique procedure.
I watched a video on the EDM760 monitoring and it seemed easy enough. Downloaded the user manual and declared myself ready.
- How much fuel was in the airplane as of now?
- How would I move it to the fuel pumps if I did need gas?
- How much fuel should I carry?
- Should I fly it for two hours, or just one? If there was a leak – one would be better.
Ralph is a mechanic Paul uses. He participated in the installation of my engines and associated systems and is meticulous. He was there to meet me and support the launch and post flight inspection. Lots of respect for him, and I very much appreciate him being there. He had no concerns this morning and asked if I had any questions. We reviewed my plan and discussed it at length.
Next, I’d set the power (one engine at a time) to 1700 RPM and slight lean the mixture for a sign of a slight rise. I did see one, and it was slight.
Turn off the RIGHT MAG first and observe little or no RPM drop. The right mag is the electronic ignition system. Turn the RIGHT MAG back to complete the mag check.
Skip the feather check until the engines are broken in.
Repeat for the other engine.
This would be an expedited takeoff. I need to minimize the low power runtime on these engines until they are broken in. Expediting anything comes with its own risks, namely forgetting something important in the ensuring haste. It also means breaking tried and true flows that I’m used to. I should have spent more time pondering this, as it ended up biting me twice.
Ralph had recommended a static power check for takeoff. Both props should give me 2650 or better before I released the brakes. I took the runway ahead of landing traffic on 2 mile final – quickly and only after getting her permission. Props came up full and the engines sounded mean. I released the brakes and surged down the runway.
My scan of the instruments was all over the place, but I landed on the original fuel flow gauge. The right engine was showing 12 gph, but the left only 8 gph. If the left fuel controller was failing, that engine might exceed temp limits holding full power. I decided to continue, but it cost me seconds of concentration. There was no asymmetric thrust.
Back to the engines: They felt strong and were holding consistent indications on the old gauges. My eyes went to the EDM 760 and I saw 12.4 GPH showing briefly for the left, and 12.5 GPH for the right. Clearly the engines were fine. Let that go.
Leveling off at 2000′, I had to remember NOT to do my flow and leave the cowl flaps OPEN. I went back to scanning the instruments and watching for traffic. I had been distracted from raising the gear, and didn’t even realize it. They stayed out for quite awhile.
Had I had an engine failure on takeoff, I would have landed straight ahead if I had not realized my oversight. I had increased my risk by missing this key item. Rookie mistake. I will continue to beat myself up on this one as we go.
At this point I updated my Garmin flight plan successfully from the iPad. Then I engaged the autopilot and it didn’t track NAV at all. Now this is the same autopilot that I spent time and money tuning up just before the engines.
If flew the airplane for an hour, eventually getting the gear up. Number four cylinder on the left side had the highest CHT around 430F at times, but mostly 420F. Ralph checked it as good.
Logistics: I called my neighbor Tom at the last minute to see if he could bring me from Wilmington back to Smyrna to get my car. I sure as hell could have arranged all this ahead of time, but I could not get these folks to commit or communicate. Very frustrating. It worked out that Tom could do it, so I launched to fly it home and would return for my car later in the day.
Another run-up and expedited static power takeoff. This time I didn’t get the door fully latched, but I did get the gear up. I realized the door was not fully sealed as the speed built, but managed to latch it fully before it might have opened. I got the door closed fully, but by the time I leveled off I could still hear air leaking from the seal. An open door in a PA30 creates significant tail vibrations and is unpleasant at best. I weighed the risks of the door popping open against making this a short flight. I decided to head directly to Wilmington, while keeping the power up as much as possible. I eventually had to raise the nose the get the gear down, but it is what it is. Less than ideal.
Upon landing I realized that the air sound coming from the door was actually the fuel pumps I’d left on after takeoff. Screwing with my flows after not flying for so long isn’t going well. Not real proud of myself. I am confident that all these flaws will be sorted out before the next flight on the 21st – later today as I write this.
On the ground at Wilmington, I hurried the taxi and shut down at my hangar.
As for Savannah. Progress was made. I need 9 hours on the airplane before the oil change in order to go. Possible, but will be hard to do. The autopilot would have been nice to have for the trip, given I haven’t flown this since last July. I’ll have to seriously weigh whether or not I’m up to the task, given that low weather will cancel me anyway. Being March doesn’t help, as I expect some winter action to be coming.
Riding the Harley to Savannah is my backup plan. I am happy either way, just to have N833DF back in my hangar.
Heading to work for the morning. Flying later today (21st)
Comments Off on Feb 19, 2020 – Successful Return to Flight!!
Test Flight Scheduled for 9am tomorrow morning.
New procedures being reviewed for the run-up and mag check using the new electronic ignition.
Paul is still on the road, but Ralph also worked on the airplane and is available.
Fly 2 hours and inspect. Fly another 8 hours to an oil change.
Barring any issues surfacing during the flying – Savannah is still on the table.
Fly safe…. More to follow.
Comments Off on Feb 18, 2020 – Flying in the morning!!
Ok – so the title is a little melodramatic. I am sitting here in my living room looking out on the C&D canal over my beautiful deck. That very desk is bathed in soft blue accent lighting, and covered completely with an inch of water. More rain is coming down, making the deck look like a pool in the early morning darkness. Visibility in the area is around 2 sm this morning. The ceilings are less than 800′ overcast. This is definitely NOT the weather I need for testing my airplane. Well, Shit! I knew this last night and canceled then.
The weather will be clear tonight, and just wonderful tomorrow. That only rubs salt in my wounds and doesn’t help one me one damn bit. Starting tomorrow I will need to be at work by 10 am every day through the weekend. My mechanic has another 747 trip to do starting Thursday. It seems that I cannot catch a break, and will not be able to try again until NEXT Tuesday. I hate February, scheduling, and waiting.
I had a conversation with one of my clients yesterday concerning this first flight. He reminded me that I’d be a full power for an hour; down low at 2000′. He said that It might be a good idea for me to also wait for a calm wind day so that turbulence doesn’t rattle my teeth out. Oh how I hate February weather. He is right, but I’ll be going if the winds are 20 knots or less. Try keeping me on the ground.
I am aware of putting pressure on myself to complete the flight regardless. I canceled yesterday afternoon to address this risk; I write this blog to verbalize my frustration; and I’ll make the right call when it comes down to it. I’m venting here….. can you tell?
So I’m going to work instead today, to practice classroom teaching to an empty room. As I mentioned yesterday, I need to be ready for Savanna and for new clients in June. There is allot of work to do before I can seem comfortable with all this material.
Lunch today with my son Chris will ease the frustration. I’m having a hard time with this. I want this project to be over with. I want to fly myself to Savannah in March. I want my airplane in the hangar I’ve been paying for.
Patience Frank. Patience.
Fly Safe! I’ll be at work.
Comments Off on Feb 11, 2020 – Dying Inside!!
Note of appreciation: Josh and others. Thank you for the feedback I’ve been getting on this blog. It is encouraging to see that what I write occasionally has value.
What a really great week! In the month where I normally curtail my flying and hunker down to wait for spring, I’m actually ramping up aviation activities.
N833DF is coming back Tuesday! Naturally, it is currently forecast to rain well into the afternoon. The opportunity to get this flight and inspection done that day is in question, and rescheduling it to meet our respective schedules may be a challenge this week. Once again I’ll have to control my deep desire to get the flight done now, balancing the weather risks against schedules. Further delays are possible.
Actually being able to fly will be a last minute decision. I’m booked through the weekend otherwise, and won’t be able to fly during daylight easily. Acknowledge the pressure, verbalize the risk, and defer the flight if I have to.
I’m exceedingly happy that the airplane will be ready to go, in any event. I’ll be ecstatic when I can see it in my hangar and available for my personal use. So exciting!
I want to use the airplane to fly to KSAV for work in March. There will be an inspection after the first flight, but no oil change after the initial break-in flight. If I can get the flight in Tuesday, I can fly off the entire 10 hours this weekend. Then I’ll schedule an oil change with Paul, and be able to fly it to KSAV and back with fresh oil.
Westwind Flying: The planned flight earlier this month was canceled. The airplane was in for ADS-B at the last minute, and it wasn’t completed on time. It is apparently ready now, and I understand that I’ll get a call for one last flight in it later this month.
G280 Opportunity: I am very excited at the prospect of developing a new opportunity to contract fly in the GulfStream 280 aircraft. My friend who has been contracting me in the Westwind is transitioning to a new company that just purchased a G280. As a result, he requested me as his instructor for himself and his co-workers. I’ve scheduled myself to work with him and his teammates in June.
I have no idea wether or not they’ll ever need contract pilots, nor wether or not they’d even consider using me as opposed to pilots they are familiar with. I do know I have made a good impression on my friend. Now I’m going to work very hard to impress the hell out of these guys he works with, and maximize a potential opportunity.
What a cool synergy having this turn of events amplify my motivation to learn and practice how to instruct in both the classroom and sim for this new jet. I think I have the sim stuff down already, as I’ve said before, but practicing the classroom delivery to an empty room has been boring. I’m on it now though! This beautifully timed motivation will be great for me, wether or not I ever get to contract fly with these clients.
Improved schedule for February: The Astra team needed some help this month, and asked my current boss to borrow me. I’m current and a TCE in that airplane, so he asked me if I was interested. I really wanted to be home more than I’ve been, and told him I’d never pass up a chance during this training to be home more. Training in the Astra would be fine for now, and I could practice the G280 on the available days up north.
He set all that up for me, and went further by arranging my March training to be in Savannah instead of DFW. There is just a little more to the story, considering that DFW had some conflicts with bringing me back down in March anyway. What I saw, however, was a program manager who went out of his way to motivate me to continue my progress by meeting as many of my needs as his could while manage his program effectively.
Opportunity to train in Savannah instead of DFW: Providing training in Savannah instead of DFW will be a nice change for me, and my boss knew it. Working in KSAV means I can fly myself down and back, avoiding commercial flying while enjoying my beautiful Twin Comanche. My boss is working to arrange a break in the training schedule that will allow me to fly home for 4 days. I see it as a significant break. I’m flying home to break up my time away; getting to spend some time with my wife; and using my airplane like I’ve been wanting to.
My boss earned major points on all of this. If it ends up not working out the way it is currently planned – I’m ok with that too. I really like the fact that he took the time to do this for me.
Motivation: I said this earlier in this post, but I’m still amazed at the timing of the news that my Westwind friend is becoming my G280 friend. My motivation had been waning working solo to prepare for delivering voluminous classroom training. Couple that with the frustrations of trying to get my own airplane moving and the times I’ve been away from home down in DFW.
I am in a very good place mentally to get this work done. This summer will be amazing.
Comments Off on Feb 9, 2020 – Exciting Developments
Success is inevitable – if you don’t give up…..
N833DF is ready to go! I haven’t flown it yet because my A&P had a medical issue at the last minute. His wife told me about it, and that the airplane is finished. Presuming that is accurate, my airplane and paperwork are locked in his hangar until he could get there. The break-in flight I’d so been looking forward to and preparing for will have to wait. My level of patience is matched only by my frustration.
Paul’s wife Kamal told me that the airplane is all done, so I’m assuming that the new left mixture cable has been installed, the annual completed, and the engine projects wrapped up. I’m also assuming that the paperwork is done, but it might not be. Hopefully there is nothing left to do but fly.
Of course I’ll be kept on edge until I confirm that with Paul, but I won’t call him while he is recovering. This delay costs me another 10 days of waiting since I’m leaving on a westwind trip. I will now be at least the second week of February before I get to fly my airplane,
G280 Training has progressed nicely. I was signed off to instruct sims for both recurrent and initial clients. Also completed HUD and EVS training which was pretty cool. Next up is classroom that was scheduled for another trip this month, but there is good news there. Really good news.
Turns out that we need Astra instructors up north this month, after one of our guys got sick. That cancels my February trip. On top of that, DFW has hired new people there that are competing for training slots we were set to use. I may be headed to Savannah for my March quality assessment in classroom instruction. I look forward to a break from DFW and plan to fly myself down and back instead of relying on the airlines. Good news all around.
Westwind review: I’m giving myself a review of the Westwind this morning, to prepare for the upcoming trip. While I’m on the trip, I’ll review the Astra instruction plans I haven’t used for awhile, to prepare for doing that later in the month.
N833DF Test Plan: I’ll post an outline of my flight planning for breaking in the new engines in an upcoming post. I’ve read allot and collaborated with a number of folks on this. I’ll sketch out what my plans are and see if anyone has any further suggestions.
Comments Off on Jan 30, 2020 – Success is Inevitable
Hey everyone. I’ve been really busy instructing – guiding discovery really – in the Gulfstream G280 these past few days. I have the rest of the week to wrap this up, when I’ll transition into four days of HUD training for myself. That is one of the airplanes I’ll be flying and playing with.
When I get home, I’ll be breaking in my engines for N833DF. The annual has been completed, engines and the accessories (including re-overhauled fuel controller) are all back in. My only lingering concern is the availability of the left mixture cable I have trouble with, but that is to have been delivered today. Work on replacing that cable commences tomorrow, and I’ll be expecting to go flying when I go home. That is the second airplane I’ll be flying and I’m so looking forward to it.
I was contacted yesterday to gauge my interest in a Westwind trip early February. I talked with Bev and thought it was important for me to do it. Bev does what Bev does. She always supports me and I decided to go flying. This is a strong contact and I want to keep doing it. I haven’t been in a Westwind since we retired the simulator at FSI some months back, so I’m reviewing the books on the airplane. This is the third airplane I’ll be flying over the next few weeks.
Today I hear that an Astra crew is coming in for training after Westwind trip, and one day of their training remains uncovered. I volunteered to do this if no one else steps up. That would be my fourth airplane to be dealing with and studying over the next few weeks.
When it rains it pours.
Comments Off on Jan 21, 2020 – Four Airplanes
Yesterday Bev and I had the chance to get out of the house for a few hours. We were trying to figure how how to make a nice romantic day out of it, but realized we’d have to have her back home by 4pm. Then I thought about doing a nice lunch somewhere. Finally, it occurred to me that this really was all about her – getting her out to do something fun for just a few hours.
I decided to take her to Dover Downs for a few hours to have some fun. I don’t like gambling at all really, except maybe low stakes poker. Rather than stare over her shoulder, I figured she’d have more fun exploring on her own. I dropped her off at noon with a promise to keep myself busy until 2:30. We’d grab a quick bite on the ride home.
N833DF Update: It was Bev’s idea to stop over at the airport, and it sounded like a plan to me. I dropped her off and drove back north for 10 minutes to 33N airport. Paul and Ralph were there, working on a beautiful Comanche 260. My airplane was sitting out while they worked, but will go back inside before the end of the day.
I learned that Penn Yan did indeed find a problem with the right fuel controller; overhauled it correctly this time, and sent it back. The repaired unit is now installed and the only thing left is the left mixture cable and the annual sign-off. Both A&Ps are dreading installing the cable, and the cable itself is on back order. I pray that the airplane will be ready when I get home. I’m running low on patience. I very much want winter to be over; travel to end; and flying my airplane to begin.
GoPro and vlogging: I purchased a GoPro Hero 8 camera to add to my collection. That collection now includes the Hero 4, Hero 8, Chinese knockoff, and of course, my phone. I am looking forward to documenting the break in process and capturing another return to flight series.
In order to get ready, I spent some time configuring mounts, installing one on my relatively new motorcycle helmet, and assembling a microphone attachment from parts I pieced together. I recorded a few thoughts on my way to work the other morning, and used the Filmora 9 video editing software to publish it out to YouTube. The project kept me occupied for an afternoon, and was fun to do. Enjoy the resulting VLog embedded below:
Comments Off on Jan 12, 2020 – Anticipation Update
Yes – I’m still waiting for my airplane. I had been hoping to fly in December, but one of the fuel controllers didn’t get overhauled properly, or was jarred in transit. It went back to Penn Yan just as my A&P, Paul, went on a holiday vacation to Florida.
An additional complication was the mixture cable on the left side that I’d previously squawked hadn’t been addressed. Paul noted it was still a real problem. the issue is that the opportunity to do it while the airplane was apart was lost, so he’ll have to take it apart again now and replace the cable as I’d requested. He is going to do that now that the airplane is down for a bit longer.
Meanwhile, I’m heading back to Dallas for G280 instructor experience for the next few weeks, so it will be February by the time we get airborne. Patience Frank, patience. I really want to fly.
What will the future hold? It needs to hold more flying, that’s for sure. Either contract flying, or time off to travel in N833DF.
I am looking to develop opportunities that would encourage this. I may never take advantage of any of them, but it pays to look around and be ready in case one comes along. Work is encouraging us to fly and offered to set us up with a contract pilot vendor. I’m not impressed with that service, so I’ll wait to hear the feedback from others.
I have faith that I’ll fall into an opportunity that will allow me to fly something fun every now and again. Wouldn’t it be nice to fly a King Air out of Wilmington 2 times a week and have the rest of the time off? How about flying somewhere to pick up Astra or G280 trip to break up the monotony? Cool to think about. I do not want a full time flying job that keeps me in hotels and away from home allot.
N833DF is coming back soon, God willing. In the meantime, Bev continues to provide 24×7 care to my mother in-law. Mom is in hospice and amazingly continues to struggle along. Once those two variables resolve themselves, Beverly and I will be looking to get out of the house! Either the airplane or the Harley will be waiting for the occasional jaunt, and that might be enough to add variety to the FSI experience for Frank. We’ll see how that goes, but it should be coming about as the Dallas travel comes to an end.
The key for my FSI future is quality of life. I trust that my current PM understands this. He is a good man for this job.
To hopefully flesh out alternatives, I did change my LinkedIn profile as a means for getting the word out in a more cogent manner. ‘Enthusiastic aviator actively seeking opportunities to fly. Currently a full time Gulfstream G280 and Astra Flight Instructor/Examiner. Typed in the G280, Westwind, Astra, Dash-8, and B-25 Mitchell Bomber. Trained in King Air C90 and BE200.
Piper Twin Comanche owner and active GA pilot with a strong work ethic and a solid business background.‘ Don’t hesitate to mention my name to your pilot friends. You never know…..
YouTube update: I have my own PA30 videos out there, but watched my friends Gary and Mike both doing a better job at building videos than I do. Those are fun projects to get involved in, so I updated my software and purchased another GoPro camera – the GoPro 8 Black. Once I get going again, my first new project will be to put all the pictures I’ve collected during the maintenance work over the last 3 years on N833DF into a timeline movie; voiced over by yours truly.
After that, I’ll play with the idea of video blogging like some of the motorcycle followings I enjoy. It may go somewhere or nowhere, but I’ll be having some fun and learning some new things.
Meanwhile – I’m counting the days until I get my airplane back. It cannot be soon enough. I am acutely aware that I’ll start flying during the very month I normally abandon the effort. February is typically too damn cold to fly, and just no fun at all. I don’t care now – I’m going anyway.
Comments Off on Jan 9, 2020 – Waiting for N833DF
This blog was written some months ago in anticipation of going flying soon. It was a way for me to re-engage in general aviation, buoy my mood, and motivate myself to hit the books again. We didn’t get back in the air in 2019, but we will very soon. I’ll get to that….
N833DF was returned to flight about this time last year after replacing the landing gear box bulkheads deep down in each wing. The work spanned 2016 through 2018, and has been adequately discussed in previous blogs. I won’t torture myself by re-living the experience here. Instead, let’s talk about the test plan I put in place for last year’s return, the events that affected how the plan was used, and the lessons I learned along the way. I’m going to need to apply those lessons again very soon when the airplane comes back once more. Note: Very Soon is now defined as friggin’ February, 2020! Couldn’t be helped.
After the structural repair work had been completed in November, 2018, I realized that I’d be flying a light twin again after 26 months of not flying GA at all. I was instrument current and had earned three additional type ratings in that time (B-25, Westwind, and Astra), but had not flown small airplanes in awhile. This meant that I’d be flight testing a seriously deconstructed airplane with no recent experience in type. The post-maintenance return to flight would be a serious endeavor and I was more than a little apprehensive. However, I was incredibly excited to get going again.
As it turned out, the #2 cylinder on the right engine had retired itself during all the downtime, and would prevent me from flying in November and December. It would be January, 2019 now before the first test flight could be taken. That additional delay was rather difficult to swallow. It was not a happy time for me. As most airplane owners know – cost and time estimates in aviation are like weight loss goals for the year – evasive and ever changing.
Mulling over things I cannot control creates stress. To avoid being constantly reminded of the issues with my airplane, I hadn’t been reading the aviation magazines I’d followed for so long. Subscriptions were allowed to lapse and the new issues that arrived were thrown into a pile unread. Successive challenges and delays with the airplane project had taken its toll, and I was frustrated beyond belief. I just didn’t want to think about it.
The rebuilt cylinder was found and installed, and once again it was only the paperwork that was left to complete. I set a date for the first flight in January, 2019 and began to prepare. Opening the books and using the desktop simulator helped me to prepare. Within a few hours I could recite the limitations and emergency procedures and felt comfortable that I could program an approach if need be.
Every system in the airplane had been touched with this work, and anything that was touched could have had a problem introduced into it. I cleaned up the hangar and updated a flight test plan I intended to use to evaluate the landing gear, fuel, engine, propeller, radios, autopilot, and navigation systems. I felt that I was organized and ready to respond to any emergency.
Since I live in Chesapeake City, MD now, I planned to leave around 7am for the 2 hour drive to Delaware Coastal Airport (KGED). Matt and I would then go flying to break in the cylinder and run my test plan to see how everything worked. No pressure. Winds were forecast for clear skies and calm winds at the planned time of flight, though the winds would be big later in the day. We’d fly for an hour or two to ensure everything worked, then I’d be able to drive home triumphant. I’d move the airplane on a subsequent day.
Arriving at the airplane at 8am on the appointed day, I was disappointed to see that there was more to do than paperwork. The remaining odds and ends would take us into the fading light and building winds of a late afternoon January day. I had the choice to defer the flight once again, or go fly a light twin for the first time in 2 years, and one that has been heavily maintained at that. I had waited long enough for this time that I just couldn’t wait another day. I recognized the hazardous attitude at the time, and certainly acknowledge it now. I was primed to get this done!
With only an hour of daylight remaining and the winds now at 25 kts gusting to 36 kts, I loaded Matt in the airplane and started taxiing out. I was under the gun and putting myself under tremendous pressure. Get-there-itis without going anywhere. I realized with the engines running that I hadn’t visually checked the fuel and admitted it right there. This was more of an issue than usual, since I had Matt drain the old fuel and refill only the mains with fresh. They weren’t full. Matt confirmed we had fuel and I took his word for it.
If I shut down now and check it, the day is done and I drive home for 2 hours kicking myself. If you missed it – that would have been the right call. Instead I took Matt’s word for it, shortened the planned test flight, and relied a little on the fuel gauges. We continued with the take-off and I surprised myself with how well I did in the wind after so long. I ignored my well thought out test plan and we flew the cylinder break-in profile in the local area.
I shortened the planned test flight based on less fuel than I’d planned and fading daylight. The good news was that I flew really well in challenging conditions. The test plan I’d put together was generally in my mind, but I left it on the back seat and reduced the testing to only the basics. We flew less than an hour to break in the cylinder, and then did a landing in very high winds. At the very least I got to drive home knowing that I’d be getting my airplane back, and would have all the time in the world to do my testing now.
Lesson Learned: I had waited two years and two months to get my airplane restored and back in service. Myriad delays had utterly sapped my patience over a long period of time, and led me down a path I didn’t want to be on. My skills were strong, but that is no reason for test flying an airplane whose type I hadn’t flown in some time.
Fly safe….. More to come.
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