Name: Frank


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Posts by fdorrin:

    Dec 7, 2018 – Corporate Flying to NC

    December 9th, 2018

    Commercial flying can be a drag. This trip got off to a rough start. I got myself to Philly at noon for a planned departure on the first leg to Washington (IAD) at 14:40. Scheduled to arrive at 15:42 pm, I’d move from Gate A to Gate C at IAD for the planned second leg departing at 17:15 and getting me to Burlington, Vt at 18:47. I could probably squeeze something in there for dinner while at IAD.

    The itinerary allowed 80 minutes or so between the scheduled landing in DC and departure from a different gate for the second leg to Vermont. I was considering the adequacy of that time when they called the first delay for my flight. Ok – it would be a late dinner in Burlington and I’d have to run between terminals to make this work. It was snowing in Philly and aircraft were de-icing, but it was still possible. This was not going to be a relaxed journey, however.

    I checked FlightAware to see if the airplane we’d be using was even in route, and saw that it was only a few minutes out. That is good news – let’s get this done.

    The airplane arrived and United managed an impressive turn around. We were boarding not ten minutes after the last arriving passenger walked off. I was impressed and found my seat, ready to go!

    Light snow was continually falling all this time as we pushed back from the gate with an assurance from the Flight Attendants that all connections were still good. Taxiing for takeoff I had my game face on when the flight deck announced we had to return to the gate. The previous crew experienced a mechanical enroute, and dispatch just determined that this condition demanded that additional fuel and paperwork were needed to make the flight happen. I might be spending the night in DC, or even sleeping in the terminal for an O’Dark Thirty departure.

    I’m not very good at recovering from travel foibles without Beverly, but I’d have to manage somehow. The gentleman next to me started asking about getting off, and the Flight Attendant said she’d check. I stopped her and told her I was in the same boat and needed to get off. I made the decision to try for one of the American flights I knew were usually there, and knew Ben would back me up on that call. There was no way going to DC was a good idea at this point, and the snowfall increased to accentuate the point. They’d have to de-ice now as well.

    The Captain said no problem with us getting off, but we couldn’t get our luggage. the two of us only had carry-on, so problem solved! I grabbed my gear and waited about 15 minutes while the gate agent sorted it all out. She put me on the 4:20 that was boarding RIGHT NOW a full two terminals away. I started hustling and Ben called me while I was on the run. I wheezed out what I was doing and told him I’d get back to him. United recovered me nicely on the direct flight now, so I’d be having a nice dinner at the WindJammer instead of something less appealing at a DC airport. That chest cold that was trying to develop gave me a cough for the flight north, but it was all good.

    Uber was awesome for the second time now that I’ve used it. Made the quick trip to the hotel and then walked next door to the WindJammer. Two beers and a nice dinner later I was in my room trying to sleep. The only unappealing part of this work behind me for now, until the ride home.

    Thursday Flying: Ben swung by the hotel at 6:45 and we headed over to the airport. He and Luke, the mechanic supporting the airplane, had the airplane pre-flighted and fueled so we would be ready to go. I put my gear in the airplane and sat right down to get our clearance and weather. We were in the air not 20 minutes after we left my hotel. Ben does a fantastic job of not rushing me, but I’m telling you I have to be awake and ready to go when I get there. My goal is to impress him with my efficiency and to be a solid crew member.

    As we taxi out and complete all the checklists in a professional way, Ben reminds me of the ATIS (weather) frequency up in Montreal. That was a very nice way to remind me that we only had a few minutes before we’d arrive and I should get that weather before calling in.

    Montreal had continuous light snow and 33 degrees on the ground with information Kilo. I called in and managed checklists and radios as we landed and called customs. Ben is giving me additional duties in manageable portions, allowing me to spin up end-to-end at my own pace. He knows I want to do it all, so this time I called CanPass and Customs as we land and taxi in. We picked up one passenger at our normal FBO, fueled, and departed for Teterboro, NJ not 20 minutes later.

    I have learned how to actively manage the fueling in terms of balance (important in a WW), but Ben still does the planning and preparation. I managed the GPU plug-in and activation, and then obtained the ATIS and clearance for the ride south. Ben had asked me to get the V-Speeds using an application – E6B Pro, and that that was another elegant reminder of what my workflow should look like. I got that done using the new fuel load, and always have the FSI book right behind me to do it manually if I get lost in the app.

    We land at Teterboro and taxi behind a Cirrus over to customs. That process takes only minutes and requires only my passport and a promise I hadn’t brought in any goods. We taxi over to signature and won’t be needing any gas. Our second passenger arrives shortly thereafter, and I’ve already gotten our weather and clearance. Ben gets them inside and closes the door – I’ve got the flight deck ready and we are outta here.

    Not so fast there buddy! Getting out of Teterboro would have us in a traffic jam today. We had enough fuel, but not so much we wanted to squander it on the ground waiting. We were number 20 for departure and followed the directions to zig-zag in line so we’d always be facing the tower. That would keep one jet from smothering the ones behind with jet fumes. Not everyone followed directions, and we were a bit dizzy by the time it was our turn.

    Once out of there and heading to Raleigh, we were limited in climb to 26,000′ as a final. That was another challenge for our fuel planning, and Ben responded by pulling back the power to 75%. I might not have considered this as quickly as he did, and will study the performance numbers some more. Our complaints about the altitude fell on deaf ears, so we motored on more slowly than planned, landing with 2000# of fuel in Raleigh.  Ben’s management was spot on and he flies this jet like I used to fly Twin Comanche. His technique is wired tight.

    The social side of this: Like in the airlines, you have to enjoy who you are flying with. These trips are a welcome break and a fun excursion for me. That I get paid well to do them is just a bonus on top. I’m having fun doing it, and it’s a challenge I welcome.

    There was no convenient breakfast for me this morning, so I was pretty hungry by the time Ben and I went to lunch in Raleigh. We found a place called ‘The Pit’ and I enjoyed a plate that included Carolina BBQ, Fried Chicken, and coleslaw. I had a wonderful local beer with my lunch and was very much enjoying myself. I’m under a bit of stress and eating more carby food and good beer than is good for me. I’m enjoying my life though.

    Back at the room, on the 9th floor of an Embassy Suites, I began to study the airplane manuals for my own airplane. I am hoping it will be ready Tuesday or Wednesday, and I want to be ready to test fly it safely. Reviewing the operation of the Aspen glass panel and the Altimatic IIIb autopilot are on the agenda today, since I haven’t touched either device in over two years. The TV is on for background noise and I end up engrossed in a movie that came up. Time passes quickly.

    Around 7pm, Ben and I head out for dinner to a local Mexican restaurant. I drive to give Ben a rest and find that his attention span is too short to be an effective navigator on the street. He is busy answering emails and running one of the few successful small aviation businesses I’m aware of. We miss a few turns and finally get to the restaurant. I have a steak fajita that is amazing, but you can keep the beans and rice. I’m driving, so no beer for me. My diet is shot this trip anyway and I keep enjoying the experience.

    We have a late start tomorrow so we decide to have a drink or two at the bar before calling it a night.  I very much enjoy the light conversation and camaraderie. I’ve missed flying and training with close friends, and I realize that I’ve gotten some of that back with Ben. Really – how much better could this situation be? It may not last forever, but it is really good for now.

    Friday Flying: We check out and get moving around 11am to get the airplane fueled, soft drinks on ice and hot coffee in the urn. Fresh newspapers are arranged in the back and the seat belts neatly arranged. I’m looking forward to another opportunity to hand fly the empty leg home, but it may not happen if time gets tight. I’m working tomorrow and need to get home tonight. I’ll turn down the opportunity if we need to push hard.

    The trip to Montreal at 35,000′ was clear and mostly smooth. Ben briefed me before touch down to call CanPass in Canada, and then US Customs to inquire about an early departure. By the time we were on the ramp, Canadian customs approved our arrival and US Customs approved an early go for us as well.

    I wished our passengers – who are paying my fees indirectly – a very happy holiday season as they departed. The smile on my face was genuine, and I quickly got back to the business of flying. The clearance, weather, and V speeds were all ready when Ben got back in and he briefed me on the taxi out.

    It would be my right seat departure on the way home. The flight was only 10 minutes, so I left the autopilot off the entire time to enjoy the experience as much as I might. Up to 10000′, and just as quickly descending to 2200′ for the visual to RW33. Traffic was inbound and close-in, so they asked us to keep it tight. I just flew the airplane like I knew how, though my right hand was moist. I don’t do this often enough to be smooth in this airplane, but I’m not doing bad.

    Ben calls out my bank angle in the turn and asks me not to bank any further. He reminds me that people in jets get into trouble with too steep a bank in the final turn, close in like this. I know this and will pay closer attention. I wasn’t unsafe, in my opinion, but his call out was warranted.

    I lined up a bit right of the center line, and followed his guidance to center us. Slipping left and adjusting my sight picture, I ignored his call to flare more and set the airplane down the way I’d planned and practiced. He is very good at smooth as silk touchdowns for his passengers, but that is not my initial goal. We train back home not to do this type of landing since it could consume significantly more runway, and instead prefer a more direct arrival. I’ll do it his way after a few more on my own.

    I am blessed to be here. The timing and opportunity is astounding to me. Ben talks about my coming up early for the next trip, and getting me some left seat time. He has a development plan to have us sharing legs, and will work with his insurance to make that happen for me. I’m basically in a training program that fell in my lap. This is unimaginably good for me.

    We transfer controls on the roll out and head over to customs. The process is down cold now and we are out of there in minutes. I get to the airport about 45 minutes before my flight to Dulles and then home. I’m the only person in the security line, so I have a beer at the Skinny Pancake there in the airport. Oh – my diet is hurting but my soul is content.

    Arriving Dulles, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that my second leg flight will be out of the gate right next to where I just arrived. I didn’t have to spend time running to Gate C, and would instead have time for dinner. The chicken wrap that was quite good, and I washed it down with a beer to extend my mini-vacation a bit more. I even ate some of the fries, which I shouldn’t have, and can feel fatigue setting in. It’s a good tired, but tomorrow will be tough.

    I finally get home at 1am, knowing I’d have to be at work by 8am. Before I even got in bed, I had to wake Beverly up because her Dad was calling on the intercom. She went to take care of that while I crawled into bed and found I couldn’t sleep very well. When I’m home, we never sleep more than 4 hours at a time because of the seniors.

    I’m having wonderful flying experiences, but do feel guilty about not being home to help Beverly while I’m gone. Her family has been coming over each night to cover in my absence. It’s good that they are getting involved, but I worry about my wife. She seems ok and encourages me to keep going with this. She is a good girl. Amazing, actually.

    Improving my travel efficiency: The only bad part of what I’m doing with these flights is the commercial air travel. It absolutely sucks, so I’m always looking for ways to make it suck a little less. Here are a few things I’m trying:

    • TSA Pre-Check: I’m going to spend the $85 to get pre checked in an effort to stream line Philly airport security.
    • Look into flights into and out of DCA instead of Philly. My friend Mike recommended this, so I’ll look into it.
    • Purchased a nice brief case for my laptop and ipad, along with a few other items. It is working well; carries just what I need; and fits nicely in the airplane.
    • Pack only a soft duffle bag with no hard sneakers in it. These CRJ jets I’m flying on have very little overhead storage, and it’s imperative that I do carry on bags.
    • Re-think how to bring exercise clothes. Maybe another pair of lightweight Merrill sneaks would fit ok.
    • Purchased a new lighter wallet and a leather passport holder. I’m going to put my licenses and medical into this, and carry it with me all the time. Passports are an absolute must for this work, and I must never forget mine.

    That is enough for now. I’m really having the time of my life at 60 years old – again. My airplane will be ready for me this week, and I’ll bring it north. Look for updates on the radio work – IFR Certs and updates; and soon thereafter, the paint repair process up at Smoketown. I’ll also post a bit about burning off the 25 hours and then hitting the 50 hour mark as quickly as weather permits.

    I’m also wondering what the video will look like, and we’ll see that on YouTube by year end.

    Fly Safe!!



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    Dec 4, 2018 – Cold Morning Ride

    December 4th, 2018

    It’s always something. So I’m driving home from the airport in my brand new Honda CRV. There are construction vehicles everywhere working on the route one highway so that the folks from DC can efficiently jam our roadways. The peninsula is being populated faster than the roads, but I guess that’s expected.

    The route one bridge entrance is going to be a royal mess once the 301 bypass (I guess that what it’s called) is completed. Just looking at it you can see the the traffic will all be dumped at the 13/1 split, and will promptly come to a halt every rush hour. Period. Then the side roads will flood with traffic from all the smart travelers, and there we’ll be.

    I’m making progress in the passing lane, after inspecting my airplane and heading home. The new cylinder is on order and should be the last thing – the very last thing we need to get done. With only one thing left on the deck project and one thing left on the airplane – the two projects that have been haunting me are coming to a close.

    I’m driving along at 70 mph in a 60mph zone with a cop riding my ass and literally weaving left and right to see what the hold up is. Then a dump truck from the right lane quickly gets in front of me and has the gas floored doing 62. I slow down and then……

    C – R – A – C – K!!!!!! I hear a sound of a gun shot and swerve a little as I’m trying to figure out what just happened.

    I’m too startled to be pissed and now realize that a very large rock as taken a divet out of my windshield. The cop behind me is really working himself into a lather trying to get around me, but I don’t accelerate.

    The truck pulls back into the right lane having accomplished absolutely nothing except spending $50 of my own money on a deductible, adding to my workload, and delaying my being done with ‘projects’ a few more weeks. I consider giving him the finger as I pull in front of him and finally let dirty harry accelerate to his emergency card game. Damn it.

    Just a few days after the windshield excitement we have a 60 degree day. I post on FB that I’m going for a motorcycle ride and head out.

    The CRV is scheduled for a new windshield. Bev is sick, and I have a contract flight this week. I’m still trying to figure out to do the transportation, and oh, I have a tankless water heater to get repaired too.

    My house has a steady stream of relatives helping Bev care for her parents while she recovers from her chest cold. Medical professionals come and go every single day. People help me constantly by leaving things where they shouldn’t be, parking in random patterns, and just being under-foot. I feel like I’m renting a room in someone else’s house at times.

    I can’t scream because we need all these folks right now. Instead, I decide to get away from here for awhile and go ride the Harley. The plan is to visit airports and find an avionics shop to schedule the work I’ll need for the Twin Comanche. Red Eagle’s is my first choice for this, but they have anew location now. Dale isn’t answering his phone, so I’ll just go try and find it. It’s a beautiful day and the bike is performing even better since it came back from it’s 5000 mile service. Life is good!

    Heading up Wrangle Hill Road from Chesapeake City, I am doing maybe 45 mph is a 40 zone. There is a 20 mph school zone up ahead and I know it’s active today. No point is cranking in the power only to have to brake hard in a few miles. I’m enjoying the ride and relaxing a bit.

    Suddenly I pick up a car in my peripheral vision, speeding out of a development at 40 mph or so. There is no slowing and seemingly no intention of stopping before passing in front of me. She’s moving and clearly is going to create a classic T-Bone accident with me as the victim. I estimate in an instant that I’ll be laying this beautiful machine on the ground, getting myself hurt, and will have been handed yet another restoration project on one of my machines. Other people’s arrogance once again costing me time and money.

    I brake hard. Very hard. Maximum braking effort. The ground is wet and I expect the bike may come out from under me on it’s own. In any event, I’ll get it as slow as I can before impact and then slide it down on my left side and separate myself from the bike before impact. I’ve drop bikes a few times and I know it won’t happen this smoothly. Regardless, you have to have a plan ready and this was mine.

    No fear. No hesitation. Here comes the slide.

    Amazing. Just Amazing. The braking power of this new ABS protected machine is incredible and I feel it in my arms. Micro-seconds go by and I’m actually appreciating the technology as the world slows down around me. The bike is slowing now at a tremondous rate and I start recalculating in my brain that I might ride it in now. I see the young girl clearly at this point. She is braking hard now as well.

    I added some room between us by steering toward the incoming traffic while staying in my lane. I stopped completely at the same time she did, with the point of her hood a few feet from my right leg.

    Thank God the guy behind me stopped, as I hadn’t considered him at all. He must have anticipated a crash from a better perspective, as he was stopped fully 200′ behind me.

    I wasn’t angry at the girl, but looked her straight in the eye. I wanted to talk with her about slowing down and paying more attention, and started to dismount. She expressed the arrogance of a her age, and maneuvered her car behind me avoiding my stare. She drove away.

    I regrouped for a maybe 10 seconds. An eternity in traffic time. The guy behind me just waited patiently. Whomever you are, I appreciate your attentiveness and the fact that you weren’t texting at the moment. You helped keep me unhurt and I appreciate your skill.

    I hope that the event made an impression on the young driver. I really do. It certainly left an impression on me!

    Cold Harley Commute: This morning I am putting on my bright green winter riding suit to go to work. It’s very COLD and I don’t have a choice. The CRV windshield is getting replaced today, and I’m riding my Harley to work and back. I’ll be extra vigilant for deer and young girls.

    Training today: International Day One, and then a trip tomorrow. Life is good. I’m really interested in learning about international flying, and I like the instructor. This will be good.

    Fly Safe.


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    Dec 3, 2018 – Altimatic IIIB Operation & Test Plan

    December 3rd, 2018

    ** I had developed a test plan for testing the autopilot and had written a post entitled ‘May 17, 2016 – Altimatic IIIB Testing Plan’. Little did I know it would be another year and a half before I’d get to try it. Let’s start there and refresh what I’m going to do when I get there.

    I had a recurrence of an autopilot pitch mode issue that first showed up in February of 2016. I now know that the installation of my interior by Airtex had caused the problem. Glue had gotten onto two of the pitch trim rollers and seized them. Eventually the cables sawed through the pulleys and started to bind. The pitch trim motor would pull but not move, until all of the sudden the friction would be overcome and the nose would dive down or up.

    I’ll use the steps here to first remember how to use the autopilot, and then to test all aspects of it. Here we go.

    Button #1 is the AutoPilot Master Switch as well as Roll Control push-on/push-off switch.
    Button #2 is the HDG push-on/push-off switch.
    Control #3 is the Roll Command Knob that is in play when in wing leveler mode (Button #2 OFF, Button #1 ON).
    Button #4 is the Altitude Hold push-on/push-off switch. It is also an altitude pre-select.
    Control #5 is the Pitch Command Disk, which sets your VSI climb or descent rate
    Indicator #6 shows in up/down command indication when Button #8 and #4 are engaged. The indication is based on the altitude selected by Control Knob #7. Indicator wheel #9 is only a reference.
    Control #7 is the Altitude Selector Knob, which sets the desired altitude and relies on the pitot/static system pressure. If you are at the altitude you want, use this knob to adjust Indicator #6 to zero (level); engage Button #4; and set Indicator #9 as a reference.
    Button #8 is the Pitch Control push-on/push-off switch.
     Indicator #9 shows the calibrated altitude you are holding. Reference only – you can spin this all day to no effect.


    Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.15.55 AM

    • NAV and OMNI modes are not used
    • HDG Heading mode is required for GPSS
      note that Jerry recommends using LOC mode all the time to resolve the roll mode issue I’ve noticed
    • LOC/NORM mode is used when in approach mode and intending to use the glideslope coupler
    • LOC/REV mode is intended to be used on a localizer backcourse. Obsoleted by the use of GPS overlay and the lack of practice otherwise.

    AutoPilot Pre-Flight: Gyros must be erect before the test begins.

    Roll Check:

    • Ensure all A/P Buttons OFF
    • Button #1 – Push ON Roll Switch
    • Move Roll Control left to verify yoke movement
    • Overpower movement to check clutch
    • Move Roll Control right to verify yoke movement
    • Overpower movement to check clutch
    • Position Control #3 to off-center left and right. Allow the yoke to move to the stops

    Heading Preselect:

    • Ensure only A/P Button #1 engaged
    • Center Aspen Heading Bug
    • Aspen HDG mode (not in GPSS)
    • NAV/Approach Coupler to HDG
    • Button #2 – Push ON Heading Mode
    • Move Heading bug left and right on Aspen
    • Observe yoke movement
    • Center heading bug to stop movement

    Pitch Command Check & Pitch Trim Check: This check should be done efficiently so as not to abuse the pitch trim and trim servo clutches. The Pitch Trim Check involves making sure the pitch trim handle and the yoke moves, and moves in the correct direction. Note that the Altitude Pre-select features cannot be effectively tested on the ground.

    • Ensure only A/P Button #1 engaged
    • Position Controls to level flight
    • Button #8 – Push ON Pitch Mode
    • Rotate Control #8 to fully up and allow the yoke to move to the stops
      • Verify pitch trim wheel moves in the appropriate direction
      • Verify Yoke moves in the appropriate direction
      • Overpower by pushing down
    • Rotate Control #8 to fully down and allow the yoke to move to the stops.
      • Verify pitch trim wheel moves in the appropriate direction
      • Verify Yoke moves in the appropriate direction
      • Overpower by pushing down
    • Move Heading bug left and right on Aspen
    • Observe yoke movement
    • Center heading bug to stop movement

    Electric Pitch Trim Check: That’s easy. There isn’t one installed on my airplane. Setting Control #7 altitude with the autopilot engaged runs the electric pitch trim, and manually turning the overhead crank works otherwise.

    Flight Plan: We will only do the autopilot tests after the preliminary checks are completed. Once we ensure the airplane flies true and there are no obvious engine, fuel, or systems issues, we’ll begin the autopilot test.

    VFR only, climb and maintain 3000′ direct KILG from KGED. We’ll establish VFR flight following with Dover and not plan on landing at KILG. I’ll turn it around at the northern extent of Dover’s airspace and fly back to KGED. Land and check the airplane out for any issues.

    Wing Leveler Mode: This is a wing leveler mode where Control #3 will bank the aircraft left and right. Resistance should be present in the yoke roll movement, but no resistance in pitch. The autopilot is flying the airplane on course, but altitude is held manually with elevator and trim.

    • Ensure all A/P buttons are OFF.
    • Button #1 ON – A/P Roll Switch – also the Master Switch

    Wing Leveler Mode w/Lateral Guidance: The airplane will follow the heading bug on the Aspen, and will also follow the Garmin 530 WAAS for lateral guidance. Selecting GPSS on the Aspen changes the heading mode into GPSS tracking. Remember that Altitude is not being held.

    • Ensure only A/P Button #1 engaged
    • Center Aspen Heading Bug
    • NAV/Approach Coupler to HDG
    • Button #2 Heading Mode Push ON
    • Move Heading bug left and right on Aspen
    • Select GPSS mode on Aspen to test lateral control

    Altitude Hold:  Roll mode is engaged and we are tracking our GPS course in the horizontal plane. Buttons #1 and #2 are engaged, and the Aspen GPSS steering mode is active (NAV Coupler is in HDG mode).

    • Ensure A/P buttons #1 and #2 are engaged (ON).
    • NAV/Approach Coupler to HDG
    • Aspen Mode to GPSS – The aircraft should intercept and hold the GPS derived lateral course.
    • With zero climb or descent, use Control #7 to set Indicator #6 to indicate level flight attitude. The autopilot will hold that altitude based on the barometric pressure it senses.
    • Set Indicator #9 to indicate the current altitude as a reference. 
    • Control #7 can be used gently to tweak altitude as pressure changes, etc. Don’t let the kids touch this or you’ll be pulling yourself off the ceiling.

    Altitude Hold with changing airspeed: Once you are flying along and altitude is being held:

    • Accelerate by adding power. Verify that the pitch trim motor moves freely and works to hold your altitude.
    • Decelerate by reducing power. Verify free movement in the opposite direction.

    Flying along through up and down drafts, Indicator #6 reflects a need to climb or descend and the altitude fluctuates. The autopilot responds with an appropriate pitch command that moves Indicator #6 back toward zero. Note that Indicator #9 has no effect in this mode, but will be used a reference in pre-selecting a new altitude.

    Altitude Pre-select: Say we are flying along at 3000′ and have successfully captured that altitude. Cleared to 4500′, we want to use the autopilot to climb for us.

    • Ensure A/P Buttons #1, 2, and 4 are engaged
    • Ensure Indicator #6 is showing level and #9 shows current altitude – Indicator #9 matters at this point. The autopilot knows the current pressure and will use this to estimate when it reaches the new set altitude. 
    • Button #4 – Push ON  Altitude Pre-Select
    • Calibrate Indicator #9 to current altitude
    • Rotate Control #7 to the new altitude. Observe Indicator #6 is not longer level and indicates and appropriate climb or descend signal. The airplane will not climb until pitch mode Button #8 is engaged.
    • Return Control #7 to level indication
    • Set Control #5, the Pitch Command Disk, to a low rate near zero
      I may need to disengage Button #4, but I’m not sure
    • Button #8 – Push ON – engaging pitch mode.
    • Rotate Control #7 to the new altitude and the aircraft climbs or descends
    • Use Control #7 to fine tune the level off, then disengage pitch mode to capture altitude.

    I’ll test this in flight only if all goes well with other things. Shaking off the rust.

    Fly Safe!


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    Dec 1, 2018 – Stories Might Improve

    December 2nd, 2018

    Clipped this picture out of my YouTube channel line up from 2015 and early 2016. The picture quality is stunning in my view, versus the ones taken late in 2016 when vibration in the camera mount had begun. I’m thinking now that this was my indication of a failing exhaust valve.

    I’m thinking my adventures might improve now that my airplane is coming back. The week after next I’ll have a new cylinder on my right engine to match the restored exhaust, new baffling, and refurbished propeller on that side. Both engines fired right up last week, even though the right had vibration. I expect the same next week, and Matt and I will go for a ride and see how she flies. After that I’ll be northbound to Wilmington and my hangar.

    I still have to review the autopilot procedures, since it’s been awhile. I found my own training videos out there on that very subject, and will dust those off and watch a younger version of me teaching me again in the future.

    Looking at my earlier videos, I spent a few hours today recharging and preparing my GoPro and the Chinese knockoff camera for for use again. The GoPro firmware updated right away, but I could not get the Action Cam to update. I’ll just leave it as it is. I wasn’t going to bother with the cameras at all, but since I realized that the cylinder with the bad exhaust valve might have been the cause of the shaking camera, I wanted to check that out. I’ll mount the cameras and catch the return to flight action at the same time I see if the vibration goes away.

    I had already been over to my hangar a few days ago to get it ready and drop off a few things. The hangar is in a prime spot at Wilmington airport; close to work and to home. I’ve got a great view of the runways as well, so I’ll have something to look at while I wash and wax. I can’t wait to get the airplane into my hangar and start taking care of it. The spinners haven’t been touched in 2 years!

    Tomorrow morning I’ll call Red Eagle and try to arrange an IFR Cert; new Aspen Battery; and both Garmin 530 WAAS and Aspen PFD software updates.

    That will leave me with a visit to the paint shop to schedule the paint repairs to the upper and lower inboard wings where all the work was done. Hopefully that won’t be too financially painful, but it has to be done. You can see the affected areas in the picture at right. It would be awesome to wrap all this up before it gets warm and I can travel.

    No one who isn’t a mechanic directly involved or a pilot willing to accept the risks will be in the airplane with me until I put 50 hours on her. Initially I’ll fly the first 25 hours and then go back and meet with Matt to have the oil filters looked at, and all the bolt torques checked after use.

    Leaving for another jet trip in a few days, and will attend international training at work around that. December is going to go fast.

    Fly Safe.


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    Nov 28, 2018 – No Flight Test

    November 28th, 2018

    N833DF will not fly this morning. I’m still leaving in an hour or so to do a pre-flight and organize my airplane to bring it home.

    The really very good news is the the engines are clean inside and started immediately. On the first blip. All the fuel pumps, vacuums, and apparently the radios fired up just fine as well. So the airplane is ready in all respects, except for a nagging vibration on the right engine.

    The previous flights surprisingly are available in detail in my memory while I can’t remember people I met two day ago. I specifically recall trouble shooting an issue with my GoPro camera in the summer of 2016. It had been hanging from the ceiling and taking nice shots of instrument approaches where you could see the panel and the pilots. I really liked capturing those, and was disappointed that I had to stop using the mount.

    As the summer went on, I noticed that the videos I was capturing became more unusable due to vibration. The camera was experiencing vibration, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. I stopped using that camera mount before putting the airplane in for an annual inspection in October 2016.

    One of the first things I noticed doing the annual was that the right propeller had some play in it, while the left was rock solid. I asked Matt about it, and he gave me a thumbs down. Darn! That prop had just had an overhaul on the previous annual inspection in 2015, so that wasn’t good. The prop shop recognized that as well. Before I said anything, they offered me a steep discount on the second tune-up. The prop came back and was re-installed in 2016.

    Missing Solid Clues: I got to thinking that clearly the fact that the prop assembly had too much slop and had been causing the vibration and my camera issue. I was flying along fat dumb and happy and not thinking something might be mechanically wrong with the right power plant. I missed a solid clue!

    Now 26 months later we start the engines for the first time and find the vibration still there. That’s not good again. The vibration wasn’t the prop after all, but had to be the engine itself.  Matt knew one cylinder showed low compression on the right side, but we’ve seen this before and expected it to right itself after a run. He looked inside and saw that the exhaust valve was loose in the guide, and would need some attention.

    He saw other indications on the rocker arm that led him to confer with Rob on the field. Rob reminded Matt of a procedure that reseats the valve without disassembly, and Matt went back to try that. No change in the roughness, so that is a show stopper for today’s flight. Service was required.

    Further inspection showed that the exhaust valve was a real issue, so we are pulling the cylinder and having it serviced today instead of flying. I told Matt to repair it last night, but I am going to buzz him shortly and see if I can find out the cost difference and implications of just getting a new one. If the cost is close and I can get this done in days rather than weeks, I’m tempted.

    I missed the clues. I’m thinking about one of my friends who suffered an engine failure on takeoff and had to land on a golf course from 700′. Here I was noticing vibration and not driving hard enough to find out why. It is quite possible that the exhaust valve would have ultimately failed completely, and I’d have had single engine operations on my hands. Possibly on the test flight I’d planned for today.  None of that scares me – I was prepared mentally and in my flying. It frustrates me that I missed clues that would preclude that drama. The only thing that saved me was how I conduct myself regarding maintenance. I do what must be done to stay safe.

    Finances: I paid Barrett Metal, the folks who build my new gear box parts and helped Matt put them in. That one hurt allot, and I’ll be paying Matt up to date today as well. Contract flying and the FlightSafety career make it possible to keep going, and you only live once. Airplanes aren’t cheap.

    Here is hoping the cylinder work is the last issue we’ll see, allowing me to burn off another 500 hours on these engines. Those 500 hours will bring amazing stories.

    Fly safe!


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    Nov 27, 2018 – Flight Test Plans

    November 27th, 2018

    N833DF is coming back on Wednesday. I verified with Matt that the airplane will be ready, so I’m leaving for Georgetown around 6 or 7am so I can get there early.  I’m still working on travel arrangements and logistics, but I’m definitely going and will leave my car there if need be.

    The test plan is shown below as it exists in my head. I’m sitting in Vermont this morning, on Beverly’s birthday, waiting for my flight home. I will share this plan with Matt and keep thinking about it as I fly home. During the flight I’ll be reading the normal checklist and Comanche Association Manual on the PA30 to refresh my memory. I have an abbreviated checklist I’ll use in the airplane.

    Please leave a comment if you have an idea that would improve my safety during this test, as defined below.

    N833DF Flight Test – November 28, 2018

    This will be the first flight for this airplane in 26 months, so the process will be slow. The goal is to put an initial minimum 30 minute flight on the engines, ensure that the controls are true, and ensure that there are no leaks nor unexplained vibrations.

    Upon landing back at Georgetown, remove the engine cowls and inspect exhaust, fuel, and oil lines. Declare the airplane fit, or repair and repeat.

    1. Extensive pre-flight inspection according to the PA30 Manual
    a. Ensure controls are FREE and CORRECT
    2. Verify Fuel Load and caps secure
    3. Drain fuel from all tanks. Ensure plumbing is true and correct, No residual water or debris.
    4. Test cowl flap operation and alternate air doors: cables and tightness
    5. Power On –
    a. Check battery voltage
    b. Check all lights
    6. Normal Run-up and warm up both engines
    7. Parking brake check
    8. Ground Radio check #1 and #2
    9. Taxi test at low / reasonable speed
    10. Brake check
    11. Normal Takeoff and Normal Gear Retraction
    12. Pitch trim test
    13. Rudder trim test
    14. Climb to 3000’ and fly just to the east and in the vicinity of KGED
    15. Contact Dover for flight following and radio checks.
    a. #1 Radio
    b. #2 Radio
    c. Transponder
    16. Straight and level test – no autopilot
    17. 30 deg banking turn left and right
    18. Steep turns – 45 deg; 60 deg
    19. Low speed handling
    a. Slow Flight
    b. Full Flaps / Gear down
    c. Mild turns left and right
    20. Clean the wing and Accelerate – Cruise speed check
    21. Autopilot test: only to be performed if there are no other issues. Autopilot issues will not be addressed until the airplane is deemed reliable
    22. Visual Conditions Only – Practice Instrument approach back into KGED
    23. Land
    24. Remove engine cowls and inspect for exhaust, oil, fuel leaks. General Condition
    25. If all checks are good – fly visually to KILG and put the airplane in the hangar

    Return home and do the happy dance…….

    Fly Safe!!

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    Nov 26, 2018 – Vermont

    November 26th, 2018

    Good morning folks!

    I’m sitting in a Vermont hotel writing this at 4:30 in the morning. Worked all day at FlightSafety yesterday, getting two initials ready for Astra Sims. Immediately after I zipped up to Philly airport to get on a full flight to Burlington. I had 30 minutes to spare, but I’m not a fan of rushing through airports. The lady at Express Park heard about it when she cost me that 10 minutes I made up on the highway. She told dispatch I was 10-6 and they had her leave with just me right then, and I had her take me to Terminal F.

    Went through security in another 10 minutes, only to find out my flight was out of Terminal B. Off to the bus and a mild jog to B5 with time to spare.

    So I made my flight and then UBERed for the very first time on the other end. I love that app and the process worked very well. The driver was pleasant and I learned that they have their very own flag out in front of arrivals. I won’t have to walk around quite so much and guess how to find them. I think there is a way to know what car I should be looking for when my Uber comes, but haven’t figured that out yet.  I’ll ping Christopher later today – he’ll know.

    Dinner was at the WindJammer where my two beers cost more than my dinner. Ribs and a baked potato were just heavenly. The talk around the bar was about romaine lettuce and psychotherapy, so I kept mostly to myself. I was happy to be up here and ready to do a full day of WestWind flying before heading back home.

    Bev’s birthday is Tuesday, and I have dinner plans for later in the evening. I hadn’t asked about the return flight plans, but can’t see how I can get to Texas and Virginia from Canada, and then make it back to Canada and Vermont while still catching a flight this evening. I’m sure my commercial home won’t be non-stop at that hour. I’m not looking forward to getting home at 2am either.  Rules of the road say pilots should charge for that extra day, but I’m having trouble doing that. Let’s see how it goes today. I’d rather stay the night and direct flight home early Tuesday.

    N833DF is on my mind. Matt may have run it up yesterday, or may be doing that today. In any event, I’m going down there to see for myself on Wednesday.

    The house was decorated for Christmas before I left, and the entire month will go by in a blink. My sleep schedule is permanently hosed now with the Seniors. I go to bed a 8am and get up at 3:30. That worked out well for this trip, so I guess God has a plan and I’m along for the ride. I really like the ride.

    I’m once again evaluating whether or not I want to do this contract flying allot. Wondering if the travel and being away from home will get as old as it did with the airlines. I suspect that if I do it too often it will, so I’ll keep taking this one day at a time. Then I get to thinking how nice it would be to fly my own airplane up here and remove all the rushing. Get back to Vermont late at night and sleep in at the hotel until morning. Fly home and put the airplane in my hangar, then drive around the block and cover my afternoon sim session at work. I’ll be home for dinner with smile on my face.

    Focus on today. I’m getting picked up in 30 minutes to go flying for the day. In a jet. Someone else is paying for the gas.

    Life is good. Fly on!



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    Nov 24, 2018 – N833DF Update

    November 24th, 2018

    N833DF IS DAMN NEAR READY! Matt called yesterday to let me know he might be starting the airplane engines for the first time in two years. As it turns out, he didn’t get that far, but I am not discouraged. This truly means that the end is near and flight testing can begin – most likely next week.

    The weather has turned cold and my schedule has been full recently. It isn’t the best time of year to start flying again, but I’m not waiting one more minute. Time to start laying out a serious plan to get all of the airplane data and services current – get a fresh IFR Certification going, and test the ADS-B performance.

    I’ll put 50 hours on the airplane before I take family, friends, or do Angel Flights for sure. The gear boxes are the structural components that drove this huge delay. Those were replaced and while the aircraft was down, many other things were addressed. Among the items that have been overhauled include:

    • Plugs
    • One piece windshield installation / skin repair
    • Fuel and oil hoses replaced
    • Engine Baffles
    • Right propeller
    • Pitch trim servo
    • KX-155 Radio gets a new LED Display

    I had near full tanks of fuel when I dropped it off two years ago, which will now be drained and replaced. I plan to test fly the aircraft Wednesday and leave it there to address any issues if necessary. Otherwise, I’ll fly it north to the hangar in Wilmington. I made sure that my hangar was ready and will make travel arrangements in case I get to fly the airplane home.

    Once debugging is complete, I’ll take it up to smoketown airport to have the paint repairs estimated and scheduled. Simultaneously, I’ll get the IFR certification done and the Aspen battery replaced along with the software/firmware updates for the panel. Lots to do, and some that I haven’t thought about.

    With any luck, it will all go smoothly and I’ll be able to put at least 25 hours on the airplane before February gets here.  I typically don’t fly much then due to the fact that my engines are too cold to start and short flights lose their appeal in 19 degrees.

    Everything Else includes contract flying, and that is going very well.  I’ve had four opportunities and was able to do three of them. I’m very excited to be doing this and look forward to improving my jet skills as an instructor and pilot. I enjoyed the last trip so much that I seriously considered getting an additional type rating to do more contracting. I’ve since cooled on that idea, realizing my home life matters and my own airplane is almost back.

    The commute is easy from Philly to Vermont on my most common contract flying runs. I most definitely plan to use my own airplane to commute, once spring arrives. No need to try winter flights in an untested airplane in the meantime. I will, however, fly up there to get familiar with the area and put some time on the engines if the weather is good.

    I’ve had a few cancer concerns to deal with recently, that caused me to turn down one of my contract trips. I had to have a lump removed from my chest, and another during a colonoscopy. Neither lump looked menacing, and both are awaiting biopsy results to plan a path forward. I’m in good shape and continue to lose weight. Having had cancer in 2011, I’m on a hair trigger to detect anything that comes along early. It’s all good.

    Beverly and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on the 9th. We were able to get family in to watch our seniors while we went out to celebrate with a sushi dinner. This girl is the very best thing to ever happen to me, and I appreciate her company everyday. My only concern with her is her total commitment to her parents sometimes leaves her exhausted and drained. They are in their late 80’s and required 24×7 care. Beverly is an Angel and I’ve seen her work.

    I’ve been spending time riding my Harley since I bought that. I’m very happy with it and just completed it’s 5000 mile service. No issues – good to go. Looking forward to some longer trips on it next year.

    Our Chesapeake City home has ridiculous technology in it. Two tankless water heaters in the new section for hot water and radiant heat. One of those is tripping out, so I’ve replaced the motherboard and fire sensors so far. I’m learning more than I wanted to, and making some progress on keeping it running. I’ll play along for awhile longer and then just replace the damn thing.

    As you can see – I figured out the security upgrade for this website and got it going. I appreciate the support I received from CloudFlare. Again – I’m supposed to be retired and was forced to learn more than I wanted to.

    Fly safe!  I’m really looking forward to writing about the return to flight for N833DF, and hope it is anti-climatic.

    I appreciate your readership.


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    Nov 13, 2018 – AirDorrin Adds Security

    November 13th, 2018

    I’m becoming more aware of what I pay GoDaddy to host the website, and they wanted another $79 to add SSL.  I need to add that because I’m getting questions about the ‘Not Secure’ warning that Google tagged me with.

    That made me do research and learn more about coding – and I resent that. I really don’t want to learn any more about coding than I’ve already forgotten. I found a way (through Google and YouTube, it pains me to say) to add the required security in the least painful way, and expect to lose the scarlet letter tagging in a day or so.

    I’m adding SSL to the website using CloudFlare, which will sit right on top of my GoDaddy site without having to spend $79 to add SSL through GoDaddy. It’s a shared SSL and I really don’t know what that means other than mission accomplished.

    When it comes time to renew my DOMAIN hosting, I may even find it to be less expensive with CloudFlare.

    Without adding this feature, google would eventually block my site out entirely. Kind of makes sense, so I took care of it.

    Look for a seamless change in the next few days if I’ve done this correctly.

    Fly Safe.


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    Nov 12, 2018 – It’s a new day and a new week

    November 12th, 2018

    We’ve been up checking on my wife’s mom upstairs since 3:30 am. I have a recurrent ground school for Astra today, and will get through that just fine with the usual 6 hours of sleep. Had to turn down a Westwind flight for this week to get my colonoscopy done (I’m 60), so I’m a little disappointed that I lost some momentum with my Vermont friends. I really want that to work.

    Life is a flurry of activity, so I’ll stop trying to organize my thoughts any further than I have, and just put it out there.

    N833DF is coming back! No one knows any more than I do how many times I have said that and been disappointed. I feel like the momentum is there to bring this nightmare to a close now, and get my new airplane in it’s hangar! The hard parts are behind me.

    Matt had a week off last week down in Florida getting his seaplane rating. That meant my airplane progress also got a week off and I wouldn’t be flying myself for a little longer. Texting with him at the end of the week, I did get the sense that he was still on target to finish up this next week. That would mean that my airplane will be flight-test worthy by next weekend.

    He reminds me that he is making no promises on next week, but those words are not necessary. I’ve been waiting for two years and delays are like breathing with this project. I feel so confident that the end is near, however, that I decided to visit my hangar for the first time.

    Subscription updates: After the last visit, I brought my Garmin 496 home to replace the battery. I was convinced it wouldn’t even power up after sitting that long, but was surprised when it not only started, but actually held a charge!

    Updating the unit from my MAC proved to be a challenge. When that didn’t work, I tried my old windows 7 laptop, and finally Bev’s newer windows 10 laptop. The result was the same, my GPSMAP 496 wasn’t being recognized. There had been a significant number of updates since the firmware version 4.20 I had installed circa 2014. Version 4.80 had new XM antenna drivers in it, but that one actually made me nervous. My antenna is more than 10 years old, I think.

    I contacted Garmin after all of my attempts failed, and found them to be of no help whatsoever. They were nice, but offered zero guidance. back to YouTube and Google to search for new clues. Somewhere in my travels I found a comment that referenced setting the ‘Transfer IN’ setting before updating firmware. That ticked a path in my brain, and I found it and turned it on. BANG!  Firmware went in on the first try; then the terrain; and finally the new navigation data on a one-time basis. Since this is is a supplemental unit, slaved to the Garmin 530 Waas, there is no need to update this one monthly. Updating the GPSMAP 496 every two years should be sufficient.

    As far as software and subscriptions, still to go is for me to reactivate my Sirius XM weather subscription on the 496 and the navigational data on the GARMIN GNS530 WAAS. I can test fly and get started with neither active, so I’m waiting a little longer. The moment the airplane gets released I’ll get that done.

    The ELT battery and main battery will both be replaced before the airplane flies. The Aspen battery was never used, but has timed out and will be replaced when the airplane gets a fresh IFR certification. I’ll also update the Aspen and Garmin software at that point, so I’m hoping Red Eagle can fit me in.

    Remember that my Bendix King KX-155 was overhauled two years ago and never tested. I’ve hoping that works well out of the gate. Time to stop worrying and move forward, addressing whatever get’s in the way.

    Paint shop: That brand new paint job was crunched during this work. It’s a damn sin, but such is life. Talking with Kendall at the paint shop, he’ll have to see it physically before telling me what he can do. I worry that the bare metal will be exposed for too long in my unheated hangar, but again, I’ll have to take this one step at a time.

    Flying up to the paint shop also means I’ll be going into what I consider a short field again, after a two year layoff from flying this machine. One step at a time.

    The seniors are having a hard time: Beverly and I have also been reorganizing our basement, working to get rid of all the extras we’ve gathered over the years. It amazes me that we can get rid of 8 large boxes, and still have many more iterations to go. Health care professionals and visitors are coming and going all the time now that her parents live with us. It will be helpful if we had more room in the basement to store important things, and more room upstairs for the equipment it takes to manage seniors.

    As I’m loading my car, my wife was upstairs being trained by a nurse to track her father’s blood thickness (INR). Doing this in-house meant not having to take him to the doctor’s office once a week and expose him to winter weather. He has late stage kidney disease as well as serious COPD, and whatever load we can take from him will help. Mom currently is battling a potentially life-threatening upper respiratory infection. Beverly hand feeds her meals,  and comforts her while working with remote home hospice nurses to manage medications. In-laws come and go to visit and leave advice before returning to their own lives.  I never know who will be at the house at any given moment.

    Opening the Hangar: I’m moving my airplane stuff from the basement and into the hangar. I man-handled my gasoline power tow up from the basement first. Bringing it around to the garage, I filled it’s one tire with 12# of air. The tire doesn’t look dry rotted, and seemed to hold the air just fine. The engine had aged but clean oil. It hasn’t been run for over two years, so I put gasoline in it and gave it a pull.  The little red PowerTow started immediately, and I took that as a good sign. As I let that cool awhile, I loaded up my oil rags, cowl plugs, chocks, and the airplane’s cover into the CRV. Finally, I gently placed the tow into the back of my brand new car and drove over to the airport.

    I drive gently to keep the inside of my new car from getting marred from the cargo I have aboard. The gas fumes are noticeable as I go, so I open the sunroof and side windows to the 40 degree air.

    Until today, I’ve avoided any activities that make me think about my airplane. The thought of it languishing on the ground was too frustrating and saddening, so I focused on other things. I’m really thinking I might actually get this project closed here shortly, and am praying it comes to pass. I’m balancing getting ready to fly with protecting myself from a significant disappointment if it turns out not to be ready.

    Pulling up to the gate, I fumble for my airport ID. Now I wondered if the gate will even work for me, since I’d never used my badge until today. Sunday wasn’t the day to get a card problem addressed, so I could be heading back home and unloading all this stuff. I swiped the gate heard it start beeping – another good sign as the gate slides open. Now my brain focuses on the next step – finding and opening my hangar door. That requires a key, which I now realize is not on the neck strap as I expected. It’s home somewhere safe, and I’ll have to drive home one more time today.

    So now that I’ve driven 20 minutes over here, I will not be able to get into my hangar after all. Rather than be upset, I took in the view and pictured myself at this very spot two weeks from now. With no one between my airplane and I, I’ll get to spend the day inspecting and organizing it’s full recovery to usefulness. My airplane will be in it’s hangar – where it belongs.

    I drove back home and found my key in my brief case. I took the time to find a ring and put it on my neck strap so that this won’t happen again, and stick my head in to let Beverly know what I’m doing. She is very busy with visitors, as well as the nurse and her medical training.  I left without telling her I was an idiot and didn’t get my simple objective completed yet.

    Back at the hangar, I opened the door and found some old cabinets and a rug had been left behind. There was also an old desk which I’ll find a use for in the hangar, so they could leave that.

    I figured out how to open the electric door and I’m going to like this setup. It is nowhere near as threatening as the medieval marvel of engineering in my old Delaware Airpark hangar. This one wasn’t always trying to kill me.

    I did see quite a gap in the door when closed, however, so I might as well ask them to adjust that before I move in. My hangar has nothing in front of to the sides blocking the wind, so I can visualize snow and rain blowing into the gap during storms. For $500 a month – they can address that.

    I sent these pictures to my friend at DRBA to see if I could have them addressed. I can remedy these things on my own if not, but I’d rather the hangar be move-in ready when I come north.

    Before leaving, I drove the taxiways to understand what I’d need to do to get to my hangar from the runway. Things have changed since I’d last flown out of this area, but now I’m comfortable.

    Fly Safe!


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