Name: Frank

Email:

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

Posts by fdorrin:

    Jun 13, 2019 – Preparing for Canada

    June 15th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Canada Checklist

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

    Documents for the aircraft:

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

    Documents for the Pilot:

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

    Documents Passengers will need:

    • Current passport

    Entry into Canada

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

    Phone Numbers:

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

    Returning from Canada

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

    Comments Off on Jun 13, 2019 – Preparing for Canada

    Jun 11, 2019 – Flying and Soaring Moods…

    June 13th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fly Safe!

    Frank

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

    May 28, 2019 – Busy Week

    June 5th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Full Speed ahead –

    Fly safe!

    Frank

    Comments Off on May 28, 2019 – Busy Week

    May 25, 2019 – Career Changes; N833DF to Canada

    May 26th, 2019

    N833DF is going to Canada! When I get home Monday, I hope to see my Canada sticker has come in the mail. That is the last thing I need, other than charts, to be able to fly up to Nova Scotia. I intend to take my WestWind Captain buddy Ben up to visit an engine shop he introduced me to, and talk engines with the owner. If Ben can’t do it, I’ll take Mike up with me. I’ll add Canada charts to my subscriptions just before I go.

    BIG CHANGES AT WORK: The WestWind Simulator is retiring: Actually, I hear that it is now official and is off the line. I have been instructing in both the WestWind and the Astra, so half of that workload is gone. In anticipation of this, Of course, we have fewer people now and that will decline further. Personally, I accepted an offer to transfer to an upstart GulfStream 280 (G280) program earlier this year. I was originally told to report to FSI in DFW in July, where I’d stay for at least a month at a time – through the end of the year. The full training regimen includes getting typed in the airplane; becoming and instructor and building the required time in class and in the simulator; and then finally becoming an examiner. The entire process spans about 6 months, and all of that time I’d be away from home and living in a hotel.

    Delays have beset the project several times thus far. The simulator production schedule is slipping. My start date for training has moved from July to August, and I understand it will move again into December. The simulator itself won’t be ready until late next year at Wilmington. FSI actually has actually not announced publicly that the simulator will be coming at all, so there is a chance that all this could change. In any event, having that simulator come to Wilmington is not 100% certain. I say there is 98% chance we’ll see it eventually though.

    During our long car ride on vacation, Bev and I found time to talk about my planned absence for this training. I am concerned I’m being selfish and leaving her alone with her Mom that long. I always have been concerned, but Beverly has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and insisted she would manage just fine.

    Beverly is not concerned for herself at all, but worried that at some point I might want to slow down. I admitted experiencing palpable relief when I heard the program would be delayed again, and I wouldn’t be spending the hot summer months in Dallas now.

    I’m having second thoughts about being away from home for that long, and then coming home to work in a new program with a greater time commitment. I am a fair minded person. If I do go to Dallas and allow the company to spend money training me, I’m going to personally commit myself to working long enough to pay them back for that. When I accepted the deal initially, I told them I would not commit to any time obligation, but fairness would drive me to do that voluntarily.

    Work can get in the way. My wife and I want to take motorcycle trips at the spur of the moment. Jump in our airplane to go see things; take boat rides with friends; and do planned vacations when we want to. My working is not getting in the way at the moment because of the senior care commitment Beverly has, but when that ends it might be a significant impediment. What to do?

    I have a need to stay busy – period. Work is filling that need for me now, and can be interesting and fun at the same time. The people are awesome and it keeps me out of the house.

    The good news is that I have options. I have to move carefully, however, since I have made the right moves over the last 40 years and found myself in the second career of my choice. One that pays well for the work required, and is all about airplanes. This is where I wanted to be and I need to be careful not to make rash decisions because I’m a little bored and feeling trapped at home. I’m NOT going to make any decisions until I sit on all this for a few more weeks. Writing all these options out helps me find my way, and occasionally ferrets out opportunities from my readers. I may decide not to change anything. Continuing on the current course is an option.

    If I do leave, both my Harley and N833DF will sit unused for months. What is the point of having those wonderful resources if I never use them? This morning, I am leaning toward backing out of the G280 training and staying in the Astra program until my Mother In-Law no longer needs care. I’ll keep working until April in any event, to get me to my Social Security age. Backing out of the G280 and staying in the Astra is an option. 

    Contract flying has been a cool experience for me. It is most definitely a perk. I love doing it with the right people. It’s fun, exciting, and rewarding. I would love to only do contract work, but you need to be available when they call in order to be a desired resource. That would lead to the same challenges on time, so it isn’t a perfect setup. Contract flying is an option.

    My FlightSafety salary also allows me to spend on my airplane without financial concern. I can replace half of that income, however, without working. Social Security owes me money, and I’m eligible to receive my funds next April. I can always sell N833DF if I get nervous about the long term finances, but I don’t think there is much chance of that any time soon. Though I’m nervous about being bored at times, not working is an option.

    Local flight instruction might fit better into my time schedule. I enjoy instrument instruction, but not so much the private pilot level. Getting paid very little money to fly little airplanes in the heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter isn’t the most attractive way for me to stay busy. I’ll need some introspection on that one, but flight instructing is an option. 

    Finding a King Air captain spot, or a jet based in Wilmington could be fun. Something with a light predictable schedule that doesn’t get in the way too much. Doing this might end up leading to the same time commitment as FSI for less pay though. Still – some type of local flying gig is an option.

    Today is the very last day of vacation. We are meeting up with great friends on the way home, and then tomorrow it will be back to normal. I’ll be glad to be home and out on the trail exercising. Getting on with my retired life. Looks like the rainy weather finally broke.

    I expect the next blog will be more about flying N833DF. I’ll be getting into flight tests and more training, possibly adding some video as well. Night flying; more autopilot testing; and working with the FlightStream are on the agenda.

    Fly safe!

    Frank

    Comments Off on May 25, 2019 – Career Changes; N833DF to Canada

    May 16, 2019 – Vacation

    May 25th, 2019

    Our only Vacation for the year is on its last days as I write this. If you’ve been reading along on this blog, you know about my mother in-law needing my wife’s full time care throughout the year. Bev and I had a wedding to attend for one of our boys this past week, so we arranged for siblings to provide constant care in our absence. Lining up replacement care can be a challenge on many levels, so we we made it easier on everyone by combining a very small vacation on the end of the wedding for ourselves. We’d be gone for 10 days to allow my wife a brief respite, and we wouldn’t ask for this kind of coverage again.

    N833DF is ready, but I decided not to fly on this one. I’ve had the autopilot overhauled and new avionics added, and the airplane is performing well. I only have 35 hours on this most recent oil change, and my stated goal at the outset was not to put a passenger in there until 50 hours (when I’d do another oil change, oil analysis, compression check, bore scope, and filter check). I’m sticking to my word (to myself) and driving on this one. Besides, Bev and I needed to spend time together and we have actually enjoyed the road trips we’ve taken in the past. We left for Lumberton, NC on Thursday morning, May 16th.

    The rehearsal was set for Friday and the wedding itself Saturday. Both events went smoothly. We had a great time and I was honored to be the best man for Frank III and Ashley. Several former Marines were there, including one Medal of Honor winner. All of them were heroes, but I would have liked to have talked with Jeremiah Workman. I didn’t realize he was there until he had gone home.

    Savannah, Georgia was the next stop on our tour. We would enjoy a day to explore by ourselves, and then meet a few Harley riding friends of ours there on Monday. Good food, great friends, and miles and miles of walking about town. We didn’t take the bikes on this one either, with the focus on taking it easy on these girls. Brian and I are definitely planning a bike run with all four of us soon though, but not of this distance.

    We did a hokey ghost tour that was better than sitting in your room and allowed us to see a few sights we might have missed. Everyone in the entire city was kind and pleasant, so I have nothing but good to say about the city. That includes the skinny young bearded man down by the river with a pony tail, high top sneakers, and a snazzy brown sun dress with white polka dots.

    From there we drove to Charleston, SC for lunch on Sullivan’s Island’s Poe’s Tavern. Three of us had been there before, and specifically wanted to go back. The food and service did not disappoint, and I enjoyed another local IPA here as well. Light and non-fruity for the afternoon heat.

    One more walking ghost tour and a few more sights we might not have seen on the second night. The food was once again stellar, and the Francis Marion hotel treated us very well. Lots of money floating around this area, for sure.

    We’ll be home Monday morning ready to get back to normal. That means I’ll be finishing up the lighting project on the deck; cleaning my car; exercising on my bicycle; flying my airplane; and taking a motorcycle ride or two.

    Fly safe!

    Frank

    Comments Off on May 16, 2019 – Vacation

    May 15, 2019 – Autopilot and FlightStream Test

    May 25th, 2019

    The opportunity to fly on the night before I left for vacation, encouragement really, came when my buddy Mike pinged me that he’d be in town unexpectedly. I was instructing a class up until 5pm, so we agreed to meet at the hangar around 5:45. This would be one of those times when I’d get to enjoy having a hangar only minutes from my work.

    I worked all day to give the clients my best attention, while fending off that vacation slide mentality that typically sets in when you know you are leaving for somewhere fun the next day. Our session was successful, and the feedback I got from them was all positive. Never-the-less, when the 5pm bell rang I sent them on their way and left immediately for my hangar. It was on the way there that i realized I hadn’t completed all of their paperwork, and knew I had to do it before I left for vacation. I kept going anyway.

    At the hangar I pre-flighted N833DF and pulled her out onto the taxi line to wait for Mike. I had filed an IFR flight plan from my phone and looked forward to loading it up with the new FlightStream. I also looked forward to letting the autopilot do some of the work heading southbound, and both of those would be a distraction. I’ll put Mike to work making sure one of us was flying and eyes outside while the other played with the new stuff.

    It was a beautiful day with some wind, but really no significant challenge. I fired up the right engine, but Mike was struggling to get his seatbelt free. We can to the conclusion that it the seat re-install after the work may have trapped the right seatbelt, so I shut the engine down so we could get him out and safely troubleshoot. I reached under from behind and pulled the belt buckle down and clear – issue resolved.

    Mike was now back in and buckled, so I primed a little and used the cold start technique again. The engine wasn’t catching so Mixture to idle; Throttle wide open; and she fired right up. I’ve gotten better at starting these power plants since the return and am understanding the process more. Yes – it has taken this long.

    Starting the left engine, I leaned them both and turned on the avionics. There was a cirrus a few doors down preparing to leave, so I was under just a little time pressure to get moving. It was then we realized that the FlightStream 210 was not showing up for me to set up my phone. Maybe it doesn’t like iPhones, so I tried again with my iPad Mini. That didn’t work and Mike’s iPad also didn’t see anything under WiFi or Bluetooth. We spent time diagnosing what was going on, but the cirrus guys were nearing the time they’d want me out of the way.

    I reached back for my old iPad, which the shop had connected.previously. It said it was connected, but I wasn’t able to do anything with it. Damn!  I had to move, so I tabled the FlightStream test and told Mike we’d focus on giving the autopilot a workout. I acknowledged that I’d be distracted, knowing that now I’d have to call the avionics shop and fix brand new busted-ass equipment. I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it for another three weeks, and that ticked me off just a little. Focus Frank – what you are doing here is serious.

    Adding power, I taxied N833DF past my Cirrus neighbor and out to taxiway ECHO. I gave up on the FlightStream late in the game, as much as I could, and now had to revert to manual methods. Finding my pen and paper, I called for the IFR clearance, which included ‘As Filed”. Rather than ask for a full route clearance, I signed off and turned my phone back on so I could see what I’d actually filed. It frosted my butt just a little having to put this in manually, since I’d just paid a bunch to have the upload automated.

    I’m admittedly distracted and had to resist continuous trouble shooting more than once while i taxied down the runway for a 32 departure. I was making my workload higher now it needed to be with my retentive behavior, and didn’t settle down until I was lining up. I did my line up flows as usual and the airplane was ready. We launched into a clear blue sky and headed south.

    The autopilot check started early in the climb, but I had a few missteps with it that initially made me think there was something wrong. I hadn’t done a complete pre-flight ground test on it with all the commotion, so I never verified that pitch mode worked as it should. I did manage to get it all sorted out so that heading was held in the climb, and then transitioned to GPSS tracking. At altitude, we saw that the altitude hold mode worked and the subtle wing rocking is gone. That last one is a very big deal. The autopilot is rock solid and stable in lateral control now.

    Flying a coupled ILS into Salisbury, MD, I had the change to relearn the proper button pushing sequence while I was testing the overhauled autopilot. The glideslope now captures without diving below initially. I’ve only done this one test so far, but I see real improvements here.

    The FlightStream wasn’t working for this flight, so that also meant I had no traffic and ADS-B weather coming in. That’s right, I had written a very large check which resulted in my having LESS capability for this flight. I poked around a little for ways to get something back online, to no avail.

    Our next approach was the GPS 23 LPV. There was conflicting traffic – a Piedmont jet – that diverted us initially. We asked for vectors clear, and then rejoined the approach. The glideslope didn’t engage automatically this time, which is when I realized that I’d forgotten to switch the mode selector to LOC mode. This must be done at least two miles prior to the FAF, or the system will not engage.. Once you are beyond that point, it is designed not to capture late, so I flew the glideslope manually. The autopilot remained engaged otherwise.

    I was very happy with the autopilot work at this point, but will continue testing to make sure all ground function tests are successful, and no other bugs remain. I will also run through the convoluted altitude pre-selection methods called out in the original manual. This one requires up to ten steps in the proper sequence, so it will be just an academic exercise for me. I know and understand how to use the autopilot’s best features, and plan to ignore the convoluted ones. On the other hand, Mike wants me to try out everything. It is not uncommon for me to change my process due to something he has discovered, so I’ll do that.

    Turning over the flight controls, I had Mike fly us home. He turned off the autopilot to get some airplane time, and at the same time kept mulling over the FlightStream Debacle. He went into bluetooth and activated the cursor in the name box. Voila!!  Traffic, weather, and all the Flightstream functionality started rolling in. Kudos for stumbling only on the secret for me, and allowing me to test the features and functions I’d just paid for. Now my cell phone and both iPads are tied into my avionics panel. Superb!!

    FLY SAFE MY FRIENDS!  I’M ON VACATION FOR THE NEXT WEEK OR SO.

    Frank

    Comments Off on May 15, 2019 – Autopilot and FlightStream Test

    May 10, 2019 – Successful IMC

    May 10th, 2019

    Strange title for someone who has been flying IMC for years, I know. I flew N833DF up to Lancaster this morning in a little bit of weather. The forecast for today had been predicting 700′ ceilings and thunderstorms most of the last few days leading up to this morning. When I got up though, Chesapeake City skies were clear with calm winds.

    The forecast for Lancaster was reporting 1600′ ceilings, which ended up actually being around 1300′ with tops around 2200′. The thin cloud layers were surprisingly dark, and the turbulence within them was spirited. Occasional moderate made it a challenge to keep the airplane on rails all the way down the ILS, but I kept it within standards all the way down.

    Preparation for this trip began days ago by watching the weather. When I realized this short trip would involve IMC, I set my personal minimum in this airplane at 1000′. It’s been 2.5 years since I’ve used this airplane in IMC, and I’d be turning on Pitot Heat and Defrost Heat for the first time in several years. I want to ease back into IMC with this machine.

    Last night I fired up my simulator for one complete trip from KILG to KLNS, followed by four different ILS 8 scenarios to minimums. I also did two GPS approaches to cover my bases, until I was comfortable I’d exercised my process. I was ready for 1000′ minimums after that. It amazes me how relevant an 11 year old simulator can be with occasional updates.

    My crazy schedule this week is a product of several occurrences. It looks like our Westwind simulator is getting retired. They just can’t keep it going any longer, so my schedule for the week cleared right out. I worked Monday and then only an hour on Thursday.  I took advantage of that time off and knocked out a doctors appointments for my allergy suffering of late, and also managed to renew my FAA Medical. Since the last medical I’d started using low dose Lisinopril, and I was worried about that. Combined with the cancer history and controlled Asthma, I felt it was more difficult to stay under the radar. Turns out I was worried about nothing, and my BP came in just fine.

    I also has a laundry list of calls to follow up on that require hand-holding. Delaware Motor Vehicles was one – I’ve been cajoling them to refund the road tax they impose on my airplane and give me a refund. It has been several years since I submitted one, so they needed me to update their paperwork. In short – their process failed and it took 7 calls and 5 people to get it fixed. Still no money, but the calls have been completed.

    My Honda CRV intermittent wipers stopped working, and I only just noticed it with all this rain. I tracked that back to having my windshield replaced 6 weeks ago, and that was confirmed during my service call at Honda. Fortunately, Honda covered it under warranty and assumed it was a manufacturing thing. There was silicone grease over the lenses, and once removed and cleaned, the wipers started working again. I’m anal, so I called SafeLite Auto back and reported the issue I’d had. I felt pressure to get this fixed before Bev and I go on a driving vacation next week.

    N833DF airplane maintenance had been scheduled since last week for today. The autopilot control head spent a month sitting out in Illinois somewhere, waiting to get serviced. When Lancaster Avionics called to tell me it was ready, FRIDAY was the only day I could possibly get back to Lancaster and wait for the airplane. I really didn’t want to put my friends out and have someone drive me back and forth if I could avoid it. So Friday it would have to be.

    I’m working next week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Leaving for vacation on Thursday, so it’s either Friday; get someone to drive me twice back and forth so I can leave the airplane on Tuesday; or wait another three weeks to get the work done. I felt pressure to get this fixed before Bev and I go on a driving vacation next week, and I had to take steps to avoid being tempted to flying in too challenging of a condition for the first N833DF IMC flight in awhile.

    I set my personal minimums at 1000′, so naturally the Friday forecast has been consistently below that leading up to today. Last night I went to bed expecting 700 overcast in rain, for which I’d have called off the trip. Thunderstorms were supposed to rule the area as well, so it wasn’t looking good.

    Waking up this morning, however, I was greeted with calm winds and clear skies in Chesapeake City. Surprise!  It turned out that Lancaster would still require an instrument approach, however, but at least the ceilings were 1500′ instead of 700′.  I fired up XM weather and let the ADS-B weather update itself as I got the engines turning.

    Taxiing out from my Hangar in the West Tees, I picked up my first instrument approach clearance in this airplane for some time. Oh man this has been a long time coming, and I was glad to get moving again. Watching Ben fly low approaches in the Westwind smoothly reminds me that these are perishable skills that must be practiced. I need to practice in real conditions more often. Flying approaches in my own airplane will help me be that smooth when it’s my turn on the left side in those jets. Owning my own airplane and flying it professionally within it’s limits is just so very cool.

    So the ride up here was flown by hand and took about 20 minutes. Wilmington had wind, but was clear of most of the weather. Lancaster had broken overcast 1500, which was more like 1300. Windshear at 2000′ was significant – 40 knots to 15 knots – and the turbulence occasional moderate. The ILS 8 worked great, and I broke out with the nose pointed 20 degrees right of the centerline to track the course. That sheared to 5 degrees over the threshold. I came in a bit hot – 105 over the fence – and could have slowed down a bit earlier in retrospect.

    I also could have checked XM weather more closely for storms. I had a good eyeball evaluation going, but there are some building areas out there this morning. Small hail warnings for this area, so the instability will continue and probably worsen.

    Now that I’m here, I’ll catch up with my sister for lunch since she lives up here. I’ll plan my trip home around whatever weather shows up, and use a local hotel if the weather gets too gnarly.

    N833DF was smooth and powerful today. It is trips like this – even the short ones – that remind me how very worth it this machine is. I can’t wait to try out my autopilot and new flightstream 210.  He who dies with the most toys wins!

    Fly Safe!

    Frank

    Comments Off on May 10, 2019 – Successful IMC

    May 1, 2019 – Aborted Travel

    May 1st, 2019

    Oh man – I’m slightly bummed!: I am flying a one day Westwind jet trip Thursday and it was my first opportunity to fly myself up there and back in 3DF. Easy trip and a potential perfect day. The definition of the perfect day is riding to the airport on my Harley; jumping in my beautiful twin and flying up to the jet to go play.

    N833DF is in fine shape, even though the autopilot is still in AutoPilot Central’s purgatory. I really am expecting to hear something any minute now on that one. It’s been a month now guys – get off your butts! The airplane is ready is all other respects, so I planned to fly up at 9000′ and leave it in the hangar there.

    Note that the folks that hired me for the trip are really being nice to me. 3DF will stay in the hangar while I’m there and they’ll cover the cost while I’m traveling.  Nice!

    Weather Planning for a the operational altitudes of a light twin is not something I’ve done for over two years! The tools continuously improve, and I started out getting a handle on thunderstorm potential. My schedule was opened up so that I could leave anytime during the day today, and be sure not to get stopped by expected storms. It’s only a two hour flight, so I felt good with it. Ceilings would be as low as 1500′, but my personal minimums are 1000′ until I get more time in my airplane IMC. So the weather looked fine.
    You can see that there is rain and lots of moisture enroute, but at first glance this looks like an easy ride.

    Then I thought I’d better check the icing levels. I found the forecast at right. I had forgotten what the symbols meant, so I then had to go and get the Aviation Weather Handbook.

    The dark blue boundary (circle, line dashed) indicates icing conditions. The altitude range is included in a blue details box. The top number gives the height of the top icing layer; and the bottom left number gives the height of the lowest icing layer. If a bottom right number is listed, it means the bottom of the icing layer varies between these altitudes over the specific area. Altitudes are labeled in hundreds of feet. You can see that the box covering Vermont goes down to 1000′.

    I had assumed that since we were having more nice days that ICE wouldn’t be a factor. Surprise! Looks like icing for this trip between Delaware and Vermont will in fact be a big factor – No Go Item.  I’m seeing overcast ceilings from 1500′ to 6100′ with rain in the area and a freezing level down to the surface. Icing, where it occurs, is expected to be moderate. I’m rusty with these forecasts, but re-learning it quickly. After checking it four different times, I let the client know I’d need an airline ticket after all. Bummer!

    Lancaster Avionics is doing the autopilot maintenance and I was talking with them this week. While the autopilot is being worked on, I decided to add a FlightStream 210 to my airplane. I explained that I need to do this in one day – the logistics of my going back and forth is just too painful. Hopefully, by next week I’ll have an autopilot and the new ability to upload and download flight plans from my ipad. Come on guys – let’s get this done!

    Fly Safe!

    Frank

    Comments Off on May 1, 2019 – Aborted Travel

    Apr 25, 2019 – Getting into the Grove!

    April 30th, 2019

    In early April I needed to fly my airplane up for autopilot work. It would be there for a week or so, and then I’d have to go get it and bring it home. The paint shop was scheduled for the end of the month, and the two things together would mark the end of the restoration project. N833DF would be whole again.

    The logistics of moving the airplane around on top of work and home schedules turned out to be a real challenge. Kelly helped me out with the first move. She is an FSI work buddy who flew up to Lancaster to bring me home in her nicely equipped Cessna 150. It really is nice. She got a chance to be reminded what adding a 230# lump to the right seat does to a small airplane, and I got to enjoy a low and slow ride home. I really did enjoy it; particularly the landing in gusting winds. Kelly does a nice job and really helped me out getting this project moving. Thanks! I went to work on the other side of the field, right after she got me back home.

    That same day the paint shop called and said they were ready for my airplane a month earlier than planned. I explained where it was and that I’d get it to them as soon as the autopilot shop work was complete. Kendall Horst is the owner/operator of Lancaster Aero (the paint shop), and gave me the flexibility I needed. No pressure.

    Lancaster Avionics is doing the autopilot work, and they called about a week later to say that the airplane was ready. For this trip I could drive myself up for the test flight; move the airplane to Smoketown, and just UBER back to get my car. That was the plan, anyway. So much easier when you can just do it yourself.

    It was my birthday on April 2nd, and I drove up to do the test flight. The technician and I set out to fly a typical flight pattern he laid out to ensure all of the features of the autopilot system were working. At initial startup, it was obvious that the pitch trim wheel didn’t pass a pre-flight test. No response at all. Sucks to be me – I’d be coming up here again I think.

    The technician, I think his name was Steve, was very professional and safety conscious. I could tell he was knowledgable and appreciated his CRM, even though he wasn’t a pilot.

    We went flying even with the pre-flight failure of pitch trim. In the process, discovering that the rest of the system was working great. Lateral and vertical guidance was available in both level flight and approach mode and without the issues I’d reported. Nice!  No wing rocking and much tighter glide slope tracking.

    I wondered why he couldn’t bench test determine the pitch trim wheel wasn’t working, but didn’t pursue the issue further. At this point, the altitude select wasn’t available, nor was the ability to control pitch directly with the wheel. The work the shop had done was evident in the improved performance, but I was disappointed that more work would be needed. The cost is less important at the moment than the logistical challenges of moving myself and my airplane around.

    Back at the Lancaster Avionics shop, we called Autopilot Central to see if they could service the control head. If not – I had 90% of the functionality of the system already, so that was something. It turns out that the issues with my 1967 autopilot would be addressable, so I left it behind for the shop to ship it out. The unit is still out there now, but has been waiting to be looked at for almost a month. I’m looking forward to getting it back!

    With a hole in my panel now, I left for the paint shop around 11am. Flying the airplane about 5 nm away to Smoketown, I made a long landing with a tailwind on rwy 28 there. I avoid landing east since it is over an obstacle and downhill on a 2700′ strip. No thanks.

    I met with Kendall there and he assured me he’d have N833DF in the hangar shortly after I left. I reviewed one more time what needed to be done. Very exciting to be making progress like this before the summer fully arrived.

    My sister Sue offered to take me to lunch for my birthday, and I had her meet me at Smoketown. Conveniently we had a great lunch at Lancaster Airport, so I could grab my car when we were done. I had a wonderful birthday lunch and managed through more of the travel logistics. The drive home was peaceful, and the wife had even arranged coverage for mom so we could go to dinner.

    Later in the week the paint shop called and told me that the repairs were complete. I talked with several airplane friends to arrange a flight up there to pick it up, but schedules weren’t coming together. Home life is still crazy, so my wife couldn’t drive me up. We are still trapped in our own home taking care of her mom. That means I had to reach out and inconvenience friends to get the job done. Simple tasks that should be easy to accomplish become a monumental effort. Frustrating.

    I have a neighbor – Tom – who has been very nice in helping me out a few times. He is willing to jump in the car to drive me where I need to go, so I ended up reaching out to him. Three hours of round trip driving is allot to ask, but I was out of options. He is not only helping me, but helping Beverly by keeping her out of the logistics.

    The airplane is home now and in the hangar. Then I got myself pretty sick.  High levels of pollen were evident at the start of all this, when the trees suddenly exploded to life all around us. One thing lead to another, and I developed laryngitis and a serious sinus infection by last Saturday. I was miserable and in pain. Antibiotics were prescribed and life improved since I started that regimen, but suddenly reacted to those with some unpleasant side effects I won’t go into here. I’ll survive a few more weeks and pray for several heavy rain storms to knock it all down.

    N833DF is coming along, and so am I. Feeling a little better – allot better actually – but not entirely out of the woods on the allergy thing.  I went flying just yesterday morning and did pretty well holding heading and altitude without the autopilot. I’m still waiting to hear from AutoPilot Central on my repairs. I’m anxious to close that chapter.

    I was scheduled to work beginning around noon, so I pulled the airplane out of the hangar and flew it south early in the morning. There are so many other things I should have been thinking about, like organizing my tools; cleaning the basement; installing deck lights; and even organizing my hangar. I’ve been feeling terrible though, so going flying was what I needed.

    Lots of wind today, but I’m not worried about it. I’ve pretty much returned to fighting trim in basic airplane handling for the PA30 on the first day I returned to flying it. If you’d followed this blog, you know that I flew in challenging conditions from the first test flight.

    The choreography involved with configuring the airplane during the various phases of flight is what I seem to have lost. It is improving, but my ability to stay ahead of the airplane and configure for the next phase of flight smoothly, without thinking about it, is a work in progress.

    In this airplane, you have to get a rhythm and flow to your process to get the aircraft properly configured from takeoff through approach through touchdown without working too hard.

    Lots going on, so there is plenty of content to write about. I’ll get to it later this week or next.

    Fly safe!

    Frank

    Comments Off on Apr 25, 2019 – Getting into the Grove!

    April 3, 2019 – N833DF Path Forward

    April 4th, 2019

    Now that the project work that is zeroing out my remaining squawks is nearing completion, it’s time to start thinking about next steps. Improving the panel and installing engine monitoring.

    The Autopilot work is nearing completion. The Avionics shop told me that if the timing worked out, they’d even drive down to the Smoketown paint shop and re-install the control head for me. Damn nice of them to offer, even though I’m not sure that it will work out that way. The paint repair work may already be complete as I write this.

    Engine Care: I ordered my oil analysis kits this morning from Blackstone Labs. I have about 20 hours left before the next oil change, when I plan to begin this testing.

    The engines are starting and running great. Never better. I have noticed that is difficult to get them sync’d up while they are cold. I figure that this is probably a prop governor showing it’s age, or complaining from the two years of not being used. The vibration concerns I’ve had are gone, and I can attribute those to my re-learning how to sync and manage props.

    Deciding when to replace the engines is not an easy decision, so I purchased Mike Busch’s book on aircraft engine management. I’m holding off for a bit more with getting the engines done, consistent with the preponderance of evidence and advice.  While I had planned to overhaul / replace both engines this year, there is an incredible amount of strong opinions out there talking about overhauling on condition rather than time. As for condition; One A&P will tell you that the wear I found on one cylinder will definitely be present on the other cylinders of the same age on the same engine. Still other A&Ps will tell you that this just isn’t so.

    For now I’ll keep a close eye on them while I keep flying the engines as they are. I’m beginning an oil analysis plan as of the next oil change to get more information, and will be installing engine monitors at the next annual (February). Compression checks and visual inspections of the cylinders (borescope) at each oil change will also be done.

    Engine Monitors: I am considering the JPI EDM 790 for my aircraft. I definitely want better data by cylinder in the hopes of being more aware of my engine health. Fuel consumption and planning would also be a nice addition.

    The plan would be to install the unit during the annual in January/February, which I also plan to participate in. I hope it will be a nice winter project that will get me out of the house and productive in the bitter cold months.

    Full speed ahead.  Fly Safe!

    Frank

    Comments Off on April 3, 2019 – N833DF Path Forward