Name: Frank


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Posts by fdorrin:

    Mar 21, 2020 – Back home and flying

    March 22nd, 2020

    N833DF Engine Break-in coming along!  I have been continuing to fly off the first 10 break-in hours on the engines, while sorting out whatever work remains to get the airplane into fighting condition, and 100% ready for instrument flying.

    Things tend to wear out when you aren’t flying routinely, and this airplane has been down for most of the last three years. I found a few issues and will get those sorted out as we run the engines in. Fresh engines are exciting!!!

    Before we get to that…..

    Everyone is impacted by the virus. Each of us has had some aspect of their lives put on hold or changed measurably. Try to stay positive and grateful for everything in your life. This too shall pass. The financial markets may dictate I continue working for a few more years, assuming that remains an option.

    My good friend Jim just put his plans of upgrading on hold for several months. His airline is asking for voluntary unpaid leave from its employees for up to 3 months, and he decided to take it. His reasoning was to protect himself and his family, and to be there for the parents if need be. Only weeks ago he was planning his Captain upgrade, and now he is taking unpaid leave.

    As for me, I returned home from Savannah G280 training by car on Wednesday morning, March 18th. I canceled a return flight scheduled for the following Friday, and had FSI rent me a one way rental car home. I made the decision to come home more to avoid getting quarantined away from home than out of concerns of getting the virus. I made the decision to drive out of an abundance of caution in protecting my wife and family from exposure for as long as possible. I appreciate the fact that FSI supported both decisions. The thought of leaving my wife home alone to deal with her mom and all this for several more weeks weighed heavily on my mind since this thing started.

    I know I made the right call to come home, but I feel guilty about not following through on the work assignment. Making the right call doesn’t always feel good. The decision was made easier considering that the primary missions were accomplished. I am now initial ground school qualified and have completed my FlightEx flight experience requirement. The only thing I didn’t do was build more time toward becoming a TCE (examiner).

    I learned allot down there from several real experts. I’ll be documenting and applying what I’ve learned mentoring others in Wilmington this week. While there, I’ll take normal precautions and practice social distancing.

    Now for the fun part! N833DF is flying again, now that I’m home. For the last several days, I have been flying the same VFR pattern to the south of Wilmington, DE. Cruising along at only 2000′ and full power.

    Initially I keep the mixtures full rich and cowl flaps closed, but I am growing more concerned that the oil temps never get into the 180 to 200 F range they should be in. Number 4 cylinder on the left engine is the hottest limiting temperature, and I keep a close eye on that one.

    Looking back, there was never enough time to fly it to Savannah. I’m taking all of the pressure off of myself at this point and appreciate that I finally threw in the towel and slowed everything down. Here are just a few of the things that could have bitten me, or could have been one of the other final pushes that caused me not to fly.

    1. After I flew commercial down there, several strong storm fronts moved through over the subsequent days that would have worried me endlessly. N833DF sat would have been on the ramp the entire time.
    2. The right alternator failed on my 2nd or third flight – after I returned from Savannah. Had it failed enroute, I would have struggled to diagnose exactly what had happened. Diagnosing in flight requires a complete electric shut down, including the brand new electronic ignition systems. Considering that I have a wholly new configuration going, I would have been sorely taxed to figure it all out on the fly. Imagine IFR or night with no power and lots of new systems to suspect as the culprit.
    3. The vacuum attitude indicator is clearly close to failure. I didn’t realize this as I was getting ready, but it is clear now that I’m back from Savannah and flying. The last few months of disuse didn’t help it any. I don’t need to stoke anyones imagination as to how an out of practice pilot who is instrument current in jets but not in the PA30 systems might perform. Low approaches would have been a bad idea.
    4. I admit that I have been surprisingly behind this airplane since the first flight with the new engines. I was distracted on the very first takeoff and left the gear down when the fuel flow gauge failed on takeoff. I thought I might toast a new engine for few moments.
    5. The autopilot is working perfectly now, but the failing vacuum AI drives that. I need not elaborate on how this could increase workload.
    6. Engine break-in requires much higher fuel flow and considerably lessens the range. My initial planning didn’t account for that. I verbalized it and knew about it, but didn’t think about it enough to affect range planning in the long term.
    7. The new engine monitor is just that – new to me. It is a distraction and I need time to incorporate it in my scan and learning how to use it.
    8. The new electronic ignition system is new to me. it changes my process and my checklists, and requires a new approach to contingency planning regarding the electric system and the engines.

    What is so crystal clear to me now could not be seen in the blind push to get the project done. Lots of stress trying to gain control over the project instead of pacing myself and accepting delays. The work that was done is impeccable.

    Lessons learned. I’m home now and catching up.  Going flying tomorrow and that will be it before the 10 hour oil change.

    Fly Safe!


    Comments Off on Mar 21, 2020 – Back home and flying

    Feb 21, 2020 – Still Learning

    March 2nd, 2020

    I learned a few things recently that I want to share with PA30 owners. How to re-install a nose bonnet on a PA30 the right way, and how to diagnose an electrical problem caused by a failed alternator (presumably).

    I also want to discuss the risk factors of the flying I’m currently doing by identifying them, and then outlying how each was addressed.

    While this may be intuitively obvious to many of you, these are things I had to relearn in the course of my busy life. Maybe you’ll learn something too.

    Let’s recap how I have gotten to this point….

    FlightSafety: I spent most of the month of January in Dallas, completing my sim qualifications that enabled me to provide initial and recurrent simulator instruction in the G280. My mechanic was traveling for his flying job and I was traveling for mine.

    I was asked by FSI to stay in Wilmington for all of February to provide training in the Astra Jet. The implication is that i’d be spending open days doing self-study in preparation for getting qualified in initial classroom instruction in Savannah. I jumped at the chance to be home all month, and was able to spend quality time with my Beverly.

    The first 3 weeks of the month were lost due to Paul’s schedule. He wanted to be home for the first flight of N833DF, and I was trying to accommodate that.  Finally I got tired of waiting and went with his very professional assistant – Ralph. So much time lost to schedules – his and mine.

    I had been mentally preparing for this first flight for weeks. There is a plethora of advice out there for each of the things with which I had to contend. I read engine books, watched videos, and talked with people I trust to develop a plan of action. Everyone I consulted is confident in their advice, and no one shows any signs of doubt. Not many agree either, and the details of how to actually do what they propose are often sparse. I am alone in my checkbook and alone in my cockpit. It is on me to decide how to proceed.

    Meanwhile, the clock was ticking on my departure to Savannah and I still didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. Time spent with my airplane was time I wasn’t working to get ready to instruct. I desperately wanted to fly myself there, but I needed to get 10 hours and an oil change done before I felt I could do that. Paul’s schedule and my own was making that maddeningly difficult. I was rushed, agitated, and generally stressed. Risk identified.

    The engines and the workmanship are a thing of beauty. I am very happy with the outcome there at this point. Given that every single system has been touched or disturbed in the process, I did my best to lay out a plan of action for a complete or partial engine failure of either side or both. I even thought about what I’d do if I had an abnormal temperature or pressure indications, including which of the instruments would be believed. Precautionary shut-downs were a possibility. I was ready for anything – or so I thought.

    Complicating the matter considerably was the fact that I had to rush each flight by design – to avoid ground run time. Maybe rush isn’t the right word, but it was the result. Increasing the pace of your flying in an airplane you haven’t flown in some time is problematic. Risk identified.

    Breaking in new engines dictates that you minimize ground time, and change your flows and process. Do not cycle the props as you normally would, leave the cowl flaps open for the entire flight, alter the mag check, and learn to include new instruments in your scan. The new electronic ignition system could actually cause a nasty backfire if performed incorrectly. Finally, the EDM 760 engine monitor with all of the bells and whistles was new to me. It would be essential for this flight, and would require significant attention.

    Mistakes were made; I think I mentioned that on the very first flight, the one that carries more risk than most, I allowed myself to be distracted and left the gear down for some time. I had to remember not to close the cowl flaps, so that interrupted my cruise flow to begin with. Fuel pressure on the right engine was normal on takeoff, but the left showed that it was far too lean. I momentarily considered an abort against continuing. The investment I’d made was a factor. I had to do this right.

    On the roll, fuel flow on the old instruments were 8 gph versus 12 gph on the right (as it should be).  If that old gauge was correct, the left engine would burn up if I continued. I was working hard to decide, until I found and focused on the new engine monitors. Button pushing on the roll wasn’t helping. By leaving it alone it finally confirmed that both engines were pulling 12.4 gph. This confirmed that the old indicators were junk by the time I was level in cruise. I was far behind the gear up part of my flow by now, and they stayed out for a while.

    Had an engine failure occurred climbing out, I can only hope I would have reacted appropriately and brought the gear up then. If not, I certainly would have landed straight ahead and trashed a perfectly good airplane. I’d have lived, but what a dumb ass. Move on and learn from it.

    Level in cruise now, the autopilot didn’t work in any mode. It appeared that the work Paul had done adding the new engine monitor had completing disconnected the autopilot. Nothing was working there at all, except heading mode. I’d spent time and money getting it just right last year, and now it was dead when I could really use it. Not good!

    It wouldn’t be until the third flight that I realized the autopilot pitch mode was the only part that stopped working, and I’d had issues with that before. What made me believe that the entire systems was disconnected was that I’d forgotten how the complex system worked. I’ll get pitch mode fixed later, but I started realizing that IMC was a risk I didn’t want to take until I got my act back together in this airplane. Significant risk identified, at least for the proposed flight to Savannah.

    With all that going on, my performance under these conditions disappointed me. I imagined being wired tight and ready for anything. The skill safety margin was not as broad as I imagined, and the luck bucket contributed a bit on the first takeoff.

    Keep moving forward. For the second flight, I vowed not to make that same mistake ever again. Therefore, I’d made some entirely new ones! This time, I left the door unlatched on takeoff. I caught it in time for the climb out, however, and properly secured the door before it popped or the speed prevented it from closing. There goes a perfect flight, and in comes a distraction that led me to leave the fuel pumps on after takeoff.

    The sound from the pumps led me to believe that the door still wasn’t sealed after I leveled off, even though it was. That led me to decide to terminate the flight short of the one hour recommended break-in flight length. I landed at my hangar after only 45 minutes of run time. Safety dictated I do that, but when I realized during the descent flow that the pumps were already on, my ego was further deflated. My luck bucket level is going down. What a dumb ass.

    Clearly, I needed some time to figure out the new engine monitor and learn to fly the airplane again.

    Still, I hadn’t thrown in the towel regarding my plans to fly myself to Savannah! It should have been obvious at this point that I couldn’t get it done safely. Preparing for my class – the first one I’d be doing and one that would last a full 9 days; getting in 10 hours of break in flying; arranging an oil change and the associated vehicle logistics; and then launching for Savannah with a failed autopilot and no recent instrument practice in this airplane. I just wanted the damn engine project done and I couldn’t see beyond that!  It had taken too long and I wanted my airplane back! I didn’t want to fly commercial if I did not have to!

    Launch time: It is a beautiful VFR day with winds that were actually light for the season. I had picked up my new battery minder from Paul’s wife yesterday, and connected it last night. The engine and cabin heaters I’d purchased last year were keeping everything warm. Oil temp was in the mid-50s before I started up this morning. Things looked pretty good.

    Bev had packed me a lunch, and my goal was to get a 3 hour flight in today with no mistakes. I am thrilled to have the airplane in its hangar and to have control over the flying again. The rust is beginning to come off, and I’m feeling better. I’ve re-learned how to use my autopilot and the only single squawk on the airplane is that the autopilot isn’t sending pitch trim signals. It won’t hold altitude, but I can live with that until I get it fixed in the spring.

    Startup is immediate with these new ignitors. I’m ready in no time, even though I still don’t understand what the engine monitor is doing most of the time. The information I need eventually surfaces on the display, and that will have to be good enough for now.

    Yesterday I requested a short taxi and immediate takeoff for the engines. Paul tells me I’m being overly conservative, so today I accept the longer taxi to hold short of 32 on foxtrot.  The warmup time will do them good, and it won’t take too long,

    Holding short of 32, I do the modified runup for the engines and props, and then do the specific mag check. All is well and I contact the tower.

    Tower clears me for takeoff, but at that time I see a flashing BAT on my EDM. I verify low voltage with the older voltmeter, and they agree. Something is wrong.

    My incorrect attempt to diagnose and remedy the situation begins with turning off both of the alternators, then restoring them one at a time. Voltage was dropping into the 11-12v range, and neither alternator was coming online. I tried this several times, and then told tower I’d have to return to my hangar. They cleared me to taxi and I informed them I’d be shutting down my electric system and continue to taxi without comm.

    What could have happened?  The only thing that changed in this perfectly running electric system was the battery minder. I had ordered this and dropped it off while the engines were going in. It was possible that I’d been given the wrong charger, so my first thought was to take the nose bonnet off and visually confirm what battery I had. My logbooks were in Paul’s shop, so physically looking was the best way.

    I removed 100 (maybe 30) stainless screws and the bonnet. Next I removed the safety wire from the battery box and lifted the lid. There I found the Concorde RG-35A 12V SLAB.  Next I looked at the Battery Minder/charger-desulfator Model 128CEC1-AA-SS 12V-8A device. There was a number for support written on it, and I had the chance to speak with an engineer there by the name of Steve. I described my situation, and he quickly confirmed that I had the correct charger for the battery I was using. He went further and gave me his opinion that based on my description, my battery was most likely fine.

    At that point I re-installed the battery box lid and safety wire, and attempted to put the nose bonnet back on. I began to re-install the bonnet at this point, but became incredibly frustrated trying to line up the screw without stripping them. The worry over ground runs, frustration over the systems failure and yet another delay, and the increased pressure of trying to get all these things done that I’d mentioned were simply too much.

    I threw in the towel at this point. I just had a total electrical failure in my airplane – the one with dual alternators and new engines, and that is what it took for me to realize I was trying to do too much too soon. I’m tired, pissed, and frustrated. Let’s slow everything down.

    I let Paul know that I had trouble with the bonnet and that the new screws sucked! I also told him the charger and the battery were good, so that wasn’t it. His point was that a voltage dropping into the 11v – 12v range was abnormal. I know better – it is entirely normal for a loaded SLAB battery to drop voltage linearly and then recover when unloaded. I did the right thing shutting the system down when I did. Look elsewhere for the issue. I had an attitude and it was leaking through.

    Leaving the hangar before I started stripping screws out was the best idea. I closed up and went home for a few days, declaring that I would not be flying my airplane to Savannah. Instead I’d refocus my efforts on FlightSafety and do my best at getting ready to run a classroom full of experienced aviators.

    Learning #1: The next day I returned to the scene of the crime with the bonnet still off. Paul walked me through the process for determining what was going on with the electric system. I started the left engine first. The alternator came on just fine, and the voltage bumped up to 14.2v on both indicators. Next, I started the right engine and both alternators were online. Wow – and ugly intermittent problem would not be good.

    After only a few seconds, the entire electric system dropped off and I was back to Batteries once more. This is when Paul told me that the only way to reset the alternators for an over-voltage relay trip was to remove all volts from the bus. The master switch would have to come off.

    I had already shut down the engines by the time this information came out. What we now knew is that the left alternator was fine longer than the right, so I’d restart the right engine, leave off all the avionics, and see what the voltage did.

    Just what I wanted to do with brand new engines – diagnostic restarts!

    With the right engine running you could see that the voltage started at 12v, but then rose to 15v; back to 12v; and finally to 16.5v where it tripped the voltage regulator.

    Wow! This means that the right alternator is failed (maybe the voltage regulator0 and causing the voltage to spike, thus tripping BOTH alternator over-voltage relays. In flight – I’d would have had to diagnose this by turning off the master switch and resetting each alternator in turn. Just imagine me being this rusty and having to do this while flying an approach into Savannah!

    Mystery solved!  It is worth noting that the only device that was carried forward during this engine project was the alternator that failed. I had directed it’s replacement, but Paul told me that he ran out of time and used it anyway.

    Learning #2: After a few days went by and I addressed some of my other stressors, I tried to figure out a path forward with Paul to get the right alternator fixed and the bonnet back on. Communication is not his strong suit, for sure. I was convinced that the bonnet screws would be a problem he’d have to address, but nailing him down and getting him to come up and fix both issues was a problem.

    Some background that might help you understand my frustration, which turned out to not be justified, will be helpful. Years ago, I had paid Paul to install quarter turn stainless fasteners in the bonnet, at his suggestion. Later he found them to be difficult to use, as did I. I had actually damaged some of receivers to the quarter turn fasteners myself, so I know they were a pain. When he asked me to change them once again to simple screws with back-plates, I agreed. He could do that while the airplane was down.

    Now that I could NOT get the damn bonnet back on I was really pissed. After hearing many suggestions from Paul to get my airplane going again, and not seeing anything actually happen, I decided to go to my hangar and try to get the bonnet on one more time. I was calm now, having made progress at work and home. It would either work, or I’d stop trying until April when my travel was complete and I had more time to address it. If Paul wasn’t available then, I’d get it done in Wilmington.

    It is ironic that I’m writing this on the first day of March, while sitting on the commercial airplane bound for Charlotte and eventually Savannah. I say eventually, because we taxied back to the terminal over an hour ago, and this broken bitch is still getting worked on. The very commercial trip that I was trying hard to avoid is biting me in the ass. It could be worse – but it is funny. Somebody farted an hour ago and I swear they were thinking about evacuating the aircraft.

    Back at the hangar yesterday, the last day of February. The month I hate to fly anyway. I am calm, ready for Savannah (I hope), and appreciative of the fact that I now realize how much better it will be to get back to flying this complex machine at a measured pace.

    The bonnet is resting in place with no screws. I take my time and test each nut-plate to ensure I haven’t already stripped or damaged any. They all appear good. Paul and his wife have been communicating with me this morning, since I told Paul I’m done waiting for him and trying to make this come together. Told him that I’d decided I’ll talk with him again in April, and if not then, I’d get it looked at up here.

    That sparked a back and forth where the three of us tried to transfer hangar keys so he could do it while I’m gone. I considered it, but 2 hours of driving and another 2 of putzing around on the day before I leave would just tick me off further. I declined and continued working my the bonnet.

    At that point Paul and I began texting again. I noted that half of the screws were smaller than the other half, and wanted to confirm where the short ones went. His instructions were as follows:

    • Use the short ones first
    • With the bonnet in position, start at the aft (top) center, then forward (bottom) center.
    • Think of it like putting a wrap on the nose, and work your way out from the center

    I did it the way he described, and it went on smoothly and with no fuss. The nose bonnet is on and the aircraft is now flyable on one alternator.

    We have a plan! To avoid any further ground run time, and to conform to the Penn Yan recommendation, I will launch the airplane for Paul’s airport and fly the break-in pattern for at least an hour before I land.  Paul will have a spare alternator, recently overhauled, ready to swap for the right side.

    Depending on timing and weather, I may fly off the remaining 4 hours of the break-in time and get the oil changed while I’m there. That will give me 30 hours of free run time on mineral oil, just before I go to Dallas again. I’ll fly the snot out of it in April, and maybe get the autopilot pitch issue resolved during that time as well.

    Fly Safe!


    Comments Off on Feb 21, 2020 – Still Learning

    Feb 20, 2020 – Successful 2nd Flight!

    February 21st, 2020

    It’s Thursday morning and I went into work early. The plan was to leave after lunch to go put another two hours on the airplane at full power. I’m feeling a little crunched on time – given what I have left to do. I need to practice the G280 classroom instruction and read; burn off the 10 hours of flying no later than Tuesday; arrange an oil change between Wednesday and Friday (and the logistics around that); work at FlightSafety; and do a jet trip this weekend.

    Let’s think that through after this flight. For now I need to be focused on not making any mistakes.

    No video again today. I won’t add that distraction until I can do everything automatically again; not forget anything; and be smooth in my operation. I’m not there yet.

    Starting out from the hangar, I sought to minimize the ground run time. Both engines fired right up and I taxied out to Echo for the call to ground. Ground cleared me to runway 32, but I came back to them requesting Runway 9. I explained I had new engines; needed to minimize ground time; and they granted Runway 9 with the winds at 320/4. Tower got me right out too!

    Got the gear up on time, but the fuel pumps were left on for two minutes. Still working on getting my groove back. I did notice that the left prop didn’t come up to 2650 on the roll. It finally did by the time I reached 1000′. I did not want to abort for that.

    Lycoming guidance on oil temps was to keep them 180 to 220. With the cold air and cowls open, I haven’t gotten above 160 degrees on these flights. I was nervous about closing the flaps, but did so partially during the flight. Still unable to get to 180 degrees.

    Power was maintained throughout at 26 squared. Smooth operation and a pleasing sound, though it’s hard to be pushing this investment so hard. You gotta do what you gotta do though, so I’ll head out and do it again tomorrow. I had to reduce power occasionally as I was topping out on airspeed – well into the yellow arc.

    CHTs on the #4 cylinder of the left engine are now under 400 degrees, from as high as 420. Temp came down on the hottest cylinder to under 400 in the second hour. Limiting factor was airspeed – top of the yellow at times

    I still have not mastered the EDM 760. It is still doing whatever it wants and I can only generally influence it. I’ll do a training video on that once things are normal.

    About 10 minutes into the flight I realized that I had forgotten just how to get the autopilot into NAV tracking mode. All the new stuff I’d learned on other airplanes pushed that penguin right off my iceberg. It took me another 5 minutes to remember that heading mode is the default, and you hit GNSS on the Aspen PFD to engage NAV. How could I have forgotten that?!

    Wow. What else have I forgotten?  Am I really ready for a surprise instrument approach in this machine that cruises at 172 kts? Maybe not.

    So now I realize that Paul did not disturb anything at all related to the autopilot. The NAV mode works fine, but it is the Pitch mode that doesn’t work again. It may come back on it’s own, but I’ll take it up to Lancaster Avionics in the spring. Lack of use kills it I think.

    I’m stepping back and slowing down now. Looking at the time remaining, I can’t see how I can get this flight time in and arrange the logistics around an oil change before I leave for Savannah on the first. Remember – I have to study and prepare on top of everything else. Weather has to cooperate. Travel plans have to be secured.

    I did see that XM weather is working and the FlightStream 210 also works well. The traffic display on the Garmin and on the iPad was invaluable today; particularly around Delaware Airpark.

    The route I followed was based on the Smyrna VOR (ENO) and several waypoints that generally defined an area south of the C&D canal and north of Dover AFB. I requested flight following from Dover when I crossed the canal. I should mention that Wilmington tower had set me up with Philly when they heard what I was doing, but I declined thinking that it would be easier just talking with Dover.

    As it turns out, the area I chose had me switching from Dover to Potomac to Philly for flight following. I was inconveniencing everyone as I went around. After heading back to Dover, I canceled flight following with Philly and just let Dover know I was in the area listening, but did not want further flight following. That seemed to work well, giving me another set of eyes in busy airspace. He did call me out as traffic to the SP Helicopter, and i chimed in that I had a visual on him.  Worked fine.

    I put my airplane away with the heaters and the battery minder, and then went home to prepare for Savannah. After dinner, I talked about the planned flight with Bev and voiced my concerns over time pressure and my inability to do any practice approaches before I left. I would only be doing full power VFR runs up to that point.

    I convinced myself that the airplane might be ready, but I am not. I’m either going to take the Harley to KSAV, fly commercial, or drive. I’m happy to have my airplane home, but I’m working to hard on too many things to do any of them well.

    Todays Flight: The new engines are so very cool!  I talked with Paul about the low oil temps, and he tells me to fly it like I normally would. The cowl flaps will be closed today, and I’ll do full power runs and watch CHTs and OIL.

    I do a jet trip over the weekend, and then it’s all Savannah prep next week. I can’t come up short down there. Nope.

    When I get home I’ll be able to start doing practice approaches. Looking forward to getting back in the grove in N833DF.



    Comments Off on Feb 20, 2020 – Successful 2nd Flight!

    Feb 19, 2020 – Successful Return to Flight!!

    February 20th, 2020
    First Flight: Lots of new things going on in the airplane. New equipment; major maintenance; all new procedures and several modified ones just for the break-in period. The fact that I haven’t touched a light airplane since July makes me acutely aware.

    Last night I went over all my notes and summarized my plan of attack for the next day. This summary was just for me, but I’ll share some of it with you.

    Paul sent me instructions on how to do the mag check; what to expect; and what not to do. I now had an instruction sheet to take with me for this unique procedure.

    I watched a video on the EDM760 monitoring and it seemed easy enough. Downloaded the user manual and declared myself ready.

    As the sun went down, I spent an hour deciding how I’d set three video cameras up to record this momentous occasion. I had purchased a mount for my phone, since having a backup Attitude indicator isn’t a bad idea. That activity kept me busy, even though I expected not to be starting any cameras in the morning. I didn’t think I needed another distraction. As it was, I still had unanswered questions:
    1. How much fuel was in the airplane as of now?
    2. How would I move it to the fuel pumps if I did need gas?
    3. How much fuel should I carry?
    4. Should I fly it for two hours, or just one? If there was a leak – one would be better.
    Arriving at the airfield – 33N. It turns out that the airplane was not in the hangar last night. Good thing that it’s 42 degrees outside, or I wouldn’t have started the engines after being cold-soaked. It would have been nice to know this ahead of time. Communication frustration. I communicate effectively, but folks aren’t hearing me. They also have distractions.

    Ralph is a mechanic Paul uses. He participated in the installation of my engines and associated systems and is meticulous. He was there to meet me and support the launch and post flight inspection. Lots of respect for him, and I very much appreciate him being there. He had no concerns this morning and asked if I had any questions. We reviewed my plan and discussed it at length.

    I would be doing an abbreviated run-up based on the sheet Paul had given me. You can see the original sheet at right. I decided to do the prop cycles (2 of them) at 2000 RPM.

    Next, I’d set the power (one engine at a time) to 1700 RPM and slight lean the mixture for a sign of a slight rise. I did see one, and it was slight.

    Turn off the LEFT MAG first and observe a 150 RPM drop. The left mag is the normal magneto ignition system. Turn the LEFT MAG back on and wait several seconds for the RPM to recover.

    Turn off the RIGHT MAG first and observe little or no RPM drop. The right mag is the electronic ignition system. Turn the RIGHT MAG back to complete the mag check.

    Skip the feather check until the engines are broken in.

    Repeat for the other engine.

    This would be an expedited takeoff. I need to minimize the low power runtime on these engines until they are broken in. Expediting anything comes with its own risks, namely forgetting something important in the ensuring haste. It also means breaking tried and true flows that I’m used to. I should have spent more time pondering this, as it ended up biting me twice.

    Ralph had recommended a static power check for takeoff. Both props should give me 2650 or better before I released the brakes. I took the runway ahead of landing traffic on 2 mile final – quickly and only after getting her permission. Props came up full and the engines sounded mean. I released the brakes and surged down the runway.

    My scan of the instruments was all over the place, but I landed on the original fuel flow gauge. The right engine was showing 12 gph, but the left only 8 gph. If the left fuel controller was failing, that engine might exceed temp limits holding full power. I decided to continue, but it cost me seconds of concentration. There was no asymmetric thrust.

    Approaching Vr, the Number two nav display went out. I don’t need it at the moment, but what else was missed? Distractions.

    Back to the engines: They felt strong and were holding consistent indications on the old gauges. My eyes went to the EDM 760 and I saw 12.4 GPH showing briefly for the left, and 12.5 GPH for the right. Clearly the engines were fine. Let that go.

    Leveling off at 2000′, I had to remember NOT to do my flow and leave the cowl flaps OPEN. I went back to scanning the instruments and watching for traffic. I had been distracted from raising the gear, and didn’t even realize it. They stayed out for quite awhile.

    Had I had an engine failure on takeoff, I would have landed straight ahead if I had not realized my oversight. I had increased my risk by missing this key item. Rookie mistake.  I will continue to beat myself up on this one as we go.

    At this point I updated my Garmin flight plan successfully from the iPad. Then I engaged the autopilot and it didn’t track NAV at all. Now this is the same autopilot that I spent time and money tuning up just before the engines.

    If flew the airplane for an hour, eventually getting the gear up. Number four cylinder on the left side had the highest CHT around 430F at times, but mostly 420F. Ralph checked it as good.

    Logistics: I called my neighbor Tom at the last minute to see if he could bring me from Wilmington back to Smyrna to get my car. I sure as hell could have arranged all this ahead of time, but I could not get these folks to commit or communicate. Very frustrating. It worked out that Tom could do it, so I launched to fly it home and would return for my car later in the day.

    Another run-up and expedited static power takeoff. This time I didn’t get the door fully latched, but I did get the gear up. I realized the door was not fully sealed as the speed built, but managed to latch it fully before it might have opened. I got the door closed fully, but by the time I leveled off I could still hear air leaking from the seal. An open door in a PA30 creates significant tail vibrations and is unpleasant at best. I weighed the risks of the door popping open against making this a short flight. I decided to head directly to Wilmington, while keeping the power up as much as possible. I  eventually had to raise the nose the get the gear down, but it is what it is. Less than ideal.

    Upon landing I realized that the air sound coming from the door was actually the fuel pumps I’d left on after takeoff. Screwing with my flows after not flying for so long isn’t going well. Not real proud of myself. I am confident that all these flaws will be sorted out before the next flight on the 21st – later today as I write this.

    On the ground at Wilmington, I hurried the taxi and shut down at my hangar.

    The autopilot is a disappointment. Just spent money fine tuning that before the engine work. I know something had to have been disturbed while the engine monitors went in, but I don’t expect to get any buy-in on that theory from Paul. I’ll end up back an Avionics shop in Lancaster where I’ll have to listen to a negative description of the work that was just done while writing them a new check. I’ve seen and heard these songs so many times before.
    The engine work that was done is sound and impressive, from what I’ve seen thus far. I’ll get the autopilot working again, but probably not before Savannah. Unless of course it is something simple like a plug not being re-engaged. Wishful thinking.

    As for Savannah. Progress was made. I need 9 hours on the airplane before the oil change in order to go. Possible, but will be hard to do. The autopilot would have been nice to have for the trip, given I haven’t flown this since last July. I’ll have to seriously weigh whether or not I’m up to the task, given that low weather will cancel me anyway. Being March doesn’t help, as I expect some winter action to be coming.

    Riding the Harley to Savannah is my backup plan. I am happy either way, just to have N833DF back in my hangar.

    Heading to work for the morning. Flying later today (21st)

    Fly Safe!

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    Feb 18, 2020 – Flying in the morning!!

    February 18th, 2020

    Test Flight Scheduled for 9am tomorrow morning.

    New procedures being reviewed for the run-up and mag check using the new electronic ignition.

    Paul is still on the road, but Ralph also worked on the airplane and is available.

    Fly 2 hours and inspect.  Fly another 8 hours to an oil change.

    Barring any issues surfacing during the flying – Savannah is still on the table.

    Fly safe….   More to follow.



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    Feb 11, 2020 – Dying Inside!!

    February 11th, 2020

    Ok – so the title is a little melodramatic. I am sitting here in my living room looking out on the C&D canal over my beautiful deck. That very desk is bathed in soft blue accent lighting, and covered completely with an inch of water. More rain is coming down, making the deck look like a pool in the early morning darkness. Visibility in the area is around 2 sm this morning. The ceilings are less than 800′ overcast. This is definitely NOT the weather I need for testing my airplane. Well, Shit!  I knew this last night and canceled then.

    The weather will be clear tonight, and just wonderful tomorrow. That only rubs salt in my wounds and doesn’t help one me one damn bit. Starting tomorrow I will need to be at work by 10 am every day through the weekend. My mechanic has another 747 trip to do starting Thursday. It seems that I cannot catch a break, and will not be able to try again until NEXT Tuesday. I hate February, scheduling, and waiting.

    I had a conversation with one of my clients yesterday concerning this first flight. He reminded me that I’d be a full power for an hour; down low at 2000′. He said that It might be a good idea for me to also wait for a calm wind day so that turbulence doesn’t rattle my teeth out. Oh how I hate February weather. He is right, but I’ll be going if the winds are 20 knots or less. Try keeping me on the ground.

    I am aware of putting pressure on myself to complete the flight regardless. I canceled yesterday afternoon to address this risk; I write this blog to verbalize my frustration; and I’ll make the right call when it comes down to it. I’m venting here…..   can you tell?

    So I’m going to work instead today, to practice classroom teaching to an empty room. As I mentioned yesterday, I need to be ready for Savanna and for new clients in June. There is allot of work to do before I can seem comfortable with all this material.

    Lunch today with my son Chris will ease the frustration. I’m having a hard time with this. I want this project to be over with. I want to fly myself to Savannah in March. I want my airplane in the hangar I’ve been paying for.

    Patience Frank.  Patience.

    Fly Safe!   I’ll be at work.


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    Feb 9, 2020 – Exciting Developments

    February 9th, 2020

    Note of appreciation: Josh and others. Thank you for the feedback I’ve been getting on this blog. It is encouraging to see that what I write occasionally has value. 

    What a really great week! In the month where I normally curtail my flying and hunker down to wait for spring, I’m actually ramping up aviation activities.

    N833DF is coming back Tuesday! Naturally, it is currently forecast to rain well into the afternoon. The opportunity to get this flight and inspection done that day is in question, and rescheduling it to meet our respective schedules may be a challenge this week. Once again I’ll have to control my deep desire to get the flight done now, balancing the weather risks against schedules. Further delays are possible.

    Actually being able to fly will be a last minute decision. I’m booked through the weekend otherwise, and won’t be able to fly during daylight easily. Acknowledge the pressure, verbalize the risk, and defer the flight if I have to.

    I’m exceedingly happy that the airplane will be ready to go, in any event. I’ll be ecstatic when I can see it in my hangar and available for my personal use. So exciting!

    I want to use the airplane to fly to KSAV for work in March. There will be an inspection after the first flight, but no oil change after the initial break-in flight. If I can get the flight in Tuesday, I can fly off the entire 10 hours this weekend. Then I’ll schedule an oil change with Paul, and be able to fly it to KSAV and back with fresh oil.

    Westwind Flying: The planned flight earlier this month was canceled. The airplane was in for ADS-B at the last minute, and it wasn’t completed on time. It is apparently ready now, and I understand that I’ll get a call for one last flight in it later this month.

    G280 Opportunity: I am very excited at the prospect of developing a new opportunity to contract fly in the GulfStream 280 aircraft. My friend who has been contracting me in the Westwind is transitioning to a new company that just purchased a G280. As a result, he requested me as his instructor for himself and his co-workers. I’ve scheduled myself to work with him and his teammates in June.

    I have no idea wether or not they’ll ever need contract pilots, nor wether or not they’d even consider using me as opposed to pilots they are familiar with. I do know I have made a good impression on my friend. Now I’m going to work very hard to impress the hell out of these guys he works with, and maximize a potential opportunity.

    What a cool synergy having this turn of events amplify my motivation to learn and practice how to instruct in both the classroom and sim for this new jet. I think I have the sim stuff down already, as I’ve said before, but practicing the classroom delivery to an empty room has been boring. I’m on it now though! This beautifully timed motivation will be great for me, wether or not I ever get to contract fly with these clients.

    Improved schedule for February: The Astra team needed some help this month, and asked my current boss to borrow me. I’m current and a TCE in that airplane, so he asked me if I was interested. I really wanted to be home more than I’ve been, and told him I’d never pass up a chance during this training to be home more. Training in the Astra would be fine for now, and I could practice the G280 on the available days up north.

    He set all that up for me, and went further by arranging my March training to be in Savannah instead of DFW. There is just a little more to the story, considering that DFW had some conflicts with bringing me back down in March anyway. What I saw, however, was a program manager who went out of his way to motivate me to continue my progress by meeting as many of my needs as his could while manage his program effectively.

    Opportunity to train in Savannah instead of DFW: Providing training in Savannah instead of DFW will be a nice change for me, and my boss knew it. Working in KSAV means I can fly myself down and back, avoiding commercial flying while enjoying my beautiful Twin Comanche. My boss is working to arrange a break in the training schedule that will allow me to fly home for 4 days. I see it as a significant break. I’m flying home to break up my time away; getting to spend some time with my wife; and using my airplane like I’ve been wanting to.

    My boss earned major points on all of this. If it ends up not working out the way it is currently planned – I’m ok with that too. I really like the fact that he took the time to do this for me.

    Motivation: I said this earlier in this post, but I’m still amazed at the timing of the news that my Westwind friend is becoming my G280 friend. My motivation had been waning working solo to prepare for delivering voluminous classroom training. Couple that with the frustrations of trying to get my own airplane moving and the times I’ve been away from home down in DFW.

    I am in a very good place mentally to get this work done. This summer will be amazing.

    Fly Safe!


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    Jan 30, 2020 – Success is Inevitable

    February 1st, 2020

    Success is inevitable – if you don’t give up…..

    N833DF is ready to go! I haven’t flown it yet because my A&P had a medical issue at the last minute. His wife told me about it, and that the airplane is finished. Presuming that is accurate, my airplane and paperwork are locked in his hangar until he could get there. The break-in flight I’d so been looking forward to and preparing for will have to wait. My level of patience is matched only by my frustration.

    Paul’s wife Kamal told me that the airplane is all done, so I’m assuming that the new left mixture cable has been installed, the annual completed, and the engine projects wrapped up. I’m also assuming that the paperwork is done, but it might not be. Hopefully there is nothing left to do but fly.

    Of course I’ll be kept on edge until I confirm that with Paul, but I won’t call him while he is recovering. This delay costs me another 10 days of waiting since I’m leaving on a westwind trip. I will now be at least the second week of February before I get to fly my airplane,

    G280 Training has progressed nicely. I was signed off to instruct sims for both recurrent and initial clients. Also completed HUD and EVS training which was pretty cool. Next up is classroom that was scheduled for another trip this month, but there is good news there. Really good news.

    Turns out that we need Astra instructors up north this month, after one of our guys got sick. That cancels my February trip. On top of that, DFW has hired new people there that are competing for training slots we were set to use. I may be headed to Savannah for my March quality assessment in classroom instruction. I look forward to a break from DFW and plan to fly myself down and back instead of relying on the airlines. Good news all around.

    Westwind review: I’m giving myself a review of the Westwind this morning, to prepare for the upcoming trip. While I’m on the trip, I’ll review the Astra instruction plans I haven’t used for awhile, to prepare for doing that later in the month.

    N833DF Test Plan: I’ll post an outline of my flight planning for breaking in the new engines in an upcoming post. I’ve read allot and collaborated with a number of folks on this. I’ll sketch out what my plans are and see if anyone has any further suggestions.

    Fly safe.


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    Jan 21, 2020 – Four Airplanes

    January 21st, 2020

    Hey everyone. I’ve been really busy instructing – guiding discovery really – in the Gulfstream G280 these past few days. I have the rest of the week to wrap this up, when I’ll transition into four days of HUD training for myself.  That is one of the airplanes I’ll be flying and playing with.

    When I get home, I’ll be breaking in my engines for N833DF. The annual has been completed, engines and the accessories (including re-overhauled fuel controller) are all back in. My only lingering concern is the availability of the left mixture cable I have trouble with, but that is to have been delivered today. Work on replacing that cable commences tomorrow, and I’ll be expecting to go flying when I go home.  That is the second airplane I’ll be flying and I’m so looking forward to it.

    I was contacted yesterday to gauge my interest in a Westwind trip early February. I talked with Bev and thought it was important for me to do it. Bev does what Bev does. She always supports me and I decided to go flying. This is a strong contact and I want to keep doing it. I haven’t been in a Westwind since we retired the simulator at FSI some months back, so I’m reviewing the books on the airplane. This is the third airplane I’ll be flying over the next few weeks.

    Today I hear that an Astra crew is coming in for training after Westwind trip, and one day of their training remains uncovered. I volunteered to do this if no one else steps up. That would be my fourth airplane to be dealing with and studying over the next few weeks.

    When it rains it pours.

    Fly safe!


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    Jan 12, 2020 – Anticipation Update

    January 12th, 2020

    Yesterday Bev and I had the chance to get out of the house for a few hours. We were trying to figure how how to make a nice romantic day out of it, but realized we’d have to have her back home by 4pm. Then I thought about doing a nice lunch somewhere. Finally, it occurred to me that this really was all about her – getting her out to do something fun for just a few hours.

    I decided to take her to Dover Downs for a few hours to have some fun. I don’t like gambling at all really, except maybe low stakes poker. Rather than stare over her shoulder, I figured she’d have more fun exploring on her own. I dropped her off at noon with a promise to keep myself busy until 2:30. We’d grab a quick bite on the ride home.

    N833DF Update: It was Bev’s idea to stop over at the airport, and it sounded like a plan to me. I dropped her off and drove back north for 10 minutes to 33N airport. Paul and Ralph were there, working on a beautiful Comanche 260. My airplane was sitting out while they worked, but will go back inside before the end of the day.

    I learned that Penn Yan did indeed find a problem with the right fuel controller; overhauled it correctly this time, and sent it back. The repaired unit is now installed and the only thing left is the left mixture cable and the annual sign-off. Both A&Ps are dreading installing the cable, and the cable itself is on back order. I pray that the airplane will be ready when I get home. I’m running low on patience. I very much want winter to be over; travel to end; and flying my airplane to begin.

    GoPro and vlogging: I purchased a GoPro Hero 8 camera to add to my collection. That collection now includes the Hero 4, Hero 8, Chinese knockoff, and of course, my phone. I am looking forward to documenting the break in process and capturing another return to flight series.

    In order to get ready, I spent some time configuring mounts, installing one on my relatively new motorcycle helmet, and assembling a microphone attachment from parts I pieced together. I recorded a few thoughts on my way to work the other morning, and used the Filmora 9 video editing software to publish it out to YouTube. The project kept me occupied for an afternoon, and was fun to do. Enjoy the resulting VLog embedded below:

    Fly Safe!


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