Sunday, December 13, 2009

That Wasn't So Bad!

Flight conditions for the trip on Friday evening from KBDR to KVKX were about as anticipated. Clear skies and prodigious winds out of the west-northwest. But except for a little turbulence climbing out from KBDR that might have risen to "moderate", and a few minutes of light chop near Baltimore, the flight was smooth. Slow but smooth.

For the most part I was looking at ground speeds in the mid-80's to low-90's of knots on the westbound legs (i.e., KBDR to SAX and SBJ to ETX). At one point, just before turning south near Reading, PA the ground speed dropped below 80 knots for a couple of minutes. That's about a 55 knot headwind component. In general, though, the more southerly bits of the trip went quite a lot quicker. Total tach time was 2.9 hours which is nowhere near a record. The weather was fine, I had a quick visual approach to land at KVKX, and ATC helped here and there with shortcuts to speed me on my way.

And now, a word about pre-heat systems...

I'd like to add here an unsolicited testimonial for the engine pre-heat systems supplied by Tanis Aircraft. N631S came to me with a Tanis TAS-100 system installed on the Continental O-470U engine. It is comprised of individual resistance heating elements installed in the temperature probe wells of five of the six cylinder heads and a pad heater attached to the engine block. (There's no cylinder head heater on the #3 cylinder because its probe well is occupied by the thermocouple for the original equipment CHT gage, which must remain installed and functional. This is fine because the #3 cylinder heats satisfactorily by conduction from the rest of the heater array.) When the Tanis system is connected to 110v AC power it nicely heats the engine in a couple of hours to facilitate starting in cold weather.

Friday afternoon brought the first actual cold weather start of the season, with sub-freezing temperatures at KBDR. I asked the line crew at Three Wing Flying Services to plug in N631S's Tanis after lunch, which they did. When I got to the airplane and turned the key it started as readily as if it were a warm spring day.

I've had lots of opportunities to thrash around with propane fired pre-heaters and I am fully convinced that an electric engine pre-heater (of which the Tanis system is a fine example) is one of the greatest blessings that can come to a pilot who has to start an airplane in the cold. Just make certain that you tie down within extension cord range of AC power!

Tomorrow is looking flyable!

It's raining fairly steadily here in Virginia as I write this, but it's supposed to stop by about 00Z. The forecast for tomorrow morning at 12Z is calling for a few low clouds and a scattered layer at 5,000 feet along most of the route up to Connecticut. Best of all, the freezing level is expected to be above 9,000 feet MSL almost all the way to JFK. So, it appears that a nice IFR flight can be planned.

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