Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some trips are interesting...some not so much!

Last weekend fell into the "not too interesting" category, as the only thing worthy of comment about the round trip was the southwesterly wind aloft. I got a quick trip up Tuesday morning, and I got to enjoy aviating for a long time on the preceding Friday afternoon.

The weekend ahead is shaping up, at this writing (Wednesday morning), to be more interesting for my weekly trip to the DC area. The forecast map for Friday morning looks like this:

The warm front is expected to go by here in Connecticut over Thursday evening. We'll be in the warm sector, so presumably flight conditions aloft by late Friday afternoon may be wet but shouldn't be icy. Here's the forecast for 9,000 MSL temperatures at 00Z Friday evening:
Finally, the winds at 6,000MSL are forecast to look like this:

All in all, a flyable evening looks to be in store.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Panel

A look at N631S's instrument panel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An experiment in mobile photo blogging...

This is an experiment.


The above photo and line of text was posted directly from my mobile phone (I'm adding this comment in a later edit). Ain't technology wonderful? Now as I wander around and see neat aviation-related stuff, I can immortalize it here via a post-on-the-go. The method involves creating a "picture message" and sending it to an e-mail address specified by the nice Blogger folks. I think I like it!

Monday, April 20, 2009

It was an interesting morning...

The weather turned out to be pretty much as forecast. I got off the runway at KVKX at 0724 in moderate rain and climbed through an 800 foot overcast to hard IMC at 5,000 MSL. Conditions improved after Dover to where I was between layers and by the time I was talking to McGuire Approach, the underlying clouds were scattered.

Bridgeport had a scattered-to-broken layer at 1,000 feet. They had the ILS 6 on offer, circling to land on 11 (due to winds from 100 at 18 knots).

The hardest part of the whole flight was getting the cover on the airplane in the 18 knot breeze.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Should Be an Interesting Morning!

Tomorrow morning's plan is to depart KVKX as close to 0730 local as I can arrange. I anticipate getting wet. The TAF for Washington National looks like this:

KDCA 192328Z 2000/2024 11010G20KT P6SM -RA SCT050 OVC080
FM200500 10012G20KT 5SM -RA BR BKN012 OVC040
FM201000 07010G20KT 4SM -RA OVC008
FM201400 10010G20KT 5SM -RA OVC012
FM201830 15012G20KT 3SM SHRA VCTS BKN015CB
FM202300 15010KT 5SM -RA BR OVC010

At the time of interest, light rain and an overcast at 800 feet, four mile visaibility and an east wind at 10 knots with gusts to 20.

For arrival, two hours later at KBDR, here is the forecast:

KBDR 192324Z 2000/2024 11010KT P6SM FEW060 SCT120 BKN250
FM200600 10009KT P6SM SCT060 OVC120
FM201200 09013G21KT P6SM SCT025 OVC080
FM201500 09015G24KT 6SM -RA SCT025 OVC050
FM201700 09018G27KT 4SM -RA OVC025
FM201900 09020G28KT 2SM RA OVC015
FM202100 09017G27KT 2SM RA OVC008

For arrival about 0930 local, wind from the east (favoring Runway 6) at 13 knots with gusts to 21, better than 6 miles visibility, a scattered layer at 2,500 and overcast at 5,000.

The freezing levels throughout the route are forecast to be at from 8,000 MSL in the south sloping to about 6,000 MSL in the north. I have filed for 5,000 up along the New Jersey coastal route and over KJFK.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Annual Inspection (VII)

Nobody ever claimed that flying GA aircraft is an inexpensive pastime. As posted on previously, N631S recently came out of annual at Three Wing Flying Services and the bill has arrived. As these things go, it isn't too bad -- all up, about $5,000.

Appendix D to Title 14 CFR 43 specifies exactly what your A&P-IA needs to inspect in an annual inspection. Most shops have a flat rate (varying with aircraft type) for the inspection and in the case of Three Wing they provide for 17 hours (at $85/hour) to perform this task on a Cessna 182. But there are a variety of additional work items that many people think of as "part of" the annual -- and they aren't! The annual is just what Part 43 says it is; no more and no less.

So a bunch of routine items get accounted for and charged separately, such as...

  • Inspect, clean, gap and rotate the spark plugs -- 1 hour
  • Check magneto timing -- 0.4 hour
  • Service and inspect filters -- 1.6 hours
  • Lubricate all flight controls -- 1.5 hours
  • Service tires, battery and brake reservoir -- 0.6 hour
  • Inspect, clean and lubricate landing gear and wheel bearings -- 2.6 hours

This brings us to 24.7 hours (plus $45 worth of parts). Then there's the oil change, which is another 1.5 hours and $115 in supplies, parts and consumables.

And then there are 3.3 hours to research and verify accomplishment of AD's (including three that just needed to be shown to be "NA").

It's probably more clear to think of the cost breaking down along these lines:

  • Annual inspection...$1,445
  • AD compliance check...$280
  • Annual maintenance...$700
  • Oil change...$260

That adds up to $2,685 before we actually "fix" anything! This time around the "fixing" went like this:

  • Service the ELT...$105
  • Repair a cylinder baffle and clear wire chafes...$170
  • Inspect and repair right magneto...$765
  • Replace expander boot in carb inlet air duct...$600
  • Repair cracks in plastic and fiberglass...$125
  • Miscellaneous minor repairs...$300

Add in about $300 for inspection of repair items and final runup and leak check, and, well, that's how it becomes a $5,000 affair.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On the Train Again

The forecast for a late afternoon departure isn't all that bad:

KBDR 101120Z 1012/1112 VRB05KT P6SM FEW100 SCT250
FM101600 19008KT P6SM BKN080 BKN250
FM102100 12008KT P6SM SCT040 BKN080 OVC250
TEMPO 1021/1101 5SM -RA SCT030 OVC080
FM110100 06010KT 4SM -RA BR BKN016 OVC030
TEMPO 1102/1106 2SM RA BR OVC010
FM111000 01010KT P6SM OVC015

For the time of interest (about 2100Z) it looks like layered clouds with periods of light rain (the TEMPO group) accompanied by lower ceilings and reduced visibility. Still, nothing too bad.

The freezing level plot is not comforting:

But for me the DCA terminal forecast is the decision-maker. Here it is:

KDCA 101131Z 1012/1112 13005KT P6SM SCT090 BKN150
FM101600 17009G15KT P6SM SCT040 BKN150
FM101900 19011G18KT P6SM BKN050CB BKN120
FM110200 03008KT P6SM VCSH BKN030 OVC050
FM110600 04010G14KT 5SM -RA OVC015

For the period of interest (about 2330Z) I'd be looking at gusty southerly surface winds and cumulonimbus clouds at 5000 feet (that's the BKN050CB).

Put it all together: IFR departure, risk of icing enroute, chance of convective activity on arrival in the gathering dusk -- on the whole I opt for Amtrak.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I Never Liked That Dog

I liked the previous dog a lot better. This one's predecessor was Raggs, a terrier-lhasa cross that was brave and true and, if truth be known, not all that clever. But I hold strongly to the belief that intelligence is highly overrated in dogs. Raggs was with us for 16 years, and when he came to the end of his run (and a good run it was), I got to take him for that last ride in the car to the vet. No question that it was time, but...hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

It was hard enough that I was seriously opposed to another dog -- but I got outvoted, and in the spring of 1995 Henry came to be with us. He's a bichon frise but we got him cheap because he's defective. The breed standard calls for an entirely white dog and Henry is a very nice buff/apricot color. Pretty but very wrong. So he was on sale at half-price, and so he came home with us.

About the name. It seems that the bichon frise clan was the preferred dog in the court of King Henry II of France -- well before the Revolution. So, Henry was named for his ancestral royal patron, and he quickly adopted a suitably Parisian attitude. Henry and I have had a cordial disagreement for fourteen years over which of us was the Alpha Male. He weighs twelve pounds on a good day but that doesn't impinge on his royal certitude.

He is not what you'd call a "nice dog". He barks at other dogs, regardless of size, he snarls at people who initially think he is "cute", and he has bitten me on a couple of occasions. His "mom", of course, can do no wrong.

Having Henry around has never been dull. He had his fourteenth birthday last March 15th -- we had a little observance, and he got a fraction of a cupcake out of the deal. But that's a long time in dog years. A while ago we were warned by Henry's vet that he had a heart "murmur" and that someday it would be a problem for him. Well, "someday" came around a week ago last Saturday. We had some folks over for a party, and our never-fully-socialized Henry got all spun up and suffered a severe seizure due to congestive heart failure. He lost consciousness and we really thought we were losing him, but he got up and shook it off -- albeit with very labored breathing. He passed a quiet Sunday and went to the vet on Monday. They kept him to administer industrial strength diuretics in order to clear his lungs, then sent him home with prescriptions for Lasix and a cardiac med.

Weird stuff happens. We were supposed to give Henry 1/2 a Lasix tablet each day -- but the veterinarian had intended that to be 1/2 of a 20 mg tablet but the pharmacy dispensed 50 mg tablets. So our 11 pound dog was heavily overdosed with the strong diuretic. After a brief improvement, he stopped eating and his condition deteriorated to the point where we brought him back to the vet Saturday in a state of despair over his health.

They did blood work and called us with "alarming" news -- Henry was suffering kidney failure. His BUN and creatinine numbers -- indicative of kidney function (or lack thereof) were very bad. Dehydration had taken a toll. This was a very hurtin' puppy. The ER vet explained that normally they would flush as much fluid through the animal as possible to wash the toxins out of the kidneys -- but this would probably push him into heart failure. All they could do was to start him on a slow fluid flush for 48 hours and hope for the best.

As I said to begin with, I never liked this dog. Didn't want him in the first place. So, would someone please explain why I was (a) continually on the verge of tears, and (b) spending enough money to make this the most expensive dog per pound in the Commonwealth of Virginia? I was in an advanced state of despair. Then my wife, the lovely Patricia, said, "Don't write him off yet...he's a stubborn little bugger." Right! That's our Henry. We would just have to see what developed.

We promised each other that if Henry didn't show real progress by Monday we'd let him out of here. I knew that was our final responsibility as his protectors. I tried to get used to the idea that he was going to die in my arms, but that wasn't going to make any of it any easier.

On Saturday, Henry's blood urea nitrogen (BUN) value was 180. Normal is around 45. Scary. When we talked to the vet on Monday his BUN was down to 96 and he was livelier and had eaten a bit. This is good! At noon today his BUN was down to 50. Maybe...just maybe...the immediate crisis is ending.

He is still an old dog. Maybe we've bought him a year. I want very much to see him enjoy this spring and the coming summer. I want him to warm his old bones in the sun on our deck. And if, six months or a year from now, his heart and kidney problems recur, we'll let him go.

Pat and Richard (our son) brought Henry home tonight. He seems alert. He is on three medications and has a number of follow-up appointments scheduled. One day at a time.

I never liked that dog...but I do love him.

The Best Kind of Flight

After an extra day at home in Virginia, this morning's flight north was uneventful and enjoyable. I got an early start and was opening the hangar by 0650. It took 45 minutes to pre-flight, load the baggage compartment, collect my clearance from Potomac Approach, pull N631S out of the hangar, put the car into the hangar, lock up, start up and taxi for departure. Wheels were off the runway at 0735.

The world was lovely at 7,000 MSL. But, as usual, Dover Approach gave me a descent to 5,000 just before crossing Delaware Bay -- which had me skimming the tops of the scattered layer. I asked the controller why the descent was necessary and he advised that any northbound aircraft on V16 going beyond JFK was required to be at 5,000. It's a "Preferred Routing" thing (otherwise expressed as, "There isn't any reason -- it's just policy.")

With the helpful tailwind, I was on the runway at KBDR at 0930. 2.0 tach hours, no squawks.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How to Fly

It seems to me that to advance the cause of General Aviation we need to make the whole process less intimidating. Flying really is very easy! I think that this brief guide is a good place to start, especially given today's date.