Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year (With a Look Back)

This is the fourth year that I've used this post title on 31 December. A year ago, I looked back on 2011 in this post, and a year earlier I reviewed 2010 in this one. The retrospective for 2009 was here.

N631S finished 2012 with 4,391.8 hours on the tach, having flown 184.5 hours in 2012. That's just a bit more than the 2011 total of 175.8 hours. I made the round trip from KVKX in Maryland to KBDR in Connecticut and back 32 times this year, two fewer than last year.

I logged 10.1 hours in actual IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) this year, compared with 2011's 10.0 hours. This year's total of 16 instrument approaches flown in actual conditions is up from last year by six. Time logged as night this year was 9.3 hours, not very different from last year's 10.2.

Once again this year, N631S has been a remarkably reliable machine. Beyond the normally expected maintenance items, the things needing repair have been rather minor:

  • During the Annual Inspection in March, one of the aft roller assemblies on the pilot's side seat had to be replaced.
  • Also at Annual, the muffler was replaced with an overhauled unit.
  • To clean up a bit of 'hangar rash', the right stabilizer and elevator plastic tips were replaced. We used the opportunity to accomplish a Service Bulletin replacing some rivets in the outboard stabilizer rib with larger ones.
  • Both magnetos were serviced, and each needed some fairly significant parts renewal.
  • The baggage door latch failed and was replaced with an overhauled assembly.
  • The left wing strut upper and lower fairings, badly cracked, had to be replaced. (The ones on the right side will get done at the next annual.)
  • And finally, two steel brackets in the upper cowling (that mate with the lower cowl at the crankshaft opening) failed due to fatigue cracking and had to be replaced.

This is the 43rd post on this blog for 2012. That compares with 70 in 2011, 100 in 2010 and 128 in 2009. This obvious decline in my productivity here is the result of two things: first, my non-aviation life has gotten somewhat busier, and second, some experiences that would have been "bloggable" in the past now feel repetitive. Perhaps that's a hazard to be expected in this sort of venue. Maybe 2013 will be more interesting, but I have mixed feelings about whether that would be a Good Thing.

In closing, I wish all who may visit here a healthy, prosperous and safe 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Coolest Thing I Got for Christmas

Now I have to show off something that I think is really neat! Our daughter-in-law Kate is a staffer on Capitol Hill, and a while ago she got herself and son Rich onto the Capitol Dome Tour, which is a very tough ticket. If you've been in the Rotunda and looked up, you've seen where the Dome Tour goes. All...the...way...up.

A prominent feature in the dome is the Frieze of American History, which encircles the dome 58 feet above the Rotunda's floor. It's a trompe l'oeil fresco about eight feet high depicting 19 historical vignettes, the last of which is The Birth of Aviation. The frieze was begun in the 1870's by Constantino Brumidi, but the last three vignettes, including The Birth of Aviation, were finished by Allyn Cox in 1953.

So, anyway...Kate got some good pictures on the tour, including several of the frieze. And when unwrapping time arrived, I found this:

The work depicts, obviously, Orville and Wilbur in their moment of triumph. The figures at left are Octave Chanute and Samuel P. Langley (Leonardo da Vinci is out-of-frame left). Kate snapped the shutter, and Rich cropped, printed and framed the result. And I'm as thrilled as I can be.