Thursday, October 6, 2016


KFAM 052156Z AUTO 17010KT 10SM CLR 24/19 A3001

I haven't flown for a few months. I was away on a trip in late June and, when I came back, a flight showed that there was a problem with the left brake. The annual was scheduled for two weeks later, so I opted to wait for that.

Probably a good thing. The brake became a real clusterfrak. They are Bodell brakes, which I like, because they have just enough braking authority without too much. Too much braking power in a tailwheel airplane is not a good thing.

The left brake took two pumps to activate it. The friction disk was shot and the return spring was old, so both were replaced. But the brake still didn't work right. Getting the parts proved to be a problem. It ended with sending the lower brake assembly back to the vendor, who apparently replaced either the hydraulic piston or the floating disk (I haven't seen the invoice). Getting that back was a good part of the overall wait. That frustrated the hell out of the shop, as my airplane was sitting on blocks and couldn't be moved.

But yesterday, it was done, everything put back together, logbooks signed and I flew it after work. I flew around for a bit to ensure everything was good, then shot three landings: One on the grass, a 3-pointer on the pavement and a wheel-landing on the pavement. Sad to say that it doubled my flight time for the last four months doing that (haven't bought any 100LL since then), but I'm back in the air and in time for the Fall foliage to turn.

Life is good.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


KFAM 291356Z AUTO 29004KT 10SM CLR 24/19 A3013

It felt stronger than that, judging by the flags and the windsock.

It was almost a direct crosswind, which was good. I shot some crosswind landings a few weeks ago and I sucked at it. The grass was long and wet, so I used the paved runway and quickly saw that I had gotten sloppy. When you land on grass, there's some drag on the wheels and it helps keep you straight, a little.

Today, I took advantage of the crosswind to practice basic fundamentals. Line up with a little extra energy in the budget. Keep the nose aligned with the centerline. Use the ailerons to control lateral position. Watch the airspeed, as flying cross-controlled means a little more drag.

It was all good.

This time of year, it pays to get the flying done early. The thermals start building by late morning and it makes for a less-than-fun ride. I took a newbie up last week; we met at the filed at 8:30 and were tied down by 10. Smooth air all the way. An hour later, it would have been like driving down a corduroy road.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Late Summer Time

KFAM 061455Z AUTO 19007KT 10SM CLR 27/22 A3013

I haven't been doing much of anything on this blog. It's been hot, so my flying has been go up before 0900, if possible, fly around for 20-30 minutes, shoot some landings on the grass, and then put the airplane to bed and go on with the rest of the day.

Which is what I did this morning. I've been shooting at least three landings per flight, if I don't have a passenger. It's been making a difference in my landings, suggesting that I should be flying more than I do.

I did get in a "five states in 3.5 hours" flight last Spring, whee I landed in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and then back home to Missouri. It could also be called the "four airport facility directory" flight, since I landed in airports covered by four different editions (North Central, East Central, South Central and Southeast).

They haven't mowed the grass runway in a little bit.

Yes, the wheelpants are kind of scabrous-looking.

I flew in my sock feet this tie, first time I've tried taking my sneakers off. There was a little better feel to the pedals. I may look into buying a pair of traditional moccasins.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holy Crap!

KFAM 302315Z AUTO 34011G22KT 10SM SCT050 SCT070 OVC080 14/08 A3002
KFAM 302255Z AUTO 34014G20KT 10SM FEW050 SCT070 OVC080 18/11 A2999
KFAM 302235Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM BKN070 19/11 A2997
KFAM 302215Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM BKN070 20/11 A2997
KFAM 302155Z AUTO 26003KT 10SM FEW055 BKN070 21/11 A2995

It has been gusty for the last two days. Late this afternoon, I noticed that the winds had died down. So I went to the airport and went flying.

I was in the air at 2245Z. As I was flying around, it seemed kind of bumpy. I chalked it up residual turbulence. And then I tuned into the AWOS and heard that the winds were gusting to 22 knots.

I got back on the ground as soon as I could. Landing wasn't too bad, but taxiing was a bit of a trial. Turning the airplane away from the wind took quite a few stabs at the left brake to get it going where I wanted to. I shut down pointing into the wind and then towed it into the shade hangar, where I very quickly tied it down.

It was a short and interesting flight.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Heat is Off

KFAM 151415Z AUTO 12006KT 10SM CLR M04/M07 A3038

I've been trying to fly at least once a week and shoot a few landings in the process. But not so much, now. When it gets cold, preheating is necessary. Standing a safety watch while the preheater runs isn't my idea of fun anymore, especially on days when it takes 45 minutes of heat to warm up the engine enough. I'm getting too old for that shit.

But on cold days, it has to be done. If it's been below freezing for any length of time, I preheat it. Not preheating an engine when it's cold is a sure way to speed up the need for an overhaul.

The airport manager mowed out a grass strip almost the full length of the paved runway.

Grass runways are terrific, if they're reasonably smooth. Lots less wear and tear on the tires and the tailwheel tends to have a little more braking effect.

Anyway, a few months ago, I took a friend to breakfast at KDXE's Skyways Cafe. I had coffee last week with his father and stepmother; they were in the coffee shop when I went in for some joe after an early morning hearing. The dad said that his son had way too much fun on that flight for it to be legal and he thanked me for taking him up.

I've owed 33C for almost a quarter of a century, now. Sometimes I forget how special and how much of an adventure it must seem to climb into a small airplane and fly wherever you feel like going.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Heat is On

KFAM 241615Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM CLR 32/21 A3002

It got hotter:

KFAM 241615Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM CLR 32/21 A3002

Mornings are a good time to fly.

Oil temps were a skosh over 200degF, which is nothing to worry about. I had thought for a long time that the oil cooler was not working well, for I was getting near redine temps, but my mechanic opined that the original system was probably tired and not working right. I was doubtful, but he was right.

By the way, can airports please install visible windsocks? 40 years ago, it was no big deal, for there were lots of wind indications everywhere. But between environmental laws and offshoring of blue-collar jobs, there aren't any more belching smokestacks. I was going to go roll the wheels at Bonne Terre (1BT), but I couldn't see a windsock anywhere.

7PM here, the temp's 91 and the heat index is 100deg. Ugh.

Monday, July 21, 2014


KFAM 201815Z AUTO 10004KT 10SM FEW050 27/16 A3008

I didn't fly for four weeks. I went on vacation (over two weekends) and then I had to wait for the installation of the new oil temp gauge.

I was skeptical that it was a gauge issue. My mechanic assured me that there has been a lot of discussion within the A&P community that if a pilot reports an oil temp issue and the gauge is original, to suspect the gauge. The new gauge was checked prior to installation and then installed. It's reading a good 15-20 degrees lower than the original.

The original gauge worked for 65 years or so. They don't make them like that anymore.

Did a $100 breakfast flight on Saturday down to the Skyways Cafe at KDXE. Then yesterday, I shot some landings on the grass runway. They mowed enough grass that it's almost a landing mat. When I taxi from the grass to the paved runway, I pay a lot of attention to where the runway lights are to avoid hitting one. A little paranoia is a good thing.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Can See Cleveland Now, Lorain is Gone

KFAM 141615Z AUTO 17011KT 10SM CLR 22/08 A3010

That's a bit of a mondegreen.

I had the windshields replaced in the recent annual. The left-side one was 35 years old, the right-side one was newer by a decade. The old ones were cloudy and if I was flying anywhere near a low Sun, forward visibility was nil.

What a difference in flight! I went from gray to clear and that made a difference, too. My A&P, who is in my age range (and who is a CFI) suggested that if I fly any at night, clear is better than gray or green.

Also, the airport is now mowing a 1,300' grass runway.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Splendor on the Grass

KFAM 031715Z AUTO 28003KT 10SM CLR 22/05 A2997

The Airport Manager mowed a 900' grass runway on the east side of the main runway (02/20).

It was a lot of fun to use. After a few landings, I began to judge when in the rollout to swing off the grass and onto the paved runway for taxiing back the other way. That way, I avoided having to add a bunch of power in order to taxi off the grass

Of course, one must be mindful not to hit a runway light. (I didn't.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Wind Doth Blow

KFAM 242035Z AUTO 19020G27KT 10SM CLR M01/M21 A3016

The amazing thing is that the wind is from 190. This winter, it's been common for it to be 26020G30KT. I flew last weekend because the temps got up over 50degF and, at least last Sunday, the wind was right down the runway. Strong winds with a large crosswind component are not fun in a taildragger on pavement.

And even if the winds are blowing closer to the centerline, when they are blowing, the updrafts and downdrafts are sort of kicking the crap out of both me and the airplane. Neither one of us are young anymore.

Cold this morning, too: KFAM 241335Z AUTO 16006KT 10SM CLR M17/M20 A3053

Maybe I should have just moved to Minnesoter...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shade Hangars Rock!

KFAM 081555Z AUTO 11004KT 1 3/4SM OVC009 M07/M08 A3018

Beats the hell out of tiedowns, that's for damned sure!

Farmington was hammered with a foot of snow. Not a bit was on the airplane itself.

And I didn't have to do this or this.

Friday, May 24, 2013

An Aircraft Owner's Least Favorite Game

KFAM 242115Z AUTO 12008KT 10SM CLR 20/02 A3034

"Guess what broke now!"

The DG. I have those vertical card DGs, they don't seem to last but a few years. The one that was in the plane was an A/N gyro left over from the war. I flew with that one for thirteen years. It was't the easiest thing to use, but it worked until it finally failed. Supposedly it couldn't be repaired, but if I knew then what I know now, I'd have pushed the issue.

I took an old sectional, tore off a corner, and taped that over the dead DG. Here's a fun fact: It's hard as hell to tear up a sectional when you want to.

I did land at Bonne Terre to try it out. The airport is surrounded by small thick trees that play hob with the winds.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


KFAM 121535Z AUTO 34009G16KT 10SM CLR 12/M04

The annual is done, but work remains. The rebuild ASI isn't I-ing too well. It was alive on takeoff early into the roll (when I heck it and oil pressure). After that check, I don't look at the panel again until I'm well into the air. The ASI was't reading where it should have.

Far too late, of course, to just land, so I flew around for a bit to get the engine warmed up and then landed. The ASI didn't fix itself in flight.

I had a CFI at one time who taught "no panel" flying. He felt that in day VFR, if you couldn't take off, fly around and land without any instruments, then you didn't know your craft. So he'd cover up everything, except the oil temp and pressure gauges, and you had to show him that you could fly the airplane.

Which turned out to be very good training, indeed.

Monday, May 6, 2013

20 Years Later, an Airport Reopens

KFAM 062255Z AUTO 03006KT 10SM FEW065 OVC085 18/12 A2997

The Bonne Terre Airport has reopened.

I overflew it last winter and it looked like what it was, at the time: A long-closed airport. I hope they can make it work.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


KFAM 201755Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM CLR 12/M02 A3027

No flying, though. 333C went in for its annual three weeks ago. There aren't any serious problems, so far. The ASI tended to stick on rollout, it was sent out for rebuilding and it came back. Engine is healthy. But the mechanic had a serious family emergency that had him closed up for nearly two weeks. He called his customers awhile back to advise them of that. The vast majority of them said something along the lines of "don't worry about it, take care of your family issues."

I got a call from a gent who owned my airplane over 40 years ago. Basement flooding damaged his photo collection and he has found that he doesn't have a decent photo of the airplane. I promised to send him one. Just have to dig them out, myself.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bouncy Bouncy

KFAM 171915Z AUTO 18012G17KT 120V180 10SM CLR 09/M06 A3008

I haven't been able to go flying for three weeks, as flyable weather and my availability to fly haven't exactly meshed. So even though I don't much care for flying in windy conditions, I went flying. Have to get the oil in the engine hot periodically, you know.

But yeah, not fun. Strong winds across the surface hit things, like slopes and hills, and then some of that wind energy goes up. If you ever get a chance to fly over a large body of water when the winds are up a bit, you may be amazed at how smooth the air is. Buy go over land a bit and blammo!

Strongest surface winds I ever dealt with was on a return flight from Sun & Fun 20+ years ago. Our ground speed, as reported by NY Approach, was 67kts. When we descended below 8,000', we got the crap kicked out of us. My passenger had to hod the controls and stand on the brakes until I got the airplane tied down.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


KFAM 191655Z AUTO 21013G17KT 10SM CLR 09/M01 A3012

I can fly in such conditions, the wind is only 10° off the runway's centerline. But flying around in windy conditions is not my idea of fun. It's one thing if I am going somewhere. It's another thing if it's a flight just for fun.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Day Later

METAR KFAM 131615Z AUTO 31010G15KT 5SM OVC008 M04/M06 A3011

Ice pellets are falling from the sky as I type this.

It started raining yesterday a little after noon. When the rain finished up after midnight, over 2" had fallen. This area is still classified as being in a "moderate drought", so I don't know of anyone who was complaining too hard about the downpour.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Timing is Everything

KFAM 121435Z AUTO 20004KT 10SM CLR 11/09 A2996

That was the weather when I went flying this morning. The forecast was for it to turn, well, shitty. The METAR might have said that it was only 11°C, or about 52°F, but it felt warmer than that. It was good flying, got in a little over an hour of time and shot three landings. "CLR" means "clear below 12,000", the skies were scattered to broken up high at altitudes that are unreachable with my airplane.

Current weather: FAM 121955Z AUTO 02007KT 4SM FEW010 SCT014 BKN019 13/11 A2988, and it is raining pretty hard.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ancient Aviation History

METAR KGON 012256Z 33007KT 10SM CLR M01/M09 A2988

One of the oldest aviation groups online is Avsig. It started out as part of Compuserve, back in the days of acoustic 300 baud modems. After many tribulations, Avsig is still around. And until the 3rd, you can easily join.

I've been a member of the group, off and on, for 25 years, which is a few geologic eons in the online world. It's still a good place to be.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


KFAM 052355Z AUTO 07006KT 10SM CLR 08/01

In the late `90s, I lived near and flew out of KCGF. One of the neat things about night-flying in December there was the Christmas lights. There were some homes that had so many lights that they were visible from miles away. One house in particular, maybe down around Solon, OH, had so many lit decorations that the wheel on their electric meter had to have been spinning like a pinwheel in a hurricane.

Around here and tonight, not so much. There were a few houses that had lights along their rooflines and some lit-up kitsch in the yards, but they were few and far between. Unless I was looking carefully, the lights on the ground didn't look any differently than they did three weeks ago.

Monday, November 26, 2012


KFAM 251835Z AUTO 26007KT 2 1/2SM CLR 13/M03 A2994

Not hardly.

I don't know why the thing was reporting 2.5 miles visibility. I've seen other AWOS units report "clear below one two thousand" when the cloud cover was scattered to broken at 1,500'.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


KFAM 180015Z AUTO 09004KT 10SM CLR 07/M02 A3040

I have gotten in two night flights in the past two evenings. That is more night flying that I did in years at 44N. 44N had runway lights, but I regarded night ops there as being challenging. Additionally, the tiedowns were not illuminated, so anything I did, preflights or post-flights, had to be done by flashlight and the headlights of my car.

KFAM's runway is more-or-less level and the shade-hangar has overhead work lights. It makes things a lot more friendly.

There were high clouds tonight, mostly cirrus clouds that began as contrails. To the north, the clouds were lit from below by the lights of St. Louis.

Night flying is kind of quasi-IFR to me. In sparsely-settled areas, it could be easy to be confused as to where the stars were. So while it's still VFR, prudence dictates frequent reference to the instruments. My minimums for flying at night are a lot more stringent than they once were. And I pay attention to the dewpoint, for if the spread isn't wide, as the air cools, you can get ground fog.

I now regard night VFR, especially cross-countries, as primarily solo-only flight, unless there is a very bright moon. Over the last ten years, I've had one incipient engine failure (loss of oil pressure) and one partial failure (loss of intake sealing on one side). Neither resulted in an off-airport landing. But it seems to me that an engine failure followed by an off-airport landing at night has a high probability of not being survivable. Unless you're lucky enough to be within gliding distance of a lit and empty parking lot, all you can do is glide into a dark area and hope like hell that you're not gliding into a set of steep hills or power lines or a forest. Landing on a lit road isn't viable, for where there are street lights, there are most likely unseen power lines.

That's a risk that I no longer feel comfortable sharing with passengers.

Still, there is something magical about flying at night, from the pattern of the streets in towns, the random house lights in rural areas, and the rivers of white and red lights along busy highways.

Monday, November 5, 2012


KFAM 052055Z AUTO 09007KT 7SM FEW009 FEW013 OVC034 06/04 A3005

This is from a couple of weeks ago. The leaves now are almost all brown; the more colorful ones are on the ground.

The temperature has gone from "damn, let'd go flying early before it gets hot" to "let's wait for it to warm up." Now that the time change has happened, sunset is now just before 5PM local time. Which means that night-flying time, at least for the FAA's recent experience rules, begins just before 6PM.

There are overhead lights in the hangar, which makes preflighting in the dark a ton easier than it was at a tiedown, where I had to do it by headlights from my car, augmented with a flashlight.

This photo is from the height of the drought. That is the Mississippi River near Ste. Genevieve, MO, looking upriver. The sandy areas on the right (Illinois side) are places that should normally be under water.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cooling Off

KFAM 231335Z AUTO 27003KT 10SM CLR 08/04 A3033

The seasons are changing. During July and August, I would try to be at the airport at sunrise, or just soon after, so that I could finish my flying before the heat of the day set in. Now, I do my flying in the mid-morning so that the temperature isn't too cold. When it was hot, I did my preflight in the hangar and pulled the airplane out just when it was time to start it. Now, I untie it and pull it out so that I can do the preflight in the warmth of the sunshine.

I thought that by living closer to the airport than I did in New York, that I would fly more often. It hasn't seem to have worked out that way. This morning< I shot a couple of landings, but mostly I just stooged around. I tried to match some features with the sectional chart-- sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't. I don't know how frequently the Feds update terrain features, but I suspect it isn't often. Once, I lived in an apartment complex in Virginia Beach that several years later, a sectional chart showed that a drive-in movie theater was there. Can you identify this airplane?

It is a Hummelbird H-5. It has a VW engine and burns 3 gallons of gas per hour.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hot Flying

KFAM 301155Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM CLR 23/18 A2993

Note that was about 73F at 0655 local time. Later on, it was considerably hotter.

KFAM 301855Z AUTO 19009G15KT 10SM CLR 39/16 A2989, or 102F.

Two days before that, it reached 108F.

I flew yesterday morning, I was airborne before 0700 and back down around 0800. Unlike last weekend, the air is starting to have the summertime "milk-bottle" haze that builds up when there hasn't been a front push through for awhile. The KFAM area has not had any significant rainfall in weeks. The city canceled its fireworks for the Fourth.

Around 0900, this bird showed up:

There was a forest fire in the next county. The governor came to fly over the fire.

Normally, KFAM on a Saturday morning is pretty quiet. There's not a pilot shop or a restaurant to generate traffic. But not yesterday. The helo disgorged a number of National Guardsmen and cops started showing up; first a state trooper, than more troopers and county cops, as well as a couple of photographers. A rather bemused transient stopped in for fuel and a bathroom break; he and his family got out of there as soon as they could.

I left about 0920 or so, long before the governor and his entourage arrived. There was a trooper outside the terminal building, smoking a cigarette. I told him that I was leaving before the circus showed up. He laughed and said that was a good idea.

When it is getting warm, oil temperatures are something I watch. Normally, I fly at cruise with the throttle wide open, enough carburetor heat to get a carb inlet temp of 5-10C and I control the engine speed with the mixture control. It is an efficient way to fly, but it does generate more heat in the engine. Using fuel for cooling isn't a terrific idea, but in these temps, it's what one does. (Or fly higher for longer flights.)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

No-Go Markings

KFAM 161155Z AUTO 17004KT 10SM CLR 22/18

KFAM 161635Z AUTO 23012G17KT 10SM CLR 32/18 A3012

After reading On a Wing and a Whim's post about hangar rash, I thought it a good idea to paint guide lines and warning lines on the asphalt just outside my hangar.

I went flying this morning. When I finished and I was pulling the airplane back into the hangar, I stopped as the wingtips were even with the vertical I-beams that support the roof. I used a piece of rope to measure the distance from the I-beams to the wingtips, then took off about four inches for a buffer zone. I scratched a mark on the asphalt with a rock.

Then it was off to the hardware store for red paint, white paint and masking tape. I measured to the center and outlined a guide stripe for the tailwheel, then I measured for guide stripes for the mains. I measured the scratched-in markings for the wingtip warning stripes, they were pretty damn close to where the arithmetic said they should be. I laid out the stripes with masking tape and painted them.

As you can see, I was slightly off-center when I pulled the airplane in after my flight. As long as I keep the mains inside the red warning stripes, I'm not going to smack an I-beam with a wingtip.

Flying around here is a morning affair. It gets hot by mid-day. Even at 0700 local, it was 72 degrees this morning, it's now 90. It gets uncomfortable flying when it is that hot, at least down around a few thousand feet above ground. Better to be done flying by mid-morning. Fortunately, I have a four-legged furry alarm clock that'll get me up for a "dawn patrol" flight.

There has to be a decent restaurant at KDXE, which is about 72 miles south-southeast of here. I heard a number of airplanes calling in position reports on Unicom for that field. One morning I'll have to get up a little earlier and go check it out.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday Morning

KFAM 021255Z AUTO 16003KT 10SM BKN100 10/08 A2998

There were a couple of decent fly-ins this weekend that I didn't make. The airplane had a bad tailwheel shimmy on the trip out. The mechanic here (MacAir) took a look at it-- his opinion was that some of the nuts on the tailwheel clamps were tired and needed to be replaced, which he did. I shot four landings this morning, including 3-point landings, and nary a shimmy.

It is a joy to once again live near the airport. And that shade-hangar is nice. A rain shower passed overhead as I was doing my pre-flight, which drove home that point.

Gas here is self-service, $5.24/gallon for 100 LL. The city also has a fuel truck for Jet A, for those who don't want to pump their own. I think that the truck is available during normal business hours during the work week, but since I don't burn Jet A, I haven't paid much attention to it. (Jet A is $4.80/gal.)

There is also at least one courtesy car, maybe two. If you fly in for lunch, I recommend the Factory Diner (7am to 2pm) in the Factory, Casa Sol (also in the Factory) or Bauhaus Kaffe, which is on the north side of the courthouse square.

My only gripe about the town is that I haven't found a good bookstore. But thanks, in part, to Amazon, I don't expect to find them.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A New Home

KFAM 202155Z AUTO 28011G17KT 10SM VCTS FEW036 BKN070 OVC120 19/16 A3009 RMK AO1 LTG DSNT ALQDS TSB2057 P0001

Shade-hangar at KFAM:

The engine cover is pushed back because I was cleaning the bugs from the cowling and the wings.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Long Day, Indeed.

KGON 191256Z 35005KT 10SM CLR 18/07 A3016

KFAM 192315Z AUTO 20008KT 10SM CLR 29/15 A3000

9.4 hours of flying time, 11.5 hours overall, all hand-flown. I'd have killed for roll trim. And a turbo. 333C will climb to 10,500', but it takes a long time for the last few thousand feet. It was worth it, for the air was smooth and cold.

The last leg of the flight was down lower, under the late afternoon cumulus clouds. Air temps were in the low 90s; pretty much summertime flying with all of the fun that entails. At least there weren't any thunderstorms.

Tomorrow I'll go clean the bugs off the leading edges. I was too tired when I got into KFAM to do that, although I did clean them off the windshield.