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.


On the ground at I12. I've had a bit of tailwind, so I've been extending my legs.

400 or so miles to go!!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Long Day Approaches

KGON 181156Z 02004KT 10SM CLR 13/10 A3022

Early tomorrow morning, I am going to launch on my ferry flight from Groton, CT (KGON) to Farmington, MO (KFAM). Today would have probably been a better day to go, at least as far as weather goes, but it is what it is. I had a long day traveling back east and a day to rest is a better idea.

One of the really nice flight-planning tools is Airnav's fuel flight planner. It computes the great circle route and then finds the best places to fuel, based on your preferred airspeed, fuel burn and leg length. You can opt for safest (depart with full fuel each time, cheapest (leave with minimum fuel when you can save money) or you can pick the routing. Since I hold that the only time you can have too much fuel is if your airplane is on fire, I plan using the "safest" mode.

One gripe is that it doesn't avoid Class B airspace. In the northeast, you'll have to tinker with it. One routing would take me to Harrisburg, PA, but that would require going smack-dab through the NYC TCA, which I prefer not to do.

Anyway, I'm off to the airport today to do an extended preflight.

UPDATE: Pumped the tires, topped off the tanks (the line guys did the first two), added a quart of oil, and did a ground-turn of the engine with a full run-up. I did that all early so as to finish before most people started flying and demanding line services. Looks good to go!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Winds Doth Bloweth

METAR KGON 081956Z VRB04G18KT 10SM CLR 14/M04

I relocated the airplane to KGON four days ago. There have been strong winds from the northwest since a couple of days before that.

I am moving to the KFAM area. The flight out will take about ten hours of flying time, in no-wind conditions, which don't ever exist. I need very good weather for the second leg of the flight, as that would be the one where I fly over the Appalachian mountain range. The Appalachians are a very old mountain range, many times older than the Rockies. They probably rivalled the Rockies in height and grandeur when they were geologically young; a few hundred million years of erosion have worn them down quite a bit. But the range is littered with the carcasses of aircraft whose pilots underestimated them.

It was my hope to have the airplane out in KFAM before my move. But that may not happen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cold and Windy, Ah, Spring

KDXR 271153Z 32013G21KT 10SM CLR M02/M18 A3022

That's -2C, or about 29F. The wind chill knocks the temperature that one feels down into the teens. Last week, people were outside wearing t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Record high temperatures were being seen everywhere.

Not today.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Flight Planning, the Old School Way

With sectionals, a plotter, and a string marked with distance markings.

I do use online tools, as well. But there is no substitute for laying it out on the charts themselves and seeing the big picture, at least for me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Or really, "lack thereof".

KPOU 291453Z 24007KT 10SM CLR 02/M11 A3015 RMK AO2 SLP208 T00171106 51008

The ground is bare here, unlike last year. A storm dropped a few inches early last week, which were then obliterated by rain and warmer temperatures. I have not removed the wheelpants from my airplane, I cannot remember ever not having done so by late December. It's normal for there to be snow on the ground from late December into March. But not this winter.

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about not having to brush snow from the airplane or shovel out the tiedown. It just seems weird to be approaching February without any snow on the ground. 44N was buzzing yesterday with airplanes bringing customers to the airport cafe. The cafe did a brisk business and the airport sold fuel. People wanted to fly.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Long Flight Ahead

For career reasons, I am relocating this spring to KFAM. That'a about a thousand-mile cross-country, longer than I've done in twenty years. The way I used to plan a flight like that was to buy the charts for the trip, lay them out on a floor, and then use a string which was cut to my maximum leg length to plan fuel stops.

But brother, have things changed. Runway Finder allows you to plot a great-circle course between airports. I used that to eyeball where the stops would be along my proposed route.

But then a friend told me about AirNav, which I have used for years to compare fuel prices and to get airport information. Ah, but how little I knew! AirNav has a flight planning feature where you can input a long flight like the one I have in mind. then you tell it your speed, fuel burn and your maximum comfortable range. It asks for minimum runway lengthy whether the runways need to be paved, do you need runway lights, IFR approaches, and other stuff. And then AirNav spits out a number of routes for you to consider.

I'm going to have to tinker some with it to avoid at least one Class B. And, at one point, I will be down on the floor with my string to look for things like big obstacles and places where funnily painted jets do strange things.

It should be an adventure of a sorts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


DXR 151553Z 34012G25KT 10SM CLR M10/M24 A3034 RMK AO2 SLP282 T11001239

That is some cold. The temperature was -10.0C, or 14F, and the wind chill was brutal. I heard one airplane today overhead doing some training maneuvers. I sure hope that the airplane had been either in a heated hangar or they pre-heated the engine. But if it was a flight school airplane and the airplane was a "lease-back" (leased to the school by a private owner), then your guess is as good as mine whether or not they properly warmed the engine.

Airplane engines are not as robust as car engines. Cars tend to have iron engine blocks and often iron or steel cylinder barrels. You generally can't do that on a light aircraft, the weight is too prohibitive. The engines are aluminum and they don't take kindly to being started in very cold temperatures. If you start an airplane engine without preheating, the damn thing will want to climb out of the mounts to go find some oil. (Don't ask me how I know this.)

A really old trick was to drain the oil overnight and take it inside to warm up. The airlines had huge combustion heaters to warm those radial engines back in the day. Jet engines don't have reciprocating parts, they tend to tolerate cold starts much better.

The ignition problems that I blogged about last month were repaired. I did fly the airplane twice last weekend, when it was much nicer out.

Next up, the annual inspection.