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.