Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Descending out of 10,000 ft for Lake Havasu at 783 ft...

Thu Jun 14 - We are up early-ish in a light breakfast at the up with the other 2 race teams...Gallup Flying Service is there to pick us up and take us to the airport. Great airport and FBO...very attentive to their customers. Looking forward to seeing it again on tuesday for Leg #1 on the Air Race Classic.

We've preflighted and are ready to climb into the sky again.We're filing a DIRECT flight plan - GUP to HII at 10,000 ft. After yesterday's intimidating flight, we're feeling a little cautious about the climb, but it's much cooler for our morning launch. The plane starts up easily, we taxi to RWY 24m do our run up, get out clearance, and we're off. Lots of power for the climb, and it's very smooth as compared to yesterday's feeling of clawing every 50 ft on our way to out cruising altitude. Today, it feels very much like a "normal" climb.

The controller asks for an extra 1000 ft of climb to 11,000 ft, and we're comfortable with that today. We're so comfortable that we decide it's time to bring Flora back up front to sit with the pilots, and we break out the camera for some upcoming photo opportunities.

We really had a great time on this flight and spend much more time soaking in the desert scenes below. It kind of looks like a alien planet not fit for habitation. But we see some amazing rock formations and the beautiful rock faces of Sedona...a massive much scenery.

We finally see some green vegetation again...

Finally, we reach Lake Havasu AZ, which is near the California border. We are coming across the last ridge talking with Los Angeles Center. As we cross the ridge, we see the floor drop to a mere 783 feet where Lake Havasu lies. We realize that we have to lose several hundred feet of altitude and choose to take the scenic route of flying south of the airport over the city and then back north again, along Lake Havasu itself.  Turning north again, we see the Lake off to the left and the airport off to the right. The airport lies just adjacent to some rocky terrain.  So we are flying to the left of the runway entering the traffic pattern and taking care to turn towards our final approach to runway 14 without getting blown further left towards the rocks. But the winds are not too bad.
We are here! Let the Start Weekend begin...

[scroll down for some photos]

Next up: Day 1 of the Race...Havasu to Gallup to Hereford...


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Midwestern pilots get a taste of Southwestern flying...Can you say DENSITY ALTITUDE & MOUNTAINS?

Wed June 13 - Our mission was flying from Great Bend KS to Gallup NM via Tucumcari NM. We had a good night's sleep and a good breakfast. Headed to the airport to turn in our crew car. Preflighted. Got our weather briefing. Time to launch. Fuel stop in Tucumcari with hopes of landing in Gallup to overnight, then we'll have a fresh, cool morning flight on Thursday for our flight to Lake Havasu. That's the plan...

Beautiful day leaving Great Bend and more flat land headed to skies...a bit of a head wind...but all is well in the world. The excitement for our adventure is building...Havasu is drawing closer.

It's easy flying, and it's time to bring Flora the Flamingo out to join The Flyin' HawaiIowans at the controls.

The land below is beginning to look drier. The air temps are rising. We're flying across the panhandles of OK and TX. The surface of the earth begins to show signs of rising, uneven terrain from the flat earth that we've been flying over since leaving Iowa.

We land at Tucumcari (elev 4065 ft) and taxi up to the fuel island. It's quite a bit warmer outside. We're met by a line guy ready to top us off for the next leg to Gallup. As we land at Tucumcari, Judy Snow (Classic 31) makes a radio call and says HII. She and Linda Moody, my previous co-pilot from '08 and '09, are headed to Albuquerque for their overnight. Yep, we're definitely hearing racers talking to air traffic controllers on the radios now as they are converging on Lake Havasu.

Well in all honesty, Tucumcari was our least favorite stop on this ice for pilots...self serve fuel price 50 cents higher than advertised...the fuel bill appears to be 8 (yes, EIGHT) gallons more than shown by our fuel flow meter that's been rock solid the whole trip. We take off after feeling a little gouged at the pump, so to speak.

We file an instrument plan to angle about a bit on the route to Gallup (elev 6472) so that we can stay at 10,000 to 11,000 ft as we cross mountains and desert. It's early afternoon and getting hotter. Judy Snow mentioned that Gallup would be density altitude of 9600 feet, which means that although the elevation is 6472 feet, taking off from Gallup now would be as if the elevation was 9600 ft due to the temperature and barometer conditions. We're landing at Gallup and spending the night.

Gaining the altitude necessary to get to Gallup was a challenge to say the least. Slowest climb ever for me. It was a struggle just to get 200 ft of positive climb before losing 300 ft - the proverbial 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. At some moments, I felt like we were hovering.

At one point, the controller contacted to say that if I couldn't climb to 11,000, then I'd need to turn south or turn back. All of a sudden, we hit a huge updraft and sailed up for that last 500 ft of climb that we needed. Whoohoo!!! We were at 11,000 ft, and we worked hard to keep it for the rest of the flight. Protecting our hard-earned altitude required careful attention to the instruments. We had to finely tune the fuel mixture to ensure that the engine was being kept cool enough - not too hot on the oil, not to hot on the cyclinder head temps.

The sights were so amazing; however, we were so busy attending to our flying that we didn't shoot any pictures on this leg from Tucumcari to Gallup. Finally, Gallup was on the horizon. We were definitely ready to land and call it a day. The folks at Gallup Flying Service were great - fueling, checking the oil, cleaning the windshield. They give us a ride to our hotel. We find two other race teams on the ground - #25 Rick's Chicks from PA and #37 Bev & Sue from the East Coast. Now, THEY have flying stories to tell from their journeys.

Tomorrow brings the last leg to arrive at the START of the 2012 Air Race Classic - Lake Havasu AZ

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Flying to the great Southwest...Leg 1 to Great Bend KS......

It is time for this great adventure to unfold! Mountains and desert will be a new flying experience for both of us.  I had a bit of an introduction to mountains in 2008 for my first Air Race Classic in 2008, flying solo off from Iowa City in the midst of its historic 500-year flood to Bozeman MT. But the Southwest will be a whole other universe for me in the left seat of my Cardinal.
Tue Jun 12th - Kata literally returned in the wee hours before from her week of rafting the Grand Canyon - a 20-hr van trip.  She had her race bag packed 2 weeks ago, ready to throw in her car for the drive to Iowa City.  We finally got coordinated, packed the plane, and flew off from IOW about 5:30 pm to complete one leg of our trip to HII (Lake Havasu AZ).  Destination - Great Bend KS, a nice race stop from last year's route. It was nice weather and smooth flying at about 6000 feet.

Folks say Iowa is flat, but Nebraska and Kansas set the standard for FLAT!!! The rolling hills of Iowa are great!  But the mountains will be here soon enough...
As we approached Great Bend the sun was getting ready to set.  The FBO was also closed, and we're not sure how long it will take to get a cab to get into town for a hotel.  Maybe we'll be sleeping in the plane...

After taxiing to the terminal, I found the tie down spots WITH ropes for us.  Just as we poured ourselves out of the plane, a line guy appeared from nowhere. He happened to be working in a hangar and heard us coming in. He tied down the plane, brought the crew car around for us, put our stuff in the car, recommended a hotel and a restaurant. THAT is General Aviation for you!!!
We headed off for the night as the sun dropped below the horizon.

Building some flight time together...

BEH - lots of concrete below - taxiways and runways galore.
In the weeks leading up to the race, Kata and I planned to make some flights together visiting a few of the race stops in the upper Midwest - Columbus NE, Watertown SD, Ashland WI, and Benton Harbor.  In the end, we found time to make it to Ashland and Benton Harbor, and it was great fun.
BEH - Motorcycle parking in the hotel lobby...
The North Central Section 99s meeting was held in Dayton OH, which is a great place to visit for its aviation history - the Wright Brothers, the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the Wright "B" Flyer Hanger Museum to name a few. It also provided a great opportunity to fly by Benton Harbor (BEH), making a brief stop to visit Stop Chair Lee Scherwitz.  He's very enthusiastic about hosting the Air Race Classic.  We spent a bit of time on the ground and walked around a bit in dowtown Benton Harbor.
BEH - Really nice compass rose in town along the
waterfront park space.
After taking off from BEH, Kata took over the flying all the way back to Cedar Rapids. We had a bit of rain and some low clouds.  So she got a good IMC workout in what my instructor liked to call "benign IFR."  Great job too!  As we approached Cedar Rapids, I took the controls and shot the approach into CID.  The ceilings were getting quite low, and after we had a bite to eat after a long day, I realized that it was night with minimum ceilings and winds that would need a circling approach for me into IOW - NOT a good idea.  So the folks at PS Air loaned me the crew car so that I could go home for the night and return in the AM to move my plane to IOW.

ASX - Kata with our ride to the Maple Creek restaurant.
A couple weeks later, we had a day of good weather and an alignment of our calendars - so we flew to Ashland WI (ASX).  Great flight to the northernmost part of Wisconsin and we discovered a log cabin airport! Nobody around at the FBO on a nice Sunday, and Kata went in search of a hidden crew car key. We found one under a planter, but it didn't open the well marked CREW CAR parked in front of the airport.  HOWEVER, parked next to this car was a BMW SUV - unlocked, open, with keys...nobody around...parked in front of the airport. therefore it MUST be the real crew car parked next to a decoy crew car. We left a note inside the FBO and drove off for lunch in town...put some gas in it on the way back, didn't get picked up by the cops for driving a stolen vehicle, and left a nice thank you note signed by the soon-to-be famous Flyin' HawaiIowans.

So the team was coming together, and things were a good fit...

Next up: The Flight to Lake Havasu City...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Engine break-in & a flight to Sarasota FL (SRQ)...

I had great opportunities to put some hours on the new engine so that it would be broken in properly before heading off to Lake Havasu.  We wanted at least 50 hrs of time and two oil changes in that time while flying with mineral oil in the engine and to ensure that oil usage had stablized.

Test flight over the Iowa River and
Iowa City by the power plant.
We had a few gremlins that Josh needed to chase down after the installation.  They included the tach calibration (required sending it to Horizon for recalibration), the decreased oil pressure with leaning (required 5 test flights and finally resetting the fluid hoses entering/leaving the oil cooler), recalibrating the oil pressure gauge, and finally sending off the fuel flow meter to JPI for a warranty fix. We flew about 10 hrs in the pattern resolving everything but the fuel flow monitor issue, which was working intermittently.

First off-field flight with the new
engine - heading to UCY.
Mar 28 - Immediately after Josh finished flushing out our gremlins and we were all confident that the plane was safe to fly, I launched for a flight to Sarasota FL to visit family and for a couple days at Sun N Fun. It was a "late" start at 6:30 pm, but it was good to get one leg on the trip done. Nice weather. Stopped in Everett-Stewart Regional (UCY; Union City TN) for the night after flying for about 2.5 hrs - all systems were working great, and the plane seemed to have more power and speed for sure.  UCY was a great stop: 24-hr access with a key code and a nice comfy pilot's lounge that I decided to bunk out in. Great people showed up to work the next AM, and I took a crew car in to town for breakfast before launching for SRQ.
Mar 29 - Leg 2 to Bainbridge GA (BGE) for fuel, and I charged on to SRQ. For all legs, I was flying full throttle, full prop and staying at 5000 ft for the engine break-in, making sure the cylinders were running hot. For Leg 3, I noted in my instrument flight plan that I was doing an engine break-in and that I wanted to stay close to land once I got down to FL. Air Traffic Control (ATC) did a great job vectoring me along hugging the FL coast. Very helpful. It was a beautifly flight, and having broken the trip up over 2 days, it's the first time that I've made this leg flying down there in daylight hours - about 5.5 hrs flying time for these 2 legs.
The view as I flew by St. Petersburg airport (PIE) - PIE from the sky on the way to Sarasota FL.
 Mar 30 - Apr 3: Visited for a few days with my sister and her kids, my 3 brothers down there and their families, and said my final farewell to my brother-in-law, Larry, at his memorial service. It was a bittersweet part of this journey, and he is missed by all. The 2 days at Sun N Fun were just that - sun and fun AND sharing the aviation pleasures with my brother and nephew, as well as seeing pilot buddies too. And of course, the daily airshows...

Apr 3 - Launched for home from SRQ with the goal of making the trip in a long day of flying. Flew from Sarasota to Alexander City AL (ALX) to Farmington MO (FAM) - great weather with just a few clouds to blow holes in. The last leg was more challenging with having to deviate around some storms to fly FAM - COU (Columbia MO) - OTM (Ottumwa IA) - Iowa City. It was great IFR (instrument) weather to fly in and the rain washed off some bugs - always a good thing. 

The round trip IOW-SRQ-IOW racked up 17.8 hrs. With the 10 hrs of test flights, it was time for the first oil change already! All systems were doing great, only needed to add about 1 quart of oil - looking good.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Looking Back on the Engine Overhaul...

Well, Dan and I passed 2000-hr TBO on the engine at the end of 2011, and we proudly split those hours about 50:50 with our respective flying adventures over the past 6+ years. We decided to move ahead with the overhaul process now, rather then trying to eke out more hours. The engine was running reasonably well, but it had developed a number of small recurring issues that were increasing our repair expenditures and annual costs. The odds of an off-field landing and/or possible damage to our core value seemed higher in the coming year. I was thinking ahead about that flight to and from Lake Havasu across the desert and over the rugged terrain and mountains.
Our options - field overhaul (which had been performed on the last overhaul shortly before Dan bought the plane in 2004), factory overhaul, or factory remanufactured engine. A brand new engine was not an option. Since the engine had been previously field overhauled, we chose the factory remanuf route that would give us the best value - zero time engine to new specs. We signed on with Josh our IA A&P, and the engine was ordered mid-January. We got to fly until the new engine was delivered, and then it was to be a "quick" swap - out with the old, in with the new.

Then the fun began. The new engine arrived a bit early. It was time to say goodbye to our workhorse engine that had served us well. A 3-week turnaround was estimated, but lots of variables would be at play. The engine overhaul also results in other items getting overhauled or replaced - prop/governor, carburetor, new fluid-carrying hoses firewall forward, etc. We were also adding a spin-on oil filter adapter and moving to separate magnetos (non-dual, nonD). The work also revealed other needed fixes (e.g., Tanis heater probes, engine monitor probes). So there she hung with a worn red shop rag in her "nose" where the prop usually sits.

The engine mount got a closer scrutiny than it could during a regular annual with the engine in place. Ours was A-OK and ready to have the new engine swung into place. We're getting excited now. It was time to mount the new engine and to begin reconnecting everything. The work seemed to be progressing at a good rate, but not quite so fast. We discovered that going from D (dual) to nonD mags required some readjustments elsewhere like the prop governor and more.  The engine was delivered without the coveted spin-on oil filter adaptor that we (and our A&P) specified, and it resulted in considerable dickering around with Lycoming and the shops.  We won.  After about 3 weeks, we were ready for the first test run.

I wanted to be there for the first run up and ran out to the airport. They tugged it out on the ramp. Josh climbed in to the left seat. Another A&P stood ready with a fire extinguisher. I stood ready to snap photos. It cranks up easily, and Josh runs it up after some initial checks. The A&P and Josh swap places so that Josh can check the running engine for oil leaks and he finds a couple small ones. Unfortunately, he also discovered that the RPM reported on the tach seemed to be half the expected and not consistent with the sound of the engine. Another outcome of the D to nonD conversion, and the tach needed to be sent out for resetting.

A few days later, Josh signs it off, and Dan and I plan our first test flight - flying around the IOW pattern at 3500 ft for a couple hours and recording data on the engine - oil temps/pressures, CHTs, EGTs. All goes smoothly, and the engine sounds great...BUT...we soon discover that the oil pressure drops low below the green arc whenever we lean. This makes no sense to us, but we confirm it a couple of times. Otherwise, everything seems just fine. But leaning and oil pressure are not normally linked. ???

We flew a series of 5 test flights before resolving the oil pressure issue. Thinking that the oil pressure gauge was "blown", a test gauge was spliced into the line, but it showed the same phenomenon. The oil lines were adjusted and finally, resetting the lines at the oil cooler resolved it again. The weird thing is that the problem seemed illogical, and the fix was equally illogical.

But the problem was "fixed"...just in the nick of time for me to fly my scheduled trip to FL and Sun N Fun at the end of March. It was a perfect trip to break in the engine - flying at full throttle and at or below 5000 ft.  Let the fun begin...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

We're back!!! It's catch up time...

Where the heck have those Flyin' HawaiIowans been?  It's been THREE months since our last post. Yikes! We both slipped into our respective academic black holes at the University of Iowa (Iowa City IA) and Upper Iowa University (Fayette IA).

We have been prepping in fits and starts with little things here and there...and one very big item - the dreaded engine overhaul.  Yes, we had a "new" factory remanufactured "zero time" engine installed in 51-Charlie. THAT adventure merits its own posting with a few pictures. So stay be continued...