Short Video

Last week I flew to French Valley airport in Temecula for some touch and goes leading to PIC currency. I was running late and couldn’t manage to work out how to get the mount to work with my camera so I took some hand shots from time to time. There was no audio so there is a canned iMovie soundtrack which isn’t that worth listening to. Will try harder next time.

Also last week I did some simulator work and am now IFR current too!

2011 Aviation Goals

It’s the end of the year again and time to lay out what I hope to get done next year. It’s hard to imagine but last year was an even worse year for flying than 2009, so I really hope to do better in 2011. We’ll see.

  • Fly more freakin’ hours! – will be hard not to unless I give up completely
  • Take some great video – can’t promise great but if I fly, I will film
  • Get and stay current in everything, VFR day/night, IFR, low wing/high wing, complex – harder that it seems
  • Go on some interesting cross countries – looking at you Big Bear and Sedona
  • Make at least one Angel Flight mission as Command Pilot – my natural shyness and hesitation for new things probably makes this unlikely
  • Get started on one major kit on the plane build – wings or fuselage, time and money will dictate this
  • Give some first flights, one person I know has been waiting 5 years for me to take her up
  • Win the AOPA Sweepstakes plane – out of my hands

Alright, that seems like enough. For once, no new ratings or checkouts. Wishing all my readers a safe 2011.

Video Camera Experimentation

I recently bought a Go Pro HD camera with which to take in-flight footage but before taking it up in the air I figured I’d try various options on the ground: the Go Pro doesn’t have a screen so you don’t know what you took until you get home and look.

The camera can shoot a variety of resolutions. In 1080p mode it shoots at 30fps with a 127 degree wide angle or in 720p mode you can choose a whopping 170 degree angle of viewing. There are other modes for 60fps slow-mo capture or a space saving WVGA. So I spent some time sitting in a 172 last evening playing with different mount positions and angles.

I think what I’d really like is a from the back looking over the seats but I couldn’t get that with the suction mount I had. So for now I might just go for the front view until I can find a better position.

No iPad For Me, Thanks

I used to be a huge Apple fanboy but over the last couple of years I think Steve Jobs has lost the plot somewhat and I decided I didn’t want to give him any more of my money, no matter how good his products might be. I terminated my iPhone contract early and moved to Android.

I’ve messed with the iPad in the store and really can’t find any reason to own one, there are many things I don’t like about the design but for the money it just doesn’t do enough over and above my Droid Incredible. But as a pilot one can’t help but be interested, no other platform has the wealth of aviation-related tools available and the big hitters like Fore Flight sure do look gorgeous. So I’m sorely tempted just for this purpose but I’m balking, and not just because of the $650+ it would cost.

Part of my problem with Apple Steve is that he decides what is allowed on his devices and that changes based on a whim (or more often media pressure). So right now people are in the air using their iPad as their primary navigation device (yeah we all know that isn’t right but don’t tell me people aren’t doing it), there’s a glitch, GPS failure, who knows what and the plane crashes. Evening news: iPad causes plane crash. Next day, Steve deletes all the aviation planning and map apps from the Store, and therefore your machine. And there ain’t a damn thing you will be able to do.

And this isn’t fantasy, there absolutely will be a crash at some point that the pilot, or their estate, blames on the iPad and no matter how much we as pilots will know that the device was no cause, Apple will notice and take action.

And then I’ll own a $650 brick.

Another BFR

Regular readers will know that my flying club requires an annual flight review in addition to the FAA-mandated biannual one, and for this year’s review I decided to combine it with a refresher in a complex plane. I haven’t flown a complex plane in quite some time and while I’m not real sure I have much desire to do so in the future, it’s good to do something different.

And so there we were in N6291R, a Cessna 172 RG, at KMYF early last evening. Given the rapid onset of nighttime we decided to the landings first and then we’d go out for the maneuvers. First things first, give Ground a call:


On the way out to taxiway Juliet we had to pull off into a parking area to let a lifeguard flight in, only to find that the parking area was exactly where the lifeguard wanted to go so we had to do some creative taxiing to get out of it’s way. That done, we did the run up and got our closed traffic clearance.

My CFI requested a soft-field take off which I pretty much failed at so when we came back in for a soft-field landing I pretty much failed at that too. I think the Tower could see me sigh, let alone hear me. Second soft-field take off was much better, then a normal landing just to let me get used to the 172RG which went well, then a short-field take off. Totally nailed a short-field landing and then we were off out to the coast.

The practice area was quite busy, 3 or 4 other planes out doing the maneuvers so we found a spot and went through the usual items: slow flight with the stall warning on, stalls (first one is always bad for me), steep turns (love doing those), emergency landings, simulated instrument work such as unusual attitudes and compass turns. Whilst under the hood, my CFI had me tune in the OCN VOR and track a course to it. The VOR indicated a course of about 270 which was what I expected, but the DI showed it to be a right turn whilst I was pretty sure it was going to be a left turn since I thought I had been heading north. But, “trust your instruments” so I took the turn and followed the radial which kept changing as I progressed…. the winds have come up giving me a crosswind? I’m sure you’ve already worked out where this is going and perhaps if the plane’s DME was working I would have spotted it but eventually my CFI revealed to me that he had turned the DI 180 degrees so I was indeed heading away from the VOR, this being a lesson to cross check ALL instruments while IFR. Bit of a cheesy trick for a flight review, really, but point taken.

Everything done, we headed south along the coast where we could see a lot of lightning over Mexico but it seemed too far south to be any worry to us. The Tower confirmed they had been watching it and was no factor. We were assigned left traffic for 28L but the left isn’t lighted so we asked for 28R. Turns out the controller misspoke, she meant to give us 28R, it took a while for me to find the airport (I kept seeing Miramar) but once located I got the plane slowed up (I love how throwing down the gear puts the brakes on), made our entry and made a firm landing on 28R. Taxi back to parking and the flight portion was done.

In order to complete the review we retired to a nearby Starbucks and spent some time reviewing the FARs and going over some “what ifs” that are local to the San Diego area. Always good to review the local problem areas and procedures.

So, 1.5 hrs more complex flight time in the book and another year’s flying privileges in the club.

More Simulated IFR

Finding myself out of currency for IFR, and suffering a prolonged period of heavy overcast here in San Diego, I called up my CFI to get my 6 approaches. It’s an expensive way to go for sure but I made myself feel better by saying to myself that I’d get some good Garmin 430 instruction which I might not get from a safety pilot.

The plan was to file tower en-route to Oceanside, do some holds before the VOR approach there. After that we would do the GPS into Palomar followed by the ILS, and then we’d head home to Montgomery Field for a GPS and two ILS approaches.

It pretty much went as planned other than the controller giving me the ILS in Palomar rather than the GPS. I was busy trying to work out what was going wrong with the vector onto the approach when my instructor caught it. So we did the ILS followed by the GPS. It was very useful here to have the ILS frequency already in the backup position on the nav.

I struggled with vertical descent control on all the approaches, mostly couldn’t get down fast enough. My CFI said I had too tight a grip on the yoke and when I was making course corrections I’d inadvertently adjust pitch too. It wasn’t bad enough that I would have missed any approaches but I was working way too hard, that’s for sure.

All in all a quite enjoyable time under the hood though I missed a spectacularly sunny day in San Diego, and I’m now IFR current through the end of January 2011.

Last night, for something to do, I went through the LiveATC.Net archive to try and find my communications and put together an audio clip. It was a lot harder work than I thought and after tracking me down on KMYF’s frequencies I abandoned the idea of going through Approach as well. So, here’s a little clip of me calling up for our clearance, taxi and take off, and back home on the last approach.

Build My Own Plane?

I’m sure Mike didn’t intend this harmless tweet to occupy my thoughts but for the last week or so, it has.

I’ve long thought it would be very cool to build my own plane, I’m generally useless with my hands so have dismissed it (especially after reading the logs of some Van’s RV builders) but the STOL 750 from Zenith looks real simple to build, and in the aviation scale of things, fairly inexpensive.

I figure it would take us 2 years or more to complete (unless I can get a job that has me living at home during the week) and I have no idea how I’d finance the panel or the engine at this point, though I am sure at that stage of the process nothing would stop me!

The 750 is a Light Sport Plane and therefore doesn’t require a valid FAA medical to fly it. Sport pilots aren’t allowed to fly at night or in IFR but as an IFR-rated Private pilot I would be allowed to fly it in those conditions if the manufacturer’s operating conditions allow it. I’ve no idea if they do right now, though they do have an IFR-certifiable kit plane in the 650 so maybe it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. I’m not sure if I’d want to fly IFR in this type of plane (too light, too slow), but night flight would definitely be desirable.

What about that inexpensive part? You can buy the complete kit (which for some reason isn’t complete, you need a finishing kit too) for $14.5k which won’t include the engine, the pointy thing at the front or the instrument panel. The good thing is that you can buy it in sub-kits enabling you to “pay as you go”. This adds to the cost but does at least soften the blow, though if I had somewhere to store it I’d be tempted to drive to Mexico, MO and get the whole thing at once.

The really cool thing is that you can “try before you buy” by purchasing the rudder kit for $400. They say that if you can successfully complete the rudder then you are very likely able to build the whole thing. So I’m tempted to get that and see what I think – could I really build my own plane? Looking at the regulations, it almost looks like building it is the easy part but I’m sure once you have an airframe built there’s little chance a little FAA paperwork is going to stop you.

For now I’ve ordered the introductory materials from Zenith and this DVD on metalworking 101 which demonstrates the rudder assembly so I can see exactly what I’d be getting into. Once I’ve looked at these things, we’ll have another think.

CA CFIs At Risk From New CA Law

Got this from one of our club CFIs this morning. I don’t have access to the NATA website to be able to see the report but here is what he said.

NATA Publishes Regulatory Report On California’s Regulation Of Flight Schools

NATA has published a regulatory report on proposed rules issued by the Bureau of Private Post Secondary Education in California . These rules, prompted by the passage last year of Assembly Bill 48, will regulate the operation of flight training facilities. All flight training operations, including independent certified flight instructors (CFIs), will be required to comply with the provisions of these rules, including such provisions as the requirement for producing and printing a “college catalogue” type of document. Flight training facilities have until August 1 to comply with these rules, including paying a $5,000 application fee and submitting audited financial statements from 2009, or they will no longer be permitted to operate in the state. Other provisions of the proposed rules include:

Only CFIs with three years of experience in flight will be allowed to instruct students, unless they can demonstrate an equivalence of other experience factors
All flight training facilities will be required to submit a $1,000 annual fee and 0.75% of their gross revenue to the state
Flight training facilities’ curriculums must receive approval from the state
These proposed rules are open to public comment until June 7, 2010. Additionally, the Bureau of Private Post Secondary Education will hold a public comment forum on these proposed rules in Sacramento , CA , on June 7, 2010.

NATA is very concerned about the negative impact these regulations would have on flight training and urges all impacted members to submit comments.

If this is correct, then I don’t see that many CFIs will/can stay in business.

More on Running on Empty

Back in April I wrote about a flight where we pretty much emptied one tank during our flight and could not understand why. During my (club mandated) annual flight review this week I asked my instructor if he had ever found out the cause.

He had not but he turned to someone in the lounge and asked them for their opinion. They offered up an explanation that if our flight had been uncoordinated, especially in all the holds, then the gravity feed would be feeding from one tank only for a long period of time. This prompted my memory that we had been using the autopilot with the Garmin 530 for a lot of that flight and we had noted that it was not coordinated in the turns. Indeed, the plane had just come out of the shop having “fixed” this problem.

So in retrospect I would say that the unbalanced fuel drain was caused by the pilot’s (me) lack of action to correct uncoordinated flight caused by a malfunctioning autopilot.