July 29, 2014

Priming the System – G’ing-up for the 2013 Season

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It’s that time of year again and people are beginning to gear up for the upcoming 2013 competition season.  With that said, there are many things to consider as you ramp back up.  How is your airplane? Any squawks during the annual? Has it been looked at closely since it was buttoned up for winter? Be sure to take the time to look it over closely, extra close if it has been sitting for a few months (even if it has been in a hangar).  And how about your parachute – has it been stored properly? Is it still within its packing dates or does it need to be repacked before you start flying again?

 

And how about you? Are you healthy? Have you been eating well and staying hydrated? Are you in shape? All things to consider before you start beating up your body and plane in the aerobatic box.

 

 

This blog is simply to mention G-tolerance.  Remember that you build a tolerance up and then if not maintained it will diminish.  Thus, if you’re just getting back into flying aerobatics, your body may need a week or two of flying (maybe even more) to get the systems primed again.  So take it easy initially, begin to add the G’s incrementally and remember that you don’t need to go for aerobatic endurance flights – 10-15 minutes of practice the first handful of flights is plenty! To be honest, I rarely practice more than 15-20 minutes at a time even when I’m at the peak of my training season.  And as for those negative G’s that so many of us know and love (or hate), it seems to require less training to regain a “tolerance” level.  I would argue that the negative G training should be light and minimal on each flight as it is less about priming your system and more about being able to maintain a relaxed state while under negative G in order to reduce your chances of bodily harm (remember if you strain you actually increase the pressure in your head during negative G maneuvers).  Many people have argued that large quantities of negative G are unhealthy (and anyone who has pushed a lot on a flight and had the negative G hangover for the rest of the day would probably agree) thus remember, one or two pushes a flight is more than enough in practice. Just remember to stay relaxed, don’t tense up and enjoy the ride.

 

A healthy diet, exercise and regular flights to keep your G tolerance up will not only help you feel better but also increase your levels of safety and success for each and every competition flight.  We are all vigilant about caring for our aircraft and parachutes but we must remember that our bodies also play an incredibly significant role and should be maintained just the same.

 

Have fun safe flights and I’ll look forward to seeing everyone around the competition circuit!

Get Involved – Become an IAC Judge!

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Aerobatic judging is not only a fun and great way to get involved with the IAC, but also helps keep our sport alive.  There are lots of misconceptions when it comes to judging including thinking that you have to be aerobatic pilot.  News flash – you don’t have to be a pilot at all! Plenty of spouses and significant others attend judging school to learn how to be assistant judges or regional (and even sometimes National) judges as a way to get involved in the sport and we are very happy that they do!  Additionally for you current and future aerobatic flyers, becoming a judge is not only helpful to your sport but also a great way to become a better competitor!

So how can you get involved? Check out the IAC’s latest list of judges school’s scheduled for 2013

Our local IAC Chapter – IAC Chapter 26 – is holding an Introduction to Aerobatic Judging School March 9-10, 2013 at the Apple Valley Airport which meets the requirements for new judges (attend both days) as well as current judges that need to stay current or want to move up to National Judge status (need only to attend Sunday).  The school will include lunches, a BBQ/Movie Night on Saturday night and time permitting a mini camp Sunday afternoon with some real flying for you to try out your new judging skills!  It’s sure to be a great time and a wonderful way for new and long-time IAC participants, family and friends to get involved in one of the most exciting motorsports on the planet! For more information click the above links – we’d love to have you join us!

Pondering the Importance of Pre-Flighting

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“This was from a Cessna 402 – the bottom is of course water with 100LL on top. Could have made a quiet flight if the fuel lines got cold!” – Donivan G.

The importance of pre-flighting is one of the very first things we learn as student pilots.  Follow your checklist.  Carefully walk around the airplane.  Check all the moving parts to make sure they move correctly and freely.  Inspect to make sure rivets, safety wire, cotter pins and screws are all in place.  How is the fuel quantity?  Did you check for water and sediment from the tanks as well as the lowest points in the system? Propeller, brakes, tires, flaps…the list goes on and on.

“During the run up, 2 EGTs’ were abnormally high on the right mag. Pulled back to the hanger because “it’s not right.” We pulled the mag harness (after looking at a bunch of other stuff) and found it was arching causing two plugs to not fire.” – Robert L.

Still it is amazing how quickly the importance of pre-flighting can disappear when people begin to rush or get complacent with experience.  And as important as pre-flighting is in general aviation, arguably it is even more important when aerobatic flight is added into the equation.  I would also argue that what aerobatic pilots know – or at least should know – is useful for all aviators whether they are flying a Piper Cub, Cirrus or Citation.

 

Aerobatic Pre-Flight = Risk Mitigation:

 

1. Sterile Cockpit

Aerobatic pilots know all about this – we toss our aircraft all over the sky and often it is open from the cockpit down the tail making it very easy for loose objects to find their way down to jam controls whether it be the stick, cables, tubes, etc.  But this is still something that is often disregarded by many as they become more and more complacent over time.  Pouches that Velcro closed do NOT guarantee safety – if you’re going to have a pouch in your plane make sure it is SUPER secured and consider one that has a zipper instead of Velcro. My personal opinion is don’t have anything in the plane but that’s not always a viable option.  But, for instance, flying with a cell phone in your pant pocket or Velcro pouch in the plane (which are easily opened or missed during pre-flight) is a commonly disregarded danger.  Is it worth the risk of jamming your controls just so you can sneak a picture of yourself for Facebook during a practice flight? Probably not.

I personally abide by the “EVERYTHING out that is not 100% necessary for that specific flight” rule.  If you’re flying cross country you’ll need different things than when you’re flying aerobatics – but either way maintaining a sterile cockpit and awareness of where everything is in the plane at all times may save you and/or your passengers life.

 

2. Parachutes

Believe it or not parachutes are not required in all countries – and for those of you who know your regs you know that if you’re flying solo (as long as the plane isn’t placarded that parachutes are required) you don’t have to wear a chute even here in the States.  But, is that wise? Most reasonable people would probably argue no – why take away your ace-in-the-hole?  Again, it is all about risk mitigation and having a parachute is often the only way out in the case of a catastrophic emergency.

Be sure that your parachute is in current pack and if you are borrowing one find out who packs the chute.  Additionally know how the parachutes are cared for and stored.  If the chute is regularly tossed on the hangar floor, left in the sun all day in the cockpit and the containers look uncared for those are all signs to beware.  You don’t want to be wearing a parachute that has been left resting in a puddle of oil, for example.  Remember that it is your one out if bailing becomes the proper response so take the time to look it over.

 

3. Know How & What to Pre-flight

Do you know the specifics of pre-flighting the exact type of airplane you are flying? Do you know the weak points, the places that may have caused problems or accidents in the past? Some airplanes have weak points in the tails, some have had rudder cable issues, etc.  If you know these things you can double check these areas and you should!  By knowing the history of the overall type of aircraft you are flying you will be much better prepared to pre-flight.

 

4. Maintenance

Of course it is important to know the maintenance history of an airplane your flying.  If you are borrowing an airplane make sure to talk to the owner and maybe even ask around to see if there is anything you should know prior to getting in an airplane.  Again, some people may be willing to take more risk with their aircraft and their life than you are – you make the final decision as to whether you will fly a specific airplane or not and you do not need to explain your decision if you choose not to.

If you are renting an aircraft absolutely do the research necessary to find out about the maintenance on the plane.  Often flight schools only have one or two aerobatic aircraft (if any!) amidst a fleet of GA airplanes and have no idea how important and specific maintenance for aerobatic planes is.  The best thing is if they have a mechanic who knows, understands and has experience with aerobatic aircraft.  Remember, going back to the sterile cockpit discussion, it is less of a concern to leave a tool under the seat in a Cessna – this same small error in a Decathlon, Pitts or Extra can be deadly.

 

5. The Pilot

Hopefully everyone knows of the IMSAFE checklist – we know that as pilots we need to pre-flight ourselves as well.  How are we feeling? Are we fighting a cold? Are we fatigued? How are our stress levels (and keep in mind that stressors are all negative things in our life – weddings, the birth of a child, etc. are also stressors)?  Every pilot, not matter what they are flying needs to make sure that they are physically and mentally ready to fly and that means that they are ready to fly in less-than-perfect conditions in case things change unexpectedly in flight.  In aerobatics this is also incredibly important as the stress placed on the brain and body are even more significant than that experienced in most GA airplanes.  If you’re not feeling 100% remember it’s okay to take the day off.

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What this blog boils down to is safety.  Every time we set foot in an airplane we are taking a certain amount of risk and the way we make flying as safe as possible is all about risk mitigation and preparation.  What makes things even riskier at times is when we are renting or borrowing aerobatic aircraft as opposed to flying our own.  If you fly your own aircraft you know where it has been, how it has been cared for and flown, you can set it up exactly how you like, and so forth.  Still, often those who own their own planes become complacent in pre-flighting because they know what happened on the last flight and often forget that things may change even when sitting on the ground untouched between flights.  A friend on Facebook relayed the following story to me:

 

At a fly-in a guy went around with a large collection of clothespins. He put them in various places on the aircraft: non-pilot side flap, elevator, pitot tube, etc then sat at the end of the runway and took pictures of aircraft and their clothes pins! The harmless pins would not affect flight but teach a great lesson! – Thanks Spencer A. for the story!

 

On the other hand, when renting or borrowing an aircraft there are numerous unknowns including if the person/people before you have taken the sterile cockpit approach, maintenance history, procedures (are other renters caring for the engine appropriately?), etc.

 

“This might lead to further investigation!” – Chad S.

 

What is the moral of the story? Pre-flighting is important! Don’t become complacent – even if it just between same-day flights (remember every aerobatic flight stresses the airplane significantly!).  Stay vigilant and always try to learn as much as you can about the type of plane you’re flying as well as the specific airplane you are flying.  And always remember – you are pilot in command – if something is not right, don’t push it (even if it is the hair on the back of your neck standing up for what is seemingly no reason…sometimes attention should be paid to gut feelings) – the safety of your and your passenger(s) is the most important thing!

 

“This is a picture of the back side of the pilot’s left rudder pedal of the Kitfox IV I used to own. The crack is between the main pedal post and the arm that attaches the rudder cable, and completely out of sight. I noticed that left rudder was getting mushy so I did a full stop and felt around and found the crack. The welds on early Kitfox kits were not normalized so a few higher stress weld seams developed cracks. The Kitfox company issued service bulletins on this, but the mechanic I had performing the conditional inspection (annual) was not familiar with it. Don’t know how long the crack had been developing but it was about to fail.” – David I.

 

Thank You GoPro!

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A HUGE thank you to GoPro!

GoPro has donated two HD HERO2 camera’s to help Chelsea video document her training and overall journey as she works towards try-outs for the U.S. Advanced Aerobatic Team in 2013!  Check out her latest video (taken with an HD HERO2 earlier in the summer) and stay tuned for more videos and photos to come!  If you’re interested in helping support the journey please visit Chelsea’s fundraising page!

 

Chelsea sees the world from a different perspective!

 

Don’t Let Fear Stall Your Flying!

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Why are pilots scared of stalls? This is something I have asked myself time and time again. And more importantly, it is a question that I, as well as the majority of certificated pilots, have had to personally face. I was never terrified of stalls but at the same time I was also never comfortable with them.  The majority of my training occurred in a Cessna and my first stalls happened during the first few flights with no ground preparation.  Depending on who you ask about this to you will that probably receive one of two reactions to teaching stalls in this manner – either it will create less nervous anxiety or induce unnecessary fear.  For me I just was never really sure of what was going on with stalls and because of this I was never comfortable with them.  A wing-drop, which at the time I considered severe, is actually what led to my first flight with Sean D. Tucker.  My first taste of aerobatic flight is what started me on the road to becoming an aerobatic competitor, instructor and student of aviation safety….but I digress….

Back to the story… I made it through my private pilot checkride and then came my instrument, commercial, multi-engine and instructor training.  Stalls had become more comfortable for me, although that was because my control of them increased. My spin training, consisting of nothing more than a short ground session followed by a flight of a few spins in each direction in a Cessna 152 didn’t make me nervous…I thought I had it in the bag.  But, when the time came for me to give my first instructional flight that required me to go out with a student and have them do stalls I realized that I wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea of stalls let alone spins.  But why?  I had almost every rating I could have with the hours that I had, I studied and trained diligently.   Yet the questions remain.  Why are most pilots so uncomfortable with stalls and spins? And how does one overcome it?

I have been considering the question of why it seems almost natural for stalls and spins to go hand-in-hand with anxiety and fear. I think that the answer is far from simple but here are a few thoughts:

  1. Stalls are misunderstood.

Stalls (and spins) are misunderstood by many (and I’d hazard to say most) pilots, including flight instructors, and thus are often glossed over both on the ground and in the air with just enough to get students through the written and practical exams. Unfortunately stalls and spins are also often completely misunderstood and misconstrued in books, websites, and in other training materials.

2.   Stall experience is limited, at best, for most pilots.

Most pilots do whatever stall training is required for their certificate(s) and then rarely practice them again other than when a BFR or other recurrency flights require. With this, full stalls are rarely practiced more than a few times outside of primary training and stall recovery occurs at the first indication of a stall whether that be the stall warning horn/light, stick shaker or buffet. Training in flying an aircraft at the edges, including learning how to fly aircraft safe to do so in a stall, let alone practicing these slow flight and stalls regularly on our own are often the last thing on a pilot’s mind.

3.   Flying isn’t natural.

Flying is not a natural thing for, at least most, humans. We find what is both physically and psychologically the most comfortable, which is straight-and-level flight, and then do the minimal about outside of that attitude. Because of this we condition ourselves to become comfortable in that state but if the attitude of the aircraft is altered our comfort level quickly dissipates

 

Overall it seems that the fear and anxiety that accompanies stalls for most pilots comes from incomplete and/or incorrect information and understanding, lack of comfort (increased sensitivity) and lack of experience. So what are the ways to fix these issues? I will save my rant about increasing standards for flight instructors for another blog – as I believe that providing proper instruction is the root of a lot of this issue – but outside of that there are some things that you, as the pilot, can do to make yourself a safer and more confident pilot.

  1. Increase your knowledge.

Learn all you can about stalls – the aerodynamics, what they really are and what really affects them. Do you truly understand that a stall is not directly controlled by airspeed and what “stall speed” is? Or if you really want a challenge – try finding a complete lift/drag curve diagram to see what happens after a stall (since most books provide a diagram that ends after a sharp drop-off after the stall which isn’t 100% true). Find a flight instructor that has a lot of stall and unusual attitude experience and knowledge and pick their brain about that subject.

2.   Gain experience.

Like everything in life – experience, although not the only thing to rely on in sticky situations, can greatly assist you in making the right choices when faced with unexpected situations. The more experience you have, the easier it will be for you to react in high stress circumstances. For this, again, I recommend finding a flight instructor with an aerobatic airplane and lots of experience and knowledge so that you can be comfortable that you are in a safe and controlled situation to allow you to experience all edges of the flight envelop.

3.  Get comfortable – desensitize yourself.

This idea goes hand-in-hand with gaining experience, but I believe requires a little more discussion.  When gaining experience it is not specified whether the experience will be pleasant or unpleasant. The idea here is to become comfortable with stalls so that any stall situation, although potentially unpleasant if unexpected in certain situations, will be something that does not induce a panic or fear-based reaction in you. By experiencing stalls over and over in all difference situations and ingraining the recovery techniques, your brain and senses will become more desensitized to the situation and thus will allow you to react with a cooler and more collected manner.

A good flight school with well-trained instructors and well-maintained equipment is a must!

Stalls are simply a decrease in lift associated with exceeding the wing’s critical angle of attack. By reducing the angle of attack on the wing the stall is broken. This can occur at any power setting and at any airspeed. Of course if this happens close to the ground the outcome is often not a good one but when done a safe altitude (in many airplane types), it is not only quite safe but also a non-event.  By learning more about what a stall is, how they are manipulated, and all of the signs that accompany one you can increase your piloting skills will decreasing your chances of ever finding yourself in an unintentional stalling situation.   So find a good flight school with aircraft and instructors that are designed for this type of training, head up to altitude, and find out what stalls are all about!

Husky Pick Up Day 1 12-16-2011

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Poor little frozen Husky (not the one we are picking up)!

Every time I get the opportunity to do some true cross-country flying my heart skips a beat. As a student pilot and even a new flight instructor I considered a flight from Sacramento to Santa Barbara a big trip; it wasn’t until I started working with Team Oracle and the Tutima Academy that I got a true taste of cross-country flight! Texas to King City, CA was my first big cross-country in the Extra. Yakima, WA to Auburn, CA in a SportCub was another fun trip (how could you not like flying low while seeing amazing views, wild horses and even a mountain lion from the air?!).  Since then I have flown back and forth, coast to coast, in Extra’s and have developed a very real respect for that kind of flying.

The Pilatus on the ramp at Afton.

Riding in style!

So, when I got the call that a client needed to go pick up his Husky after some maintenance at the factory in Afton, WY I was excited!  I was excited but also well aware that this was going to be a bit different than my normal summer trips….it’s December….and it’s COLD!  The client also has a Pilatus PC-12 so I met his pilot and another CFI in the Bay Area where we flew to Truckee to pick up the client.  He then flew us all out to Afton and the whole way I was saying to myself, ”Self…don’t get comfy….it’s going to be a lot colder coming back in the Husky!”  But, I have to admit – boy was the flight out in the Pilatus nice!

Approach to Truckee.

Clouds are starting to appear...

Even more clouds...

And....we're overcast!

As we started getting closer to Wyoming clouds began to fill in underneath us; from scattered to broken to overcast.  This wasn’t looking good.  They had to shoot the approach into the airport and when we landed we all groaned a bit as we looked at the weather from the ground – low clouds, poor visibility and mountains EVERYWHERE (never a good combination). We all headed down to Aviat so that he could settle up and move the plane to the FBO.  Now, I have tailwheel experience but no ice and snow experience.  The Husky is sitting on 31” Tundra Tires and the parting words they said to us regarding taxiing on ice were, “Just get her going in the general direction you want to go, go slow, and DON’T USE THE BREAKS. Oh yeah, and once you’re heading down the hill make sure to key the mic 3 times so that the gate is open by the time you get to it.” That’s comforting….an icy snow-covered taxiway going DOWNHILL with a gate at the bottom of it?! Hm. Thankfully it worked out well, but it is pretty amazing how useless the tail wheel becomes once it’s on ice!

Gotta love the sign hanging in the Aviat Factory!

The FBO at Afton is fantastic and the people there are the friendliest, nicest, most helpful people you could ever know.  After about an hour of talking through all of the route options, weather (including about 30 different weather web-cams they have bookmarked on the FBO’s computer) and what discussing what they recommend we decided to grab a bite before making the decision of whether to stay overnight or to fly home in the Pilatus.

The Afton Crew Car!

Welcome to Afton!

Fireworks and Tackle - what more could you need?

Afton's Olympic Gold Medalist lives here...I'm assuming...

Walking into the diner the four of us stuck out like sore thumbs – our iPhones and iPads in hand and all of us bundled up like we just arrived from Hawaii!  We chatted and checked weather (Foreflight is a god-send) over lunch and decided the two of us would stay the night and give it a go in the morning.

Afton's Mountain Inn Condos

A WARM and cozy condo in Afton.

So, the owner of the airplane and I grabbed rooms (or should I say condos) in Afton for the night and sent the other two pilots home….with all of our fingers and toes crossed that the skies will be clear in the morning so we can sneak out at the first light of day.  All the survival gear is packed, the SPOT has fresh batteries, and I will be bundled up like the little kid from A Christmas Story in the morning! It’s supposed to get into the negative numbers overnight…thank goodness they put a heater on the airplane in the hangar.  I have to admit this is making me rethink my desire to go fly in Alaska for a few years….brrrrrrrr!  With that said – it is gorgeous out here!  Stay tuned to see how it goes tomorrow….and check out my SPOT page if you want to track our progress!

Afton, WY

The Usefulness of Stunting – 1922

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My best friend stumbled upon this in his search for other things and I couldn’t help but think that it was too good to not share with the rest of you. For anyone who appreciates how things once were in aviation and how they have changed, or for those in the aerobatic community this is a read that cannot be missed! Below is a link to a pdf file from the National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics, this particular article was published in November of 1922 by Edward P. Warner. Written when the FAA wasn’t the FAA, when the regulations were only a few pages long, and when we were still learning the basics of aerodynamics, this short article is fun to read and a direct look into the past. I hope you all enjoy it!

 

Click the link to download:

The Usefulness of Stunting

Meet Jonathan Ott’s 35% Giles G-202!

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I recently finished my 35% Wild Hare Giles G-202. It is a v1, 93″ Giles in the red and white scheme. You can tell from the pics that I modified the original color scheme by removing the ‘feathers’ and adding a custom set of graphics. Thanks go out to my friend Chelsea Engberg out in California. Her “Go Inverted!” website was the inspiration for the color scheme. Please check out www.goinverted.com over the next few months to see what Chelsea is up to, and order some swag when she gets her stuff up and running. I also want to thank Eric at B&E Graphix www.bandegraphix.com for his work on the vinyl, they all came out great and his customer service is beyond reproach; and finally, to Mike Borger http://www.mbphotos.exposuremanager.com/ for shooting the photos. He is a master behind the lens.

Here are the specifics of this airplane:
Specifications:
· ARF Name: 35% Giles G-202
· Wingspan: 93″
· Wing Area: 1560 sq. in.
· Length: 82″
· Flying Weight as tested: Approximately 24 lbs
· Wing Loading: Approximately 35 oz/ft2.
· Motor used: RCGF 100cc flat twin, stock mufflers, 5” carbon fiber spinner
· Prop: Xoar 27×10 Laminated
· Radio: JR 11X DSMX; JR 921 receiver; Fromeco Regulators, TBM Li-Ion batteries, Miracle switch harness, Smart-Fly   Equalizers for dual elevator and rudder servos.
· Channels Used: 6 total; ailerons, elevator, rudder, throttle, choke, ignition kill
· Servos: (6) Power HD 1501MG – (2 each) ailerons, Elevator, rudder, (1 each) throttle and choke
· Manufacturer: Wild Hare R/C

You’ll notice in the pics, that the cowl has ‘eyes,’ but in fact those blisters are to allow clearance for the spark plug caps on that massive 100cc engine. (This airplane was designed around a 75-85cc engine.) I could have gone with a smaller engine, but where’s the fun in that? The blisters add a wicked look to the sleek lines of the Giles and give me the necessary clearance. I’ve noticed a problem though…since it is a new engine, it shakes pretty well, and there is not a lot of support for that big fiberglass cowl, so it has developed a crack on the starboard blister. I plan to remove them both and go up to the next size blister to gain a little more clearance.

One other change that I’m saving my pennies for is new servos. The Power HD 1501MG servos are fine for many giant scale RC applications, but just don’t have the speed and centering I really want for an IMAC plane. My replacement choice is XQ Power 4020 with titanium alloy gears. They are fast, powerful and inexpensive (for a digital titanium servo) and should be a great choice for this plane.

As with all new aircraft, I’ve had some teething pains with this one. First I could not get the engine to run. I would give it a prime by squirting some gas in the carb and it would pop and run for a second or so, but not draw fuel. I pulled the covers off the carb and wetted the diaphragms with some synthetic 2-stroke oil, and when out at the airfield for the first run up, I took the top plate off the carb and gave all the channels a good shot of gas to prime it up real well. After that, it ran like a top! I put about 10 minutes on it, then went to the air…and that’s where the problems started. During straight and level flight, there were no problems. Pull through a loop, and the engine would hesitate and cough, same doing a roll. I landed and popped the canopy so I could see the needle valves on the carb and started making some adjustments. (In hind sight, I should have never touched the needles, as it ran great on the first tank of fuel, but I fiddled with them anyway.) I still had ¾ tank of gas, so I put it in the air again, but it was running worse. I had an uneventful dead stick landing, and started playing with the needles again. I couldn’t get any reliable transition from idle to WOT, and it was being a real brat. I topped off the tank, fired it back up and with a couple delicate twists and turns of the needles I got a good idle, decent transition, and massive top end thrust! It was getting late, and bugs were eating me up, so I called it a night.

I took the airplane apart and started packing things up and decided to drain the tank so I wouldn’t have the gasoline smell in the basement. Low and behold, I couldn’t get the fuel out! Just the sucking sound of air passing through the tank…hmmm…reverse the pump and fuel goes in, but going the other way, nothing comes out. LIGHTBULB!!!! I decided to troubleshoot and fix the problem at the field, again because of the gasoline smell in the house, and guess what I found? Yep, the clunk line had fallen off in the tank. This explained why it ran fine on a full tank, and when I refueled, and in level flight. But sitting on the ground, after a couple minutes of running, the fuel level was below the fuel fitting and it couldn’t drink a drop. Rookie mistake, but it gave me the opportunity to use better fuel fittings and install a larger tank made from a water bottle. It runs great now that it can drink. I just have to reset the needles and maybe work a throttle curve into the radio to make the response linear and all will be good!

Now the best part: FLYING. The couple short hops I had with the airplane proved the fantastic design of the Giles G-202. For a 93”, 24 lb aerobat, it floats like a butterfly. Landings look like walking speed…okay, maybe jogging speed, but control is solid all the way to touchdown. On landing, three-pointers or running tail up, the Giles sets in its groove and does not get snappy at low speed. Contrary to popular opinion the Giles is NOT a snap happy money pit that many believe it is. On the dead stick landing I had, this airplane exhibited no bad habits. One landing with the engine begging for fuel like a kid wanting a cookie got me low, slow and way behind airspeed and available thrust…it wallowed around flirting with the stall, nose high and no power, but never got snappy on me. It just mushed along, like it knew it was only four feet off the ground and not in the aerobatic box prepping for a spin, and plopped down on the stout main gear.

I only had some basic programming in the radio, triple rates on all controls (bevel to bevel on high rates, 75% of that on medium, and 50% on low rate), 30% expo all around and no differential on the ailerons. My 29% Extra 300 requires about 6% differential on the ailerons to keep the rolls axial, but not the Giles. Rolls looked like they were on a string (cliché, I know but it just rolled right around not looking like it was off line or off center.) Loops exhibited no tendency to be snappy neither on the top, nor at the 5/8 mark when speed was up. I didn’t do any intentional stalls or spins, as the engine wasn’t running like it should, so I can’t comment on stall or spin performance.


My travel schedule keeps me from getting to fly as much as I would like. I’m looking forward to making a few improvements on this airframe and getting it back in the air. It is a great performer when opened up, and a baby when slowed down. I think I’m going to like competing with this airplane.

- By Jonathan Ott

First Pitts Solo

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July 14th, 2007

King City, CA

The “Ballistic Butterfly” & Chelsea Take Flight

Getting ready for the big flight!

 

So other than buying an airplane, this update might be the most monumental to date. I made yet another trip down to King City yesterday morning bright and early. I invited my student, Darrick, to join the trip as he’s shown an interest in aerobatics and he was my first student that I soloed (and we just like him!!). So we met bright and early in the hopes of arriving around 8am. John and Darrick did the flying…I curled up in the backseat with a bunch of pillows and enjoyed the VIP treatment.

Of course we did arrive right on time, only to find that for the first time in days the entire valley was socked in by fog. Off to Harris Ranch to wait out the weather. But, with our live King City Weather Service (i.e. my instructor, Ken Erickson), we finally made it in around 10am.

Ken, being the wonderful guy that he is, already had the Pitts S2B warmed up and full of fuel. So, should we brief? Naw… lets just go fly! So we pushed out, climbed in, fired up and headed out to the run-up area. It was time for more take-off’s and landings. For those who don’t know, the Pitts has a somewhat ominous reputation for its takeoffs and landings. Because it is so powerful, small, light, short-coupled and a tail wheel, it can get away from you if you don’t stay focused. We flew a bunch of patterns on Tuesday and so this was just more landing practice.

Of course when it’s time to takeoff there is a little Cessna 150 (slow 2-place Cessna trainer) in the pattern which gave me the good experience of having to manage the airplane in the pattern behind a much slower airplane. When he departed the pattern he keyed-up on the mic and said, “King City Traffic, Cessna departing the pattern, thanks for the dance”.

We did all different types of landings and after about a half hour we taxied off the runway and Ken said, “Well, I guess it’s time to fly your airplane.”

Yikes. Smiling. Knot in my stomach. Starting to get nervous. But we taxied to fuel and then spent some time getting me fitted in the plane, looking at the systems, carefully preflighting, etc. It took about an hour of prep as well as conjuring up the confidence to go do this. I knew I could, I knew I was capable, but still…it’s like test flying an airplane. A totally new airplane, single-seat, I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Yet, it was time. So Ken, who was of course confident calm and cool along with John and Darrick were there helping me set up and cheering me on.

 

Putting on the parachute!

 

Ken said, just climb in, go taxi around and then if you’re ready, go run-up and go. If you want to come back after you taxi around, and then go for it you can do that, too. Trust me, I look excited above, and I was, but my hands were shaking at the same time! Then I discovered, once I’d ratcheted myself in with the seatbelts, I wasn’t going to get far, because the key was safely tucked away deep in my pants pocket underneath all the seatbelts.  Back to square one.  Eventually I put on the helmet (borrowed a basic one as my custom one won’t ship out until Monday), closed the canopy and it was time to start up.

 

Taxiing out to 29.

 

I started taxiing around the ramp getting a feel for the rudder pedals and the brakes. I went towards the end of the runway, made a circle and it just felt like the next thing to do was head to the run-up area. I expected to taxi for an hour or more before I decided to go…but there was just something calling me. So I swung the nose around into the wind for the run-up. Okay…can’t have anything floating around in the airplane so this run-up is from memory (i.e. no checklist). CIGAR. C – controls/canopy, I-instruments, G-gas, A-altimeter, R-runup. Instruments look good, engine is warm, seatbelts are tight, canopy is latched. Someone’s on downwind…plenty of time.

“King City Traffic, Pitts 222 Echo Charlie departing runway 29 for the aerobatic box which is directly north and east of the airport, King City.”

 

Take-Off!

 

Taxi on to the runway; make sure our nose is pointing straight down it. Full throttle, push the stick forward and the tail picks up. Whoa, those rudder pedals are light! And in the blink of an eye I’m flying!

 

Up Up and AWAY!

 

I can’t even explain the feeling. I went from a nervous wreck as I climbed into the plane to wearing the biggest grin from ear to ear as I looked below me and watched the ground rush away. I turned right into the aerobatic box, and all by myself enjoyed the feeling of being part of a small, quick, amazing little airplane. The last time I flew solo was 3 years ago (I’ve been training, flying a 2-crew airplane or instructing ever since!).

Now it was time to get a feel for this bird. I did some slow flight, stalls, competition turns. Feeling out where to place the stick, where is exactly neutral on the controls? I’m flying back and forth, pulling vertical and 45 lines to see what it looks like. It’s not long before I key-up the mic and announce to the boys who are watching and listening below that, “This airplane is a blast to fly!”

Should I roll it? I don’t know! I’ve never flown this plane before…I’ve never flown solo aerobatics before! But I’m itching to see so 4,000ft, 140 on the airspeed indicator…pull the stick back and slam the stick full left. Boy does it roll nicely! So now I’m going back and forth, rolling and cranking and banking. Too much fun! But I guess I should try to land, huh? I pulled the power back and started to come down, setting up to enter the pattern.

I cleared my head, thinking to myself, this is just like I’ve been practicing. Just fly this airplane (I can hear Ken and Ben’s words in my head). I’m abeam the numbers and pulling the power back. It’s looking good.

 

Coming in for landing.

 

“King City Traffic, Pitts 222 Echo Charlie Final, 29, Full Stop, King City”

Down I came and somehow I landed. 3-point (all the wheels at once). No bounce…sweet! There are those rudder pedals again! But I kept on it and slowed down and taxied off.

”King City Traffic, Pitts 222 Echo Charlie, Clear 29, King City”.

 

Taxiing in.

 

Boy did I want to scream over the radio. How much fun was that?! I taxied back, turned around and stopped in front of the fuel pumps. With a smile and deep breath I slid the canopy back. Darrick was whistling and video taping the whole thing (such a good movie producer) and Ken came out to see how it went. It was so wonderful to have them there for the support and to share the big day and excitement with a few friends (Mom, of course, I wish you and Dad had been there!)!

So we fueled her up, pushed her back into the hangar and went out for lunch. We came back but the winds were howling (as always around 3pm in King City) and I decided to wait for the next flight sometime this next week (I’ll go down and fly a bunch in the next few weeks before we bring her home). But we hung out with Ken, talked about his new adventure (Turbine Toucan). What a great experience and day. So what’s next? More flying!

 

 

 

Chelsea’s first REAL Cross-COUNTRY

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September 2008

Extra Cross-Country Flying!

 

Have you ever had one of those moments where you felt like you were looking from the outside in on an experience you were having at that very moment? Like one of those times you can almost hear the soundtrack to your own movie being played in your head because the experience was so surreal? Or maybe you can just see the pages of your autobiography unfolding before you even though the book is decades away from being a complete story. Some may never experience this, some may never know or understand the passion that aviators thrive upon simply because we cannot get enough of wings, sky and the freedom and wonder of flight. Recently I experienced just that, and I can’t wait to experience it again.

I must start by stating the fact that although I have a long way to go in making any type of living at flying, I am working hard to get there and loving every single minute of it. I must also say that every step that I take seems to be even more unbelievable than the last…a dream come true. So of course when Sean D. Tucker asked me if I’d be interested in training to be a ferry pilot in the Extra and that he wanted my first flight to be from Portland, Maine home to King City, California with Ben Freelove as my mentor you can only imagine my excitement. Now, I’ve done some cross countries, but the furthest I’ve flown in a small airplane was from Texas to California with Ben last year, and other than that all my long trips have been in King Airs or Citations. Flying from coast to coast in an Extra 300 was going to be a totally different experience. It would be one for the books.

So Ben and I piled onto a JetBlue A320 early Sunday morning and started the trip east. Monday morning started with phone calls to customs to update them on the Teams arrival (as they were flying in from Halifax, Nova Scotia) and heading to the FBO to wait for them. Eric Tucker was flying the Oracle Challenger, Brian Norris was flying the Extra 300 and Clyde Greene and Collin Davis were in the Seneca. Upon everyone’s arrival Clyde and Collin headed to the terminal to airline home, Brian hopped in the Seneca and Ben and I loaded up the Extra. Eric was already on his way while we were loading the turtle deck with the few things we brought with us. Of course this whole time my nerves were getting the best of me, not because I was concerned that I didn’t know what I was doing but because this was just different. This was new. This was exciting.

Once everyone was packed and gassed we were off. Brian was staying fairly close, within an hour or so of us as he had all the parts in case we needed any maintenance assistance along the way. We were all hoping to reach Piqua, Ohio, home of Hartzell Propellers, by sunset. I have to be honest when I say that although I was taking everything in visually I can’t really tell you a lot of what I saw within the first hour or two of flight…I think it was sensory overload. I spent most of the time figuring out exactly how to work everything, monitoring temperature and pressure gauges and constantly checking on our fuel supply.

The home of Hartzell Propellers

 

Slowly, though, things started to become a little more second-nature for me in the plane and by the time we reached Piqua that evening I was feeling more comfortable. Of course I would have been more comfortable if I had thought about loosening the seatbelts a bit and breathing…but hey, live and learn. So after fueling the plane and getting her pushed into her hangar for the night we headed for the hotel. Brian was already tucked into his room and had briefed Daniel Jones, another of our crew members, about the next day. We grabbed some food and a beer or two at Z’s, a local sports bar, and then called it a night.

We all woke up bright and early the next morning as Brian wanted to be off the ground at sunrise. Of course we were all a little skeptical after the thunderstorm that had barreled through that night. Lo and behold it was still grey and drizzly when I peeked through the curtains the next morning. After Daniel took on the duty of “team weather briefer” I called Ben and we decided to both go back to sleep while I’m sure Brian was up working diligently, waiting for the ceilings to lift. And lift they did!

We blasted off for what was to be the longest of the days as far as flying was concerned. Ben grew up in Ohio so we made a slight detour to fly over some of his old stomping grounds…although those darn clouds made it impossible at times so soon we were back on our way. Brian was hoping that he and Daniel, who was now Brian’s chauffer in the Seneca, would make Ogden, Utah by that night. Ben and I were hoping for the same thing.

Welcome to KAAA!

 

So fly we did. And get gas we did. The Extra likes its gas and gets thirsty every 2 hours or so. I think I was most excited to stop at KAAA. Where is KAAA (Logan County Airport) you might ask? It’s tucked into the sleepy little town of Lincoln, IL. And WHY was I excited about stopping here you might be wondering?? Well, if you’ve ever used a GPS in a plane you might figure it out. What is the very first airport that pops up as you start to input an identifier that starts with K (which most do)?? KAAA!!! I know, I know, it’s just because it’s alphabetical but I’ve seen this identifier for years so the opportunity to stop and get gas there was just one more thing I couldn’t pass up.

Easy way to change fuel prices!

 

Logan County Airport was quiet, as many of our gas stops were. But this airport looked like there were a lot of stories to be heard if one had the time to spend there. It is a small airport set among corn fields with an outdoor aviation museum on part of the ramp. Quonset hut hangars housed old yellow dusters and other planes. And apparently they had some of the cheapest gas in the area. How can one tell, by the duct tape of course! Before we left we decided to pop into the pilot’s lounge to use the restroom. This was like stepping back in time a few decades. Although it was very clean it looked as though no one had been inside for years.

Experiencing little airports, even for short periods, is becoming one of my favorite parts of cross country ferry flights.

Just as we were climbing in the cockpit and ratcheting our belts a gentleman pulled up and walked over. He said he knew the plane and raced over to see if we needed any help. He was very nice and gave us his card, offering to help out anytime we came through again, even to take us to lunch. Apparently he lives under the traffic pattern and said anytime he sees someone new fly in he has become the unofficial airport greeter. After our goodbyes we were off again.

Back in the air with three full tanks (wings and acro tank) of gas Ben was back manning the his Ipod and I soon decided upon Schenck Field Airport in Clarinda, IA (KICL) as our next fuel stop. Again, another airport in the middle of corn fields and we were in and out pretty quickly. Next fuel stop, North Platte Regional or Lee Bird Field in North Platte, NE. Again, fairly quick in and out and then it was time to switch over to XM radio for a while.

Ben and I had an on-going discussion about how rare it is to see traffic while flying long cross country flights. Of course this was other than the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that flew just next to us in the opposite direction the day before while over New York. A minute or so later Ben pointed out traffic way ahead of us at about our one o’clock. We were just trying to figure out if it was coming towards us or going away from us when Brian and Daniel piped up on the discreet radio frequency we use. After a quick discussion of current locations Ben said “I think we see you. We’re at about your seven o’clock.”

Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a Top Gun reference as I asked, “Any of you boys seen an aircraft carrier around here?”

“So much for the ‘Big Sky’ theory,” Brian said.

And with that Ben offered the idea to go pay them a visit. So I pushed the throttle forward and as we got a little closer I stepped on the right rudder and slid in on the 45 and pulled the power back as we closed on them. Soon we were off their left wing. After scaring Daniel with the information that it was me flying and not Ben we were off. They were on their last leg to Ogdon and we had at least one more fuel stop so we wanted to keep moving.

An hour or so later we landed at Laramie Airport in Laramie, WY (KLAR). Time to head into Cowboy Aviation for a fill up.  This was a great little FBO which I was happy to see after discovering that landing even in pretty gusty conditions isn’t too bad in the Extra (especially when you’re landing on a HUGE runway). Even so, I was nervous at what the AWOS (automated weather that we listen to over the radio) reported for winds so I was quite happy to be down with a landing that wasn’t too ugly. By this point Ben and I were getting pretty cold. The Extra is anything but air-tight and even being inside the FBO, which wasn’t that warm I might add, we weren’t close to warm before we climbed back in to our moving office. Ben figured out a great way to keep the cold air out a little more in the front (which is the coldest seat in the plane and where he was). He would fold up the wing walk (the same squishy stuff you can line cupboards and drawers with) and hold it in place as I closed the canopy on it. Perfect!

Mountain Flying

 

I was slightly nervous about this next leg. Not only was it cold, but the mountains were fast approaching and although we had plenty of time before sunset, the sun was going down and of course there was some weather ahead. Now, it’s not that mountains are bad, but ferrying aerobatic airplanes is often some of the most dangerous flying you can do, and this was only my second long cross country in an Extra and my first over serious mountains.  It is wonderful that we have a Garmin420 GPS as well as a Garmin496 on board. This means that we have 2 moving maps, along with terrain and current weather (all of which I learned to use and love along the way). We had to dodge some rain showers on the way in and went slightly north and then back into Ogden which is very close to busy Class B airspace as well as Hill Air Force Base. Tower was wonderful there; very friend and helpful. We followed the freeway all the way in for a straight in and then taxied to Kemp Air…quiet possibly the nicest FBO I’ve ever seen. As we got out F-16’s screamed across the darkening night sky, heading back to Hill. Even after 8.3 hours in an airplane and our 6th airport of the day and I was still looking up and smiling. I can’t get enough of this.

Once we had the airplane put away we called Daniel to come pick us up. While we waited Ben and I made phone calls to give your overnight location to some people who had been following us across the country online (as Bill Stein was nice enough to let us borrow his Spot which is a personal locator). By taking it with us it sent out periodic signals which then posted to his website so that anyone who knew about it could follow our track. We also had the ability to hit a button that sent a text message out to designated cell phones saying that we’re okay. It also allows you to hit a single button if you need help…a very cool piece of equipment. But, I digress.

Ben’s girlfriend had been watching as we flew along. She already knew we were in Ogden and had taken it upon herself to search for a good restaurant to go to. She rocks. Conveniently the restaurant she recommended was right at the airport, Rickenbacker’s Bistro and Restaurant, so Ben, Daniel and I headed inside for dinner. This place was great! Full bar, good beer and wine and outstanding food. We were also lucky enough to be seated in the warmest spot in the whole place which helped Ben and me to defrost. I would highly recommend this place to anyone who finds themselves in Ogden.

I’m pretty sure we all slept well that night. Ben and I had spent 8.3 flight hours in the airplane that day. It was the first time in quite a while that I fell asleep in a hotel without much effort and even had the air conditioner off.

Garmin rocks!

 

The next morning was much more relaxed than the day before. It was our last day and it was going to be much shorter since we had pushed so far the day before. We got all packed up and taxied out for take-off. This portion of the flight took a little more work as we had to make sure to stay out of the Class B airspace and then followed I80 between the two Restricted Areas as we cruised over the salt flats on our way to Battle Mountain (KBAM). Again, thank goodness for the 420 and 496!!

Although there wasn’t anything super exciting about the Battle Mountain stop there is one thing that made my day. My landing! Now, mind you, I’m still figuring out how to land this plane which requires a lot less work than the Pitts which means I’m always over-flying it on landing. But, Ben is a great landing coach so it’s been good. But at KBAM Ben was silent on landing. And..lo and behold a beautiful (yet a still a bit fast) wheel landing. Woohoo! Here we filled up and then stretched our legs as we talked to a fellow pilot there with a huge Ag Tractor stationed there for the fire season. What a cool (and HUGE) plane!!

So we needed one more fuel stop before King City. We decided that we would try for Auburn, CA (KAUN) as that is where John and I both learned to fly and where we both work part time as flight instructors now. So that’s where we headed. As we flew high over Reno, NV we looked down at Stead Airport, home of the Reno Air Races, and could actually see time trials going on; it looked like the Unlimiteds. Soon we were over Truckee, and man was this portion of the flight stunning. We followed I80 along, as there are not always a lot of good outs over the Sierras if your engine decides to cough, and enjoyed the scenery as we went. It felt like time was flying, probably because I’ve made this drive so many times and the Extra is moving at warp-speed in relation to a car!

Again I was a little nervous about this, partially because it was home but also because it would be the shortest and narrowest (although not terrible by standards for either – 3700’ x 75’) runway I’d attempted thus far. And, because I was still landing with my hair on fire it was going to take flying much slower in the pattern to stick it. It wasn’t the most beautiful landing but it worked. Of course Ben did point out that the runway’s hill didn’t help much either as I had it and then the runway went down…and away from me…but hey…I’ll take what I got. My Mom were waiting there, camera in hand. We said hello, gassed up, hung out and then it was off to King City.

On our way home.

 

This time we were flying low enough to not have to bundle up which was nice. Upon arrival into King City Ken Erickson greeted us at the fuel island and it was great to be home. Seamus (Sean O’Leary) was there waiting, too and as always, King City felt like home (like it does every time I arrive there). We put the airplane away and tied up some loose ends. Ben and Seamus invited me to grab lunch but I was waiting for John and our friend, Gary, to arrive in Gary’s DA40 to take me home. About 30 minutes later I was sitting in the right seat of the Diamond already saying goodbye to the Tutima Academy. I was sad that my longest cross country to date was over and that I had gotten all the Extra 300 time I was going to get for awhile. Although it was a long trip I would have loved for it to go on a few more days…call me crazy, but I loved every single second of it. There is nothing better than flying an airplane and seeing America from the sky. There are novels written about this; stories of people flying across the country in a Piper Cub. Well, the Extra is no Cub, but it is still a very unique airplane that I love and am thrilled to have time in. I saw a chapter in my life’s story develop before my eyes this trip, a trip I will never forget.