After a couple of years not flying power planes I decided to get back into it over the winter of 2006-07. I joined the club out at Airport 2 and have been flying Diamond Stars with very nice glass cockpits totalling about 30 hours between November and April. Here is a link to the Diamond Star if you are not familiar with them.
To the right is a picture of my two oldest kids Alexis and Bruno V (the fifth!) on a fun cross country trip to Boise for a McDonalds' $600 hamburger. Man! Food is sure getting expensive these days. Especially when you are paying $100 per hour to get there. :) I had fun taking them but was completely amazed that after 10 minutes they were already bored and fighting. I took them up in gliders several times each last year but this was their first time in a power plane with me. I had thought they would enjoy looking out the big windows longer but I started hearing yells and crying that, "so and so took my crayon or isn't sharing the snacks, or who knows what!" On the positive side they both said they had a lot of fun and it is clear that they are verrrrrrry comfortable up in the air. I was delighted last year when after soaring on some weak days with both of them neither even had a clue that they could have gotten air sick. NICE! They have begged me to go up again soon and we look forward to it.
I am really looking at my power flying as an opportunity and an excuse to take the family or just my wife on short vacations around the west. I tried to fly down to Vegas last weekend to meet up with the wife and kids who had already driven down but a few bad icing thunderstorms stood in the way. I ended up just taking a SouthWest flight down and saved a bunch of money. Heidi and I are hoping to get down to Sedona, AZ for a day or two in the next month or so. It ends up all being about time or weather that stands in the way. I just have to come to terms that with general aviation transportation in the spring you never know if the weather will work with you or against you and you just have to stay flexible and most of all safe.
I now have just a little bit over 300 hours total flying over that last 13 years. 100 of these is in power planes and 200 gliders. I took long breaks in the middle as I built up my business and had a young family but hope now that I can get in around 100 hours a year split between power and soaring.
Over the winter I spent some time messing around with my ASW-20BL looking for ways to spend money. Unfortunately, before I knew it I had spent another $2,500 on her but I think the investments are well worth it. Here is a list of everything I did:
- LNAV / GPS NAV upgrades and recalibration.
- PCAS MRX purchase and install
- Winglet fix - I sent my winglets off to David Nelson back in Michigan to "tweak". He made several changes that he said should greatly improve their performance. I had quite a few people tell me that before these changes were made the original winglets had some major flaws that probably cost me 10%+ drag penalties. If this is anywhere near true I should see and feel some huge performance gains! I can't wait to try the updated winglets out!
- Custom low-drag (but hopefully strong enough) wing wheels to go with my new winglets, which after the changes were missing any type of skid or wheel.
- New ELT antenna using a method recommended by Tim Mara to use a hand held radio antenna instead of the clumsy big whip antenna I had been using.
- install the transponder L2 antenna into the tail boom instead of using the first antenna installed right between my legs. I wonder if I can still have any more kids after flying for a season with that first install?!?!? :) This ended up taking a great deal of time and efforts but the resulting positioning and subsequent testing by an avionics show showed that this new antenna and its new position will perform much better than the original.
- Sage vario rebuild. It had problems ever since I bought the glider and just needed to get overhauled.
- Install ELT remote switch in dash.
- 2 new main batteries - I ended up getting two 9amp hour 12-volt batteries that should power all my toys just fine for 8+ hours.
- Oxygen battery replacement - good to do every year.
- Gear up warning battery replacement - again, good to do every year.
- polish canopy
- PCAS MRX purchase and install - This little deck of card sized unit sits on top of my instrument panel and can track up to 10 other aircraft at any time and warn me if any are getting too close. Very, very nice to have flying around busy Salt Lake airspace!
- New trailer tires and wheels - the old ones were rusty and the tires had some sun damage.
- lots of wiring cleanup behind the panel and under the seat pan.
- Repack parachute
- New battery both switch - My old switch would either run one battery or the other. I changed the wiring so that I could run both batteries together at the same time. I have been told that I will get better performance out of them if run together instead of one at a time.
- Remove old contest numbers. I am now officially B4 and hope to get some contest numbers on the glider soon - not that I plan to fly any contests soon.
- New EXPERIMENTAL vinyl lettering for cockpit.
- N number label for panel in case I forget it when talking to ATC. ;)
- Lots and lots of other little clean up items that took forever and probably will never be noticed but were fun to do anyway.
April 7, 2007 - Morgan Valley Airport, Utah in my ASW20BL using extended 16.7 meter tips, One 2,800 ft tow, 3.2 hour flight.
Everything came together just right to make a great first day soaring for 2007. The weather the day before was overcast high cirrus clouds blocking out some of the sun. But when I woke up they were all gone and in the morning there was nothing but clean and clear blue sky. The winds were not too strong out of the north west and I knew the mountains would heat up and start creating nice puffy cus which they did.
I got to the airport by about 10:15am to make sure I set up early and wasnt rushed and was met by a large group of 15+ other pilots who were there to either fly their own ships or put together the two club Grobs and take flights to get current. The picture is them putting on one of the wings.
I ended up forgetting to bring my newly made wing wheels for my updated winglets and so decided to use the extended 16.7 meter straight tips. Darn! I was so excited to try out the new winglets. Next flight something to look forward to. My takeoff was great kept the wings level the whole time. I really hope I am past the days of wing drops on takeoff. Again, the wings have only dropped all the way down to the point they touched once two years ago but I havent been totally happy with some of my wobbles from last year.
The lift was surprisingly strong and easy to find. All you had to do was just fly under any cloud and there it was. Nice! I ended up staying within long gliding distance of the airport since I didnt really feel like pushing it too hard the first flight of the year but made it up north and then down south to feel that at least I made it out of Morgan Valley. My mods and additional toys installed over the winter all worked great except that my electronic vario wouldnt make a sound. It was actually very nice to only hear the sound of the wind the whole flight. I did find that my eyes were a little bit more in the cockpit than I would have liked because I didnt have a sound reference for what the vario was reading. I know, I should be able to feel it in the seat of the pants and did when there were changes in lift. I think I will turn the vario volume waaaaayyyyyy down in the future to just barely hear it. I really liked the peace and quiet of this flight.
My new PCAS toy worked wonderfully. The PCAS reads the transponder signals of other aircraft when the local area radar hits them and then compares their position to my own. It was a no brainer. I turned it on at the start of the flight and didnt touch it for the rest of the flight. I highly recommend any glider pilot who flies anywhere near a lot of traffic to invest in one. It only cost me about $450 and proved very helpful and not distracting at all.
Landing was good but not as smooth as I always hope for because I closed spoilers close to the ground to float a little bit further down the runway since I was landing long. I then opened them a few inches above the ground and dropped onto the wheels because I needed to land and start slowing down to coast right up to my trailer which I did. It was a good reminder to not mess with spoilers unless you have to anywhere close to the ground. Fun, fun day and flight! I am excited for the next one.
April 28, 2007 - Morgan Valley Airport, Utah in my ASW20BL using 15 meter updated winglets for first time, One 3,500 ft tow (That's one high tow!), 2 hour flight.
I was the first to the airport arriving at 11:30am. Normally, most pilots there there by 10 or 10:30 to start getting set up. What you can read into that is the weather was predicted to be quite stable. Winds aloft were calm up to around 30,000 ft. It was going to be a tough day to go anywhere but I was excited to get up for a second time this season in my glider and try out my newly improved winglets. This time I remembered to bring my "homemade" wing wheels because these new tips don't have skids.
Shortly after arriving a few friends started to show up. Kirk and I both helped each other to get our 20's together and also Ron to get his beautiful new 303 ready. One problem. My tail wheel's valve stem showed it had a pretty substantial leak when I tried to top off the pressure. I ended up losing about an hour and 15 minutes taking off the wheel and deciding if I dared to fly with a really low-pressure tail wheel. Emotion won over logic and I slapped the thing back on and went flying.
Takeoff went well until about 5 seconds after leaving the ground and my gpsnav suddenly went dead. This happened to me once before. It had something to do with either a lose connection or something to do with only using one batter now (to keep my weight and balance as good as possible until I lose some more weight...slacker) and my new both switch for batteries. I need to fix it before the next flight. It made for a fun day having to rely on my flying skills and not "cheat" by seeing where I have circled before to try to center lift. Speaking of lift there wasn't much to speak of. Most of the thermals averaged only 100-150 ft per minute so it was slow going. That and the fact that my friends were a few thousand feet above me made me take a very high tow. I had already lost an hour and didn't want to be stuck down low on a ridge just trying to stay up. Instead, I was on a higher ridge just trying to stay up. :) After running a ridge that was providing little if any lift for about 20 minutes I finally got high enough to get through some sort of layer and the lift started working a little bit better. In the end, I just flew around with the 303 and a duo discus. We thermalled tightly in a thermal together for about 15 minutes and the sight of the other two gliders so close and the mountains was just breathtaking. My new winglets performed great. I could tell that they were less "draggy" but they still didn't help me get that incredible roll rate that I could in the Phoebus. It still feels like the ASW20 ailerons are only 50% as effective as the Phoebus's huge ailerons. Again, flying the Phoebus is like driving an Italian sports car while flying the 20 is like driving a BMW 750. Both are sporty and fast but the ride is soooooo much different. Again, with the flexible wings the ASW-20 is a smooth piece of engineering with the wings flexing to take almost all of the bumps out of the ride. Nice! On the other had, you get the incredible responsiveness of the Phoebus but when you hit bumps...you feel every single one...hard! I do miss the incredible handling of the Phoebus but have succumbed to that sweet ride of the 20 and always fly with a smile.
Landing was just ok again. Maybe it is because I am so used to landing airplanes now. It wasn't bad - just not a smooth final foot till touchdown. Heck! If every flight were perfect it would get boring. :) I also blame this landing a little bit on my preoccupation with the tail wheel and trying to keep it off the ground for as long as possible due to it being very low on pressure. Nothing ruined but it is obvious I should not fly it again until I get a replacement inner tube. Fun day!