The weekend promises to have some of the last hot days of the summer. My flying friend and I are taking his Piper for a spin. EDAH is the destination for the day.
The sky is blue and so is the forecast. So we are a bit surprised to see a dark storm frot looming to the west when we come closer to the coast. Loks like we found the only patch of bad weather in a 500 mile radius.
An unmotivated rain shower makes for a nice atmosphere under the sun shades on the terrace of the airport restaurant.
When we are ready to leave, the weather radar shows a thin but long storm front almost completely stretching along our way home. So we decide to fly west at first and turn south as soon as we are behind the front. „Tango India“ is equipped with a storm scope. An antenna that can detect electro magnetic pulses (EMPs), their direction and intensity. These pulses are caused by lightning, so the system can put lighting strikes in the area on a map.
This is the first time that either one of us is flying close enough to a storm cell to see the system in action. We navigate along the back side of the storm and the storm scope is lighting up. After the initial excitement of seeing the new gadget in action, we start referencing the information on the screen with what we see outside. What a great learning experience.
When we get close to the Big City, the last bit of weather is still between us and our destination. So we divert to EDBF for a cup of coffee. The sun is shining but the runway is still wet. We are told that the storm here was short but strong.
Back at EDAV later that evening we move the other airplanes out of the hangar to clear the path for „Tango India“. Her spot is in the very back. This morning, when we had to move the same planes in order to get her out, we discussed for a moment if we should just leave them outside for the day. I’m very glad we spent the couple of extra minutes to put them back into the shelter.
I am back to fly an ultra light for the first time in a while. I have been busy flying Cessnas and Pipers and my trusted Riders have been neglected lately.
My old flight instructor is teasing me. „Back to flying real airplanes, are you?“
I smile but he is right. In many ways, the very light two seaters are more demanding than the stable and tranquil larger Cessnas.
I’m flying „Charly Oskar“ today. With her 100hp Rotax engine, she is very well powered for her weight. I take time to go through the short check list and taxi to the runway slowly. I push the throttle forward and the world accelerates around me. No time for watching the airspeed build up before rotating eventually. The airspeed indicator comes to life and the needle shoots past the rotation speed. I pull slightly on the joke, the rumbling stops but the acceleration does not. I can’t hold the „Yee-Haw“ in!
For the first few moments I’m a bit overwhelmed and very busy managing the energy. After that, the fun starts.
I have no big plans for today. Just getting comfortable with the Rider again. I start with a few patterns. The approach is easy. The glide slope feels natural and the landing is acceptable. Good.
After three or four landings, I take a quick strool around the hood. The sun is shining and I relax. Holding my altitude requires a bit more attention than on the Cessna. The ultra light is more agile but also more nervous.
After the last landing of the day, I taxi back to the apron. I shut down “Charliy Oscar” and finalize the check list. The flight was fun but I have mixed feelings. I enjoyed the simplicity and agility of the Rider but at the same time I missed the tranquile solidity of the Cessnas and Pipers. Going back is hard.
Visibility: clear, more than 10Km
Wind: 010°, 4kts
Location: EDVE (Braunschweig)
Equipment: Piper 28-181 Archer II (D-EITI)
We are in a conference room with a tired, wooden table, a few chairs and an institutional look. The windows are overlooking the parking lot. The door across the hallway however, leads into the hangar. Full of airplanes in various stages of being serviced.
The table is covered in stacks of paper. They brought two laundry baskets filled with paper to the small room.
My flying friend has been looking to buy an aircraft for a long time. We have talked about it a lot, we went through options and looked at sales ads. A few weeks ago, he had made up his mind. But by the time he called the owner back, the airplane was gone.
Today nothing should go wrong. We drove to Braunschweig this morning. My flying friend, his flight instructor and myself, as the driver. Someone needs to bring the wheels back if he buys the airplane.
The mission today is to check-out and hopefully to purchase D-EITI. She is a Piper 28 from 1979. Her second owner is sitting at the table with us. He speaks with a calm and deliberate voice and has a tired smile. The day is emotional for him, he is here to sell the aircraft that he has owned for 27 years.
This is the second time that I witness an aircraft changing owners. The first time was with my flying buddy when he got his rocket ship „Kilo Tango“. Today a slightly larger and slightly more complex airplane changes hands. The difference is mainly in the tonnage of paper.
We touch a lot of paper before we get to touch some aluminum. „Tango India“ is waiting for us in the sun outside of the hangar. When I see her for the first time, I am impressed. Her paint job is just a few seasons old and she looks new.
We check the aircraft inside out and our first impression is confirmed: „Tango India“ has been her owners darling. She has been well loved and taken care of to extremely high standards. Everything is clean, all connections are tight, all instruments are well adjusted. She looks great!
Time to fly
„Tango India“ flies like she looks – solid. My flying friend gets a feeling for the aircraft, the flight instructor tests her systems, I am in charge of documentation from the back. When we are back on the ground, the verdict is clear. An airplane is going to get a new owner today.
Back in the conference room, the transaction is quickly finalized. And then comes the hard part: While my flying friend and proud new aircraft owner follows the instructor to the hangar, I go back to the parking lot. What an anti climactic way to end this beautiful day!
Location: New Place in the digital universe
I started this blog at blog.com with the very nice address:
Catchy, easy to say and to remember. I liked the service as it was uncluttered, had nice themes and was easy to use.
However, over time it became apparent that the operators of the blog.com service do not pay as much attention to details as they should (or even would like to, who knows…). The service was down a lot and veeeery slow.
So after checking a number of alternatives, I decided to do my own website with the new – even cooler domain of www.aloft.aero!
This will give me more control and the readers better performance in the future. And turning my hobby into a learning experience in WordPress can’t hurt either!
Over the next few days I will move the old blog posts over here step by step. I also have to decide on a nice theme and finally, to complete the move – I will link the new site from the old blog. Farewell blog.com, I really liked you!
Visibility: A view of the past & a vision for the future
Location: Lae, New Guinea & VRRM (Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Maledives)
Equipment: NR16020 (Lockheed Electra) & N58NG (Pilatus PC12NG)
On June 1st 1937, Amelia Mary Earhart startet her famous attempt to fly around the globe. Her equipment was a Lockheed Electra. Together with her navigator Fred Noonan, she took off from Lae in New Guinea for the leg over the Pacific on July 2nd 1937 – 77 years ago.
They were not heard of again. But the respect for the achievement of Amelia Earhart as an aviatrix lives on. She has opened aviation to many people, especially many females who found the courage to pursue their own dreams in Amelias adventures.
On June 26th 2014, Amelia Rose Earhart started her flight around the globe. Her equipment is a Pilatus PC12 NG. A high tech, single engine, pressurized, turboprop made in Switzerland. Together with her co-pilot Shane Jordan, she is currently on the Maldives.
Amelia Rose is a pilot and a radio and television reporter. She is aiming at becoming the youngest female to circumnavigate the globe in a single engine aircraft.
Amelia Rose is “symbolically completing” the flight of Amelia Mary. “I hope to develop an even deeper connection to my namesake and also encourage the world to pursue their own adventures.” she says on her website.
During the flight, her foundation “Fly With Amelia” will award flight scholarships to young woman. Follow Amelia on twitter for regular updates!
I’m impressed and moved by the project and wish Amelia and Shane all the best for this amazing trip!
To be continued…
“You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky” Amelia Mary Earhart
(originally posted on July 2, 2014 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/amelia-earhart/)
Visibility: CAVOC, more than 10k
Temperature: -9°C, clear and cold night
Wind: 070°, 7 knots
Equipment: D-EKKT (Cessna 172)
It is one of the sunniest days in weeks and while everyone else enjoys the sunshine, I anticipate sun set.
Dusk is turning the clear sky to shades of dark blue when I arrive at the airport. I have double checked the batteries of my pilot flash light, I will need it tonight. The office of the flight school is packed. Pilots are standing around in groups, chatting, laughing. It’s like a cocktail party but without the booze.
Night VFR is a separate endorsement to the private pilots license in Germany. The airport has longer hours for night training once a month. I will have my second or third lesson tonight.
The apron is illuminated by flood lights and I don’t really need my flash light for the preflight check. But I’ll be damned if I don’t use it tonight! A student pilot asks if he can come for the ride. Of course he is welcome.
On my first night flight, the full moon was reflected by the full cover of snow. Easy conditions for starters. Today there is neither moon nor snow – but stars.
The plan for tonight is a trip north to the Friedland VOR (FLD), close to the coast. The tower opens our flight plan and we are off into the night. The air is cold and glassy smooth. The large Lycoming takes big, hungry bites out of it and we climb fast despite three people and a big load of fuel.
The radar frequency is busy with coordinating airliners for evening flights into the two major airports. They don’t have much patience for us and seem glad when they can hand us off. The new frequency is almost silent and the controller is chatty. The lights on the ground are getting fewer and further apart as we are leaving the perimeter of the Big City. And all of a sudden I realize that the black void under the stars on the horizon must be the Baltic Sea. Magic.
“Kilo Sierra” is a lady with a lot of experience under her wings and not a lot of upgrades since she left the factory. She is kept up very well but her condition is pretty original. So I know exactly how a pre-GPS student in the 70s felt. The illumination on the control panel is pretty minimal. Some of the instruments have dim lights. Others – like the artificial horizon – have no illumination of their own. There is a small, adjustable map light with a red bulb close to my head. I use that for the instrument panel and after a period of adjustment, it works surprisingly well. I keep my flash light on the seat. It makes me feel better but I only use it once or twice.
On the way back we fly towards the lights of the Big City. A different kind of magic. Suddenly we encounter light turbulence and the lights disappear. We are flying into a cloud that I did not see in the dark. I was trained to focus on the artificial horizon when I loose visual contact to the ground. It is quite amazing how difficult it is to keep the airplane straight and level once you don’t see the ground any more. I am grateful for the training with the IFR cap I have had.
Back at the home base, the pattern is still busy. It is both important and difficult for a novice to build a mental picture of the positions of everybody in the pattern. I will need a bit more time for the night VFR rating and a lot more until I feel comfortable flying at night. But I’m very much looking forward to the process!
To be continued…
(originally posted on April 18, 2014 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/night-flight/)
Winter is time for training. With low visibility and unpredictable weather, long trips in VFR are uncertain business. Staying on the ground is not an option, staying close to the airport is a compromise. I’m using the occasion for some navigation training. My plan today is a simple triangle to a near by VOR and back.
The air is cold and the plane is light. “Kilo Sierra” is eager to get of the ground.
The first leg is easy. I have dialed in the VORs frequency in the navigation radio. On the “Omni Bearing Indicator” (OBI), I turn the dial until the indicator needle moves into the center at around 140°. That is the course to the VOR.
The way is not very far and after about 15 minutes I am near the VOR. Directly over it, there is no reception. The NAV flag on the instrument comes up to indicate bad reception, so I know that I have reached the waypoint.
Now comes the second part. I turn the OBI to my new course, bank “Kilo Sierra” to the left and watch the directional giro turn slowly. The “to” flag on the OBI switches over to “from” and I am on my way. On this leg I don’t have a physical way point. I will request my bearing from the airport to determin the turning point.
I’m flying a triangle. From the airport I flew south-east to the VOR. From the VOR I’m flying north-east to my next way point. And from there I am planning to fly south-west, heading 230° for approach into runway 23. So my next turning point will be when my bearing to the airport is 230° (or a bit before as the airpane needs time to turn).
Todays flight is a training mission. I know the area and I have a pretty good idea of where I am. After the calculated time I see the town that is close to the mark on my map for the turning point. I start calling the airport “Delta Kilo Sierra, requesting QDM”.
“QDM” means the the magnetic heading from the aircraft to the airport. There are many “Q-codes”. Their origin is marine morse code, when brevity was key. The most common one for aviation is “QNH” which is the local atmospheric pressure calculated to mean sea level.
“270″ is the somewhat expected answer from the tower. I am 40° away from my desired course. After a few moments I ask again. “262″ is the instant reply. The radio operator at the airport has a large display for “QDM” and its counter part “QDR”, the magnetic heading from the station. With every transmission from an aircraft, the display lights up and shows the direction the aircraft is in. A very helpful tool for the small airport which does not have radar vectoring.
I am close to the airport so the degrees go fast. I decide to start my turn onto the desired course of 230°. When I am on course, I ask again for the “QDM” to confirm the heading. “226″, almost perfect.
Back on the ground I taxi to the apron and park “Kilo Sierra” next to another Cessna. An instructor I know is near by, his student is doing the pre flight. He smiles at me “I was wondering who it was requesting ‘QDM’ on a clear day like today”. I smile back “It was hard work trying not to see the airport from where I was”. The instructor looks at his student “Beautiful day for some navigation practice, don’t you think?”
To be continued…
(originally posted on March 13, 2014 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/navigation-training/)
The Mooney Aviation Company of Kerrville, Texas is the manufacturer of the very fast, very efficient M20 family of single engine aircraft. After a long period of “hibernation”, I was very excited to hear that they found a new investor and Mooney is gearing up to resume production!
I am a dry Mooniac – a fan of Mooney airplanes although I sadly don’t fly one myself. Recently I did some research on the history of the Mooney M20 family. I was inspired by David Vanderhoof of the Airplane Geeks Podcast (airplanegeeks.com) and it was a lot of fun!
Here is my history of the M20. To hear it on the Airplane Geeks Podcast, go toEpisode 271 on their website. You should also subscribe to the podcast – it’s great!
Mooney M20 – Speed and efficiency
The world of aviation has always been fueled by passion. Al Mooney and his brother Art have been a major source for pilots’ dreams of speed and efficiency for more than 60 years.
Born in 1906, Al Mooney grew-up being fascinated with everything flying. He started to work for different airplane manufacturers in Kansas and quickly became a successful aircraft designer. But Al wanted more. He had a vision for a new aircraft, a sports plane with the heart of a fighter, fast and efficient.
After a failed attempt in 1929, the second Mooney Aircraft Company was founded in 1946. Their first product was the M18 “Mite”. A single seat, low wing trainer that already combined the trademark qualities of speed and efficiency. But Al had only just started.
The Mooney M20 was the next big step, a family of four seat, single engine, piston aircraft. In production since 1955, the M20 is one of the legacy GA aircraft types. Some 11.000 M20s in a dozen or more variants have been built and are operated by advanced private pilots and small companies.
Mooney M20s are very recognizable as all models share the signature tail. The leading edge is completely vertical, creating a very distinctive look. But there is more to the tail then just looks. Instead of using conventional trim tabs, the entire tail pivots. This changes the angle of attack of the vertical stabilizers for trimming the aircraft in flight.
This seemingly complicated method is an original design feature of the M20 family and is a big factor in the airplanes very stable flight characteristics.
Most variants of the M20 have retractable landing gears. Early models had a manual retraction mechanism, operated by a Johnson bar. Timing and speed was critical for the operation and the safe retraction required some practice. An electric system replaced the Johnson bar from 1967 on. The design of the landing gear is very sturdy and uses rubber disks as dampeners, creating a fail proof, cost efficient and easy to service system.
The first Mooneys had wooden tails and sleek, wooden wings. After problems with stability and durability, most aircraft have been retrofitted with metal tails. From about 1960 on, the wings of all M20s have been built around a single tip-to-tip aluminum wing spar, eliminating the earlier wooden construction. The heavy-duty wing spar is an important factor for the good safety record of the M20.
The original M20 was powered by a 150 horsepower Lycoming O-320, followed by a 180 horsepower O-360 in the M20A of 1958.
Larger and farther
In 1964, Mooney introduced the M20E with a fuel injected, four cylinder Lycoming O-360 engine with 200 horsepower. While all Mooneys had been fast compared to their peers from Cessna and Piper, the M20E was the first true high performance Mooney.
With the Mooney M20F “Executive” of 1966, the company responded to the customers demand for more room. The “Executive” had a stretched fuselage and an additional window. The aircraft was slower than the short fuselage version but offered more room, larger tanks and more payload. The “Executive” was able to carry four passengers over a thousand miles.
1977 was one of the most notable years for Mooney. The company hired “Mr. Fast” – aerodynamics expert Roy LoPresti as vice president for engineering. He designed the M20J “201″, one of the most successful models in company history and the first GA aircraft to fly 200 miles per hour on 200 horsepower. An achievement that is noteworthy until today. Many Mooniacs consider the “201” to be the best Mooney ever. It clearly hit a sweet spot of speed and efficiency.
Hard to handle
The M20K was the first Mooney with 6 cylinder engine. The powerful Continental TSIO-360 had cooling problems in the small Mooney cowling. It required special care and modified climb pattern in hot conditions and was one of the reasons behind the M20s reputation for being demanding. The combination of engine and airframe could be a challenge for the typical private pilot in a time before computers were there to help with the engine management.
Mooney and Porsche
When Porsche entered the GA stage in 1985, their PFM 3200 engine seemed to be a perfect match for the M20. The 210 horsepower rating fit the requirements, the single lever operation of the electronically managed engine took care of any handling problems and the name Porsche resonated speed, quality engineering and luxury.
Unfortunately Porsche decided not to stay in the market for long and only 40 M20PFMs were ever built.
Critics say that in subsequent models too much emphasis was put on speed alone and that Al Mooneys philosophy of efficiency and economy became secondary. While this may be true, the Mooney Acclaim Type S of 2008 with a top speed of 242 knots still holds the record for the fastest piston single.
The Mooney Company was hit hard by the late 2000s economic down turn and has all but ceased operations. In 2013, most employees had been let go and no new aircraft are being built at present. However, the community of Mooney pilots, owners and lovers is still big and used birds are high in demand.
After a long break, Mooney has attended Airventure 2013 and there are new rumors about a Chinese investor. This Mooniac is not alone in hoping to see new M20s coming out of Kerrville soon!
To be continued…
(originally posted on October 23, 2013 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/mooney-m20-speed-and-efficiency/)
“Forget all that stuff about thrust and drag, lift and gravity, an airplane flies because of money.”
Flying is expensive. There are many ways to justify the cost or to calculate it in a way that makes it look cheaper. But the truth remains: flying is expensive!
Airlines operate under enormous financial pressure. That is why utilization of capacities is key for them. Over its life span, a long haul airliner typically spends more time flying than on the ground – including all of the maintenance time.
In the world of “General Aviation”, aircraft spend days or even weeks at a time on the ground. Privately owned aircraft often have a very small number of flight hours to calculate against the cost of maintenance or acquisition.
In flight schools or with commercial operators, the work load is often better. But then the operators profit margin enters the equation.
No matter what type of aircraft – fuel is the biggest single cost factor. The piston engines of many GA aircraft are large and old fashioned. In the struggle between efficiency and reliability, the latter always wins. That is why engine manufacturers are very reluctant to adopt new technologies to make the engines more efficient. But in the times of 2,70 Euro per liter of Avgas (more than 12 US dollars per gallon!), it is difficult to accept that unburned liquid gold is used to regulate the internal cooling of the engine.
Flying is a great experience. But as long as it is so expensive, few private individuals fly. And as long as the number of pilots is small, the prices are high – it’s the classic catch 22.
The development of light sports aircraft is a big movement towards more affordability. The idea of deregulation of certain light aircraft in combination with limitations in performance and/or capabilities, exists in several countries. One of the earliest examples is the US model. Light sports aircraft can not exceed a maximum take off weight of 600 kilogram, they can not be complex (no retractable gear and no constant speed prop) and they can not fly faster than 120 knots.
In return, the license is easier and faster to get and there is no medical certificate required. A lot of maintenance can be done outside of a certified shop.
This simplification has lead to a very active community of sports pilots in the US. Some of them new pilots, enjoying the easier entry into flying, some of them private pilots, transitioning for the easier class.
The Joined Aviation Authorities (JAA) of 34 European states has been working on their own light sports regulations. Although inspired by the American model, the existing drafts have some very important differences. As the ELA-regulations (European Light Sports) are subsequently taking effect, the development over the next number of years is going to very interesting!
To be continued…
(originally posted on August 14, 2013 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/money/)