Europe on a wing strut – part 1

Europe on a wing strut – part 1

Visibility: blue sky
Temperature: 8°C
Location: Sky Fox

I’m at the aviation map shop. We have one of those – benefit of living in the Big City. I’m asking for southern France, Spain, Portugal, part of Italy, Austria and Switzerland. For good measure, I throw in the „VFR Cross Border Guide“ and yes, I will need a bag.

My flying buddy has sold his rocket ship to a flying club but he kept some flying privileges. He has been contemplating a big tour through southern Europe for a long time. Last week he called me: „You remember that trip I told you about – I’m gonna do it now! Do you want to be my co-pilot?“ „Sure, great! When did you plan to go?“ „Would Thursday work for you?“

I’m talking to The Pilots Wife. Her thinking is all focused on the solution „Babysitter – check, Grandparents – check, appointments next week – check. Can do“. She is for keeps…!

Now I’m working on the flight plans, organize safety gear like life vests and read about the regional differences – and all while eyeing the weather forecast. Keep the fingers crossed for sunshine in November!

To be continued…

Weather forecast

IridiumGo

IridiumGo

Location: Just about anywhere on the face of the earth (or above)

I have a computer in my pocket that is more powerful than my desktop PC was just a few short years ago. It has changed my life, it has changed how I communicate, how I plan my day and what I pack when I go on a trip.

This little computer and it’s peers have nothing less but revolutionized flight planning, weather briefing and in flight navigation. If only they were online above the ground…

In flight connectivity is one of the big topics in aviation. Once only available for emergencies and heads of states, satellite communication in airplanes has become more and more common. First to connect executives in their flying board rooms and recently to enable you and me to stay connected on airline flights.

„IridiumGo“ on dash

With the new „IridiumGo“, in flight connectivity arrives at smaller General Aviation airplanes. The iridium company has been operating a satellite based phone network for many years. Since their launch, Iridium phones have been popular with aviators in remote areas. All of a sudden it was possible to get (limited) weather updates and to stay connected.

NEXT_satellite_02
Iridium Next Satellite

The „IridiumGo“ is a small device that connects to the Iridium satellite data network and provides WiFi. So pilots and passengers can connect their smart phones and be online independent from and ground based infrastructure. The connection can be used for voice calls, messages, email as well as limited web browsing. On top of that, Iridium has opened the „Go“ for software developers. And I bet it won’t be long before your favorite digital flight bag on the iPad can interface directly to it for weather updates, NOTAMs and flight plan changes.

IRDM_GO_Primary_Jan2014
„IridiumGo“ satellite WiFi router

And your teenager on the back seat will be able to stay in touch with the ones left behind on the ground. ✈️

Marginal conditions

Marginal conditions

Visibility: about 2 miles
Temperature: 19°C
Wind: 290°, 4kts
QNH: 1019hPa
Location: EDAY
Equipment: Cessna 152 (D-EMFM)

I have booked a small Cessna for this afternoon. The sky is grey, the ceiling is low. When I call the flight school around noon, they tell me to come later rather than sooner.

The airport is calm. A LSA is getting ready as I preflight my old friend „Fox Mike“. She is yellow and must have been pretty spiffy at some point. Memories of the Czech Republic and of the coast are connecting me with her.

The ceiling is very low today. But there is not a clear cloud base. The haze is just getting thicker with altitude. These are very dangerous conditions for VFR pilots. It is very easy to loose sight of the ground.

I climb out to the east and set course 080 direction EDON. The weather to the east is a bit better. After a few touch & go’s, I feel right at home with „Fox Mike“ again.

I don’t see much improvement. So I leave the pattern to the south and do some quick navigation training with the FWE VOR. Before long I have reached my way point and change my course back to EDAY.The GPS is on and I enjoy knowing it is there as a back-up. But I don’t need it.

Back at EDAY I see the runway when I am about 2 miles away. This is legal but on a day like today I would not feel comfortable flying somewhere new.

To be continued…

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LISA had a heart attack!

LISA had a heart attack!

My traveling ship of choice, the trusted „LISA“ had an engine failure! During regular maintenance, the shop found a lot of metal flakes in the oil filter (always an alarm signal). Further investigation revealed a broken cylinder #3. The engine is now being inspected for more damage.

Quelle: Jan Brill, PuF Forum
Metal flakes in the oil filter (Jan Brill, PuF)

The engine was brand new and a failure like this is pretty unusual. So I am interested to see if the cause can be determined. And I am very happy that the problem was found in the shop and not in the air.

My dear „Pilot&Flugzeug“ is going through rough times right now, as „LISAs“ sister ship in Egelsbach had a landing accident in the same week. The propeller is bent and the engine needs to be inspected as well.

With out the „LISAs“, the flying fall promises to be pretty bleak.

To be continued…

Quelle: Jan Brill, PuF Forum
Broken Cylinder (Jan Brill, PuF)
Quelle: Jan Brill, PuF Forum
Piston of cylinder #3 (Jan Brill, PuF)

 

PA-28

PA-28

Visibility: unlimited
Temperature: 20°C
Wind: 330°, 8kts
QNH: 1013hPa
Location: EDAY
Equipment: PA-28 Archer III (D-EZIP)

The two big names in General Aviation are Cessna and Piper. I have been flying the Cessna 150 and 152 as well as the larger Cessna 172. They are not fast and not sleek but stable, roomy (by GA standards) and make great trainers.

Today I am getting to know the other side. My flight school manages a Piper Archer III and it is mine for the morning.

The PA-28 is a family of four seat, low wing airplanes. They have been in production since the early 1960s in many different variants. The Archer III model has a Lycoming O-360 engine with 180 horse powers, a fixed pitch prop and fixed landing gear.

„D-EZIP“ has a very flashy red and white paint scheme. She is newer than the Cessnas I have trained on and she has very few hours under her wings. So she looks and feels pretty new.

PA-28 - 2

I have read the hand book. „India Papa“ is IFR certified. So her instrument panel is well equipped. She is a nice traveling machine or personal transporter with a few nice bells and whistles. But she is still a pretty straight forward airplane. Speeds and limitations are very comparable with the Cessna 172. Operating her under VFR is not all that complicated.

 

PA-28 - 3

 

Familiarization

The PA-28 has a number of distinct differences to the Cessna 172. The airframe is a good bit smaller and the windows are not nearly as big. The low-wing Piper has only one door. So the pilot has to climb up onto the wing root, sit on the passenger seat and then scoot over.

Once in the seat, everything feels very solid and a bit more serious than in the Cessna. The Cockpit is very well organized, every gauge is easily visible and every knob is comfortable to reach. New to me is the overhead panel with the switches for magnetos, fuel pump, strobes, primer and starter. Solely the trim wheel is giving me problems. It is pretty far back between the seats and I actually have to look down and lift my right leg in order to see the trim indicator. That shall give me more problems later during the flight.

Power up

We go through the simple engine start procedure (carb heat cold, throttle position, magnetos, pump, mixture, start) and the 180 hp Lycoming starts right up. Taxiing „India Papa“ is easy enough but the front wheel is directly linked with the pedals. No hydraulic dampener – like in the Cessna – makes for a very direct transmission of forces back through the pedal.

We do the run-up checks and take off. We are not heavy and the Piper climbs as expected. The forces on the yoke are pretty strong and I try the electric trim with my thumb.

We go over to Neuhardenberg for touch-and-gos and on the way over we do the flying part of the familiarization. Steep turns, slow flight, flaps, stalls. All a bit unfamiliar but no real surprises. The low-wing configuration makes for less stable characteristics around the roll-axis. And the better aerodynamics and stronger engine makes for higher speeds.

On the first approach that gets me a bit. I am having difficulties bleeding off the access speed and I am fighting with the trim. At the end of the down wind leg, I set the first level of flaps. The nose comes up and before I manage to trim the correct attitude, we have climbed 100 feet. On final I set full flaps and trim again. I am too high and too fast and we float down the runway for a long time before rubber and tarmac finally make contact.

PA-28 - 1Touch-and-go

A touch-and-go is a fast procedure. Touch-down, retract flaps, carb heat off and throttle forward. Usually the airplane has not lost that much speed so you can rotate again just a moment later.

I keep an eye on the airspeed indicator and pull. But „India Papa“ does not want to break free. The speed increases and I pull further before I finally realize that I am still trimmed nose-down from the approach. My right hand feels for the trim wheel between the seats and after a few quick turns on the wheel, the control gets lighter and the little Piper flies.

Trim, trim, trim

The trim is a little extra tab on the trailing edge of the elevator. It is used to minimize the forces on the control yoke. The center of gravity of the aircraft varies with load and fuel. Without the trim, there would be a constant push or pull on the yoke, making it very difficult and tiresome to keep the airplane at the desired attitude. The forces on the yoke of the PA-28 are stronger than in the Cessna 172. More attention to the trim is needed.

On the Cessna I can change the attitude and trim as I go along. The trim wheel is below the throttle quadrant, easy to see and to reach.

„India Papa“ has a very comfortable electric trim on the yoke. But it is pretty slow, more for little corrections during cruise flight. With setting the flaps, a lot of trim is needed. The manual trim wheel for faster action is located between the front seats. But the bigger problem for the Piper newbie is the trim indicator which is also hidden between the seats. I will have to anticipate the trimming a bit more.

Practice

The next approach is a bit better already and from the third touch-and-go on, I have the amount of trim and the timing figured out.

After about an hour of this, we go back to Strausberg. The last landing of the day is actually pretty lousy. We have a cross wind and I am concentrated on keeping the aircraft on the center line. Managing energy does not work as well as I would like it to. So we are too fast on short final and are floating down the runway again.

With „India Papa“ and me it was not love at first flight. But the sleek beauty tickles me and time will tell if she is an acquired taste.

To be continued…

PA-28 - 4

Touring BER

Touring BER

Visibility: about 10k, rain showers
Temperature: 21°C
Wind: 270°, 11 knots
QNH: 1010 hPa
Location: EDDB (BER)
Equipment: standard issue tour bus

More than two sears ago, I volunteered to test the passenger experience at the new airport. A lot about the airport has gone wrong since then. The opening has been postponed with only a few weeks notice (what a disaster!!).

At the center of the problems is the fire security system of the main terminal building. It was designed to be a market beating high tech wonder. But the very elaborate control system never quite worked right. And little by little more problems with the basic design of the entire system surfaced.

All efforts to resolve the technical problems have been rather helpless and chaotic ever since. The sparkling new gateway into the city has become a nightmare and a laughingstock.

Today I am back. After much public discussion and derisive media coverage, the PR department of the unfinished project has finally woken up. A media campaign invites people to see for themselves and this is what I’m here for today.

Expanding

The cites airports are both dated and long over the capacity they were designed for. The southern airport has a smallish and dusty main terminal with a cacophony of annexes. South of the terminal is the single runway.
This single runway is going to be the northern one of the two runways of the new airport. In between them are parking structures, highway connection, a large train station, offices and hotels as well as the troubled new terminal complex.

So in some way the new airport is an expansion of the already existing airport. But the project is vast and the new airport has nothing of the backwardness of its predecessor. If only they would get it done…

Let’s go

The tour group meets at the old terminal. We are almost 30 people and our tour guide is very knowledgable. He has been working at the airport for 20 years. We board a bus and a short trip over the highway brings us around and into the new part. We drive past a large area for a new business district. All the roads are ready but on the lots the grass grows high.

Tour guide explains the setting
Tour guide explains the setting

The bus takes the empty roads up to the main terminal building. The atmosphere is like in a SciFi movie.

Tour BER03
Empty roads
Terminal complex
Terminal complex
New Airport
New Airport

Impressive

When I first saw the terminal building more than two years ago, I was impressed and intimidated at the same time. It felt large, impressive and contemporary. The architecture is strong, the design is refined but not delicate. There is no understatement, no scandinavian lightness. This building carries a message of self esteem, it looks impressive and expensive  – a bit like a golden Rolex would.

Little has changed since my last visit. Most of the plastic covers have disappeared and some of the screens are working. The most significant change is the „flying carpet“. A metal sculpture suspended from the ceiling above the center of the main hall. It is red, delicately woven and noticeably changes the room. It breaks the seriousness and does bring lightness after all.

Terminal building with
Terminal building with „Flying Carpet“

I had mixed feelings about the building. Now the positive associations outweigh my skepticism. The building is beautiful and does have elegance.

The stream of bad news, new scandals and uncovered problems on the construction site has turned the public opinion against this prestigious and important project. Our tour guide talks openly about mistakes and short comings during the planning phase. He also points out that the problems with the complex fire alarm system are not solved yet and that he personally estimates two more years before the opening. He patiently answers our many questions.

Impressive architecture
New terminal building

After visiting the terminal, the bus takes us out onto the Tarmac. The vast, empty airport structure is both impressive and very sad.

For the end of the tour, we go down the new runway. As the bus speeds down the 4 kilometers, my seat neighbor starts calling „pull-up, pull-up!“. Everyone smiles.

To be continued…

 

Waiting for airplanes to come
Waiting for airplanes to come
New runway, still closed
New runway, still closed
Old terminal
Old terminal, replacement overdue

Hello LISA

Hello LISA

Visibility: about 10k
Temperature: 31°C
Wind: 050°, 5 knots
QNH: 1009 hPa
Location: EDAZ (Schönhagen)
Equipment: „Lisa“, N9920U Grumman AA-5A “Cheetah”

I have not spent as much time with „Lisa“ as I would have liked. She is one of the airplanes of the „Pilot & Flugzeug“ magazine and she is available for readers to rent.

Last summer I got checked out on her and later that year I took her on a little trip to Dessau. But over the winter we did not have a chance to fly together.

Today I have a great excuse. I am taking a friend on a trip over the Big City. We have wanted to do this for a long time and today is the day.

Preflight

I arrive at the airport early. I want to have time to practice on my own before I take passengers. After my „baby break“ that seems like a good idea. I have refreshed my memory about „Lisa’s“ vital stats (speeds and limitations) and I flew as co pilot on her only a few days ago. I am looking forward to some one-on-one time with her.

„Lisa“ is waiting for me outside the hangar. I do a slow and thorough pre-flight check before I fire the engine up. It has been replaced very recently and starts up at once. Taxiing is a bit of a challenge. „Lisa’s“ front wheel is free swinging and ground steering is accomplished by differential breaking of the main wheels. This strange method makes for some swinging around the center line before I get used to it again.

On the runway I push the throttle all the way forward. „Lisa“ is not a sprinter but the runway is long. Once airborne, It does not take long to feel comfortable again. The Cheetah is a lot of fun and landing her is a dream. Because of the low wing configuration, there is a noticeable ground effect. When the wing gets close to the ground, the air flowing under it can not escape any more. An area of high pressure forms between the wing and the ground. The aircraft „floats“ on this cushion and lands very softly.

Approach to EDAZ

I do a bit of pattern work to loosen up. Then I’m off to the Big City. I want to do a „dress rehearsal“ of the whole trip. I dial in the tower frequency for the international airport. The controllers are also responsible for the sectors of controlled airspace I want to cross. I call and state who I am, where I am and what my intentions are. As always, I am a bit nervous initially. Luckily that dissipates quickly in the routine of the exchange. The controller is friendly and the trip over the city is a real treat.

Waiting for the passengers

Back at EDAZ I wait for my passengers. I have about half an hour and after initial impatience, I pace myself and enjoy the moment of down time before the concentration of a passenger flight.

My friends are full of anticipation and I explain the route for this evening. We go and everything works like a dream. We are cleared to cross midfield over the international airport and fly towards the city center. The view is great and the cameras are clicking.

Over the city

We have some more time and so we decide to take the long way home. A few miles south of the Big City is the largest freestanding building in the world. The former Cargolifter airship hangar is very impressive from the ground and even more impressive when circling it at 1.000 feet.

Cargolifter hangar

Back at EDAZ it is time for a beer. The local watering hole has a terrace overlooking the apron. We watch the last flights of the evening come in and life is good.

To be continued…

Back in the saddle again

Back in the saddle again

Visibility: CAVOK, more than 10k
Temperature: 29°C
Wind: 350°, 5 knots
QNH: 1022hPa
Location: EDAY
Equipment: D-MALJ (Rider MD3)

I am excited. Airplanes in the stomach and all. I know the route very well but I have not travelled it in almost a year.

The flight bag is next to me. I packed it last night. Took the license and log book, checked the batteries in the head set and threw out the old map. It has been outdated for a while.

I walk the short stretch from the train station over to the airport. A glider is soaring in big circles towards an impressive tower of cumulus. Coming closer, I count at least three airplanes in the pattern. The gorgeous weather seems to make for a busy morning.

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I took a bit of a baby break and am so ground sick that it hurts. But this morning will tell if I still have what it takes.

I’m at the big flight school first for a coffee and a chat. I need to fly at least 12 hours until next February to stay current. Challenge accepted!

Next stop is the LSA flight school. I can not drink more coffee and I’m getting antsy. So as soon as the instructor and student come through the door, I am out to take possession of the aircraft. My old love „Lima Juliet“ will be the ship today. We go way back together. I passed my very first check ride with her, took her to the island of Rügen and impressed my friends with her.

Old friend

„Lima Juliet“ is comfortable like an old pair of shoes. I was a bit worried but we get along just fine. She is light and the thermal up draft from the fields is playing with her even at 2.000 feet.

We go over to Eggersdorf for some pattern work. My landings are very acceptable and I am glad. I try different flap settings and approaches and the landings are pretty consistent. Not all greasers, non real bad ones either. Glad to be back!

To be continued…

We’re new here

We’re new here

LISA

Location: New Place in the digital universe
Equipment: WordPress
Visibility: unlimited

I started this blog at blog.com with the very nice address:
www.aloft.blog.com.

Catchy, easy to say and to remember. I liked the service as it was uncluttered, had nice themes and was easy to use.

However…

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!

To be continued…