Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Fly Time & Landing Light Install

Since I was planning to go flying today I decided to first update my landing light. I currently have a GE4509 installed, and I am replacing it with a HANDXEN PAR36 Aviation Grade LED Aircraft Landing Light.
PAR36 Aviation Grade LED Aircraft Landing Light,cone Beam.

Includes 18 LEDs Max 2,100 Lumens in Long Lasting Glass Lens with Die-Cast Aluminum Housing.
  • INCREDIBLE BRIGHTNESS: 2,100 raw lumen output from 18 high quality LEDs, 15 times brighter than incandescent bulbs, crystal clear glass lens
  • LONG LIFE: waterproof, shatter and thermal resistant Borosilicate glass lens won't yellow over time like cheap plastic models, OSRAM LEDs with 50,000 hour lifespan, die-cast aluminum housing for maximum heat dissipation
  • EASY INSTALL: screw on terminals with polarity labels, no pigtails to wire, accepts 10-30 volts DC with with 80% less amp draw
  • HIGHLY COMPATIBLE: standard PAR36 4.5" drop in replaces GE4505, GE4509, GE4313, GE4591, GE4594, GE4595 GE4596, GE Q4631
  • OPTIMIZED BEAM: daylight color (5500k - 6500k) optimizes obstacle reflection, 20 degree cone shape for landing
Once at the hangar I set up my moving blanket and strapped on my knee pads, getting old ain't for sissies. I removed the three screws and was surprised to find three springs fall out. I guess I should have consulted the Commander 112 Illustrated Parts Catalog first. 

Mistake number one was not putting a mark on the GE 4509 light terminal connections that I was removing. I removed the light and set it aside. Next I unwrapped the LED, again not noting the positive and negative terminal and removed the pig tail since I did not need the hook up.  What I should have done was leave the pigtail, cut off the old connectors on the plane and run out and by two new connectors for the new pigtail.  Nahhh...that would have been the smart thing to do.  

I proceeded to hook up the LED, trying to make do with the very short wires from the existing light connection. I had a 50/50 shot on the connection. I had positioned a step stool so I could crawl out from sitting in front of the plane and be able to grab onto something to help me stand up. I climbed up in the cockpit, turned on the landing lights, and switched the battery on.  No bueno, I had no light. I crawled back in the cockpit shut the battery off and crawled back under the front of the plane. Easy peasy, right? Just switch the leads.  I fumbled with the screws and dropped one, causing me to set the light back down, and without marking the terminals I had no clue which terminal I had hooked up where.  
At this point both my shoulders are hurting from working with my arms out front of me and I really didn't feel like taking another swing at hooking up the light, then doing the in and out of the cockpit test routine. I muttered a few choice words with regard to my stupidity of not marking the terminals and proceeded to reinstall the GE4509. 

I was worried about installing the springs behind the holding plate with such a short wire. It took some fiddling and a few more choice words but I got all three in place and secured. At this point I could not lift my tool bag so I pushed it with my foot out of the way and did the same for the step stool. I did climb back in and out to make sure I still had the existing landing light working, it was good to go. 

My shoulders felt so bad that I didn't feel like tugging the plane out. I had no interest to fly, I just wanted to get home and put some heat on my shoulders. I think it's finally time to see the doctor.  I can barely pick up a full ice tea glass without sharp pains on top and the outside edge of my shoulders, it's almost unbearable on some days. Other days It's sore but I can totally function. I really need to be in warm weather for winter. 

So 453 Tango Charlie is buttoned up. I will head to the store tomorrow to find the correct connectors, and a good splice connector to extend the wire from the plane to the light.  I will give it another go this week after I take a couple of Advil in advance. Besides, I already know the routine, that's a plus. Ok, it sounded good.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Brake Valve, The Repair

Monday December 30th - Continued

The bottom cowl is clean and ready to be hung when the repairs on the brake valve are completed.  As I stated in the title this is a continuation of Monday's calls.

I swapped emails with Bill H of the Commander Owners Group.  You all remember Bill, he came over to Ocean City while on vacation in Lewes to take me flying in my new plane.  Yes, he had to fly left seat, I didn't have any time in type.  Bill owns a beautiful Commander 112A 390 Super Commander and he plans on having the annual done at Delaware Coastal. This got me thinking, so I sent an email requesting the info on who he was using that had Commander Experience. The email response pointed me towards Sussex Aero, and Rob D.   

I made the call and had a nice chat with Rob about Commanders and even Debonairs.  Unfortunately his shop is also slammed so I won't be able to get 3 Tango Charlie taken care of until the week of the 6th.

Friday January 10th

I want to say fast forward but it has seemed like ages. I swapped a few calls with Rob from Sussex and he is sending over his man to take care of 3 Tango Charlies brake issue. 

Steve came through the gates around 10:45 this morning and quickly set up his tools to begin the work.  He was happy to see that both top and bottom cowls had been removed. 

The first step was to remove and cap all the brake lines.  Since most of the hydraulic fluid had already leaked out we didn't have to deal with much of a mess. Steve had a pan set up to catch any drippings and secured all lines to the valve.  I should just add that Steve was very organized and meticulous in the prep and process.
The next step was to remove the brake valve from the firewall.  The two phillips head screws pictured above had a nut on the co-pilots firewall side, no, not a nut plate, just a nut. Thankfully Steve was pretty flexible and he took the in cockpit side. I took care of the engine bay side with the screwdriver, only needing to lay on my back or scrunch in close, in somewhat sitting down position. 

All the parts were disassembled and cleaned along with the brake valve. Once everything was cleaned up Steve removed the O rings.  The three O rings on the parking brake arm assembly were the first to go. Two were somewhat soft and one was hard. The hard one broke, this had to be the leaking culprit.  

The next two O rings were replaced on the bottom fittings, they were both in like new condition. Despite being in great shape, I had the parts so they were also replaced. With the brake valve reassembly completed Steve crawled back under the plane and cleaned up the drippings that had accumulated on the firewall. 

Next up was remounting the unit. The first step was to secure to the firewall.  I took the outside and Steve sacrificed the body once again taking care of the in cockpit contortions. 
I didn't get a very good shot but you get the idea, its clean and remounted. Next Steve reconnected all the lines along with the two bottom line connections that connect at the firewall for both the right and left side brake system. Pictured below.
With everything hooked up and cleaned we were ready to bleed the brakes. I don't remember how the Sundowner was done but the Commander Owners Group specifically posted to bleed from the bottom up. Steve was already hooking up the bleed feed for the hydraulic fluid and also attached his homemade overflow catch system for the masters.
We started with the right main gear. I crawled up in the cockpit on the pilot side to watch when we had a steady stream into the jar. I heard a lot of noise maybe that was the air clearing out of the lines or air trapped in the top of the master. Soon there was a steady stream of hydraulic fluid passing through the tube and collecting in the jar. Rinse and repeat for the left mains. 

The next step was testing the pedal, first the copilot side. Steve pumped on the pedal and the master was a bit too full, it spurted out the vent hole. Thankfully we had towels under each pedal and with extra shop towels I wiped the master clean. Rinse and repeat again for the left side master.  

For the final step Steve crawled in the pilot side and withdrew a few cc's with a tiny syringe enough for the master to remain at a full level but not overfilled to cause the master to spurt out fluid. Next I climbed in the pilot seat and felt the pedals, they felt normal and there was no excess fluid coming out.  Mission completed!!

Steve gave me a hand remounting the bottom cowl and I will replace the top cowl sometime tomorrow. I did appreciate the time he took to give the engine compartment a good once over. I have a few new items to add to my squawk list.
  • New mounting bracket for the blast air tube on the alternator. Two of the three tabs are cracked. Part ordered from Plane Power and shipped today.
  • Replace a few adel clamps that are just tired and the rubber is getting hard and cracked.
Next up, an oil change in 15 hours. I'll be scheduling at Sussex for this work and the two items noted above. I'm looking forward to finally getting some air time!

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Destinations for 2020

I have made similar posts over the years but this year seems to hold a bit more meaning.  This post was initiated by my bride, that's right, Mary suggested we make a list of places we want to explore. So let's get to it, in no particular order, our list.

New Adventures

Boston, MA
Martha's Vineyard, MA
Fremont NH
Bar Harbor, ME
Niagara Falls, ON, Canada
Charleston, SC
Jekyll Island, GA
Singer Island, FL
Destin, FL
Mackinac, MI
Blacksburg, VA

Return Trips

Myrtle Beach SC
Key West, FL
Nags Head, NC
Williamsburg/Newport News VA
Blacksburg, VA

Lets dig into the 'New' list first. Mary and I have been to Cape Cod and used that as a take off point to explore Nantucket. This time we would like to land near Boston, specifically, Norwood - KOWD. We will finally get to visit family, and our friends Mike B and Kim.  This may also serve as a jump off point for a day at Martha's Vineyard, Lord knows I don't want to overnight there (insert cash register sound...kaaa..ching!). The Boston run can take on a few different spins.  We would also like to finally get to visit our friends Adam B and Jeanine, and meet their little man Declan. So lets add KLWM into mix and a short drive to Freemont NH.  We would plan for some time away to make all the stops necessary to complete this mission, we may even need a four day get-away at Bar Harbor to recover before pointing for home. 

We have had Niagara Falls on our list, not that this would be a new place for us, but a new way to get there. Last time we drove, this time we would fly into Canada or into KIAG and make the short drive across the border. 

Early Fall would be the time to plan for traveling south. Mary and I want explore Charleston SC.  Also on the list is Jekyll Island GA, so we will work that four day get-away into the schedule.

Fall and winter will also be a great time to push a bit farther south.  Singer Island FL has been on our list since we had the Sundowner. Our reservations from January 2014 were snowed out so I spent that extended weekend shoveling snow. Not Cool. 

We have given some thought to returning to Gulf Shores but we both wanted to try someplace new along the gulf coast. Destin FL seems like a place we read a lot about so we both agreed to add it to our list. 

It seems I missed Mackinac,MI this has also been on our list of places to visit, but, its definitely a summer trip. While exploring Michigan we would also like to visit our friends Jeff and Lori who are along the way, located south of Grand Rapids. 

The 'Return Trip' list is a bit shorter but still just as fun. Nags Head, one of our favorites, and Myrtle Beach are always great for a weekend get-away. Williamsburg is also a short hop and we love meeting up with our friend Susan and catching a show at the Ferguson Center in Newport News. 

We have been to Keys twice, well once for Key West and one time to Marathon, although we drove to Key West from there for a day trip. I think Mary and I both love Key West.  We followed fellow blogger Geoff's suggestion and we will return to the Sheraton Key West at Smathers beach. Great beach access, shuttle that runs all day providing access to great food and entertainment downtown.

The last entry on each list is Blacksburg, VA. I should add we haven't been there yet, but, with our friends Candy and Mark from Texas moving there, we will be making frequent trips back and forth. 

So we have a list, now we need to get the plane back online. I am still waiting to have the parking brake valve serviced. Another post is in the works for the repair.

I think Mary is just as excited as I am about getting back to traveling and exploring new places. I am looking forward to more videos and blog posts, taking our readers along for the adventure.  Time to Spare...Go by Air, the next chapter, is about to get started.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Parking Brake Valve, The Discovery

Christmas Morning

Mary and I were scheduled to fly to Wilmington for Christmas but when I opened the hangar door at 8:15 I found a puddle of 5606 (Hydraulic Fluid) stretching from the firewall to the front tire. I didn't feel like dealing with it so I locked up the hangar and motioned to Mary as if I was steering a car.  I then let her know we would be driving north. A two hour drive vs a forty minute flight.

Friday December 27th

After our return I headed back to the hangar to address the leak. I didn't see it leaking but did find a trail of fluid on the firewall below two fittings.  I checked to make sure both fittings were snug using a line wrench, then cleaned up the area. Next I climbed/crawled into the pilots side floor space and added two syringes of 5605 to the right side master, and one and a half to the left side. This was not looking good. With everything refilled and buttoned up I locked up the hangar and headed home. 

Saturday December 28th

Saturday the North East Flyers are going to meet at Easton Airport, KESN. I signed up and figured I would get over to the airport early and finish my preflight by sumping fuel and check for any leaks. I entered the hangar and was looking at the same exact puddle under the plane, again stretching from the firewall to the front tire.  Crap!  I'm grounded. 
I left things as they were and made a call to a local A&P. An A&P maintenance technician refers to an individual who holds an Airframe and/or Powerplant certificate which is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Fortunately the man I called was headed to the Ocean City Airport to complete work on a Piper Warrior.  
Jerry, the mechanic, looked over the Commander and offered to help with the bottom cowl removal when I was ready. I had removed the top cowl and set it on a moving blanket. I was in the process of removing the screws, nuts, and bolts for the bottom, which is a bit more complicated with cowl flaps and gear doors. 

I called it a day, or at least I thought so, and headed home. While I was checking my list of items needed for the repair, Bob C sent me a text from Easton Airport.  Bob wanted to add another leg to his flight today and planned to make a stop at Ocean City once he was finished eating breakfast. I responded I would meet him there and if he had time I would appreciate a hand dropping the lower cowl. He agreed. I threw on my shoes and decided to take Ziva along for the ride and some play time.
I had two screws remaining, finger tight, holding the lower cowl in place. We each removed the screws on our side and lowered the cowl, clearing the gear doors on the nose gear and steering clear of the prop. Its a two man job and Bob saved the day.
We hung out for a bit watching all the traffic in and out of the airport, it was busy. I loaded Ziva in the SUV and then saw Bob off for his last leg home.
Monday December 30th 

I had ordered a repair kit from Aircraft Spruce for the Cleveland 60-5 valve body that replaces A-850-1 previously manufactured by Gerdes. So the parts are here and ready for the install.
The brake valve unit is located on the co-pilot side lower firewall.  

For a better view here is a unit that is for sale on Ebay ($508). I hope my valve is good and only needs new O rings.
The first call this morning was to my usual shop, Cecil Aero, located at 58M in Elkton, MD. Unfortunately they are short handed with a tech out sick, and the holiday shortened week.

Attempt number two was made to the on field shop at Ocean City. Unfortunately they are slammed with planes in for annual and their mechanic is only part time.

So to relieve some stress I decided to stop at the hangar to clean up the bottom cowl.  There was a white type of grunge or cloudy look to it from the exhaust trail, it had to go.

I used a product for boat fiberglass oxidation removal, it's some mixture of polishing compound and cleaner.  It works perfect and with a simple wax on wax off (just like the movie)the cowl looks fantastic. 

I hope to provide a follow up post, if and when I can wrangle an A&P to do the work. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

2019 in Review

Airplane Search and Purchase

I started to search for a plane in December but knew perfectly well Mary and I both had to get back in the air to make this all work. With the help of our friend Charles we confirmed we were both ready to fly again.

I found our next plane the end of March, just two weeks after our get back in the air flights. On April 2nd Mary and I drove out to Morgantown WV to meet the owner and the aircraft up close. This saved us driving time meeting halfway and we both appreciated Bill's offer to do this.
The prebuy/annual was scheduled for the third week of April out in Ohio at Bills hangar. I selected an A&P, one of three that Bill had used over the years of his ownership. It was a learning experience and the start of a new process for me and 3 Tango Charlie.
With the inspection process completed Bill and I closed the deal. Unfortunately weather would keep us from bringing the plane to Ocean City. Bill was gracious enough to bring the plane to us the following week. On April 24th 3 Tango Charlie was finally home in Ocean City. 

By The Numbers

ASEL:                1336.1

2019:                  56.0
Complex:               55.5
Cross Country:         33.8
Simulated Instrument:   5.2
PIC:                   56.0

New Airports - 4

KMSV - Sullivan County Airport
KHGR - Hagerstown Regional Airport
KCXO - Conroe-North Houston Regional
T74 -  Taylor Municipal



My first flight, I was finally back in the air. A very special shout out to Charles G at N57, New Garden. Charles kept me mentally in the game, focused, and finally got me back in a plane.
Just one week later Charles returned to Ocean City and took Mary for her return to flight.

April was busy with getting the new to us Commander scheduled for annual and having her delivered to Ocean City. 


What a crazy month!  Trying to get a CFII scheduled that met the insurance company minimums was a PITA. I finally found a CFII and he was nice enough to come to Ocean City for a few days of training. 


The training is underway.  I ended up with eleven plus hours of flight time, four and a half hours of ground instruction and twenty eight landings. Lets not forget a BFR and an IPC.


This was the getting to know her period.  I crawled all over 3 Tango Charlie in an effort to learn everything I could about her systems and avionics. I immersed myself in the Garmin 480 flight simulator to learn every button push and shortcut. I did manage to fly out for breakfast with my hangar neighbor, Chet.  It was a welcome get-away and a chance to fly 3 Tango Charlie to Millville NJ.


More training!  Mike B flew in from Boston to help me learn the Stec autopilot and provide a better hands on opportunity with the Garmin 480. At times it was frustrating, I had lost that natural flow, always being ahead of the plane. I was starting over in the Commander and Mike helped me get over that mental block. He restored my confidence that I can still do this pilot stuff.


It was time to start flying the plane and having some fun. Mary and I made a few short hops and managed to catch up with the Beech Aero Club.  
Sadly, we were not able to attend BACFest this year. So, we still have tickets to use or loose before February 18th.  Maybe a trip to warmer weather over the holidays. 


I did have a few things done to 3 Tango Charlie. I had the Reiff pre-heat system installed for winter ops, and replaced the seat roller bearings.  Our airplane tug got new tires and I rebuilt the switch that makes it go.


What a busy month! I started out with a flight to Millville NJ to meet up with friend and fellow pilot Chris N. I finally got to check out his beautiful V Tail Bonanza.

Mary and I wanted to get away for our anniversary so we planned for Sanibel Island, Florida.  This would have been a perfect first 'travel' flight for us in 3 Tango Charlie.  Unfortunately, we had airline tickets to use or lose from our cancelled Denver trip so that's how we traveled. 
We did manage a few breakfast flights this month and planned to fly into Newport News, Virginia to see Clint Black. Due to the weather the Newport News flight (45 minutes) turned into a three hour ground pound. Not cool. 

Mary and I once again boarded the commercial tube for a Thanksgiving in Austin, Texas.  We had a blast with our friends Candy and Mark. We are very excited that they will be moving to the Blacksburg Virginia area, that's just a short hop for 3 Tango Charlie.


Tis the season! Yes, the season for giving, and that's exactly what we did for 3 Tango Charlie. Mary and I decided to join a few of our friends for breakfast in Ocean City, NJ (26N). We made it home but the plane was grounded due to a mag issue
I did eventually bring 3 Tango Charlie home after making a contribution to the good folks at Aerial Services, Inc., at the Woodbine Airport. Thanks guys for getting us back in the air!

Mary and I are looking forward to 2020 and more travels together. Our friends, Candy and Mark, are moving to Blacksburg, Virginia so we will be making that round trip often, at least until they get tired of seeing us.

We also want to get back to traveling to new destinations and revisiting some of our past favorites. Mary and I hope you continue to read our blog and watch our YouTube videos as we explore together.  

We wish a Happy, and Healthy New Year to all our readers!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Survival Gear Review

After watching a few of my favorite YouTube flying Channels, I was motivated to review and update my Survival gear. I am going to add this task to my year end flying review blog post.  Think of it as checking the smoke alarm batteries when you change the clocks. 

Here is my current survival gear, purchased for my cross country to Dubuque Iowa for BACFest back in October of 2015.
First aid kit
12 Pouches of water - Expiration 8/20
Water purification tablets
2400 calorie food bars (2)- Expiration 8/20
Light stick
Flashlight w/batteries
Nylon Cord
Orange survival tent
Emergency blankets (2)
Waterproof matches
Ponchos (2)
Whistle/Compass/signal mirror

AM/FM Radio with Batteries
Camper’s Stove
Utility Knife

The Mayday survival kit items are packaged in a backpack that measures 12"w x 17"h x 10"d and ready to go weighs only 11 lbs.

I will replace my water and food bars this summer. The plan is to search out MRE's instead of the 2400 calorie bars, and I'll go with the same water packs. 

Check back, I'm going to open the food bars and sample them this summer. 

In addition, I also carry two life vests, since we often cross the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. 
West Marine vests and dye packs
Our automatic/manual inflatable life vests are made by West Marine. When I purchased the vest I added Orion dye markers to each vest for added visibility in the water. 

A few additional items I will add to the survival kit will include a small axe, a mess kit, and a personal emergency locator beacon.

What do you carry on board every flight or on those cross countries that are over open terrain? 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all our readers and best wishes for a safe and Happy New Year! 

To all of you that share our passion for flight, we hope you enjoy the adventures that 2020 will offer. 

Fly Safe! 
Gary & Mary