Saturday, December 30, 2023

2023 Year in Review


By The Numbers:

Total Time     1561.2
ASEL 2023        55.2
Complex          52.0/284.7
Cross Country    42.1/984.7
IMC               2.6/43

New Airports: 

KAVL - Asheville Regional Airport

Flights of Note:

It's vacation time and we're headed back to Vero Beach Florida. Mary and I really enjoyed our vacation in Vero last year. The beach was perfect, the restaurants provided quite the choice in cuisine, and it was quiet. This year we returned to the same beach front hotel, this time with an ocean view.

Mary and I have had Charleston on our list of places to visit and we finally crossed it off. We found plenty of good food, fun places to explore, interesting history, and enjoyed a horse drawn tour of the city.

Mary and I decided on a quick hop just to get away for our 19th wedding anniversary. We have had Asheville NC, more specifically, the Biltmore estate on our bucket list for some time.

What’s in store for 2024?

We will be heading back to Vero Beach to enjoy some sun and quiet time in March. Reservations are complete.

Places on our short list for 2024 include A return to Waco Texas to check out all the new additions and the new Hotel 1928 by HGTV's Fixer Upper.  

While in Texas we just might couple destinations with a week in Galveston Texas. We have to feed the HGTV addiction and check out the HGTV Restoring Galveston properties. The beach looks good and there are plenty of Antique shops to investigate.

In the heat of the summer we'll point 3 Tango Charlie North - Northwest and head to Mackinac Island. This destination has been on my list for many years, it's time to cross it off.  While we visit the Island we'll plan to catch up with our long time friends Jeff and Lori.

In August we plan on going to Alaska with the group from The Parke, where we live. This will be the highlight of the year and I am going to try and arrange some flight time. 

Mary and I have also been talking about the Bahamas. Maybe in the fall we'll finally make the short hop and enjoy what the islands have to offer.

For now I am awaiting a new Concorde battery from SkyGeek, maybe shipping the first week of the new year. I'm also scheduling shop time at my previous annual location, Sussex Aero, to have my gear down lock switch replaced. That switch gave me fits and I found a broken wire at the switch itself. The hard protective shield caused the wires to repeatedly bend at a specific location causing them to break. I hope to be back in the air for my initial 2024 flight very soon.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Merry Christmas

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

To all of you that share our passion for flight we hope you enjoy the adventures that 2024 will offer.

Fly Safe!
Gary & Mary

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Owner Maintenance

The holder of a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR Part 61 may perform specified preventive maintenance on any aircraft owned or operated by that pilot, as long as the aircraft is not used under 14 CFR Part 121, 127, 129, or 135. 

Pilots need to understand that authorized preventive maintenance cannot involve complex assembly operations. As an owner/pilot one should carefully review 14 CFR Part 43, Appendix A, Subpart C (Preventive Maintenance), which provides a list of the authorized preventive maintenance work that an owner pilot may perform. As owner/pilots we should conduct a self-analysis as to whether you have the ability to perform the work satisfactorily and safely. 

Time to expand my owner maintenance activities. I fondly look back to work completed on my Sundowner when things were simple and straight forward. Since owning a complex aircraft there are more bits and pieces that need inspection and items that can cause headaches. 

Lets look at a simple battery replacement. my Sundowner required two screws to be removed in order to gain access behind the baggage compartment bulkhead. The battery box opened up with ease and even my broken body could squirm around to yank both batteries out. 

Commander Battery replacement requires two rear bulkhead panels to be removed which includes many screws and wiggling into positions this body can hardly perform. None the less the bulk head is opened up and now lets get to that box. Six screws, three a side, and having to reach behind the gear motor access panel. These fingers are no longer as nimble as they once were so extra care was taken not to fumble and kiss the screws goodbye as they disappear into the belly of the beast.

My Concorde RG35 AXC was last replaced eight years ago this month. I noticed the last two times starting it moved the prop with an I'm not happy grunt and then nothing, same result after another try. On the third attempt it came to life. 

Not my battery minder, just a sample of what was represented
I also noticed once the cold temps hit my battery minder was showing full charge and yet I saw a glow of barely a charge at the same time. Strange indeed. I decided it was time to update and ordered a new battery. Wow! The Concorde was listed at $499 with $24 for shipping and $30 in tax. $554 shipped to my door. I'm glad that they last so long. 

I have also had a gear down and locked indication issue. I can clearly hear the three gear clunk into position but I would feel much better with a consistent "three green". My last few flights I have used the tail camera Bluetooth to visually confirm what I heard.

My Investigation

I pushed the protective shield up the wires to expose where I saw a change in the shape of the insulation. Sure enough with a slight tug the one wire fell apart and the other two look ready for the same fate. I believe the protective plastic shield became brittle and the wires would bend or kink just enough to wear them out in the last three years, since I last had that switch replaced. This year I am going to have the shop wrap the wires with a flexible wrap.

Teflon spiral wrap

1ES1 Switch

JE-5 Lever and roller

The switch is a Honeywell 1ES1 that I will have replaced and if you look closely the Honeywell JE-5 articulating arm and roller are looking pretty rough so I am going to replace that combo too.

I ordered the parts and will make an appointment once my new battery is installed. Sussex Aero is just a ten minute hop or I'll head north to New Garden, about forty-five minutes. Either flight will be gear down situation, not wanting to mess with the broken wire. 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Local Flight and Approach

The weather here in Ocean City was perfect! I decided to fly and work on my stick and rudder skills, no autopilot today. I taxied out for runway two and completed my run up while listening to the buzz of traffic. Ocean city was indeed busy with school planes and transients coming in to enjoy a beautiful day at the beach.
The plan was to point towards Delaware Coastal and shoot one approach, then come home. I set up for the RNAV GPS 4 approach, picking up the weather and setting the mental picture of all the traffic, and it was busy. I completed the procedure turn and flew the approach to minimums.
I made a low approach to minimums and then went missed. It's always good to practice the missed approach procedures of the five C's. I did not fly the full missed, instead I opted to clear the area as soon as possible and head back south east for home. 

Saturday, December 09, 2023

Birthday Flight

I made plans to fly on my birthday and the weather was going to cooperate. Mary let me know that people we met through the American Mastiff Facebook page were going to be in town and that we would meet up Saturday. One add on was the husband is very interested in flying and I was going to take him up for a short hop, a discovery flight of sorts. The best part is Mary and I would get to hug all over an American Mastiff like our Ziva girl. So plan B is skip my Friday birthday flight and instead fly Saturday. 

Saturday  12.9

The couple we were going to meet with canceled because their Mastiff was having white blood cell count issues. We wish Bear a speedy recovery, we would have loved hugging on him.

I turned the preheats on remotely at 5 am and made it to the airport by noon. I completed my preflight and sump prior to opening the hangar door. When it was time to get the fan turning 3 Tango Charlie wouldn’t even turn a full blade. I tried a few more times and then she came to life. I have no clue since the battery minder was showing full charge and the JPI confirmed 13.9 volts. 

I taxied out for runway two-zero and launched into a beautiful day.  The plan is to fly up the coast, enjoy the view and then turn around over Cape Henlopen and come home, maybe shoot a practice approach before landing. 

The flight was great and I set up for the RNAV GPS 14 approach into Ocean City. There was plenty of activity today. I even had one plane coming head on , same altitude, while shooting the practice approach. ADS-B is a real life saver.

I ended up breaking the approach off and point south to fall in behind two other aircraft that were also inbound to land on two-zero. I was now number three even though the aircraft that was number two offered me a chance to enter ahead of him. I respond no thanks I am just enjoying the sunshine, his reply, he was too. I made a nice landing and taxied for the hangar. Once 3 TC was tucked away. I made the lunch run pick up then headed home.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Vectors to final, Don't do it!

I know, stop beating a dead horse. I really hate that expression being the horse lover and former owner of three that I am, but it fits the moment.

I like to watch aviation YouTube videos and learn from what I watch. One of the very best content creators is Martin Pauly. Recently he posted a video about a flight to St. Paul Minnesota (KSTP), the twin cities. On this flight he was given vectors to final for the ILS 32. Sure as I am typing this ATC switched it up and gave him a direct KIKKY an initial approach fix (IAP). Martin flies with the Garmin 750Xi and even with the VTF selection the GPS still shows all the fixes for the approach. Sweet! My Garmin 530 did not and either does my Garmin 480. 

This brings me back to the topic of not selecting VTF, instead loading the full approach. I was burned by Philly approach once while flying the Sundowner, in IMC conditions and no autopilot, on vectors, only to be switched to direct KAHOE, an IAP. How fast can you correctly select the correct approach and fix? 

My second example was my recent flight home from Vero Beach. I was given the RNAV GPS 17 approach into Mt Pleasant (KLRO) expect vectors. Sure enough I fell into the rabbit hole. First turn was direct to the Charleston VOR (CHS) then expect vectors. No problem, I'm above a layer but knew I had to shoot an approach to get into LRO. Next I was given direct GINNE which now required some buttonology to reload the approach and select the IAP. Thankfully the Commander has an excellent autopilot, Stec 60-2, which reduced the workload. I'm following the approach happy as can be and approach asked if I wanted to stay direct GINNE or receive vectors. Was he kidding me? Nope, I'm good. 

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Asheville, NC and the Biltmore Estate

Mary and I decided on a quick hop just to get away for our 19th wedding anniversary. We have had Asheville NC, more specifically, the Biltmore estate on our list for some time.  

Reservations have been made, the estate tour is booked, rental car locked in, and hangar space secured. It’s scary but we both talk out the plan then double team all reservations required. The whole process has become second nature. 

Weather Outlook

The weather watch starts two weeks in advance for any of our adventures. The forecast is looking very good for most of the week on both ends.
Saturday 11.4

This morning Mary and I headed over to the airport to top off fuel and get Lucy some exercise. I completed my pre flight with only needing to sump fuel on departure day. My Garmin 480 is updated and I have my flight plan ready for entry after planning on Foreflight.

Monday 11.6

We were in no rush to bug out this morning.  It was heaven with no dog to deal with so we enjoyed showers and packing the SUV. The boys were loose last night to roam about the house and it was a reminder why they stay in the washroom when it’s bed time. The Malachi brothers ran wild, even crashing against our bedroom door twice.  

Mary and I had a nice breakfast at Abi’s diner, good pancakes, then we headed to the airport. I needed to sump fuel and 3 Tango Charlie would be good to go. After warming the oil I taxied for runway two and picked up my super secret squawk code to get out with the TFR in place. It was a beautiful VFR day and Patuxent asked if I wanted to open my IFR plan. Nope, VFR today, but if I need it I’ll open with whatever approach I’m on with. 
I was handed off multiple times heading south. After Pax it was two Norfolk sections, then Washington center, Potomac, Atlanta and then Asheville. Our ride at six thousand five was smooth despite the brutal headwinds at thirty plus knots. Asking for lower we settled for fifteen to twenty knots still in our face at four thousand five hundred. 
As we approached Barrett’s Mountain VOR you could make out the mountains ahead. The tallest peak was four thousand so we steered clear. I thought we would get more of a rough ride crossing over but it was mild. Asheville was really busy and once handed to the tower I was given vectors for traffic and landing on three-five.

The initial vectors had me facing cumulogranite dead ahead. As I was ready to request an immediate turn my next vector was given. 
Once lined up for three five I had to fall in number two behind an Envoy Embraer 175 jet overtaking on my left side. I stayed high as long as I could to avoid the wake and landed well short of the Embraer’s touchdown.  
The ride to the  hotel was twenty minutes, all highway miles. Since we were early to check in we decided to locate the Biltmore village and wander around. First things first, find lunch. After checking out a place or two we decided on the Corner Kitchen. I had a burger and Mary had the Reuben, both very good. Although we did not find a suitable take home dessert at the Corner Kitchen we did find a go to at the Texas Roadhouse. We checked in at the Baymont Wyndham and enjoyed the dessert. 

Tuesday 11.7

Happy Anniversary!

Mary and I decided on something quick for breakfast, bagels. Just a short drive from the hotel was Brueggers Bagels. The bagels and service were excellent. 
After breakfast we wanted to check out restaurants for tonight's dinner selection. We cut that search short and instead headed towards the Biltmore Estate. Little did we know at the time that the list we reviewed were all on the Biltmore property near the winery and hotels. 
Mary had our tickets on her phone so it was an easy scan and go. We followed the windy road to the parking areas. The young lady at the hotel advised us to go directly to parking lot C for easy access by shuttle to the mansion. It was the best advice, spot on, we parked right where we boarded the shuttle.
We had forty-five minutes to kill waiting for our designated tour time to assemble. With time to spare we checked out the courtyard and stable areas. While exploring we made a stop for butter croissants, a hot tea for me and a chai for my bride. Mary overheard the lady in front of us say she doesn't do croissants because they are all air. We had a good laugh. The courtyard and stable are filled with shops, small specialty eateries and the Stable Cafe' restaurant. The original tile walls and room configurations are still the same layout today. The engineering from back in the day is still visible as it was the most modern at the time it was built.
Each room associated with the stable now houses a shop of some sort. The candy shop was the blanket repair and drying shop. The following photos describe the shops former use and todays specialty.
From the stable looking at the courtyard

Stable area shops

More shops and stable cafe’

It was time to get in line for our tour. The process was very orderly and moved along quickly. While in line I managed to take a few pictures of the gargoyles and took a couple for different families. Random picture taker, yeah, that’s my next job in retirement. 
The mansion tour was really interesting. The audio tour provided a handheld device that resembled a tv remote. Me walking around with that remote up to 
my ear lasted one room. Instead, here are the pictures. 

The Atrium

Billiards Room

Dining Room

Breakfast Room

Tapestry Room

Balcony across from tapestry room

Library Room

George Vanderbilt bedroom

Edith Vanderbuilt bedroom

Staircase to all floors

Looking towards the mansion entrance

Once we finished the mansion tour we wanted to do a late lunch at the Stable Cafe’. When we checked in the wait was about twenty-five minutes, so we left our number to be texted when a table was available.  Mary and I wandered back out to the courtyard to get in line to find a cold drink. Not even fifteen minutes passed and we received the table is ready text. Perfect!

Mary had the beet salad and I had the macaroni and cheese, both appetizers. We also ordered a chicken salad sandwich to split which we had to box up and take it back to the hotel. Mary had a white apple cider sangria. I gave it a taste and it was very good, and I don’t like wine. 
Our last stop was the winery and yes a couple of bottles are coming home with us. The winery replaced the original dairy farm and some of the buildings are still in use. 

Wednesday 11.8

This was a quick get-away to cross another location off our bucket list and to have fun on our anniversary. Now it’s time to flight plan and make the just under three hour trip home. 
3 Tango Charlie was tugged out on the ramp, ready to head home for a planned 9am departure. I completed my pre-flight to include adding one quart of oil and sumping the fuel tanks. 

I contacted Asheville ground to pick up my clearance but it was not on file. That’s odd. I opted for a VFR departure and a squawk code since it was a beautiful day. I climbed out on runway heading until departure vectored me around a small TFR, then turned me loose to resume own navigation. 

I worked each approach in reverse order of our flight south. The ride was smooth and not quite as hazy as Monday. 
Once on with the second Norfolk approach we had a strange exchange. Approach asked what was my Estimated Time Enroute (ETE) to my final destination. Ok, that's a first, my ETE is approximately forty-five minutes. Apparently Flight Services showed me as overdue and they were looking for me. Approach gave flight service an update and we continued north. Now the missing IFR plan was making sense, who knows what happened. 

I canceled with Patuxent and let down for Ocean City crossing mid-field entering the left downwind for one-four. Another nice landing and slow taxi to the hangar, it's good to be home. The bugs were cleaned off and I plugged in the battery maintainer before heading for lunch and home. 

Mary and I had a fun time. The mansion tour made for a busy day along with checking out all the other buildings on the estate including the winery. To find more info on the Biltmore estate check out this link.