Monday, November 14, 2011

Kingsbury Aerodrome - Fall Fly-In

With winds predicted to gust to near 30mph Phil and I decided to leave the Chief in the hanger! It's just not a plane that can handle that much wind safely unless it's right down the runway.

Chris, Travis, & I did decide to go though in Chris' Cessna 172. When I got to the airport, I saw the EAA's B-17 Aluminum Overcast sitting on the ramp. Such a beautiful plane.

I didn't expect much of a turnout since the winds were predicted to be so high. I was surprised to hear a Tiger Moth calling into the airport, and I had seen a Pietenpol take off from Georgetown heading this way, so that was at least two cool airplanes!

It turned out to be a very nice event with quite a variety of planes. We stayed for awhile, walking around checking out the old cars and planes and had a great time.

We then loaded up and Travis flew us most of the way to Fredericksburg for lunch at the Airport Diner. It's a nice 50's themed diner.

I then flew us back to Georgtown where I landed like a helicopter and we walked over to watch the B-17 take up some passengers. Not a bad day of flying!


11-13-11 Engine Out in the Chief

I got to prove how well a Chief can glide on Sunday.

After Phil had the engine quit on Saturday, we thought we had the problem solved and it was only carb ice. We would just be more careful when flying. He took off later and flew back to Kittie Hill, then flew another hour later with no issues at all.

I fueled up Sunday morning to take a friend flying. We flew over to Burnet to check out their CAF Museum. We landed, got out for about 30 minutes, then we took off and headed over to a lake a few miles away. Just as I reached the lake, I made a comment about how well the engine was running (not kidding!) and how well the Chief flew. At that moment the engine coughed. I immediately pulled carb heat and it smoothed out. I turned back toward Burnet. I tried pushing in the carb heat a few times and each time it was instantly rough. I told my passenger, Mark, that we would probably land at Burnet and call someone to come get us.

My big mistake was when I decided not to land there. I chose instead to fly back to Kittie Hill with the carb heat on the whole way. I climbed to 6,000 feet for insurance and used the GPS to find the nearest private airports I knew were enroute.

When we arrived over Kittie Hill, I explained how slips worked to Mark and told him I was going to spiral down over the field, then slip hard over the trees and put her in. The active runway at Kittie Hill is about 3,000 foot with tall trees on the approach end. It was a good plan, but when I pulled the power back just barely off of full throttle she sputtered and almost died. I think I uttered a word I wouldn’t want my Mother to hear!

I quickly made a decision to fly over to Georgetown where they have a tower and a 5,000+ foot runway. I told Mark there was nothing to worry about, I would descend at full power over a long distance and chop the power and use as much runway as a I needed.

As I crossed the edge of Lake Georgetown, the engine started to sputter again, this time at full throttle and carb heat on. I called the tower and after a few attempts, they finally heard me. I immediately declared an emergency and told them I thought I had carb ice and couldn’t clear it. He immediately cleared me for any runway I wanted and suggested 11 was the closest. I told him I was on a right base for 11 and would try to make it. A few minutes (maybe seconds!) later I told I wasn’t going to make it as I had just lost my engine. It sure gets quiet…

I would later tell Mark the next decision was very tough for me. I could turn away from the airport now and make some fields where we wouldn’t hurt anyone else, but we would probably tear up the plane and ourselves. Heading on toward Georgetown I would have emergency services close by, but if I was wrong about making the runway; I would hit houses and risk other people’s lives. I watched the runway closely and it was staying in the same place, low on the windshield. I decided I could make it after all. I don’t know how far out I was, but when I first made the call I was 5.8 miles out at under 6,000 feet.

Soon, the tower asked me how many souls onboard and how much fuel. I sure hated that question. After what seemed like a long time in silence, I was on short final. I pulled the fuel of and turned off the key since I didn’t want it to start then, and had to slip really hard for what seemed like a long time to get down. I had a perfect landing and then all was quiet. The tower told me I could leave her right there since I wasn’t on the active. I climbed out and sat on the ground. Wow.

What happened? We had a few theories and one turned out to be right. The loose fuel guage was letting air into the tank. The fuel cap was clogged and not letting air in. When we replaced the gauge with new seals, it created an airtight tank, starving the fuel.

Phil had an A&P confirm this. He pulled the fuel line from the carb and fuel ran for awhile, then turned into a trickle. He put on the cap from the auxiliary tank and it ran and didn’t stop. Phil flew her home this morning.

I’ve been a pilot for a long time and around planes my entire life. We all make mistakes, but learn from mine. I passed up a perfect airport and tried to diagnose the problem in the air. I hate that I did that. Things I did right were adding altitude and declaring an emergency. Better to ask for help and not need it than the other way around.

Click here for the audio from the tower.

Jack "No New Holes" Fleetwood

11-12-11 Craig's New Auto-Gyro

To anyone who still reads my blog, sorry I've been behind! Life seems to get in the way of writing about life sometimes!

As I’m sure a lot of you are aware, Powrachute’s sister company, Soaring Concepts is now importing the Auto-Gyro brand gyroplanes. My friend Craig McPherson has purchased the MTO Sport and is in the process of being trained to become an instructor.

Craig called me to tell me he was heading my way for some training. I had to help Phil change out the glass in the fuel gauges on the Aeronca Chief (another story!), but I had time to get that done, then drive over to Taylor to meet Craig. I ended up spending most of the day at airports. I had a family friend who I owed a birthday ride in the PPC, so I loaded up the trailer and took it with me.

I drove to Taylor, and Phil flew the Chief over as well. When Phil landed, he was rolling out and turned off the carb heat. The engine promptly died. I asked him if he ran out of fuel since we’d just changed out the gauges. He said there was no way. We ended up pushing the plane over to the fuel pumps and he put in 9.5 gallons, which topped it off. Since it’s a 15 gallon tank, fuel wasn’t the issue. We would end up assuming it was carb ice and resolved to use carb heat more often – not a good assumption, but again, that’s the next story!

Craig arrived and everyone pitched in to help him get the rotor blades assembled and attached for his lesson. It took awhile, but eventually he was ready. I think he gave me a few dirty looks since I’d recommended this airport and it was very busy! It’s not usually! I was happy taking photos of planes and trying to get that elusive prop blur.

Soon Craig and his instructor Ira were off and flying. When Craig took off, the nose of the gyro turned hard to the left. He landed and they adjusted the rudder trim tab and on the next flight, they were happy with the results.

I watched as Craig practiced emergency landings and was really impressed with the performance. I sure wouldn’t mind owning a gyro, just a little out of my price range at $75K!