About 100 yards from the hangar is Skydive Sebastian that uses a DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter as a jump plane. Every day we hear the plane take off and about 15 minutes later it lands about the same time as all the skydivers. Yesterday I stopped by and asked if I could ride along in the right seat. So once the spar was in, I grabbed a spare headset and rode one of the bikes down to the skydiving center. There were about 12 lunatics… er, I mean skydivers in the back. We climbed up to 13,500 feet and then:
After the last one was out, I turned to face forward and directly in front of me was this:
You figure it out.
We had a great time at Sun-n-Fun on Wednesday. The weather was perfect. Saw Tom Lawson of Firewall Forward who supplied the engine. I picked up some supplies and talked to a few vendors. Wednesday night we had dinner with Richard and Sheri. On Thursday we had some plans to hang out in Tampa. Turns out that was perfect timing. Lakeland, FL got hit by a tornado that destroyed numerous aircraft. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries (to people).
Now here’s a little backstory. About 20 years ago, I used to have an occasional business lunch with a customer. One of the restaurants (Sea Sea Riders) we would go to had this dessert called a “Kitchen Sink”. One day after lunch I decided to order dessert. When it was brought out, my customer asked if she could have a bite. I said sure and she asked for an extra spoon. After that, whenever we had lunch at this restaurant, we would always order a “Kitchen Sink with two spoons”. Well, I ended up marrying that customer.
Now last year after Sun-n-Fun, we went by the restaurant. It had changed little but they had stopped serving the Kitchen Sink years earlier. But there was a storm going on they had lost power. The chef was walking in and out of the kitchen dealing with some storm induced crisis and at one point we started talking to him. Turns out he had just started at the restaurant a couple weeks earlier but he used to work there about 20 years ago. And the “Kitchen Sink” was his creation.
So a couple months before this year’s trip I contacted the restaurant and asked if they could bring back the dessert for me… Just this once. The owner of the restaurant couldn’t have been more accomodating.
So the plan was put into motion. On Thursday, we went to the old lunch restaurant (BTW, Jimmy Buffett wrote a song about our lunches). After lunch, they brought out dessert.
While I was playing in Florida, Malcolm was plugging away with surfacing stuff. Getting the windows just right, fixing the damage from the unexpected nose gear retraction. Other stuff like that. Malcolm doesn’t like the way that the factory does the window installation so he spent a lot of time trying to make them “good enough”.
Here’s an interesting tidbit. What does Malcolm do when he’s not building airplanes?
He builds scale WWII tanks (insert original Flight of the Phoenix movie reference here).
Here’s one of his masterpieces.
The back of the tank.
How about that little tiny bucket? It’s hand made… Out of metal. I’ll bet it actually holds water.
Back of the turret.
Check out those canteens. And this tank is about SIX INCHES LONG. Many of the parts on this tank are fabricated from scratch in Malcolm’s model building facility. He uses pictures of actual tanks, maintenance manuals, construction drawings (the original 70 year old documents), etc. when building these tanks. The detail is almost scary. Most of the times when he shows me what he’s working on, I can barely see it. He makes bolt heads that are only a couple thousands of an inch across.
In the middle of all this I had to teach a Nexus 7000 class in New Jersey at the end of April. Ann was in New York at the same time. When she was done with her business on the 28th, so she caught a train to New Jersey. After the class was over on April 29 we drove down to Wilmington, DE to attend my neice’s graduation. She was receiving her MBA that she obtained in 18 months on her own while working two jobs. Beat that!!!
The following Saturday, I drove Ann to Philly to catch a flight home. Then I took Kris to lunch and then we went for a sightseeing flight over Delaware and New Jersey.
She’s got a real good touch on the controls. Most people over-control but she seems to have a knack for it.
After we were done, I had to head for Richmond. There was a slight problem with my rental car. Most small fields don’t have rental car offices on site. When flying into a small field on Sunday, the rental car company has to deliver the car the day before (they usually close on Saturday around noon) and leave the keys with the airport. But I had a funny feeling. I called the Hanover Country Municipal Airport after lunch and there was no car. Since it was after noon, the rental car office was closed. But the people at Heart of Virginia Aviation said I could use their courtesy car until Enterprise got a car out. Usually, the courtesy car is the old fire chiefs car… 10 years old with about 400,000 miles on it. Collapsed front seat, no suspension, etc. But not at Hanover County. After parking the plane, the line guys brought out their “courtesy car”.
We drove up to Oshkosh on Tuesday morning. The plan was to spend all day Tuesday and Wednesday, hit the Velocity Cookout Wednesday night and head home on Thursday morning. As is usually the case, I spent most of the time talking with vendors and checking out the latest products. I did attend a very interesting seminar on electronic circuit breakers from Vertical Power. Then we checked into our hotel and had dinner in a local Fond Du Lac restaurant.
Wednesday the rain started. We hung out in the hotel until about 10am waiting for the weather to clear. Ann was feeling a bit under the weather so I struck out on my own with my poncho and backpack. The flymart was almost deserted so I made good time picking up tools and other supplies. Then I hit the vendor hangars and got some spark plugs and oil filters (for the Cessna). Then I talked with Carlos and Grand Rapids (I’m using their displays) and Marc at Vertical Power. I checked out a couple other vendors and then headed back to the hotel to see if Ann was feeling up to the cookout.
She was feeling better, so around 5pm, we headed back to Osh.
The turnout this year was huge. BTW, all of these pictures are from Brett Ferrell. He maintains an unofficial Velocity (www.velocityxl.com) website and his wife, Elizabeth took bunches of pictures.
Ken used to work at Velocity with his father (Scott) but now he’s working at Mecca. That’s what I call Scaled Composites. The company Burt Rutan started that’s currently building (amoung other things) Spaceship Two for Virgin Glactic.
We stayed until it started getting dark and then we left. The party goes on much later, but Ann still wasn’t 100%. Getting out was exciting. We almost got bogged down a couple of times trying to get out. Once we got back to the hotel, we looked at each other and said “let’s go”. So we packed up and drove home that night. On the way home, Just north of Milwaukee, I drove through the worst rain storm I have ever seen. Most cars were stopped on the side of the road. A couple simple stopped where they were. With a diesel engine under the hood and Rainx on the windshield, we just kept on going (albeit at a reduced speed). Got home around midnight and slept in our own bed.
The current ride is down for maintenance.
I’m really pretty anal about maintenance on the Cessna. My philosophy is that if something breaks after taking off into IFR conditions, it’s bad thing. So proper maintenance is a must. The only maintenance I ever defer is non-critical items. Interior trim, for example.
I change the oil and filter between 30 and 35 hours. Many people run 50 hours. And some don’t change the filter at every oil change. Not only do I change the oil and filter but I take an oil sample and send it off for analysis. And I cut the filter open and inspect the filter for metal.
A couple months ago I hit the 500 hour mark since the engine was completely overhauled. The magnetos require and inspection and rebuild at 500 hours. So the mags came off when I was changing the oil and filter. I also took the opportunity to replace all 12 sparkplugs.
At the next oil change, ferrous metal was found in the filter. The oil analysis report also showed “slightly elevated iron” in the sample. Lynn, my A&P (Airframe and Powerplant mechanic) said the amount of metal wasn’t enough to ground the plane but it did warrant watching. I sent the metal to a lab and then ran a number tests on it and the report was that it was consistent with the crankshaft. Lynn feels it’s almost a certainty that it’s the camshaft.
So my plan was to fly a shorter cycle and change the oil at about 15 to 20 hours and see what happens.
It was a VERY stressful 15-20 hours. Every time the engine made the slightest noise, I was looking for a place to land. And engines make a LOT of noise.
After my last trip down to Greenville, I changed the oil (19 hours since the last change). A lot more metal in the filter this time. The oil sample shows the iron dropping back down to the “normal” range.
I sent the filter out to Firewall Forward have the metal analyzed under their scanning electron microscope and they said it most likely came from the camshaft.
While a catastrophic failure was unlikely and I could keep flying, the metal being produced would be damaging other parts of the engine. So I made the call to ground the plane.
I was way past the warranty on the overhaul from 5 years ago (2 year warranty) so I had to pick a shop to do the teardown, figure out where the metal is coming from and fix it. I could send it back to Penn Yan which is who did the previous overhaul but since it only made it a quarter of the way to 2,000 hour TBO, I wasn’t happy with them at this point. So on the recommendation of Lynn, I’m going to give Poplar Grove Airmotive a shot. They’re only about 30 miles away and they’ll pick it up and deliver it for free (which usually costs about $300 each way). And since they’re close by, I can drop by and check on the progress.
The biggest downside is that this is a horrific, unexpected expense. Initial estimates are $7,500 for the low side and lots, lots more if it turns out to be the crankshaft. And that doesn’t include the cost of removing and reinstalling the engine.
This morning we pulled the airplane over the Lynn’s shop and removed the engine. We had it out by about noon. Poplar Grove will pick it tomorrow. They say it’ll take about 3 weeks. I’m hoping for a (good) prognosis next week.
The thing that really sucks is that with regular maintenance and normal use, this engine should be able to have gone 2,000 hours.
All the content from the old site has been migrated to the new, current site.
I’ve also reorganized the content using the builders manual Table Of Contents which can be found under the picture. For example, if you’re looking for info on the main gear doors, you can search on “7.7.3” which will return all posts that have to do with the main gear door.
You can also view posts by year or section.
The Southeast Triangle
Up to now, I’ve only made a small handful of short trips. Three down to Sebastian to fix a fuel leak, move the hydraulic dump valve and to talk with Scott Swing about painting the plane and Justin about interior. The only other trip was to head up to Smyrna, TN so that my old A&P/IA could show me any tricks on doing the inspection on the Continental IO550. All of these have been only about two hours away and Ann has only been on one of those trips (to talk with Justin about the interior).
Since Ann had a business trip that was going to have her away on her birthday and I didn’t have anything planned, we decided to do our first long trip. Panama City, FL to Dallas, TX (couple days of business meetings) to Chicago, IL (fun for the weekend) to Nashville, TN (one business meeting) and then back to Panama City.
I spent some time making sure everything on the plane was ready and on Monday we got up early to be at the airport and in the air by about 8:00 so we would be in Dallas by noon. That right there is significant. If we were still in the Cessna, it would have been a tad bit different.
In the Cessna, we would be looking at about 4:45 in the air. That means two stops. Not for fuel but to accommodate Ann’s “two hour rule”. She didn’t like worrying about not drinking too much liquids and having to deal with unplanned stops. So she created the “two hour rule”. Occasionally, she allow an exception if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes more, but otherwise, it’s a hard rule. And it’s a good one. Life is much easier when you’re not thirsty most of the day and you get to wander around small airports.
Another (new) thing we experienced is the significantly smaller baggage volume available in the Velocity as opposed to the Cessna. The Cessna 182 is like a flying Ford Explorer. There’s TONS of space inside. Between the baggage compartment and the back seat, you can fit massive amounts of stuff in that plane. And with the 182, the general rule is: If you can fit it in, the plane can carry it. Meaning it’s almost impossible to overload a 182 unless you’re carrying lead.
The Velocity is more like a Porshe 911. Yeah, it’s got 4 seats and baggage compartment, but there’s no comparison to an SUV. It was made more challenging in that Ann had about three days of business during this eight day trip. So we were jamming stuff in the baggage area, back seats, floor, etc. It was pretty messy looking.
For this first day of the trip, we would only be making one stop. I chose Vicksburg, MS because they have cheap fuel and it’s about halfway. We took off around 7:45 and climbed up to 6,000′. Where we encountered a 15-20 knot headwind that would be with all the way to Dallas. After stopping in Vicksburg, I added 20 gallons of fuel and wandered around while Ann took some phone calls. Then it was back up for a short 1:40 hop into McKinney National Airport.
And what a nice airport it is. Big honkin’ airport with one of those big fancy FBO’s where they pull your rental car right up to the plane after you park. Which I discovered is a little different when you’re rockin’ a Velocity. The line guys get a little confused when they are marshalling you into a parking spot. So I ended up stopping a bit short and we pulled it in the rest of the way. After unloading the plane, Ann went to take care of the rental car paperwork while I stayed with the plane for about 20 minutes answering questions. ATP has a flight training operation there so it seemed like every student walking by wanted to look and ask questions.
After a couple of days in Dallas (actually Plano), we were off to Chicago to spend the weekend with a very good friend, hang out in the hot tub, and partake in great food and some adult beverages. Ann of course went shopping… I did too, but my shopping was at Berland’s House of Tools. In Panama City, if you want high quality or specialty tools, online is the only option.
There was a front moving through on the day of the trip. Clear skies but howling winds. Fortunately, they were blowing out of the south which would give us a 40 knot tailwind and be straight down the runway at every airport.
So we blasted off of McKinney at 8am. Got vectored around Dallas for a while and we were then at 5,000′ making about 240 knots over the ground for our first stop in Lebanon, MO. Approach and landing was… interesting. Once below about 4,000′ it got bumpy. So I used a modified Millin Approach. Andy Millin has a fixed gear Velocity and if he needs to get down fast, he slows down, deploys the speedbrake, pulls the power to idle and holds about 90 knots and gets a 3,000 foot per minute descent. I don’t have a speedbrake, but I do have landing gear that’s pretty draggy. So I was able to go from smooth air to landing pretty quick and limit the time in the bouncy stuff.
That was a timed stop as Ann had a one hour call that she had to take so we planned our departure to arrive at the appointed time. After the call and taking on 20 gallons of fuel, we were off to Chicago. After takeoff I trimmed for Vy and got above the bumps in about 2 minutes.
About 100 miles out, I got the usual (and expected) “we have an amendment to your routing, advise when ready to copy.” Like always, it was just a minor detour (you can see it on the map) so no big deal. As we began our descent, Chicago approach asked if I could “maintain that speed”. I responded affirmative. He then told me he had a Piper also heading to Dupage and that if I could keep up the speed, he could get me in before the Piper and not have to slow down. Okay. Usually I’m the slower one so it’s nice to not be that plane for a change. Then it got a bit more unusual (at least to a long time Cessna driver). Typically, Chicago approach is busy and they don’t have a lot of time for idle chitchat. But the controller then asked what speed I was indicating. I responded “187 indicated and 205 true.” He then asked what my fuel burn was. I replied “12.6 gallons per hour”. He came back with “You can’t beat that.” Nope. You certainly can’t.
After landing, I dropped Ann off at the Taj Mahal (what the locals call the main terminal at Dupage) so she could get the rental car and then I taxied over to the east side of the field to Travel Express. Back when I first got the Cessna, I rented it out at Dupage with Cougar Aviation. Travel Express was one of the other outfits on the field. They were much bigger and did charters using turbo prop and jets. One of the instructors I used while getting my instrument rating is a check pilot there and he was kind enough to help me arrange to have the Velocity put in their big hangar. That was a huge relief since it’s not exactly water tight yet, it’s freakin’ cold up there now and I haven’t even thought about dealing with pre-heat.
After a nice long weekend, we made the drive down to the airport from Barrington, loaded up the plane and were airborne just after 7am for the 2 hour flight. Ann had a meeting near Nashville at 11am so the plan was to get there with enough time to get the rental car, and drive to the location. I had called Lynn, my old A&P/IA and since he was going to be around that morning, I would taxi over to where he was on the east side of the field and we would go to lunch.
The original plan was to spend the night in Smyrna since Ann didn’t think she would be ready to leave until 3pm. I haven’t flown the Velocity at night yet so I didn’t want to deal with that issue just yet. but she called after Lynn and I got back from lunch and said if she got back by around 2pm, would be be able to get home tonight. In the Velocity? Heck yeah! It’s a damn time machine!
So we lifted off from Smyrna, TN at 2:30pm and we were driving out of the airport at 4:30pm.
Total distance traveled: 2,000 nm
Total time enroute: 9.8 hours
Which works out to 204 MPH for the trip!
Now two of the three legs had tailwinds. And one of those were epic tailwinds.
But still, not bad. Not bad at all.
I’m glad we did this trip when we did and before paint and interior. Because we discovered a couple things.
1) That my nose oil cooler NACA diverter doesn’t work… at all. The Chicago-Nashville trip was COLD!
2) We have to come up with some in flight storage solutions.
Experimental is the name of the game.