Mar 27 2009

First Night Flight of 2009

Category: Solo FlightsDaniel @ 3:44 pm

This past weekend my wife was out of town for a spa trip with one of her girlfriends, so I had some time to myself. Considering I hadn’t flown at night in probably over 5 months, I figured it would be great time to get current on my night takeoffs and landings (since I’d have to do those solo before taking passengers up at night anyway).

cool-moonI headed to Westosha on a beautifully calm and clear Saturday night. The night air was crisp and the new moon allowed the stars to shine very brightly. Of course, this also meant that pre-flighting the plane was a little more difficult and tedious as everything had to be done by the light of my flashlight. I forgot how difficult it can be to check the airplane and read the checklist in the dark of night. Even once in the plane, things are a notch more difficult. Just goes to show how important it is to properly prepare beforehand.

The flight went great. I first headed up to Burlington (BUU) for a change of scenery and knocked out 2 full-stop landings there. I then proceeded over to Kenosha (ENW), since I always need a little more practice with communicating with towered airports. I had my Mio C320 personal GPS device and the airplane also had GPS to help me find my way. I must admit, I’m pretty happy with my C320 and the NavGPS software…it worked like a charm and jived 100% with the built-in GPS of the plane. It is great for situational awareness. That being said, I realized a pilot must take the data these devices provide at face value. For instance, the tower told me to report out 1 mile right base of the landing runway. Of course, the GPS doesn’t measure distance from the end of the runway, it measures from probably the airport center. That being said, when I reported to the tower 1 mile out (according to my GPS), I was probably 0.5 miles from the end of the runway. And as usual with night flights, distances are hard to measure visually. Needless-to-say, I had to perform a side slip to lose altitude quickly enough to land near the end of the runway. It was good practice, though, as I hadn’t had to perform a slip in some time anway.

After Kenosha I headed back to Westosha and tied up the plane. I completed 4 full-stop takeoffs and landings, one extra from the required three to keep me legal to take passengers up at night for a while. I can’t wait to take my wife up at night again; it’s so pretty and peaceful with all the lights. I logged 1.1 hours of pilot-in-command flight time.

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Mar 17 2009

Spring Flying Almost Here

Category: Aviation GPS,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 5:42 am

We got a taste of Spring a little early this past weekend in Chicagoland, with temperatures reaching into the 60’s and gorgeous clear skies.  I wasn’t the only pilot who had the itch to fly as the skies were full with general aviation aircraft.  blue_sky_1920This past Sunday my wife and I went back to Pilot Pete’s (which hadn’t been to since the fall) for dinner.  Everything about the flight and the day went great.  I had probably my finest landing to date at Schaumburg that afternoon, just a perfect greaser  (the non-existant winds probably helped too).

The flight helped me also flight-test my Mio C320 personal navigation device with the NavGPS Pro software (see my full review here), since I was flying with our club’s older Cessna 172 without a moving map GPS.  I gotta admit, my little GPS system (which cost under $100) performed just as well as a built-in GPS system for my needs.  My only complaint with the Mio is that during the late afternoon with the sun low in the sky, the glare off the screen was pretty bad.  Once the sun wasn’t direct, though, the screen was totally readable and the software did great.

The dinner was awesome as usual at Pilot Pete’s and my wife and I had a great time.  This trip I logged 1.0 hours of flight time.

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Mar 08 2009

Navtech EFISce GPS Software on Mio C320

Category: Aviation GPS,RamblingsDaniel @ 2:59 pm

efisimg6Navtech’s EFISce application is another Windows CE compatible aviation GPS software package.  To install on the Mio C320, use the Pocket PC 2003 version (the 2nd one down) on the download page.  Install using Activesync, and ignore any errors/messages it throws up.

The software does work, but pretty slowly.  Also, unfortunately the application only occupies half of the screen on the Mio, in either the lanscape or portrait screen settings.  The program seemed fairly unstable (I’m not sure why), and crapped out a handful of times not really allowing me to fully test the software, nor want me to try it in the air.  I can’t say that these errors may just be a function of the “trial” version of the software, maybe the $50 priced real version won’t fail so much, but I’m not willing to drop the cash to find out.  It may be worth downloading and installing the trial version yourself, but don’t drop the money until you do.

Test Specs: Navtech EFISce Pocket PC 2003 version tested on March 7, 2009 on Mio C320
Pros: Cool looking, appears to have lots of features.
Cons: Does not work reliably on Mio C320, app only occupies half of screen on the Mio.

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Mar 02 2009

Finally Flew to Kealy’s Kafe, and Engine Starting Troubles

Category: Solo FlightsDaniel @ 5:40 am

This past Sunday I finally made it to Kealy’s Kafe at Janesville (KJVL)!  I was supposed to fly there 2 weekends ago, but because of an airsick passenger, I had to turn that trip around.  The weather for the day was brisk and cold (around 15-20°F), slightly windy, but not a cloud in the sky.  After getting the aircraft keys and looking at the aircraft log, I saw that the Cessna 172SP hadn’t flown in about 3 days.  Furthermore, once I got to the plane to pre-flight it, the engine heater wasn’t plugged in.  To compound that, when checking the oil level, the oil was a very slick sludge.  I knew it would be difficult to get the plane started.  Sure enough, I almost didn’t get the plane started and almost didn’t make it to Kealy’s yet again.

flooded_engineAs per the 172SP checklist, before attempting to start a cold engine, you are supposed to run the auxiliary fuel pump until the fuel flow meter starts to move.  It’s only supposed to take under 10 seconds to get that needle to move. I turned on the pump and let 5 seconds tick by, then 10, 15, 18… and no movement.  I decided to stop the pump then (I didn’t want to flood the engine) and try cranking.  Nothing.  I tried the pump a little more, still no movement.  Cranked again and nothing.  Kept cranking, and I hear the battery starting to get taxed and run down.  I opened the door and looked outside and saw fuel under the exhaust…I definitely flooded the engine (crap).  I follow the flooded engine procedure in the operating handbook: to basically crank with the throttle open (to use up the fuel in the flooded engine).  I hear it starting to use up the fuel, but nothing firing well, the battery is definitely getting dangerously low.   I decide to plug the plane in and let it warm up for 5 minutes (and hopefully recharge the battery a bit).  After 5 minutes, I try the flooded engine procedure again without success (crap again).  I decide I’m going wait another 5 minutes and try one final time.  Luckily, that’s what the plane needed.  After 6 minutes (one minute extra for good luck), the battery had just enough juice and the flooded engine procedure worked!  The plane started and I let it warm for quite a while before starting on our journey.

The trip to Janesville went fine.  I actually did some reading up on the autopilot system this past week so I was able to fully use it to navigate to Janesville.  That autopilot making flying way too easy.  Lunch at Kealy’s was very nice, I’ll definitely go there again.  It was great to have a little more experience flying into a towered airport as well.

The plane started fine for our return leg, but it was funny/reassuring to see that the pilot parked next to us at Janesville had trouble starting his engine (although I never wish to see troubles for any pilot).  This morning I read another pilot at Westosha (Evan) had scary troubles of his own this weekend.  Apparently it was a rough weekend to fly.  Luckily everything worked out fine for me.   Oh, and I DID plug the plane in when I returned it at the end of the day…I wouldn’t want the next person to have the same difficulties starting the engine as I did.

I logged 1.2 hours of pilot-in-command time this flight.

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