Oct 11 2011

Day 12… Trip to Tehachapi

After a short but great visit with Charles, we had breakfast and headed out to the airport. My next stop is Tehachapi which is about 1.1 hrs (direct), but I elected to fly along the coast if possible which added about 40 minutes to the flight.

The weather didn’t burn off until almost 11 am and after a short flight to the coast to Monterey and I found it to be still shrouded in sea fog. Only a few towers on the coast could be seen.



After flying inland for 30 minutes I tried once again to headfor the coast near San Lousi Obispo and was able to take some nice shots of the shore line at 2500 ft.


After just a few miles it was necessary to head due east to for the 30 min flight inland to Tehachapi. As I was flying inland, it occurred to me I was finally starting to feel comfortable in the plane. I think it takes about a hundred hours of so with a new plane to finally start to trust it and understand its’ particular quirks and personality. Every time I rebuild mine or build a new project, I am alway nervous for a quite a while. This bird is nice…


Tim Lumpp met me at the airport and when he opened the hangar it looked like a museum with planes hanging in the ceiling. I had read about plane lifts but never saw one. It was amazing to park the bird under two other planes.


Tim gave me a quick tour of the area and I was just blown away at how beautiful it was. I had only been to the Mohave Desert where Scaled Composites is based which is where Tim and Marc work. I thought they were crazy for working in such a desolate place. Tehachapi is about 2000 ft above the desert floor and has its own micro climate. It is just beautiful here.


This is the locally famous train loop. The grade is too steep for the trains so it enters the loop via a tunnel and loops around on itself to gain elevation before it heads over the pass. Very cool



Tim’s wife, Karen, cooked a fantastic dinner for Marc, Deanie and I and we chatted for a few hours. It always amazes me how warm and giving the pilots in our canard community are. I feel really lucky to be involved in such a great sport which had given me a chance to travel, see wonderful sights and make new friends.


Nick, Tim and Marc

Oct 10 2011

Day 11… San Francisco

This morning started with a mad dash to the airport. I used my Foreflight application on the ipad to check the weather and there was a huge front rolling in from the north east. I thought, shit if this hits Truckee, there will be snow again (they had a foot just last week) and I would be stuck here for a few days. I had to get out of here quick.

After taking off, the best option was to go south (after hitting some light drizzle) for a about 20 miles, climb to 17,000 ft to get above the clouds then headed west over the top of the mountains. The flight was only about 1 hour long, and after clearing the mountains and reaching the lower foot hills, a rapid decent was made (picking up a little ice at 12,000 ft) to warmer air and all was good. No more extremely high mountains to get over…Yah!! The rest of the trip will be a piece of cake now (or so I thought).

I flew into the Reid-Riverview airport, San Jose (just south of San Fran) and met Charles who is building a cozy 4. Charles is retired, so he had the whole day to just play.


After a quick lunch we took the train into San Fran, and sure enough the front I had just missed in Truckee hit the area and it started to drizzle. You know the Seattle light misty type that is wet and moist yet does not really get you wet.

I think the cable cars of San Fran are really cool. They are part of our history yet if someone tried to propose and build them today, the would be deemed unsafe and too dangerous for the general public.


We walked everywhere downtown… this is a picture of the restored ferry terminal building. My last job was historic preservationist and I love seeing the reuse of these old buildings.


It is still used as a passenger terminal and there are lots of neat shops inside.


In the fishermans wharf tourist area, San Fran made the decision to search all over the country to find and restore this style of old electric trollies. It seems each one is painted a different color. I really like the art/deco look like something out of the 1930’s.


I remember seeing Coit Tower featured in some old movies and asked Charles if he wanted to climb the hill to check out the view…. yikes what a mistake… You can just barely see it at in the center of the picture.. The tower is 210 ft tall and was built in 1933.


Well there were steps…


and more steps…


and more steps… I am hurting….


Finally, we came upon this sign… only 174 steps to go. Ouch, my gluts are burning by now and feel like I have just been to the gym. Charles is in amazing shape and is keeping up though we are both huffing now. We proceeded just like one would eat an elephant…. a little at a time.

Finally reaching the top we found the tower to be taller than I remembered.


I really wish the low clouds had lifted before we made it to the top, but still the view was awesome.


Inside the base of the building are 27 awesome wall murals of the every day life of working people of the time period. This is only one of the the many that completely adorned every wall.


No visit to San Fran is complete without a picture of the boats at the wharf.


This is a great fountain in Ghiradelli square. Naked mermaids. Just what one should have in a shopping plaza.


In this shop you can get some free samples of Ghiradelli chocolate where the company used to manufacture it. Now Ghiradelli just has an outlet store and some old equipment showing how it was made at the time. The chocolate here was just as good as my hometown Hershey, PA.


Whoopee! I finally made it to the Pacific ocean. Of coarse one needs to dip his hand in the water. As I was posing for the picture looking at the camera, a big wave caught me, and I spent the rest of the day walking around in soggy shoes. Ah the price of fame…


After a fantastic dinner at one of Charles’s favorite italian restaurants which was excellent! Kevin stopped by to chat and took us back to the train station in his electric car (Nissan Leaf). Wow, I really liked it. He gets about 80 miles of real world driving on a charge, and uses electric panels to charge it up…. How cool is that.


Off to home… Next stop is Tahachipi tomorrow.

Oct 09 2011

Day 10… Lake Tahoe

I woke up this morning, looked outside and it was sever clear!! Woohoo, I can deal with sunscreen instead of ice on the next leg of my trip to Truckee CA (Lake Tahoe). After a wonderful visit in Salt Lake City with Ric Lee and Shari. It’s is off to the next adventure.


After passing the great Salt Lake, I climbed to 12,000 ft for the 2.6 hr trip to Truckee. The air was really smooth, and I trued out at about 190 kts at 6.8 gph. This bird is sweet!


The higher mountains had a nice cap of snow and were quite stunning!


It was interesting to see this lake from the air. A few years back I went skiing at Mammoth Ski Area, outside of Reno an was on a 3 hr bus ride to the ski area when we passed this lake. How cool it was to see it from the air.


In only a few minutes, I passed over Reno, the on to my destination.


Truckee airport is located in a valley at 5,900 ft. After passing over Reno on an IFR flight plan at 11,000 ft, and clearing the mountains I had to do a somewhat quick decent in to the airport. The gal in my GPS kept screaming, “PULL UP….PULL UP” , “TERRAIN, PULL UP” in the headsets. I was a bit too busy to shut her up… boy she can get annoying! After landing I could really take in the beauty of the airport. Nice in the summer time, but last year they received 800″ of snow. Yikes!


Tim Loloche met me at the airport and since he needed to check on his season ski pass at the one of the 8 local ski area, we had a pizza for lunch. This is a very cool roller skating ring in the summer which is coverted to an ice skating rink in the winter.


The quick tour around Lake Tahoe was incredibly beautiful. Crystal blue water, snow capped mountains. What a stunning place to live!


After checking out the lake Tim drove me over to Squaw Valley ski area where they had the winter olympics ?? years ago. What a beautiful venue!




Off to Pianeta italian restaurant for a terrific dinner with a new friend.


Tomorrow it will be wheels up around 10 am (after the fog dissipates) for a 1 hr trip to San Francisco. I only have about 3 hours left flying the bird before I reach my final destination in LA. I’ll miss her.

Oct 08 2011

Day 9… Stuck in Salt Lake City

This morning, after a couple of cups of cappuccino, I check the weather and it was still raining with heavy overcast. After my experience yesterday, there was no way in hell I am heading to Truckee California (about 2.5 hrs) over the mountains again at 13,000 ft. Ric said… STAY. Didnt take a lot of arm twisting to convince me.

After breakfast, Ric said, “I am taking the dog for a walk wanna come?” At first I said no, then thought about it and decided to go…. I need some exercise. I thought he was just going around the block.


but Ric had a great nature trail near his house and off we went.


A good hike was just what I needed. I really enjoyed walking in the wood, and seeing the mountains in the background.



Whats wrong with this picture? Talk about higher education! I bet this doe-doe gets a lot of takers……


We headed off the the airport and after checking the the bird out in the corporate hanger, we found all is well,



Its off to the Ric’s hangar to check out his Berkut. What a nice airplane and the workmanship was impeccable. I cant wait to see this oversized LongEZ with 260 six cylinder horse power take off…. It is going to be a rocket ship!


This airport is a hot bed of experimental aircraft… this one is a winner at the Reno Air Races. It only has 100 hp and can race at 175 mph and can turn at 12 G’s. The neat thing is it has wood wings and was designed in the 1950’s. How cool is that?


Ric asked if I wished to go up for a quick flight in his Kapana C1 airplane and I enthusiastically said yes. What a beautiful bird…. slow and sweet.


We flew around the mountains to the valley on the others side and over the great Salt Lake.


Another beautiful western sunset and it off for some sushi and to get ready for the next leg of my adventure….




Oct 07 2011

Day 8… Icing in the Rockys

Today was the beginning of the rest of my trip. After staying with Lee and Terry, it was time me to test the electronic ignition to see if replacing the terminal with a wire would really and permanently fix the ignition problem.


After saying good by to my fantastic hosts, it was time to take the bird up for a test flight.

Lee and I took off and headed south, Lee was heading to his job in Denver so I thought I would take a quick picture of him silhouetted against the Rocky Mountains.


I flew for about 30 minutes, landed and checked the bird out and headed northwest toward Salt Lake City.


Tho country was breath taking from the air and quite desolate too.



Somewhere about 1.5 hrs (of a 3.4 hr trip), I started encountering high clouds (not shown on any weather predictions) and since the outside air temp was about 24F I knew I had might start to develop icing. I was given a block altitude of 12,000-17,000 ft, and started climbing. Eventually everything went IFR which wasnt good.


Shit, I started picking up icing on the air frame, which in any airplane is not good and especially bad for a canard. Here you might be able to the ice on the front canopy which means ice on the wings too.


Whenever I had a chance to see the country side (less and less frequent) through the sucker holes, it was beautiful.

After what seemed an eternity of being in the clouds feeling the plane get heavier with ice, I finally cleared the mountains to the west of SLC, made an immediate decent into warmer air of the valley to divert to the closest available airport (Ogden, UT) to check the plane out. As soon as the air warmed up, the ice started coming off in sheets from the canard and windshield and finally the plane started picking up speed and returning to normal.


In this picture I was trying to show what remained of the buildup of ice on the wings… about 1/2″ remained on the leading edge of the main wing. Most of the ice on the canard had already sheeted of and went through the prop.

I have had a few incidents of ice on the plane, so this was not the first time this has happened to me. Since then, I make it a point of completely avoiding icing conditions. Period. I never fly into conditions where icing is possible. Sometime there is no way to know what is in front of you from the available weather information, nothing below you where you can land, cant go back so you must go forward. Thinking back, I should have been able to completely clear the clouds at about 18 or 19,000 ft, and should have just kept climbing… oh, well hind site, another lesson learned….


After checking the bird over and a quick call to Rick, I flew about a 25 min VFR fight from just above SLC down to his airport just south of the city. Parked the bird in a big hanger and it off to lunch….

This is another adventure, I don’t care to repeat……

Oct 06 2011

Day 7… Fixed? Don’t know yet

Headed out to the airport to keep busy as I was waiting for the second new ignition system to be delivered. I wanted to balance the prop as there seems to be a little more vibration than I really wanted to see in the plane.

Don had a set of saw horses, some builder squares and a steel pipe. Ah, I could put the pieces together to make a prop balancer. Just call me McGuiver.


After finishing off the prop, I headed home for some lunch and found a nice surprise, the ignition system. Great! A bite to eat and back to the airport in my rental car to install the new system.

Earlier this morning Lee had to go down to Denver for some work and elected to drive his car instead of flying. I thought whats the big deal. As long as the winds are coming straight down the runway, it would be ok.. Boy was I wrong. After lunch the wind was 28 gusts to 38 and Lee was seeing winds of 49 kts in Denver.


I have been on the outskirts of many hurricanes in Charleston and the winds didn’t seem this bad. The dust was horrible. I ended up plugging the inlet of engine to prevent sand and grit from getting into it as I was working away at the plane. I thought this kind of driving sand must be what it is like in Afghanistan or Iraq. Grit in your teeth. Look how the wind sock is flight straight out!

When I finished with the bird, I had to vacuum it out to get all the dirt and grass out of it. Nothing was flying. As much as I wanted to take the bird up, it was a no go.


I ended up just starting the engine when the winds died down, all seems well and the ignition system was not overheating when I checked it. I think the problems are solved with the plane and I’ll test fly her tomorrow morning.

Now I am faced with a new issue. My buddy Ric Lee said there is a blizzard occurring in Salt Lake City and was asking if there was any snow here. I checked the weather and it may snow here tomorrow. Crap. Lee wants me to stay as long as I need to to be safe. It looks like saturday may be a good day to leave, and I can always fly south if I need to. I don’t need to be in LA until next Wednesday so all is good….

Oct 05 2011

Day 6… Stuck in Greeley

Today was a total disappointment for me.

Lee and I headed out to the airport about 10 am to get started on the plane with the new Lightspeed ignition system.

It didn’t take long at all to install it, the plane started and tested fine so I took it up for a short test flight. Boy, am I glad I did!

The bird ran great, I was doing 189 kts in downwind, the autopilot was working better than ever and everything seem to be 100%.

I shut it down and noticed a strange yet familiar smell which I thought it MUST be due to all the paving work going on at the airport, but I was a bit concerned. When I started the plane up again, sure enough I found the NEW ignition system had also stopped working too…. shit what now.

Off goes the cowls, out comes the ignition module, off comes the cover and I found it had burned out in almost exactly the same place as the first one. This time a TINY little $0.10 resistor. Hum, this is a trend which hopefully will point to a cause.


Up to this the point I have put 40 hrs on the bird with no problems at all so I knew it had to be something really out of the ordinary….

I called Lightspeed up again, REALLY apprehensive about talking to Klaus about burning up his brand new loaner unit, steeling myself for a major butt chewing. I must say, Klaus dropped what he was doing, and with the new information helped me diagnose the probable cause without getting on my case at all. He was very helpful and concerned! A pleasant surprise.

We think the failures was due to a bad ground. Sure enough I found one of the push on connectors was not TIGHTLY gripping the post so it may have forced the unit to find an alternative ground though the case, into the firewall and ?? He feels the bad grounding is the cause and was willing to ship another new unit out to me install. Wow, that was easier than I expected.

This tiny 1/4″ push on connector caused all my problems.

After going to the local Avionics shop, I was able to secure some supplies and rewire the ground per Klaus’s recommendations. The plane is now ready to be put back together after the new module arrives tomorrow at ????

Lee and I grabbed the module and head home


Time for a nice italian dinner, and a quite relaxing, evening at his place.

The plan now is to balance the prop tomorrow while waiting for the FEDEX and test fly again. This time I am going to stay up for an hour or so make sure all is well. Lee has to work, so I’ll be at the airport keeping Don company.

If all goes well, I hope to continue my trip to Salt Lake City on Friday…..

Oct 05 2011

Day 5… Maintenance Day (aviation circle jerk)

Today was spent working on the bird. Most of the work was easy to take care of but time consuming. This is turning out to be a great shake down cruise.

Replace the Trio autopilot. I had inadvertently installed a A/P with old beta test software in it (I did a lot of development testing for Trio) and it was acting a bit flaky. They sent me a loaner overnight with the latest production software installed. What a great company. The dash had to come apart, but it gave Lee a chance to check out the wiring…fixed


Number 1 EGT probe was working but intermittent. I tracked it down to a connector that needed to be snugged up…fixed.


The lighting system need to be modified. I had hooked up a micro-switch wrong so the Aero LED lights weren’t functioning quite like I wanted…fixed.


Finally. the Lightspeed ignition was removed from the plane. It involve taking off some panels and a bit of interference, but it quickly came apart. When I built the plane, I was concerned about future maintainability so most everything can be easily taken out for repairs.


After pulling the cover of the electronics module, I found a power diode had split in half . This is why I had the burning smell and why the fuse did not blow. Interesting. I’ll be sending it back to the company for repairs as it is a very easy fix.

What an interesting day. Lee worked on Don’s plane (fixing a radio issue), I worked on Pat’s plane, Don worked on Lee’s plane. An aviation circle jerk.


I could go no further so Lee and I took off for home to see if UPS delivered the new ignition system and dinner. Ya!!! the system arrived. It’s late in the day and we are going out for dinner and margaritas, and home for a bottle of wine and some stories. The wine was gift from Ed and Sue Richards who gave it to me at RR for me giving them a prop after their plane hit a turtle on their runway on take off. It was HUGE, almost 18″ across. About like hitting a bolder with the plane. The turtle broke the nose wheel off, which went through the propeller breaking part of a blade off. The poor guy was eventually found with a big hole in it’s shell. I told Ed he should have saved it and mounted the shell and the prop on his hangar wall… unfortunately he had thrown it away. What a story….

Alcohol, aviation and good friends make for great stories.

Oct 03 2011

Day 4… Flight to Greeley, Co

This morning I was greeted to a wonderful sunrise. I am sat in a chair, looking across an open fields with nothing between me and the rising sun except some horses and rabbits. I love the west, so open, so vast. Beautiful. I want to greet the sun and toast the morning with a warm coffee and be thankful for another day. Burrall has a great at place. 7 acres, a nice house, a huge hangar with lots of toys and planes in it on the edge of an airpark. Wide open spaces with beautiful views. What a place to live!


Time to get started on the plane to see what is going on. Off goes the cowls, and I started checking the Pmag. Hum, this is interesting. It is powering up like it should. I called Brad (at Pmag) for some tech support and after a long chat, went back to the plane. After further testing I found the Lightspeed igntion system had failed. Wow, this is interesting! I have not heard of one failing before. Coils yes, electronics no. This would account for the burning smell in the cockpit since the unit is mounted IN the cockpit and the Pmag is mounted on the engine side. I called Brad back and apologize for assuming his equipment was at fault. I have a Pmag in my plane for the last 4 years and it has worked flawlessly. They seem to have their product refined to the point one rarely fails.


A call to Lightspeed, and Klaus said he would ship a new unit out to me via overnight delivery. This is great, my trip can continue.

I remember when I lived out west as a kid, the great root beer (in a tall frosted much) from A&W. When I headed out for lunch I passed one and had to stop… The root beer was just like I remembered it…… yummy!


I made the decision to ferry the plane (30 minutes) to Greeley as I was already planning to spend a few days with Lee and if I had to do more trouble shooting, I would rather be at his house. Burrall was having two more guests showing up today (Bill Allen and his buddy) so two is company, three would be a crowd. I hope to spend some more time visiting him as I really like Burrall a lot.

Another nervous flight to Greeley, the plane is now in the hangar and it is time to relax. Tomorrow I’ll be out there (after fedex delivers) and I’ll be ready to continue on with my trip.


After parking the plane in Lee”s hangar I met his buddy Don who is here at work on Lee’s airplane in the hangar next door. Don used to be a film editor in Hollywood before he retired and worked on quite a few major movies and TV shows.

Time to head out for a bite to eat at a TexMex restaurant with a little music. I love the western part country…..


Oct 03 2011

Day 3… Flying to Colorado Springs

I wanted to leave RR fairly early in the morning as I had a LONG flight out to Colorado. About a 5.5 hrs flight. I was …I think… the first plane to lift off off at 8:15 am. I wanted to do a fly by, so a quick call on the radio and I overflew the air field on final at an eye popping 238 kts indicated. That is 273 MPH. Wow, this plane is REALLY fast. All felt well and it was very stable. Later I was wondering where all the cold air was coming from and found I had left my landing light down. Am extra bit of drag. Heck I might have gone even faster!!

First stop is a 30 minute flight to Sturgis for fuel. Yikes, $5.40 per gal.
Sec0nd stop is an hour flight to Rolla National for fuel and to take my buddy Chris up for a quick flight. Chris has been following the restoration of the plane on my blog and really wanted see it up close. He is the young man who I have know from Oshkosh through Lee Devlin. Chris usually camps with us and it has been fun to see him grow and develop over the last few years. When we first met (he was a hyper 15 yr old), I used to yell at him “run Forest, run” because he had so much energy he ran everywhere. A brilliant home schooled kid. I still call him Forest.


After a quick lunch and even quicker loop around the pattern it is off for a 4 hr flight to Colorado Springs to visit with Burrall Sanders.

About 2.5 hrs into the flight at 10,000 ft is when the fun started. I was cruising along, writing emails on my ipad when all of a sudden, I smelled weird odor…. a burning electrical sort of smell. SHIT. I quickly switched the EFIS panel to the engine page and saw the oil pressure bar graph was showing 0 psi oil pressure.

Oh shit. (that is a technical term you NEVER want to hear a pilot say). I called Kansas center and immediately found a close by airport to head toward. I was in the middle of freaking nowhere, somewhere in Kansas, so off I went. What struck me as funny was I didn’t get any alarm on the EFIS panel and when I looked closely, I noticed a number above the bar graph.

Hum, could it be me? I had played with the setting of the GRT EFIS, and apparently I set the bar graph setting wrong (teaches me) and when I changed it, sure enough I had oil pressure (the small number). I decided to land anyway to check the bird out. Something still didn’t feel right.

I landed at a 3000 foot strip in the middle of ??? nothing there except one lonely plane.


After finding nothing wrong, I was ready to head out and continue on my trip, and when I did the mag check, I found one of the ignition systems had failed. Shit! That was what the burning smell was. Frying electronics. My Pmag had failed (the other side is a Lightspeed which is bullet proof).

What to do? I am in the middle of nowhere land, no hangar, no FBO, not even a road close by, so I elected to travel on to Burralls (1.5 hrs away) as he has a repair facility where I can fix her. Off I went, picked up flight following in case anything else would happen and routed myself over a series of small airports which I could easily glide if needed. Nothing out here except fields, isolated farm houses and nice long dirt road I could use if needed.

Here is what I wrote while flying….

I am currently at 10,000 ft typing away with my iPad (in it holder) which really works great and was worth the effort.
I have sitting in this plane for 3.6 hrs with 1.6 to go and I can tell you these seats suck. My legs are not too comfortable. My plane has temper-pedic foam and I have sat for almost 6hrs comfortably. Ouch…
This is the longest leg. UuuhhhOoooo
Back in the air. Crap I had do an emergency decent. Travel plans are now shot. Oh well stuff like this makes life exciting an gives me another story to tell.
I miss my tweedy bird. She would never do this to me.
one hour to sit here at 10,500 ft on pins and needles.


After a nervious flight to Colorado Springs and I am on the ground. Burrall greeted me and escorted me to his HUGE hangar where is repairs canards (Free Flight Composites).


After a beautiful sunset set over the mountains,


I need a drink (a frozen margarita please) and food. The plane can wait. Off to a fantastic TexMex restaurant for a real chili relleno made with real a roasted fresh poblano pepper. They just dont know how to make a good chili rellenos in Charleston. Yummy…. life is good.