Aug 26 2012

Western Tour… complete

Sorry all to not have documented the rest of my Western trip before now.  I have finally gotten to the point where I could take a break and briefly catch you up and close the trip out.  After returning, I had major issues with my computer after the latest Apple upgrade,  days of work on my plane which is now grounded which resulted in an 11 hr drive to PA for my school reunion.  Lots going on just after I got back…..little time for the web.

Friday, after leaving Las Vegas, I decided to fly to Sedona (4830′ elev) after reading about the beauty of the area through Marc’s trip log.    Marc is right, just the area around the airport looked spectacular from the air and I am sure even better from the ground.  I was a bit nervous on landing as the density altitude was 8500′ and the airport sits on a plateau which makes it look like the top of an aircraft carrier.  After lunch the density altitude was at 9700 ft which made for an interesting take off.  I used about 2/3 of the runway to get airborne and just stayed in ground effect to build up air speed while racing toward the end of the bluff.  It was so cool to be at 20 ft and all of a sudden have the ground just drop away from you in a blink of an eye and you are instantly hundred of feet high.   I definitely want to visit this place again.
It was a bumpy ride down to Chandler airport (Pheonix area) to meet JD Walker for a visit.   It was actually a bit hotter here than in Las Vegas.  115 f on the thermomerter.  I can tell you this about dry/wet heat…. at 115 f it doesnt matter.  It is just HOT, HOT, HOT.
Saturday morning, JD and I drove over to a casino for breakfast with a group of local carnad flyer.  I sat next to Gary Hertzler and he invited me to stop by and visit if I had time.   Then it was off for a 450 mile scenic ride through the Tonto National forest, through Pason and back to JD’s house.   It was a terrific ride and the mountains/canyons of Arizona are beautiful.
We stopped by Gary Hertzler’s house and he showed me his prop making facility.  After chatting a bit (I picked up a few tips from him), Gary asked if I wanted to see his restored cars.  Yes I would!  Gary has a 1929 Buick and it is a beautiful restoration which took him years to complete.  As we were driving around in it, he asked IF I could drive a stick and then pulled over to let me to jump into the pilots seat while he instructed me on how to drive such a classic car.  I had a terrific time knowing I’ll never drive any car this old again.  What a treat!   THANKS Gary for your graciousness!
On the way back to JD’s house we witnessed one of the local sand storms (like in the deserts of the East).  It was amazing!  A brown wall of sand just rolling across the country side.   JD told me the winds can get up to 60 mph and the sand can be so thick you can not see a car in front of you.  IFR with sand!   Apparently it is generated by the collapse of a massive storm cell which causes a massive down burst which then causes a windstorm.   Very cool actually seeing one for real. It’s just like living in the south with hurricanes.  You have to experience one to really know what it is like to see/be in one.
Sunday, I took off and flew to Santa Fe for a visit (again following Marc’s log).  Since I used a lot of oxygen on my trip, I asked about filling my tiny bottle…$60! Normally it is $30, Ouch!  I decided to just keep it at lower altitudes for the rest of the trip as I only had 500 psi left in the tank.  Santa Fe was beautiful, and some of the art shops were first class.  I like sculpture, and some of the work there was definitely museum quality.
Monday, I left early for Dallas.  As soon as I took off I noticed something was amiss.  I had a low frequency vibration (like a flat spot on a tire) and the noise was new.  I always say…. “Listen to your plane, it talks to you constantly”.  Most problems I have had started with a small noise, vibration, something ..not right.. and the worst thing to do is to dismiss the feeling.   I did notice it came/went and varied with RPM.
My first thought was a cracked engine mount.  I had noticed a ??? spot on one of the tubes which I felt warranted close observation to see what it was …a scratch or something more significant.    Anyway that’s what I was running through my mind.  I decided to continue on and just stay observant.   The noise went away and after refueling and I didnt notice anything for the remainder of the trip.
Arriving in Dallas I met David Williford (Stagger EZ) and we drove over to James Redmon’s hangar to visit with James, Ric Lee, Vance and Scott Carter.  James has a huge hangar which is perfect for his beautiful plane and performing the pre-DAR inspection prep work with Ric on his 540 Berkut.   Ric, I want a ride someday…..please!  What an incredible bird.  All of us went to lunch, then it was off to David’s house.
Tuesday…  I left Dallas early for Pensacola FL, and sure enough the vibration was back…. crap.   No different than before, so I just pressed  ahead.   It was a short 3.2 hr flight to PNS to meet Ron Montgomery (Cozy 4 project) for our visit.  I have know Ron for years though visits and phone calls.   It was fun to perform another inspection of his project again at a later stage.
Its an almost finished (about 1 year out)  cozy 4, with forward opening canopy, down draft cooling and an interesting 4-into-1 exhaust system which terminates into an eductor.  Finally the group will get some new data for future cowl designs.  I have been fascinated with this sort of setup for years and hoped to build it myself.  A 4 to 1 system is supposed to give you an additional 15 hp.  It will be interesting to follow Ron’s progress this area and I hope he’ll be willing to share with the group.  I had a great time and am looking forward to seeing Ron again.
Wednesday… flew on home to Charleston (2.5 hrs) and the noise was still there so I flew the rest of the trip at 2250 rpm to reduce stress on the mount/engine until I figure out whats causing it the sound.  Sure was nice to see Charleston again from the air after being away for a month and a day.   It’s nice to be back!!
When I get a little more time I’ll add up the stats (fuel, miles, etc) and some lessons learned to send out to the group.   It may be the only thing you are really interested in  🙂 anyway.
Thursday, went out to the airport to inspect and service the plane.  First thing I noticed was the engine seem to be hanging about 1/4″ low and about 1/4″ left (port side) at the prop extension.  I am sure its been like that for a while, I just never noticed it.
More on the mount later.I checked out the port offending down tube I found at annual, and there was not change.  After noticing what seem to be a scratch? crack?  something in the starbroard down tube which matched in exactly the same location and size as the port one, I decided to remove the engine mount from the plane, sandblast and inspect it.

More on the engine mount in the next post…..

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