June 16, 2013
From Namichigawa Muromi-san, 11.
June 06, 2013
Last Sunday I was almost literally in the middle of nowhere, in the desert near Arizona border, when I saw this:
Isn't it a beauty, with the faded paint and incorrect spinner?
May 30, 2013
Seen at the venue blog in near-transcript:
Musk: The high-speed rail that’s been proposed will be the slowest bullet train in the world and the most expensive, and it’s a little depressing.
Mind, this is a big Obama supporter and donor, who once went on record saying it would be "optimal" if government produced 40% of a country's GDP. And he didn't mention how Dianne Feinstain's husband was awarded a big contract to implement that train. But even he's made depressed.
May 29, 2013
As seen at ANN (a different one):
A lawsuit has been filed in Tama County District Court in Toledo, IA, stemming from an accident which fatally injured two people on board a Taylorcraft BC12-D. The airplane struck power lines and went down on approach to landing. The passenger on board the airplane survived the accident, but later died of his injuries.
Usually this ends with the estate hitting the ariplane maker, but in this case we're talking an airplane made perhaps in 1946, and so there was a twist:
The suit was brought by Susan Morrison, the wife of Max Morrison, who was a passenger on board the T-Craft. Morrison died January 7 of injuries sustained in the accident, according to the Tama News-Herald. She has named the estate of William Konicek Jr. the pilot of the airplane, as the defendant in the case.
Stuff like this is why I avoid flying passengers. You never know when one of them has a litiguous cunt among next of kin.
May 08, 2013
Current sectional chart introduces interesting changes: the spaceport is erased! Previously, the runway was properly documented with altitude of 4595 and length of 10,000. But now the private airport status is gone, and instead we get a landmark... And a free-standing AWOS at 118.675.
I am not entirely happy about this. It means that the powers that be put kibosh on tourists flying their own aircraft. I can imagine arguments, the chief of which is that tourists must stage at the so-called "welcome centers", which presumably include revenue opportunities for the tour operator. Still, it's disappointing.
May 04, 2013
A member of local ultralight association has a gyroplane, and I saw it flying today. Nothing new for anyone who's been to Youtube, but still, it's quite nifty. In a nutshell, you get an aircraft that "does 90% of what a helicopter can do for 1/10th of the cost". Although a gyroplane cannot hover, it can land and take off in fairly confined spaces. Since the rotor is always in auto-rotation, an engine failure is a much less dramatic event than in a helicopter.
The most intriguing attribute of a gyroplane for me is its ability to operate in higher winds than airplanes. This problem is particularly acute in ultralight and sub-LSA airplanes with small wing loading. Many must stop operations as soon as it blows 7 knots, but a gyro easily lands in 30 knots from any direction.
Disadvantages exist as well. The "1/10th of the cost" only applies to the purchase price and maintenance, but the fuel consumption is pretty much the same as helicopter's, which is higher than in a comparable airplane. They are slow and their range is limited. The vaunted reliability is offset by rather odd handling. Remember that it's paramount to keep the air flowing through the rotor disk, so hitting a stiff downdraft may become fatal even high up. Training is hard to find and flying gyroplanes requires specialized skills.
Oh, and there's no legal way to buy a factory-new one in U.S.A. The bureaucrats forgot to include them into the LSA regulations, and nobody sells a certified model. Gyroplanes undergo a renaissance around the world, and most excellent European models have to be disassembled and then reassembled by owners using the 51% rule. Of course, unlike kitplanes, they do not become cheaper in such case. Buy American, I suppose.
So, not a silver bullet. But if I had a ranch, I would definitely look into getting one of these.
May 03, 2013
Did you know that Jack Baruth had a blog? I didn't until he commented on Facebook page of Rob Finfrock, a fellow renter of N28GX. But he does, and uses it to get back at butthurt commenters, over a rental car review. It's the kind of car review that everybody does, only Jack's was amplified by it published by TTAC. Here's something I hope comforts him, always: at least they comment.
April 27, 2013
At my ultralight association breakfast today, I scored a fit check in a Kolb Mark III, and amazingly, it is big enough. I may even fly it in a helmet, I think. Here's a photo, with the hand demonstrating about 3 fingers of clearance:
This is the overall view of the Kolb approximately from the same angle:
Totally want one now. Of course I'm not going to be able to afford one with a Rotax 912, like the one I tried on, but I'm already imagining getting a Firestar with a Hirth cheaply and installing a Culverprops Big Twin. Two-stroke: Just Say No.
April 21, 2013
Attending this kind of event comes with certain constraints: basically it's an exhausting exercise of fit check after fit check, and a car beauty pageant. So, as a way to know cars, it's quite lopsided. But it's fun. With that in mind, a few highlights...
Mercedes C-class was a disappointment, made bigger by the surprise. It's not quite as bad inside as a rental Camry, but comes close, and nowhere in the class of, say, Lexus IS and ES. Not even in the class of BMW 3xx, which is quite nice. If BMW did something about their ghastly run-flats, I would be really interested. Unfortunately, BMW didn't bring the 1-series to the show.
A number of other interesting cars was missing, too. Nissan missed the show completely. Too bad, I meant to check out the Z. Toyota didn't bring Yaris. What's up with that? I love junk cars, and 3-door Yaris is one of the cutest. Sure, I looked at Prius C, but it's not the same.
Speaking of junk cars, GM Spark is outstanding. Of course, it's not warming the weaboo heart like Yaris, but the fake panels on the inside were amazing. Almost makes me forgive how GM assembly workers forgot to install brake pads on Spark.
Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2 turned out to be somewhat tight inside. Nothing impossible, sort of like Neon was. Of course back then Neon was surprisingly roomy, but this is 2013.
Even stranger, then, is how I simply cannot fit into Scion iQ. Headoom must be around 36 inches. The car does not look low, but I suppose the seat is too tall, and there's nothing to be done about it, absolutely nothing. Very disappointing, because I like the concept. Fitting into Mazda MX-5 is impossible too, but at least there it makes sense. It's a small sporty car and all that
In the end, Honda Fit is still the king. I hear some commenters call it "dated", which just makes no sense. In my world, there's "good" and "bad" and there's no "dated". What the heck is that, anyway? Fit is simply the best.
The cutest car at the show was actually a pickup: a Toyota Tacoma. "Cute as a button" may begin to describe it, but I am just a sucker for this kind of thing. It's a mistakenly conceived truck for the poor people: 2WD, manual, bench seating. I say mistakenly because the poor buy used full-sizers instead. Stole the show for me, really it did. See, I knew the merits of Fit beforehand, but this was a fun discovery.
To be sure, I learned a few other tidbits, too. Honda Civic retained the independent rear suspension in the age of decontenting. Honda Ridgeline has an amazingly long bed (and a clever gate). Silly commenters made me think that its bed was too short, but they knew nothing. It's a couple of feet longer than SportTrac's, possibly even longer than the bed of Crew Cab Tundra.
Oh, and finally - the Toyobaru FT86 twins: Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ. Very nice. Low seating makes getting and out somewhat of a problem for less sporty people, but provides me with the vital headroom. Sadly the "new hachiroku" is a car that really must be driven, so there's no point in blogging it. Maybe when I crash the jeep, I'll get one. Unless I get a used BMW 135i, G37, or a Z. What a good time to be a car enthusiast.
UPDATE: Here's how Autoblog explains Fit:
Some six years later, the plucky little five-door continues to be a packaging wonder. Its flat load floor helps deliver a surprising amount of cargo area with the rear bench folded – up to 57.3 cubic feet. That number is more than twice what the Fiesta delivers, bests the Sonic by 10 cubes and the Versa hatchback by nearly seven. In fact, it's more space than class-above competitors like the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra GT and Mazda3 hatchbacks. And it's not just maximum cargo space where the Fit still wins, but also how those cubes are reconfigurable to accept objects of various shape and size.
Frankly this makes me concerned. Remember the original Scion xB? Remember how Toyota screwed up the redesign?
April 03, 2013
I heard they are as common as Priuses around San Francisco, but it's the first time here. Local plates.
It seems that every other language has a stock adjective or phrase applied to it. Russian is "great and powerful" ("великий и могучий"), Japanese is "beautiful" ("美しい"). But what is English? Tricky? Introspective? Universal?
March 22, 2013
Any time a beginner asks what to read about flying an airplane, someone suggests "Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying" by Wolfgang Langewiesche. It happened to me too. But when I picked it up in Barns & Nobble, I found it unreadable. The style was just that wordy. I went with "How It Flies", and was none the worse for it. John Denker's fine book is exactly what works best if you are a physist or engineer.
Well, times change, and I wanted to have something to read before bed, so I gave "Stick and Rudder" another try. Now that I am not anxious to extract information and just read for fun, it's not that bad. The Greatest Generation writing style is actully quite amusing. And you just look at this:
It's a gentleman pilot, flying in a business suit!
Aside from amusement, I extracted a few bits of information, too. First and foremost, I imagined that the effect from the different wingtip speeds in a turn must be must larger than it actually is. But Mr. Langewiesche drew my attention to the fact that most of the adverse yaw comes from aileron deflection. No deflection - no yaw, and no rudder input! It bothered me quite a bit when I flew John's Interstate S1A. In a Cherokee, you typically have to keep a certain rudder in when turning, no matter what. Now it all makes sense.
In addition, there's a little confirmation that you should (almost) always take off downhill. Nothing a bush pilot won't know, but still.
Some of the information was a little odd. For example:
The speedier ship also needs more time to turn around in! If you fly twice as fast as need (as any given bank) twice as much time to accomplish a given change in direction.
I can understand that the radius of the turn is going to be differnt, but why the difference in turn rate? If it were the case, your T&B would be placarded at what speed to fly the standard rate turn. But it's not, is it? This is something I need to figure out from the basics.
UPDATE: Brian Morrison comments:
The turn and bank doesn't need a placard because it measures rate of turn, not bank angle and therefore automatically corrects for changes in airspeed/turn rate.
March 21, 2013
Seen at Vieille Burette:
One particularity of the RV-12 is that the Pitot tube goes through the spinner, a location that puts it away of turbulences that would make the measure of speed wrong.
Woa, Van, woa. Shades of Bf-109E here. But that's not all:
Below the Pitot tube is connecteed to the Dynamic Pressure tube that runs all the way through the cockpit to the ADAHRS located in the tailcone.
UPDATE: Pat comments:
The main reason they choose that odd location was because of the removable wings.
That makes sense. However, it's not the only solution. Sonex builders usually place the pitot tube on the right wing, per plans. Some put the tube at the tail.
March 15, 2013
I skipped a few "Rental Car Review" instances mostly for not being relevant, such as Chevy Impala: The Worst Rental Ever that Almost Killed My Family (a wheel bearing was on its last miles). This Ford thing is pretty cute though.
First, the good: gosh this thing is sporty. Driving it helps one understand the appeal of the "hot hatch" in the minds of people. Personally, I was in hotter sedans before, but Focus does have its charms. Secondly, the CVT works great. Cannot say anything about its durability, but it wasn't clunking as much as Fiesta's.
Now, the bad.
The throttle requires exquisite management, and I'm not joking. It's easier to launch Focus with a manual without jerking your passenger around than with the CVT. The throttle is fully programmable and there was plenty of underutilized travel, so why did Ford choose this?
Visibility to the rear is nil. Now, I heard a lot of complaints from my family about various cars on this score over the years. Some even thought JK lacked visibility, but it never was an issue for me. Well, this is the time for me to suffer their suffering. Backing up was a crazy excercise. And there's no camera.
Finally, the thing is just plain too wide for what it is. Ford tends to go whole hog on width in general, which I noticed with the prev-gen Fusion. But man, that one was a car fighting for retirees with Buick. This one is different. Why so wide? Yeah, it helps cornering, but there must be limits.
March 13, 2013
About a week ago, on March 3, there was a fatal crash in Angel Fire. A Mooney M20E went down with 4 onboard. NTSB have already posted a preliminary report, with the following witness statement:
When the pilot arrived at the fixed base operator (FBO), an employee from the FBO questioned the pilot's intent to fly in the windy weather. The pilot indicated that he planned to fly and that the winds would not be a problem. When the pilot radioed on universal communications (UNICOM) that he was taxiing to runway 17, the current wind and altimeter were relayed to the pilot by the FBO employee, which were repeated by the pilot. Due to snow piles on the airfield, the FBO employee could not see the takeoff and next saw the airplane airborne with a significant crab angle into the wind, about 40 degrees right of the runway heading. The airplane rose and fell repeatedly as its wings rocked. Then employee saw the airplane's right wing rise rapidly. The airplane rolled left, and descended inverted with the airplane’s nose pointed straight down.
At 1315, an automated weather reporting facility located at KAXX, reported wind from 250 degrees at 33 knots gusting to 47 knots, visibility 10 miles, a clear sky, temperature 47 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 17 F, and a barometric pressure of 29.93 inches of mercury.
Some people on forums speculated that a rotor caught him. But I think, it probably was a plain old stall in a gust. The rocking wings came from the laterial instability in a stall, not a rotor. I happened to fly an M20E, N5640Q, back when it was in the fleet of Alliance at FTG. Its useful load was 925 pounds. Suppose he had 20 gallons of gas. That leaves only 186 pounds per person, and the rear passengers weren't kids. I weigh 230 pounds. They probably had winter clothing for skiing, too. So, even if he wasn't illegal, I'm certain he was at gross and altitude performance of M20E was compromised. Departure to the south at Angel Fire puts one over a raising terrain (north has a hillcock too, although it's lower). These circumstances alone would tempt anyone into a departure stall, but he also faced crazy wind.
Most likely, the wind made the airplane too hard to control on the ground, considering the high snow banks, and he had to pop off prematurely to avoid putting a wingtip into one. But then, he didn't have the patience to accelerate in ground effect to a speed well in excess of Vy, which would give him the aileron authority to deal with gusts.
David White, the youngest commercial pilot in America, flies a more powerful version of the same airplane, an M20J. He boasted that he exceeded the demonstrated crosswind amount comfortably. It's possible that the pilot of N3484X did that before too, and that is why he was confident. However, the high altitude, full load, large gust factor, thick snow and raising terrain made this task that much more difficult.
Would I do better? Most assuredly. I would simply stay on the ground. The crashed Mooney wasn't the first airplane caught by Angel Fire's cross-wind, I know that much. It's unpleasant. I know of a case when N28GX was stuck in Angel Fire for 4 days before winds died down. But the risk is this great.
But also, there's a little local trick: do not depart to the south. The runway has a hump and the hump is way to the south. Eat the tailwind component, go downhill, then turn slightly right and just clear over the hillcock. Once you can see the lake, you're home free. Go over the lake to the east wall and the updraft will lift you clear out of the valley in no time. I did it once with my mountain instructor, Mr. Marc Coan. The required hugging of the wall may be too much for some and I would not dare do it on my own. But even so, just cut circuits over the lake until you're high enough. I did it once in the heat of summer in a Cherokee 140 that had almost no climbing capacity. That the hapless pilot of the Mooney went south tells me that he wasn't local, or he would've known not to do that.
P.S. I checked in A/FD and it says only 0.6% slope up rwy 17, which seems less than I recall. But still, go north even when it blows from 250, especially when you're at gross. The heavier the airplane is, the more advantage it derives from rolling downhill.
February 04, 2013
Insightful comment at Rand's place, in response to the sequestration, that almost makes a bold prediction:
[James] Hansen, the minority business outreach office, the education outreach group and the SLS will be the LAST things de-funded at NASA.
Government responds to cuts by trying to do maximum damage and holding things hostage. They cut police and fire on the streets before they fire deputy assistant directors. I would not put it past this administration to turn off the lights on the Mars Rover in a highly publicized show.
It must be noted that Obama administration tried to cancel SLS, and was overridden by porksters in Senate, so he probably means the national space administration.
February 02, 2013
Not being rich, I focused on the cheapest airplanes, such as Cessna 150, and was about settling into one of those, when the medical regulations struck in 2012. After getting the medical certificate back, I had to consider an SP-compatible airplane seriously. Unfortunately, factory made, they fall into 3 broad categories, neither of which I found terribly appealing.
Category 1 is a 1946 antique. When the short-lived aviation boom happened after the WWII, a great many personal airplanes were built, far more than the market could absorb. Many continue to fly, owning to the fact that the oppressive regulation was lagging the boom, and later they were grandfathered in. One can do a lot to keep an airplane flying, if the official documentation is limited to 1 sheet of paper describing the airframe limitations. Many of them sell below the price of Cessna 150, in cases going as low as $10k! Mind that I am only considering useable airplanes here, not corroded runouts.
Unfortunately, people of 1946 were small, very small. This is what made the personal airplanes of 1946 SP-eligible in the first place, but in the same time they barely function as 1-place airplanes today, and I find it difficult to fit into them. Performance of many of them is very disappointing, especially Chief. It may even be dangerous at the altitude where I live. Still, I found Luscombe 8A basically acceptable in the lot. But the deal-breaker is the need to maintain a true antique. I find it challenging, bordering on impossible. Every satisfied owner of such airplane has a hangar full of spare parts and tools, and spends a lot of time caring for the bird. I may afford the tools and spares, but I know that I'll never dedicate the time.
Category 2 is the modern LSA, built after the 2006 regulation change that created the LSA and SP as we know them today. They are invariably expensive. I looked closely at the leaders (CT and GX) at $140k, mid-runners like Allegro and Aerotrek for $90k, and the newest champ of the cheap, RANS S-6ELS, promised to reach $60k in 2013 dollars. I learned how the LSA industry does its utmost to make them cheaper. They even succeed, in a way, as the cheapest traditional airplane is $300k+ nowadays. But it is still too much.
Category 3 is the former "fat" ultralight. Some of them are S-LSA, most are homebuilts, very few are survivals of the 2006 devastation and grandfathered in as E-LSA. Kolb, Hawk, Gull. Now, the price of these is about right, in the teens, for the used ones (new S-LSAs hit about $35k+). But they are very much ultralights. The performance is nothing to write home about, neither in speed, nor in range. And no wonder, most fly with 2-stroke engines. These engines do not contribute to safety, either. Seisures, ignition failures, fuel supply failures -- all are common on them. Buying one of these means forgetting about any kind of travel by airplane, essentially.
So, what to do? My wife, ever the optimist, insisted that I stopped thinking about junk airplanes and endeavoured to keep the 3rd Class medical. But I thought of a better idea: if the industry won't supply me with an airplane, I can get a homebuilt!
Sadly, too many people had this great idea, and prices of decent RVs float in the vicinity of about $70k, give or take. And there's not much else that's worth looking at. Except Sonex.
Sonex is a product of well-regarded designer John Monett, who solicited it for a production in Europe, before offering it as a kit. It is easy to build, so I don't need to seek out examples built by experienced builders. It is an all-aluminum airplane, that makes it easy to maintain. Unlike most RVs, it is SP-compatible. And the performance of it is amazing: 135 KTAS is claimed by builders. We are talking Grumman AA-1B speeds here, but on 80 hp! Sonex accomplishes that in part by being very light (gross 1100 lbs), in part by using a lifting fuselage, that many people find butt-ugly, but I don't care. But above all, it's cheap. The 200-hour examples can sometimes be had for under $30k. Look at what kind of S-LSA is sold for $40k in Category 3 to feel the difference.
But it was not to be. Encouraged by these considerations, I seeked out a local builder, James in Los Alamos, who let me have a fit check. Results were disappointing, even prohibitive.
First, I cannot fit under the canopy. This problem is rather common for me in low-wings. The only S-LSA that I fit in is Evektor SportStar with the old pre-Harmony tall canopy, so there's nothing new here. In Sonex, I must crane my neck. James' airplane has the so-called "lowered seat mod", that comes standard on Waiex.
Some builders make the canopy bubble up a bit, but it gives up the speed and may be problematic in case of a crash, because the tail is still the same.
Second problem is control interference. It is less visible, but just as serious. It turned out that my thigh is jammed hard between the flap lever and the stick. Sonex Aircraft offers an option of moving most of controls to the center, which may help. But the airplane is just small no matter what.
So I had to back off for now. But a Sonex/Waiex/Xenos/Onex would be an awesome deal for someone who's short.
January 20, 2013
Just got back from Utah, went to have a quick look at an airplane I considered buying.
As usual, things took longer than anticipated, and I had to get in after sunset. The visibility was unlimited, sky clear, Moon in new half. And yet, for a Sport Pilot, the flight would be illegal. As a Private Pilot, I can do it. Frankly, this very much reminds me about the way things are priced for market segmentation. Except that FAA do not sell pilot licenses, so why do they segment them this way?
To be sure, the difference between an Airline Transport Pilot (or ATP) and lowly PP is enormous. It is big enough that it makes sense to make it a job selection criteria: you have to have a PhD in Physics to be considered for job X, haven ATP certificate for job Y, or MSCE for job Z (ha ha ha). Now, Commerical Pilot is not quite as good as ATP, but it's still better than PP. But the SP...?
The whole point of SP is that you can excercise your privileges without also acquiring a medical certificate. Fine. But how does it have anything with flying at night? It's not like the AME checked my night vision or vertigo resistance.
But wait, you say, SP is not trained to fly at night. Duh.
True. But this is completely circular reasoning. The SP is not trained to fly at night, because FAA said that they cannot fly at night, and so they are not tested, they do not log mandatory night hours, and so on. But that is because they cannot fly at night, so why have this on the license, and that is because... Well. Nothing of this has anything to do with the lack or medical certification. It's just that FAA intentionally castrated SP rules in order to create an incentive for people to get PP.
You know, I am starting to think that people who petition FAA to forsake all this stratification and simply drop the 3rd Class Medical may be right. It would make a complete sense. Of course, someone in CAMI building in OK City may lose a job if we allow for too much sense in government regulations, and that just will not do.
December 29, 2012
Paul Berotrelli of AVWeb posted his take on 2010 GA fatals (h/t GHW) that generally comes to this: stalls and LOC are the biggest killers, while pilots, allegedly, worry too much about things that do not actually kill them.
I think he's got a point, because when I came very close to a departure stall while on a night currency hop, it was remarkable for the ease of it. The airplane was even trimmed correctly.
So, what to do? Paul laments how electronic gadgets numb us to flying properly, and simultaneously suggests to install AoA indicators. It's not necesserily contradictory; the indicator may be a piece of string rubbing on side window. And even if electronic (like comes from the factory on Remos GX), it teaches the pilot what it is at various flight regimes. Just don't get into a habit of getting your eyes glued to it.
December 19, 2012
If one asks a new American pilot to name a front-engine motorglider, he would probably name Phoenix. If he's a Sport Pilot, for sure. But in the glider world, the most famous is probably G109. Grob is ubiquotus everywhere, with its G103 providing the backbone of commercial operations across the country. It's a big name. The G109 even has got a Wikipedia page, while Phoenis has not. Still, I learned about G109 because a guy in Japan flies a G109B and I ran across his blog.
Phoenix is slightly lighter than G109, and its engine is slightly more powerful. Grob apparently makes own engines (no, really!), and a 97 hp Porsche-based version is installed at G109B. G109 does not have removable wingtips, but it does have detacheable wings, common for traditional gliders. Obviously, it is not eligible for flying by Sport Pilots. Perhaps it plays a part in Grob being more than twice cheaper in the market.
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