When We Triumphantly Return To The Skies

Well, as that overly-hyped title says today marks my return to flight status. As I wrote in this post I had to make repairs due to what happened when my PPC fell off the trailer. This morning was perfect flying weather. I headed out to New Jerusalem just as the sun was coming up. I started setting up shortly before 7am and left the ground at 7:18am.

This is NOT the runway I took off from! It’s over to the left. This is the old parallel runway that is leased by local farmers.

I climbed to about 200 feet and just started cruising around the field making sure everything still works. It all did. So are started wandering a little farther afield. That’s really not too far considering my airspeed is only 27-30 mph. But the Pink Panther just kept purring like a little pink kitten.

So it wasn’t a very long flight today, maybe about 30 minutes or so. I have to find a solution for the seat. It only comes up just to my lower back and my back starts to ache after about 20 minutes or so. It’s sure building up my core muscles!

Front and back seat of my powered parachute

As you can see from the above photo, the back seat passenger has full back support, the pilot has to rely on the back seat passenger for back support – they ARE the back support! Without anyone in the back seat I have no back support. I’m going to try to rig up some pillows to lean against for more comfortable, longer flights. Still, it’s great to be back in the sky!

See you next time!

When We Fix What We Break

When we last tuned in our intrepid pilot was kicking himself for crashing his pink flying thing while it was still on the ground and he wasn’t even in it! Well, about $500 later we’re back to having an airworthy flying machine again! It took about three weeks total to order the repair parts and have them delivered. It took about a day and a half to actually make the repairs.

The propeller was sent back and recondition back to good as new. Each blade was rebalanced and sent back. This was the first repair I made. After receiving the blades back I re-assembled the propeller, attached it to the engine, and set the blade angle at 12 degrees (as measured from the hub of the prop).

Then, a few days later I received the aluminum tubing back. It took about 8 hours to re-drill all the holes and bolt the tubes back on the airframe. Here is the end result:

Tubing finally drilled out and mounted

All damage repaired!

As you can see from the photos, the grey unpainted tubing are the repairs. I will disassemble one tube at a time and repaint them gloss black. I will paint the ring section in place as it is riveted in. That will take about a week. I should be flying next Saturday, painted or not!

When We Don’t Properly Secure A Load

I’ve been involved in two aircraft accidents… crashes if you will. My favorite line is “I crash better than anyone I know.” Well, recently I found out that I could even crash an aircraft when I’m not even in it, heck, when it’s not even flying! Here’s the story.

I wanted to go flying before work a few weeks ago so loaded everything up and drove out to New Jerusalem. When I arrived I found two crop dusters working on the field. That’s not a problem I just take off from the taxiway and they use the runway and we stay out of each other’s way. I started to unload my PPC but then there was a spray rig spraying who-knows-what on the almond trees at the end of the runway and clouds of it were blowing onto that end of the airport. I decided I would just drive to the other end of the runway and fly from there. The front wheel was already disconnected but the two rear wheels were still tied down. I thought it would be fine if I drove slow.

Can you see where this is going?

I started driving to the other end of the field. About half way down… I hit a bump. Something caught my eye in the rear-view mirror: it was the nosewheel of my PPC sticking way up in the air! I quickly stopped and walked back to find the back of my PPC on the ground. The bottom of the fan ring (the ring that protects the prop) was broken as were the three lower supports that connect it to the rest of the airframe. The whole rear of the PPC was resting on one prop blade.

Ugh.

It was a struggle but I go the PPC off the trailer, loaded it back up and properly lashed it all down. I was so angry with myself I couldn’t go into work. I got home and started assessing the damage.

Broken fan ring segment
Broken lower support tube – supports the fan ring
Another view of the broken support tube
This is where the propeller contacted the ground
Another broken support tube
Center support tube all ground up where it was skidding on the ground

The good news is that repair parts have been ordered. The prop is being repaired and is on it’s way back to me. So within a couple of weeks we should have the Pink Panther back in the air. And we learned a valuable lesson about securing loads on the trailer. Don’t ever move it unless all three wheels of the PPC are tied down!

Flying the String Wing Again

If you’ll recall in my blog post titled I Went And Bought A Thing I bought a powered parachute (PPC). I’ve made some engine modifications and done all the testing and everything looks good. I’ve flown it 4 times now and am finally getting comfortable being back in the string wing saddle again.

This morning I drove out to New Jerusalem to get a quick flight in before work. I was greeted with not one but two crop duster crews. I went and talked to them to find out where they would be flying so I could stay out of their way. Wasn’t going to be a problem. In order to further stay out of their way I took off and landed on the taxiway. The crop dusters never use it. They land toward their ground crews and take off in the opposite direction; no matter what the wind is doing.

I laid out my parachute and hopped into my little pink go cart. I was a little worried about starting it. It gets notoriously hard to start when the engine is hot. This is why I don’t let it warm up too much before flying. However, I needn’t have worried, it fired up on the first pull. After a quick prayer thanking God for this gift and for His protection, I punched the throttle. The chute popped off the ground and inflated nicely. The taxiway had plenty of room for me to maneuver and stabilize the chute. Once it had stabilized I added throttle and pretty much just jumped off the ground. I reduced throttle to put it in a gentle climb.

I tried to keep my eyes on the crop dusters because they rarely use the radio. I listened for them on the radio anyway. After getting getting airborne I noted that there was a pretty good breeze blowing at about 100 feet off the ground. My forward progress slowed considerably the higher I climbed. Even though there was no wind at ground level, it was definitely breezy above. But it was smooth so no problem.

Cruising over the orchard next to the runway
Sunrise

After about 20 minutes of cruising around near the airport it was time to head back so I could get to work on time. I didn’t want to get too far from the airport as last time I had a fuel line rupture after I had landed. I repaired the problem but I wanted to stay close in case the broken fuel line was a symptom and not THE problem. I flew out over the orchard to the south of the runway and made an abbreviated approach (made possible by the stiff breeze). Just above the runway the wind quit and I sped up! Not a problem though, it actually helped my landing. After landing everything on the fuel line looked good. Having survived a sortie in the sky once more I loaded up the “Pink Thing”, taunted the crop duster crew a little, and then drove to work.

As a treat for reading this far here is a short video from the flight this morning.

PPC – First Modifications

After getting my Powered Parachute (PPC) back home I wanted to start it up to see how it runs. The seller had sent me a video of the engine running but I wanted to see it for myself. It started up okay but ran pretty rough and would NOT idle correctly. If I brought the throttles back anywhere near their fully back position the engine would die. After talking to a friend who is pretty knowledgeable on PPCs and doing some online research I decided to remove the intake silencer. Most sources said they don’t really work all that well on quieting engine noise and don’t do anything to make the engine run better. So my first modification was to remove it.

Intake silencer installed on the engine. Started the removal process.

I unbolted the intake silencer and removed it from the engine.

Next I covered the carburetor intakes while I ordered the parts I would have to replace as a result of removing the intake silencer. First, I would need two air filters, one for each carburetor. Next I would need two new main jets as Rotax has a main jet recommendation for use with and without intake silencers and the jets are two different sizes. So while I was ordering the correct parts I covered the air intakes.

While the parts were on order I also decided to check the other components of the carburetor to make sure they were clean and correct. I checked the main jet, idler jet, needle jet, and jet needle (yes those are two different things) to make sure the correct parts were installed.

148?? Nope need a 158 main jet.
2.68 Needle Jet…. Yep, that checks out. Correct.
11K2 Jet Needle. Yes, that’s the right part.
45 Idler Jet… Yes, also correct. We’re in pretty good shape.

So after verifying and cleaning these jets and the needle I reassembled the carburetor and ordered two air filters and two 158 main jets.

After receiving the main jet installation is very simple. Remove the carburetor bowl (slide one clip out of the way and drop the bowl) and unscrew the main jet at the bottom of the carb. Screw the new jet in and replace the bowl. Next I put on the two new air filters.

Now after having verified the right parts in the carburetor it was time to adjust the idle. I went with Rotax’s standard recommendations to start with. Setting the idle speed on this carb is kind of like hitting a moving target. There are so many adjustments to make and every adjustment affects every other adjustment. Rotax recommended screwing in the air regulating screw all the way in and then back out 1/2 turn. They recommended screwing in the adjustment screw all the way in and then out 3 full turns. This is were I started and the only difference from these defaults was that I ended up screwing the adjustment screw out 2 1/2 turns. This gave me an idle speed of 2200 rpm with the throttle at the rearward stops. Now, here is the translation. The air regulation screw controls the idle mixture, so the closer you are to sea level, the richer it needs to be. The higher up you are, the leaner. What they call the adjustment screw actually just limits how far the throttle slide inside the carburetor will travel to the closed postion. So once you get the idle RPM running nicely with the air regulation screw, you set the minimum idle speed with the adjustment screw. If I were to give them names I would call them the idle mixture screw and the throttle stop screw.

Next I have to take the PPC out to the airport and do some full throttle tests. I don’t want to do that in my neighborhood because it’s way too noisy. More to come!

I Went And Bought A Thing

The bad news was that the flying club I belong to is closing down. I hate bad news. To console myself I started browsing Barnstormers.com for airplanes I couldn’t afford. I thought about the powered parachute (PPC) that I owned and I kind of missed it. I started looking at PPC’s on Barnstormers and all were either on the East Coast or where out of my price range. Then I stumbled on an ad for a Six Chuter PPC – call for details. I emailed the guy and got back a detailed list of what he was selling and for how much. His price was firm but it was a very good price for what he was offering. I put a deposit down on it on the spot. I ran the ad by my friend who has been into PPCs for years, got me into it. He agreed it was a smoking deal so I made arrangements to complete the purchase. The only problem, it was two states away from me almost on the Canadian border. About a 950 mile drive. One way.

No problem.

I asked Mrs. Flying Dutchman if she was up for a road trip. She hemmed and hawed a bit until I told her she could just ride with me half way and then stay in Bend, OR, our first overnight spot and spend the day shopping while I drove the rest of the way to pick up the PPC. She was sold.

We left home at the crack of 7:30am and started driving north from central California. Past Sacramento and up the Central Valley. We stopped off in Williams, CA to have lunch at Granzella’s. Delicous Reuben sandwiches and nice restaurant as well as the deli where we got the sandwiches. We stayed on I-5 until we got to Weed, yes, Weed and then jumped over to US 97 and took that past Klamath Falls all the way into Bend. It was kind of a whirlwind journey.

Klamath Lake
US 97 just goes on and on and on…

We got to our hotel in Bend, The Hampton Inn in the Old Mill District. We had dinner and pretty much fell into bed exhausted. We did take in some sights before crashing for the night. I got up and hit the road at 4:30am the next day and didn’t get back until midnight. It was a grueling drive up to Chewalah WA which is about 30 miles north of Spokane, and about 30 miles from the Canadian border! I didn’t take many pictures. Here are a couple I managed to grab on my way up.

Cristy enjoyed her day in Bend however. Here are a few photos that she took.

So all that driving… what the heck did I come home with?

When we finally got back home we were completely exhausted but at least I know I got a great deal. Now to go over it with a fine tooth comb and make sure it’s airworthy. More to come!

Red Hills Fly-In 2021

It’s already that time of year, time for the Red Hills Fly-in! Sadly this event was cancelled last year out of concern for the health of our hosts, Jack and Myrna who are well into their 70’s. But this year we were all unafraid and pushed ahead with the fly-in on our usual Memorial Day weekend. The biggest change was that this year I truly had nothing to fly to or at the fly-in. Our flying club in Oakdale (O27) is closing it’s doors and I sold my PPC two years ago. To add insult to injury I was on-call for work this weekend so there was no way I could camp with everyone else. However, there was also no way I was going to miss it. It’s only an hour drive away so I drove up Friday and then again on Saturday to visit. We had a great visit with Jack and Myrna and caught up with old friends. Always a lot of fun.

Can’t wait until next year!

See you next year!

We Bought A Kayak

An inflatable kayak. Seemed the best way to transport a kayak. Especially as we start full-time travel. I chose the Sea Eagle 370, big enough for two people and all the gear they would want to stuff in there. It inflates quickly and easily. I tried it in my garage and it went together quickly. We were eager to try it on the water so I picked a likely launch spot at New Melones Lake, near Sonora, CA.

We drove up to Sonora and had lunch at Schnoog’s. Then we headed over to the spot I had chosen. Then we ran into the first problem. It was muddy, and crowded. And full of boats playing obnoxious rap music. Eh… nope. We drove over to another part of the lake and after taking one look at the shoreline we decided that was a no-go too.

NOPE!

By now the wind started picking up. It was going to make launching an inflatable kayak challenging for the first timers that we are. We decided to walk up the shoreline to see if it got any better. Then we ran into this.

Vultures sitting on a dead tree

If the rocks weren’t enough, if the wind wasn’t enough, the vultures were enough to make us realize that this was not the day to go on the maiden voyage of our kayak! We have rescheduled for this Friday morning back at Modesto Reservoir. We’ll let you know how that goes!

Flight To Auburn With Angela

This past Saturday was awesome not only because I got to fly, it was awesome because I got to fly with a young woman I love very much! My daughter Angela. When she was younger I took her flying a few times. She went because I was her dad and told her we were going flying. Well, she’s grown up now and I can’t make her fly with me any more. Luckily she has, without any intervention on my part, started to develop an interest in aviation. I never wanted to pressure my family to like my hobby, just accept that aviation is a huge part of who I am. So it came as a wonderful surprise to me that she was developing this interest.

So about 4 months ago we went flying and I let her take the controls and see what it felt like. It was a lot different that what she expected I think. The plane seemed to do whatever I asked but it didn’t seem to want to listen to her. I explained that after some time in the cockpit you develop a feel for the plane and it becomes much easier. We tried again last month but the plane’s engine didn’t sound right so I asked the owner to check it out. I belong to an aero club and don’t own my own aircraft any more.

Well the stars finally aligned this past Saturday and we got in the trusty little Cessna 152 and launched toward Auburn Airport (KAUN). As soon as we had reached our cruising altitude of 3000 feet MSL (mean sea level) I gave her the airplane. When an airplane is trimmed up properly and on course, there really isn’t a whole lot to do. She finally tried some turns with some coaching from me. She was having problems with the nose dropping when she turned the plane. I told her that what I do is pull back slightly on the yoke when turning. For a very gentle turn I told her to just squeeze the yoke, that would cause her to involuntarily pull the yoke back just enough. She tried a few turns and started to get the feel of it. Mostly she was just content to hold the plane on course for Auburn.

Wings Grill and Espresso Bar

Once we got to within 10 miles of Auburn I took the airplane back from her and brought us in for a fairly decent landing. We taxied to the transient parking area and tied the plane down. We walked across the ramp to the Wings Grill & Esspresso Bar. We ordered a couple of fancy coffees and then grabbed a table and watched the airplanes taxi, takeoff, and land. Coffee and a show! It’s always a lot of fun to be able to just sit and talk to my daughter. We don’t always communicate that well, at least I don’t, so it’s always a treat for me to talk to her and find out what kind of woman she’s become. Happily the one thing we do have in common is Jesus!

Watching the show out on the runway

After coffee we walked around the ramp a little at looked at some of the airplanes. She was especially interested in the Russian Antonov AN-2 Colt biplane that was parked there.

Antonov AN-2 Colt at Auburn Airport

It was starting to get hot so we both thought it best to start heading back. I didn’t want her perfect (so far) flight to be marred by a bunch of thermal turbulence on the way home. We got back into the airplane taxied out to the runup area and prepared to depart. I made sure to lean the mixture for best power prior to takeoff, Auburn is at 1500 feet elevation and with a temperature of about 85 degrees that made the density altitude (the altitude the airplane “thinks” it’s at) about 3500 feet. There was no issue during the takeoff run and we cleared all the surrounding hills easily. It’s mostly downhill back into the valley after that.

We cruised back home looking for airplanes, helicopters, or anything else that might want to ruin our perfect day. Angela flew a bit more but I think it was becoming a little fatiguing. Step by step, she’ll get it. I don’t think this means she wants to become a pilot just yet but I’m so happy she’s expressing at least an interest in aviation. But to be on the safe side I bought her a logbook and a set of aircraft headsets. Hey, a dad can dream can’t he?