Archive for September, 2007

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Oshkosh Trip Report – Part 2

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

 

The trip from Austin to Oshkosh was the longest trip I’ve taken in the Cardinal.  I could not have been more pleased with an airplane than I was with N8035G.  She was comfortable, easy to fly, and economical.  I flew the first two long legs IFR and was given direct clearances both times. Navigation is almost too easy these days.  Even with our tired 1971 interior the Cardinal was very comfortable for the 3.5 to 4 hour legs I was flying. The average fuel burn was right at 10gph. Oshkosh Camp Site 2

After arriving at Oshkosh I setup my little camp.  The first thing I did was tie down the airplane. 

I used three large corkscrew things that were purchased at a pet store. The EAA recommends against pet store tie downs, but I have to say these were very heavy duty items, made of thick metal, that required real effort to screw into the ground.  They were not the little chrome wire things. 

During the show I was continually astonished to see half million dollar airplanes secured with six inch plastic tent pegs or stiff little coat hanger wire arrangements.

Once I got the plane tied down and the tent set up I was pretty wasted.  I walked over to the Hardee’s fast food joint immediately adjacent to the field, ate a horrible greasy nasty burger, went back to my tent and just crashed. 

I don’t really care for camping much, in large part because I don’t sleep well on the ground. On this night I slept like a rock.  As my hero Dr Maturin would say it was “deep, restorative,roborative sleep”.  I think I didn’t wake up until almost 8am, certainly the sun was well up in the sky.

I did not bring anything to cook with, the plane was full enough with the tent, sleeping bags.  I had some power bars and a cooler full of water bottles, that was about it.  Breakfast was something of a problem out in the North 40. When I’ve camped at Camp Scholler there was a guy who setup a breakfast buffet right on the way to the gate with excellent pancakes, eggs, and and bacon.  Camp Scholler also has a well stocked convenience store where one can get juice, fruit, and pastry.  Nothing like that exists in the North 40. I think I had a powerbar in my tent, and then some kind of horrible overpriced greasy thing from a booth.  I know I didn’t feel well at all the first day.

The main event on Day 1 was purchasing a GPS with XM weather.  I spent a lot of time in the four exhibit halls checking out the merchandise.  I had thought that Lorrance might finally include XM weather with their otherwise good products, but no such luck. The rumored Garmin 596 wasn’t real.  It quickly became apparent that there were only 3 choices for me.  The Garmin 496, 396, or the Anywhere map on a pda.  I quickly ruled out a 496, I just couldn’t justify the cost delta.

I spent a fair amount of time with the Anywhere Map folks, and finally decided to purchase their HP IPac based system.  I’ll do a full review of this system in the near future.  As a GPS it is terrific. It’s lightyears beyond my old Lowrance 500 that it replaces.  I have some concerns about the reliability of the XM weather subsystem, the jury is still out on that.

I spent most of the show in forums or visiting the exhibits. 

Judy Voss, Astronaut

Astronaut Judy Voss gave a super presentation on what its like to be an astronaut.  She ought to know, she’s been on five shuttle flights. 

A couple of guys from Virgin Galactic gave a interesting presentation.  They had really terrible power point slides, nothing but tiny text packed from top to bottom.  I found this surprising given their company’s reputation for having great style. Most of what they said was unchanged from 2005, but they did mention that they are looking at power plant alternatives to the current solid rocket system.  They said that having to buy a new engine for every flight is what drives the $200K ticket costs.  If they could develop a kerosene/oxygen based liquid fuel motor they could bring the price down to about $70K.  They said that the laws of physics preclude significantly cheaper tickets than that.

There was a lot of excitement about the Cessna and Cirrus LSA airplanes. Cessna LSA The Cirrus wins on style points, but the Cessna looks about a million percent more rugged. 

Cirrus LSAThe Cessna LSA has a real airplane engine that runs reliability on 100LL. I can see it flying fine after 50 years in a flight school.  I thought that the Cirrus LSA giant bubble canopy made their airplane a non-starter.  If that thing wasn’t ripped off by the first strong gust of wind then the unfortunate occupants will fry like ants under a magnifying glass on a hot Texas day.    

Both airplanes have wide comfortable looking cabins, with the Cessna less like an MG-TC.

The useful loads of all the LSAs are pretty low, and the Cessna is one of the lowest.  I hope Cessna makes it very easy to accurately fill the gas tanks to partial levels. 

 

On Wednesday I was tired of camping, and not looking forward to the forecast rain. I rented a car and spent the night in Watertown Wisconsin.  I can recommend the Holiday Inn Express in Watertown.  It turned out that this motel is literally on the Watertown airport, something I may take advantage of in future years. 

I set up my Anywhere Map in the car for the drive back the next morning. It seemed to work fine except that I didn’t get XM weather updates for about 40 minutes.   I was concerned about this, but fortunately Anywhere Map sets up a tech support tent at the show for their owners.  They checked out my system and it worked fine for them.  It showed a large thunderstorm bearing down on the airport.  I wound up spending about an hour with them waiting for the storm to blow over. 

Thursday evening I went to the airplane and packed up my tent. I’d decided to leave Friday morning based on weather forecasts predicting storms during the day. 

I got to the show fairly early and received a weather briefing from the FAA/Lockheed Kiosk.  The forecast was for marginal VFR with isolated thunderstorms possible.  They advised heading for the Dells, from whence I could get all the way to Texas in fairly clear air.

The Cardinal had settled into the ground, it was hard to pull it out of its parking space.  About 8am I was in the plane with the engine started and the Anywhere Map running.  I could see from my parking spot where to go to depart, there was a long line of airplanes waiting to go.  I forget the exact weather, but it was something like 2000 broken and 3 miles visibility.  I was very glad I had XM weather to help me get out.  I fell into the line of airplanes. It was just like rush hour in a big city.  The line creeped forward as planes departed. 

I looked down at my IPaq, and noticed that the Anywhere Map program was gone. “That’s odd” I thought as I restarted it.  I crept forward a little more, looked down, and the Anywhere Map program wasn’t running. 

For the next 20 minutes or so I fooled with the Anywhere Map device. It would start, run about 3 minutes, and crash.

My turn for departure came and off I went.  The weather was VFR, but just barely.  I tuned into Flight Watch, and they were telling people to ‘go to the Dells’.  I sure could have used the Anywhere Map both for the Weather and for the tower database that it has, seeing that you must depart Oshkosh at a pretty low altitude to avoid incoming traffic.

The briefer was correct, when I reached the area of the Dells I found no ceiling in haze, about 5 miles visibility.  I then climbed and set course for my first fuel stop, Burlington Iowa.  At Burlington I called Control Vision about my Anywhere Map.  There tech support number didn’t answer (all the tech support people were at Oshkosh), but I got a nice lady in sales.  She said nobody had ever heard of Anywhere Map crashing and couldn’t really help.  So for this trip my Anywhere Map was a $1400 paperweight.

I flew IFR from Burlington to Fayetteville Arkansas, where the Millionaire FBO treated me like a king, even though my flivver only bought about 30 gallons of their reasonably priced fuel.

Thunderstorms were forecast to cover all of Texas, so I decided to just try to make it to Paris Texas so I could at least sleep in my home state.  I called the FBO there and was told that they would be closed for my 7pm arrival, but they said there were plenty of tiedowns and gave me the numbers for the local Hampton Inn and the taxi service. 

I departed IFR from Fayetteville to Paris at 8000 feet.  There were lots of puffy cumulus clouds but no real storms and I was able to say VMC.  Checking with flight watch about 50 miles out there were thunderstorms not too far from Paris, but it was reporting clear at the moment. 

There was no way I could stay IFR as I would have to penetrate clouds to perform an IFR arrival to Paris. With no XM and cells around I dared not go IMC.  I elected to cancel IFR and spiral down through a large clear spot.  At about 1500′ agl I had legal cloud clearance and made a beeline for Paris.  I heard another plane in the traffic pattern, so I asked him about the weather.  He said it was fine at the moment but that he could see a storm about 10 or15 miles away that looked like it was getting closer.

I flew up to the yellow line on the airspeed indicator, and was soon on final to Paris.  The arrival was uneventful, and I had just secured the canopy cover when large train drops began to fall.  A ten dollar taxi ride got me to the brand new motel, Dominos delivered a pizza, and I crashed shortly thereafter.

I awoke about 430am and called for a weather briefing for my last leg to Austin.  “Go to the airport now” was the briefer’s advice.  It was currently clear in both Paris and Austin, with Austin forecast to go IMC.  The thunderstorms were not supposed to start up until a couple of hours after sunrise.

The taxi didn’t seem to mind coming to the hotel a little after five am, and I was in the air right at dawn.  I picked up my clearance in the air and received a clearance direct to Austin.  About the time I was abeam Waco the ground started to be covered by low clouds.  As I approached Austin they were reporting 400 overcast with 1 mile of visibility.  Nearby Georgetown was 1000 overcast. I decided to try one ILS approach to Austin.  If for any reason I became uncomfortable I would divert to Georgetown. 

I went IMC at about 3000 agl on the approach to Austin.  When you fly practice approaches to Austin the controllers punish you with 90 degree turns onto the ILS.  In this case however, they gave me a very comfortable 30 degree intercept angle.  The turn onto final was a non-event, once I got the localizer centered and tracking I engaged the S-Tech in ‘hi-track’ mode and watched for the glideslope needle to come to life.  The S-Tec kept the vertical needle in the donut, I dropped the gear as the glideslope needle began to center, and just concentrated.  The Cardinal took me down like it was on rails and the airport popped into view at about 400 feet agl.   I was home.

PS:  I exchanged emails with Control Vision about my problems with their product.  They said the problem was that XM sent down a badly formed data packet that caused the Anywhere Map software to crash.  They gave me the location of a a folder where I could manually delete the bad information.  Since doing this I’ve used the Anywhere Map on two short cross countries and it seems to work.  I’m still pretty concerned about the reliability of the XM system.  When I have a few more flights with it I’ll post a full review.

Cessna LSA picture by Brad Pennock, used IAW CC license