First Class B experience, not as scary as I thought.

Vicki and I flew the Lance down to Pittsburgh to pick up Laura from college for the summer. It was my first experience with Class B. I was a little leery of the traffic in and out of KPIT, since it’s US Air’s hub, but Allegheny County Airport (KAGC) isn’t much further from the school and probably is a bit more GA friendly. As a side note, this is my first flight since I got my used Garmin 296.

Down, as FiledI filed a nice airway route that took me around the Class B: KROC GEE v119 MILWO v12 FURIX KAGC.

Down As ClearedBut when I called for my clearance, I guess they figured “hey, it’s a beautiful CAVU (Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited) day and he’s probably got a handheld GPS”, and so they cleared me “KROC GEE KAGC”. Almost direct the whole way. And once I took off and contacted approach, they said “proceed direct KAGC”. With the GPS, it was easy as hell, and quite smooth up at 8,000 feet. The direct route took me into the class B – actually it was while I was on the descent to Allegheny County. The Pittsburgh controller was nice and friendly, and a lot more relaxed sounding than some of the New York area controllers I’ve heard.

To As FiledFor the flight home, I filed pretty much the same thing I’d filed for the way down, but the Allegheny Four departure is a vector procedure, and CIP is one of the fixes in the depature and on v119, so I filed KAGC CIP v119 GEE KROC.

To As ClearedThe clearance I got was quite unexpected. It was KAGC ALLEGHENY FOUR EWC 050 ZORBO BAF v119 GEE KROC. It took me a bit of work to find ZORBO on the en-route chart, because it wasn’t on any airway. But after all the hassle of plotting this route on the en-route chart and putting it into the GPS, as soon as I contacted Pittsburgh departure they put me on a vector and then cleared me direct to BAF then as filed. Once again, it was very smooth up at cruising altitude (9,000 feet) but moderately turbulent down lower, both on the climb up and descent down.

All in all it was a fun trip.

Not listening to that little inner voice

When it comes to flying, I listen to that inner voice. You know, the one that whispers “do you really want to do this?” I’ve cancelled trips based on nothing more than an uneasy feeling – trips that I wanted to make. And I’ve had the feeling afterwards afterwards “hey, I could have flown that, dammit why did I cancel?” But I continue to listen to the voice, because the consequences of getting it wrong are so obviously bad.

But today that voice whispered, and I didn’t listen.
Continue reading “Not listening to that little inner voice”

Some answers on “Two Weeks To Taxi”

I wrote to Glasair about the plane I blogged about in Rants and Revelations » Now this is an intriguing idea. Here are some answers I got:

Q. When you say “two weeks to taxi”, what exactly is left before the plane is flying?

A. You will start up your engine and taxi your airplane while here. But, we recommend you do some simple steps for safety before you launch on your maiden flight. All you really need to do is a thorough safety inspection equivalent to a detailed annual inspection, weigh the airplane, complete your weight and balance calculations and then the last step is your FAA inspection, sign off to get your airworthiness certificate. Then you will start your flight test program.

We will provide you with all the detailed check lists for the final safety checks, W & B calculations and flight-testing.

Q. Do you provide familiarization training in the aircraft?

A. You will receive several hours of transition training included with the purchase of the airplane and the program.

Q. What about floats? Do you sell them as well? Can they be added there at the customer build center?

A. We do not sell floats, but we can refer you to a couple companies that make a float that will work well on the Sportsman. We cannot install floats in our program but we can put some of the attachment fittings on while you are here should you make a deal with one of the companies and they can get us the parts.

Q. I’m planning on going to Oshkosh. Is there any chance I could get a flight in a Sportsman, or just a look around one?

A. We will be at Oshkosh, and we invite you come to our booth and see the
airplane. However getting a demo flight there is not as good as getting one here at the factory. Because of the high density of traffic, we cannot allow you do to take offs and landings in that environment, and we simply do not have the time to go to another airport to get you that kind of demo flight. Additionally, we are so limited on the number of flights we can conduct, we try to limit them to people who are so close to making there decision to purchase, that it is the last thing they need to do before placing an order.

Therefore, we always recommend that prospective customers come visit us here at the factory. We are near Seattle. Not only will you be able to fly in a more relaxed atmosphere, but you will also have the opportunity to tour our facilities, and see that we are a substantial and credible company that delivers on our promises.

We are even willing to contribute toward the expense of coming to visit should you place and order with us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced. Where do I mail my deposit?

(Just kidding, Vicki.)

Now this is an intriguing idea

For a long time I’ve looked at and rejected kit planes – they are a great way to get a very capable new airplane for a relatively low cost, but by the same token they’re also a hell of a lot of work and it seems like anybody I’ve talked to who has built one has spent years on it, even if it’s the only leisure time activity they did for those years (and consequently they end up with the test flight being the first time they’ve flown a plane in X years, which isn’t good). Add to that my lack of work space, and a little anxiety that I might do something wrong in a crucial and hidden part of the aircraft (like I did in the canoe I built all those years ago) and it didn’t really look like a good option for me.

Enter Glasair Aviation’s Sportsman 2+2. Here’s a plane that is equally at home on tricycle gear, tail wheel gear (and tundra tires if you want to get out to the boonies) and floats. It’s basically a 2 person plus a lot of gear plane, although they have optional back seats. The specs and reviews look very impressive. But it’s still a kit. So why the change of heart?

“Two weeks to Taxi”. That’s why. You buy the kit (and it includes everything from the engine to the tires), and you go to their “Customer Assembly Center”, and after two weeks of intensive hard work, you have a plane that you can taxi out of their hangar. I’m not sure what else is requried to fly, but the pictures in the brochure make it look so complete that it might just be a matter of painting and getting FAA approval. During that two weeks, you’re working with their factory experts there to help, and to make sure you don’t fuck it up. Plus you’re using their space, their tools, and their jigs. Not only that, but because you’ve got a better than normal chance of getting a plane built and flyable, the finance companies are more likely to want to lend you money.

Now I don’t have the money to run out tomorrow and buy this kit, so I’m sure other kit builders will be offering a similar program by the time I’m ready. But in the meantime, I’ve got this as my goal to aim at. So now my three pronged goals for the next year or two:

  • Become a more proficient pilot, especially in using the rudder.
  • Get float training.
  • Start a kit plane fund. Maybe I can start to put all my overtime money in it.

I can’t wait to talk to these guys at Oshkosh. Maybe I can cadge a test flight out of them.

That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence…

In my continuing efforts to someday fly a deHavilland Beaver, I was having a look at the Murphy Aircraft site. They make a kit built plane that is very similar to the deHavilland Beaver, called the Murphy Moose. It’s smaller than the Beaver, but it’s got a big round engine, and they have a float kit for it. It would almost be perfect for me.

The problem is their web site. It sucks. The very first page has an announcement that they hired their first full time webmaster, and either this webmaster is an idiot, or they haven’t had time to fix the crap. Part of the problem is that there are a lot of broken links. Part of the problem is that some of those links are the classic “thinks they’re a web master because they stole a copy of FrontPage” mistake of a href="file:///S|/Kelly%20Eros/Order%20Info.htm".

But the worst mistake is I went to their order info page (no thanks to that link) to order an information package and DVD. And whoever wrote that page is a moron. First mistake – after you enter your name, you get a pop up telling you that you haven’t put in all the other required fields. No shit Sherlock, that’s why I haven’t hit Submit yet. But then the real problem: you put in your information and your credit card data, and click “Submit”, and instead of getting any sort of confirmation that your information was received, you get two Thunderbird “Compose Mail” windows popping up with an empty mail to “”. Because for some bizarre reason, the Submit button, as well as being a real form submit button, it’s also a mailto: link. WTF?

Examining the web source, you can also see the biggest newbie mistake ever: the web form has the email recipient coded as a hidden field in the form itself (which means that a spammer could use their server to send spam by changing the email address), and the form action is _vti_bin/shtml.exe/Order%20Info.htm. Looking at my web logs, I can see that _vti_bin/shtml.exe is a known open mail relay program searched for and used by spammers.

This company’s web presence is done by amateurs, and not very competent amateurs. That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence about giving them $50,000 (or however much a kit costs) of my money.