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Dave’s RV-7A Building Log

Trip to Spokane

June 29th, 2008

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Took a day trip yesterday over to Spokane. Picked up my friend Steve at Paine Field and then cruised over Stevens Pass to Spokane. PAE to SFF was about 1.5 hours burning 7.5 gph in cruise. Not bad.

We hung out with our friend Jeff and checked out his new hangar and RV-7A progress. Both were top notch.

On the way back, we swung up north to check out Grand Coulee dam.
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And the Cascades were showing off their full glory. You can barely see Rainier in the first picture and Mount Baker is in the second.
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Surprisingly, the way back was not too bumpy and a relatively cool 65 degrees up at 8500′. Down on the ground was a different story with Seattle matching the previous high temp of 91°F for the day.

Trip to Tucson

April 21st, 2008

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Been a long time since the last update. I’ve been busy with many things including: the annual condition inspection, getting the plane ready for a big trip to Tucson, and flying to Tucson for a week to visit my folks with my daughter.

The condition inspection went great. It took a lot longer than I expected, but I didn’t find anything major. I did a few other minor tasks while I was doing the inspection including installing the interior (finally) and putting some primer on the wheel pants and leg fairings. I was also trying out the Bruce’s Custom Cover in this picture.
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Now for the interesting stuff. The trip to Tucson.
Map RNT to TUS

Here we are before launch in Renton.
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We didn’t really take many pictures on the way down. It was pretty marginal weather through Oregon. We waited out a storm in Roseburg, and then forged on through the Siskiyous following I-5 all the way. Here’s all we saw of Mount Shasta.
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This was a funky little hill to the west of Shasta.
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Once we got through to Redding, it was clear skies the rest of the way. We overnighted in Bakersfield as we burned up too much time in Oregon. From Bakersfield to Tucson was a particularly boring stretch of flying. Lots of desert and not much else.
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After some restful days in sunny Tucson, it was too quickly time to return home.
Map TUS to RNT

I’m glad I’m based out of a fairly sleepy airport. I’m not sure I’d want to deal with these commercial and Air National Guard guys on a regular basis.
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We had to wait for about 8 F-16s to take off before crossing to the right runway. I was also a little worried the Southwest jet was going to light ‘em up while turning onto the runway, but thankfully he didn’t blast us. It was cool to see the afterburners light up as these guys made their noisy launch into the sky.
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Again the stretch from Tucson to Bakersfield was long and boring and this time with a 30 knot headwind instead of tailwind. Lovely. Not much to see from 8500′. This was somewhere SW of Phoenix. Even though we were out in the middle of nowhere, there was usually always some sign of mankind on the horizon.
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This was a weird little development SE of Blythe, CA. Not sure why these people want to be hours from civilization and yet right next to their neighbors.
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These were some mountains in the San Bernardio National Forest.
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We stopped in Lancaster, CA for comparatively cheap fuel and lunch. They have a couple of really nice covered picnic tables set up in the grass near the transient parking area. We watched a Caravan do several land-and-taxi-backs with a huge pattern in between. They got in about 3 in 20 minutes. That must be an expensive way to learn landings.

Hills outside of Bakersfield.
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Mountains east of Fresno, and Fresno itself. After miles and miles of nothing, it was cool whenever we’d fly over a city.
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One thing I noticed all along the route was the relatively low levels in the reservoirs. Hopefully that was just a seasonal thing. Here’s the New Don Pedro Reservoir.
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On the ground, you never really notice mines. They sure are ugly from the sky. This is a mine outside of (appropriately named) Copperopolis.
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Lake Oroville.
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We stopped again in Redding for (more expensive) fuel and a snack. Temp was in the upper 80s and the OAT read 108°F before take off. The take off roll was certainly longer than I’m used to because of the density altitude.

From this point on it was like the tour of the mountains. Mount Shasta put on a spectacular show as we flew right by it.
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The Sisters.
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Here’s my co-pilot taking a break from the charts to play some Game Boy. She really did a great job comparing our progress on the charts to the GPS and I even taught her how to find ATIS and tower frequencies on the chart and plug them into the SL-40.
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Mount Hood was a particularly welcoming sight, as it’s right outside Portland. Of course now I can’t remember which is Hood and which is Jefferson.
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Flew directly over the Portland airport with a great view of downtown on the river.
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Mount Rainier on the left and Mount Saint Helens on the right. The second picture adds Mount Adams on the far right. Not many days when you can see the entire chain of volcanoes from Rainier down to Shasta.
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And finally our hometown volcano, Rainier.
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We were on Flight Following for the entire trip from Tucson up to Renton. Joshua Approach dropped us, but it otherwise worked great all the way up.

It certainly felt great to fly into my home airport and make the final landing of the day. All in all, a fun trip. 8+ hours in a small plane makes for a long day. Not sure I’d do it again in one stretch, but I’m glad the whole trip went off without a hitch.

More flying and fairings

February 17th, 2008

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I’ve actually been flying the last two days, a highly unusual event around here in the winter. Yesterday was marginal, but I managed to find a hole in the clouds. Today was absolutely outstanding. I could see all the way from Mount Baker to The Sisters in Oregon. That’s about 150 miles of visibility in each direction. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the camera to take any pictures.

I took off from Renton in the mid-afternoon and headed for Hoquiam out at the coast. I landed there mainly so I could count the cross-country time, and then cruised down the coast at around 1500′. Very scenic.

At Willapa Bay I turned East, went south of Olympia and up the east side of the sound. I didn’t really see many planes around until I got near Renton again. 2.0 hours to the coast and back with 1/2 hour of goofing off while I was out there. The RV is truly a time machine. It’s normally a 2.5-3.0 drive one way to the ocean.

We definitely had a temperature inversion going on today. I was seeing around 55°F near the ground and 58°F up around 3000-4000′. It was even still in the 50’s up at 6500′. Very warm day for Februrary. I’m glad I got out flying in it.

I finally dumped the last 2 months worth of pictures from the camera, so I’ll just post them all at once. This first picture is from a short flight after Christmas when it had obviously snowed recently in the foothills east of Seattle.
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This was a trip Julie and I took just around the Seattle area on New Years Eve Day. Unfortunately the mountains are a little blurry in the first pic, but the second one shows you what they would have looked like had the camera cooperated. That’s Mount Rainier with St Helens in the background.
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Here are the merry flyers.
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Julie wanted to see the Olympics closer up, so we headed over toward the west.
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And here’s a couple pics of my intersection fairings in progress.
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Those fairings are now complete (except maybe a tiny bit more trimming for size) and installed. I’m seeing around 165 kts at 75% power at 8000′ pressure altitude with all the main gear fairings and the nose wheel fairing installed. I just have the nose gear leg and intersection fairing left to fabricate and install. That should give me a few more knots.

I also made a modification to the SafeAir static ports following Scott Will’s lead. I took 2 engine baffle seal pop rivets (which are identical to what Vans supplies in their static port kit), removed the mandrels, drilled the static port holes out to #30, and JB Welded the pop rivet heads in place. I went up yesterday and did a 3 course GPS run and plugged the numbers into the magic spreadsheet. My airspeed error at cruise went from 4 knots to 1 knot. The static ports certainly don’t look as pretty, but they work much better. I’m happy.

A great day for flying??

February 9th, 2008

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It’s been too long since I updated this log. The weather in Seattle this winter has been crummy. At least from a flying perspective. I’ve been getting in short flights when I can, but mostly working on finishing up the leg and wheel fairings. I’ll post some more pictures on that soon.

I went down to the hangar today to work on a few things. When I got there I noticed a plane in the pattern. Sure enough, the ceilings were at 3000′ and it looked even clearer to the north. I was not really expecting to be able to fly today.

I pulled the plane out of the hangar, pre-flighted, and taxied to 15 for a run-up. A week ago I worked on my brake pedals a bit as the brakes were starting to drag. The pedals wouldn’t return completely, which seemed to get worse in the recent cold weather. Opening up the holes in the rudder weldments and loosening the castle nuts a half turn or so took care of it nicely. She taxis great again.

After an immediate clearance from the tower, I took off into the empty airspace around Renton. I climbed up to 3000′ east of Bellevue and noticed it was even clearer up north. So onward and upward toward Paine and 5000′. It’s somehow hard to believe how much I was enjoying flying on such a marginal weather day, but it felt really good to get up in the sky again. It felt like the clouds were clearing away just for me.

I leveled off and watched the airspeed climb. I recently finished installing my main leg fairings and intersection fairings. I was seeing roughly 165 knots at 24″/2400 RPM. I still have one remaining fairing to complete, and then I’ll do some official speed runs. But she definitely feels faster.

I also made a fix to my static ports a few weeks ago. Many people have been seeing problems with these Safeair static ports. They read the static pressure a bit too high, which causes the altimeter and airspeed to be slightly low (about 3-4 knots at cruise speed). The problem is that the ports are too flush and I guess are still in the boundary air layer. I drilled out the ports and epoxied in some dome-head baffle seal pop rivet heads that are identical to the stock Vans static ports. I tried to do some GPS ground speed runs, but it was a bit too bumpy. I’ll have to wait for a smoother day to verify that fix.

I swooped down into the Duvall/Carnation valley getting near Vne and then back toward Bellevue. I called up Renton and was directed right into 15. The controller even asked that I keep my speed up. (Like he even needs to ask.) I was at around 1500′ at the south tip of Mercer Island going around 150 knots. I eased the power back, slowed her down, flaps down, a slight touch of throttle on the way down, flare, gentle touch down, and off the runway in just over 1000′.

I was back at the hangar in 0.7 hours. Not a long flight, but definitely one of the most fun I’ve had this winter.

Thanksgiving Flying

November 26th, 2007

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We had some terrific weather over the weekend. What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than by flying around the patch for a while?

The sky was really clear and made for some beautiful views.
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The air was really steady, so I did some calibration work. Way back during my phase I test period, I did some simple test runs before by guessing at the wind direction aloft and flying into and away from the wind and averaging the result. I ran across a better method on Kevin Horton’s site at the bottom of this page. You basically do 3 runs at 90-120° apart, record some numbers of your instruments and GPS, and plug the numbers into the spreadsheet. It even calculates the windspeed and direction which were very close to the winds aloft prediction. The result was that my EFIS was reading a true airspeed of 147 knots when it should have been reading 152 knots. I’ve also noticed that my altimeter doesn’t match my GPS, so I suspect a slight static position error. I’ve heard others having some luck gluing a hollow rivet head onto their static ports, so I might try that.

I also finally calibrated my AOA indicator. On the first flight I was only able to calibrate the flaps down values as my flap sensor wasn’t working right. After a minor fix on the ground, I was able to do the flaps up calibration the next day as well. Zero G maneuvers are fun, and exciting with everything in the cabin going up in the air.

Saturday, Adele and I flew over to Bremerton and had lunch with my friend Steve and his parents. I’d heard that the restaurant at the airport had some good fish and chips, and I was not disappointed. It was a fun flight over and a fun lunch. Adele flew most of the way over and back.

There was a wall of dark clouds that ran from Renton to Bremerton and south. It was very intimidating, but it never moved north. You can kind of see it in the background of this shot of the Seattle skyline.
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I also did some self-portraits with the plane in the evening light on Friday.
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Mount Saint Helens

October 28th, 2007

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Adele had no school on Friday and our arrangements for her day fell through, so I took the day off. Weather was perfect, so might as well go flying. She had been asking to go down to Mount Saint Helens for a while, so that’s where we went. This is the mountain that blew it’s top back in 1980. From the air it’s still easy to see all the timber that was blown down. It all points away from the mountain. This is Spirit Lake that was partially filled in by the mud slide.
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Here’s a bunch of pictures that Adele took as we flew around the mountain. You can see the dome in the middle of crater was steaming and/or smoking.
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Mount Rainier and Adams were visible in the distance. You can also see Mount Hood in the background of some of the pics above. Really super clear day, obviously.
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On the way back, we stopped in at Chehalis KCLS. I thought there was supposed to be a restaurant on the airport, but couldn’t find one. While filling up at the pump ($.30 cheaper than at Renton), one of the locals pointed us toward the golf course across the street from the airport. Turns out the guy makes the engine mounts, gear mounts, and nosewheel forks for Vans. Super nice guy, but I forgot his name.

Adele took a few pictures of me taxing over to the tie downs.
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We walked over to the golf course and were pleasantly surprised by a nice little restaurant, burgers, fish and chips, salads, etc.

Adele flew most of the way home from there. I had her fly various altitudes and headings. I also slowed the plane down to let her feel how the controls get less sensitive at lower speeds. She’s a great little pilot.

Saturday I did some more tinkering on the plane. While leaning at high altitudes, I noticed I couldn’t lean as far as at lower altitudes without the engine running rough. Turns out when I sent the P-mags back, they reset all my settings. I had the advance set to 0 degrees, and they set it back to 4.something degrees. While doing that, I noticed the left mag was just slightly off in its timing–only 2 degrees, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to fix it. I used the blow-in-the-tube method to set it right. I also set the advance on both P-mags to 2.4 degrees.

With that done, I taxied out to the run-up area for a flight around the patch. During the run-up, the engine was really running rough, missing and sputtering, while on the left P-mag. I decided to go back to the hangar and double check my changes. Everything looked fine, and I tried the run-up again. Still too rough. By then I had other obligations, so I just hangared the plane and left frustrated.

Next day (Sunday), I went back down to the hangar. I decided to set everything back to where I knew it should work. I cleared the timing I put on the left mag, double-checked that the right timing was cleared and correct, and set both advance angles to zero. While I was at it, I decided to change to new plugs. I’m not sure what the recommended interval is for the plugs, but I’ve been running the same ones since day 1. Since they’re only $20 for a set of 8, I figured it was a good idea to swap them out.

Out to the run-up area again, and success. The engine ran silky smooth on either mag. She took off like a champ. I climbed up to 7,000′ to see if I could lean out the engine, but that was still unsuccessful. At 23″ and 2400 RPM, I couldn’t lean more than about 20 degrees lean of peak before the engine starting running really rough. Strange. Time to write to Emagair.

I still had a great flight. I practiced some zero G maneuvers in anticipation of finally calibrating the AOA. It’s pretty darn fun pushing over to zero G and then pulling back to 2 G. It’s a super fun roller coaster in the air.

That’s all for now.

P-mags updated

October 21st, 2007

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It’s been a while since I updated this log, but then it’s been a while since I’ve been flying. 3 weeks ago I removed the P-mags from the engine and shipped them back to Texas for the latest firmware update. The version I had was supposedly rock solid, but I guess new problems surfaced when the self-powered feature of the P-mags are routinely tested during run-up. Since I like to test them before I take off, I decided it was a good idea to get them upgraded. The weather for the following 2 weeks was supposed to be lousy anyway, but I was hoping for a quick turn-around. Well, last weekend the weather was unusually perfect and it seems E-mag took 1.5 weeks to do the update.

As an added precaution when I re-installed the P-mags, I used the tried-and-true factory setting timing method rather than the blow-in-the-tube timing method. It seems that all of the problems with these units have been with the timing reverting to the factory setting. Might as well just use the factory setting in the first place. It’s not that much harder.

While I had the cowl off, I chased down another small oil leak to the oil temperature sensor. I tried tightening it at one point, but it was still leaking. This time I removed it, used some sealant between the probe and the adapter and used a new crush washer when I installed it.

Of course when I had the plane all back together, I needed to leave to catch my daughter’s soccer game. It was well worth it, as she scored the game-winning goal and another one to boot!!

Went back down to the airport Sunday, pulled the plane out without the cowl, and did a test run. It took a couple tries, but she eventually fired up as strong as ever. I was going to slap the cowl on and go flying, but it started raining. I still don’t trust the plane not to leak in some critical area in the rain.

I pushed the plane back into the hangar and worked on another project while I had the cowl off. Ever since my initial flights, I’ve had some aluminum duct-repair tape on the front of the front two cylinders to keep them from getting too much cooler than the back 2 cylinders. The tape has worked great, but it was time to replace them with the proper material. Interestingly, the tape didn’t even leave any residue on the cylinder. Great stuff. Much better than fabric duct ( a.k.a. Duck) tape.
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I cut out two chunks of aluminum the same size as the tape, deburred, bent, drilled out some rivets, drilled the new parts, and installed rivets. It was actually pretty fun to work with aluminum again. The hassle was I had to remove the induction snorkel in order to get at the rivets on the left side. Looks much better now.
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I put the cowl back on and the weather looked like it was going to hold. A few drops here and there, but the sky was fairly clear. Run-up was good. Take off was awesome. It was great to be in the air again. Of course the rain picked up as soon as I got away from the airport. I tried to avoid it, but it was raining pretty good. I cut the flight short. Greaser landing. Haven’t lost the touch. After shut down I looked behind the panel. No water, so that’s good. I think I’ll still try to avoid the rain.

Over the Cascades

September 1st, 2007

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Finally the weather forecast was wrong in our favor. The Labor Day weekend was supposed to be cloudy and rainy, but I woke up to sunshine on Saturday. Time for some flying.

There was virtually no wind and only very high, wispy clouds. Perfect conditions for trying some flying over the mountain passes. I took and headed northeast toward Stevens Pass. Mount Rainier was visible to the south.
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The pass itself looked pretty daunting, but I kept careful track of my position on the GPS and chart and followed highway 2 below.
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Not much snow on the mountains this time of year.
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Passed over Lake Wenatchee and the grass strip, state airport there. Even a few planes were parked there. The lake itself is actually to the left behind the wing. I think the other little lake there is called Fish Lake.
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I started to head over toward Chelan, leaving the highway. This was the only spot that made me feel a little uncomfortable. Not a lot of landing options–just really rugged looking logging roads. And of course I had a strange feeling at about this point. The plane suddenly seemed too quite or too smooth. I checked the gauges. Engine was running great. Wasn’t loosing speed or altitude. Must have just been a really smooth patch of air.
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This is about as close as I got to Chelan before I bailed on the idea of heading over there.
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Instead I headed south along the Columbia River toward Wenatchee. I landed there and fueled up thinking the prices would be cheaper. Man, was I wrong. It was $.50 more per gallon.

It took just over half an hour to get there. Would have been even shorter if I optimized my route a bit instead of heading toward Chelan.

The cafe there is closed on the weekends, so I just took off again and headed toward Snoqualmie Pass. Mount Rainier was visible ahead, but I eventually turned more northwest to follow the pass.
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Looking back at Wenatchee.
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This is looking north toward Mount Baker. The mountains are certainly spectacular.
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I’d have to say Snoqualmie Pass is much friendlier than Stevens. I climbed up to 8500′ this time and still felt much more comfortable. The time spent actually in craggy mountains is pretty low and there’s more landing spots along the way. Here’s a shot of the Alpental ski area right at the pass.
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I took the opportunity to take a picture of a friend’s house on the approach to Renton.
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All in all, a very easy trip. It was great to get in some fun flying. The way back took again just over half an hour minus some horsing around I did with the autopilot. Back at the hangar, it was time for the 50 hour oil change. Looking over everything, I found a small oil leak at the back of the engine that I chased down to the oil temp sensor. I tightened it half a turn to see if that would fix it.
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Here’s a complete non sequitur.
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I like the colors of this ladder truck. Black over red is pretty cool. Still thinking about colors/designs for the plane.

Short Lunch Flight

August 27th, 2007

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I haven’t done much flying lately. We were on a family vacation for a week involving a sailboat rather than the plane. That combined with some really cruddy weekend weather lately has conspired against me.

Finally on Sunday I was able to go flying. The clouds didn’t look too friendly, but were supposed to burn off. I met Jim Piavis down at Thun Field for lunch. That’s only about 20 minutes away, so I messed around a bit on the way down. Showers kept threatening, but never hit us. Clouds never did clear up… until Monday. Better a little flying than none at all.

I have about 60 hours on the plane now. Almost time for the next oil change. The FSDO is giving me a little trouble getting my Repairmen’s Certificate, but I think we’ll have it ironed out this week. I don’t really need it until March anyway.

Taking Mom for a flight

August 11th, 2007

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After a few days of working too late, I was finally able to get Mom up for a flight today. We went down and around Mount Rainier.
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The NW side of the mountain was a little cloudy, but it cleared up nicely on the other side. Very bumpy for must of the way around, but Mom seemed to enjoy herself.
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Saw this very cool maze replica of the Washington State quarter carved into a field (corn maybe?) just SE of Lake Tapps. It’s near the bottom left corner of the picture.
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