Wednesday, August 10, 2011

AirVenture 2011

On our first morning we found that in addition to frequent buses circling the 'North 40', drivers of golf carts and cars would offer open seats to people walking. Rarely, did a vehicle pass that wasn't full. This morning as Jeff and I began walking towards Camper Registration a driver in a VW stopped to ask if we wanted a ride. The driver was Tom Poberezny, Chairman of the AirVenture Fly-in since 1977 and President of the EAA from 1989-2010. Thanks for the ride Tom!

Breakfast that morning was at the Warbird Cafe on the north end of the show and closest to our campsite. As you probably guessed from the name it is adjacent to an area filled with warbirds. Hundreds of them! I counted at least 2 dozen of my favorite, the P-51 Mustang.

On display is "Glacier Girl", a P-38 that made a crash landing on the Greenland ice cap in 1942 where it sat for 50 years while becoming covered with 300 feet of snow and ice. In 1992 it was recovered and then restored to flying condition. There is an interesting read of this aircrafts' final flight, and its recovery half a century later at: Glacier Girl

With over 12,000 aircraft arriving and departing AirVenture this is the busiest airport in the world during this week.

The Taurus G4, Pipistrel's electric powered entry for the CAFE Green Flight Challenge. Rules for the flight: 2 hours duration at 100 mph with a 30 minute reserve. Economy must be the equivalent of at least 200 passenger miles per gallon. One way to double passenger miles per gallon is by doubling the seating to 4!

Hundreds of vendors with parts and expert advise. Here, Jeff is discussing his options concerning the oil leak in his Lambada. This Rotax supplier has a good stock of parts on-hand and can have almost anything here within a couple days.

More interesting, around the corner...

The legendary Bob Hoover spoke to a crowd of over a 1000 in front of "Ole Yeller" the P-51 he performed in during the '90's. Bob answered questions and shared experiences from his early flight school days, interesting flights as a test pilot, and a great story of his escape from a German POW camp in a stolen Focke-Wulf similar to one parked a short distance away.

Focke-Wulf 190

Custom paint and the HP to back up the statement it makes!

I'd never seen this before. Helicopter aerobatics in the "Red Bull" BA105.

A centerpiece in the static display area was a collection of Burt Rutan designs. Thursday was Burt Rutan day and we were treated to both the Boomerang and the Starship taking to the air.

David, Jeff and Warren during show.(right to left)

Jet powered cars or trucks are real crowd pleasers. Lots of smoke and flame, very fast and very loud. In fact they are so fast, it almost doesn't look real. In the act a couple planes compete with stunts to decide who gets to race the car. Then with the jet engine on the car spooling up, the airplane makes its run. As the plane passes the car at over 200 mph the car driver goes to full throttle, releases the brakes and with an air shaking roar the afterburner kicks in. Within a few seconds the car is moving well over 300 mph and passes the plane like it is going backwards. Then add a little pyrotechnics...

The show was stopped briefly as we all were reminded that a go-around, even one in front of a crowd, is the best decision when things don't look quite right on final. The F-16 ran off the end of the runway collapsing the nose gear. Fortunately there were no injuries. Video of this on youtube I have to add that I don't know all the details on this incident and whether equipment malfunction might have caused this.

Mornings and evenings were special times while at Oshkosh. The brief time between the heat and humidity of the day and the mosquitoes at night was wonderful.

We had planned on leaving Wednesday by noon. However the night before we were already watching a line of showers on radar approaching from the west. We knew it would be a small window between when the airport opened at 7:00 and before the front arrived. Upon waking I rolled up my sleeping bag and readied my pack for loading in the plane. Stepping out of the tent I was greeted by the first light of the day illuminating, in brilliant red, a wall of clouds and showers approaching rapidly.

From the looks of the clouds I was convinced that the end of the world was approaching. We made sure everything was as secure as could be, grabbed what we could carry and quickly walked through the fence off airport property and to the Hilton for shelter. As it turned out the storms passed with only moderate rain and no significant wind.

While eating breakfast and waiting on the weather at the Hilton, I noticed that Harrison Ford was there for breakfast as well. I did take a picture of him from a short distance away that came out quite well, however I will not post it as I feel it is an intrusion on his privacy.

When the kids were young I used to joke with them that the Indiana Jones movies were based on my life before settling down. In fact Harrison Ford got that part because he looks so much like me. I would even stand next to the TV so the resemblance could seen.
I don't know why they would laugh.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Flight to Oshkosh for AirVenture 2011

Departing Skaneateles (NK71) under partly cloudy skies Jeff and I climbed into smooth air and headed west. We had a flexible plan that would carry us southwest over PA and OH then west-northwest across IN before turning north and passing just offshore of Chicago to avoid the Class B above and inland. The plan was to stop at Timmerman (KMWC) airport just north of Milwaukee to meet up with Warren and David Lee flying a Piper Warrior II before making the last leg into Oshkosh Whitman Field (KOSH). Knowing of some shower activity along the route and particularly in the Chicago area we kept one eye on the Garmin 496 displaying the weather ahead.

Within a short time wisps of clouds were forming below. As these thickened we discussed whether above or below this low layer would be the best option. Seeing some shower activity ahead on the Garmin I thought at first that below might be the best choice. However cloud base below was too low for comfortable cruising and we could see for quite a distance ahead with no sign of cloud tops that would give us trouble crossing. To the north towards Lake Ontario the clouds ended and this gave us an escape route if needed. Jeff felt that we should continue above and I agreed.

Flying on top turned out to be the correct decision as we later learned from David and Warren. We had left ahead of them while they were at the fuel pumps. David's Warrior II cruises about 20 kts faster and would have little trouble catching us in the air. However, from the time that we departed until David was rolling, the low cloud layer had spread east to Skaneateles. Once in the air they couldn't find a sufficient break in the ceiling to climb above. Forced to stay below what became a lowering ceiling they found themselves only able to get as far as Batavia. Luckily, the delay there was short and conditions improved enough for them to take-off and climb on top.

Crossing into Indiana skies cleared and the farmland and towns came into view. This didn't last for long...

At first in the distance, then looming overhead, cirrus clouds. Spawned by storms to the southwest of Chicago the cirrus thickened and darkened the sky. XM radar on the Garmin showed showers, some quite heavy, close to our turn-point near Gary, IN. We switched the radio to 121.7, a frequency reserved for air-to-air communications and we heard constant talk between pilots trying to work their way around both the showers and the Class B airspace of Chicago.

As more clouds began to form below and the view to the west was ominous, we decided to fly NNW across Michigan. This would put us east of Lake Michigan and north of this weather for a crossing of the lake from near Muskegon, MI

Cloud tops to the west of our track.

We landed at Grand Haven Memorial just south of the busier Muskegon. It was a quiet little airfield and gave us a chance for a short break before crossing the lake. Jeff also wanted to check on a small oil leak. Climbing out of the plane and walking around to the front we spotted oil streaks on the belly. Removing the upper and lower sections of the cowling showed the greatest concentration of oil in the area of the recently replaced oil sensor. Whether it is blowing past the threads of the sensor or through a crack in the oil pump we couldn't tell. Fortunately it is a very slow leak with about 1/10 quart of oil lost.

Being cautious, Jeff climbed using reduced power and made use of a thermal close to the airport to gain altitude. Once sufficient height was attained, we started across the lake.

At any point well beyond the first part of the crossing we were within gliding distance of Grand Haven. We had climbed to 12,500 over the lake. With a 28:1 glide ratio, 2.5 miles of altitude translates into about 70 miles of gliding range. These calculations were very reassuring however I imagine the hour it would take to glide this distance would seem to last forever!

At least we had some company out in the middle...

After staring out into the haze and across the blue waters eventually the western shoreline came into view.

We stopped at Timmerman and within a short time David and Warren arrived. They were able to fly the Chicago route without much trouble. With a review of the Oshkosh NOTAM we took off and headed out on the final leg of our journey to AirVenture. David was close behind and we both joined the stream of airplanes along the approach to Oshkosh. Everyone is lined up single file over the railroad tracks flying at 1800 feet and 90 kts. Here we are over Ripon which is the entry point for this approach to Oshkosh. Ahead of us is a Cessna with other planes visible beyond that.

Through the whole approach procedure incoming aircraft are required only to listen. First to ATIS before 15 miles from Ripon, then to Approach for commands from controllers along the approach path. We rock wings to acknowledge that first contact then simply follow instructions beyond that. We were assigned runway 36R probably because of the slower speed of the motor-glider. Most aircraft were landing runway 09. 36R is the taxiway, 36L is the main runway. It is painted with large colored dots wich are touchdown points that can be assigned enabling controllers to land 2 aircraft at a time. (first plane lands long, second plane short) There is lots of room as the runway is 9,000 feet long. The EAA expected close to 15,000 aircraft!

Once on the ground there are flagmen at every intersection to keep us headed in the right direction. With a "GAC sign held up to the windscreen they knew to direct us to General Aviation Camping. Arriving late afternoon on the day before the show we did a lot of taxiing, all the way to the absolute furthest point on the airfield just off the approach end of Runway 09.

Here is our campsite the following morning. We were on the NW end of the airport along the perimeter road. In the distance one of the buses is visible making its outbound run from the show to the "Northwest 40". These buses passed every 10-15 minutes or so and made the mile trip to the show much easier with the heat and humidity during our stay.

With 2 tents and 4 people sitting around Jeff's Lambada, I had a couple people ask me if we all came in that plane. I answered "Yes. Why?" 
(David"s Warrior was parked even further out and close to a busy road. It was quieter a hundred yards in by Jeff's plane so we all camped together here.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Short Visit to ISA Sunday

Sunday was a warm sunny day with light and variable westerly winds. Cumulus clouds were building as Kate and I decided it was a good day to visit our friends in Hamilton. We turned 45U east, settled into an easy cruise and enjoyed the green mid-summer scenery below.

Arriving at Hamilton we could see from the upwind leg to RWY 17 that the days' soaring was about to get under way.

This was the first time I've managed to connect with the club this year and I was happy to find Jay, Brett, Kevin and Joe on the field.

I like the club's 4-wheeler. I've never been on one before but had the opportunity to drive it with the L-33 in tow and Brett walking the wing. Why does everything move at any speed except walking speed?

Brett was the first to go.

I ran as quick as I could to try for a shot of Kevin through the windscreen of 18L, but got to the tow plane about the time he began his takeoff roll.

While I was in the staging area Joe invited me along for a ride in 'Big Red'. It's been a couple years since sitting in a glider and quite a bit longer since sitting in the back of the 2-33. Yet, as soon as I was strapped in it felt as though no time had passed since then.

Off tow I pointed out a small cloud that was close. Joe headed towards it. As happens so often, the moment you turn towards a promising cloud it immediately begins fall apart. We never made it to the far windward side where lift might have been, as sink was already pushing us lower.

Looking for other options, Joe turned back east towards a nice bump we felt earlier in the tow but we only passed through a short area of zero sink.

Back over the hills northeast of the field and again a momentary teasing of zero sink as Joe called pattern entry. Approaching base leg we finally found some lift, however it was too late. We were in the pattern and committed to landing.

Thanks for the ride Joe! It felt great to fly in a sailplane again.

Kate flying us home