Monday, January 30, 2012

Heavy Plane Equals Back Problems

You know I thought I had a good back and up until last year I did.  The first time I threw out my back was in the most innocent of ways, however.  I was at the airport talking to my friend Joe (my A&P), no, actually it was his son and all of a sudden I needed to sneeze.  So, in order not to sneeze in the kids face I turned my torso and sneezed away.  BIG mistake.  Apparently, sneezing is a pretty violent reaction on the body and all your muscles really tense up in the moment of the sneeze.  And when I say violent, just ask my wife.  I inherited my sneeze from my Dad, and lets just say the big bad wolf had nothing on my dad. If your torso is turned one way or the other the uneven tension being put on your back during this violent reaction and muscle tension can knock your back right out of alignment.  Yup, that's right.  I wouldn't have believed it either if it didn't happen to me.  If you ask anyone with back issues, they will tell you that when they sneeze they are postured looking straight ahead.  Well, the back pain resolved in about two weeks.  I figured that was the end of that and I would always sneeze correctly from now on and that would be that; right?  WRONG!!

Apparently, there are other things one can do to throw out their backs.  No, really it's true.  For example, I was going flying one day with the family.  And was going to pull my 3000 lbs plane out of the hanger all by myself.  Why? You might ask.  I don't know.  I think it had something to do with my wife saying, "Wait! Don't you want us to help?"  Naaaaahhhhh, didn't even answer her.  This was a job for the MAN of the house.  Oh yeah.  So, I hooked up my tow bar and began to pull that puppy out.  Well, getting that plane moving out of the indents in the asphalt where the wheels rest is no easy task.  But, hey, that's what testosterone is for, isn't it?  I finally Man(fool)handled that baby out of there and then put the tow bar away and proceeded to put everybody in the plane including myself.  No problem.  I didn't even break a sweat.  After all, the only other time I threw out my back was with that sneezing incident.  And that was a fluke and mistake of bad posture, you know.  It could never happen again; nope.  When I pulled the plane I used standard Olympic athelete heavy lifting posture.  What could go wrong, eh?

Well, we went on our flight.  Got home later that day and went home.  Later that evening my back started to hurt.  I felt a little tension during the day in my low back, but I shrugged it off as a result of sitting in the plane to long.  I certainly could not admit to my wife that I should have availed myself of her assistance.  As the day went on, though.  OH BOY,  the pain got worse and worse.  I was laid up again.  I even had to stay home from work the next day because of it.  That cost me good.  Apparently, you can injure your back and have a delayed pain response too.  Who'd a figured, eh.

Needless to say, I was tired of throwing out my back.  So, I was looking for a solution to pulling the plane out safely.  I thought about buying a beater pickup truck, ripping off the front bumper and welding a pintle hook to the front chassis.  I would then get an industrial tow bar to hook to that.  That idea never really materialized.  But when I went to do my instrument rating work at Airmotive in Brainerd, MN, there was a pin up ad on the bulletin board for the "Aircraft Caddy."  This was a Battery powered tug that was made by a company in Little Falls, MN.  Home of Charles Lindbergh.  The company was aptly named the Lindbergh Aircraft Tug Co.  Hmm, go figure.

Take a look at one of these babies at work pulling and pushing on a Pilatus PC-12 like nobody's business.

So, long story short, I ordered me one of these babies and I have never looked back (get it?, back. No, OK). Hmm, well anyways.  Take care of your backs people.  Don't take it for granted.  I know alot of very once productive people reduced to disabled people because of irreparably injured backs.

Here I am pulling out 24MT about 50 yards from the hanger in a nice area of the ramp where there are no pebbles to ding my prop.  I could pull and steer this plane with 2 fingers now.  Oh, and did I mention it's green too (Oh Brother).  No internal combustion engine that won't start in the winter.  It is powered by two 12 volt Car batteries hooked in series to give 24 volts of power. And these batteries are rated with alot of cold cranking amps.   I can also jump my plane with this device.  Ahhhh, modern conveniences.

Thanks for reading my blog.  Feel free to comment.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

N24MT- Our "new" Piper Lance

Well, I felt that I had put sufficient time on the Viking getting the complex and high performance experience that I needed to bring the insurance price down to earth.    One call to my insurance guy confirmed that it was doable.  For some reason Cessna 210's were still on the expensive side when it came to their insurance cost.  After looking at a couple of different makes and models I decided on a 1977 Piper Lance that was being sold by some CEO defense contractor out of Virginia.  However, lucky for me, the airplane was located closer in Sturgis, MI.  It was at Bartelt Aviation which was an FBO/Broker in Sturgis and claims to be the Saratoga experts.  Well John Bartelt, the owner, certainly was as good as they come.  He made the purchase of this aircraft as easy and as smooth as possible.  John had this 1977 Piper Lance in his inventory for sale as he was brokering the deal for the owner in Virginia.  In fact, Bartelt had sold this very plane to that owner some time in the past.  Apparently, this owner had a couple of kids in college which was sucking all his AvGas money.  So, the owner decided to sell the plane until his college bills were no more.  Lucky for me I was in the market and this plane had everything I was looking for and quite a bit of upgrades to boot.

The Piper Lance performance specs were good.  Not as quick as a Cessna 210 or Beech A36, but had a better useful load and plenty of room.  This airplane allows me to carry my entire family and plenty of baggage.  Not to mention that I could currently carry a full fuel load.  I suspect that in years to come I might have to sacrifice some fuel for the growing kids, but for now I got my cake and eating it too!  Below are the performance specs for the Lance as published by Rising up aviation:

Piper Lance PA32R-300 Performance Data
Here she is

  • Horsepower: 300 Continuous
  • Top Speed:  165 Kts
  • Cruise speed (75% power): 155Kts
  • Stall Speed (dirty): 61 Kts
  • Average Range: 748 nm
  • Gross Weight: 3600 lbs
  • Useful load: 1968 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 98 gal
  • Usable fuel load: 94 gal

Takeoff Performance
  • Ground Roll: 1450 ft
  • Over 50 ft obstacle: 2360 ft
  • Average climb: 1000 fpm
  • Ceiling: 15400 ft
Landing Performance
  • Ground Roll: 880 ft
  • Over 50 ft obstacle: 1710 ft

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Mom sent me these actual interactions between pilots and ATC and I thought they are HILARIOUS!!!!
Any pilot would love these.  So, here they are:

>> Actual Radio Exchanges Between
>>>>Pilots and Control Towers
Tower: "TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 Degrees." TWA 2341:"Center,
we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?" Tower:"Sir, have you
ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits another 747?"
O'Hare Approach Control to a 747: "United 329 your heavy traffic is a Fokker,
one o'clock, three miles, Eastbound."
United 329: "Approach, I've always wanted to say this....I've got the little
Fokker in sight."
A student became lost during a solo cross-country flight.  While attempting to
locate the aircraft on radar, ATC asked, "What was your last known position?"
Student: "When I was number one for takeoff."
A DC-10 had come in a little hot and thus had an exceedingly long roll out after
touching down.  San Jose Tower noted:
"American 751, make a hard right turn at the end of the runway, if you are
able.  If you are not able, take the Guadeloupe exit off Highway 101, make a
right at the lights and return to the airport."
A Pan Am 727 flight, waiting for start clearance in Munich, overheard the
following: Lufthansa (in German):
"Ground, what is our start clearance time?"
Ground (in English):
    "If you want an answer you must speak in English."
Lufthansa (in English):
    "I am a German, flying a German airplane, in Germany. Why must I speak
Unknown voice from another plane (in a beautiful British accent):
    "Because you lost the bloody war!"  
One day the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of the
active runway while a DC-8 landed.  The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned around,
and taxied back past the Cherokee.  Some quick-witted comedian in the DC-8 crew
got on the radio and said: "What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by
The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real
zinger: "I made it out of DC-8 parts.  Another landing like yours and I'll have
enough parts for another one."
The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered
lot.  They not only expect one to know one's gate parking location, but how to
get there without any assistance from them.  So it was with some amusement that
we listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a
British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206.
" Frankfurt, Speedbird 206! clear of active runway."
Ground: "Speedbird 206.  Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven." The BA 747 pulled onto
the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.
Ground: "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?"
Speedbird 206: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."
Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, have you not been to
Frankfurt before?"
Speedbird 206 (coolly):
"Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark, -- And I didn't land."
While taxiing at London's Airport, the crew of a US Air flight departing for Ft
Lauderdale made a wrong turn and came nose to nose with a United 727. An irate
female ground controller lashed out at the US Air crew, screaming: "US Air 2771,
where the hell are you going?  I told you to turn right onto Charlie taxiway! 
You turned right on Delta!  Stop right there.  I know it's difficult for you to
tell the difference between C and D, but get it right!"
Continuing her rage to the embarrassed crew, she was now shouting
hysterically: "God!  Now you've screwed everything up! It'll take forever to
sort this out!  You stay right there
and don't move till I tell you to!  You can expect taxi instructions in about
half an hour, and I want you to go exactly where I tell you, when I tell you,
and how I tell you!  You got that, US Air 2771?"
"Yes, ma'am," the humbled crew responded. Naturally, the ground control
communications frequency fell terribly silent after the verbal bashing of US Air
2771.  Nobody wanted to chance engaging the irate ground controller in her
current state of mind.  Tension in every cockpit out around Gatwick was
definitely running high. Then an unknown pilot broke the silence and keyed his
microphone, asking: "Wasn't I married to you once?"    
I hope you guys liked these; I sure did!! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Viking

As promised, here is the story of our next airplane.

I initially got a ahead of myself and started to look at the dream planes such as Piper Lances and Saratogas,  Cessna 210s and the awe inspiring Beech A36.  However, one call to my insurance guy knocked me right back down to earth.  Apparently, 114.5 hours in a 2 seat Grumman was not enough time or experience to favor a decent rate on these aircraft. So, needless to say, I was a little down in mood.  I was a little angry too.  I couldn't figure out what these people wanted.  I couldn't give them my first born, as we had already grown quite attached to her.  So, I guess I was going to have to get more experience.  But I was going to have to go up in aircraft complexity and performance in order for my time in that new aircraft to count favorably towards the goal airplanes above.

Yes, yes, I know what you are all thinking out there.  I need to get my instrument rating.  Hey, one step at a time, OK.  I figured in my "infinite" wisdom that even with an instrument rating I was going to have to have complex and high performance time as well, to get into the dream planes above.

I had no idea what plane would fit the mission.  Being the impulse buyer that I am, nothing would have made me happier than just getting the plane I wanted.  But eventually more sensible heads prevailed and the search was on for a an economical plane that had both complex and high performance characteristics.  I spent much of time online prospecting for potential airplane candidates.

One day I asked my A&P Joe what he thought.  Joe is not only a good mechanic, he is an accomplished private, commercial and aerobatic pilot.  When I explained what my goals were to Joe, he suggested, "How about a Bellanca Viking."  A Viking?  "What the hell was that," I said to myself.  I didn't want to appear that I didn't know what a Viking was; however, for fear of losing face as a "knowledgable" aviator, you know.  So, I told him I would look into that option.

Needless to say, thank God for the internet.  I immediately Googled Bellanca Viking and found loads of information on the airplane.  The Bellanca Super Viking was manufactured in my home state, no less.  This plane was manufactured in Alexandria, Minnesota.  Bellanca was also the original manufacturer of the Citabria and the Decathlon, which are popular airplanes.  Bellanca also made the second plane to cross the Atlantic non stop.  But that is like trying to remember the second guy who stepped foot on the moon (Buzz Alderin).  No points for second place; I guess.  Bellanca eventually went belly up but there is still a healthy fleet of these planes out there.  They are also decently supported by Alexandria Aircraft, LLC who bought the type certificates for some of bellanca's airplanes including the Super Viking.

The Viking spec sheet was not to shabby; she was also a pretty airplane.


Performance and Specifications Estimated performance and capacity specifications derived from the 1979 or newer models.


Engine-Telydine Continental model 10-520K 300 HP Fuel Injected
Max. Speed at Sea Level 210 mph.
Max Cruise Speed (at 75% power) 205 mph
Takeoff Distance (over 50 ft.) 1,420 ft.
Landing Distance (over 50 ft) 1,340 ft.
Rate of Climb at Sea Level 1,210 fpm.
Service Ceiling 20,000 ft.
Stall Speed (full flaps) 70 mph.
Max. Range-w/84 useable gal. fuel 1,205 mi.

Height 7.3 ft.
Length 26.3 ft.
Wing Span 34.2 ft.
Wing Area 161.5 sq. ft.
Gross Weight 3,325 lbs.
Empty Weight (Inc. unuseables) 2,185 lbs.
Baggage Capacity 186 lbs.
Fuel Capacity-Std. System 69 gal.
Long Range System-Gal 84 gal.
Oil Capacity 12 qts.

The more I looked into the Super Viking the more I fell in love with the idea of owning one.  And currently, it was a big enough airplane for my entire family because my son, little David, was small enough to be a Lap Baby with my wife in the backseat, at age 3.  He also had my wife's and my genes. Lets just say that the NBA is out for my boy.  Hey, if lap baby status is good enough for the airlines, then it is good enough for us.  So the search was on.

The Super Viking fit the bill.  It was a high performance platform with a 300 horse IO-520 Continental and complex with retractable landing gear and constant speed propeller.  BINGO.  If I could get some time in one of these babies, it would be the stepping stone I would need to drive the insurance bill into the affordable range for the dream planes that would fit the entire family with a seat for everyone and one to spare, of course.  So the search began.

After being on the prowl for a couple of weeks, Joe sent me a link to a guy selling a Super Viking in Tucson, AZ.  This seller, Scott, was a Air Force F-16 fighter jock and was being deployed to Egypt for a couple of years (this was before it all hit the fan in Egypt with the Arab Spring) and he did not want to hanger and maintain the plane from across the planet; so he and his wife (also an Air force pilot) decided to sell their Viking which they had owned for ~ 7 years.  I bet that after the so called democratic revolution in Egypt, this pilot didn't end up going anywhere, or if he did he is currently back stateside.

Anyways, the plane looked immaculate and well taken care of.  The following are some pictures of the plane.

 I know, I know, the Brady bunch colors on the upholstery was out dated, but it was well maintained and the mission was more important than the interior looks which could be changed if so desired.

I called the owner and made him an offer.  He was asking $32,000.  Yes, I know, I know.  Where else are you going to get complex and high performance for this price.  After an exhaustive search, I can safely tell you,  NOWHERE.   The reason that the Viking is so inexpensive is multi-factorial.  The manufacturer had gone out of business, the plane was fabric covered rather than the tin cans we all like to fly, and the wings were made of wood.  Yes, WOOD.  However, after some research I found out that Viking's were built essentially on a steel roll cage stronger than any average aluminum fuselage.  The wings spars and ribs were made of Sitka Spruce and sheeted in Mahogany. This was then dipped in a resin that when dry and cured was very tough. This is the same stuff they made the Howard Hughes Spruce Goose out of.  So, in essence, if this material was tough enough for that plane it is certainly tough enough for the Viking.  That made it good enough for me.

By the way, if you don't know what the Hughes Spruce Goose was, it was a huge project cargo/troop transport plane concept for the military that was contracted to reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. Below are pictures of the airplane.

After some haggling, I got Scott down to $30,000 and we had a deal.  I made arrangements to fly down to AZ to close the deal and bring the plane home.  I initially was going to fly it home myself, but it dawned on me that this plane was not a 2 seat Grumman AA-1A.  There just might be a difference in flying and handling, not to mention the constant speed prop which I have no experience with.  So, I asked one of the local instructors if they would go down with me to get the plane.  All expense paid, of course.  My now friend Jim, agreed to go on the trip with me, and we were off in a couple days. 

We got to Tucson and cut the Deal.  The plane was in as good a shape as the photograph's had shown.

After taking ownership of the plane.  Jim and I made plans to fly out the next morning.  Our plan was to fly to a small town called Truth Or Consequences, NM refuel and then fly north from there to Garden City, Kansas.  The flight over the Arizona and New Mexico Rockies was awesome.  The following are some pictures as we were flying over the Southern Rockies.

The views were just gorgeous.  It made the trip go that much faster
    Over New Mexico.
    Leaving Arizona

This is the last mountain ridge before hitting the plain states of the Heartland of our beautiful country.  You can see the plains just beyond.
In this picture, we were at 12,000 feet MSL and just clearing the tops of these mountains.

After an overnight stay in Garden City, Kansas we then left early the next morning for our final couple of  legs home.    The plan was to fly to Huron, SD for a pit stop and top off then direct home to Thief River Falls, MN.  This flight took us directly over Fargo, ND.  Yeessss, that Fargo.  The movie with the wood chipper and all that.  By the way, Minnesotans and Fargoites hate that movie.  So, don't bring it up! Or else, you might find yourself in a wood chipper.

The following are some pics of us flying VFR on top of an overcast layer over South Dakota.  We knew; however, that it was severe clear at home.  It was also 25 below zero there, though.  Brrrrrr.

 My Friend Jim Holte of Holte's Flying service is seasoned Ag Pilot and CFII.  We were currently flying on top of the overcast over South Dakota.
  Beautiful VFR on Top

Here, we are Crossing over the Frozen Missouri River which is the Border between Nebraska and South Dakota.

Here is a pearl of wisdom for anyone who flies long distance in the winter, especially if the change in  temperature is significant between departure and destination.  Jim and I had had a flawless flight thus far and we were over that overcast layer in freezing temps and all of a sudden the engine begins to sputter.  Remember we are heading north at a constant altitude of 5500 feet MSL.  The only variable was that the air temperature was dropping precipitously as we ventured north toward northwest Minnesota.  When the engine began to sputter I yelled out at Jim,  "Alright Jim, think fast, what is going on?!!!"  All I heard Jim say was Oh SH*% !!!!!!!!  I quickly looked at my gauges and saw that the Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) gauge was much hotter than the previous owner said it should be.  And it certainly was much hotter than where I had leaned it to when we left Huron, SD.  So, I immediately enriched the mixture and the EGT temp came back within spec and the engine stopped sputtering.   

What was the lesson here?  The problem was that as we flew further north and the temperature dropped, the density of the air was also increasing, so the the mixture was slowing leaning as we flew north until it got to a point where it was too lean and the engine was starting to suffer from fuel exhaustion.  The take home point is, as pilot in command you should not only be enjoying your flight but periodically looking at all your gauges.  The plane will start to show readings that will warn you way ahead of what happened to us.  I would have caught this problem earlier and adjusted the mixture before any of this excitement would have happened if I had been paying attention to that EGT.

Needless to say, the remainder of the flight was uneventful and we made it home safe and sound to an Ice rink of a taxiway because of a freezing rain and snow blizzard that had blown through Thief River a day earlier.

Well, that is is the story of how we acquired our second airplane.  

By the way, I sold the Grumman to a guy named Igor out of Pittsburgh, PA who had a pilot pick up the plane 1 day before we flew down to AZ.  Perfect timing.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Our first plane. The Grumman AA-1A

Ever since I can remember I wanted to learn how to fly.  I initially wanted to be a pilot as a profession; however, life has its twists and turns and it didn't turn out that way.  I chose another career path instead.  However, this did not diminish my desire to become a pilot.  In retrospect, I am glad that I did not become a professional pilot because then I would have turned a true passion into WORK.  I began training when I was living in Tampa, FL.  Soon though, my career got very busy and I had no time for anything.  I trained in the typical Cessna 172's and a Piper Warrior at the local FBO.  I even jumped from one flight school to another.  It soon got to busy at work and I stopped training.  I finally got tired of living to work rather than working to live.  So my family and I made the decision to move across the country to another career spot that lended itself to more of a balance between Life and work.  So, we picked up and moved to the State of Minnesota.

Whewwww, what a change in venue, to say the least.  From 50 degree winters to -40 degrees.  The summers were not scorching though.  They were actually quite pleasant.  Rural living has grown on us and we definitely have more time as a family than before and I am doing well in my career as well.  The biggest plus however, other than having more time with the family, is that I could now complete my aviation training and pursue my life's passion for flight.  The problem was that there were no FBO's where I could rent a plane and complete my training.  There was an FBO in town; however, there was no formal training service there.  There were a couple of part time instructors in town that used their planes to instruct.  So, the flight training resumed.  The instructor that I started training with was also a trucker.  So, I had to wait for the guy to be in town to get training.  He, of course, had a C-172 and that is what I started training in again.

There was a local pilot/farmer in town by the name of Leroy that had just bought a Grumman Traveler.   Leroy and I have become good friends since.  He had been a long time owner of a Grumman AA-1A, N9275Leroy as he called it.  He was interested in selling the little 2 seater.  I figured the best way to keep me motivated to continue and finish my flight training was to be invested in it.  So, I took the plunge and made him an offer.  Low and behold, he accepted my offer and now I was an aircraft owner, not just a student pilot.  Below is picture of our first plane.

Needless to say, I completed my training and obtained by Private Pilot certificate on 08/27/2009.  This is four years after I started my Training in Tampa.  I guess persistence and passion paid off!!!

The ultimate goal of all this was to be able to travel across the fruited planes and coast to coast with my family.  As you might guess, I might have a little trouble getting the weight and balance within spec if I tried to pile a wife and three kids in this 2 seat Grumman along with my generous midsection.  So, I started to look for a plane that would fit my family's needs.

Booooyyy, was I surprised what the insurance rates for a 5-6 seat aircraft would be with my modest training.  So, I needed to get more hours under my belt and this plane was certainly cheap enough to do that in.  This litttle plane burned 7-8 gallons per hour and I flew it all over Minnesota and parts of North Dakota.  I eventually put a total of 114.5 hours of flight time in my log with this plane which helped with that insurance qoute for my next plane.  The next plane will be the topic of my next blog post.  No sneak peek here.  Further discussions with my insurance guy convinced me that an instrument rating was key in lowering my rates, not to mention safety.    If I was going to attain my goal of flying cross country with the family I was not only going to have to upgrade the airplane but I was going to have to attain my instrument rating.

  Stay tuned to this blog for further updates on my private flying career!!!  Feel free to join and become a member of my blog and follow it.

Thank you for reading my blog and we would appreciate any feed back on our very first blog.