Wx so far this July has been mediocre. I did fly down to Salem to visit the II Morrow factory, where I updated the database on my Apollo GPS. Too bad Morrow doesn't see fit to include the majority of US airports in its database (see below).
Sunday July 5 I decided to practice a few stalls and then fly to Evergreen Airport (59S) in Vancouver, Washington. The ceilings were a bit low so I only got in two stalls before other planes in the practice area made me claustrophobic.
Evergreen is located just across the Columbia River from Portland International Airport (PDX). Evergreen lives under PDX's Class C airspace.
Flying under the shelf of Class C airspace resembles scud running. Landmarks are difficult to distinguish at such low altitudes if one is not familiar with the territory. I worked up a flight plan that called for homing on the Battleground VOR just north of Vancouver, homing on radio station KPAM, then flying the 1.6 miles from the radio station to Evergreen. For good measure I dialed up the Vancouver airport on the GPS. Unfortunately, I dialed up the wrong Vancouver airport on the GPS. I called on the Evergreen Unicom and got no response. (This is common at smaller fields.)
Both Evergreen and Pearson are moderately small airports just north of the Columbia River, each with an east-west runway. Pearson didn't look quite like I expected Evergreen to look, but it was near the Columbia and had a runway twentysomething. An airplane backtaxiing on the runway wasn't talking to me because I was on Evergreen's frequency. I stretched out the downwind to give him time to exit the runway. The landing was uneventful but I was becoming more and more confused at the unfamiliarity of the landmarks. Last summer I drove to the Antique fly-in at Evergreen and this was not deja vu all over again. In faft, this was Pearson, not Evergreen.
After a brief walk around the airport I took off and rejoined Portland Approach. Approach were wondering what had happened to me, but did not take offense at my mistake. I flew out over Vancouver lake (a local landmark used by ATC that is not identified on the sectional) and this time I did find my way to Evergreen.
Each airport has its own personality.
An airport with a 2000-3000 foot runway is not going to be
swarming with corporate jets.
Other things being equal, the shorter the runway the friendlier
I spent an enjoyable interlude talking with antique
airplane hobbyists at the airport.
Evergreen is a good place for a moderate sized fly-in,
with a Safeway grocery store and a number of eateries
The nose art on the left
is from a Stearman at the 1998 Evergreen Antique Fly-In.
Monday I flew to Klamath Falls (LMT) and back. On the way down I followed Interstate 5 to Medford before turning East to LMT. Altitude was 11500. I ate lunch in the the second floor of the terminal building. Coming back I flew North to Bend, then followed Highway 26 past Government Camp, all at an altitude of 12500 feet. 12500 feet is the maximum allowable altitude for extended flight without oxygen or pressurization. I checked carefully for symptoms of hypoxia but did not detect any. Mt. Hood is shown above.
The thermals were active that afternoon and I saw a number of hawks. A few miles from Hillsboro something caught Romeo and rolled it to the right. I don't know if it was a thermal, wind shear, or wake turbulence from a Learjet that was doing a 360 in the vicinity. The fact that it was a pure roll suggests it was wake turbulence. It wasn't a threat to the safety but it did get my attention. With all the thermals it was a rock-and-roll final. I didn't make the A6 turnoff.
Friday I flew up to the Northwest EAA Fly-in at Arlington Washington (AWO). To get there I flew to the east of Seattle to avoid the worst of Seattle's Class B airspace. To accommodate the heavy traffic into Arlington the FAA setup an arrival procedure where planes line up near Green Valley (WA25), a turf strip 7 miles Southeast of Arlington. WA25 wouldn't dial up on my Apollo GPS, so pilotage was again the order of the day. When I approached Green Valley I didn't positively identify it because the runway was brown, not green. I could see Arlington in the distance, so I turned right to keep out of trouble. I fell in behind a Piper Commanche, and we all flew over the town of Arlington, then turned left to pick up a standard 45 degree downwind entry to AWO's runway 34. Somewhere over Arlington a yellow Piper Cub sneaked in between the Commanche and me. Somewhere between base and final another plane materialized between the Cub and me. I was expecting a "cluster" so it was no big deal.
The EAA had a large cadre of volunteers and the ground ops went smoothly. This time I understood the hand signals. After some taxiing I parked Romeo in the airplane camping area. Arlington is the third largest fly-in, and the experience gave me a hint of what to expect at Oshkosh. Everybody at Arlingotn was friendly and I rather enjoyed the experience except for my back bothering me.
Arlington was a dry run for my upcoming odyssey to Oshkosh. Next time I'll bring food, refreshments, chair, tent, and a big fat air mattress. I need a bigger plane, or at least a bigger baggage area.
Some 80 exhibitors were in attendance. Cessna showed its newly minted Skyhawks and Skylanes. Russia's Khrunichev Space Center was showing plans and prototypes for bush planes. BigGuys was selling Teeshirts emblazoned with the instructions, familiar to pilots, REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT.
Evenings a Jazz band played in a tent. After dark the "Runway Theatre" showed "Always". By that time I was rather tired and I sacked out next to the plane. Once I got the mosquito net in place I slept well until 5am, when the airport came back to life. The weather had deteriorated somewhat from the heat of Friday afternoon. I wished I'd packed a pair of jeans.
I attended some seminars held in tents
and then watched a vertically challenged version of Friday's
A variety of planes and choppers performed routines
carefully tailored to the capabilities of each plane.
The largest was the EAA's B-17 "Aluminum Overcast".
The smallest of the planes were smaller than some of the
ultralights and powered parachutes which were buzzing around the
Southwest end of the airport.
A Cessna babe magnet?
Catch a bird with a Skylark.
Left: Kitfox with mascot.
The Leza Lockwood "Aircam" featured in some National Geographic documentaries was on display (not shown). This is a twin engine experimental (homebuilt) that looks like an overgrown ultralight. It is registered as an experimental, single engine. The engines are so close together there are few of the engine-out safety concerns of conventional twins. One can turn into the dead engine without problem. There is just enough asymmetric thrust to let you know which engine quit. The FAA does not require a multi-engine rating to fly it. It would make an ideal platform for low altitude sightseeing.
Fly-in rules required airplanes to be aligned with the taxiway before starting, to avoid blowing away tents and campers. As the airshow was winding down pilots were moving their planes into position for startup. Some Canadians camping nearby helped me move N2469R into position. A fair minority of the 1500 or so aircrews at Arlington agreed with me that this was a good time to leave, allowing enough time to get home before dark. The scene was reminiscent of a drive-in theatre letting out. Planes require much more room than cars, and their spinning propellers are dangerous to nearby pedestrians, so I taxiied as slowly as I could without getting wedged in the undulating turf. In short order I joined a line of planes taxiing to the active runway. A few hundred feet before turning onto the active we lined up in pairs. As soon as a pair of planes was airborne two more were sent on their way with hand signals. Cool. I was off with very little waiting. If you've ever seen movies of squadrons of planes taking off en masse you'll get an idea what it was like. The secret to this efficiency is "reduced separation standards".
During climbout I found myself outclimbing and overtaking a plane ahead. When I passed him on the right he was hundreds of feet below me. Before then I hadn't really thought of my Skylane as a high performance aircraft, despite requiring a high performance endorsement to fly it.
During the flight to Hillsboro I changed altitude often to stay as high as possible while remaining clear of clouds. Seattle center had so many blips on their screens all they could say was "multiple targets". Center cut me loose when I ducked down to 1500 feet to stay VFR. Several planes including myself checked in with Olympia Tower to transition Olympia's airspace. Most of us were headed for Hillsboro. One was bound for Eugene. The ceiling lifted as I passed Kelso. All in all, an excellent two days at Arlington except for the ultralight safety expert who augered in Wednesday.
This came as a surprise, as the 2001 manual does not mention that private airports are excluded from the database. The Apollo manual simply states that the EMG (emergency) button brings up the nearest airports.
The inaccuracy of this data could be critical in an emergency situation. When flying over difficult terrain, the only suitable emergency landing site may be a private airport that is not in the database. There is no warning or placard mentioning this potentially fatal deficiency in the receiver's operation.
Morrow's only excuse was the generic disclaimer that GPS should not be used as a sole means of navigation. It is unethical to include a known defective EMG function that could easily kill the pilot and passengers without a specific warning. Perhaps losing a lawsuit will improve their ethics.
Monday August 17 I flew down to Watsonville California (WVI) to attend a conference at Santa Cruz. Forecast weather was "serious VFR" all the way except for low clouds along the coast which should burn off in the afternoon. Since Watsonville is on the coast I selected San Martin (Q99), 24 miles south of San Jose, as an alternate destination.
The early morning takeoff was eerie in its smoothness.
I'm not used to such smooth flying that close to the ground.
There was something sensual and vaguely risque about it.
I was sorely tempted to shoot a few touch and gos in the tranquil air.
The picture above was taken over the Willamette Valley, which had pockets of ground fog early that morning.
Mt. Shasta in Northern California (minus UFOs) off Romeo's left wing
To avoid the high traffic areas around San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose (SJC) I flew down the Interstate 5 corridor to the Manteca VOR (Stockton) before making a right turn toward the coast. The forecast called for clear sky except for low clouds over the coast. ATC was reporting traffic delays into SFO. I could see the low clouds over the coast for which the San Francisco bay area is famous.
I passed a mile north of a 1500 foot television tower all by itself in the Santa Cruz hills. Unlike the antenna farm in the Portland West Hills, this tower was difficult to see until I was only a few miles away. One of these days someone is going to fly into it.
There was a large area of clear sky to the north of Watsonville that allowed me to cross the Santa Cruz Mountains. As I approached Watsonville a lady student pilot was practicing in the pattern. We were both making our announcements on the radio. I saw her take off and maneuvered to follow her in the pattern. She made more frequent announcements as she failed to spot me. Finally she asked if I had her in sight, and I told her I saw her take off.
Watsonville is a bit off the beaten path. Compared to San Jose or Orange County, the proportion of Piper Cubs and other interesting airplanes on the flight line is higher. People at Watsonville were friendlier than usual for an airport large enough to handle corporate jets. One pilot sported a Mr. Clean Tee-shirt to go with his Yul Brynner haircut. He left off the ear ring.
Originally I planned to start the return flight about 4 pm Thursday afternoon. The weather forecast wasn't as nice as it was Monday, so I decided to leave earlier.
Watsonville has a credit card fuel pump whose price is considerably less than that of fuel trucked to the airplane. When I removed the nozzle from the machine, the wind blew avgas into my face. I called for help and a fellow pilot guided me to a water hose so I could wash my eyes. Fortunately little if any avgas got into my eyes and my eyes were unhurt. Some of the avgas got into my shoes and that also stung, but I figured that wouldn't be a show stopper. The next day a rash appeared on my foot. In all this confusion the pump robot timed out so I had to re-enter my credit card.
The first part of the flight was uneventful except that I couldn't pick up the Manteca VOR because FM stations were jamming the receiver. Along the way I talked to a number of controllers. One lady controller seemed to be missing check-ins by some of the pilots. Some controllers are human, with a non zero error rate.
Further along in the flight a sigmet was issued for thunderstorms and hail in the Cascades. Ahead of me islands of towering cumulus appeared to the right, so I deviated left towards the coast. Near Chico a pilot reported extreme turbulence. I was flying at 14500 feet, enjoying a smooth ride. It's Better on Top. Through Northern California to Medford there was a valley of clear weather surrounded by low clouds on the Pacific coast and interesting convective activity over the Cascades.
South of Eugene I advised Seattle Center I was going to descend to remain legal (and safe) VFR. After some confusion on the ground I was handed off to another Seattle Center frequency. I advised the new controller of my impending descent. On the way down a Boeing 737, presumably climbing out of Eugene, passed within a mile or so without fanfare. Perhaps the 737 was talking to Cascade Approach, which controls the airspace near Eugene, while I was talking to Seattle center. Normally approaching traffic is called out several miles away, but the 737 was never mentioned. If I had been flying a little faster or on a slightly different course there could have been a conflict. I am reminded of the April 4 1998 midair over Marietta GA where one plane was in contact with Dobbins AFB Air Traffic Control Tower and the other plane was in contact with Atlanta Air Traffic Control.
A few hours after I landed at Hillsboro lightning and thunder reached the Portland area.
Monday afternoon the urge to fly returned. After evaluating a number of possible destinations, I decided to pay a return visit to the resturant at Salem's McNary field. Since the trips to Oshkosh and the Bay Area I've had all the cross country hours I'll need for an IFR rating, so now I fly where I please, even if it's less than 50 nm away.
The late afternoon air was ideal for an outside meal, where I learned a few tidbits about upcoming changes at the Salem airport and the development of a new light twin with improved safety based on Rutan's Boomerang design.
Returning to Hillsboro I made several stop-and-go landings until I was satisfied with the night landings. The only problem was finding the right parking place when the only lights were those shining in my face.
I'd met Lars several times at HIO. He was restoring a Saab trainer in a hangar near my tiedown. The last time I saw Lars fly he was taking his son for a ride in his SNJ. The very last time I saw him was at Oshkosh, where I didn't recognize him because he wasn't wearing his mechanic's overalls. I'd been warned that eventually a pilot I knew would auger in, but there is no way to prepare for such a loss.
Aerobatics are reasonably safe when the FAA rules are followed. Low level aerobatics and buzz jobs are bad for one's health.
Below: Cessna Skymaster on blocks at HIO
after pilot's seat slid back on touchdown.
The Mixmaster was totaled,
the pilot was not injured.
Couple drinks, change of drawers, good to go.
The NTSB report notes that the seat track airworthiness directive
for that aircraft had been complied with.
An FAA Airworthiness Inspector found no discrepancies
in the seat track or locking pin.
Some do not believe the crash was caused by mechanical failure.