Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Annual Progress

The annual is well under way at MaintenancExpress / Tri-Valley aviation in Livermore.  I dropped it off Sunday night and from the sound of it the fellas were well into it before I even woke up Monday morning.

So far the biggest thing is a broken exhaust hangar on the left engine... how the heck did that happen?

That doesn't look pretty, but doesn't sound like too big a deal cost wise... it all ads up though!  No idea if this is under warranty.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Annual Time

Today I dropped the plane off for the annual inspection.  Hard to believe it's been a year since I put the new engines on.  The plane has basically been totally transformed since I bought it, new leather interior, reskinned elevator, double firewall forward job including engines, exhausts, mounts, props, etc.  New panel with G500, GTN-750, GTN-650 and GTS-800 traffic radar.  I had a nice 3.7 hour flight before dropping it off, it was cool to hear ATC call traffic to a Saratoga driver and tell him that a Baron would be passing off his left, 80 kts faster..  Are Saratoga's really that slow?  In any event I'm hopeful the annual goes smoothly and since everything should be in tip top shape at this point I think this should be indicative of what an annual on a clean, well maintained and low time 55 Baron should cost.  Fingers crossed...

Monday, August 20, 2012

2 hour rule

This weekend we had planned a little family camping trip to Mendocino, a friend was having 100 odd people out for camping, mountain biking, and general fun romping through beautiful forests filled with 400 ft high coastal redwoods.  Easy flight, only 110 miles by air which is 45 minutes max.  I planned it out, figured out the fog patterns for KLLR which would put us an easy 20 minute drive from the site, coordinated a shuttle and we were good to go... the morning rolled around and I dutifully loaded the car with the stuff my darling wife had sourced for the trip... for our two night camping excursion I spent the next hour stuffing the car with enough stuff for a family of ten to survive an Alaskan winter.

We had the biggest of big suitcases stuffed with clothes, all manner of sleeping bags, thermarests, lanterns and stuffed animals, bags of food and booze, pillows and lord knows what else.  Once we had it loaded and set out for the airport I made the mistake of thinking... gee, my plane can easily fit it all, but did I really want to unload/load the stuff I had just loaded?  And then 45 mins later unload/load it yet again into the shuttle?  And then unload/load it from the shuttle to the campsite?  Maybe it would be easier to just have the car there...  it was then I uttered the words a pilot should never utter... "Maybe we should just drive".

The next 5 hours were spent in miserable bumper to bumper traffic, road construction delays, "are we there yet" inquiries, peepee stops and the worst... multiple child vomit launches induced by 2.5 hours of two lane, curvy roads that would make even the most stalwart acro pilot sick.  There I was, kicking myself the whole way wondering what kind of idiot signs up for this when he has a perfectly amazing magic carpet sitting in the hangar.  Now I have a dust covered and filthy puke smelling car and for my trouble I burned an equivalent amount of gas.  New family rule... if it's more than 2 hrs weather permitting, we FLY damnit!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A day in the life

A few years ago I somehow managed to con the FAA out of a commercial rating, but I'd never used it. Truth is, there is very little you actually do with a commercial rating, short of banner towing or flight instructing.  Once it's time to carry passengers the rules generally fall into different set of FAA regs, either part 135 for commercial charter or 121 for airline travel.  An exception that keeps things under part 91 is if an owner operator operates their own aircraft in pursuit of their own business, they can hire a commercial pilot to facilitate that.  A friend of mine works for a law firm that has a Cheyenne, a 401 and a Bonanza A36 which they use to shuttle their high power lawyers around the state to various municipalities to blast the local podunk lawyer to smithereens.  Yesterday they needed an extra pilot so I got the call, took a PTO day from work and got to be a commercial pilot for a day.  It was a great learning experience and gave me some perspective on real world work a day pilot life.  Basically it's what you'd expect, a lot of flying and a lot of waiting around.

First mission was to drop lawyer one off at Fresno Chandler Executive.  Woke up at 5:30 got everything planned and the airplane ready to have him down there by 8:30.  Easy mission as it was VFR all the way, although it was already 92 degrees on the ground there before 9am.  I had some time before the next mission, so I grabbed breakfast in the new little cafe there called "Tailspin Tommy's"  which was sadly deserted, but they make a pretty good omelette.   Eventually an old timer came in and we got to chatting and he had quite a history as a navy fighter pilot in Korea, a solar business owner, a civil engineer, a professor, an amateur historian and was sitting in the cafe there working on his memoir.  He owned a Debonair and was a fascinating guy, wish I could remember his name ;(

Next mission, back to Concord to get attorney number two for drop off at Eureka Arcata airport.  Ceiling was 400 ft and visibility 1 mile.  Went VFR most of the way and then got a popup IFR clearance from Seattle center.  The landing turned out to be no problem, got the LPV which has 200 ft minimums and broke out at 400 ft.  I parked next to the freight dogs and dropped off my passenger.

Now I had some time to kill while he went and did his deposition.  Hmmm, might as well go fly and shoot some approaches in actual IFR, so I filed for Arcata and took off.  I came around for the first approach got the weather, an to my dismay it had significantly deteriorated in the 20 minutes or so since I had taken off.  The field was now reporting 200 ft ceilings and 1/4 mile vis.  Oh no, what if I couldn't get back in?  I decided if I could land I would, however I got down to minimums and couldn't see the runway, so I made a missed approach.  Actually that was my first real missed approach to minimums ever.  I went missed and did the hold, then went back around for another try.  Luckily the second time I caught the RAIL lights and then saw the runway at minimums so I landed.  Had lunch in the airport terminal and waited around for 2 hours.  Got my passenger eventually and blasted off IFR for Concord.

All in all a fun day as well as a little taste of the real world.  I spend my days sitting in meetings and hacking on computers, which for me doesn't really feel much like work and I get paid well to do it.  Conversely this was a solid 12 hour tiring day to make about enough money to pay for dinner... but it sure was fun.