Saturday, May 20, 2017

N712MF 3.4 XC to Rio Linda (L36) for Sonex fly-in

I've always wanted to fly into a Sonex fly-in at Rio Linda (L36). With my wife and son off for the weekend at a camping retreat, this was my chance.

I booked one of the Evektor SportStars, N188EV. I also made a mount for my iPad to a RAM suction cup (yes I know they sell these but I didn't have the time and I like to build stuff), and prepared to take my Airball demo with me to show people.

I got up early and had breakfast (huevos rancheros) at a local taqueria on the way. I got to the airport, calculated W&B (N188EV is not a SportStar MAX so its max gross weight is below the LSA limit), preflighted the plane, packed everything, and got ready to tow.

Oops, the right wheel was dragging.

Out came our A&P, who clicked something and fixed it.

I continued on to fuel the plane, get in, start up, taxi, and do my runup.

On the way to hold short, the right wheel seemed heavy again. By the time I was near the hold short line, it was all seized up so good and proper that the airplane would not budge even at full throttle.

Yay, I was officially a "disabled aircraft".

The authorities were called, and our A&P came out again, and once more clicked whatever he clicked, but now there was no flying this thing. He taxied it back to the shop and I rode back to the FBO with the airport crew.

While on the runup area, a 6-seater Cherokee was coming towards us. I was like, oh, they are going around so they are offsetting to the right. But they were not moving in my line of sight. But they were growing bigger. I was like, O. M. G. They are going to land on the taxiway. OMG OMG OMG. The plane whizzed above our heads at an incredibly close distance, sailed off down the taxiway, touched down for a second, then lifted off again. Later on the radio, I could hear the pilot being told, "possible pilot deviation", and given a number to call. Yikes. :(

The other SportStar, N712MF, had been booked today, but I noticed the reservation had been canceled. Wow. I booked it for the day and did some thinking....

By that time, it was almost noon, and the huevos rancheros were pretty well digested. I was very tired, it was extremely hot, and the SportStar canopy on the ground is basically a greenhouse.Was I ready to do an XC? Really?

I had some coffee, lots of cold water, and a granola bar. I felt better. Good, even. But something still worried me. The gods of aviation demanded a sacrifice, lest "mission mentality" -- the insistence on sticking to the original plan come hell or high water -- be my downfall. I would not be the first pilot to fall prey to this, unfortunately. But what could go?

I decided the Airball demo was going to stay home. No demonstrating of flakey electronics to people. no searching for a place to plug in my equipment. No extra stuff rattling around in the back of the plane. Nothing to think about except getting to L36 and back without hitting anything. That seemed like a reasonable simplification, and so I preflighted N712MF and off I went.

To start with, I asked for closed traffic and did two landings for practice. It's been a while since I've flown, and I would hate to flub a landing in front of the crew of onlookers at a fly-in -- or be worried about it. My first landing was a bit of a bump because I flared a tiny bit too high; the second was silky smooth. Nice. I asked for my departure and flight following, and off I went.

The trip was uneventful. Except for the behavior of my electronics. My iPad (with Foreflight on it) would cut out randomly due to overheating. It failed to charge from my USB adapter. It was hard to read in the sunlight. My Android phone, which had Avare on it as a backup EFB, ran out of battery unexpectedly and died. I really really wished I were just using paper charts and VORs.

The Central Valley was very bumpy, and near Sacramento it was even more so. I made a pretty okay landing though. Again, this was the same technique I've been practicing: fly to the point where I can cut power, trying to estimate where that is, then cut power and fly an idle (or near-idle) glideslope. Keep approach speed until just before the runway, then fly down the runway at zero feet and flare, flare flare flare, ..., scritch! and land. It works really really well.

Of course there was a whole line of hangar flyers with their chairs set up in a row, drinking beer. I was glad that I had practiced these landings!

Everyone was, as usual, very nice. I was too late for lunch but had some excellent ribs that were left over. I checked out some really cool planes.

The way back was again uneventful, save for the unreliability of my electronics. This time my iPad was failing to connect to the Wi-Fi from my Stratux, so I had to reboot the iPad to get things to work. Yeesh.

My landing at KRHV was pretty good.

Overall, I'd say this was a pretty cool adventure. For my first XC in a long, long time, it was pretty awesome actually. But my EFB (iPad, ...) situation left something to be desired.

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