Filling in the gaps on control surfaces

I was told recently that I should be putting covering material across any gaps in the hinge areas of my aircraft control surfaces. That seemed very superficial to me, so I put off making these changes for several weeks. However, after flying the Extra 260 today with these modifications I am a believer… at least for this type of plane and flying.

It seems that by putting covering material over all gaps between the wing and ailerons at the hinge line, and eliminating all air gaps from this area, the control inputs and flight characteristics of the Extra are much crisper and happen more quickly than before. I performed the same modifications on the elevators and horizontal stabilizers as well, and again the control inputs seem to be much more noticeable than they were previously. Only the rudder and vertical stabilizer went untouched.

The covering job for this area certainly wasn’t of the highest quality, but the end result speaks for itself. Where the Extra 260 once was docile and slow on low control rates with a gap between the surfaces, now control inputs are fast, crisp and very predictable. I wouldn’t have said that a 1/8th or 1/16th gap between surfaces would mean that much to overall flight performance but I saw and felt today that on aerobatic aircraft, every gap does indeed matter.

Extra 260 flies again

It has been more than a year, but the 30cc Extra 260 flew again this past weekend. I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to return, but a series of unfortunate events conspired to keep the airplane and I separated while it was repaired. Now, however, it seems to be close to full operational goodness, and I’m glad to have my hands on the controls again.

The T-28 is no more

It was bound to happen at some point, but today is the day the T-28 met its demise while flying in my hands. Fittingly, it was a mid-air collision with another T-28 (and another former Bayside member) that ended its flying days so abruptly. Seems there are some things that EPP foam just can’t recover from, and of course I found this out the hard way.

Goodbye ParkZone T-28, I’ll miss you.

T-34 Mentor No More

It was a fine plane and it outlasted nearly every other radio control craft I have yet owned, but today the T-34 sucumbed to less than skillful flying by yours truly and met its end upon high tension power lines.

The World Models T-34 Mentor would never win any beauty awards for scale looks or accurate renditions of the original airplane, but it was a hardy, reliable and very easy to fly craft. If not for some poor covering material that was shedding after years of faithful service it could have been one of the best planes ever built.

While it will never truly be replacable, I am sure there will be another plane to take its spot in the garage in the future.  Goodbye and farewell T-34, you will certainly be missed.

World Models T-34 Mentor
World Models T-34 Mentor

Flying for a Birthday

I decided to push the limits a bit for my birthday this year and see just how much airplane I could handle.  What I learned is that while I can probably fly a bigger, faster, more complicated airplane just fine it isn’t a walk in the park by any means.

This trip included a flight in a rare (for renters) bird indeed:  the Beech Mentor T-34A/B.  The flying club happens to have one and my CFI is checked out in it so we took it for an hour around the Half Moon Bay area.  What makes it tricky for me is the amount of “new” stuff it has: constant speed prop, manifold pressure, retractable landing gear, flaps, fuel pumps, 250+ HP and all sorts of tricky on the ground handling.  It was fast and slippery in the air and I felt like I was behind the the airplane whenever we had to change the flight configuration.  But while it was flying it was silky smooth and the best handling plane I’ve yet flown.

If it weren’t so expensive to fly (over $230 per hour) it would be a great plan to check out in and have in the back pocket to impress visitors.  As it is, in today’s flight dollars, the T-34 is a rare treat to experience when you can afford the ability to do so.  Definitely recommended to fly.

53158 more photos in the album

On Flying, Firefights and Fleeing

Just over a week has passed since I was RIF’d from my most recent job at AMD.  It is taking some getting used to waking up in the morning with no structured day or firm place to go.  On the plus side, I am using substantially less fuel than I was just a few weeks ago, so that must be good I guess.  In the meantime I continue to look around for what my next gig will be.

Next on the list of things to be worried about is my flying or lack thereof.  I’m at a point in my training where I must complete a written test before I can get any closer to getting my pilot’s license.  It’s a bear, since it is an array of questions, numbers, arithmetic and other stuff that I have to know cold before I go in and take the test.  I’m getting better, but rote memorization has never been my strong point.

Finally, I’ve used my abundance of spare time to go around the house and fix just about everything that is doable by myself.  With that complete I’ve spent a lot of time visiting Liberty City (in GTA4) and Turkfrackistan (in BF: Bad Company).  Sadly, neither of these locations helps me either exercise, meet women or get a tan.  I do get to meet new and interesting people, then shoot them, so it does have some perks.

the 86 file

Almost There, Sort Of

If my calculations are correct after this past weekends cross country flight I now have 133.6 flight hours, 6.5 night hours, 19.4 PIC hours and 3.2 hours of simulated instrument training with all of my required flying done ahead of the written and flight test for the Private Pilot Certificate.  This is good news, of a sort, since it means that the first major phase of flight training is nearing an end.  And with AvGas at nearly $5.90 a gallon it couldn’t happen soon enough.

I now have to do a few more brush up flights to stay frosty, start figuring out my plan of attack on the written test, take one more check-ride with another instructor then it’s off to the final flight test and oral test.  Normally this would make people happy but I am going to take it easy and make sure everything goes smoothly.  It’s been a long road to get to this point and there is no reason to blow it at this last stage.

Two Cross Country Flights in the Books

I have now completed two-thirds (or 2 out of 3) of the FAA required cross country flights and am closing in on my private pilot’s license (properly known as a Private Ticket).  This flight was a bit more difficult than the previous in one in that I had to fly somewhere I’d never been; I had to deal with a very busy flight corridor around SJC airport; I had light and variable chop coming over the mountain ridges; The crosswinds at the airports were very challenging; And it was over 90 F in the cockpit the entire time.  I did however get brave enough somewhere over Watsonville to snap a few photos just to prove I was there.

Micah-PIC  The Marine Layer over Monterey Bay.

One Step Closer to PIC

This weekend I completed another milestone in the flight training regimen: a cross country (50+ miles from the home airport) flight with only me at the controls of the aircraft.  I chose an airport that I had visited previously, Modesto (KMOD), and it was a pretty uneventful flight.  I didn’t get lost and I didn’t use the GPS (mostly) to find my way there.  All in all it was very straightforward.

One down, two more and a bunch of little procedural stuff to go before that private ticket is mine.

Screaming Childeren Make Any Flight Longer

I took one of the last flights home last night from Austin. As is AA’s custom, they placed two rows of children around me on this journey. Normally I just put in the headphones and deal with the problem, however on this flight some of the children decided they needed to be rowdy and play up and down the aisles during most of the flight. This left me and most of the passengers near the front of the plane (no business class for me) to be forever vigilant about our arms, elbows, and any items we had on our trays.

What really made this flight tough (at 3 1/2 hours long) was not just the playing kids (and by playing I mean obnoxious running around, tearing papers and pulling things off trays) but the screaming kids that simply wouldn’t pipe down no matter what their mothers offered them. If ever there was a advertisement for why birth control is needed, this flight was it.

I must restate my request that some airline flights should really be reserved for business people, or at least give us the option to pay a bit more to keep the kids off some routes. By the end of the flight I wanted to see how much it would cost to fly myself home as I really didn’t like the torture that I received from this flight.

AA MD-82 Jet