Monday, September 15, 2008

Honeymoon Suite

Maine, it turns out, has mosquitoes. They're not the northern Canada swarms where naked skin instantly has a density of at least one mosquito per square centimetre, and they're not very big, but they do manage to land, saw little holes in me, and steal my blood while I'm post-flighting. They're pretty slow, though. I kill lots.

Other than a water bottle behind the seat there's nothing out of order. All the exhaust stack springs are attached with no disruption to their sealing. The propeller is pristine. So pristine that--and this is embarrassing--I notice for the first time that there is plastic film on the nickel edges of the propeller. You know how when you buy a new digital watch or a new cellphone there is a plastic film over the face so it doesn't get scratched in transit? It's just like that. Some people remove the plastic film right away and others insist that the film and the inspection and certification stickers are parts of the product and refuse to remove them. Apparently the manufacturer is one of those. The film adheres closely to the propeller, and as the propeller is up above my head level, my inspection is largely tactile. The change in texture at the film coincides with the change of texture between nickel and composite, so I've managed not to notice it's there until now. Perhaps today there are more wrinkles in it than there were before.

I finish my inspection of the airplane, but the mosquitoes are still busy inspecting me, so I unload our gear and head inside. The FBO is a little flying school with couches and posters and old magazines that aren't about things for people with way too much money. I spot a Montreal chart in the case. It's the one we're missing for tomorrow's flight, and I ask to purchase it. Someone on the couch tells me they're closed, but someone on a different couch says he'll sell me one anyway. It then turns out that I don't have the US cash to buy it, so I have to wait for Lite Flyer. Meanwhile they tell me stories about someone with the exact same type of airplane who flipped it in a lake near here. He was scud running in low cloud and high winds then decided he'd better put down and attempted a downwind landing on the water. He was uninjured.

Lite Flyer will never do that. I don't think she will ever push the weather, and she is very aware of wind direction. On one approach I remember getting the ATIS and the tower clearance and joining a right downwind as directed. She saw what I was doing and said, "shouldn't we join a left downwind?" already aware of standard traffic rules, but not that control tower instructions override standards. I explained and then she said, "we'll be landing with a crosswind." This was back on the first day and I wasn't expecting someone who had never listened to an aviation radio before to hear the ATIS wind, hear the assigned runway and correctly do the math. Turns out that's not what she did. She'd used the much more basic technique of looking out the window and interpreting the effect of wind on water and vegetation. I think she may be better than me at it. I do use such cues to confirm ground reports of wind, but she's clearly had good instruction in the importance and practice of knowing the wind.

Everyone here is concerned about the fact that we are buying Maine auto gas, which contains by law ten per cent ethanol. The manufacturer told us that up to ten per cent was fine, but the folks here contradict that. It's an interesting challenge that Lite Flyer will have with her airplane: sorting out what people say. She should certainly listen to the advice of more experienced pilots, but how to sort knowledge from lore and superstition? With a certified airplane, the manufacturer has the last word and it may be so far as illegal to operate the airplane other than in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. For this airplane it's a good start, but a manufacturer in Florida will not be the one to go to for advice in operating this engine during a Canadian winter. For now I just thank people for their advice and continue to do what we were advised by the manufacturer. I will tell Lite Flyer before I leave her to her airplane that there may be other safe fuels for this engine, but that she will have to do some research.

And of course people find it necessary to tell us there's a hurricane come. I smile and say yes, it's been chasing us all the way from Florida. I'm still amazed that this thing isn't giving up. It's supposed to hit Halifax on Sunday.

Lite Flyer returns and we fuel the airplane, with the assistance of a pilot who has been in our situation, and is paying it forward. He was ferrying an airplane up the coast but had the usual luck of such endeavours, rather than the phenomenal everything-going-right luck that Lite Flyer and I have had. It's funny to see that she doesn't even realize how lucky we are. This pilot says he was three days in one place for mechanical and two days in another for weather, and that people just helped him out. That's pretty typical of aviation, I'm proud and happy to say. I can't think of a time I've had a problem and been met with a "your tough luck" attitude.

He knows the local hotels and gets us a rate at a nearby one that is on his way home. It is acting as the venue for a geezers' motorcycle convention, so we get the only room available, the luxury double with fireplace. At double the price of a recent excellent hotel, the room does not impress.

I lay out the charts on the floor in order to examine tomorrow's route. This one especially we can't just "wing" as we have to file a flight plan and a customs arrival report for the proper time. Charts have names. We're on the New York chart now, our destination is on the Moncton chart, and I've just bought the one that fits in between, Montreal. But they don't match. New York lines up with the southern edge of Montreal just as I would expect, but there is at least 30 degrees of longitude missing between Montreal and Moncton. I line up the 44th parallel on both charts and then the Montreal chart ends at the 69W meridian, while the Moncton chart barely goes west of the 68W meridian. I'm missing most of the terrain between the 68W and 69W meridians, about the width those two charts are set apart. I look again at the diagram that shows which charts cover which areas. Montreal is supposed to fit right against Moncton. And then I realize what's wrong. The Montreal VNC fits right against Moncton. I have the Montreal sectional, the American chart. They've given it the same name, and apparently there wasn't any American centre on the whole chart worthy of having a chart named after it, so they named it after the large Canadian city. The next chart over, I notice now, is called Halifax in the American version. And it doesn't cover quite the same area as the Canadian Moncton chart. This is actually a flight safety issue worthy of attention by Nav Canada and the American equivalent. Anyone know whom I should write?

It's not an insurmountable obstacle. I just like to have the right charts. I finish my planning without them and go to bed. We do not use the fireplace.


Anonymous said...

It's a game to find, but Sectionals and Terminals have a "reporting chart errors" box hidden somewhere. It's like a game of Where's Waldo? (Similar to finding VFR reporting points anyway ;) )

I'll copy here what it says on my LA Sectional and LA TAC. On the TAC the box was found on the same side as the chart name, effective dates and barcode.
The sectional had it up by Northeast corner next to Warning Area and Restricted Area information, near a box explaining MEF's

You are requested to inform us of chart errors and/or additions that come to your attention while using this chart. Telephone toll free at 1-800-626-3677, or email us at [ed. note, this may or may not be region specific] Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are answered on our website at . See the FAQs prior to contact via toll free number or email. Where delineation of data is required such information should be depicted clearly and accurately on a current chart, a replacement cop will be returned. Mail to: FAA, National Aeronautical Charting Office, ATO-W, SSMC- 4, Sta. #2335, 1305 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3281"

Not sure about Canada, but I'm sure hidden somewhere is a similar box.


david said...

The U.S. also has a Halifax sectional that fits nicely against their Montreal sectional.

My trick for dealing with stuff like this is always to have copies of the WACs in my bag as backups. The detail isn't as good, as you know, but there's still enough to spot the high terrain and airports. The U.S. WACs are updated as frequently as their Sectionals (unlike the Canadian WACS, which haven't been touched for over a decade).

dpierce said...

Not directly on topic, but this article over at, and the associated readers' comments, discusses the use of the term "Aviatrix", and whether or not it's appropriate. Emotions are strong things.

Was it likely anyone ever intentionally booked that room for their Honeymoon?

david said...

Since the Salon article has closed its comments, and this posting doesn't have too many, I'll follow up on dpierce's interesting link.

When I was in university in the 80's, we spent a lot of time worrying about subtleties of gender and language -- when I try to explain how important that stuff seemed to people 25 years ago, my adolescent daughters have the same tolerant, puzzled smile that I put on to listen to a crazy person on the street.

Did all that shouting, agonizing, apologizing, analyzing, etc. about inclusive language then make things any easier for them today?

My younger daughter insists that when she plays Little League, she's a first baseman, not a first base person/player/fielder etc. I'm sure that my older daughter, who's taking flying lessons, would be proud to be called an aviatrix in tribute to the pioneering women of the 1920s and 30s -- the fact that it sounds a bit risqué wouldn't hurt either.

dpierce said...

Not to further hijack a thread (but here I go), a girl - who - is - a - friend of mine considers a word such as "actor" to be a generic form of a word, applying to either sex. She feels that "actress" is distinguished in that it identifies her by gender. She considers us poor males unlucky that we only have the "generic forms" to use for ourselves.

(But should would find "first basewoman" to be pretentious -- I just asked.)

Anonymous said...

Some weather conditions on the ground can differ from those reported by satellite or radar. Colorado pilots can view current weather conditions on Airport View for several small airports. Another installation is planned for late September at Pagosa Springs, CO.

Anonymous said...

If your aircraft has a Rotax 912ULS - I think you said somewhere it does - then it can run on Avgas. Oil change intervals reduce to 25 hours from memory. My preference is only to use Avgas under duress in those engines. However ethanol in Mogas is an issue that I think is more concerning. The engines don't like it, often fuel tanks don't like it - if they are plastic or composite; the sealant used in some tanks doesn't like it; fuel lines and other small bits of rubber and plastic in the system don't like it. Electric fuel pumps are prone to problems with ethanol

In addition, because of the water issues it is obviously not ideal when you want an engine to run reliably. Finally with 10% ethanol the fuel has around 3% less energy so you won't go as far on a tank. Oh and if you have a capacitive fuel gauge sensor it no longer works accurately with ethanol in the fuel.

It all makes 100LL seem OK from time to time.

Loving the blog.


Callsign Echo said...

I'm a little confused as to why automotive gas would ever be preferable...isn't the principal difference between avgas and mogas the octane rating and percent of ethanol?

lol, I don't think it would matter if you kept going up to Greenland! I think Fay is determined to get you.

nec Timide said...

The amount of lead in 100LL (100 octane low lead) is much higher than was even in 80/87 aviation gas. The down side for engines designed to run on 80/87 is plug and valve guide fouling over time that can be taken care of by some operational changes and maintenance. For engines designed to run on lead free fuel the fouling can become severe very quickly.

I remember when 100LL was widely available in the US but not yet in Canada. A local FBO bought a new 152 with an engine that was designed to run on 100LL but they had to fuel it with 100/105. The plugs had to be cleaned every 2-10 hours depending on how it was operated. I hate to think what the valve guides looked like.

Where the manufacturer allows up to 10% ethanol I would be as inclined as Light Flyer to go that extra mile to avoid the potential long term issues of using leaded fuel, even if only rarely.

david said...

(1) Mogas is preferable not only because it doesn't have lead, but because it's cheaper.

(2) With 100LL, you *have* to lean the engine very aggressively during ground operations -- that's probably what caused the lead-fouling problems for the 152. It's also a good idea to lean a lot during flight. I fly my Warrior LOP-WOT, and my plugs are still clean at the 50 hour oil change (plus I burn 15-20% less gas for the same speed).

nec Timide said...

Your right Dave, ground leaning and running LOP may have worked on that 152, doing either of those things would have earned one an evil rep and re-training in those days.

Engine operation has has changed a lot in the 30 years I've been flying. Back then lead in fuel was a given and we (or at least I) didn't think too much about the implications of it. Conventional wisdom was that excessive leaning would destroy an engine. Mind you few people flew anywhere at less than maximum cruise power.

Now I think more people are operating well below 75% power and lean aggressively on the ground and in cruise. The engines, even those that entered service 30 years ago, seem to be lasting longer as well.

The only downsides I see to automotive gas in airplanes are: long term fuel stability (but just another reason to fly more often); high altitude performance (I doubt will ever be an issue for Light Flyer); ethanol content. For the last, newer machines should be able to accept some ethanol, and even my 2003 car is only speced for 15%.

I'm glad you can run your Warrior LOP. I wish the O360 in my Cherokee was as accommodating.