Monthly Archives: September 2015

I hit a bird

Turkey Vulture vs Comanche

The particulars:

  • N8244P: 1964 Comanche 180.
  • TTAF: ~3200
  • SMOH ~900
  • STOH ~60

comanche-at-dons-shopI was descending out of 4000 about 12 miles south of KOCF, setting up for the ILS 36 approach, when a big black turkey vulture dove into my path and I chopped it up with the prop. Blood and guts everywhere. The right wing suffered some minor damage from the chunks hitting the leading edge. I think the worst part was when I realized I could not avoid the bird. I had just a split second to yank the yoke to the left and the bird hit the prop at about the 2 o’clock position. I think that saved me as the prop chewed it up and threw most of it down and to the right, away from the cockpit. The insurance company wants a tear down and inspection. The craft is now with my trusted mechanic Don and getting a tear down and inspection.

I guess the silver lining is that I did not die. Things could have gone way worse on this one. I was at 24 square in a descent at about 160 kts. That bird could have blasted through my windshield and disabled me with a much worse outcome.   Another silver lining, and perhaps the best one, is that a mechanic I really trust is doing the repairs. Some days I think someone is looking out for me. I have done so many foolish things that I should have long ago won a Darwin award. Yet here I am.

Converting to a Major Overhaul

I was really worried that my stabilator was damaged but none found. After a few conversations with Don, I am going to pay the extra and turn this into a major overhaul.  The prop is going out for inspection and repair, possibly overhaul. I will have to ask Don which is happening. It has maybe 100 hours on it. There was no visible damage I could see but always better safe than sorry.

Engine parts OK – somewhat

The engine is all apart. The good news is that the bottom end of the engine, factory new in 1975 ish, containing the crank and cam all looks good. The top end, which was recently overhauled – the cylinders, pistons, and rods etc, seems to be less than stellar workmanship.

AD needs to be done

While Don was tearing through the engine he also looked at the logs and discovered an AD – Airworthiness Directive that had not been done.

DATE: January 30, 2003 Service Bulletin No. 475C
(Supersedes Service Bulletin No. 475B)
Engineering Aspects are
FAA Approved
SUBJECT: Crankshaft Gear Modification and Assembly Procedures
MODELS AFFECTED: All Lycoming direct drive piston aircraft engines (including VO-360 and
IVO-360; excepting O-320-H, O-360-E, LO-360-E, TO-360-E, LTO-360-E,
and TIO-541 series engines).
TIME OF COMPLIANCE: During overhaul, after a propeller strike, or whenever crankshaft gear removal is required.

The infamous gear now in compliance with the scalloped edges.  As explained by my Mechanic “This pic is of the infamous AD crank gear. You will see the scalloped flange. It used to be solid round. The idea of the AD is so you can confirm that the gear is flush and tight on the crank by being able to slip a feeler gauge into the scalloped area to confirm it is flush with the end of the crank...”

AD complied

AD complied








New Crank or Not?

inspected-camMr. Don, my mechanic and I have been discussing reusing my existing cam and buying a new one. The plan was to buy a new one and if my existing came back with a yellow tag, we would sell it on eBay for someone looking for a used cam.  Don had a conversation with the shop that did my existing cam shaft and the shop owner stated that the failure rate is negligible between new and resurfaced cams.  The final point that was the clincher that made me decide to use the existing cam was that my existing cam is tried and true – we know it is good it already ran 900 hours without issue. Odds are that it will continue to perform just a good as a new one. In fact because it has already been stressed and found to sustain – it is just as likely to last as a new one.


The process of putting the engine back together was slow and careful.  Each part after thorough inspection was then carefully put back into the engine case and properly fitted.  The assembly took a couple of days and then installing the engine on the plane a few more days.  This is not a process to be rushed.







Pulling the Dent

A chunk of the bird hit the leading edge of the right wing. leaving a golf ball sized dent.   The mechanic used a drill and dent puller to pull the dent back out.  Then some body filler and paint to smooth it out.  he also repainted the leading edge so it was pretty much invisible.















Plane all back together 1/1/2016

After three months of waiting, the plane is back together and looking good.   The engine is running great and the dent is gone.  Hopefully no more issues for a while.



Our Summer Trip 2015 – Part 5

Departing Memphis, Heading to Nashville

The stop in Memphis was too short.  I really hope we get to go back and see more of this city. I especially want to go back to Beale street and try some of the other venues.   So with a full tummy we departed Memphis and turned north eastward to Nashville.  The flight took a little over an hour and provided us with some relaxing views of ever-growing mountainous terrain.

Our timing with John Tune could not have been better.  I called the airport a few weeks before our arrival to confirm fuel and tie down fees.  The nice young lady at the FBO informed me that the airport was closed for construction until august 10th at noon.  We landed at about 2 pm that day.   Only some of the taxi ways were open and we had to back taxi to get off the runway and then follow signs through a maze to park at the FBO.

Landing at John Tune from the West

Once we got clear of the airport and met up with our friend Joe, we had a lovely evening of socializing, drinking and smoking cigars on the front porch of the rectory.  Oh yeah, our friend Joe is on his way to becoming a priest.  His summer assignment put him at a local church in Nashville and we stayed with him at the church rectory.

Edleys-bbq-nashvilleWe all got a bit hungry and decided we needed dinner. Joe suggested a local place called Edley’s BBQ.  It did not disappoint. The food is served cafeteria style and includes a bar with local micro-brews.   I tried a few really good local brews and had some delicious brisket. I have to say the place was doing a brisk business and had quality eats.  This made for a really great stay in Nashville as it added to the fun of the trip.

After our visit we once again packed into the plane and flew off to Crossville Tennessee KCSV to visit more family.  Crossville is a golf mecca. If your thing is golf this town has everything for that.  One of the more unique experiences is the local flea market every first weekend of the month.  The whole main street of the town is taken over with flea market tents and vendors sell their wares up and down the street.   It is a really unique experience and made for a pleasant visit.

Leaving Crossville and Flying to Spartanburg

My wife had a business conference in Greensboro.  We made arrangements for her to meet her mother in Spartanburg TN as I had to get back to work the following day.  We departed Crossville early in the morning and flew over the smoky mountains. I finally understand where they got that name.  The valleys are full of low lying clouds, which gives the appearance of smoke in the valleys.


Link to the route on SkyVector

The flight over the mountains was about as picturesque as one could imagine.  The peaks and valleys made for some terrific pictures.  We flew over the mountains at about 9500 feet to make sure we had sufficient clearance over all the peaks.  ATC wanted us to climb up even higher. The only part that surprised me was how close Spartanburg airport seemed  to the southern side of the mountains.  Just a soon as we cleared the range to the south I had to put the plane in a descent to get us down to the altitude of the airport.   We saw some pretty high ground speeds as I descended into Spartanburg.

Crossville to Spartanburg

Nice airport there at Spartanburg.  The ground crew was very helpful and the fuel was reasonably priced.  Once I dropped off my wife and said goodbye, I climbed back in the plane for that last long leg all the way back to Ocala.    This part of the flight proved to be a bit more tricky.  Summer storms blew in over Tallahassee and then made a mess of the middle of the state all the way from southern Georgia to Ocala.

I used flight following on this leg and I am glad I did so.  As I was crossing over the southern border of Georgia, I could see huge thunderstorms ahead pouring out their fury right in my flight path.  Jacksonville Approach diverted me to the west coast and I flew home right behind the big storms.  This made for some unusual cloud formations that I have rarely seen.

Link to the route on SkyVector

Last 25 Minutes Coming Into Ocala

This concludes the Summer 2015 trip.  We had a great time.

The Numbers (Best Guess):

  • Total Distance: 2685nm
  • Flight Time: 23 hours
  • Fuel: 233 gallons

The Entire Route on Skyvector

Summer 2015 full route

Our Summer Trip 2015 – Part 4

After Oshkosh

As they say all good things must come to an end. Oshkosh was much fun and I am glad I got the experience.   I have high hopes that I will go again next year.  There is so much more to see and I really need the whole week to see everything.   The Airshow was exceptional each day.  I got to see some rare and exotic military aircraft, ate some good food and chatted with lots of pilots from all over the nation.

I ended up staying an extra night in Portage due to bad weather. The storms were really big and strong just to the south so I opted to stay on the ground an extra day and go early the next morning.  After another good meal and a solid night’s rest St Louis Arch Southbound on the Mississippiin Portage, I packed up the plane and flew back to St. Louis, where I landed at KCPS St. Louis Downtown.  One fun moment was the approach to the airport.  I was flying south, descending and was instructed to land on runway 12 by entering a left base. This approach put me right down the Mississippi river and gave me a great view of the arch.   Just after I snapped this pic the plane was forced straight up about 200 feet from a thermal.  Stuff went flying all over the cabin. Seems there is a giant turbine with big fans blowing straight up right there.  Scared me a bit, but I landed just fine without incident.

I spent the night there in St. Louis with the wife and the next morning we flew out to Arkansas to go camping.  We selected the Petit jean State Park camping site because they had an airport right next door.   The park is right next to the Arkansas river sitting up on a bluff high above the rest of the valley.

Link to the Route on Skyvector

Route from St. Louis to Petit-Jean


We did not go straight to the camp as we needed to stock up for the outing.  I called ahead to the airport in the next town called Russellville Regional KRUE to let them know we were coming, and to request the use of the crew car to go shopping at the local grocery store.   We landed after a couple hours of very warm flight.  The airport manager met us and gave us the keys to the crew car.  Nice folks there at Russellville.  I highly recommend the stop and patronage if you are in the area.

I picked Russellville, not only for the good name, but also because there was a Wal-Mart super center only a few miles away.  This made getting the groceries and other supplies we needed for camping very easy.  By planning ahead to pick up supplies here we did not have to cart a bunch of extra weight with us all the way from Florida.

We departed out of Russellville and flew to the Petit jean Airport.  It was a hot day and we were pretty close to max weight between all our supplies and food.  The climb out was slow, but steady and after a short climb I turned us on course and we flew to Petit jean.  The landscape along the way was really lush and green.  Lots of low hill, farmland and forest all mixed together and intertwined with rivers.  Very pretty country.

Camping at Petit Jean

Petit jean State park is located on top of a hill.  If you watch the video above you will see the Arkansas river borders this sudden change in elevation where the park resides on top.   It looked like someone built a huge mound and then sliced off the top and made it flat.  Very unique geography.

A YurtThe camping experience was not quite what we hoped.  Maybe it was just too hot and uncomfortable, or perhaps it was a bit too rustic.  We opted to stay in a yurt down on the lake front.  My logic was that we did not need to bring a tent, we would have electricity and gas cooking grill and bunk beds provided, so all we needed was food and clothes.   Unfortunately we were really far from everything else in the camp.  With the exceptional heat it was very hard to get about and sleeping at night was hot and sticky to say the least.  Next time we will book a cabin with A/C, or come here in the fall when it is cooler.  After four days of camping we departed Petit-Jean and headed for Memphis to visit some friends and have some BBQ.

Departing Petit-jean

We departed Petit jean on a hot day.  As you will see from the video above the Comanche did not climb all that well and I had to turn out from the rising terrain to avoid skimming the trees.  Really pretty flight all the way over to Memphis.  The rapidly changing geography made for some delightful scenery as we headed east towards the Mississippi river. There was one small moment of excitement. As we approached Searcy Municipal KSRC at about 3500 feet I spotted a flight of two C130 military transports flying a southerly route that would intersect ours.  I climbed up a bit and tuned to the local CTAF.  We were within a mile or less of each other when I heard them calling and was able to let them know where we were so that we avoided each other easily.  ATC must have warned them of our presence and they finally tuned in to talk to me.

Link to the Route on SkyVector

Landing at General Dewitt-Spain

The flight to Memphis took just about an hour.  I planned Dewitt Spain airport as it was closest to downtown, which made for easy access.    For some reason I still had it in my head that the Mississippi river was something romantic.  In reality it is one dirty water river that often goes over the banks and threatens all the towns along it’s shores. It demands respect.  While in the FBO at Dewitt Spain I saw a sign on the wall that showed how high the water had come in the last flood.  It was above the front door.  Basically the entire bottom floor of the building was underwater.  Quite a sobering reminder of the power of nature.

John and Tre AngottiWe met up with our friend and I took him and his son out for a fly in the Comanche.  I always enjoy introducing folks to the fine art of flying.  We went out over the city and around his home.  I let him take the controls after a few minutes of flight basics and he did pretty good maneuvering the plane around. I had to redirect them once as we were headed right into the Memphis Bravo.  Overall I would call the flight A success as he came back asking all sorts of questions about how to get his own plane and get a pilot’s licence.   Job complete, seed planted.

Memphis BBQ

Blues City Cafe bbqAfter that introduction to flight we ventured down to Beale street and went to the Blues City Cafe for some great BBQ.    Beale street is a unique experience with restaurants galore and music coming out of every doorway.  The swell of people, the mixture of food aromas and the sounds of blues playing made for one powerfully nostalgic trip that made us we want to stay for more.  We will have to go back and try some of the other establishments when we have a chance.

The food at Blues City was spectacular, and not just because I was really hungry from all the smells. I had a half rack of ribs that were so good it made me want to slap my mamma.   The wife tried the catfish and I traded her some ribs for a taste.  I have to say it was well worth the trip to try this place out.  The food was great.

After this fantastic meal with good friends we packed back into the plane and flew to Nashville to spend the night.   More on this topic in Part 5 – Stay tuned!

Our Summer Trip 2015 – Part 3

I landed safely at portage, had a great dinner and a good night of sleep.  I got up in the morning, got a weather brief from DUATS and then walked down to the plane.  I was so excited and nervous I could not eat breakfast.



I spent a good hour reviewing the NOTAM the night before and I had a good plan on getting to Airventure.   I looked at the sectional several times and tried to get a good idea of the location of the two checkpoints. As both of these points are GPS fixes it did make it pretty easy to find them. The actual locations of the fixes on the ground however are a different story.  More on that later. My first flight in was on Thursday and I wanted to get in early in the morning to have the least stressful landing experience.  I had experience flying int sun-n-fun in Lakeland FL and I knew that early was better than late. I did a good walk around inspection of the plane as I didn’t want yet another incident. I topped off the fuel, started the plane ran all the pre-flight checks, programmed the GPS with the route and launched off into the air.

VFR Route Portage to Oshkosh

VFR Route Portage to Oshkosh

The route from Portage to Airventure was pretty simple.  Take off and fly northeast towards RIPON, which also happens to be the name of the town where the fix is located, join the gaggle of aircraft headed to  FISKE and plan a landing at OSH. I knew from reading the NOTAM that I needed to be at 1800 feet and 90 knots.  Getting to that speed in a Comanche takes a subtle hand. Finding RIPON was really easy as it is a big town and the GPS fix is almost right in the middle so there is little chance of confusing this point.  FISKE is a different story.  When I reached RIPON I had a bit of trouble finding the railroad tracks.  They are not really visible from the air as there are trees grown on both sides of the track that obscure them from sight.  Once I figured out that the line of trees was the railroad tracks it made the navigation easier.

Note, that a straight line via GPS from RIPON to FISKE will not take you over the tracks you have to navigate visually as the tracks are slightly south of the direct route between the two fixes. I must admit I never really located FISKE visually on the ground  I just watched my GPS and listened carefully for the arrival crew to call out my aircraft.  They called me something like a Cherokee low wing so I had to guess that they meant me. I added the ATC audio to the video so that you hear what I heard.  I had some fun with the folks at FISKE and I found the chaos at OSH a bit frightening.  The tower folks seemed a bit stressed out.  This is a long video and it would not hurt my feelings if you skip ahead to the really good bits.

Flight from Portage to Oshkosh

Landing at Oshkosh is really no pressure.  Only hundreds of other pilots watching and critiquing your every move as you try to hit the dot on the runway and turn left into the grass before another aircraft climbs up your tail.   I did a pretty good job of landing on the orange dot and I think my landing way pretty good.  Some young smart-ass pilots were standing beside the flight line with scoreboards letting us know how they thought we did on the landing.  I was pleased to see that I got three 8s and one 9s. Due to the age of my Comanche I was entitled to park in the Vintage parking are, which was right next to runway 18/36 and the daily air show.  After landing I had to taxi quite a ways but it was very much worth it. I was able to lay under the wing of my plane and watch the air show in shaded comfort.

Oracle Plane Airventure Airshow

Oracle Plane Airventure Airshow

Describing the sights and sounds of Airventure is difficult.  Airplanes, people and something to see in every direction. One of my favorite things to do was walk around the vendor hangars.   Any company that has anything remotely to do with aircraft was there in these enormous hangars selling their wares.

Exhibit Hangars

Exhibit Hangars

There was every kind of product a pilot could ever imagine. Oh sure all the big names were there selling radios and GPS units.  What I really enjoyed were some of the quirky vendors selling cooling scarfs, memory foam seat cushions and miniature replicas of every sort of model of aircraft.  I did end up buying a few trinkets and a couple of spare parts for my bird but nothing all that spectacular.  That magneto repair at St. Louis ate up all my spending money. After a wonderful day, which concluded with a spectacular airshow, I was able to easily depart OSH.  I posted a few pics on my Facebook page and a friend who lives in the area saw the post.  She invited me to dinner with her family.  So I departed OSH, flew south until clear of the airspace , then turned east and headed to New Holstein.

Flying from Oshkosh to New Holstein

Flying from Oshkosh to New Holstein

The flight was pretty coming across the lake, over the wind turbines and landing in the grass at the airfield.



Departing from Oshkosh and flying to New Holstein I had a wonderful dinner and gabbed with old friends.  What a great evening.  Sorry, but I forgot to turn on the camera for the night flight from New Holstein back to portage.  I will just say the sky was dark and beautiful all the way back. Best night of sleep I had in a while.  Must have been all that fresh Wisconsin air. Stay tuned for part 4!