Category Archives: Flight

Sunny Side Up Gets Dual Exhaust

In November of 2017 my wife’s grandmother passed away.  So we had to make last minute travel arrangements or take the Comanche to Staten Island New York.  We opted to fly ourselves.   On the trip up it became chillingly clear that the heater was dumping deadly carbon monoxide into our cockpit.  We had to fly in a very cold airplane all the way up and back.    My wife made it very clear that I was to fix this problem.

One option was to purchase the same system from one of many places that sells the standard parts.  This option had merits of price and ease of replacement.  The downside was I might be right back in the same situation too soon.  There are also Airworthiness Directives (ADs) on the exhaust for failed baffling inside the muffler.  The pipes also have a tendency to crack right by the muffler because of vibration.

Instead I opted for a dual exhaust system which eliminated several problems with the old one. The dual exhaust is an STC’d option from Aviation Performance Products.  They offered a stainless steel dual exhaust option.

Pic of the exhaust system

180 exhaust system

180 exhaust system

The product took a week from order to delivery.  I picked up the product from the Melbourne shop and took the kit to my mechanic.

The Entire Dual exhaust kit

The Entire Dual exhaust kit

My mechanic and I spoke at length about the install process and what would need to be done.  A couple of items came up. I had to order new exhaust gaskets as the kit does not come with them.   Also all the SCAT hose would need to be replaced with all new lengths and whole new runs of hose.  Also I would need to make considerable modifications to my cowling, including cutting away some on the bottom edge to allow the new dual pipes to be low enough below the plane’s belly and not contact the cowling itself.  Also I would need to add new air intake ports for the fresh air vents.  Lastly I needed an adapter for the left side heat muff so that the 2 inch intake port from the back of the engine baffles would fit on the 3 inch port on the heat muff.

With all the pieces figured out the installation began.  We took off the cowling and took stock of the old exhaust system

Old Exhaust Right Side

Old Exhaust Right Side

The old exhaust system is big and bulky the pipes cross over underneath and then go to the back of the engine and include a giant muffler, which takes up the entire back of the compartment from the engine to the firewall.   The heat muff for the carburetor heat was held on by ten screws and nuts and I had to seal it with high temperature RTV so that it worked sufficiently.

Old Exhaust Left Side

Old Exhaust Left Side

The left side of the exhaust was much the same, I added a support to help with the vibration that often caused the exhaust to crack and fail right at the muffler on this side.  I was hopeful that all these problems would go away with the new installation.

We set to work removing the old exhaust and ended up with quite a collection of parts.

The Old Exhaust

The Old Exhaust

The old exhaust system was pretty easy to remove, but took a bit of coordination as we had to disconnect both sides before it could be removed.  With the exhaust removed it became clear just how much space that system used in the engine compartment.

Old Exhaust Removed

Old Exhaust Removed

With the old exhaust off we started the modifications to the fuel pump.  The new muffler comes very close to the pump.  So it had to be raised up with an extension plate so that it was further away from the heat of the exhaust pipe.

Modified Fuel Boost Pump

Modified Fuel Boost Pump

After we made a trial fit of the system, it was time to start the modifications on the bottom Cowl.  The plans come with some templates that can be cut out and placed upon the cowling.  from there you can make your own adjustments, as the template is only a rough guide and more modifications might be needed.

Template for Cowl Trim

Template for Cowl Trim

This modification was nerve wracking.  Take too much and we wreck the cowl.  Take too little and the mufflers don’t fit.  We had to do this process two or three times before we were sure it was right. On top of all this cutting we than had to make new doubler plates and rivet them on.  We originally intended to replace the fresh air intake ports on the bottom of the cowling with NACA ducts.  However this option would not work as the new mufflers were in the way.

Bottom Cowl Modification

Bottom Cowl Modification

As part of the STC old parts from the existing system were incorporated.  In order to provide fresh air, two new intake ports had to be added to the cowl.  These ports were to be cut off the muffler heat muff and attached to the front of the cowling on top of the airbox.

New Fresh Air Ports

New Fresh Air Ports

My Comanche has dual heat ports and dual fresh air ports on each side of the firewall.  New SCAT hose had to be run for both fresh air and heat.  The right side muffler handles the carburetor heat air.  So the air intake off the back of the baffle puts hot air into the carb box.  We also drilled out holes for the exhaust gas temperature (EGT) probes.  I decided to try them on the inside, so they were tucked out of the way. This worked okay on the right side, but we had to do something slightly different on the left.

Right Side of Dual Exhaust Installed

Right Side of Dual Exhaust Installed

The left side was a real challenge. The heat probes would not fit under the baffling  so they ended up more on the back of the pipes than on the inside our outside.  Also as the picture shows, we had to run many new lengths of SCAT tubing from the left muffler to all the heat ports.  Both the left and right heat and windshield defrost all come off this muffler.

Left Side Exhaust

Left Side Exhaust


A note on securing the SCAT tubing.  I did not use adel clamps.  My mechanic and I talked about how to secure them and we decided together that some zip ties would work.  I used some high temp clear plastic hose over the zip tie to prevent wearing and then a small piece of rubber tubing to create a stand off.  Now the pipe would be secure and protected against vibration wear.   Once these ties were tightened, they held the pipes in place.

Zip Tied Hoses

Zip Tied Hoses

There are several perks to this new exhaust.  The heat now works fantastically and no more carbon monoxide in the cabin.  The engine sounds different as the exhaust has a deeper more rumbling tone to it.  Also much less heat transfer from through the firewall making the dashboard hot. Overall this project was a good change.  I now have a much better exhaust system.  I am not yet sure if it was worth all the troubles, but it does work as advertised and does seem to improve the situation quite a bit.


Summer 2017 Trip Part 2

Day 5
Travel day from Greybull, WY to Rapid City, SD (2 hours). It was a beautiful flight. We flew north over the Big Horn Lake and then followed the river through the canyon over the Yellowtail damn to Fort Smith where we then turned southeast towards Rapid City. We crossed the border of Wyoming into Montana, but we can’t call it an official visit and we did not land.

Departing KGEY heading north

Climbing out was slow, even with only 50 gallons of fuel. We averaged about 350 fpm. So I slid over closer to the mountains and used the updraft to increase our rate of climb. This route to the north and then swinging back around to the south east was for sure not the most direct, but by far the most scenic.

The flight following and radar services are very spotty out here. I was able to contact Denver Center once I got over Sheridan (SHR) as they must have a relay station at that airport. The services lasted all of about 15 minutes as I passed into a no radar zone then lost radio coverage. So squawking 1200 and VFR all the way to Rapid City.

The descent into Rapid City is a bit tricky. You have to stay high to clear the mountains just west, then descend at a pretty steep angle to be at pattern altitude once you get close to the field. Fortunately it was Sunday, air traffic was light and Ellsworth Air Force base, just north of Rapid City, was closed for the day. The wind was 180 at 17 gusting 35 as we descended and landed.

Piper Comanche Landing Rapid City

I did my homework on Rapid City. There is a Westjet FBO on the field. Seems they are a bit pricey and not all that GA friendly. Located on the south end of the field is Rapid Fuel self-service pumps and free public tie-down parking right behind their hangar. Make sure you bring your own ropes as the chains provided are very short.

So what do you do after a grueling 2.5 hour scenic flight around the mountains of Montana, and across the plans of Wyoming and South Dakota? You go to Sunday brunch at Ruby Tuesday of course!

We then checked into our hotel and relaxed the rest of the day.

Day 6
Today we were tourist! We started our day at the Fort Hays Dances with Wolves Film Set where we had breakfast then the bus picked us up for our tour. Our bus driver for the tour was a hoot, and he took us to Mount Rushmore, Iron Mountain Road through scenic tunnels and pigtail bridges, Custer State Park, State Game Lodge for lunch (this is the presidential summer White House for former president Calvin Coolidge), Needles Highway passing through scenic tunnels and by scenic overlooks, Sylvan Lake (a spectacular man-made lake located at the bottom of Harney Peak), and Crazy Horse Mountain. Then we returned to Fort Hays for a Chuckwagon (dinner and show). It was a great day!

Ft. Hays

Mt. RushMore

Sylvan Lake

Crazy Horse

Chuck Wagon Dinner Show

Day 7

Travel day from Rapid City, SD to South St. Paul, MN. Because of thunderstorms which aren’t good for little airplanes like ours, we decided not to go to the North Dakota stop that we planned.

The Planned Route

Instead, we detoured to Sioux City, Iowa so that we could wait out the storms. Joe Foss Field has two FBOs. After reading up on them we chose Maverick. They were kind enough to lend us the courtesy car. As it was a bit after lunch time we headed out for a bite of food. We discovered a wonderful diner named Marlin’s where we had lunch. Great food.

Marlin’s Diner

Once the storms passed, we were able to continue our flight. The remnants of the storm made it challenging during our flight from Sioux City to South St. Paul. There were multiple layers of clouds from 3500 feet to 6500 feet and above. I still managed to get some pictures (even though it was very hazy the entire flight) and videos (cloud surfing).

The Actual Route

The Flight

The destination airport KSGS South St Paul Municipal Airport-Richard E Fleming Field is a gem. They have 100LL, Jet-A and 93 octane Mogas. They also offer a full service FBO with courtesy cars and rentals. We decided to use Uber this time and it worked out great. Took us 15 minutes to get from the airport to our Air BnB location.

Oh yeah we really like We were able to rent a nice little house for $89 a night in the west 7th neighborhood in St. Paul. We have all the amenities of home, while away.

More to come – Time to play tourist!

Summer 2017 Trip Part 1

Our summer trip this year was overly ambitious and had to be scaled back to reasonable. Once we figured out what we could do versus what we wanted to do, we came up with a pretty good route.

We will first head to Forth Worth Texas and visit some friends and see the sights like tourists. Then it will be on to Grey Bull Wyoming to visit more friends at a dude ranch. Then over to Rapid City South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and the Devil’s Tower. Then of to St Paul Minnesota to do a brewery tour and walk the river walk. Then a short stop at OSH, of course, and then we turn south, past the Chicago skyline, down to Crossville TN to visit family. From there a short hop over to Pidgeon Forge to play tourist. Ambitious but not impossible.
Distance: 3605 nm
Time: 29 hours
Fuel: 292 gallons

The first leg of the trip took us from Ocala, KOCF to 23M Clarke County for a fuel stop, and finally to KGPM Grand Prarie

We had to fly higher and a bit more north that planned as many thunderstorms popped up along the way.

The clouds looked like cypress knees. A bunch of cumulus towers two to three thousand feet tall and slowly climbing. My wife did a short time lapse of the flying as we cloud surfed.

I highly recommend 23M Clarke County airport as a fuel stop. Nice folks and very reasonably priced 100LL and 93 mogas. Here is a link to their facebook page

We climbed up to 10,500 for the leg from Clarke County to Grand Prairie to get above all the little towers of cumulus clouds. The Comanche really hums along happy at that altitude. I was able to lean it out well and burn about 8.5gph at about 130kts

We landed at Grand Prairie about 3pm local time and got our rental car and headed downtown. We decided to try something new and used and got a great little studio apartment right in the heart of downtown Fort Worth just off main street.

We walked around downtown for a while and then over to Risckys BBQ and had a great dinner and drinks. One of the local favorites is a local brewery just south of Forth Worth called Revolver Brewing. They have excellent brews. I highly recommend them.

End of day 1.

Day 3
After a really nice stay in Grand Prairie we departed out and headed northwest to Casper Wyoming with a mid-point fuel stop in Kansas at Scott City Municipal.

Flying out of Grand Prairie was much easier than I imagined. I had visions of getting routed all over the place and then abandoned as soon as I left the bravo. Instead I was instructed by the tower to fly runway heading and then contact regional departure. Once handed off to regional departure they gave me one vector change for the climb and then handed me off to Fort Worth Departure with no problems.

We continued north west and made a fuel stop at Scott City in Kansas. This is the second time we have made a stop in Kansas for fuel. Both of the airports we used had cement runways made of large square blocks. The tires sang out a song as we landed and taxied. The fuel was reasonably priced and they pumped for us.

Piper Comanche landing Scott City KS KTQK

We made our final hop from Scott City all the way to Casper Wyoming. The terrain began to change color, just like on the sectional a little while after our fuel stop.

I used the Hipsher IIP VOR as a navigation point to keep me clear of the restricted areas around Camp Guernsey and to keep me clear of the mountains just west of me. It was a relief to turn that final corner and head west into the valley right at Casper.

Piper Comanche Landing Casper Wyoming KCPR

We used Atlantic FBO on the field and got a ride to the hotel for the night. The folks at the FBO were really nice. Wife and I had a fantastic glass of lemonade, which really quenched our thirst after so many hours of flying. The hotel send a shuttle to pick us us and take us back. Fuel was reasonably priced, but I only took on the minimum as we are now in some really high Density altitude areas. Weight is really king out here.

Day 4

This morning we departed Casper as early as we could and then flew north west again along the river up to Grey Bull Wyoming. As you can see in the video below the density altitude, even early in the morning, is very high. We rolled a very long time before gaining enough speed to lift off the runway. Fortunately the runway at Casper is 7000 feet long and afforded us plenty of time.

Piper Comanche Departing Casper

Flying to Grey Bull was really easy. The route was even simpler. Just go west to the entrance to the valley then turn north and follow the river up to the airport.

Flying to Grey Bull

The airport was visible from a really long way off as it sat right at the top of the valley on the entrance to the river.

Piper Comanche Approach and landing Grey Bull WY

We then spent the day sight seeing with friends.

The Perfect US Flying Trip?

I am sure that many of you have seen this article about the Perfect US Road Trip.  I really enjoyed the article and recommend giving it a read.  Lots of great suggestions for places to visit and things to see.

The Perfect US Road Trip

The Perfect US Road Trip

After reading it, I got an idea.  What if I did this same trip in my airplane?   I pulled up the road map provided in the article and starting matching it up to airports using the SkyVector website. Lo and behold, nearly every place mentioned has an airport nearby.  In some cases right next to the site.   I created a flight route that nearly mimics all the locations provided in the perfect trip and to be honest it looks quite possible.  Maybe a few adjustments for getting over mountains and around some restricted areas but, otherwise very possible.

I used to help me find airports close to the sites.  When selecting airports I tried to go with local or municipal airports that had FBOs that could get a rental car or at least provide a courtesy ride to a local hotel.  In nearly every case fuel and hotels were available within a short drive, if an overnight stay was needed.  Mind you, not every place had a five star hotel with every amenity, but most had inexpensive motels within a short distance.  I did not really focus on finding the least expensive fuel, just that the airport had fuel available or a close by airport had fuel.  I am sure a thrifty pilot could use to check local fuel prices and adjust the route to save a buck or two on fuel.

Could this route be optimized to be more direct?  Yes it can.  The goal here was to match the road trip as close as possible.  That way even if you don’t land in every state you at least get to fly over and see them from the air.   Another benefit is that you can fly over all those commuters on the highways below, open your window and shout at them “Where is your plane, peasants!”.

The Perfect Flying Trip

The Perfect Flying Trip

Rudy the Red-Nosed Cessna 172

As this is supposed to be a sight seeing trip I chose to plan for flying my 1964 Cessna 172E. This will be a low and slow flight focusing on maximum visual enjoyment.  This plane consumes about 6-8 g.p.h and goes about 105 knots (or 120 mph) on a calm wind day.  The trip would cover 9673 nm, take 91.5 hours of flying time and consume at least 778.3 gallons of fuel.  Some of the legs would be right at the maximum range with safety, and to be honest I’m not sure my backside or bladder could make it that far without an interim stop.  On some of the legs slight left or right deviation would be advisable to avoid those pesky tall mountains, but none of it is impossible.

Sunny Side Up the World's greatest Piper Comanche 180

Sunny Side Up the World’s greatest Piper Comanche 180

If I did this trip in my Piper Comanche, slightly different numbers. 80.5 flight hours and 804 gallons of fuel.   For sure I would be more comfortable, I could fly further and get there quicker.  However I think the point is to take it all in, so low and slow would be optimal so a simpler craft would be best.

The cost for this trip by aircraft will be a bit higher than driving.  The biggest expense will be fuel. Based on the regional prices of Aviation Gas 100LL from the website the average price for a gallon of fuel in the US right now is $5.09 per gallon.  Therefore 778.3 gallons of fuel would run about $3692 in fuel.   Most FBOs will waive overnight parking fees with a fuel purchase so that is a money saver.  My 172 has a MoGas STC, which means I can burn unleaded car gas that does not contain ethanol, so I might even save a few more dollars.

Another expense will be an oil change.   With just under 100 hours of flying time at least one oil change will need to be done.   A shop might charge an hour of labor and the cost of the filter and oil.  Probably best to budget $200 for that activity at about the half way point of the trip. Perhaps this oil and filter could be prepositioned for the half way point of the trip.   If you are your own mechanic then lucky you! You can change the oil on your own.

So who wants to go?

Happy flying



Flying to Florida for Sun-N-Fun

Greetings Florida Visitors!

Many of you will be traveling soon to enjoy a week of plane fellowship at Lakeland Linder Regional airport for a popular event called Sun-N-Fun.   I would like to offer some advice as a transplant who has tried to adapt to the unique experience that is flying in Florida.

First off use flight following.  Get on with ATC as soon as you can and use it for your entire flight in. Expect that you might be dropped once you get 50 miles or so north of Lakeland as the traffic will be too tight for ATC to work you in.

Getting Prepared

There are some essential items to bring on the trip.  Bring plenty of sun screen SPF 30 or better and apply it several times throughout the day, or we will know you are a tourist by your bright red color and the glow you give off at night. Wear a hat with a brim, and maybe something to cover the back of your neck.  Bring a rain poncho or pick one up at the AOPA or Jeppesen booth so you can stay dry during the sudden showers. Drink lots of water all day long.  Our temperature and humidity are very high and you will get dehydrated rapidly while outside.

If you don’t have an adsb receiver and a tablet of some kind with compatible software this might be the time to get one.  You can build a Stratux for about $120 and link it to an iPad or a Android pad for cheap. It is worth it for weather and traffic.

The Route

The air traffic is going to be a bit more busy than normal so I would like to offer some suggestions for flying towards the event.  Coming from the west I would suggest using a route such as MAI->CTY->OCF->KLAL.  If you are coming from the north I would suggest using a route such as TAY->GNV->OCF->KLAL.  Coming from the north east I might suggest SAV->SSI->GNV->OCF->KLAL I do not recommend flying the east coast of Florida as there tends to be enormous amount of traffic and training along the east coast and ATC will be very busy.   Also there are several restricted areas around Jacksonville which make can make for some extra challenges.

Flying the inland route has a couple of advantages.  First it keeps you out of the Tampa and Orlando class bravo airspace. They are both going to be really busy already and the added stress of passing through either bravo airspace might make the trip more difficult than it needs to be.  Second there are some good places to stop along the way here and take a break, get fuel or spend the night.

According to Williston Municipal Airport X60 has the historically lowest price on 100LL fuel in the north central Florida area. and they also have a diner.  If you are looking for an overnight stay, Ocala KOCF, has several hotels in the area and overnight parking is inexpensive.

About the Weather

Clear Skies? So the weather forecast is going to say something like clear skies, sunny and warm. Usually that means a scattered layer of cumulus clouds somewhere between 3000 and 5000 feet.  Even if it does not rain we have a lot of moisture in the air and these clouds show up pretty much every day. The ride will be bumpy below 5000 during the day and closer you are to this cloud layer the worse it will be.

Afternoon Storms This wonderful aviation event usually marks the transition in Florida weather to the time when we start getting thunderstorms.  This unique weather phenomenon tends to happen in the in afternoon in Florida. Now don’t get too worried as they tend to be localized and intense for a short time and then die out almost as rapidly as they form.  They are not usually a line of storms, more on that in a minute, and instead tend to be isolated rain heads that can easily be avoided by flying around them. When you fly around a Florida storm, give it a wide berth.  Stay well away from the falling rain as there is also a really strong downdraft right outside that rain head.  A good tip I learned:  If you cannot see through the rain, go around it.

This afternoon thunderstorm weather happens for a couple of reasons.  I am going to possibly oversimplify but here goes.  The wind starts in the morning coming out of the west gently blowing eastward and slowly bringing moist, warm air off the Gulf of Mexico.  Then as the day progresses, sometime around 2pm, the winds shifts and starts coming from the east.  The very hot easterly wind brings even more moisture from the Atlantic and pushes rapidly across the state like a mini storm front, plowing it’s way across and creating many small and intense thunderstorms, which die out after the sun sets.

Bring Good Tie-Downs Bring really good tie-downs for your plane, not the cheap stake your dog out on the lawn kind.  These intense, short-lived storms can pick up and throw your plane around.  What a lousy way to lose your airplane to a thunderstorm at Sun-N-Fun.  Many plane owners have lamented not securing their craft properly and having it flipped over onto another plane at this event.  It happens so be prepared and don’t end up a statistic.

Fronts When flying into Florida, there are some locations that tend to form large lines of thunderstorms that can be very treacherous.   The most common place is diagonally from Tallahassee , across the state of Georgia, to the edge of South Carolina.  Sometimes it will be a bit south of that point, coming across Cross City to Jacksonville, but they very often form north and work their way south. Make sure you have a good eye on current weather when transitioning this space. Do not attempt to penetrate these storm lines unless you really know what you are doing.  Conditions around these storms will easily rip off your wings.

Morning Fog  Sometimes we get a low layer of clouds about two hundred feet above the ground that will cover whole sections of the state.   The good news is that this layer will rise quickly or burn off.  However, this does create low IFR conditions over large parts of the state so be prepared to wait it out somewhere a bit north until it is clear.

The Arrival

Read the NOTAM Flying into the event can be challenging for a first timer, but is relatively safe and rewarding.  I cannot stress enough to read the NOTAM published for this event. You can find the NOTAM here.   Early morning arrivals are better than later as the traffic tends to be less first thing in the morning.  Best advice I can give is know the NOTAM, keep your eyes outside, relax and enjoy the ride.

Here is a great example of the approach and landing at Sun-n-Fun.








Sunny Side Up – New Instrument Panel

Day 1

The worlds greatest Comanche 180 – Sunny Side Up is in the process of getting a new instrument panel. The original “Scatter dash” as we call it included some antiquated and slightly out of adjustment instruments. It was time for an upgrade.

The original panel

The original panel

Getting all the old instruments out was not too difficult. The attitude indicator and the directional gyro were enormous. These two instruments took up a good portion of the space behind the dashboard.

Starting to remove to old panel

Starting to remove to old panel

The old autopilot a Piper Autocontrol 2 was a marvel of mechanical engineering. Almost fully mechanical with a mix of simple electronics to make a wing leveler that will follow a heading bug. The problem was that it would occasionally malfunction and try to put me in a hard right turn which almost resulted in a wing over. It was time for this very old technology to go.

All the instruments out

All the instruments out

Cutting the original panel was a bit nerve wracking. Once the cutting wheel spun up and was put to the metal there was no going back. I was not committed to the change. Much planning went into the cutting to make sure we did it right.

Starting to cut the old panel

Starting to cut the old panel

Cutting the panel sprayed aluminum dust everywhere. What a mess it made. Following the directions in the STC paperwork, we cut away every bit required. I was aware we would have to tweak, but just not how much more lay in store.

All the old panel cut away

All the old panel cut away

Setting the new panels in place to check the fit gave me a false sense of completion. I began to get hopeful and think that there was not much left to do. That was a bad way to think as there were many slow and tedious tasks ahead.

Checking the fit of the new panel

Checking the fit of the new panel

Day 2

Today was a day of little visible progress although much was done.

The fine tuning of the fit of the panel was done. This required a lot of re-trimming of the cut areas and tweaking some drill points. Once we got that all set, we had to drill several holes in the new panel and into the meat of the remaining frame. Then countersinking every hole and confirming fit.

One of the unforeseen issues is that there is no standard design for all the plumbing behind the instruments. The Comanche had a “scatter panel” until near the end of production and we are putting in instruments that were never in the plane before so we have to kind of make it up as we go. Well not entirely, we have looked at later models and are trying to mimic that plumbing as best we can and apply some common sense.

Checking the instructions, measuring the panel again and designing the plumbing for all the instruments.

Checking the instructions, measuring the panel again and designing the plumbing for all the instruments.

Hours went into confirming the alignment of every screw hole. Notice the vacuum filter in the picture above? No such thing ever existed on this plane. Nope none. Had to make up our own plumbing to add it in as the new DG and AI require one.

Painted the panel a classic flat black.

Painted the panel a classic flat black.


Day 3

More work on the panel today.
I spent three hours getting the right side panel finished up. There were lots of little details to get exactly right. Getting some of the screws into the ELT was an exercise in contortion. Those little holes were way up in the corner and reaching them was a challenge.

Right side is in

Right side is in

The two smaller holes are for some future updates.

The next biggest time suck was the breaker panel. Moving the breakers from underneath the panel, to the right side took a lot of concentration. Each breaker had to be removed individually from the bottom bus bar, rotated 180 degrees and then all the wires reattached and a new bus bar installed. Of course, there were those mystery wires the went to nowhere and a couple of the breakers were completely empty. Woof!

The breaker panel.

The breaker panel.

Left and right panel installed

Left and right panel installed

Already tired, we finished up for the night by securing the left panel in place. The fit and finish was good, but it still needs a bit of trimming.

The next three steps
1. Secure all the wires behind the panel
2. Install the pitot system gages
3. Install the vacuum system

Day 4

Progress is measured in hours and inches right now. So many little tasks each requiring many small steps to achieve.

For example, We have this wire – not sure what it does. It has a 15 amp fuse that was blown plugged into it. Not sure how long it has been blown or what it does. Tracing it out has been a challenge.

I spent the better part of 6 hours running all the plumbing for the gauges. The airspeed is connected to the altimeter, the altimeter is connected to the VSI. The airspeed also has the ram air from the pitot tube and the VSI is connected to the static port all the way in the tail of the plane.
As I shared earlier the plumbing for the vacuum gauges was all new too. Each and every pipe and connection was new.

An interesting solution for the empty holes. The manufacturer sent all the holes cut from the panel. I took some strips of 40 gauge aluminum and made some strips long enough to go across the holes diagonally. Then I drilled and tapped them and secured them across the holes with #6 screws. Then I applied a glop of silicone and pressed the blank into the hole I then taped them in place to secure them until the silicone cures.

Tomorrow we have some final items to complete.

  • attach power to the EDM700
  • find the wire for the pitot heat (F2C)
  • test all the circuits
  • swing the gear
  • install all the panel labels
  • test the vacuum system
  • test the pitot system

Day 5

Attaching the EDM700

We put the panel all back together and started testing.  Some initial issues were the EDM700 kept reporting low voltage.  We tried lots of things, and finally solved it by cleaning and adjusting the bus bar that connected the circuit breaker.  Seems there was some film on the metal that was creating resistance and reducing voltage to the unit.

Finding the Pitot Heat Wire

Chasing the pitot heat wire has proven an exercise in futility.  Even with a wire chaser, we were unable to find the end of the wire in the cabin.  It seems we are going to have to run a new wire from the cabin, through the wing and out to the pitot tube heating element

Test all the Circuits

The gauges were also an issue.  The amp meter read a constant discharge.  A test with another amp meter showed no such thing.  With a bit of adjustment we were able to get proper reading.  All the instrument gauges read slightly differently and I thought maybe it was a grounding issue.  I ran a new ground cable and it seemed to make it better, but not exactly the same as it was before.


Swing the Gear

One of the most important test we did, at least for my peace of mind, was a gear swing.  My reasoning was that we moved and touched every single wire that connected the switches and lights that controlled the gear.  I wanted t make sure it was all working properly.  I am glad we did.  The gear lights did not work and had to be replaced.

Test the Vacuum System

This was pretty easy.  We pulled the plane out of the hangar and started it up.  Within a few seconds the instruments began to spin up and I heard what can only be described as “kissy noises” coming from the panel.  I felt around behind each instrument and found the loose connections and tightened the hose clamps a bit more to make them stay stable.

After many more hours we arrived at a functional product.  Sure there are still a few things to do, including touching up my scrape at the top of the airspeed indicator and adding all the labels.  For now it is looking good and then final touches will happen over the next few weeks.

The Finished Panel




Flying to Oshkosh

Let me start by saying that I am not an expert on Oshkosh nor travel to and from.  I have done it and survived to write about it.  I have made several long cross country trips in a small airplane.   I would like to share with you what I did to get ready for the trip and staying at Oshkosh.

Part 1 PreFlight

OCF-to-OSH-2016I fly my Comanche 180 from Ocala Florida up to Oshkosh.  According to SkyVector the flight is 938.1 nautical miles in length and would take approximately 7 hours and 52 minutes at 120 knots and burn 87.9 gallons of fuel at 10 gph, give or take a few.   Realizing that my bladder nor the Comanche’s fuel capacity would carry me that far, I would need to make stops.  I like to keep my flight legs under 4 hours, in fact if I can get 2.5 to 3 hour legs all the better.  So I added some stops, based on fuel and comfort of my passengers. Thus the route became KOCF->KCTJ->2R2->KOSH  Link to the Route on Skyvector.   This way I am not over tired and sore from the flight.

You may recall from one of my older posts, that I always plan alternates.  I selected these primary sites based on distance, fuel price and proximity to other landing options.  Also I really want to fly the Chicago skyline along the coast of Lake Michigan. Therefore I planned the route to take us just along the western side of Lake Michigan as we fly to Oshkosh.  Keep in mind there is much more to do before blasting off into the sky, the most important of those being to read the Oshkosh NOTAM.

Taking NOTAM

Every year EAA publishes the Oshkosh NOTAM.  About a month or so before the event, I request a copy be mailed to me and I download a copy so I can start reading immediately. I read this NOTAM through a couple of times and then make notes of the pertinent facts that most apply to me, and highlight the most important facts for quick reference in flight.  As I will be flying VFR I try to focus on those parts of the NOTAM to understand how I get in and out of Airventure safely.

fisk-vfr-arrival-2016The most relevant then becomes the Fisk VFR Arrival to OSH section which outlines how to approach, communicate and get sequenced for landing.  Some of the important parts I highlighted were as follows.

  • Ensure lights are on, and all non-ADS-B equipped aircraft set transponder to Standby within 30 miles of OSH.
  • Obtain Arrival ATIS (125.9) no later than 15 miles from Ripon and note arrival runways in use.
  • Have NOTAM arrival pages mentioned on ATIS available. Then monitor Fisk Approach (120.7)
  • Arrive at Ripon at 90 knots and 1,800’


One additional point, I programmed the RIPON and FISKE intersections into my GPS, but the NOTAM specifically mentions that you must visually navigate over the railroad tracks, which are not in the same place as the intersections.  So I had to keep my eyes outside and look for the railroad tracks.  Oh and these tracks are not really visible! I figured out that they were hidden by a line of trees and follow the tree line over the tracks from RIPON to FISKE.

Assigned a Runway

Once you arrive at FISKE the controller on the ground will call you out by aircraft type and color. I got “White low wing with lights at the ends of the wings”  He then guessed I was a Cherokee. Now as a Comanche driver I do not take offense that he was unable to see that I was a Comanche.  I did however correct him and thank him for his efforts that day.

fisk-arrival-rwy-27-2016At this point the arrival controller gave me instructions on which runway and frequency I was supposed to use.  On the days I went last year there was a light westerly wind so I was sent to runway 27 and given that tower’s frequency.   Now it is very important to listen close at this point.  Lots of airplanes are coming into the pattern at the same time, some in front and behind, but also planes lining up for straight in approach.  The pace of the controller’s cadence is fast and complicated as planes will be taking off, landing, exiting the runway and going around right underneath.   My instructions changed a few times between the first call and the point when I exited the runway.

One last point on landing, is that the controllers want you off the runway and into the grass as soon as possible.   My first day I touched down a bit hot and rolled quite a ways before I was able to exit the runway safely,  The good news is that the grass is very smooth and the tires on a Comanche are plenty big so exiting was not too troublesome.

Video of Flight from FISKE to Runway 27 and parking.

Parking Pass

Getting to parking is a bit of an adventure.  After I got off the runway, I held up a sign for the parking area VAP so the ground marshals could guide me. My Comanche qualifies for vintage parking, so I was directed all the way back down 27 and around the airport to the west side of runway 36 where I was parked about half way down in the vintage section.  Very good spot for watching the airshows.

Leaving the Show

osh-vfr-departure-2016As I had a hotel out at Portage, I commuted in and out.  I like camping, but I only go two or three days so it seems a waste to carry all that gear when I can sleep in a comfy hotel bed.   After the airshow is done for the day, the airport is once again open for a few hours and I was able to depart. Again the NOTAM came in really handy.   I was directed to depart runway 18R.  So I had to follow some important procedures:

  • Transponder still in standby until clear of class D.
  • Fly heading 180 at or below 1300 MSL until clear of class D airspace.
  • Be aware I would overtake and be overtaken by other planes


Then the flight becomes just like any other VFR flight I have done.  Nothing else changes.  I hope this article gives you some insight into the planning and important tasks to accomplish when flying into Airventure.







Planning the Summer 2016 Trip

I put much effort into the planning of a summer trip.  The steps start out with a discussion with my wife about where we should go, where we have not been and how long do we want to stay out there.   Then I open up a browser and pull up my two favorite planning sites Skyvector and AirNav. Lately I also use TripAdvisor to find local attractions that make the stop more memorable as they often have “top ten things to do” lists for major cities. summer-2016-trip-plan

One of our goals in all this travel is to visit all 50 states. We have a few states we missed last time so we want to add them to our route. The rule is we have to do something there besides land and buy fuel for it to count. Our theme this year is “BBQ & Beer” so we will try to have bbq & beer at each stop. I would like to sample local microbrews and find bbq places where the locals eat.

So the plan is:
1. Oshkosh / New Holstein
2. St. Paul Minnesota (brewery tour)
3. Fargo ND (See the wood chipper from the movie)
4. Rapid City SD (Mt. Rushmore)
5. Kansas City (Jack Stack BBQ)
6. Memphis (Beale Street)
7. Nashville (Hot Chicken)
8. Crossville (Visit Family)


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