With Wings As Eagles: Craig P. Steffen's Blog

Trip to Austin, Part 3

2017 February 12 17:30

Sleeping overnight in Meridian, Mississippi on the way back home, I was figuring the trip was going pretty well. I'd been delayed by half a day by weather, but that was vastly better than several of my colleagues. So I headed to the airport first thing Monday morning to fly the last leg home.

.....aaaaaand there was no response from the electrical fuel pump. It's not NECESSARY to fly the plane, or even to start it, but it IS the backup in case the engine-driven fuel pump fails. So I had it towed to the local repair place:

Here's the culprit, ready to be shipped off as an exchange for an overhauled pump:

The shop on the field was mostly a turbine-airplane place, but I was able to help a mechanic get the proper access panel off and get him to the electric fuel pump. I then arranged to overnight the bad pump to the people with spares, and my wonderful wife (thanks darling!) shipped a check to the repair place (they don't take credit cards). Then I rented a car a drove back home, and left the plane there to be fixed once they got the pump back.

I ended up renting a Hyundai of some sort. I felt it was good omen when songs like this kept coming on the satellite radio:

Obligatory instrument panel photo (pretty efficient car):

And a nice underpass on the way home.

I did get the airplane back eventually. But first, other house stuff.

Trip to Austin, Part 2

2017 February 10 09:07

Back in Austin, the plan was to fly my plane to Kerrville to the Mooney fly-in, so that I could, finally, have my plan parked on the field in front of the Mooney factory. The weather was crappy enough that I decided to leave it tied down in Austin

and rent a car and drive to Austin instead.

My vague memory of the original planned sequence was this. I flew commercial from Oregon to Austin Friday morning. I got into Austin mid-afternoon Friday. I had planned then to fly my airplane to Kerrville and stay Friday and Saturday nights, and then fly all the way home on Sunday.

(My vague recollection is): The weather was bad in Austin when I got there, so I decided to wait to Saturday morning to fly. I was so tired I mostly went to bed. Saturday morning, the weather was slightly better but I'd have to be doing an instrument approach into crappy weather into Kerrville, so I decided not to. I rented a car to drive to Kerrville and back. (A lot of this is because I was giving a talk on electronic flight bag solutions that I hadn't finished yet. I'm a really really bad procrastinator sometimes.)

I rented the car in a huge hurry Saturday morning because I had to get on the road. I drove to the hotel in Kerrville and then sat in my hotel room for an hour finishing my talk. I gave the talk, that was fine, and then that evening was the banquet, which I stayed for the food and about the first half of the entertainment part. Since I was leaving so early the next morning, I ditched out of the rest of the evening.

I left super-early Sunday morning, like 4am. My plan was to race the thunderstorms that were coming in to Austin and try to get off the ground going east before they hit. It was interesting to drive with thunderstorms right behind you in the dark on roads you don't know. I got to Austin, and before I could get out of the rental car, it was bucketing down rain.

The car was GREAT to drive; I found out later one of the reasons it accelerated so smoothly is that it has a continuously-varable transmission. What with all the hurrying, I never got a photo of the outside of it. I just have these three instrument panel shots. I managed to figure out from screenshots that this is a Nissan Maxima. Very nice car.

Mooney was prototyping a plane that they're going to be selling. A small two-seater. Here's a couple of shots inside.

Note the single-level engine control in the center console. All glass-panel; I think that's a Garmin 500? And with an iPad mount already built-in. And USB power jacks in the center console:

As usual, there were tours of the Mooney factory. Here's the final assembly area:

And the wing assembly jigs:

The oval holes in the wings are fuel tank inspection/service hatches. These mooneys will have fuel tanks that fill more of the wing than mine. My tanks only have three service hatches per side.

I dropped of the rental car just as the storms hit. So I ended up chilling in the FBO for several hours. I actually used their pilot nap room to make up for having such a short night. I left mid-afternoon; too late to make it halfway home but early enough to get fuel in Meridian Mississippi again.

So I grabbed a hotel there for the night.

The saga of leaving Meridian the next morning will be the next post.

Trip to Austin, Part 1

2017 February 10 08:40

Ok, so we're up to May 2015. After the long annual, I had another trip scheduled. This one was a weird double-trip that happened because a work event ended up being the the week that I had a (previously scheduled) Mooney event in Texas the following weekend. So what I ended up doing was combining the travel for the trips. I few myself to Austin, Texas in my plane, then the next morning, grabbed a United flight to Oregon via LAX. I did the work event in Oregon, then flew back to Austin. The Mooney event was in Kerrville, which is near San Antonio. My plan had been to fly my plane from Austin to Kerrville, but when I got to Austin from Oregon, the weather was crappy enough that I just rented a car instead. I drove the car to Kerrville, went to part of the event, and then drove back to Austin early early the next (Sunday) morning. The trip back is another story.

The trip down was exciting. The whole lower midwest, including a lot of Texas, was being hit by thunderstorms that day. Here's the view on my iPad dodging the storms on the way down.

I stopped for fuel in Meridian, Mississippi. It's an army pilot training base, so my Mooney was parked among a bunch of army training airplanes.

I staying in Meridian for a while, waiting for the storms to pass. I left there with enough time to get to Austin just before dark.

The next morning, flying out of Austin, United had a fantastic system for getting boarding groups lined up. This is so much better than most other airlines where people sort of hover around the boarding gate until their group is called. It was noticably faster.

Leaving Austin in someone else's plane.

Coming into LAX, we could see the big canals that are used in lots of movies.

And lots of big interchages.

At work in Oregon, this is the villiage just down the street from the resort where our meetings were. Here's my "Prisoner" throwback selfie.

The weather for most of the trip was pretty temperate (if stormy), but one morning during the trip we got snow. This is the view out of my room in the evening.

All for now. The next entry will continue with being back in Austin.

Back from the holidays

2017 January 22 07:37

The holidays were great. They were relatively short, but that worked out well for us. No snow this year at the mother-in-law's. The kid had his first Christmas, and got pretty spoiled, which worked out pretty well.

And then we all got sick after we got back, so January was really busy once we were recovered from everything. The kid has a passport, so the long slog of adoption paperwork that started February of 2015 is basically done. His paperwork for applying for stuff will always be slightly more complicated than for other people, but he now has ID that shows he's a US citizen and he can fly on planes with official ID and stuff.

I've been trying like heck to get ahead of things just a little bit; only slightly successful. I've been going through some tubs of "need to go through this" stuff that I filled when I moved offices about 2 1/2 years ago. Once through those, then I'll hopefully get back to working on unsorted boxes from the basement.

And I'll be trying a little bit to be a producer not a consumer. Youtube has been really bad for that. It figures out what I want, and it can always show me something that I'm interested in. It knows I like space stuff, and computer stuff, and some narrow slices of car stuff (and it's good at guessing what).

Thus trying to get back on the blogging bandwagon. Internet pal Wil Wheaton (at wilwheaton.net) had until yesterday an unbroken blog-entry-per-day streak from December 1. He and his wife Anne were in the Womens' March in LA yesterday and there's no entry from them, so they may have gotten home late and he didn't write. So I'm trying to hold up the tradition in a weird way.

More on politics in another entry. This one is just to prime the pump. Talk to you later.

Long 2015 annual (supplemental)

2016 December 19 08:42

A few photos taken in and around the time of the long annual. The cats looking resplendant.

And again.

Also during this time, we were gearing up for a big project that went over the summer through the fall. We'd been thinking about adopting a child internationally, and this spring we got serious about it. It involves a LOT of paperwork and scanning and stuff, so here I'm doing that.

Among the various paperwork required are statements about your household and asseets, so I took an artsy photo of the house,

and had to go to the local police station to get fingerprinted (slightly odd).

One other thing: While I was at the parent-in-law's that spring, I went to the regional battery store and got a proper battery for their generator. It's shown here, installed.

This brings the chronology up to May 10, 2015.

Another long annual (part 2)

2016 December 19 08:42

Spinner bulkhead re-attached with new hardare.

Getting inspection panels re-installed without dropping them inside the plane is sometimes tricky, especially when they're on vertical walls. Here's the trick my mechanic taught me about that. Form a handle with tape:

which allows you to hold it in place until you get the first couple of screws attached:

All buttoned up, ready to fly.

Getting ready to fly the plane home after the annual; charging all the things.

Heading home, loading the plane.

Another long annual (part 1)

2016 December 19 08:41

April/May 2015 was the first annual for my airplane since the propellor was replace and engine overhauled in 2013-14. This was the first semi-normal annual. Still plenty of work done, but not major systems were replaced.

Taking apart the spinner to annual the propeller.

The pressure plate was a bit rusty and wasn't holding pressure on the front spinner bulkhead.

We painted the pressure plate so it at least wasn't corroding.

Prop dome with the spinner bulkhead removed.

Electric fuel pump, fuel selector and fuel system sump at the bottom of the photo.

While parts came in and we worked on stuff for the annual, I was driving my father-in-law's truck around.

When we had a break, I took a couple of days and drove to HQ and spend a couple of days in the office. Here's the office recharging setup.

I spent a good bit of time during this trip testing chargers in the truck for use in the airplane.

Back to the annual, all the belly panels off.

It was my first time taking the panels off. Over a couple hundred screws; I stripped three and had to extract them by cutting a slot with a dremel tool.

We did some work on the landing gear. Here's the plane on jacks, gear retracted, looking vaguely Airwolf-like.

Back To It

2016 December 14 08:40

It's been a long fall. And November was very rocky, for various reasons. Oy. Mostly the election. Double-oy. I frankly still have an emotional hangover from that, five weeks later. But trying to put the pieces back together, I guess I'm also trying to resume normal life.

So last time I was blogging about the past, I was back up through April 4, 2015, roughly. We continue the narrative from there. I bought a new phone then, so photos since are from my current phone, the Droid Maxx, which I got because it has MUCH better battery life than the LGE.

Here's Pangur reviewing the Verizon bag my phone came home in:

and the other cats editorializing what they think of all of this:

I was still working on commissioning the front stoop/porch. The gate didn't close well with two hinges, so I added a third spring hinge in the middle.

And finally, my mother's mother, who had been in declining health for years, died in such a way that we had a time window to go to the funeral. My wife and I flew to Omaha and then rented a car to drive up to South Dakota for the funeral.

In all my travelling for work starting in 1994 through now, twice I've randomly received a cheap rental car upgrade to any car on the lot. Once in 2010 when I was in Minnesota to get my instrument rating, and the other was trip I took in March of 2015 to California via Minnesota. I was all prepared to get compact sedan, but she wanted to get a fun car too, so we got a Dodge Challenger:

The drive up was along Interstate I-29 along with Missouri river valley, which has an 80 mph speed limit. We spent the time driving 85:

What was amazing was we got almost 30 mpg. The engine was only turning 1800 rpm:

It had Sirius Satellite Radio. Of course, this was on:

Not much of an entry, but I wanted to get back into it. That takes us through April 12, 2015.

End of Summer Surge

2016 August 15 08:12

Now that the summer is winding down, but full fall semester hadn't settleed in (that happens today) I had a bit of a chance to get ahead on some house projects. I have to say I'm still loving the solid-surface countertops we put in in 2007. Here is the sink, freshly cleaned for the first time in a while:

The 2016 Summer Olympics started just before the fall semester, and since we have another person in the house, we wanted to be slightly better set up for watching sports and eating in the TV room. We re-arrange the TV room so that most people had a place in front of them to eat, so that we don't have to have massive amounts of TV trays. Here are two seats along the right side of the room with their own tables.

Brats and hot dogs to roll in the end of summer and the Olympics opening ceremonies.

Opening ceremonies on th big screen.

We've been able to clean sort stuff that hasn't been really clean in a while, including the freezer.

We watch the Olympics on the big screen, onto to which we point a projector:

One of a our long-term problems has been the input filter on the project. Here's the cover; it's kind of an irregular shape:

The original foam filter disintegrated when I tried to change it. I put one in of a too-heavy cloth, and it's overheated several times in the last year. Before the Olympics started, I replaced that with a couple of layers of cheese cloth cut to fit, and that seems to have fixed it. It's now run for a couple of all-day stints without a problem.

A random picture of the cats.

Thrice is under the table, chilling. Pangur is on top, looking intently at the hummingbirds that are at the feeder we put out on the deck.

2015 Texas Trip: USS Texas and Battle Memorial

2016 August 03 08:51

On our other big sight-seeing day in Houston, we went downtown and the USS Texas memorial ship, and the memorial to the Battle of San Jacinto.

Battleship selfie. You know, like you do.

My wife, on one of the anti-aircraft turrets, taking aim at plagerism and comma-splices.

A lot of the gear on the battleship still kind of works, which is cool. This turret doesn't shoot, obviously, but the articulation works.

Bridge, which we couldn't go into but could photograph.

The engine spaces were amazing, but it was difficult to get photos, because everything's massive but you can't tell because there's nothing for scale. I did snag one photo of the engineering main instrument panel:

The battle site is an interesting walk-around, but not a lot to photograph, other than plaques and a lot of grass. The memorial itself is amazing and huge. Here it is looking like one of the final stars in Super Mario 64:

Everything really is bigger in Texas. Driving back to the house, we have to wait for a crossing oil tanker.

(I think we were actually waiting for the ferry, but I liked the photo.)

Flying back home, gratuitus instrument panel photos:

One nice thing about this trip was that it was the major long-distance trip that my wife and I have attempted to take in our airplane where everything went flawlessly. Two legs out, two legs back, the airplane was completely consistent and dependable.

2015 Texas Trip: NASA

2016 August 03 08:28

Continuing a series of posts that I last worked on, in....er.... February, one of the places we visited in Houson (visiting my brother and sister in law) was the NASA Center in Houston. As a space nut, this was a pretty awesome trip.

The guest rooms we stayed in were very well-equipped:

While we were out on the town for a day, I charged all my stuff.

A few highway photos while we were driving into town.

Houston is VERY big on flyover-overpass exchanges. Here's a good example.

A bit of skyline.

Another overpass set; at least three layers!

A lot of the stuff on display at NASA in Houston is so big that it doesn't particularly lend itself to photography without serious wide-angle gear, and I just had my phone. I attempted to take a few shots to commemorate the occasion.

Here's one of the shuttle carrier 747's with an engineering mock-up shuttle on top of it, parked outside the museum:

Another highlight of Houston NASA is that they have a complete Saturn-5 laid out in a horizontal display building. This is looking down the first stage from the second stage. The first stage is sitting on its ground carrier vehicle; look at the enormous tires!

An (I'm guessing) engineering test Command Module (the brown bit) with its escape tower on the right.

As of this trip, I have now seen all of the Saturn-5 rockets on public display in the US. There's one at Saturn Apollo Center at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, there's this one at NASA in Houston, and there are two at Huntsville, Alabama, one inside like the other two are, and one stacked vertically outside (which is REALLY impressive to see). I've read there's one more Saturn 5 first stage outside somewhere in Louisiana; maybe I'll go fly over it someday.

Outside the Saturn 5 display building, they have some rocket engines, and this. It's a "Little Joe" test vehicle that NASA used to test the escape system for the Apollo Command Module. You can see it here, sitting with a command module mounted on top of it.

Another flyover interchange.

Oh yeah; the kid

2016 August 02 07:49

Oh, right. The *other* thing that's been going on in our lives is that we've adopted a kid. We started the process of international adoption from China last February (2015), aiming to travel to China in May of 2016, right after the end of the spring semester. We managed to hit that perfectly; we travelled in May the week that my wife finished finals.

The paperwork process is long and annoying. I may post about it sometime. It involved background checks and lots of getting verification of the previous layer.

Early in the process last year, the adoption agency we were working with started a program bringing kids from China who were in danger of aging out of the adoption system and bringing them to the US for three weeks. We were part of the way through our initial paperwork, so when the social worker was at our house, we talked about that program. They had a couple of kids still without host homes, so at that point we decided to sign up. It was a way to try out parenting and help the program, without the commitment to keep the kid.

Not surprisingly, one of the things that can happen (and they hope happens) in the hosting program is that the hosting parents fall in love with *that* kid, and decide to adopt them. We definitely did that. We wanted to answer three questions with the hosting. 1) Are we capable of being parents? 2) Do we want to be? 3) Do we want to be parents to *that* kid? By the end of the three weeks, we knew the answers to all three questions was YES. So once the kid had headed back to China, we formally requested to be able to adopt him specifically, then continued the rest of the paperwork.

One of the things my wife and I did as preparation for the trip and for adopting a Chinese child who didn't speak english was to take a year of beginning Mandarin. Here I'm taking one of our exams in the second semester. One of the dialogs was all about location words. So the dialog is about the computer that is ON the desk, and the dog that is UNDER the desk. The teacher had props for the dialog, which I thought was hilarious.

We flew out of Lexington to head to China for the adoption. Our flight was early enough in the morning that we got a hotel room with shuttle service to the airport. Here are our suitcases, ready to go to the airport for the big trip.

A nice, auspicious sunrise on our initial climbout.

The adoption took place in the province of Jinan, China. My wife, kid, and me at the big central park in Jinan City. The sculpture in the background is reminiscent of the Mandarin character for the name of the city.

There will be more posts about our trip and about raising a kid, but I wanted to get the topic out there.