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

dance the dance

2007 June 28 22:41

One of the things you learn and practice when you're learning to fly, and practice ad nauseum, is how to fly a traffic pattern. Since traffic is naturally more concentrated near an airport, the airport traffic pattern is a way to organize airplanes taking off and landing to minimize the likelihood of collision.

But it's seemed to me, so far, that the traffic pattern is something that you just learn from someone. It's like learning to use a hammer correctly; there isn't a course to take in school on it, someone just shows you one day. Well, I'm a book learning kind of guy, so I wanted to find the real definition of what a traffic pattern is. The formal definition.

Well, it turns out that it's not in the repository for a great deal of information for pilots, the Aeronautical Information Manual.

The definition of a traffic pattern is instead in FAA Avisory Circular AC 90-66A. Aviation Advisory Circulars are official documents put out by the FAA which are guides on how to do things according to them. Here's a full index of ACs on the FAA's web site. A Circular mentioned a lot in EAA (amateur aircraft) publications is AC 43.13, which is the list of how to do stuff on an aircraft; how to use different types of fasteners and so on.

So now I have a real copy of the definiton of a traffic pattern. I did learn a couple of things from that document.

I have just about 45 hours of flying thus far. I'm finishing with my preparation for the FAA's private pilot check ride. I'm scheduled for that on July 5 in the morning. I passed the written test last Saturday, so it's all over but the testing. We'll be flying down to Tri-Cities for the test. I'll need to leave home early in the morning--it'll be a long day.

bloggo ergo sum

2007 June 20 12:19

I'm on assignment and vacation in the DC area. I went to the new Udvar-Hazy center of the National Air and Space Museum yesterday. It's only been open a couple of years, and it's the first time I've been there. It's pretty cool. Their space hangar is really something to see. It has a cabinet of spacecraft computer's that's pretty cool. I'll put up some photos soon.

Now that I've visited there, and I got my business done on Monday, I'm taking a true vacation and not rushing out and killing myself to do stuff. I'm sitting in the hotel and catching up on stuff.

individual carburetor molecules

2007 June 15 06:39

I discovered a couple of months ago, when trying to make my beetle run right again, that the exhaust valve on the #1 cylinder was stretching. One of the possible causes for this problem is that there is air leaking into the intake side of the engine. More air than than there's supposed to be means a leaner mixture at the cylinders, meaning a hotter running engine. It also means that it's tough to tune the engine properly.

One of the places that air can leak in is around the bushings on the throttle shaft in the carburetor. This is the easiest to deal with because the carburetor is easier to replace, than, say, the intake manifold. I had bought a carb on ebay, so I rebuilt it, and the installed it on the car. Here's the carb taken all apart (click to enlarge):

(The combination wrench in the photo isn't part of the carb, of course. Everything else in the photo is, though, I think)

Here's the empty hull with all the stuff out:

And now ready to go in the car:

And, miracle of miracles, the car runs right! And the throttle doesn't stick!

I think a lot of the issues with the car not running right were probably just passages in the carburetor that were clogged up since historically it hasn't been driven enough. Cleaning the whole chassis out thoroughly with carb cleaner fixed that.

Another thing was the throttle stuck a lot. I had to tap the gas pedal to get the throttle to break loose, so I revved the engine a lot coming off of idle, and so it sounded like I didn't know how to drive a manual. Well, I think this is probably due to someone lubricating the throttle spindle with oil. I've seen this in perfectly legitimate manuals, but do not lubricate the throttle with oil! The oil collects dirt and contaminants, and makes the throttle sticky. Lubricate it with GRAPHITE. It's messy, but it really makes the throttle work like it's supposed to.

So now that I've put in a new carb, and set the timing properly (another story), I've set the valves yet again. The #1 exhaust valve had drifted to .004 inches in 200 or so miles, which is really fast (it should be at .006). So now I have to drive it a few hundred miles to see if the drift has stopped, or slowed down, or is the same as before.

so on top of things, no time to brag

2007 June 13 00:44

I've been getting good enough at getting things done in the last month that I haven't had time to blog about how well things are going! :-) Sorry about that; I'll try to do better.

The beetle short version: - I have a valve that's stretching/sinking (prelude to breaking off) - It could have been because of the carb, or perhaps a leak in the intake mainfold - I put in a different, newly re-built carb and set the timing right - Now the car runs right, for the first time since I've owned it. - I've set the valves again, and now we wait to see if the valve is still deteriorating

So I get to drive it to flying lessons a few times. Whee!

But now it's developing a wheel noise, so I need to sort that out.

night train

2007 June 13 00:35

My night flights are finished now. The requirements for the pilot's pilot certificate include that you must have had 3 hours of night instruction, including 10 take-offs and landings and a cross country of at least 100 miles distance. My instructor and I did two night flights to fulfill the requirements in May, so that's one more requirement down.

The last requirement is to have 3 hours of instruction preparing for the private pilot check ride within 60 days of taking the test. This time will be spent going over things for the check ride and practicing maneuvers. I have one more business trip next week, but then I hope to get my test done by the time things get busy for me in later July.