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

look, it's the Goodyear Blimp!

2007 July 30 01:05

I took this from my camp site the last day I was at Oshkosh, Wednesday.

I'm not home yet, but maybe in a day or two. I'm dealing with car trouble at the moment. Obviously I didn't manage to blog a lot from Oshkosh. More soon.

it's starting to look a lot like Oshkosh

2007 July 23 08:09

It must be that time of year again.

After a 1 year hiatus due to moving, I'm back at Oshkosh in 2007. Yay!

With a little luck today, I'll get some more footage of Robert Scherer's Beech Starship today. I don't think I'll be able to upload any video while I'm here, but I'll actually be in touch due to there being wireless in camp Scholler.

hiding out

2007 July 16 01:55

Friday, I'm going to be going to the one place where people won't be talking about the last Harry Potter book. I will be able to read it in peace through next week. My copy is arriving at an undisclosed location on Saturday.

I have a lot of predictions as to what certain plot elements will be. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who's read all the books so far that I can debate those points with. I guess I'll have to send myself a a letter with my predictions.

going for the record

2007 July 15 10:12

I did go and take the flight portion of the practical test on Monday. I didn't pass. I failed on maneuver, the soft field approach.

Tri-Cities is a class-D airport, so it has some commercial traffic, and I've never done patterns there; I've always only flown in or out. When we have gone there, I've always done my approaches faster than usual just to minimize the time that I was a factor for the other traffic and for the tower. Well, that backfired on the soft field approach. When I was cleared for landing, I was told "caution wake turbulence", and so I was staying above the flight path of the airplane that had landed ahead of us. So I was coming in faster than usual, and higher than usual, and I ended up getting even faster than I had intended. We touched down about half way down runway 23, the 8000 foot long runway there.

So I got a "notice of disapproval" for my practical test ("check ride"). I need to practice the things that I failed (in this case, the soft field approach and landing), have my instructor sign off that I've had the proper corrective training, and go up and do it again. "This time for sure!".

At this point I'm going for the record of how many times someone has to depart for their check ride. I hope I top out at 3.

boltgun metal

2007 July 08 22:10

My friend who makes models came over tonight and showed me how to get going with the painting. First I painted all the engine parts (which will eventually be metallic) with a slightly diluted "Chaos Black". Then I painted them the real colors called for in the instructions. The paints that I'm borrowing are aimed at fantasy models, so when the instructions called for "Aluminum", I used "Mithril Silver", for black I used Chaos Black, and then for "Steel" I used "Boltgun Metal".

Here's the spruce with the afternoon's painting:

And here a dry fit of one half of the engine. The cylinders are black, the engine block is mithril silver and the oil pan is gunbolt metal.

Mr. Adam's point of view

2007 July 08 09:12

Many people know that Scott Adams is the author of the popular Dilbert comic strip. Adams has published lots of books of Dilbert, and has also written a few partially humorous non-fiction books. I have been a avid reader of his blog ever since he started it. He's smart, sarcastic, ascerbic, and sometimes has a potty mouth, but he always has interesting things to say.

Here are two recent outstanding posts on public speaking and hypnosis.

red light/green light

2007 July 07 22:45

I went to Tri-cities on Thursday for my private pilot check ride (final exam). I survived the oral. I can only describe it as grueling. I took the FAA written exam just a couple of weeks ago; I have to say that if the examiner is really strict on the oral, being competent for the final exam is not sufficient preparation for the oral.

However, I survived. I got a weather briefing for the cross-country flight portion, which was forecasting lots of weather, thunderstorms, and mountain obscuration. The examiner stressed that the call was mine to make, and since I wouldn't go flying after a briefing like that, I decided to postpone the flight portion for another day.

Some miscellaneous things that it would have been good that I had known:

Thunderstorms have three phases: developing (contains updrafts) mature (contains precipitation) dissipating (contains downdrafts) Although my ground school went over weather, I'm pretty sure that I hadn't heard that explanation in quite that way before. Oh, and the direction that the "anvil" top on a thunderstorm indicates the direction that it's moving. This can be useful for navigating around them.

Know red/green tower light signals, or how to find them (They're printed on some kneeboards).

The big thing that the examiner was bugged about was that I had planned my cross-country using VOR navigation. I like VORs, they make sense to me and they're simple to use. The examiner's take on the private pilot practical test standards is that the cross-country must be done only with pilotage and dead reckoning. She gave me time to re-plan my flight, but since Thursday, I have re-done it to refine it and use the mountains better:

So I get to go back. I just hope I get it done before I leave for three weeks. At this point, I just want it over with.

prime weather

2007 July 07 22:19

I'm going to start painting my model by painting bits of the engine first. They're small, different colors, and they really need to be painted before putting the model together.

I started by separating the engine pieces from the others

The humidity/temperature combination was right this evening, so I took that section outside and primed it.

I just shot the primer at the parts perpendicularly. Looking at the cowl here, I think I need to shoot the side a little better with the primer.

The can indicates that you should put two coats of primer on anyway, so I'll try to get better coverage on the next coat.

the right tool

2007 July 04 21:01

A lot of arenas that I've worked in have great traditions of improvising tools and parts. Back when I was an undergraduate research assistant, we closed off large ventillation pipes with large pie plates and duct tape--not in a teach lab experiment, but in a real, live research experiment. And programming is often an excersize in making do with not quite what you want.

However, sometimes there are situations where only just the right tool will do. Once such came up recently. I bought a gear puller for the gears on a VW crankshaft. The crank is assembled to go into the engine by installing the #3 main bearing, and then pressing two gears and spacers onto the shaft. . Before having it machined, the gears and other parts need to be pulled back off, requiring quite a bit of force, because the camshaft drive gear is a press fit on the crank.

Here's the fully assembled crankshaft with the gear puller beside it:

Detail of the end of the crank. The snout at the end is where the crankshaft pulley goes. The disk inside of that is the oil slinger, being held on by the small woodruff key. The grey ring behind that is the #4 main bearing. Then a spacer, the brass colored distributor drive gear, a wider spacer, the distributor drive gear, and then the #3 main bearing.

The other tool besides the gear puller that was indispensible; a circlip pliers. When you squeeze the handles, the tips get farther apart. Here it's removing the retaining ring outside of the distributor gear.

The puller in action. It required quite a bit of force to get it off, here I have the 17mm allen wrench for the transmission plugs to provide a lever to keep the puller from turning over.

Parts as they came off the crank, in order from bottom center clockwise. The pile of metal shavings are either from the end of the screw on the puller or from the inside of the crank itself; Next time, I'll have to try to see if I can find something to put in there as a bushing.

Oh, and happy independence day!

there's no standardized test for that?

2007 July 02 10:36

The modern idea of education is mostly counter to the classic notion of apprenticeship, but it's interesting how much of the modern world still works on the apprenticeship principle. There are lots of fields that you can get a formal education in and be perfectly competent, but to really understand how to do it right you really need to have worked under someone who knew the ropes. Graduate school is the closest formal analog that I've been involved in. A good graduate school relationship really is like apprentice/master. Ideally, as an apprentice/grad student, you can learn from several good practisioners in your field.

I bought a Cessna 172 model kit on Saturday. I think it would be neat to have around to use as illustration of things about airplanes, and the 172 is a natural choice because I suspect that for a few years it will be my primary cross-country machine.

The instructions for the model brought up this point about apprenticeship. The instructions talk about how to apply the decals, and they tell you what color to paint what detail parts of the plane. The decals are meant to be applied to a gloss paint coat--but no word on how to do this. I guess the manufacturers just assume that if you bought the kit you already know everything there is to know about building models.

So I YIMed my friend who builds modes and gaming miniatures. He gave me the low-down, about primers and paints and whatnot. His advice is to build and then paint, but there are definitely parts in and around the engine compartment that I'll want to paint first (there's a quarter in the photo for scale).

I've gotten pretty bad about posting. I'm going to pick up on something that some bloggers I read did earlier this spring; 30 posts in 30 days. We'll see how that goes, since I'm helping host a conference in a couple of weeks and I'm going to Oshkosh after that.