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

One trend I was ahead on

2011 August 24 08:07

It all started when I went to renew my subscription to Flight Guide. It's a set of publications put out by a company called "Airguide Publications".

They contain non-official information about airports in the US. The great thing is they contain(ed) information about the airports that wasn't in any official source. They list hotels and businesses at or around the airport, and they have airport diagrams for airports too small to have official diagrams in the official FAA stuff. They are (were) awesome tools for the VFR pilot. Although I let it lapse a couple of times, I had an active subscription for most of the time between when I got my pilot's license in 2007 through last year.

After I got my instrument rating last fall, I realized my subscription had lapsed, and I went to renew it. Well it turns out that they were changing their format and the old format is no longer available. Huh. I started digging into their web site, and I noticed one of their products called Fight Guide iEFB. Hmm...I wonder what that is and would I want it?

There's a set of descriptions for Electronic Flight Bags (hardware and software), and Airguide has apparently decided to spend a lot of their time building one for the Apple iPad. An EFB application has and displays charting and reference informationt for operating at airports and flying between them. It can contain charts, frequencies and departure and approach information which before pilots carried in their flight bags (the big heavy bags that pilots carry onto the airliners).

At first I didn't feel a burning need to swtich to electronic stuff. While I certainly love gadgets, I have enough to think about when I'm flying. However, I thought about it and did some math. Instrument publications change over a lot faster than VFR publications, some of them every 28 or 56 days. The information in those publications is free (as a product of taxpayer money), but getting them on physical paper costs money. I realized that keeping myself in publications for the parts of the US that I would want to fly in would cost me something on the order of $300 per year. The electronic EFB applications generally require a subscription service; Flight Guide's cost like $75/year for everything I want. Given the great cost efficiency increase by going electronic, I went ahead and invested in an iPad.

The flight guide app does have charting, but I don't think it's the best app. The one that I use when I'm flying is ForeFlight. It's a great interface, it's very smooth, and it's very very SIMPLE. I find it's great to use in the air. Here's ForeFlight on my iPad displaying instrument en-route charts with a highlight flight plan:

And displaying an instrument approach:

This is roughly my setup when I'm flying:

I have the iPad on my left leg mounted on an leg mount from Ram Mounts. That's a kneeboard on my right leg (basically a clipboard with a strap). I have a note pad clipped in it for writing down clearances and frequencies and stuff. This is obviously not taken in an airplane; I just took this at home for illustration purposes. When I'm flying, normally there are rudder pedals and things in front of my feet instead of, in this picture, a cat. I've flown with this setup for real, lots in VFR, and also in simulated instrument flying for practice and in on case an actual instrument approach. It works very well for me.

What's interesting is that air carriers that carry passengers for hire have been working on getting FAA approval for using iPads for charting devices. This February, a company called Executive Jet Management got approval from the FAA to use iPads (with Jeppesen Mobile TC application) as their charting source (article on Wired) (article on Gadget Venue). The second article is interesting because it says that they have approval to use the iPad as a sole source of charting information.

The reason that I bring this up is that yesterday, United Airlines announced that they are going to be issuing iPads to their pilots to replace bound paper charts and publications. So, for once, this is one trend that I'm actually in on the ground floor!

Pedal cluster done...

2011 August 24 01:05

(Wow--I haven't blogged for 9 days? Oy--I'll never do a post per day this month at this rate.)

I've had all kinds of various problems with the pedals in my vintage Beetle. The throttle cable has always been moderately too long. And of course there were the problems with the brake master cylinder, which I replaced a few years ago. Recently I've even put the proper spacers in so that the master cylinder is attached correctly.

I've been fighting with the throttle cable again. There's something wierd going on with the length of it. There's a cable length that's supposed to be for Beetles from 1972 to 1974, which includes mine. However, I got a couple of new cables of that length, but they're even longer than the almost-too-long cable that I took out. So I ordered an earlier model cable from Wolfsburg West (a shorter one) to see if that would help.

This is a timed photo taken with the recent "new" throttle cable from the supposed correct year. When the photo snapped, I'm in the car with the accelerator pedal all the way down.

The green arrow is pointing to a gap that shouldn't be there. When the throttle is all the way open, the throttle arm to the right pushes up against the body of the carburetor on the left. This is partly to do wtih the too-long cable, and the slightly goofy way I had it attached to the lever assembly at the front of the car.

The carburetor end of two of the cables. The 1972-74 is on the right, the 1971 and earlier on the left. The green arrow shows about where the cable clamp at the carburetor falls, so the one on the left that I got should actually be about right.

With the new cable installed, the throttle opens all the way when you push the accelerator pedal down.

It's hard to see (it was hard to photograph), but here's the end of the cable at the carburetor. The red arrow points to the barrel that's crimped onto the end of the cable. It's perfect--about half of the barrel is ahead of the carb clamp and about half behind it.

I got the above done last night. Tonight I tied in the pedal end of the cable with cable ties. The end of the cable just goes through a hole in the lever that's ahead of the accelerator pedal (shown here). It stays in just by a bend in the crimped end. It stays Ok when it's under tension but I was afraid at some point motion of the pedal would dis-lodge it and I'd lose throttle control. So I put cable ties on the crimped end (indicated by the red arrow), so now it won't fall out.

I hope to get the electronic distributor in soon and start going out for test drives.

Launched but not Commissioned

2011 August 15 08:09

19:10 August 14 2011 (yesterday evening) my vintage Beetle started again. Although the morning was pleasant, the afternoon working on the car was long and annoying.

The core prolem at the moment is the throttle cable. The one that was orignally in the car seems like it's too long. I'd assumed that was because the cable had streteched over time. The length of the cable is important, because the throttle on the carburetor clamps to a tube that's crimped onto the cable, not to the cable itself. So the length has to be pretty close to right. At a couple of different times, I ordered what I thought was the correct cable to replace it.

(By the way--when I assembled the car, I put in an adjustable cable with an end that you put on with a set screw. These suck and don't work. Get the real kind.)

Well, there are a couple of different lengths of throttle cable, and the one that fits my car seems to not be the one that is upposed to fit it. I don't know what would make the difference. It's possible that the pedal cluster is different, and somehow my car ended up with one from a different year.

The throttle cable that's in the car (one of the new ones but really too long) works Ok, although it doesn't allow the car to go to completely full throttle. I've ordered a couple newer cables, of the shorter length. Hopefully by next weekend we'll be able to install one that fits right.

The other fun issue is that installing a throttle cable with the engine in the car is a really huge pain in the tookus. The throttle cable goes through a tube that's attached to the body; pushing the table through is actually very easy, because the cable is slightly stiff. There's a hole in the top center of the breastplate tin on the engine that the throttle cable goes through; that involves some work under the car. But that took me probably 5 minutes to do.

Once the cable is in the engine compartment, you have to feed it through the fan shroud. This involves a bunch of work at arm's length in a very narrow space that you can't see when you're working on it. You also need to have some sort of tube fed through the fan shroud to put the throttle cable through. I'd made one out of two pen barrels taped together, but it broke during the operation, causing a fair amount of cussing on my part.

I fabricated a tool to help with this, so it only took 10 minutes after that. I'll post photos at some point.

I got oil put in the engine. everything put all back together, and the fuel lines re-connected. I had to crank it for 20 or 30 seconds at first because the carburetor didn't have any fuel in it. But I got fuel in it and it started fairly uneventfully, and idled for 20 minutes or so, then I shut it off. (I discovered that my digital tach/dwell meter was dead. I thought it was a dead battery but it was acting funny even with a fresh battery so I threw it away). I set the timing in the engine, and I set the idle roughly with one of the older-school tach meters that I have.

Starting the weekend, I had planned to at least drive the car out of the driveway and around the neighborhood to scrape the rust off the brake drums. However, given the long annoying day I had working on the car, I decided to quit while I was ahead, and finished the day by driving the car into the garage. I will note that the accelerator, clutch, and brake all worked correctly, so everything in the pedal cluster seems to be fine. And I appear to have re-assembled and installed the clutch correctly.

There's a lot of adjusting and tweaking to be done. I'll slowly bring it up again to the point of taking long-distance trips. However, it's running, so I can start driving it around town at least. W00t!


2011 August 13 21:20

I worked on the vintage Beetle a bunch this afternoon/evening. I didn't quite get the engine started tonight, but almost. Did today:

I had on problem--the distributor clamps that I bought have the tightening screw in an odd place. I thought I had as many clamps as distributors but since these new ones don't work, I'll have to use the old one for the moment. (This is an example of why it's important to not throw away parts from a vintage car until the replacement has been installed and tested.

I got the engine to the point that it was ready to spin. Ignition dis-abled, no carburetor, I installed the battery and spun the engine with the starter three times past where the oil pressure light went off. So the oil pump can pull oil in, the bearings have fresh oil, and the engine should be ready to start tomorrow. w00t!

Something I haven't felt since...

2011 August 11 07:30

The engine is IN my vintage Beetle. I didn't bother posting a picture of the engine in, because there are dozens and dozens of them already in this blog. However, Monday night I got the engine under the car. Last night I lefted it up, and bolted it to the transmission. Nothings connected yet, though.

I would just as soon have the engine in the car for a while, so that I have a chance to drive it. I hope the next time it comes out will be to install an alternator, but first the electrical system needs a bunch of work to handle more current.

A look back

2011 August 09 00:44

I've been figuring out how to make proper bar graphs in gnuplot, so that I could make this chart. This type of bar graph doesn't work with "with impulses" if you make the line width wide; the bars extend below the horizontal axis and it looks like crap. Instead, you use the plot command thusly: plot './hours_flown_quarters_2011aug06a.dat' with boxes fs solid title 'hours flown per quarter'

Here's the graph of my flying hours through the present. I've done pretty well over the last year. The important thing is to keep a steady level of hours to stay current.

The goal here is...

2011 August 08 08:21

The goal here, with all the activity working on my vintage Beetle, is to get the engine in the car so that I can drive it. After working on the garage a bunch, and then working on the pedal cluster, back to working on the engine. This is where I started on Sunday:

After adding some last bits of engine tin. Green dots mark the breastplate tin. Red dots and blue dots mark the two pieces of plenum that direct exhaust air from the oil cooler under the engine.

Since it was easily accessible for the first time in I hope, for a while, I decided to go ahead and check the depth of the clutch plate. It has plenty of wear left; that's good. Here's the clutch plate mounted, ready for the pressure plate. The clutch alignment tool, marked with green dots, holds the clutch plate in place while the pressure plate is bolted to the flywheel.

Sunday ended, not with the engine installed, but at least in place under the car.

Model Acceptance

2011 August 08 07:39

I spent a little time walking around the fly mart at Oshkosh. Since it was the last day, the booth selling nice models of airplanes was selling them off fairly cheaply.

I bought a very nice model of a B-52 Stratofortress bomber. I've always had a connection to that airplane because my uncle flew them in Vietnam for the US Air Force.

I find the sticker on the bottom terribly ironic:

My wife isn't necessarily a fan of all airplanes, all the time. However, since the model is made of WOOD, it has a place in our living room, at least for now. The important thing is, though, that the box is just the right size for Pangur:

I made a part...but then I installed it.

2011 August 08 00:01

Yesterday, I got back to the point that I'd been when I was last working on it in the spring, which was putting the pedal cluster back together after having checked the clutch hook. I wanted to get the brake pedal set up again so that I could stop the car when pushing it ina nd out of the garage. To do that properly, I needed to create a retaining clip that holds the brake push rod on the pin that comes out of the brake pedal shaft.

The parts of the brake pushrod, cleaned and ready to assemble and install.

The metal piece in the lower left of the corner is the brake pedal itself. In the lower middle of the photo is the pin that the pushrod goes on. The pushrod extendes forward into the rubber dust boot at the top of the photo and contacts the brake master cylinder. Three parts of the pin are marked with colors. The green part on the left is where the pushrod sits. The blue line shows where the pushrod retaining clip is supposed to go. The part of the pine indicate by the red line is where the brake pedal returning spring attaches.

Here I'm holding the brake pushrod in place to show you where it sits on the pin.

To make the clip, I cut a small square of aluminum and bent over one edge to make a spine.

I made this slot a bit narrower than the diameter of the pin where the clip goes. I beveled the end of the slot to aid in slipping it on.

I filed out the end of the slot so that it will sit properly on the brake pedal pin. I also trimmed the bottom down some so that it didn't interfere with the movement of the pedal.

Push rode in place, the clip is ready to install.

Pushed down onto the pin.

Now the brake pedal is fully assembled and fully functional. The end of the brake pushrod is marked with green dots. The retaining clip that I manufactured is marked with blue dots. The end of the return spring is marked by red dots.

In which my car joins the latter third of the twentieth century

2011 August 06 17:11

I did a bunch of logistical cleaning work on the garage, and I'm finally back to where I was on the vintage Beetle.

One of the things that happen the last few times that I drove the car last fall was that the set of points wore out. I'd noticed the shift in timing that my warning that the failure was imminent, but hadn't known it for what it was. So I bought an electronic points replacement kit but hadn't installed it yet. I was catching up on the episodes of Craig Feruson on the DVR, I grabbed the electronic points kit and installed it in the older of the two distributors I have.

The innards of distributor before installation. The points are the hinge-looking thingy.

The points replacement kit.

The sensor is the black thing over on the left. I wrapped the wires in duct tape to protect them from rotation of the rotor once that was put on.

The black disk below the distributor rotor has four magnets in it. When each magnet passes by the sensor, it causes the electronic unit to block the current coming from the coil, generating the spark.

I also got stuff unstacked from around the car. I didn't roll it out of the garage because the pedal cluster is partially taken apart:

I took the pedal cluster part way out of the tunnel to check the clutch hook. When cars get old the hook wears through, suddenly leaving you with no clutch. Mine is fine. But to get it out I had to take some parts off. One of the things I discovered was that the brake pushrod wasn't secured properly. I need to manufacture a securing part and re-assemble that.

So I got the distributors worked on. I didn't do anything to the car per se, but I'm now back at the point when I was last working on it, early this spring, so that's progress of a sort.

Ferry range

2011 August 05 08:20

Not that it's been keeping me up at night, but I've always wondered what the range of my New Beetle was. I knew it was pretty close to the distance of my about-once-a-month multistate commut, but I'd never quite had the chance to be filled up at one end, then try to drive it without refueling.

Well, I had a chance yesterday. I got gas, drove to the Post Office on north Mattis in Champaign, then headed out. Here's the instrument cluster as I was just about to stop and get gas. It's two tics above empty, so there's at least a gallon in the tank (about another 30 miles). I drove another 5 miles before fueling. So the range of the car is about 410 miles, driving mostly at 70 or 75. So I can't quite make the 440 mile commute on a single tank.

Airplane photos after all

2011 August 04 01:00

I mostly visited vendors I was interested in and stuff like that at Oshkosh, and I didn't walk the flight line looking at pretty airplanes hardly at all. But one thing I did do is take a look at "Fifi", the only B-29 currently flying.

On the drive back from Oshkosh to Illinois, I got to see a tow airplane towing a glider aloft. I got a great view of it, but this is the only photograph of the event that I got. My phone camera (the only one I could get to easily) kept focusing on the windshield.