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

What I've been doing...

2015 April 28 23:00

I meant to come and have the annual of the plane take 3 or perhaps 4 days. *sigh* It's not super-bad, I get to stay and play with the parents-in-law who are awesome, but it's been two weeks as of tomorrow and I miss my wife and cats.

This post is about what I've been doing. Early on we cleaned and check spark plugs; everything looking healthy there.

One of the big things I've done this trip is take all the belly panels off my plane for the first time. Here they are laid out with piles of screws.

I forgot to put something in the picture to scale; the panels are about 2 feed wide, top to bottom in the image. There's about a few hundred screws holding them to the airplane.

Getting the screws out wasn't trivial. Three of them had actually completely frozen, so I had to cut a slot in their heads with a dremel tool to get them out.

Another thing I got to mess with was taking off and putting on the spinner.

I painted the pressure plate (highlighted by the red arrow), and then installed the forward bulkhead with new screws. Just waiting for the mechanic's approval to put that part back together.

So what's the fuss about? Why did I stay longer? Well, I needed to have a spacing collar installed in the nose gear for better handling. THe collar is the silver ring; the white plate is the pressure plate at the top of the gear doughnuts.

And as long as we're taking the nose disk shock tower apart, I decided to have the shock disks in the nose gear replaced.

Also, while I've been driving back and forth to the hangar (1 h 20 min each way) I've been testing chargers to see which one worked best charging my iPad mini.

So tomorrow, hopefully by mid-day the nose gear will be back together and I can start planning for the trip home.

Installing the Stratus

2015 April 07 10:04

Here's what I've been doing with the Stratus. Here's my working cardboard template that I'm getting into shape.

I'm basically making a basket or tray that holds the stratus along the axis of the airplane, so that I can see the status lights, and so that it doesn't slide off into my lap from the glare shield. I did this very early in the year.

A few weeks later, I put together a more precise version of the tray. Here I've put it together.

Eventually the thought is to make the tray out of Aluminum so it's stiffer, but the cardboard will do for a short-lived version.

The green cord is a USB power cord that runs along the top of the glare shield and then comes over by the pilot to power the iPad.

The cardboard tray, cable tied into place on the compass mounting tube, with the Stratus sitting in/on it. And the power cable to the Stratus:

Here's what the setup looks like from outside the windshield:

If I park the airplane just right, I can get the car into the hangar with the airplane still in it and shut the door:

A closer view of the above shot. You can see the oil cooler nicely here in the lower corner of the cowl. You can also see the Stratus in its mount under the windshield.

And after a couple of hours of futzing and prepping, the airplane is ready for its trip to Texas (another post).

The weather was likely to be fairly cold the morning that we left; you can see the extension cord going in the oil door on the cowl; it's attached to the engine heater plug and comes from a timer on the other end. I set it to start warming the oil several hours before we got to the hangar. It worked great.

Socket before

2015 April 07 09:38

An addendum to the last post. When I went to test the Bolse charger in flight, I noticed that it kept popping the breaker. The below photos are the "before" of the inside of the lighter socket.

Here's the bottom of the socket.

The outer barrel is connected to ground. The center stud at the back is connected to positive voltage through a breaker. There's a tang also connected to positive voltage that sticks out toward the camera that's also at positive voltage. Notice on this side (which is lower right in the socket as it sits in the plane) there's a nice cutout in the barrel for the tang to make sure they don't touch.

Now here's two other shots of the other side of the lighter socket.

Note that there are TWO cutouts, but the other tang lands directly in between them. In other words, if the tang gets pushed out from the center, it touches the side of the barrel. As you can see, it's done so quite a bit; the edge of the tang is eroded.

What it looks like to me here is that the barrel and the pieces that sits in the back of the barrel don't match. I presume there's a three-tang pattern and a two-tang pattern, and someone later replaced the back part of the barrel with the wrong piece. Since it causes shorts, I almost wonder if it wasn't a former owner doing some "hangar fairy" maintenance. Also mildly amusing that no one since then noticed it.

Charging: going forward

2015 April 06 22:40

Last year sometime, I bought a charger to go in the airplane. It has three outputs, with different current capacities marked on the USB ports:

It worked pretty well for my accessory electronics in my airplane while I was flying. The 2.4A output was enough to charge the Stratus GPS/ADS-B unit, and the lower 1.5A output would charge my iPad.

Well, I got another one to charge the two devices, a newer one without the labels, with the hopes that since all the outputs were the same, it would be able to supply full output current to all three outputs.

Not so much, it turns out. Only output that can charge the Stratus is the top on, and the other ports act the same as the labelled one. So in other words, the unlabelled one is the same as the labelled one just without the physical labels. Oh well. More recently I've been investigating other charging solutions. (Both of the 3-output white chargers are "Bolse" brand.)

One interesting thing I ran into while testing the newer charger was that if I pushed it into the power socket (formerly lighter socket) all the way, it would trip the breaker. Looking inside, you can see why:

The yellow dot indicates the tang on the hot part of the socket. You can see it's scored on the edge where it's touched the side. I suspect that someone put the back part of the socket from a car into the socket from the airplane. This is something I'll have to talk to my mechanic at annual (which is soon). My temporary solution is the red cardboard strip that keeps the tang from touching the grounding barrel.

The reason that I'm getting the charging stuff set up is that I bought an iPad mini 2 for my electronic charts.

Next to my hand is my old iPad 1 that I've had for a few years, and farther away from my hand is the mini. Both are running foreflight here.

I have a RAM ball mount on the bottom of the pilot's yoke in my airplane. I have a RAM mounting arm and an iPad mini mount to hold the mini in front of the yoke. Here you see how I've modified the arm, so that the arm will sit up flush with the yoke shaft:

And here's the iPad mini on its mount on the yoke. This is basically my view sitting in the pilot's seat.

The full-size iPad is pretty bulky, but the mini is perfect. I can read the approach plate (as shown) but I can see the panel and switches just fine. I've flown four big cross-country flights with it mounted this way, including a real instrument approach in significant IFR conditions, and this worked great.

Oh, and another thing: The Bolse charger wasn't able to charge the Stratus and the iPad mini continuously for all the flights. Sometime during the second flight, it stopped charging the stratus. I don't know if it gets too hot or what, but the flights were finished under battery power. Which is fine, but I wish I could get a solution that would continue to charge for arbitrary amounts of time.

I realized the other day that I don't have any ANY photos of the airplane in the last dozen or so blog posts, here here are a couple. This was March 1 when I went out to the hangar and test the fit of the iPad and test the charger. After two weeks of basically being snowed in, we were able to get out of the house, but the hangars still had a ridge of snow from it falling off the roof of the hangar building.

And just because it amuses me, a closer version of that same photo:

I love the asymmetric look of the nose, the landing light on the right side and the oil cooler on the left. If you look closely, just to the right (from our point of view) in the windshield is the Stratus taped to the glare shield. The saga of the mounting technology for the Stratus is another post entirely.

Major Victory in January: wiper motor!

2015 April 06 08:08

The one real problem I've ever had with my 2008 VW has been the wiper motor. I had the motor replaced early on under warranty, and then a couple of years later, I had the gear mechanism replace on my dime. I guess it's just under-engineered, because it started to intermittently fail over the winter, and failed completely in January (when I was loaning the car to someone--OOPS!).

It failed on me COMPLETELY when I was out shopping. I drove it home, in a bit a rain, very slowly. I do NOT recommend that. I won't do it again. That was kinda scary.

Anyway, I got it home (that was a Friday, I think) and so I got out the big manual for the car. I decided that getting to the wiper motor assembly didn't look too bad, so I brought that car into the garage and tore into it. It wasn't, indeed, that bad. Here's the motor and wiper arm assembly out of the car:

and so first thing Saturday morning, I drove down to the VW dealer in Knoxville and bought a new motor.

Pangur, inspecting the new motor:

I installed it, and so by mid-afternoon, less than 24 hours after it had completely failed on me, the car was recommissioned. So it may well happen again, but now I know I can repair it quickly for only the cost of the part itself.

March part 1

2015 April 06 07:23

Wow--March was quite a month. Even in January, March was already shaping up to be a busy month. I had significant trips/commitments early in the month and late in the month. Then I had the bright idea to stick a really busy work trip with personal travel on both ends in the middle. So March was very busy with travel; as I write this on April 6, it's just finally settling out and this week should be back to a normal-ish schedule.

The first journey was a trip up to Cincinattii to help my wife run a conference. This was an absolute committment on my part, and has been on my schedule for at least six months. The two weeks of snowmageddon at the end of February were not encouraging for this trip. The conference was Friday/Saturday. Earlier in the week, the state of Kentucky wasn't doing too badly, but it was looking a lot of the state would get snow dumped on it on Wednesday and Thursday, so us just getting to the conference was looking iffy.

Given the snow that was expected to land on Thursday, if we started heading north on Thursday morning, it was likely we wouldn't be able to get out of town. So we decided to outmaneuver the weather. Wednesday afternoon (in fine weather) we drove to Lexington and stayed in a hotel right on the north side, next to the interstate, so the roads we would be driving on would have the best snow removal possible.

That worked fine. But we did get the expected snow over night. When we got up, the car was caked with nigh on a foot of snow:

That morning, I did the first clear-start-scrape-defrost cycle I've done in many many years. I know people in Minnesota do that every day in parts of the winter, but it's been a while for me. I also backed it across the parking lot so that it was clear of the snow piles around it. The end result was pretty good:

While we were having breakfast I made some poor attempts at bird photography while we were having lunch.

Due to the higgledy-piggledy of the snow and its effect on the conference schedule, the conference days itself were super-busy, so I really don't have anything to show. One really nice thing: right across the street from the hotel was a Joe's Crab Shack:

I think if I were reviewing that as a design for an establishment in a game, I would perhaps ask them to pull back the character a bit.

And last thing: on the way home, I saw this advertisement in a truck stop bathroom. It got me thinking more about car (and also airplane) USB chargers, which is another topic that I've been working on this past month.

So the trip to Cincinatti was the opening salvo of the month. The big trip in the middle of the month was yet to come.