Photo Journal: 12-4-09

Sorry I have not posted anything with substance lately, I have been busy with work... However yesterday I went flying with a friend in his '58 Tri Pacer. He had never been up over the Ice Fields, and we could not have picked a better day for him to experience it. What do you think?


Photo of the Week

A double this time!

Caravan w/ Rainbow

Sunset over frozen lakes and tundra between Hooper Bay and Bethel, from 11,500'

I am the "Pavement Muncher"!

...With a shark-toothed grin, Don't know if my gear will come down again!

It is time to tell this story, the Saga of N417PM over the last couple months.

It all started with "Papa Mike" (Now also known as "Pavement Muncher")
Sitting in the maintenance hangar for a while, I forget why. One of our pilots, Taka, got the idea to paint a shark mouth on the plane. Since we were short on planes, Taka and I were not flying and pretty bored so with an OK from the boss, we drew up a plan and got to work:

Myself, masking the design.

Now, this would have been the end of the story. Nose art done, time to fly right?
Sure, except I had made a comment to Taka while painting to the effect of "You watch, I bet this thing gets balled up in the next two months and we'll have to repaint it all over again..."


A month Later:

A hydraulic line in the nose wheel well had broken, which caused all attempts to lower the nose wheel to fail, dumping all her hydraulic fluid overboard in the process.

After flying around for a couple hours to burn off fuel, the plane landed in a textbook perfect emergency landing. Both props were feathered just before touchdown and the plane slid to a stop with only minor skin damage to the nose, a broken stringer and two pancaked pitot tubes.
There were no injuries to the pilot or passengers, who exited through the overwing exit on the right side.

This month, after scavenging a new nose from a carcass Navajo and a little spray paint, "Papa Mike" returned to the skies in all its eclectic glory. She was my ride for most of the shift this month and other that being a bit nose heavy (all that paint?) she performs great, maybe I found a new favorite Navajo?

Taken a few days ago at Mekoryuk, on Nunivak Island.

The Cycle of Airplane Ownership.

Yup, that about covers it...


Photo of the Week

Foggy Fall morning in Bethel, Alaska.


Photo of the Week

The Apaztec* resplendent in the early dawn sunshine at Walsenburg Colorado.

Click for full size.

*Apaztec= A Piper anomaly, built as an Aztec but called an Apache. Suffers from an acute identity crisis, being that it is not quite 100% Aztec, but hardly is she an Apache by any definition. You Decide, If it quacks like a duck...


For all those that have not followed our vacation (July 25 to today) on Jen's Blog I'll give you a brief update and add some pictures for everyone to enjoy here, here and here. Its about 1500 pictures and I have only added captions to about half of the ones that I want to on the first set. Thw last set is a mix of pics from my Dad's and Grandma's cameras, including some more pics of our flight up from Bellingham in the Apache.

Needless to say, we have had a great time flying the plane around the Lower 48 for a couple weeks, then returning home and spending a couple weeks with visiting family. It was a great time for Jen and I to "play tourist" at home and do some activities we don't normally enjoy or to see them from a tourists point of view... A good time was had by all as we went to the Mendenhall Glacier, Mount Roberts Tram, Downtown Juneau, a back country tour of Hoonah, whale watching, a trip to Skagway with Ice field tour, Dog Sledding, a trip "out the road" and much more...

I will be going back to work in Bethel tomorrow on my original 15-day schedule. I think work will be a lot more tolerable with the shorter schedule. Twenty days out there is way too much.

I'll try to post more often, no guarantees however...



After many, many months of hard work, our plane finally flew today. Everything seems to work and the new interior is nice to sit in while the airplane makes its own noises without me supplying the soundtrack... Now we just gotta put a few hours on her before we head to America for vacation next month.


Happy Birthday Noni!

Our dog, Noni, is four today!

Happy birthday Noni!



Having finished the bulk of the work on the plane, I am now concentrating on all the little finishing details. Today's project: Operation Spinner Shine. I am a sucker for polished spinners, so it was inevitable that I should tackle the project on the Apache. I had previously done this on my Wife's Tri-Pacer years ago, however, I have since learned to polish aluminum better (that means this time it took longer and cost more). Interestingly, the last time I polished a spinner, it was for a friends Apache in SLC. Upon finishing one side, I had one of those "Gee, I love owning a twin" moments when I thought "Aww crap, now I get to do the other side". It can wait until next month.
I also replaced the air filters today, which prompted me to repaint the covers for them. Hmm... New spark plugs, oil change and maybe a fresh battery and she's ready to unleash the fury in search of the perfect $100, umm, I mean $200 latte.

Oh yes.

Noni keeps guard, lest the evil snowplow get too close.

She's starting to look like an airplane again.


Finished! (for now)

The interior of my plane is finally "done". There are still a few little things to take care of but its ready to fly now.

Just as soon as I change the air filters, spark plugs, oil, bleed the brakes, service the hydraulic fluid, grease the landing gear, overhaul the left prop, wash and wax, oh yea, and put gas in it...

Freakin airplanes....

Juneau Video



WARNING: This is a rant, I am pissed and I am only going to just barely censor myself.

Film makers, musicians, writers etc. GET OVER YOURSELVES! I realize you work hard for what you do, and you get paid well to do it, but do you not realize that by shutting down people who want to enjoy and share your work you are hurting yourself, rather than protecting your work? Case in point: Youtube. A good deal of my favorite videos have been forced off the internet, why? bad language? nudity? nope. They had the audacity to use your music as a background score to compliment their own works. You should be glad that people would choose your music, and want to share it with others, for whatever reason. Maybe what you sang about expressed what the individual was trying to convey, or created the mood they were after. SHAME ON YOU! Why do you do this? so you can get a couple cents of royalties? Please. Did it occur to you that maybe someone would hear your songs, like them and want to buy the CD or MP3? Idiots.

And Hollywood, SHUT THE $#&@ UP ALREADY!

I want to watch movies and enjoy them for what they are, not listen to your idiotic politics which nobody gives a damn about! Who decided that your opinions matter? Since when should I care what you think? Sean Penn, go to @$&#!!! Alec Baldwin, I try to like ya man, but shut up and act. Rosie O'Donnell? Um, eat @#&$ and die. I nave nothing nice to say to you.


GROW A PAIR! We elect you to do a job, not protect your own interests. When we say "NO" we mean it, and the more you push everyday working Americans into a corner, the closer we are to lashing out at you by any means available. Maybe thats why you are suddenly trying to push radical new controls on guns, restricting the sale of ammunition, controlling free speech via the "fairness doctrine" and trying to control the citizens ability to travel these states with ever tighter and more insane regulations of air traffic. I have to ask permission from the government to fly my plane to Canada now. Does Canada care if I want to fly there? NO. But the DHS seems to think it should care. It wants to know when I want to fly, and who is on my plane. If I fly to Canada (or any other country for that matter) I now have to send a manifest of the "crew" that being my Wife and I to the DHS to be screened against the "no-fly-list". Then, I can not depart on said flight without receiving a confirmation email from CBP authorizing the flight. How long does this take? They will not say. How do I know they received my request? I don't. But if I assume all is in order and depart, its a $5,000 fine for the first time, then $10,000 each thereafter. Give me a freaking break! If I was a terrorist do you really think I would give a damn about your rules?


You can all kiss my pissed off over-regulated hairy white @$$.

Stop trying to create fear and suspicion where there is none. And what part of "innocent until proven guilty" do you not understand? or Due Process?

You need to be stopped.

Can anyone say "CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE"? "Ive got your non-compliant attitude, RIGHT HERE!"

I think as long as the politicians can choose what taxes to pay and what laws to obey, I should be able to do the same, after all, you people work for me.

Lately you have been working against me, so far you have raised my taxes, jacked up my energy costs, cut off credit, shut down a good portion of my flying, put me out of a job and told me its all for my own good, and not to worry, because Big Brother is here to save me.


Hows that for exercising my First Amendment rights @$$-HOLES!

Rant Over.

But really, think about it...

Tanker 123

I last saw this plane in Battle Mountain Nevada in 1998, along with Tanker 121. I also recall 123, 121 and 124 being in Abilene TX years earlier. If you dont know, This is what I wanted to do with my career, and I have always had the greatest respect for the pilots and crews who not only keep these great planes flying, but use them to save lives and property. To quote a line from the movie "Always", "Its 1943 man, except we go places that are burning and bomb them until they stop burning..." The sound of her four P&W R-1830's still echo in my mind. Rest in Peace Rick Lee Schwartz, Milt Stollak and Tanker 123.

I have been putting off posting this video because it makes me cry every time I watch it, and it sends chills up my spine, especially at the 2:03 mark.

An Excerpt from the NTSB report, read it then listen to the song again, it'll make more sense if you are not familiar with this accident.

On July 18, 2002, at 1840 mountain daylight time, a Consolidated-Vultee P4Y-2, N7620C, under contract to the U. S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and piloted by a commercial pilot, was destroyed when it impacted into mountainous terrain 6 miles southwest of Estes Park, Colorado. A post-crash explosion and fire ensued. Prior to the impact, the airplane's left wing separated and aircraft control was lost while maneuvering to deliver fire retardant on the Big Elk wildfire, burning in an area northwest of Lyons, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The aerial attack flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, public use. A company visual flight rules flight plan was on file. The pilot and second pilot on board the airplane were fatally injured. The flight originated at Broomfield, Colorado, at 1814.

According to the Airtanker Base Manager at Jeffco Airport, Broomfield, Colorado, the airplane, Tanker 123, was dispatched to join other airtankers, Tanker 161 and Tanker 22, a helitanker, number T-16, and a U. S. Forest Service lead airplane, Lead Bravo 8, to drop fire retardant on the Big Elk Fire. The airplane had flown seven previous air attack missions on the fire that day. Prior to the accident mission, the airplane was loaded with approximately 2,000 gallons of fire retardant, and 550 gallons of fuel.

The captain of T-161 said, "Tanker 22 had just completed his drop and Tanker 123 had observed the drop and was preparing to drop. All communication between 123 and Lead Bravo 8 was normal. I fell behind T-123 on downwind and base. I looked away momentarily and I again focused on T-123. I noticed his left wing was falling. The aircraft was in a 15 to 20 degree bank. I next saw fire near the fuselage as the wing failed inboard of the number 2 engine. The aircraft pitched nose down in a huge fireball and plunged into the ground vertically starting an immediate large fire."

The copilot of T-161 said Tanker 123 was in his base turn for the drop and in a "smooth 15 to 20 degree bank turn", when the left wing separated from the airplane. "The aircraft then went into a rotation and impacted the ground." The copilot said that operations were normal and the weather in the area consisted of "the smoothest, least turbulent conditions of the day."

The pilot in the Forest Service leadplane said, "The conditions were perfect for a tanker drop. No turbulence and no smoke in that area." The pilot said, "I had just made two runs with Tanker 22 on the same drop area. He had departed and I allowed helicopter 72D to make a water drop on the area. Tanker 123 was on scene when Tanker 22 made his split load drop, two different runs. I instructed Tanker 123 that we would be extending Tanker 22's first drop. Tanker 123 responded with something like, 'We can do that' or 'We see that," and that he was on downwind for the drop. I told him I was at his 8 o'clock and [he] said that he had me in sight. I then told him I would come up on his left side and continue downwind with him until he was ready to turn back. He then responded with 'I think I'm going to use this nice big valley to turn around in.' I told him that sounded like a good idea to me. We flew approximately 15 seconds before he began a gentle turn to final. We continued in the turn from downwind to final without squaring off for a base, which is normal on tanker runs." The pilot said that after he turned on final, he told the captain on Tanker 123 that his attack run would require a pitch over which was approximately 1/2 mile ahead. The pilot said after he finished that transmission, the captain of Tanker 161 called him and said that the left wing had just come off of Tanker 123 and the airplane had gone in.

A witness on the ground, approximately 6 miles east of the accident location, using a digital camera with a telephoto lens and automatic shutter, took a series of eight still photographs of the airplane at the time of the accident. The photo series shows the airplane's left wing separate at the wing root and fuselage, a fire ensues at the separation, and the airplane enters an approximately 45-degree dive to the ground. The photos also show the airplane in a counter-clockwise roll during its dive toward the ground. The witness said when he saw what was happening, he depressed the shutter button and held it until the airplane went behind a treed ridge. Copies of the eight photographs are provided as an attachment to this report.

Several witnesses on the ground in the vicinity of the accident location said they saw the airplane in a left banking turn. Some of the witnesses described the turn as "steep" or "tight." One witness said the airplane had rolled out of the turn after making a "hard banking turn." At this time, none of the witnesses indicated that there were any apparent problems with the airplane. The witnesses then said the left wing "folded upward" and severed at the "left wing-fuselage point." They all described "slurry" coming out and "fire erupting" from the area where the wing separated. The witnesses said the airplane rapidly descended and impacted into the hillside.

Radar information provided by the Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center showed the airplane come out of the Broomfield area and proceeding northwest to the Lyons-Estes Park area where the Big Elk fire was burning. The airplane is shown entering a series of counter-clockwise 3.5 to 4 nautical mile diameter orbits at an altitude averaging 8,900 feet mean sea level (msl), over Lion's Gulch, and in the vicinity of Moose Mountain. Terrain in this area is mountainous averaging from 7,300 feet msl to 8,500 feet msl. The radar information showed the airplane make five orbits over this area. On the last half of the fifth orbit, the radar information shows the airplane at an altitude of 8,500 feet msl and heading approximately 315 degrees. The airplane is shown on a 315-degree heading for 1.3 nautical miles. The airplane is then shown making a left turn to 260 degrees. The airplane is shown on a 260-degree heading for 1.1 nautical miles and at an altitude of 8,400 feet msl. The airplane is then shown making a left turn and rolling out on a 195-degree heading. The airplane remains on this heading for 0.6 nautical miles, when radar contact is lost. The accident site was approximately 0.1 nautical miles southwest of the last radar plot.


Making Progress

I have been too busy on my days off this month working on the plane to blog about it, but now that I am going back to work and have been forced to leave the plane alone for a couple weeks, I present you with some before and after pictures. It is still a work in progress, with the seats and window trim remaining to be done in a couple weeks, along with some minor details. Then I get to start on the engines and props. Sweet.

The new carpet and wall upholstery is done, The freshly painted and updated panel looks nice...

New throttle quadrant. I do not want to install another one.

New headliner and overhead console complete, note new air vents.

Self explanatory.

The panel, cleaned, painted and with a few new electronic gadgets.


Random Memories

Just in one of those moods today...
Too cold and snowy to work on the plane, the mind starts to wander to years past...

My Word...

Found this site on my Wife's blog...

Your Word is "Think"

You see life as an amazing mix of possibilities, ideas, and fascinations.

And sometimes you feel like you don't have enough time to take it all in.

You love learning. Whether you're in school or not, you're probably immersed in several subjects right now.

When you're not learning, you're busy reflecting. You think a lot about the people you know and the things you've experienced.


Photo of the Week

Click for full size image
Sunset over Cook Inlet


The Step

Few things can excite an argument / debate in a hangar bull session like mention of "the step". For those of you that do not know this is a phenomenon in which an airfoil seems to be mysteriously capable of flying faster if you climb past your target altitude then start a shallow descent back to where you want to be. Unfortunately, this little bit of aerodynamic knowledge has been relegated to "myth" status in recent decades. Nay-sayer's claim that it is impossible. "Prove it on a drag curve" they say. "Show me in the plane" they say. And chances are, I can not. Let me pick the plane, time, weight and altitude however, And I'll prove it. "Kids these days" call what they do not understand and cannot reproduce with their fancy modern planes a "myth" perpetuated by the older, less enlightened generations who simply must not have understood flight, because it was so new. Or some crap like that... They knew, knew better than we in fact. Those wise old pelicans knew, and as new technology designed out characteristics that were once commonplace, the Kids forgot. Because they did not need to know. But knowing what an airfoil does and why, even if you do not need to is the path to aeronautical enlightenment. This rant brought to you courtesy of a thread on the AOPA forums. It was amusing to note that the "myth" crowd were mostly flying newer Cherokees, Mooneys or composite planes with sleek laminar flow wings. The ones who Knew, however were flying or had flown those wings to which this curiosity applies, The Cessna 195's, Bonanzas and so on.

The thread was started by quoting Ernest Gann, in an excerpt from Fate is the Hunter.

“We pass through ten thousand feet and for a moment steal an additional hundred feet so we can descend back through it. In the doing, the ship can be set flying in a slightly nose-down position. Thus, “on the step” we will add better than 10 knots to our air speed and also satisfy our sensual appreciation of flight. A mushing airplane, regardless of it’s speed, becomes a miserable contraption to any dedicated pilot. He absorbs this unhappiness through the seat of his pants. There is no reason to believe this will ever change, regardless of aircraft design. A good pilot becomes morose and irritable in spite of what most modern instruments proclaim unless his ship is “on the step”. He will work work endlessly to achieve that delicate angle and for this once and only once will prove the instruments wrong and hair tips of his sensory powers more honest. When the instruments finally admit additional speed, then the pilot is doubly content, for he has proof that the instruments are not his absolute master and he is not as yet altogether a mechanical man.”

Here is my reply and explanation, edited for context.

"Something to consider, the airfoils in use at the time of Gann. Most people today believe that the "step" is a myth, and as it applies to modern airfoils, it mostly is. As pointed out, it works in Bonanza's, and I can see and feel a difference in my Apache. I have also seen it demonstrated first hand from the third seat in a DC-6, by an old school Captain that probably would have gotten along fine with Gann... Those planes use airfoils dating from the 40's. More modern airfoils do not have the same drag properties, they are blessed with the ability to achieve efficient cruise flight without having to accelerate in a shallow dive first. The simple way to think of it is this, at angle of attack "A", the wing will generate the required lift at airspeed "1" with overall drag in equilibrium with thrust, thus no more acceleration. However, if we then lower the nose and reduce the angle of attack the first thing that happens is a loss of lift right? Lower AOA, same speed... You with me? That's the shallow dive. Now, something else starts to happen, at this lower AOA, induced drag goes down (old school fat wing remember?) and with gravity's help, the plane accelerates. More speed equals more lift, as well as more overall drag. The plane will shortly reach a new equilibrium and stop descending due to the increased lift which equals the previous ammount and is once again balanced with gravity. We are now at AOA "B" and airspeed "2" with the same lift and power we started with. One other reason this is so elusive is this: Notice I said nothing about raising the nose to level off again? The plane will stop descending on its own as the lift increases with airspeed. Thus the plane "picks" its own altitude. If you know your plane well enough you can end up at the desired altitude by knowing how far down she will go as she seeks balance, but otherwise it'll do whatever it wants. This is why its so easy to "fall off the step". As soon as you change something the plane will seek a new equilibrium point, maybe on the step, maybe not. Depends on what you did. Well, nuff said, flame away, but again, this does not work on all airfoil/airframes. Mostly on older, slow, fat high lift wings. (Bonanza guys, don't take that last part wrong...)

So find yourself a "Real Airplane" and go try it out. (I think I sense another hangar fight coming on...)

Project Update

We are finally making some progress on the Apache now that it is inside the hangar. It took a scrub brush and vacuum to clean the floor after the carpet was pulled up. Now its on to cleaning and prep for paint in the control pedistal and instrument panel while we wait for the rest of the needed parts to arrive (new door seal, throttle quadrant cover). We are also upgrading the Avionics with the installation of a dedicated CDI for the GPS, as well as moving map MFD and annunciator control unit for the GPS. She will be well on her way to a modern IFR machine... Next month we should have the headliner and carpet ready to install, will keep you posted.