Sunday Soaking

Rainsplash Drop from Vanderbilt.edu.

Rainsplash Drop from Vanderbilt.edu. Seems appropriate. 

The rain started at about eleven last night as we checked the perimeter and closed a forgotten garage door (to the stall full of airplane parts). Since then, it’s fallen steadily for most of that time, although there have been a couple of embedded downpours. It’s in the fifties (F, of course)  although the forecast hints that we might see 61ºF around noon for a bit.

Yesterday the plan was to spend it at EAA 106’s annual Experimental Fly-In. It used to be the Canard and RV fly in, but now they’ve changed the name, because people thought they were only welcome to fly in and show off canard and RV’s. There were some of each of those present, still (lots of RVs, actually), but there were also others: a Corvair-powered Zenith 601, a Lancair 4P, a GlaStar. A lot of the attendees were building and/or flying something.

We had to leave early, but did get a fascinating rundown on the Lancair 4P, an example of the way that the experimental world builds niche aircraft that the FAA would not allow a manufacturer to sell. The Lancair’s niche is speed. It goes 270 knots in 75% cruise in the lower flight levels; door to door, this ship (based in Lawrence) can beat the misery of an airline cattle call to Florida by hours, by starting from closer to home, landing closer to home, routing around the damage to the body politic that is the TSA’s corps of perverted payroll patriots, and never losing your bag. For the airline to beat you, door-to-door, you’d have to be taking a transcontinental flight where the airline’s faster speed aloft can overcome its slow and inconvenient ground phases (and where the range forces the Lancair to come down to Earth for fuel). Still, it is a time machine, personal teleportation. The price of mastery of that domain? The challenge of operating what an Italian might call a macchina nervosa. The Lancair is slick and sensitive in pitch. Its controls are badly harmonized; twitchy in pitch, it’s trucklike in roll. Its low-speed handling is weak and treacherous; speed is life, and you need to keep the angle of attack indicator in the yellow, or preferably green. Red is literally death. It is safe to fly if you are aware of were the monsters lurk and if you don’t go there. Modern electronics, which include features that are also more advanced that the FAA lets manufactures install in type-certified aircraft, make it possible to fly such a machine as quasi-practical personal transportation. But it’s not a machine you fly for fun; you fly it to go places where fun is waiting for you.

The Blognephew, a unique spirit whose pursuits of enlightenment are often foot wide and ocean deep, has previously been entirely indifferent to aviation. He sat for much of the show, a study in grumpy vexation, absorbed in a Rick Riordan book. Until, that is, he learned he might get a flight in a Real Airplane. In the end, he did. Whether this means he will find something in the physical world as attractive to him as young-adult fantasy novels and the various entertainment offerings of various glowing rectangles remains to be seen, but the horse has been led to the water. (Thanks, Bob Di Meo, you’re a star, and so is your RV-8).

So, today, and this week, while rain slows progress of some home repairs and upgrades, we’ll be messing about with machinery (3D printing, if we’re successful) and catching up on the two posts still owed from yesterday — a movie review (in keeping with the aviation spirit, 2012’s Red Tails) and a TW3.

We also may be undertaking a road trip to the Mothership in Fayetteville this week. That’s still up in the air. It should not impinge overly on blog action.

14 thoughts on “Sunday Soaking

  1. Greg

    Yep, the 4P is a going places machine alright. Guy I know in California owns a turbine version. On another note have you even seen one of these little guys? Looks like great fun: http://iconaircraft.com/

    1. Hognose Post author

      I’ve been a fan since day 1, get the emails, saw mockups and prototypes at shows, etc. They only just got the papal blessing from FAA (where every office is the Office of Aviation Inhibition) and started shipping customer aircraft.

  2. John Distai

    So did you fly as part of your SF or MI duties?

    On another note…if you belong to a flying club, and they rent planes to the club members and you take an overnight trip with one, do you pay a rental fee for “flight time” or do you pay a rental fee for all of the time it is away from it’s home airport where it will likely sit idle most of the time?

    1. Hognose Post author

      I did not ever fly for a military position, just got hauled around a lot… and jumped, rappelled, fast-roped, STABOed, etc. I did use a plane sometimes for travel, and got paid the mileage rate for using private airplane.

      Rentals are usually based on the time on the “Hobbs meter,” which is the time the aircraft master switch is turned on. If you’re going to take a rental for X days you need to coordinate that… places where the plane might be making a lot of money in those days want to know you’re going to use it enough hours to justify it being away.

      1. John Distai

        I guess another way to ask the question, or what I’m really interested in is this:

        You have a family of 4. You are going on a 4 day trip somewhere that is a 4 hour plane ride each way . The cost of round trip commercial plane tickets is 4X. The cost of private plane rental is Y. Which form of transportation is the most cost effective?

        1. "Greg"

          IMHO, the short answer is going to be commerical aviation…

          If Hognose wants to provide some of the variables, it shouldn’t be too hard to run the calculations… but his “y” might be different from your “y” (what you would pay for the rental versus what he might pay for the rental, differentiated by aircraft type plus regional differences?) Another consideration is weight – are we talking two slender adults (@170LB X 2) plus two younger kiddos (100LB max X 2) or “american size” adults X 4? As well as how much luggage is going along with you?
          IMHO, most “general aviation” aircraft will already be maxed out at “american” X 4… and as I think about it, I’m going to dare say you are limited in your flying experience… My father has a private license and many times “commerical air” turned out to be more cost effective, although he has flown as far as east coast to Alaska mainly for the “fun” of it! Oh yeah, don’t forget what you will have to spend on fuel!

          1. John Distai

            I figured the commercial aviation was cheaper. I have a wealthy friend that tries to convince me that the costs of private aviation are “not that big a deal”, so I should get a pilot’s license and either buy or rent a plane and take my family on various vacations. If I had his dough, I certainly would.

          2. "Greg"

            Depending how much you fly, buying your own plane can be a better choice than renting from someone else (i dunno, will your friend let you borrow HIS plane?)

            I also forgot to add – depending on your aircraft, weather will also be a factor as well… I don’t remember the link but I saw a VERY interesting video/graphic about “airspace congestion” when landings (and takeoff) were temporarily halted as a thunderstorm passed over Hartsfield/Atlanta Intl… it was almost like seeing an elaborate christmas light display as each incoming flight was represented as a short colored arrow, which turned into a small circling arrow as it was “parked” in holding while air traffic control waited for the thunderstorm to pass… I think at least 20 planes (or more?) got circled up while waiting for the storm to pass (viewed in a time-lapse view that shortened a much longer period of time, maybe 1 or 2 hours, down to 2 or 3 minutes)

            So, add the cost and the time to certify all the way up to “instrument rating” (so you can still make it to your destination without checking landmarks on the ground)… BUT if you can afford it, I’m sure you will find (as with many other pilots) the sense of independence of climibing into the cockpit, firing up your aircraft, and accomplishing something that most other people have no choice but to pay someone else to do for them, not to mention your avoidance of the TSA fun times…

          3. Hognose Post author

            Unless you’re being reimbursed for travel, or in a tax bracket where the roughly 50¢ per (statute) mile travel expense translates into a significant deduction, it’s hard to make a private plane work financially if you travel less than 200 hours a year. Because you have high fixed costs (storage, insurance, annual inspection, semiannual flight review, licensing etc.) and high variable costs (the largest of which is depreciation or, on an older machine, maintenance reserves, the next largest is fuel).

            There is a whole art of fuel savings. Once, you could run autogas, but since the farm lobby via the EPA has insisted that all autogas contain 10% or more low-quality corn ethanol it is no longer safe for use in most certified aircraft (some light-sport aircraft with the Rotax 912 series engine can tolerate ethanol-adulterated fuel).

            Also, a couple hundred hours a year is a pretty good baseline for proficiency.

            That said, weather is a limiting factor. You could probably benefit from an instrument rating in most places, but there are two weather conditions that are unsafe for small piston planes, thunderstorms and icing (which occurs in some precipitation or in some clouds). There are planes with known-icing equipment, but it’s hard pressed to compare with a northeastern US or Midwest winter and in my opinion gives you a second chance to exercise discretion and run away. On any critical trip you take by small plane, you need to have a Plan B and be willing to execute it. Slipping the trip a day or two works. Renting a car and coming back for the plane when the weather’s better works (having the rental place retrieve the plane, or having an instructor you know do it if it’s your own, can work too, but it’s expensive).

            “Time to spare, go by air.” If that is your mindset you get where you’re going in good spirits and rested. It’s much more draining to fly in foul weather.

  3. Ron

    If you like the high-speed Lancairs,take a look at n54sg.com. It’s the personal website describing the aircraft of a pilot who flies a Lancair Legacy in the Reno air races. The plane is heavily modified with aerodynamics from Aerochia and a twin-turbo TSIO-550 engine. The plane averages over 265 knots flying cross country, and 324 knots top speed during the race!

    1. Hognose Post author

      This guy Ryan has the same engine on his 4P and he claims to flight plan 270kt! I’ll take a look at 54SG. That has to be boosted and tuned very differently to fly in those desert races.

  4. Tom Schultz

    “Most ” flying clubs have a minimum number of hours for rentals when the plane will be absent the home base for more than a day. Typical could be 3 “Hobbs” hours per day. Often there is a grace period before the fee must be paid so that the time can actually be flown off.
    EXAMPLE:
    Plane gone for 4 days, 3 hour minimum =12 hours charged.
    Plane actually flown 10.5 hours. Payment made for 10.5 hours, 30 days to fly off the 1.5 hours not used.
    If flown just paid for a t regular rates. If not flown the member still has to pay the 1.5.

    Some commercial rental/FBOs have similar arrangements.

  5. KevsBlogBrother

    IIRC, the builder/pilot of the Lancair told us that he did not particularly enjoy building or flying it. Okay then. He also said he has never stalled it, even deliberately in perfect conditions for practice. That’s the aviation equivalent of making something “too big to fail” – it only guarantees that when the failure comes, it will be disastrous.

    So says the guy who owns a collection of airplane parts, a student certificate, 15 hours in the old logbook, and a pretty cool teenage son (the BlogNephew.)

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