Monday, February 20, 2006

I blew away my blog and all I got was this lousy plane...

Ok, so not to be outdone by my wife, who is not to be outdone by Susan, who is not to be outdone by her husband who is not be be outdone by me, I've restarted my blog. In summary then, I'm in competition with myself, I appear to be losing, and I'm squarely in last place.

Either way, here is is, in all of it's glory. To get started, let me tell you about my Sunday mini-adventure.

Sunday was a clear, sunny day here in Indiana, except that it was all of 20 degrees. I decided to take the plane up for a flight, except, I couldn't get it started because, yes, it was freaking cold outside. It would barely even turn over. As I sat out there, another one of the pilots came up and after chatting about my (relatively) new plane, he said he had an old engine preheater that I was welcome to have because he didn't use it anymore. It was of the "homemade" variety, and he hoped "that the mice hadn't chewed up the inside of the heater".

What the heck, it's worth a shot, I thought.

This apparatus, which you see here, consists of a small ceramic space heater which sits inside of a bit of ductwork connect to a hand-cut flange of sorts that fits nicely inside the cowling opening of a late model Piper Warrior, and convenientlyfor me, also in a late model Piper Archer.

To give it some hight to reach, you see it sitting on a pastic bin which I happened to have. For it's previous owner, it sat on a nice piece of cinder block, but I didn't have such amenities laying about the hanger.

I looked for mouse dropping and dusted it off. Other than being in a bit of banged up shape, it looked okay. I hooked it up and gave it a shot - however - the cold wind was keeping the heating element from reaching the temperature required to get the fan to kick on. I took my coat off and draped it over the enclosure. to let it get warm.

Luckily, I had a light jacket in the car to throw over my sweatshirt. But - after waiting about 5 minutes, I realized that the cold wind was blowing right inside the opening on the other side of the cowling. So, I removed my second jacket, and stuffed it inside the hole.

Standing in 10 degrees with just my sweatshirt, I waited 20 minutes, ensuring that neither my jackets, the space heater, or the plane would burst into flame, moved everything to the side, and started the plane right up. The engine ran pretty awkwardly for a few seconds but then settled out just like it should. It could be that one of the cylinders wasn't firing properly yet, and was a bit worrisome, but it subsided quickly and everything sounded and ran fine after that. Next time, I'll let it warm up for a good half hour first.

I got almost 2 hours of flying in. I ran into a bit of light snow on my way to Robinson, Illinois, which caused me to divert over to Brazil/Clay County instead. Light snow isn't really an issue, but there was already an icing AIRMET for that area and the visibility was sure to deteriorate, so why chance it. Then I did a touch-and-go in Greencastle (of not particularly high quality) and flew back to Greenwood where I had a real nice landing.

I've got just under 70 hours now of total flight time, which isn't much by anyone's standards, but I'm proud of it anyway. It will be nice when the weather finally breaks and I can get more regular flying in. This is about the time last year that I started taking lessons very regularly, so I'm optimistic that more regular VFR weather is just around the corner.

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