Saturday, 29 May 2010

You're kidding right?

I've spent the last fifteen years or so extolling the virtues of GPS. Every time someone has told me that signals disappear, or that some mad two-star General in a bunker in Idaho can turn the system off, I've told the preaching Luddite that he was just plain wrong. I've lost count of the amount of times I've explained that a proper panel-mounted GPD just doesn't lose signal.

About a minute after leaving the strip I reached over to dial up Boscombe Down's frequency. Right there on the screen, in big green letters, was a message - NO GPS POSITION - the message light was flashing and that confirmed the lack of a signal. Mr Garmin (a GNS530W) was lost in space. The satellites may have been talking but for whatever reason the 530 wasn't listening.

For a few seconds I just couldn't believe it - this kind of stuff just doesn't happen, and yet despite turning it off and on again, always a good cure for electrical ills, nothing changed.

I was on a short VFR flight in the local area and with visibility at least 50k the danger of getting lost was minimal, and of course I had my Garmin aera sitting on the yoke merrily picking up signals. Had I been on an IFR flight the loss of the 530 would have been a major pain.

I'm hoping that the problem is as simple as a lose aerial connection or similar - I want my 530 back.

Update: order has been restored in my GPS world. As hoped, there was a problem with the antenna connection, and once that was fixed everything came back to life. I'm going to have to re-visit my evangelical enthusiasm for GPS, or at least tone it down a little…

Friday, 28 May 2010

Recession hit aliens

So where are they all? The C182 is based pretty much in the centre of the UK's crop circle industry and this time of year there's usually one or two new ones to admire on each new flight, but so far I've seen nothing.

Has the recession spread to other civilisations, or have the farmers/student farmers all found something better to do, are the crops running a bit late due to the colder than usual winter? I'm due to fly again soon, so I'll have a good hunt around the local area to check for field art, alien or otherwise.

Update: been flying a couple of times in the local area and I've only seen one, fairly average, crop circle (the one pictured above was taken last year).

Thursday, 27 May 2010

These guys are good

I've been trying to resolve my CHT probe problem and it seems that it may not be entirely straightforward. Whenever I get a problem without an obvious solution I talk to the people who know more about Cessnas than Cessna themselves - the Cessna Pilots Association. Membership is, from memory, about $70 a year and it is worth every cent. Within half an hour or so of filling in their online tech support question I received this reply…

Your CHT gauge and probe should be a Stewart Warner. The original Stewart Warner probe for your aircraft is PN S1372-1. The Ohms reading for the probe should be 310.0 at 220 degrees F and 34.8 at 450 degrees F. Paul Malkasian makes a test box to check the gauges themselves, (CHT, fuel and Oil temp)

Be sure and check the wiring on the back of the gauge and make sure that there isn’t any corrosion on the terminals or loose wires.

If you do find that the gauge is bad, Paul Malkasian at Instrument Rebuild in Sequim, WA 360/683-6245 or his web site can repair them.

If you find that the probe is bad, they are no longer available and Cessna switched to Rochester. Unfortunately the Stewart Warner gauges are not compatible with the Rochester probes and vice versa. The superseded PN for the original probe is a Rochester probe. One option is to take the new probe (Rochester) and send the probe and gauge off to Instrument Rebuild in Sequim, WA (360/683-6245) and have the Stewart Warner gauge calibrated to the new probe.

I hope this helps.

Brilliant service. The membership fee is a bargain when you consider that you get this kind of service, twelve magazines and a great forum too.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Time for a 50 hour check

There's no such thing as a 50 hour check for N reg. aircraft, but in common with most N reg owners I like to change the oil, gap and clean the plugs and have a good look around under the cowling (and elsewhere) every fifty flying hours or so.

I'm not an A&P (US licensed engineer) so while there are some things that I can do there are plenty of things that I can't, but luckily my engineer is more than happy to have me help, and to be on hand to advise and check.

A couple of flying hours ago the CHT gauge started misreading. I had hoped that the connection to the probe would be faulty, but it it looked good - so it's either the probe (likely) or the gauge itself (less likely). Without borrowing another probe I can't think of an easy way of finding out which is faulty, perhaps the guys over at CPA will have an idea, failing that I guess I'll order a new probe to see if that does the trick.

Getting involved, as much as my time and ability allow, has really improved the aeroplane ownership experience for me - and if I was subject to the wallet crippling business of maintaining an aircraft with no chance of any involvement, I'd have sold up ages ago.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Was that a landing?

Even though I say so myself, I'd rate most of my C182 landings as acceptable or above. They're fully held off and the stall-warner is usually playing its tune when the wheels meet the tarmac/grass/whatever. I don't get stressed by crosswinds, slopes or cambers and I enjoy shorter or more challenging strips.

So why, on a day like today with no wind, an empty circuit, three or four times more tarmac than I need and a stabilised approach did I bounce my way to what can only be described as an ugly landing?

At least it was Monday and the airfield was empty(ish) so my arrival wasn't a hugely public affair…

Monday, 24 May 2010

French VFR maps

The first time I flew to France I bought all of the half-mil charts. there were four of them, and as I was to discover, they only cover airspace up to 5,000' agl. I found them confusing and cluttered. Every year I'd buy another four, and every year I'd study them, gradually getting used to their style. I also discovered the VFR pack which was a useful supplement coming with a small guide book and some additional charting too. For all of its charm, flying in France seemed to take a fair few bits of paper.

Then a few years ago I discovered a new chart - 'France VFR Jour' - it is 1:1,000,000 and covers the entire country by being printed on both sides. It's packed with useful information yet manages to be clearer than the IGN half-mil charts. For VFR flight in France I no longer bother with anything else.

I picked up a 2010 copy in Dijon last week (the paper has got thinner and the price has gone up), but I think it's still the best chart for France by a French country mile, err kilometre.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Philippine CAA grounds all Robinsons

All Robinson helicopters in the Philippines have been grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). The action follows a recent fatal accident that killed four (or five, depending on which account you believe).

The fleet (which means about 50 helicopters) has been grounded while the accident is investigated. If that happened in the US or the UK I would assume that the NTSB or CAA had discovered something serious that put the rest of the fleet at risk. The accident that lead to the grounding killed Rafael Nantes, a local Governor.